As you walk through the main entrance of any church , look up and you will see a statue of a man suffering on a cross, look around and you will see him again and again. We hope one day you will meet him in all manner of ways, times and places.
If I might take a few minutes of your time, I would like to introduce you to the core character in Christianity.
The man you can see is our lord Jesus Christ the founder and perfecter of our faith, who endured that agony for you (Hebrews 12-2). To the reader of this guide, please note he did that very specifically for YOU.
You may wonder how a man, who lived a long time ago, had you in mind, long before you were born. You see that man; Jesus of Nazareth is both man and God…
In Psalm 139 it says “In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed”. That psalm says just how inescapable the God who made you is. To truly separate you from God would be like trying to take the milk out of your tea, after it has been poured in. He said “He is in God, You are in Him and He is in you” (John 14:20).
The implications of him being a God and dying a horrible death for specifically you are quite clear. He let that happen to him, he chose that death. He wasn’t guilty of any crime that he had committed, he was paying for yours. Peter who was one of his disciples said that he never sinned, he never told a lie (1 Peter 2:22). So that’s an innocent man up there, who chose to die for you.
So why did he decide to do that, and why did he need to do that for you?
The why? Because of love for you, a love that means he wants to be alongside, in you, around you, every step of the way. Not just in this life but for eternity.
Every sin large or small, every time we mess up, every time we hurt each other, are angry, or deceitful, every time we are unkind, uncaring, or just not caring enough. That man is paying the price for all those moments so that you can join him one day in his kingdom. Can you see how broken he has allowed himself to be? How he has allowed himself to become the object of ridicule by those that don’t understand him, or know who he is? That is entirely consistent with who he was in his 33 years on earth.
In his mortal life he kept company with the marginalised, had those most reviled by society as his closest confidants. He healed the lame from the poorest parts of his society, showed love to the people who society starved or threw stones at. He spoke to those that nobody would speak to. Indeed he often held those same people up as examples, templates etc.
Unforgivable would mean that you are beyond the reach of his love, and nobody is, because you are his creation, and you are in him and he is in you, right now.
He is naked because, the people who did that to him stripped him of everything, drew lots and sold his clothes, then on the way to being put on that cross they pushed a crown made of wicked thorns on his head.
They ridiculed him, and they laughed at him as he died slowly on the cross.
The crown was due to the fact they had come to the conclusion that this man thought he is the messiah, and the world couldn’t imagine that someone who is the messiah, both God and Man would let that happen. But he did, and he does. He had committed no crime, and went, willingly. The crime he was paying for, the punishment he was making atonement for is yours and mine.
He does the same today. He loves you and me, despite any shortcoming you or society may think you or me, ever had or will have. Nobody is beyond his love and he accomplished that by being made as low as you see him on that cross.
The him and you
If you ask him into your life, he will make you the best “you”, you can ever be, he will also change you, and build you, so that you can become that person, he will live every step, every moment of that journey. He will forgive every stumble and spur you on again.
Your world will change, maybe only how you think about it, maybe in reality. His constant love will transform you from the inside out; you can’t stay angry or bitter, or afraid, or scared, or jealous when being given such love, and support and a foundation for your life.
He does ask that you ask him, that you choose him, you have free will. Ask him into your life so that he can transform it by transforming you. He asks that you believe his words and try to follow them, and he asks that you believe in things you cannot see, but can feel and interact with in your heart and through prayer and see in your life.
In return your life will be transformed by love. Your life will be truly changed in every possible way for the better. We don’t do the prosperity gospel in this house, so don’t think your bank balance will explode, but your wealth will be in the joy and contentment, the end of searching for the next big thing, or following the herd. Why, because you have found the biggest, best thing of all. The things he will give are not destroyed by moths or rust, or indeed anything this world has to offer.
There’s loads of other stuff that he did that you may feel drawn to do, help the oppressed (Matthew 6:1-34), share your bread (Matthew 25:37-40), show love to everyone (Matthew 22:34-40), clothe the naked (Luke 6:29-30), feed the hungry (Matthew 25:37-40), never lie, let your yes be yes (Matthew 5:37), don’t be greedy (Luke 12:15), don’t judge others(Matthew 7), etc.
But honestly all those things happen a lot easier with his help, and he helps you lots. Indeed you try willingly because you can see when you share his love, and help those he created he creates a new you, in you outside of you, all around you. He creates in you a joy at seeing these things, a new lens on the world, his lens.
This building is populated in the main by people that try and share that lens, they share his love, and wobble along fallibly trying to be like him, and follow him and they are part of the “body” of Christ. They are Christians, and they are as unique, as precious, as broken and wonderful as you. The fellowship of that body of Christ is a wonderful, enabling, supporting, aspect of being with him.
Where is he?
This God is with you, alive and helping you right now, every second, every moment. Not a God to punish, and judge, but to assist and care and help you come to him. Not a God shocked into anger by your sin, and unwilling to help. Not a God cowed by whatever your burden is, or whatever the world has burdened you with.
Not a God who wrote the instruction manual and wandered off.
Albeit, he is shown up on high on a dais in our churches, he with us and all his creation high or low, alongside lifting you up. Not up there, down here, a servant king right he in the mess and muck of life. Wherever it gets the most horrible, sinful, oppressed, messy, nasty, brutal, poor in whatever way you can be poor, angry, etc. That’s where this God is found.
There’s no place in your soul, he can’t lift up through love. His forgiveness becomes yours. You are forgiven, in turn, in time you will forgive.
This is a God who wanted to lift your burden from you 2000 years ago and he wants you to give it to him so that he can carry it. He wanted that SO badly he died to do just that.
An even more amazing thing is that although he is shown clearly dying up there on the cross, he isn’t dead. That is why I keep speaking in the present tense about a man clearly dying an agonising death?
He did die, on that cross, and they brought him down, and covered him with sheets and put him in a tomb and rolled a massive rock over that tomb. Three days after he had died, they looked in that tomb and the man that was dead had gone.
He then showed himself and spoke with his disciples, and when many people had seen him, spoken to him, even examined the wounds inflicted on his body, he rose to join his father in heaven.
The Father had sacrificed his Son on the cross, so that you can be with him today and forever. Jesus is that Son. Death has been defeated, love has conquered evil, your debt is paid and your life however lowly or broken, however wrong it has been or will be is loved by the man you see right up there.
Death will become an illusion, a stage, a transformation, a chance. All the errors you or others have done in your life can be forgiven; you can start afresh, born again into a new you.
However, as I have said, the essential step in all of the above is asking.
How you ask him to help, is through prayer, he is waiting right now for you to make that prayer, and the second you do he will rush to help. Doesn’t matter where you are, or where you have been. He will rejoice, and bring you close, with a love that has no memory.
Billy Graham had the prayer for the moment that you decide to do this.
If you’re feeling ready sit yourself down in one of those pews, and maybe look up at the man suffering for you, waiting for you right now. Then say words something like this…
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow you as my Lord and Saviour. In Your Name.
I pray that whoever reads this guide to who that man up their does just that.
Join me in the body of Christ. It’s wonderful.
Billy Graham “Sinners Prayer” Various Youtube recordings of him.
Biblical Quotations and References From
Holy Bible with Apocrypha, New Revised Standard Version [Anglicised edition) (Cambridge University Press 2007, (Reprinted 2015)
Some days you see people on the same hamster wheel I was on.
If I get the house, if I get the car, if I get the job, if I get the XXX or YYY.
The Career, the self help, the bike, the healthy living, the iphone, the thing Amazon tells you , you need,.
Then they realise its something inside, so they dangle crystals, or listen to American Indian stuff, or anything that sounds sincere, or they replace it with the fellowship of football fans, or some hobby, or look to find that thing they can identify with,
Chakras, Witchcraft mediums, spiritualists, Jedi and the force, Harry Potter , you name it.
I noticed the other day a Billy Graham quote going viral as it was disguised as something said by a red indian (the whatever wolf you feed quote). So you stumble around and get good , or average or fail at any and all of these?
When you get any of these?
Nothing fulfills, Nothing , it feels emptier each time you get wherever the answer was supposed to be, because you know they had your money, your time and they just had you…
Why, because as Mother Julian says that longing you are feeling, is Gods calling and the closer you get to it the more content you feel, the closer you make your life to his the more that longing becomes a feeling of being fulfilled.
When you and him are truly merged into one being, with your life and his indivisible then you find peace.
He is the way the truth and the life.
I have heard it happens to the best Christians, its never happened to me before. I never expected it to happen. I sort of was “around” and in dialogue with a lot of angry atheists, a lot of people seeking god, or denying him.
Some insulted him, some had well rehearsed statements on all manner of things religious. Some were hurtful, some were looking to anger you so they could say “their you go not so christian after all”.
I wanted to help, I wanted to be the Christian voice on an angry atheist right wing facebook page.
But also I had come a LONG way in my journey in a short space, there were unanswered things from the things I had learnt. In my 2,5 years as a Christian I had read the entire bible, was half way through a two year course on Christian studies, been exposed to traditional and liberal Christianity, had all number of views challenged, read books and books of theology. Got a spiritual adviser to help me draw closer and he was and is a great help .
Overall though I was “busy”. Busy trying to be a Christian, busy with family, work, helping my church, the homeless, my courses, my studies. Busy. Prayer, family, church , social life all had alloted spots.
Then I had a hernia, it went off like a grenade in my life, one minute fine, next minute rushed to emergency surgery (it was a big one) and forced to sit for five weeks. So I spent this summer in a chair, in a bit of pain, in my garden.
I studied, assisi, therese of mavilla, some books on ordination, and reflected on may things, I had some intense spiritual moments where I felt guided, rebuked, loved, mostly loved. Oh and close, very very close. I spent a lot of time speaking to these right wign atheists with all the best intentions. But I see now I should have wiped the sand from my shoes much much earlier. Secular, Angry, aggressive, never moving in any aspect of debate quite corrosive over time, making progress one day, right back to square one the next, any point proven was thown back as a rebuke. Just endless anger.
Then I got better, went back to work and reflected as my life slowly sped up again on that last few weeks, and asked myself some hard questions about how much of all that I had learned did I really believe. A reflection on my period of reflection sort of revealed a few things I had just never truly resolved.
Second mistake I used my brain, me to try and work it all out, I sort of floundered about and scared myself really by losing track of the basics, and almost tormenting myself with ideas of doubt.
I slowly over 2-3 emails revealed this doubt to my pastor, who was calmer than I was, and she said “pray and know that you are prayed for”. Habit at that point kicked in and a strong discipline of prayer I had built up reasserted itself. A thing she had got me into and was reinforced my my spiritual advisor and my study group. So although in my doubt my prayers were weak, I can assume my pastors prayers were not, or maybe god saw my weakness and bolstered me.
Through two sessions of proper prayer, no liturgical format, just me and some candles and him and looking for and finding help in my bible, and further emails. I found my way back, switched off my brain and looked for the relationship, switched off the part of me that long ago sought him in a repeatable science model and remembered where he always was, “within” ans ought that place out and asked him to come into my life again and to help me, and lots of long unread passages that formed my faith were given to me, from a gideons bible, from opening his book, from prayer.
I always had a logical idea that there is a “creator”, science in my view and increasingly so as I learn about time, space, the size of it all etc. To me its inescapable that there is a god, my relationship was stronger, and then I had to ask the hard question.
Was Jesus really the son of god? The bible is clearly a divine book, way to clever, intricate , interwoven, remarkable in its deep truths, and explanation of the human condition to be anything BUT a work of god, or inspired by god. If you read it you will think that, if you havent then you may not because you havent seen the total wonder of it, books thousands of years apart interwoven, such guidance, love, etc. But I had and I knew that
So it was I said god where DOES it say without doubt from your word , not Paul or peter but from you?? That he is my Saviour and died for me and my sins and was from you? With my gideons bible in my hands I asked that very question. Where does it say that from YOU god, just from you.
Matthew 1-21. One of the very first verses I ever read, now answered THAT very question.
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins
And that was that,
I could have said when in doubt ask your pastor for help, pray and be still with him, ask him back into your life and admit you have wandered off and want to come back? You didnt mean too in fact you did some of the damage through the very best of intentions.
But I think the longer story may help others.
Shortening it more?
Pray, pray often, pray when your strong an really pray when your weak.
Are you feeling useful today?
Have you done the washing, the ironing, mowed the lawn? Do you feel like you are contributing? What does your internal dialogue about how you value yourself, what does IT say about you? That voice we all have that “judges” what we say and do and what we think we are?
Does your value depend on what you do? In France when redundancies occur for any reason they suffer the highest rates of suicide in any developed nation? What they “do” and what they “are” it seems have become so inseparable from their own self-worth that divorce from your job becomes unbearable.
When I see Kim Kardashian and the media inspired celebrities do something more and more desperate to become the cause celebre of the moment, I wonder what it is that makes them need that, and how and why the fleeting light of peoples ever shrinking attention spans matters so much?
Those are extreme examples but sometimes through parenthood, financial constraints, physical constraints we cannot perform the duties we feel make us “useful”, or the perceived lack of other things that that we use to measure our own worth. Mobility, disablement, isolation, separation, weakness (internal or external), money, skill of some sort that we lack or used to have perhaps?
However these value systems we hold and create and need so badly it seems has very little to do with how God see’s us. Using this value system the bird’s song that he created is only useful for warning or attracting a mate? A peacocks plumage the same? Churches with LARGE congregations are successful and those with smaller ones less so. People who have more of X or Y have or are worth more.
However I think God shows us through scripture repeatedly that his value system is totally at odds with this utilitarian view of the world. His love is not as a result of our usefulness.
We so earnestly try as Christians not to judge others and we can be so harsh on ourselves.
Does God see the single earnest prayer offered up as less than a row full of pews perhaps wondering where tonight’s dinner will be? Even if that entire church is full of people in earnest prayer are they valued less than the single one from a less full church?
If we toil away in his duty, or for others, without success but with our hearts fixed on him? Is this of more or less value?
If we at home cannot contribute anything more than earnest prayer, or love for our children, or advice from wise caring heart? What value do you attach?
But it’s even more than that, lots more.
If nobody comes to hear this advice and all the wisdom we have never gets heard except by our father in prayer and nobody but he can see the goodness he has created? If as in the Beatles song Father Mckenzie is writing a sermon that nobody hears.
If our love is taken for granted, as we wash for others, iron, pray, feed.
Does God see our hearts as lesser?
I think it’s even more than that even if we are unwise, our faith weak, our prayer faltering, he knows our heart and knows that how he made us THAT is our best effort.
When a child brings you a picture so BAD (in utilitarian terms) that everything in it has to be explained by the child, our heart leaps because it’s our child and he thought to bring it to us. I think that is how God see’s even the worst prayer or thought of him.
In St Andrews at the end of each service the kids bring the pictures they have made during the service up to the front. Generally they are on a theme of the season or Star wars or whatever is occupying our thoughts. We don’t value those pictures any less or more if they are brilliant or bad. All of them are seen as equal and for most it’s one of the best bits of the service.
Children’s prayers are often simple, and nearly ways from the heart, about home, about love about Sylvester the cat and when included in prayers of intercession always contain some truth that we as adults in our quest to go deeper than the shared love between us and our pet misses. A child see’s that of enough value as to be the thing he brings to the front of the church to show the whole world.
God’s love see’s our grown up prayers, and the child’s prayer for thanks for my home, or for my cat as equal and from the same fallible source. Indeed we are asked to come before him like children and there’s something in that.
Also you don’t play a game or colour a picture with a child to show your superiority. God is like that too he made us infinitely simple creatures (compared to him) and enjoys our company. Takes intense interest in every detail of us, as Jesus says “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered”
In the same way “play” when seen as time taken away from useful time, and the arts are all prone to attack from those who see them as commodities. We at times see ourselves in the same way; we attach a value system that is of the “world” to ourselves.
Jesus said to the Pharisee’s once “”You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts.”
Psalm 139 says “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” That is how well he knows you. Yet still he loves you.
Someone once asked a prison chaplain “What is the point of loving bad people if loving doesn’t make them change”? God’s answer to that is plain, I think the answer is God loved HIS bad people so much he gave his son to save us from ourselves. As another psalm says “God’s love never fails”. He Jesus said that he gave us “the way the truth and the life” so that we can come close to him. Jesus gave his very own life for the same reason.
In that case how much of a dichotomy is it that we use a different measuring stick with which to beat ourselves with, when we consider ourselves less than useful, less than worthy, use the values of a world that sees everything in utilitarian terms to judge ourselves.
God shows us again and again, in his every act that is not how he sees us; his values are NOT attached to what a world that drifts ever further away from him and even we in our sometimes weaker moments perceive as “without use” lesser, weak or unworthy.
In those terms, the world’s terms God made useless beings, and we can do no more for him than a one year old being asked to make dinner. Yet we as Christians know, and are told that he loved us so much he gave us his only begotten son, gave us the holy spirit so that we can share those awful childlike drawings of our prayer.
The difference is unlike us who have to “ask” our children sometimes what the drawing is, God knows our hearts and never has to be shown.
So next time you don’t feel of value, of use, if your wisdom is locked away, if you want so much to give but for whatever reason can’t and feel unworthy for that. Remember God’s infinite love and the things he values us for, and ultimately YOUR value in every way that truly matters is neither attached, related or dependant on anything like that.
Its really simple God wants you to offer up whatever you can to him, and he loves you SO much. No matter how broken, no matter how imperfect or how unworthy YOU think you are you are Gods children and he loves that you gave him your imperfect drawing.
Don’t know about you but when recurring “themes” occur from random people I tend to take notice and include said theme in prayer? Also Quite often for me these things happen shortly after prayer. People who are unconnected in any way start a conversation, books you read; scripture all keep saying the same thing.
I became aware of the theme this weekend for me with Jo speaking about stories and hidden treasure. Jo told the story of a man who went on a great journey looking for his life’s treasure to almost find it where he was looking and then realised it was always at home and under his bed.
This week I randomly picked up the book god of surprises, and the chapter I read was to the effect.
“We pay so little attention to our inner life. However they are key to our behaviour, they Buck and swerve and duck.
We are like riders on the horses of these impulses and all we do is try and keep in the saddle
We never try and befriend the horse and attack the end results of suppressing these impulses with medicine, stress and look down on those that try as unscientific
Why do we ignore it?
Simply because we cannot measure quantitatively it control it.
So these brutalised emotions over time take hideous revenge.
Prayer opens the door and allows God to work with us as he created us.
He allows us to work with our inner selves and discover the “hidden treasure” we all possess and try so hard to suppress.”
The chapter (and the book) is all about locating, understanding, making friends with and reacting sympathetically to our “hidden treasure” as we are made by god and he put it there and meant it to be listened too. He wants to use it for his purpose.
Then a friend on Facebook said randomly “I feel urged to tell you to pray to ask for discernment”
Then I went to see my spiritual director who started up the subject and we spent the afternoon working on the subject of how to discern gods will? He thought I had good discernment (as I had by then prayed). I realise I was being a little less than brave that day as I suggested all the other things apart from the one thing I kept being urged to do?
Then I read the first line of “faith in the fool” a book I continue to learn from “There is more to life than being useful is its recurring theme. Of no earthly use and of infinite value. It talks about Holy Fools and clowns who do foolish things.
One of the best lines is “One of my favourite holy fools is the woman of doubtful reputation who interrupted a dinner party and poured a whole jar of expensive perfume over Jesus head (Mark 14 1-9). Some saw this as a foolish act of useless extravagance, a waste of a marketable commodity.
For me all of these things are saying, sometimes we in prayer feel urged to do what seems preposterous, and foolish, beyond us or useless. Others may make us feel like all those things but Jesus see’s the value as he was the ultimate Holy Fool of course.
Myself I had been resisting an idea that seemed preposterous for a long while, others like Matty spoke directly into that very thing today “ I would like to hear you preach” , my Christian friends all have recently. Spoken into that thing I parked as silly, and preposterous for someone who came to the church so late and wasn’t worthy?
Then Jo said in that same talk “what makes you so “£$% special that you cant be forgiven.”
And Matthew was quoted at me (13:44-5) where a treasure is hidden in a field. I realise I found this treasure when I came back to Jesus, I knew it then but I considered it a silly idea at the time.
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
So I found it , hid it and I think maybe today I realise I have to go buy that field.
Also this week I wrote on Facebook
“You know some days I just want to spend my time sitting and being with him in his house.
All I want to do today is pray.
Make you wonder what does he want me to hear?
Other lines where used at me this week “ he chose fisherman not princes to be his ambassadors”
And “I am not in control but I am deeply loved by one who is”
Overall though I realised that the only time I feel contentment is when I picture myself trying to bring to people the thing I described so well also this week in a conversation. The lead up is important but the ending is my heart’s desire…
Have you felt braver since you found god?
I dont fear death?
I dont worry about my future?
I dont worry if people get angry or react when I speak about Jesus?
I walk into things not worrying if I will get hurt as I know I have his protection and my time is allotted by his grace.
I feel more love towards my fellow man and that calms the waters
I feel his grace every day and that solves, cures, calms, opens, closes, heals and protects whatever he chooses.
He untangles lives, cures the pain within, offers hope, forgiveness, accepts and loves every single part of you, he doesnt want saints and used fishermen, taxmen, people who hated him and everything he stood for to be his ambassadors.
He knew before I started this journey. I know the world needs him SO much and when I was just started as a Christian and somebody asked me what do you want I replied “I want others to feel like this”
Then this week I was remnded of how far I had come “Matty’s evensong sermon last week was in the church I was baptised and confirmed and it spoke into my journey so far, how existentialist philosophy took me away, and then it talked about athe trinity as a single relationship that was now for me so strong and real and active.
So it’s me isn’t it, the blocker, the person that argued with him for 20 years, who see’s himself as unworthy and something preposterous to think and keeps choosing targets that seem more normal, more attainable.
But Ive seen that a collar does open conversations does make people want to speak with you. My first talk to mens breakfast was “Being Visible” and that uniform does indeed do that.
So in the last week I have applied for lay reader and to the church army.
So Mike Tricker – Lay Preacher? Preposterous isn’t it?
Cockney loud, like a beer, like west ham, ribald humour, a man that argued with Jesus and listened to Sartre for so long before I realised Sartre was wrong and Jesus was right.
Also the man that had to Google lent two and a half years ago. Sometimes short tempered , and not always great at listening.
Lay Preacher, just simply preposterous. But no less mad than Saul, no more ribald than say a rough fisherman’s humour?
So it isn’t. I can talk well, I present for a living, My latest CCS was on the subject of how much of Saul God used in Paul, see when you look God used a LOT of Saul, his passion, his position in life, the pharasee’s zeal for clarity in matters of faith.
So apart from my faith what could god want to use?
I write well and when I am passionate about something I can take people with me on a journey and drop them off where I want.
I do it all the time in sales; people follow me when I speak. When I believe in a subject I can take you with me when I talk.
That was also I thing I randomly said to Arthur this week.
Where I want to “drop them off” is now right at Jesus feet, at the Calvary bus stop , and let him untangle, forgive, love and renew.
Pray for me?
Footnote I came off this page and the next thing I saw… Oswald Chambers.
We too can be lifted by Him into heavenly places through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, so that He can reveal the teachings of God to us.
The Pics I posted in this piece – ones I posted today
It seems, I think I may have finally listened correctly
This piece was as a result of an experience I had during lent, and the things I learned from it. I felt really quite bad, and then started praying and reading.
When god came into our lives and we gave our hearts into his hands and returned to him his creation. We came home, we came back from the world. Like the prodigal sons that we all are, when we return God’s love enfolds us and we move on.
We aren’t told what happens to the prodigal son after he came home. I think we assume he never left God’s love again and lived in harmony with the father.
Hopefully he did.
But for some old habits and bad ways come back to haunt us, in weak moments, in rash moments, through all the ways we let the devil lead us astray. All the ways we leave the door open for him to take us away from Jesus desires for us.
We feel ashamed, we pray for forgiveness. Myself I wonder how long before I can feel myself to be back from the distance sin creates, that we create by our sin.
However that sadness and guilt we feel, if it has any positives is us learning by bitter experience what sin does to us. Each time we come back and beg him to repair the damage we need to remember.
We have given ourselves to him and we are chosen. While our bad habits might come back, and we should try every day, every minute never to sin again. To pray for support, and to be made inside the way that he wants us.
Repentance with humility is just one way God works through the chaos of our lives and our weakness.
As he says in Psalm 51
My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
He uses our reliance on his grace and our repeated failures to repair us in his image.
So right now, put on the full Armour of God and try your very best, and always repent with a broken and contrite heart.
Remember , whenever and wherever you wander, god is waiting for you to turn back to him in love and utter dependence on his grace. That realization of that dependence is a critical lesson that our lives simply cannot function without his grace and we rely totally on it for any hope of salvation. Our only solace is that he will use that repentance and through his mercy will bring you closer to him once more.
I often write on social media about various musings on God, his word and how he affects those that live in him and he in us. But this was my first time in front of a real audience and my parish and those that I love and worship with every week.
Anyone who hears this please remember, This is just MY thoughts, and “a” way of expressing things” not the way, every one is just as valid
You are the first bible people meet.
I joined our Parish two years ago or so now without any idea about who or what the church was and is. It was quite hard for me, I had zero church background and knew nobody from the church (or didn’t know I knew anyone from the church). I had a relationship with Jesus forged from years before when I was very lonely in a flat down in Bournemouth.
Born into a very noisy active family down in forest gate in among the bad boys I got given the chance to move to Bournemouth through work. I decided this was my chance to get out. Change my perspective Change my life.
Thing is being young and silly I bought a flat in Bere Regis right out the back, with nobody around. Beautiful, isolated, and for a city boy from a 24/7 family a very lonely place. I had zero social life and albeit some very good friends came with me I was at the end of each day, alone.
One day in my bedroom I was so lonely I picked up a Gideon’s bible I was given at school and said “Jesus I really need you, if you’re real please help me”
My room at that point was filled with him, his love and it was SO real I could touch it. From that day to as I stand here now I have had an active relationship with Jesus.
He is right HERE (at that point I pointed to my heart)
The years passed and I never went to a church because I never felt like I needed too. Then after drifting away for a long time I came back, and this time I really did want to join, but again just never knew HOW to join, what the culture was like, what the people would be like, are they the harsh judgmental souls represented by the American church?
Are they leaping round like the charismatic, are they very serious, are they, are they and so on.
Is it boring?
All sorts of excuses, plus how do you choose?
All religions are the same?
What are you good people Like?
I never knew
Then one day (he asked me to say I was Guided by the lord) I met a very outspoken (in everything actually) Christian called Hugh Southon, and we met through mutual love of all things west ham, I am a bit of a west ham anorak, and quite a good blogger and very good on social media, growing a west ham page to about 5000, but it was the non west ham chat that changed my life.
I was telling him that all religions are the same. I was in the position at that time of having spent 30 years arguing with a Jesus I was either trying to prove existed or didn’t, I spent all my time in philosophy and alternate religions seeking him so I could deny him
I’ve tested you out and really I don’t know.
Hugh and his friend Caroline were arguing that Christianity was “the” religion, because Jesus was alive”. I said it’s the same as all religions.
Caroline quoted John 14:6 “I am the way the truth and the life and nobody comes to the father except through me”.
She said that if that was not true, then Jesus was a liar.
This ultimatum rather stopped me in my tracks, forced me to make a choice, and forced me to find a way in through the church door, through all the stereotypes, baggage, and cynicism of a world that really is increasingly distant.
I sent a LONG email to Jane and here I am.
But it was very clear the final catalyst was because someone in a public place nailed their colours to the mast and said “I am Christian, this is what I think as a Christian”
As I grew into the body of the church I found the problems we are all aware of.An aging congregation was a problem for the church as was a shrinking one.
That’s really sad because once very soon after I joined while getting my ear healed through prayer (story for another day) I was asked “what do you want” A very deep truth spilled out of me when I said
“I want others to feel like this”
and I do, Very badly.
Why because I meet homeless people who so need to forgive or his forgiveness, I meet anger and greed and they so need his love.
The world needs his love, the refugee’s and the disenfranchised all need Christian love.
Assad, Isis, David Cameron, Donald Trump, All the big corporates like Amazon, banks, all need it, all the big countries, all need his love and to follow his example. All of the people, in all of those things.
They all need him.
The world Need’s him
However we can be a bit silent, a bit invisible.
The question is WHY?
• The ever more secular growth makes us feel unusual.
• The angry atheist, makes us feel vulnerable
• The people that think Christians are homophobes, or judgmental make us feel vulnerable.
• The news where companies that sack people for wearing a cross, that persecute the church and those that speak out.
The problem is, that in a world ever more moving away from us, a world very much LESS exposed to the bible than people have been for centuries, as someone said the other day.
You are the first bible people meet.
All of you,all of us.
We have to fill that gap, and that means being in plain sight?
We have to speak out.
But with our voice an ever shrinking demographic we must speak and go to meet a world moving away from us.
There are ways to do this, when you’re at work and someone asks “where are you going”, Say “off to Christian studies”.
When in a few weeks’ time someone says “what are you doing over
Easter “ Say I am a Christian and that means Holy Week, so very busy in my church”
In the pub, wear a lapel badge, state who you are, be more visible, be where Christian voices don’t normally go.
On social media chat pages, in work, at football, wherever you go.
Maybe pin a line of proverbs up at your desk (good news bible versions of this are good, the use of normal English makes them easier to use)
“The Lord has given us eye’s to see with and Ears to listen with”
“The Customer always complains the price is too high, but then goes off and brags about the bargain he got” (both in Proverbs 20)
Be the first bible people meet.
So that they know a Christian, and respect that example and can ask you for a way into a culture ever more distant from us, ever more needing us, but like me a long time ago, arguing with him, labeling him,
It’s not enough that we think that being a “good person” is enough of an example because, if they don’t know who you are?
It should also be that they know you’re behaving in a certain way to glorify and follow Jesus.
If you are doing these things I apologise, but really its beholden on all of us to find a little of our inner Jehovah’s witness
Evangelism can be as a result of direct action, as a result of being a special human being.
But to make a real impact to change the tide?
We have lost a little bit through fear of being exposed or ridiculed or by not being a natural extrovert like me it’s just stating it, in conversation, at work, in the pub, at the football, on social media.
I think also we have a thing that makes us not want to “show off”.
I struggle with this too, because we are told not to show off our good works, because we are supposed to be servants, and not raise our profile.
But we must spread the good news, and by being simply “visible” we can enable others to ask, to come in, to see what we are like and what we can offer, what living with Jesus does to us, and what living with Jesus can offer the world, as a voice.
We can explode myths, and open up, and destroy parodies, and stereotypes.
We can be the first bible people meet, and speak openly about it, with love for and too everyone and make ourselves the sign on the church door, and be gods mouth and heart.
The end result of by doing so is to open the door before they come to the door.
Make the world want share in his real loving care
My experience of this, is that at first when you speak into a place where his voice is less often heard you meet anger, and angry atheists.
“He” doesn’t want you there.
However after a while you find other voices, curious, accepting, loving, and helpful.
But we do live a little in fear of being the first voice, Christianity teaches you last first, don’t pray in the open etc. etc. We think faith without deeds is nothing and all those things are true.
But in simple terms how in today’s world where I once was, HOW would we the body of the church find ME three years ago?
I didn’t know a single Christian, or so I thought, I found them after, and the first openly Christian voice I met brought me home.
I don’t think I am alone or special in a secular world.
The question is how can we move that voice back into relevance and fill our pews again?
Only by moving our voice into plain view everywhere.
Not only in events, or on our good deeds, but in casual, but fearless conversation with our fellow man.
What we do now in some respects is like “quality time” that idea that when we spend less time with people and our kids that we can achieve just as much because we are focussed.
But truth be told we can’t and our families and friends and kids blurt things out over dinner, over the coffee machine, a pint, before the first goal whenever.
Because that’s when it hits them?
As peter said
1 Peter 3:15
“always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”
If we can be visible and open we can be around when it does.
Then because we can open the bible, simply by our words given by grace, clinging to the foot of the cross and open to him.
We can be the first bible people meet.
As they may not meet another.
Why is it that we can hear him so much better at lent?
Why is he the scent in every room, every still moment?
Why is he the pull, the cord, the urge to walk on water?
Eternities ripples “still” as glass, why is he the thing that flood’s into your soul?
At Lent, we wait for the explosion of god’s plan.
The explosion that whispers in a billion souls through eternity.
The disturbance he ever caused, never fades, the enormity becomes more.
I love you SO much lord, but never the way you loved me.
NOTE – Please say of you like this, or you don’t?
The day before yesterday the archbishop of Canterbury said in his Facebook post
“Praying is simply sitting before God and allowing him, through Jesus, to shape who we are”.
I think that’s actually quite scary?
Easy to talk about, sometimes hard to do, in fear, in doubt, trepidation or anger.
That’s why one of the great theologians said
“Faith is more than belief that God exists, but trust that he loves you”
Then you can come to him as a child, and open your heart as a child to a father they trust, and let him as your child lets you, shape them.
I think this is what Jesus meant when he said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Its much harder for adults, as we have learnt the baggage of the world, and we must “consciously” put our baggage down.
A child doesn’t know to pick it up. so we must unlearn the “world” to be open to god.