Category: God stuff


cliff

i can’t remember any time recently when i wanted to kill the pastor of the church i was in [Ben the Priest is kinda cool!]. In fact it’s probably more likely that there were people thinking those kinds of thoughts about me during some of my more challenging or hectic messages back in the day. Continue reading

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yesterday

Today is known as the Day of Reconciliation. Although for most South Africans i imagine it is just seen as a public holiday.

Someone’s status caught my attention this morning and got me thinking, ‘Imagine if in South Africa we started celebrating Day of Reconciliation in the way Americalanders celebrated Thanksgiving?’ – now, as always, any analogy is as strong as the point it is trying to make so let’s just ignore all the negative aspects linked to Thanksgiving for a moment and focus on the idea of sitting around a table together and looking back and giving thanks.

DAY OF RECONCILING

mandela 2

This would be an amazing day to grab hold of for families. Sitting with children and explaining to them the significance of reconciliation and then modelling it to them.

But take a minute right now. Is there anyone that comes to mind who you are holding unforgiveness towards at this moment? Maybe it was something that someone said or did to you this week? Maybe earlier this year? Or perhaps something a little more deeper and more painful that happened a few years ago that you have not been able to let go of?

Is there anyone that comes to mind who you are holding unforgiveness towards at this moment?

Alternatively, it might be someone who is holding on to unforgiveness against you. Jesus had some crazy unconventional teaching to give to that scenario, which turns the whole thing on its head.

altar

Is there someone like that who comes to mind for you? You can’t make anyone forgive you, but you can open the door to reconciliation and invite them inside. Do whatever you can do to create the bridge and perhaps give them a nudge to step over? What is radical about Jesus’ statement is that He invites us to interrupt worship to go and do it. “Don’t pretend you are all close to God and stuff if there is broken relationship with you and someone else. Fix that and then come and hang with Me.”

START AT THE MIRROR

mandela

It’s often easier to see fault in the other person. You’d think Mandela might have been someone who would have been justified being pissed off with a lot of people, but he chose to look inwardly and make sure he was right inside, for the greater good of the nation.

Each of us need to stand in front of the mirror and ask where we need to change. This is something that should be happening on a more regular basis for sure, but imagine if on one day every year, every person in the country took this seriously and did a self-reflection and reached out to those who had hurt them and who they have offended.

Now this won’t obviously magically happen overnight, but how about you start as one person, as one family, as a group of friends, as a community to make something more significant of this day. Maybe today you just do something by yourself as it’s quite short notice, but plan to set aside The Day of Reconciliation in 2016 as something more significant?

As much as Jesus’ words were powerful, His example was more so. Regardless of who you might think He really was or what you believe about Him, much of His life and actions have been captured. One of the final statements He shouted out from the cross where he was being crucified in the most horrible way known to man at the time was the following:

forgive

If an innocent man who is being tortured and killed can have the attitude of Reconciliation for those doing the killing, then how much more can we do for those who have hurt us in smaller ways? Who have said things that caused offence? Or done things – or possibly not done things – which made us sad or angry or frustrated?

How about we claim the Day of Reconciliation as an actual thing we celebrate both in not having to go to work, but also in reaching out towards those where distance has been created?

Who is one person you need to begin this with? Please come back and let me know how it goes…

bare feet church

i was busy painting my block for the uThando leNkosi wall painting project as part of our 67 minutes and a bit for Mandela Day yesterday when things got a little interesting.

A lady i had just met, assuming i guess, that we were a bunch of christians helping out with this project, decided to break some ice, by turning to those closest to her and asking, ‘What church do you go to?’

My friend Megan, one of my fellow improvisers, who had jumped at the chance to get involved, proudly exclaimed, “i am an enthusiastic atheist!” or something to that effect.

Not wanting to appear completely thrown by that little speed bump, my fellow painter declared, “Well that sounds like fun.” Again, my day-after-the-effect paraphrase. Painting resumed.

wall2

TAKE TWO

A while later Megan had moved on to another part of the wall and my new friend decided to try again and so i started to explain the most recent dynamic of visiting a bunch of churches since returning to Cape Town as opposed to particularly committing to any one. The conversation moved to the fact that she had Catholic roots and what did i feel about the Catholic church? i explained that i believe that the rest of the church has a lot to learn from the Catholic church in terms of holiness and respect and awe for God with the tendency of more modern day churches to adopt more of a Jesus-is-my-buddy approach.

She seemed to resonate with this and said that the one thing she couldn’t stand about a lot of the other churches she had visited was the lack of respect. “I really can’t stand it when people don’t wear shoes for example.”

“I was a pastor for six years in a Vineyard church and i never wore shoes,” i quickly and gently responded.

By way of back-peddling, i guess, she said something about the need for honouring the space and the occasion, like for example, weddings.

“I have conducted three weddings and did each of them barefoot,” i responded.

i went on to explain how i did it intentionally, using the story of Moses and the burning bush and the idea of taking off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. The picture of a marriage being something that God sees as holy ground, despite how the world has typically done what it can to reduce the idea to something more me-focused and consumerist.

i can’t remember what happened next, but i don’t remember continuing that conversation and so she very well might have found another part of the wall that needed urgent attention.

barefoot in church

TRUTH OR TRADITION OR BOTH?

For those of us who are part of the church, i believe it is so important to regularly take a step back and look at the things we do [and possibly also the things we like and appreciate about what we do]

Are there things we do which are simply tradition, done because everyone always did them since that time the first person did them, but not necessarily biblical or Godly things? And should we perhaps stop doing some of those?

Are there things we don’t do that might be things that are really good to do according to God and the bible and the history of the church?

Are there some that maybe fall kinda in the middle – fun and good things to do but not particularly called for by God or the Bible and we are free to make a choice as to whether we want to keep doing them or not?

Do we question? Do we critique? Do we regularly test the things we do? What affect might they have on outsiders, on visitors? Do we take time to explain some of the weird stuff and traditions when people are visiting?

Does what happens on a Sunday [if that is when we meet together as church] strengthen, encourage, equip and empower us for the work of being the church for the rest of the week as we work, as we family, as we sport and as we relationship?

If so, let’s keep on with it… happy churching!

Just over a week ago, tbV and i spent five days on two houseboats with about 20 incredible people, mostly younger than me. Here are some of the guys:

hb

We lived together, we ate together, we read the bible and sang some worship songs together, we confessed some struggles and some sin and prayed for each other, we sat in silence for three hours and were just still and knew that He was God, we laughed together, we swam and pokered and joked and crazied together. We had one on one conversations and were challenged about money and life purpose and decision-making and following Jesus in all aspects of our life.

In short, we churched. We were church. God’s people doing God’s stuff together in love. And yet, if we came home on Saturday and then didn’t ‘go to church’ that Sunday, i know a lot of people who would be concerned because ‘we didn’t go to church’.

i personally think God would have been okay with it, though, as He certainly seemed to be smiling down on us churching for the rest of the week.

Church is important. It is crucial. But it may be a little bit bigger than your definition of it. Certainly if it is the identity contained in the images of ‘bride of Christ’ and ‘body of Christ’. Then maybe it’s that bit more important as being something we are as opposed to something we attend.

May you church well this week.

[To read the poem ‘To Church’ that i wrote on houseboats this week, click here]

[For a post looking at the first martyr Stephen as an example of being church, click here]

You go away on a houseboat for a week, come back home, turn on your computer and it’s like a paint factory sneezed all over Facebook.

fbrainbow

Or something like that. Actually the graphic on my buddy Steve Heineman’s page expressed it best:

rainbow

And i think enough has been said from either side of the rainbow for me to need to add anything specifically about that, although i definitely have some deep sadness for some of the christian response which seemed significantly compassion-free in places.

i did, however, respond with this line, which i hope people on both sides of the spectrum will seriously consider:

May whoever ends up being proven right not lose their rightness in the way that they respond and relate to whoever is proven wrong.

As a follower of Jesus i don’t know that we will know the absolute answer about whether or not we were right or wrong in the particular stance we took on this until one day when we are standing in front of God. But i’m pretty convinced that whether or not we responded in love will be quite obvious. And i’m fairly confident that God is less likely to be focusing on “You said it was okay to be gay” or “You said it was not okay to be gay” and more concerned with, “How well did you love those who thought differently to you?”

Cos that’s the greatest command, right? Love. Not good theology. And that is not saying that good theology is not worth pursuing and putting time and energy and effort into getting as right as we can. But it is saying that it is crucial that we major in love.

After all,

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So, whether you agree or disagree or continue to wrestle with how you feel and what you think or believe, at least be kind. Can we all do that? Is it possible to disagree with someone and love them at the same time? i feel like Jesus was big on that.

candle

It was the smallest of deals, it was quite possibly the biggest of deals.

This morning i’d been asked to share a little about church at a house church meeting of a friend of mine – never met the group before and only knew the leader through a camp i spoke on last year for his youth.

But i’d also spent the last few days feeling very challenged by the tragic events in Charleston and using my social media avenues to share a number of powerful thoughts i had read and to challenge leaders of churches across Americaland to PLEASE give the incident some focus in their meetings.

As i prepared to lead a meeting of my own i thought it would be very hypocritical if i didn’t do the same and so in a middle to wealthy group of white home church goers i invited them to close their eyes while we took a few minutes to remember the people on this list of nine names. People who we hadn’t known personally, but as members of the body of Christ, their loss was our loss and the pain of their family members and friends needed to be our pain as well:

Cynthia Hurd [54]

Tywanza Sanders [26]

Sharonda Singleton [45]

Myra Thompson [59]

Ethel Lance [70]

Susie Jackson [87]

DePayne Doctor [49]

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr [74]

Rev. Clementa Pinckney [41]

i read out the ages as well cos that felt strangely significant to me – i had read that it was a prayer meeting and it was no surprise to me that the majority of members there were older folks as around the world, they seem to be the ones to fill up our corporate times of prayer in the most faithful of ways.

We took a moment to remember the incident as an isolated moment of tragedy. Then we took a moment to remember the incident as just one in a much bigger question and ongoing story that feels like one of the most important things Americaland needs to be facing right now. We prayed that the white church leaders of Americaland would realise how important it was for them to be part of this mourning, conversation and journey, both now and into the future. That black voices won’t feel alone and isolated and abandoned once more, as if this is simply their thing they need to face.

We invited power and love and strength and grace and healing. We were still.

It was not a big deal. But it felt significant. It felt necessary. It felt important. And perhaps it was the biggest deal of every part of our gathering this morning.

Were you part of a group or gathering that gave Charleston any mention or focus today? i would LOVE to hear about it in the comments.

list

[For some helpful thoughts & pictures on Charleston from other people with wise voices, click here]

In Acts 7 in the bible, we read about the stoning of Stephen.

Does anyone know what role Stephen had in the early church?

Let me give you a clue: In Acts 6.5 we see him described as “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit”.

So what did he do? Are we thinking pastor? Elder? Worship leader?

Let me give you another clue: In Acts 6.8 we read that Stephen was “a man full of God’s grace and power”.

If you think of someone like that in your church, what is their role? Any closer to figuring out Stephen’s?

stephen

STEPHEN WAS THE FOOD GUY

So at the beginning of Acts chapter 6 we read how the twelve disciples chose seven men ‘known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’ to take over the work of the daily distribution of food [a move that was done because a certain group of widows was being neglected and they wanted to make sure it wasn’t so].

And Stephen, who went on to be martyred, and who saw heaven opened and witnessed the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand side of God [Acts 7.56] was one of those seven. His role in the church was to make sure that food was handed out.

BE THE CHURCH BE THE CHURCH BE THE CHURCH

As i have been having intimate book launches and creating space for people to ask any questions they might have about church and God and following Jesus, i am becoming more and more convinced that the church is meant to be so much more of an identity than it is an experience.

This does not appear to be the most popular of opinions. There is a loud and insistent clamouring for church to need to be identified as ‘local church’ and a strong focus on the meeting at the particular place with that certain group of people.

i’m not suggesting for a second that local church is wrong, or bad, or should be stopped or left or run away from. At all.

But we are called the bride of Christ. We are described as the body of Christ. Both identity labels. Sure there is doing attached to both of those, but more importantly there is being. Who we are. Not just on Sundays, in the building. But always, everywhere.

It’s not even as if Sunday is the most authentic picture of who we are – we tend to dress up in a way we seldom dress during the week – portray a persona unlike the reality of what is really going on in our lives [So we don’t get to see people struggling with life or relationships or work or issues – every marriage looks perfect, every individual looks like they have it together] – and go through the religious ritual singing words of songs we often either don’t believe or pay attention to, prayers which sound nice and sermons which are too often comfortable and confirming of where we are rather than challenging where we should be being.

Jesus

i’m kinda tired of feeling like i have to defend my position on this. It feels like too many people have settled for the image of Jesus on the left and far too few are broken before the much closer image on the right.

i believe that being a part of the church means being infused with the D.N.A. of Jesus through the very fact of having His Holy Spirit in us and that it was always meant to be a description of who we are seven days a week, not just one.

It should rally us to social and societal justice, cause us to be more genuinely loving and affected people, move us to use our time, money and skills in the pursuit of the kingdom [not just 10% of them], help us to be more real in our relationships, challenge us towards forgiveness [of EVERYONE who has hurt us in any way] and spur us on to be salt and light and the fragrance of Christ amidst those who are perishing.

While local church is not a bad thing, what i am talking about feels so much bigger. It can be ‘Local Church Plus…’ for sure. And the benefits of community and accountability and teaching and combined worship and sharing of resources should be obvious.

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. [Romans 12]

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

[Matthew 28]

21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
    your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
    I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!

[Amos 5]

So today, don’t give up on gathering, but let it be real. Let it be transformative. Let it be spirit-enthusing. And above all let it inform the rest of your week as you leave the building and continue to be the church day in and day out.

legchurch

[To read some more about the book i wrote on church, called ‘i, church’, and how to get hold of it, click here]

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