Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A new car

In November last year someone in the Church was planning to scrap their car but offered it to me first.

The worst winter for ages kicked in and I was grateful every morning to have a form of transport with a roof.

I am very grateful for that provision but for a while now have begun to think about maybe getting something more suitable for me.

Fast forward to August and someone else offered another car, which would be more suitable for me. Result!

I thought about scrapping the first car but decided to post on Facebook if anyone wanted it.

Straight away someone else from Church responded.

They have a new job and need a car urgently so that they can get to work, and had prayed over the weekend for God to open up an opportunity to get a cheap car.

So I received a car and was really grateful. It served me well and just passed its MOT. At the point I started to think about a different car something else opened up. That allowed me to pass the blessing I had received on to someone else.

And all the way through not a penny has changed hands; people have been blessed (2 by giving, 1 by receiving, and me in the middle who could do both), useable cars have not been scrapped and God has provided.

We have a "Community of goods" scheme active in the Church which is a noticeboard where people can post up stuff they want to give away or stuff they need. A sort of Freecycle within the Church. Why get a few quid off ebay or dump it on the doorstep of a charity shop if someone you know and love could actually use it?

More and more I think we need to make brave decisions about ownership and sharing to explore more fully what "having everything in common" can really mean in a western affluent society.

Not least, because that way everyone wins.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

How I passed my A-levels, but failed at life

Tim Simmonds has helpfully blogged about how his A-Level results day was not exactly a pinnacle of joy and the lessons he learned.

From what I can see of that story, he did a few very good things.

1) He took time out and did not make a panic decision
2) He got stuck in at Church and in so doing he was in an environment where He could get the perspective he needed
3) He did not give up on education, later completing a degree

But I bet it still hurt.

My story is the opposite of that. At 6th form I was friends with a group of really nice Christian people and by and large we worked hard. No punk bands for me, as I was president of the Christian Union and the 6th Form College Council. Although like him, the party lifestyle opening up was certainly a distraction.

With the help of some Lett's guides and quite a big chunk of hard work I left 6th form with A grades in History, German (distinction), Business Studies and General Studies. Wanting to do a vocational degree that would prepare me for the Business World I went off to university business school with my head held high and again despite some quite shameful run ins with hedonism I graduated with a first and the school prize.

Now that sounds all boastful writing it like that and in a dark part of my soul it probably still is, but the truth of the matter is that it nearly killed me. When I say killed me, I mean the man God had shaped, called, and prepared got lost on the journey and the friendships, the nightclubs, the academic success became layer upon layer of distraction and confusion.

I left university with a job offer with Accenture, and a hole in my heart big enough to drive a Range Rover through. I was no longer sitting on the fence. In this big tug of war between God and the world, the world had won. Not that I would admit it at the time. Not that I consciously knew. The two worlds I had tried to keep spinning in tandem collided and out of the wreckage I came back to Shrewsbury for my year out. My year out serving the Church.

I vividly remember a conversation with Terry Hotchkiss, my old youth leader and now fellow elder, about doing a year out. He put me under no pressure but gently persuaded me as to the merits of it. He was right. As I put out chairs, gave lifts to senior citizens, cleaned toddler toys and was part of a year team, did some training, rubbed shoulders with people from all over the country doing the FP year, met some great Church leaders from around the country my relationship with God grew, and my understanding of my identity before God changed.

No longer was my faith an academic exercise in success and failure. It was a relationship. I was accepted. Not through my own merit. Not because I had worked hard. Not because I had made my parents proud or got into the university I wanted to or had a shiny certificate, but because of what Jesus had done.

My head knowledge faith turned into the fruit of discipleship and slowly but surely the other Dave was suffocated and finally I sent the letter to Accenture before I even started telling them I was now going to work for the Church instead.

Not that Church work is better per se, but it was God's plan for me and my success blinded me to this.

And when I now think of the trajectory my exams results left me on, I see myself on the way to becoming a lonely, insecure, outwardly successful and alcohol dependant Dave still trying to make people smile to cover his own broken heart.

But I am not that person. I am me. And I am His.

The day of my greatest success sowed the seeds of my greatest failure, when I became the story not the servant.

So if you have done well today, well done. And remember who the story is about, and it is not you.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Spare the Rod

Someone I really respect recently posted on Facebook
Governments that effectively prohibit a parent using a rod (Proverbs 13:24) on a child, will discover that they are increasingly having police officers needing to use them on adults!
I am certain that there is a level of humour intended, and I certainly agree that a lack of discipline is a problem in our society. I can also see the link between a generation of young people who have little respect for authority and the riots on our streets this last week.

But it reminded me of Phil's excellent post on the subject of smacking which got me thinking.

On that post I commented:

"I am ever more confused by some of the assertions regarding physical discipline using that verse in Proverbs.

Whatever happened to aligning things with the new covenant, looking at the life of Jesus and the example of the early Church?

Seems a bit odd to hinge a whole doctrine on a piece of advice and make it sound like a command.

If Esther is nagging me I don't go and sit on the corner of a roof!

I wonder what the funniest "taking a proverb literally" doctrine could end up being?

I just don't think it is meant like that.

Is there not far more biblical evidence that a child should be swaddled when sleeping: because that after all is the example of Jesus?"

This post is not a judgement on people who smack their kids per se. I know and love many people who do.

It is a question to those who say, or perhaps more subtley imply, that I should.

In England if I use a rod, that is against the law. You are not allowed to use another object. I don't know anyone who quotes this verse in Proverbs and actually uses a rod.

Therefore I would probably use my hand. Which is already changing the command from rod to a hand. I am instantly making a value judgement and using my own chosen method of "force".

Where does that end? If we get to choose? Smacking with a hand? Shaking? All we have done is impose a value judgement onto what "acceptable" force is based on our own worldview, which is not exactly submiting to the Scripture.

I am absolutely 100% committed to the effective discipline of my children. Just as I am 100% commited to their welfare, their physical and emotional needs. I am certain people who smack and people who don't smack are equally determined to get it right.

I guess my question is for people who do believe that Proverbs holds fast as a biblical reasoning to smack your children:
  • Do you go and sit on the corner of your roof when your spouse nags you? (Pr 21:9)
  • Or go and live in the wilderness? (Pr 21:19)
  • When someone mocks you do you flog / hit them? (Pr 19:25)
  • Or if someone is foolish (Pr 19:29)
  • And what is your favourite method of sanctification? (Pr 20:30)
  • And finally, out of Proverbs and with a with a cheeky grin, do you Swaddle your baby? (Luke 2:7)
  • And was your son circumsized?
I think Proverbs is very clear about discipline. The child who is truly loved is disciplined for their overall benefit. No-one doubts that. But I feel am not convinced that Proverbs 13:24 gives Christians a mandate to actually smack our children, not at all.

I can see the line of thinking that it gives us permission, should we choose to. What I am challenging is the notion that it means we ought to.

Proverbs always gives us good advice. Which is why I will finish with Proverbs 21:2.

A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.

I am not judging another person's choice of discipline. I have not fully made my own mind up yet for methods we will use. I am just thinking this stuff through. And as the verse above suggests, I am pretty sure as with most things what really interests God is what is on our hearts.

We may choose non violent methods of discipline but have anger and revenge in our hearts.

So no outward methodology is going to be the simple answer.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A Grand Day Out

Yesterday I had a brilliant day out taking the chance to swing by Soul Survivor A in Stafford for their final night.

I have always loved Soul Survivor.

I went there as a teenager several times, and I still see many hallmarks of that foundation in my Christian walk today.

Mike Pilavachi is an absolute legend and I had the privieldge of telling him that a while back.

The day was great. For several reasons.

If evangelical charismatic Christianity in the UK is a river then to my mind Soul Survivor is plumb centre of the river.

In the middle you get quite deep water. You see some slightly weird looking fish from the other side of the river that you don't normally see (which is probably why they look weird to you).

It was refreshing to sit in the middle of the river. To see the vitality and the variety of what God is doing amongst different groups, movements and organisations across the country.

The language is of what unites us, not of our distinctives. Our distinctives are what make us who we are, yet I wonder what the Church would look like if we were distinctive by what unites us?

This means they basically just talk about Jesus. Lots and lots of Jesus. Come and follow Jesus. Day by day, response after response. Hundreds and hundreds of teenagers.

The atmosphere was great. The worship was great. The talks really seemed to engage the youth.

That evening there was fancy dress as disney characters and literally hundreds had dressed up. Watching Mike Pilavachi conduct a whole meeting dressed as Buzz Lightyear is one of the most surreal, humorous, and engaging things I have ever seen.

No-one else on this earth that I know of could maintain a level of spiritual oversight and gently lead a public gathering of thousands while dressed as a cartoon character.

In many ways they have been instrumental in bringing us Matt Redman, Tim Hughes and others. They have also shown how you can do "youth" well. The whole event is a million times cooler than anything the Churches in our town can manage.

They just seem to "get" it, and in turn thousands of young people across 19 years have "got" Christ, and I stand in that number.