Showing posts with label Broken. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Broken. Show all posts

25 April 2012

What is the greatest priority?

We consider interviews with three church personalities and ask, 'What is the most important objective for the church? What will most please the Lord?'

Fractured glassWe are being tugged in many directions in our lives as believers, we have become a polychotomy. There are voices telling us to believe the right things, say the right things, do the right things. Let's take a look at some of them and ask ourselves the question, 'What is the greatest priority?'

An article by Sam Hailes in Christian.co.uk started me thinking about this. Sam interviewed Peter Farmer from Nottingham, Tony Goddard from Peterborough, and Beresford Job from Chigwell. These three men have different ideas on the main priority - mission and multiplication (Peter), making an impact and caring (Tony), following Biblical principles (Beresford). If we cast the net wider we will find many more groups with other insights and emphases. Every denomination and group has its own ideas about what is most important.

So who is right?

To answer this question we need to turn to the Bible. But where should we look?

I suggest that the most important and fundamental guidance will come from carefully hearing what Jesus said. In particular, his prayer just before his arrest must be the best of all sources for what is essential.

Think about it for a moment. Yahshua knows that his whole life has brought him to this place of sacrifice. The burden upon him is enormous, his heart is heavy and he cries out to the Father. Surely what he asks at this moment will be the most important thing of all. What does he say?

In John 17, Yahshua prays for his disciples, and there is much here that we can benefit from. But then he prays explicitly for you and me. And this is what he asks.

My prayer is not for [my disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. ‘Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. (John 17:20-26)

He wants us to be one, united, not split apart. The Messiah himself prays to the Father that we may be one 'just as you are in me and I am in you'. He wants us all to be 'in us' (the Father and the Son) so that the world may believe the Father has sent the Son.

More than that, Jesus has given us (you and me) the glory that the Father gave him. What?! Read that again. He's given you and me his glory! Why? So that we may be one. Then the world will know.

And he prays that we may be where he is and see his glory.

There's just no escaping this fundamental truth, that when the chips are down Jesus prays his heart out to his Father and asks that we may be one so that the world may believe.

What is the most striking thing about the church in our day? It is divided into myriad groups and denominations, all pointing to different things as being the most important. We are a broken, shattered people and the heart of Christ is broken when he sees us in this state. His heart is for us to be one just as he and the Father are one. And he wants to include us in their oneness and community.

Peter Farmer is not wrong about mutiplication and mission. Tony Goddard is not wrong about making an impact and caring for people. And Beresford Job is not wrong about following Biblical principles.

But above all, we now need to learn to be one. We need to celebrate our differences and learn from one another. There is no single right belief, right speech, or right action. His children all shine with the light of his presence. If we are to be part of the answer to his prayer we need to learn from one another and grow together in love, building one another up, encouraging one another, helping one another to focus on every good thing. We need to grow up into Christ. Paul understood this well, see what he wrote to the Ephesian church.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:1-6 and 11:16)

I am not suggesting that anyone is wrong, or that some are more right than others. I am simply observing that we remain shattered and that we are not yet perfectly formed into the one bride for whom Christ died and will return. Let us all strive to forge fresh bonds of peace. Paul called the Ephesians to keep the unity of the Spirit. Today we need to do more than that, we need to regain the unity of the Spirit.

08 December 2011

The broken pot

A broken pot made me think about the church. Repairing the pot was tricky, but putting together the fragmented Humpty-Dumpty church in St Neots would be far, far harder.

A couple of weeks ago we had a bad storm during the night. In the morning one of the patio pots had blown over and the bay tree it contained was sprawled out horizontally. The bay was soon rescued and planted in the garden, but the pot was badly broken.

Normally I would have disposed of the pot and bought a new one. But this pot was rather special.

When Donna and I were married in 1998, our friends Tony and Faith ordered it as a wedding present. Not only was it made specially, it has our names and the date fired into the hand-decorated surface.

The pot just had to be rescued, so out came the Araldite and I spent some time yesterday glueing the shards back together. I learned a lot while doing the work.

For a start, you can't put the pieces together in a random sequence. Experiment (without glue) showed it would be easy to stick one piece back only to make it impossible to fit the next one. Also, it took gentle persuasion to get a snug fit. And I discovered that the adhesive itself takes a certain amount of space, only a little perhaps, but it mounts up and is significant towards the end.

The photos show some of my progress. The pot is now complete once more although the cracks are clearly visible. With some careful use of terracotta filler I hope to make them a lot less noticeable.

This process got me thinking about the church (something that has been on my mind a great deal recently). You see, the church is shattered and needs mending - just like our poor pot. The pieces need to be carefully fitted together. Like the pot, the church is something rather special, Jesus is not going to merely dispose of us and replace us.

Here in St Neots it's not easy even to make a proper catalogue of the pieces. There are three Anglican churches (all called St Marys just to catch the unwary). The Baptists, two Methodist congregations, Roman Catholic, the Evangelical church, United Reformed, and at least two independent groups - Open Door and River Church. Then there are the various little groups I'm involved with and very likely others I'm not aware of. And finally there will be some people who are part of a church meeting in Bedford or Cambridge or Peterborough. I know several of these but surely not all.

How can I put these parts together? I can't even draw up a full and consistent list! What would be the correct sequence? What would I use as adhesive?

Frankly, if the church in St Neots is to be mended it will take someone far, far wiser and more knowledgeable than me. Surely Jesus is the only one capable of such work? And even if I could manage to repair the church in St Neots, what about all the other towns and cities around the world, let alone the millions of small villages?

So at least we know who to look to for the answer.

I do have a sense that he has already begun this most difficult task and that he will not rest until it is completed. Wherever you live and whatever your style of church, are you ready to respond to him? Will you allow him to use you in his work of restoration?

See also:

28 October 2010

THOUGHT - Unbreaking the pot

If I drop a pot it will shatter into a thousand pieces, some of them quite large, others very small, some just the tiniest specks of dust. And what I have broken I can in no way repair.

PotsherdsI may decide to sweep up the mess and throw the remains in the bin, the broken pieces are no good for anything. If the pot has sentimental value the best I can do is gather the larger pieces and spend a while with a tube of glue. But it won't fool anyone, it will never be the same again. What was shattered in a moment cannot be mended even if I labour with adhesive for all eternity.

I'm happy to say that Papa is a whole lot cleverer than I am.

When a person is broken, shattered into a thousand disjointed shards by circumstances or by the unaware (or all too aware) actions of others, he is capable of making truly invisible repairs. He will never sweep up the mess and throw the remains in the bin. He can rebuild a person so that they are not just mended, but repaired, renewed, and fully restored.

This is a miracle, of course, but what we cannot do is possible for him. It may take much time but he is infinitely patient and he does the work with extreme care and attention, motivated by his perfect love.

He gave us free will and had his reasons for doing so. He will not prevent us from harming one another. Nor will he force restoration when we are determined to resist it. But he is a great encourager, he will leave no stone unturned, and he will never tire in his attempts to woo a broken heart or a shattered soul.

I cannot restore a broken pot to factory new condition. But he can! Just don't ask me how he will do it. I have no idea. All I know is that he reaches out to every one of us in ways we can respond to - even when we believe we can't. Sometimes people say, 'Oh, I understand, I know how you feel', when in truth they have no idea at all. But he does understand.

Mags posted something special and touching yesterday. As I read it tonight I saw a picture of a broken pot. I understood that nobody can restore a broken pot and nobody can restore a broken person. And in that moment I knew I must write about the broken pot.

A pot may have all kinds of functions. It might contain something precious like the jar of nard (John 12:3). But a broken pot can contain - nothing! Restored, it can again contain something precious.

The jar of nard was made to be deliberately broken to release the precious contents - but broken at the right moment and in the right way. The jar was not made to be carelessly dropped, trampled underfoot, or hurled against a wall in anger.

There are two kinds of brokenness. There is the empty brokenness of damage and there is the brokenness of sacrifice. They should never be confused. We must first be restored so that we can contain a treasure, and then we can be broken in a pure, fulfilling, and purposeful way. Broken for glory, broken to bless others, broken to release the treasure contained within us.

How great is the One who restores us, fills us, and shows us how we can be broken for glory and for blessing to release a treasure. He is the treasure! The enemy wants to break us by crushing us, but Abba will break us by loving us. Our breaking will be beautiful like a fragrant flower breaking from the bud or a butterfly breaking from the pupa.


See also:


08 October 2010

Eaton Ford (day) - New skins for new wine

Paul and I met at his home and enjoyed a great mix of talking, thought and prayer for friends and family, and Bible study. We're picking up in Mark's gospel where we left off back in the spring.

We read Mark 2:13-22, here are some of the main things we thought about together.

A man carrying a wineskinThere seems to be evidence here that Yahshua didn't plan what he did in quite the way we might do. It seems much more likely that he was just responding to his Father's guidance on a moment by moment basis. He went out for a walk by the lake and people gathered there, so he started teaching them. Then, still walking along, he spotted Levi at work. He called him to follow - and Levi did. He must have left the tax booth with the money and equipment - and just walked away!

Levi clearly invited him for dinner that evening, and Jesus went!

Doesn't he call us to live the same way, not planning but listening? He wants us to say what he says, and do what he does. He wants us to pay attention to him and then live his life in the world day after day. He wants to live inside us so that our words will be his words and our actions his actions. He wants the world to know him by seeing and hearing us! That is awesome!

The Pharisees asked Yahshua's disciples, 'Why does he eat with people who do wrong?' They thought that living according to rules would make them righteous and acceptable to the Almighty. But Jesus tells them that he came for sinners, not for the righteous.

The fast referred to would have been a religious festival and the righteous were certainly expected to adhere to it. It would have been like Ramadan for the Muslims, failing to take part would show contempt for the accepted religion. In that case, why were Yahshua's followers not taking part?

His answer must have been perplexing. He refers to himself as the bridegroom. Perhaps they wondered if he was going to get married!

Verses 21 and 22 are fascinating. Yahshua mentions an old garment and old wineskins. Surely he's referring to the rules of the Pharisees, the idea of fasting because it's customary, the need to avoid eating with sinners. These old patterns of behaviour will be utterly ruined and broken by the new thing that Jesus is ushering in! He's turning the world upside down.

The old rules no longer apply. For example, it's no longer enough to use a ritually cleaned cup to avoid defiling yourself; from now on the words that come out of a person's mouth will determine whether they are holy or profane.

05 October 2010

Eaton Ford - Accused in the garden

Sean came over and we watched the DVD of Paul Young speaking about the events in the garden when Yahweh, the man, the woman, and Lucifer faced one another over what had happened. (Part of the DVD set for the House2House Conference 2008.)

In the gardenPaul sets the scene by first telling a ridiculous (but funny) story to show how theologically impressive he is. In a way, this suggests that Paul thinks theologians may sometimes get things a bit mixed up and make something out of nothing. He follows it up with another story about an experiment with monkeys wearing shock collars, and this time the point seems to be that theological tradition may sometimes be based on little more than thin air.

Then he begins his analysis of Genesis 2 and 3. He has studied this material long and hard, perhaps for some 35 years in all. Everything he says made sense to us although Sean wants to investigate some of the Hebrew words and concepts for himself. I'm very interested to hear what he discovers.

To condense Paul's address into just a sentence or two, his conclusions are as follows.

Lucifer begins by asking Eve if it's true that Yahweh had really said they mustn't eat the fruit of any tree in the garden. She ate and she gave some to Adam.

Questioning them about what happened, Yahweh asks Eve, 'What did you do'. She answers (correctly) that the serpent deceived her and she ate the fruit. But when a moment earlier he had asked Adam what happened, the man joined Lucifer in accusing Yahweh saying, 'The woman you gave me offered me the fruit and I ate it. Eve accused the serpent, but Adam accused Yahweh.

They had both depended on Yahweh to give them worth and value, but now with the relationship broken Eve will look to Adam (from whom she was taken) for these things. He will look to the ground from which he was taken. So which of them is the most damaged, Eve or Adam? In Paul's view Adam has to be in a worse place.

19 January 2010

Great Doddington - a broken world

We began by chatting about work, and how staff cuts have made life harder - even for those who have retained a job.

Haitian earthquake 2010Barbara read from Isaiah 40:31 about how those who hope in the Lord will be renewed like eagles, soaring on wings. It seemed all the more significant because she had read it and then heard it again as the basis of a sermon on TV. Humble yourself and I will raise you up and honour you.

Jody mentioned Nehemiah. Although circumstances can bring us low, she still searches out the Lord. We do need to be humble. She also mentioned Haiti and the recent earthquake and the subject of prophecy came up. Why would the Lord not warn us about a disaster like that? Why does he allow us to be brought low? Some people have said that the earthquake was because of the presence of occult practices in Haiti.

I suggested that we live in a broken world and we must expect disasters to happen sometimes. When the tower in Siloam fell and killed people, it wasn't because they were more guilty than others (Luke 13:4). We must be prepared to follow Yahshua regardless of disasters. Rachael thought that trouble, if we face it in the right way, helps us grow to know him and understand him. And Peter pointed out that Jesus suffered and died in fulfillment of a great promise. We need to learn to see things through - come what may.

Glenn reminded us about the manna in the desert which was provision but also brought an important lesson (man does not live by bread alone). He told us the story of an island that escaped damage in the Tsunami. Pentecostals living there had prayed for safety for the people, not knowing what was coming. Everyone was saved while neighbouring islands had big death tolls.

Jody spoke about William Wiberforce and his portrayal in the film 'Amazing Grace'. He had some humbling experiences and difficulties in his life, but he honoured God. Rachael referred to Joel 2:28-29 where we read that the Lord will pour out his Spirit on everyone. What an amazing prophecy, he will pour himself into us! And Glenn reminded us that Jesus said, 'When you see these things happen, don't let your hearts be troubled.' (Matthew 24:6) Rachael said we should focus on him, listen to him and his voice.

I spoke in a tongue which Glenn interpreted. He saw a lion released from a heavily barred cage. The lion came bounding out, it had a big mane. He realised that Jesus has been released and his roar goes out to the nations and also reaches the church. 'Are you there? Are you listening? Are you coming?'

At this point Barbara saw the words 'Maple Leaf', and Jody described a picture of the aftermath of a forest fire. She saw a huge tree with charred debris all around it. She realised that charcoal can be used as fuel; even in the aftermath of disaster there will be something left in our hearts that is useful for our development. He can turn any disaster into something of value. Jesus is the light and the energy, he tells us not to focus on the problems. Instead we should focus on Jesus himself.

Rachael saw a bolt of lightning hitting a tree. And the Lord told her, 'This is my power, this is who I am. The lightning can destroy a tree but it can also light up the sky all around.

We spent a few minutes learning more about Church of Two (CO2) and testing it for ourselves.

02 December 2008

Great Doddington - A broken mirror

We had the thought that when a mirror is broken, each piece still reflects him. Nothing is lost. This seems to be a picture of the church.

This will be our last Tuesday meeting, in future we will meet on Mondays as Rachael will not be free on Tuesdays.

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