Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Celibate Life Unveiled!

One of my closest friends has just entered the blogosphere and I'm quite excited about it. Not least, because of the rather dramatic title of his new blog - The Celibate Life Unveiled! (See the link on this blog).

Yes, my friend (along with a few hundred others in our church) has committed himself to lifelong voluntary singleness in order to be freer to serve God and give himself to people. Which is impressive wouldn't you say? And inspiring. And contraversial. (I guess there may be a few outraged comments on his blog over the coming months - I hope he publishes them...)

As it happens I got involved in the singleness controversy just yesterday (which is one of the reasons I didn't post on my blog that day). I read a book review on the Christianity Today website. The book was called Getting Serious About Getting Married. The author makes a case against adult singleness, going so far as to call it unbiblical — and marriage a "biblical mandate" for all but the few who have been called to full-time kingdom work that makes family life impossible or who have a medical condition that makes them unable to perform marital "duties".

What rubbish! I'm pleased to say that the reviewer of the book took issue with what this author was saying - but I didn't think her criticism was strong enough (so I wrote an email to Christianity Today - goodness knows if anyone will ever read it, but I needed to vent my outrage). Anyway, if you want to read the email I sent, I've entered it as the first comment on this post. (I thought I'd enter it as a comment to stop this post becoming enormous!)

In the mean time - thank God for The Celibate Life Unveiled and thank God for courageous, noble, wonderful saints like my friend and his fellow followers of the Lamb - wherever He goes.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Love is...

Quite late last night, I got a text from a young disciple. 'I just want to be loved'. I'd noticed earlier that she was a bit down and my heart goes out to her.

Because the thing is, she really is loved. But it's one thing to say that and another for her to feel it.

I was thinking about her this morning on the way to work. And it made me think about love and Jesus and why we love Him and a scripture came to mind:

We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

He 'just wants to be loved' too. But He got on with loving us and dying for us while we couldn't care a damn (literally). So I suppose there's a lesson for my young disciple in that: get on with loving others and love will be your reward.

And as it happens, I have real trust in this young disciple. She may know her need and feel some pain and loneliness at times - but she's taking hold of Jesus and His Church and she's got a shining future - full of love.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Vintage White Stone

Last night was choc-full of classic White Stone vintage life - of every kind.

Agape meal with the committed; visiting celibate sister; guitars and harmony; new song about knowing Jesus written by a household bard; wonderful quote ('Recently, I feel like I've been running along and I've suddenly realised my legs aren't working'); deep theology ('Why is it important that Jesus is God?'); shared hearts with some heart-aching honesty; talk about fruitfulness; inspiration about fruitfulness; high worship; being told by a much-loved brother to kneel down and 'smile at God'; watching the rest of the household trying to do this; an invitation to fast; washing up; a sharp word with a sister; sympathising with a wife who trapped her finger under the duff microwave that we're throwing out; chucking out the duff microwave; wondering if the new microwave is big enough; tense moment over who's going to take the gazebo down (left up after a recent garden party); deciding to be one of the said gazebo-deconstuctors; taking the gazebo down in rising wind and pegging it to the line; worrying about the sister who I had a sharp word with;leaving it with God; bed, to sleep, perchance to dream...

There's no life like community life.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Wilde at heart

Last night, at dinner, someone asked one of the brothers what the difference is between faith and chance.

He thought for a moment and then said:

'Faith is what you would call a woman. Chance is what you would call a dog'.

What an answer: worthy of Oscar Wilde, I thought.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for... niceness?

Last night I interrupted our supper scene to read a verse from the New Testament to everyone.

Nothing surprising about that, you may think. After all, it is a Christian community and I am the leader.

It’s just that the verse I read out was one of the less ‘polite’ verses that crop up from time to time in the New Testament. The kind that seldom end up on plastic badges or fridge magnets.

You can check this one out: 1 Corinthians 16:22

So why did I read it out?

Well, it’s just that alongside our (absolutely right and necessary) emphasis on loving all people and bearing with them in patience as they work out their response to Jesus, and go through ups and downs, we have to recognise that there is also an equally clear line of division in the New Testament between those who are for, and those who are against, Jesus.

And at times we need reminding of this, or we can get tangled up in sentiment and lose our clarity: we must retain loyalty to Jesus Christ, even if, in the end, it means loyalty to Him alone (and absolute disloyalty to absolutely everyone else).

I trust God that there will be those (many, I pray) who will come to us and join our love for an incomparable Christ. But not all will and sometimes God takes us into times of ‘shaking down’ where he tests our loyalties and divides the wheat from the chaff. And at such times, it isn’t wrong to ‘hate’, even if it might be difficult: as Jesus Himself taught.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Carpenter from Nazareth seeks joiners

I'm 30 today. The age that Jesus left carpentry and got mixed up with John the Baptist... three years later, he was dead.

And raised from death, never to die having purchased the salvation of the world! But it all started at 30.

So you could say, I'm just at the beginning - the rest was just practice, just carpentry. And now?

I really want to live for God. I want to be like my hero, Jesus. That's my gameplan for the rest of my life - be it three years or ninety-three years...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

This is God in community...stop

Last night, at our cell group at Warwick University, we were talking about how God had led or 'called' us in our lives. The thing that struck me was that, yes, there were some really radical decisions that had been made (you don't make lifelong commitments or live in community because it seems like a nice idea), and yet - there were no 'telegrams from heaven'.

Sure, there were particular moments were God spoke fairly clearly to some of us, but mainly it was through unfolding circumstances, growing understanding and - this was probably the main one - relationships.

We often say (a bit parrot-fashion, if I'm honest) that people need to know that God is calling them before they commit to things like community. I wouldn't deny this... and yet...

Is it really valid to say, 'I'm waiting for God to call me to give up my personal possessions and my own life'? Hasn't He done that already? (Luke 14:33)

But, sure, people need to see it and to hear from God and to be sure, if they're gonna last the course. Jesus taught this kind of carefulness too, if you read the rest of Luke 14...

So what am I saying? I guess that we need to respond to the clear commands of Jesus in the gospels with honesty and with a process of weighing up how we can best live them out. For this we need to hear God and we need each other. Even Paul, who signed most of his epistles with 'Paul, called to be an apostle', discerned this call with the help of others (Acts 13:1-3).

My own journey into 'all things in common' community was a big mix: being filled with the Spirit, hunger for more of God, reading the Bible, some straight challenges from people, having my wallet nicked by a homeless lad, finding a spiritual 'Dad', revelation - and some 'holy coincidences' like asking God 'What should I do with my life?' then pressing play on my CD player to have the words 'The call is to community' sung out at me (a Michael Card song I seem to remember)! The whole process took about three years. Actually, what am saying: the process is still going on. God still calls.

And I still want to follow.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


My mate just looked at my blog - and guess what? The picture's there! So there you go... I'm a genius. I just didn't know it.

Microsoft will be headhunting me before you can say, 'bodystyle ="border: 0; margin: 0; padding: 3px; width: auto; font: normal 100% Georgia, serif; text-align: left"div/div/body'...

Sound of your own face

I've been trying to include a photo of myself in the blog profile this morning. I was doing well, I thought, (given my level of ICT competence weighs in at roughly equivalent to a Victorian garden snail) and managed to upload a pic - but then I overstepped myself...

It'd be good to have my photo on the main page of my blog, I thought. So people can know it's me and all that. It's not a bad picture either. I'd shaved that morning. True my neck looks a little scrawny and chicken-like (perhaps a touch of Kermit the frog, my wife would say) and I'm apparently randomly staring off the right of the picture - but it was actually taken at the proud moment that I held my newborn son and presented him to the whole church (it's a tradition we have), so I thought it would be a good one.

But could I get it to appear on the main page? - ha! After twenty minutes of hacking through the thicket of the Blogger 'help' pages, I realised (yet again) that I didn't speak the right language. What with profiles and http and templates and uploading and flagging and blogging and bogging and slogging... I gave up: I didn't even know what the proper name for the main page of a blog is.

So, dear reader, you'll have to do without my photo, alas. I think it features in my profile now, but not on the main page, front page, display page, http web-uploaded blogarama page or whatever it's called.

Actually, the more I look at that picture, the less I like it. It's a bit like hearing the sound of your own voice: first you can't believe it's you (we know we don't sound anything like that - it must be a faulty recording) and then it sinks in that all our friends, family and even enemies continually hear that lisping, fluty, squeaky tone (or that deep, rasping, throaty grunt, but you get the point) all the time and it's us that are hearing it wrong... er, where was I? Oh yes - it's like that with photos: is my chin really that shape? Aren't my eyes squinty? Man - my wife was right about Kermit...

I'd better look into removing it. Now lets see... opposite of uploading?.. I guess that'll be downloading then..........

Monday, June 12, 2006

Tangle weed

This morning a very worried couple came and had breakfast with me. They're the parents of one of the youngsters that come round to White Stone - except he hasn't been around much recently and has spent more of his time drifting about smoking weed. They're wondering what has happened to their sweet-natured son and who this touchy, selfish, loafer that they have living with them is...

Putting our heads together, we concluded that we need to just hang in there, keep loving, tell him the truth (at those times when we sense an opening to receive it) and wait for maturity to kick in. We prayed for him. We don't understand, but God is bigger than us.

I'm going to try to arrange to spend a day striding the hills with him soon. No particular agenda, just me being me with him being him. And I trust that our hearts can touch and he can find a glimpse of the Kingdom again. Because I sense that he's a young man with a calling. I don't want to see him throw his life down the plughole.

We must trust God, but shouldn’t be naive - we can't assume the future will be rosy, if the present is rebellion, selfishness and passivity. What we sow, we reap. So I want this young man to find sanity and his will before his direction is so awry and his heart so hard that he finds it difficult to return.

On a wider level, yet again I reflect on the destructive power of cannabis. The subtle, omnipresent lie appears to be that weed isn't addictive and doesn't affect you: complete rot. It robs people of their will and clouds their mind and it very often leads into other drugs. It's poison.

Do teenagers have to go through these mad phases as they ‘find themselves’? I’ve strongly argued that they don’t (see April 26.06), but it does seem that the way our society goes more and more of them do.

God – heal our nation, rescue the next generation. Don’t let them perish. Teach us how to be the church that they can belong to wholeheartedly and live for; now – and in their future.

Friday, June 09, 2006

'When through the woods...'

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately... and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived... I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life... (Henry David Thoreau)

Yesterday lunchtime, I went to the woods.

Hacking fairly deep into the woods, away from the road, I came to a clearing with a beautiful dead tree at its centre, bare wooden boughs elegantly twisting into the sky and a large flat stump just above ground level. I sat on the stump and ate my sandwiches and the silence of the wood enfolded me.

Except it wasn't silent. There was a veritable orchestra of birdsong: high treble chirps, lower warbling and occasional bass cawing. And there was the hum of insects winging past and the rustling of treetop squirrels. And, somewhere between sound and feeling, there was a very subtle breath of wind moving around the clearing.

I'd thought it was silent, but it wasn't. Nor was it noise. In fact, in the silence of the wood, I realised it was music. As I sat and let the silence and the euphony surround me, I closed my eyes and suddenly God was there. And I was loving Him.

I hadn't particularly gone to the woods looking for an epiphany. It was a nice day and I went to the woods to eat my sandwiches and pray a bit. But God was there first and He had amorous intentions. He ambushed me. He took my breath away.

After a while I started to mouth, soundlessly, words from Jesus’ Kingdom prayer, pausing after each phrase and letting the birdsong and the breeze and the love fill the moment and make it worship.

I came back from the woods having remembered that I am a man in love.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Very big house in the country

I went to one of our big community houses yesterday, a beautiful old rectory in a semi-rural area near Milton Keynes. With its sweeping staircases, huge sash windows and noble yew trees, it's the kind of house that easily inspires romantic dreaminess.

But we're selling it. I went there to collect a few items which we're moving to my place of work and it was with a heavy heart that I left - knowing that I'd almost definitely never go there again. Why are we selling it? Well, it's a long story, but the bottom line is that the church community in Milton Keynes is really too small to make such a large house worthwhile. So they're downsizing. I've no doubt this is a wise and necessary step for the saints there to be able move on and find fresh and achievable vision. But I still find it desperately sad - and not just because I'm fond of old romantic houses (which I confess to be true).

It's just that, as I stared out of one of the top floor windows over the roofs of the rest of the house and the over the grounds, it struck me what a wonderful resource the place was for the Kingdom of God. It cries out to be full of passionate saints: living, loving, sharing, reaching out and demonstrating the great alternative that is God's new creation. I reflected on my own dreams (which amount to big houses full of passionate saints living, loving, sharing, reaching out and demonstrating the great alternative that is God's new creation). I'd like to make this happen as many times as I can fit into one lifetime. Given a chance, I'd like to grab some people, move to the old rectory and make it happen - but I can't because I'm busy giving my all to make it happen somewhere else!

Which brought me to the realisation (again) that our desperate need - for which we ought to cry out to God day and night - is people. And more: people who have seen the vision and who are ready to throw their lives at it with abandon, with grit, and with determination.

Given twenty or so of these, we could fill the old rectory instead of selling it.

There are similarities at home, at White Stone. We want to be able to grow to the point where we can create a team to be released and go and make Christian church and community happen somewhere else. But if this is to happen we gotta find people of leadership mettle - and they don't grow on trees.

Since I've only got one life to live (ever had one of those moments when you wish you could live several lives at the same time - like me wanting to move to Milton Keynes at the same time as building White Stone?..) I'm going to have to ask God to give us men and women of passion: leaders.

Recently, I've been searching my heart asking myself why I'm so keen to see the Church grow and spread. And (as I expected and feared) there's some murky motivations (ambition, romanticism, success-orientation) - but I can honestly say that the deepest motivation within me is that I love Jesus and I want Him to be known and His teachings to be lived and His Church to be glorious.

Because there's a nation to take. There's a Kingdom to be demonstrated. There's a cause to burn for. Oh God - bring it on!

"Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of Hell and setup the kingdom of heaven upon earth." (John Wesley)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


When disappointments flock overhead like a cloud of cawing rooks, it's good to come back to square one and realise that the source of our joy isn't the passing things anyway: it's Jesus, risen from the dead and soon to return. Nothing can shake Him. Our joy is unshakeable.

Then birds of prey came down... but Abram drove them away.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Imitation is the sincerest form of... discipleship?

Yesterday was a funny old day. Packed with good stuff - for instance, we baptised a young man in the evening and another young disciple spoke in tongues for the first time that same evening and seemed very touched. And yet, and yet... I found my heart heavy at various times.

Why? Because I'm looking for disciples. And for all that I do genuinely love to see the good things happening in various ones, there are few who seem ready to really embrace fully the challenge of living all-out as a disciple.

A wise brother and 'father' among us pointed out recently that we need to be able to call people to 'imitate us as we imitate Christ' just as Paul did. Which is a challenge: if they were to imitate me, what weaknesses would they inherit along with my strengths?

Nevertheless (and you can harangue me for saying this if you think it sounds horribly conceited) I reckon that if the people around me, in my household and church, did imitate me it would be a stronger household and church than it is now. The quest for disciples, I realise, is a quest for sons (and daughters): that is, for those who have inherited the same heart, the same passions, the same spiritual DNA that I have. I find myself praying that God will send people who will come to love Jesus and the vision of our Church as much as (or more than) I do.

Because otherwise it all starts to feel a bit like pushing boulders uphill (you know, there's something about a boulder that would much rather roll down the hill; but put your back into it and really strain and you might just get it to the top - but don't let go or... it's back at the bottom of the hill again!)

Don't get me wrong. Making disciples is about patience and people take time to work things through (particularly hurting youngsters from mixed-up backgrounds). I know this. (Please don't all leave comments reminding me.) But I'm still going to ask God for disciples who want to learn, who want to give - and, yes, who want to imitate me as I imitate Him.