Monday, April 30, 2007

BaptismBaptisms last night.

On the face of it, one of the odder things that Christians do. Dipping people under water, fully clothed, while a crowd of people look on and cheer.

Why do we do it?

Reason number one: because Jesus told us to. And why did He tell us to?

I explained it last night, like this:

Dirty people need a bath. Dead people need a burial. Orphaned people need adoption. Baptism is all three.

A bath? Ok, so not a very conventional one (one doesn’t normally bathe fully clothed, or watched by others – certainly not in Church meetings!) This is an inside wash, a cleansing of the moral dirt of our hearts and minds. Not that the water is magical – or even “holy” in itself. It’s just that Jesus has removed the stain of our sin by His sacrificial death. Baptism is saying “yes” to Jesus and it graphically demonstrates the cleansing that results from saying “yes” to Him.

A burial? Fact is, we’re all dead men walking. Our sins have separated us from God, the source of life. Our days are numbered. We’re all due a long stay underground. Death is the inevitable result of sin. But – and here’s the big news, the gospel I get so excited about: Jesus dies for us. Yes, for us, instead of us, did our dying for us. He took the death penalty for sin. Faith in Him means faith that He did our dying for us –or to put it another way (as the New testament often does) we did our dying in Him. So baptism is a graphic entry into Christ’s death (down into the water we go) and His burial (out of sight, gone) – and His resurrection! (Up, out, dripping, glowing – alive!)

An adoption? Yes – we’re baptised (immersed, dipped, initiated) into a name. The new family name – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in other words – God! God adopts us into His family. It started with the Father begetting a Son in the Spirit. But now, as we’re joined to the Son in baptism by the Spirit – God becomes out Father! (Did you follow all that? It’s quite something!)

And, as children of God, we’re brothers and sisters – “baptised by one Spirit into one body” – the Church of Jesus, the brotherhood of Christ.

Hallelujah! I love baptism – even if it is one of the odder things we do.

And I pray that the three guys we baptised last night will live in the reality of it all the days of their life – and forever after.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A load of rubbish!

Goldsmiths last Saturday (our all-singing, all-dancing - well, music and drama anyway - gospel event at Coventry Jesus Centre).

Phew! Went well, I believe. The theme upon which the evening turned was "clearing up the mess" - hence, the entire hall was decorated with rubbish. Rubbish which, at the climactic part of the evening was winched down to reveal huge red letters spelling out "Jesus' blood makes us clean".

I think that - fairly blatently - said what was to be said.

Perhaps the music and the drama was really rather superfluous...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I was thinking, right...

Met up with a couple of my ex-students last night – they happen to be home from their respective universities, Goldsmiths and Nottingham Trent. Great lads – good to see them.

One of them mentioned that he’d found my blog by doing a Google search... which made me wonder how many other people read this without my knowing about it.

This post is dedicated to my anonymous readers (could be thousands or could be one ex-student at Goldsmiths).

I’ll share a few thoughts that I had as I was walking back from town. It started with looking at a few largish houses and thinking, idly (as I often do), “They’d make quite good community houses”. But then I was walking through parallel lines of the semi-detached and detached dwellings of Humphrey Burton’s Road in
Coventry’s suburbia. Which got me thinking about boxes.

Yes, boxes: the boxes that the majority of UK people live in. Boxes with three or four bedrooms in the avenues I was walking through last night. Each box almost inevitably contains a washing machine.

Stay with me (you may wonder where I’m going with this). I could have chosen any number of household appliances – fridges, freezers, microwaves... but we’ll stick to washing machines for the sake of argument.

So Humphrey Burton’s Road must contain, at an estimate, a hundred-odd washing machines.

A hundred-odd washing machines to do the washing of maybe four hundred people.

Then there’s cars. Most of the drives on this fairly well-to-do road had three parked on them. Three hundred cars for the same four hundred people.

Now I’m not good with figures and I’m no environmental expert, but it seems to me that that many washing machines and that many cars (and fridges and freezers and microwaves and... and...) are far more than that many people actually need in terms of a strict ratio of people to resources.

Think about this: each one of those houses will contain two, perhaps three toilets – do people really need to have almost a toilet each.

My point is that UK society, living in its boxes, is grossly wasteful. Why? Because there is no sharing. Not a bit of it. Each box has kit for its inhabitants only. So we live in streets packed with washing machines. And we only actually need about half of them, or less.

Human beings were meant to live in community. They were meant to share the resources of Earth, not horde them in little boxes. And the planet is paying the price, groaning, getting hotter and hotter, heading for melt-down.

I live in community, not, in fact, because of environmental panic. We live for the cause of Jesus. But it’s a noteworthy by-product that we share washing machines at something like a ratio of 8:1 and cars at a ratio of 5:1 (often using a minibus to transport up to 15 people) and toilets at a ratio of 3:1 (actually we’re quite well-off for toilets in our house!)

Sharing. It’s a good idea; it’s how Jesus lived; it’s how the Christian Church started out; it’s not how UK people (in their boxes) live; unlike the boxed-in-life, it doesn’t kill the Earth; it means sacrifice; the Communists weren’t able to force it; I do it because I live for the cause of Jesus.

What’re you doing about it?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Still under the influence

We had more last night at Agape. Here's what I wrote in today's Together bulletin:

The anointings continued at Agape after we considered some of the purposes of the anointing – to know God and who we are in God, to ‘abide’ in the Body, to receive love and power and to move in spiritual gifts. We recognised that anointing will come to different people in different ways (we mustn’t get hung up about the fact that we’re “not experiencing what they’re experiencing”).

Then all heaven was let loose – laughing, crying, shaking, (no falling!) and all manner of other interesting goings-on. Thank you Lord. This should power us up for the coming weeks of activity: J Gen march, Goldsmiths, coach campaign. It’s all go, so Holy Spirit come!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Under the influence

Floored!It was Abraham Lincoln who said: “If all the people who fell asleep in church were laid out, end to end... they’d be a lot more comfortable!”

We had a few people laid out at our church last weekend – but for a happier reason. It was our “Alive Weekend” festival in the Giant Marquee (a full knees-up for the mJa) – Easter weekend, so an appropriate weekend to call “Alive”...

And it certainly was alive! We had a lot of very powerful Holy Spirit happenings – people laughing and crying as the Spirit came upon them, people falling, people being healed.

I even toppled to floor a couple of times myself (I thought I’d grown out of such things...)

Yet, as we were reminded by our two main leaders towards the end of the weekend, the ultimate purpose of the Holy Spirit manifesting His presence in such ways is not that we fall over, or display emotion – but that we are refreshed and empowered to give our all to build the Church.

“It’s not how you fall down, it’s how you get up that counts”.

But I have to say, I feel very refreshed, a whole lot more human, less stressed, more confidant – so the fruit is good.

As Scrappy Doo would say, “Lemme at ’em”...

These men are not drunk, as you suppose. (Acts 2:15)