Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Reflection of the Alabaster Jar...part 1

I am doing a talk on the Alabaster Jar as a model for worship soon and I asked for some reflection from a great friend of mind, Terry. She being one of the best creative writers I have ever met. She sent me this and I think its worth the whole world reading...

36Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table.

Well, interestingly, people really can’t agree if this account and the Matthew 14 account are the same woman/event or different. If it is, this is Simon the Leper who has held this dinner for Jesus… more later on that. But, for this section, I think that what’s important is the idea that just because we surround ourselves with Jesus, or the things of Jesus… just because we may “entertain” him does not mean that we are worshipers of Him.

37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house,

I think as worshipers, we have to be curious and willing to listen constantly so that we don’t miss an opportunity to demonstrate our love and devotion for Christ- obviously, she was searching and listening or she would never have know where he would be. She was also bold in her pursuit of worship. She went into unfamiliar, unwelcoming territory. She may have been nervous or humiliated to do this, but we are not aware… we only know that these fears did not stop her. How many times are we nervous about what people around us will think of our way of loving Jesus?

she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

I believe this section to be about a heart prepared and a posture of worship on the way to meet with Christ. She was already weeping before she began to anoint him. (vs 38). I also believe this section demonstrates the beauty and authenticity of using what we have to worship… she used her body (hair), her emotions (tears), her love (kissing his feet), and her resources (the perfume). Many people concentrate on how much the perfume must have been worth, which I think is important, but not the main point. Her vulnerability and openness potentially cost her much more than her monetary sacrifice to Jesus.

39When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."

The “church” community, or in this context, the Pharisee’s house… contains many judgmental, anti-worshipers… people who are quick to judge both the character of the worshiper and the way in which he or she worships. Obviously, this Pharisee did not understand the character of Christ. He misunderstood the deity of Christ by not only assuming that Jesus didn’t “know” the woman and her history, but also did not “know” what he (the Pharisee) was thinking and saying. The Pharisee was clueless as usual as to the power of Jesus. I love Jesus’ next response.

hope you agree with me this is great stuff more to follow...

Thursday, February 26, 2009


During my time in the states I grappled with grace and its impact on my faith. What grace actually means and how we disrepute it. When I first became a Christian grace was free and ever flowing, but now I have been a Christian for a while, more is expected of me and grace doesn’t flow with the same freeness that it once did. What has the church done to grace? We as a culture seem to have stolen grace; we as a church seem to have set the limits on grace. Volf in his book Free of Charge speaks of gracelessness in our culture. Not an obvious decline in grace but a deeper searching problem. He argues that everything in our society today is brought and not sold and the person who volunteers and offers up their time is considered a sucker. In the US I got into a conversation with a homeless family at the shelter and they were amazed by the fact I had given a year of my life to work for nothing. And I tried to explain to him that I had been given grace for nothing. He responded with nothing in this life is free. This is culture of gracelessness that Volf is speaking of.

We seem to have set the boundaries and forgotten that it is by grace we are saved not by the works of our hands as it says in Ephesians “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The western church seems to give a message out that says some are ok but others will never receive the freely flowing grace. I overheard a conversation in a coffee shop one day between a mother and child. The child was being disrespectful to his mother and his mother said to him, “God only loves good children.” I am sure many people have stories just like this. However on further reflection I began to think that this is what the church has become and is teaching that we are only allowed to the cross if we are straightened out and with no blemishes. As I sat one night in youth group and as I began to look around the youth group and talk to the kids, my eyes were opened to what God was teaching me. When I was a teenager and attended my youth group I use to be a rebel and really didn’t fit it with the perfect church kids. However, as I became a youth leader I realized that I was the one who needed to know the grace of Jesus. That night we had out of 8 kids, 6 of then who were in some way in trouble with the law that week whether through their own actions or the actions of the family. I began to wonder if most churches would accept and love these kids and show them grace.

Brennan Manning in his book the Ragamuffin Gospel speaks of this issue of grace, he says “The Christian community resembles a Wall Street exchange of works wherein the elite are honored and the ordinary ignored.” Does our church resemble what God calls us to be, a hospital for sinners not a museum for the saints, as some feel it has become. How can we as a church do what Jesus did and invite the tax collectors, prostitutes and criminals and ask them to come into our church building and enjoy the free flowing grace. We as a church barter with ourselves about whose sin is worse and make love itself shackling and ridged, not something that embraces us but something we have to embrace.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Expecting Better...

Ever since I was young the words "I expect better from you" have rung in my ears. Whether they be from my Mum, Dad, sister, teachers, youth leaders, friends, team mates, coaches, pastors, and many more. As you can tell I wasn't a great kid growing up. But in recent times I have been reflecting on those words that I heard from childhood to this day, I wonder why they all held me in such high regard and why I always felt like they thought I was this great guy when the truth is I messed up all the time and still do but they all saw such potential in me. Recently I had some sort of revelation over these words and why people use these words and is studying the bible I see why that is.

I want to let you into a huge secret it's because they loved me. Now to most of you that might seem strange or might seem obvious I don't know which one you will fall into. But I for a long time have to fallen into the "that is just plain crazy" group. You know its like Peter and Jesus in the bible and there relationship. Jesus expected so much of Peter, like being the rock of his church but yet when Peter let him down by denying him 3 times Jesus still choose to love him because he saw the potential that he had and he loved that about Peter even when he failed.

I think thats what real love is, its expecting better but loving whats there...maybe an over simplification of a massive truth. But I believe thats what love is....

Monday with...Brennan Manning

Every Monday I will put a quote up for reflection. This weeks is from Brennan Manning..."The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny him with their life style. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." Take from DC Talks album Jesus Freak on prelude to What if I stumble?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mediocre Faith...

I have recently been studying Acts in my devotional times and astounded once again by the very thought of all the miraculous, radical and dangerous place the early Christian find themselves in. I love reading of the scrapes that Paul and his friends find themselves in with the political powers and authorities of the day. Those speak so strongly of a deep, pure faith that we are all searching for. A faith that believes so strongly in name and power of Jesus that they’re willing to lay down their life to join community that is built on that foundation. I am struck that people gave up all the possessions to join these crazy radical communities of head cases who went back into cites where people wanted to kill them to tell them of the love of Jesus until they believed. They put the message they had to proclaim, higher above everything else. I sometimes find myself looking around the Christian landscape and I am struck by a quote from Capon-Farrar “The good news is no longer good news, it is ok news. Christianity is no longer life-changing it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t changer people into wide eyed radicals but into nice people”. How true is this quote? How true is it in our own walk with Jesus? I think I would love to say it isn’t true in my walk with God that every time I spend time with Jesus I am struck by his love and am changed and transformed to live out this radical faith that I see in Acts but if I said that I would be lying. There is something in our human state that settles for so much less with God and we somehow justify this with him or rationalise it somehow. But I wonder why that I do that sometimes? I wonder what makes us settle for that when in the rest of our lives we always want more. Whether it’s more clothes or a better house or car. We always want the next technological item in the saga of an ever-increasing consumer driven culture. I am shocked about how wired in to this culture we all are and how hard it is to withdraw from this. Coming up to the time of lent I am struck by this becoming a theme for all our lives in the preparation for Easter. Preparing our hearts for real and radical sacrifice just as Jesus did.

That life over a wider-eyed radical is still on offer if we all just learn to tap into it…

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Importance of Prayer!

There has been a growing trend that I have observed and at times fallen into the trap of, that the prayer life of a young spiritual leader is becoming less important. Rhymes notes in his book Prayer in the Secular City that many young clergymen are void of an understanding of prayer life and the importance of it. He noticed a deep spiritual hunger that was in a group of young clergymen fresh out of theological college. This is increasingly a problem that we need to address. In my own life I noticed that when my prayer deteriorate that is a significant impact of my relationship with God and obedience to him, and also my vision and drive loses focus on God and being in tune with his heart. Therefore if we look at Jesus’ example and his commitment to His prayer life and also in the big moments the importance of taking yourself out of the business and committing the situation to God. ‘In nothing should a spiritual leader be ahead of his followers more than in prayer.’ This call for spiritual leaders is clearly important and something I consider to be a huge area of growth that I have to understand and learn more of.

But how do we go about learning more about prayer? Oswald Sanders says ‘there is now way to learn prayer expect by praying’ I believe Oswald Sanders puts forward a simply argument for prayer that embracing is important. Sometimes in my life I over complicated prayer and I think that there is specific formula that you have to say to get God to hear you. That it’s like a club and you need the entry code to enter, without it, its like talking to a brick wall but with it your in the club and you will always be in the club. This concept of prayer is false, yet it is one many people hold even if they don’t believe it. There is a distinct lack of good teaching of this area of prayer and the importance of prayer in our lives.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Salvation in the moment and the future....

I have been looking at the story of Zaccheus since the service and have been struck many times since by the nature and power of what Jesus says in Luke 19: 9 "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Today has implications for the very present of the situation, that isn't to say salvation doesn't isn't for both the past, the Prevenient grace that Wesley placed at the centre of his theology, and future grace that Piper speaks so much of. I wonder why we place so much emphasis on the future and past, and this presents grace we see in the story of Zaccheus, that he is saved for something better than his old life. I wonder if we as a church are so focused of the other two, that they are the ones that happen with less work on behalf of the church and call for less sacrifice. This present grace calls for a transformation of the person presents situation and calls for a change of the heart to happen in that moment. I am struck by this in the story of Zaccheus and how he is changed and moved into a transformational response in the moment of meeting Jesus. I just wonder whether the church could focus evenly on all 3 and call people to be more like Zaccheus. More thoughts to follow.... let me know what you think....

Friday, February 6, 2009

Celebration...The Little Man In the Tree

Jesus Friend of Sinners

Theme: Jesus Friend of Sinners

Intro and explain
ahead of the crowd
Rock Star- Nickelback
Mediation 1
called by name
I still haven’t found what I am looking for- U2
Mediation 2
Name Calling
pay back time
Greatest Day- Take That
Mediation 3
Altar Call

Wow what a week full of craziness but on Tuesday (3rd Feb) we had our celebration at college (thats our fortnightly service) and the theme was Jesus Friend of Sinners, we used the passage about Zaccheus. It was pleasure and honur to lead the creative parts of the service. It has really been the first time since I left the States that I have really been involved in creatively leading worship. So when I suggested our call to worship being Nickelback people were understandably ready for something different. I did however love the service because I really felt by leaving the worship to the very end that the whole community worshipped at the same place because we had led them there. The mediations were diary entries imagining the full story of Zaccheus we used some "holy imagination". The guys that put that together were amazing. Piers did a great job at pulling together the whole worship service together. And the altar call at the end were people wrote down something bad they had done and picked up a receipt which were amazing. Piers did raise a great point that we as Christians get so obsessed with the eternal element and forget that Jesus said to Zaccheus "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." But did he mean salvation of the soul for entirety.
Well yes of course he did, but he also meant so much more, he meant salvation of his past, present and future. And its the present we sometimes forget as a church. Its the previous grace that Wesley spoke so much of that we see here as well. A great point I would say.

Barack Obama "Hope"

Hey Guys,

Well its been a whole long while since I last posted on here so I thought I would get back to it. I have been slightly obsessed with Obama in recent times and have finished reading his books "Dreams From My Father" and "Audacity of Hope". Man he can write, these books are inspirational even if you don't like the man. For all our hatred and dislike of America I do wonder what other country would elect a, black, son of African immigrant, non-politician to lead it in a time of deep need. I watched a video of you tube the other day called "American Prayer". I wonder if we should not all just take a moment to think of that hope that electing a black man to one of the most powerful offices in the world. Ever since I visited Gettysburg I have wondered what is so special about this young country and why I felt so I at home and so much hope there. And I think I have seen some it in the Obama team and in the country. America is a young country and so full of life that it sometimes bubbles over but was built of the hands of men who believed in a promise of equality and the chance for any man of race or color or belief to rise to the top. I am struck what hope he brings when I read this article what Dave Stewart wrote about the song

Earlier this year when I was recording "American Prayer," a song I originally co-wrote with Bono, the phrase, "When you get to the top of the mountain, remember me" seemed to take on a whole new resonance, given the inspirational candidacy of Barack Obama.
The song always contained one of my favorite passages from Dr. King, which was hauntingly delivered the night before he was assassinated. King says: "I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!"
People long for a connection -- whether it is to music, to their country, or to a big idea. Regardless of what happens in November, Senator Obama has reminded millions of people that they have the power to connect to bigger ideas. He is, in essence, the embodiment of a new anthem for change. He has continued King's narrative from what was once thought of as a dream to a reality. I find it especially relevant that Barack Obama will accept the Democratic Party Nomination for President 45 years to the day of King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
When we were originally writing the song, Bono was crafting the words in a way that would make people think about the fact that 'America' as a concept was a truly great idea, based on the bedrock of equality. I find it more pertinent than ever to release it now; to the moment America finds itself in, daring to re-imagine itself and its place in the world.
When I set out to make a video for the new version of this song, I wanted to honor all of those millions of people, especially young people, who are, for the first time, feeling empowered to voice their beliefs. I wanted to capture how Obama's message of change has echoed across the broad fabric of what is America. To do that, we've cast the film with an eclectic array of personalities, including Forest Whitaker, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, Cyndi Lauper, Barry Manilow, Joan Baez, Macy Gray and Joss Stone. They appear alongside veterans, teachers and everyday citizens -- all of whom have been touched by this simple idea of change.
As an Englishman, I'm not an expert in all the intricate details of American politics. But as an artist, I understand how rare it is to inspire a connection to a bigger idea or purpose. This video isn't so much an endorsement of Barack Obama as much as it is a celebration of all those who have picked up a sign, who have registered to vote and are working to make the world a better place. So as Senator Barack Obama ascends to the mountain top, let us not forget all of the others who for the past 40 years have sung anthems of change to make this moment possible.

I am English and actually no very little about politics but what I do know about is hope because we all know about it. And I am proud of America for its bold step of faith to be on the cutting edge of equality and freedom.