Building the Dung Gate

There is a great preach by Andrew Wilson about the guy who builds the dung gate. It is 40 min but worth watching.

I found it really helpful because to be honest no one wants to be the guy who builds the dung gate. But someone has to be:

Nehemiah 3:14

Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.

Wilson reminds me that not everyone is the Nehemiah type guy or the preacher or the great musician. Not everyone is in the spotlight writing books or going on tours or speaking at large conferences. Not everyone has a life like that. Some do. Some are history makers. Which we need. But most of us won’t be. Most of us will be building the dung gate or counting the utensils (1 Chronicles 9:28).

UtensilsAnd Wilson reminds me that this is ok.

It feels like it shouldn’t be ok. It feels like we should say that we all have this calling to be history makers and to change the world. That we have a hero inside ourselves that we need to unlock and we can do anything if only we believe. Sometimes in some ways that may be true. But in everyday life, it just doesn’t happen.

I guess when you are fresh out of uni as a christian you sometimes dream of being a missionary or super star evangelist…

You may dream of being a preacher that pastors a huge church, where you write inspiring books and everyone follows you on twitter. Wilson shares his story about how he wanted that and wanted to change the world. Until life happened. Again life smacks you in the face. Suffering happens and suddenly everything is different. Have a listen, it’s great.

Someone’s got to build the dung gate. And build it with joy. It’s a small part in the community of the church but its vital. And it has significance. I sometimes think those small things mean nothing compared to the big stuff. But God includes these things in the bible and a whole list of names of who built this wall or gate, who cleaned what and who chopped wood over here and there etc.

I think God sees the dung gate as important.

So then, I have a question in my head when it comes to this: What is success in life?  What is it really?

I am coming to a conclusion that success can’t be measured and isn’t dependant on what other people think. For me I think success is joyfully loving Jesus in what ever situation I find myself in. Because deep down, “average” living is not bad. But it is all about the heart. And it is all about Jesus.

So then, if I find myself in a bed-ridden state 10 years from now and looking pretty much like a failure in everyone’s eyes, I hope my heart is still loving Jesus. I think that would be what I call success. Running the race and at the end still saying “Jesus you are wonderful“.

It gives me confidence for when I finish with UCCF, because I have no doubt I will go on and live a pretty average life. What that looks like, I don’t know, but I hope it’s loving Jesus and loving the local church and building whatever dung gate that needs to be built in the church.

Not many people speak about this. I am glad Andrew Wilson did.

The Rubber hits the Road

theologyTheology is really easy to talk about. It is easy to sit down around the table with the steam of hot coffee rolling around the edges of the cup, having your bibles open and your notebooks at the ready. It’s easy to say words like penal substitution and Calvinism and eschatology. They roll around your tongue and you spit them out.

It’s easy when your twenty something to see the world as black and white and carry theological debates in your pocket. You can argue about the pie in the sky until the blueberry filling squirts you in the face.

I feel like I am in the business of talking about theology. I can read the arguments and thrash out a theological position. I can quote scripture and I can also tie myself in knots with the straw from the thousands of straw men I create. And it’s good to talk, it’s good to work these things out and question and ponder.

But theology isn’t just about talk.  It isn’t just about the debates or late night discussions about predestination.

I think the rubber hits the road when life smacks you in the face.

Last week I was watching a programme where cameras followed around 4 families in their every day life. One family had a daughter and her partner expecting a baby but their were complications. They lost the baby. During this the mother makes a comment about religious people having faith and believing in God and how he comforts them. I think she really wanted that, deep down I think she yearned for that comfort.

Thing is, it’s easy to have a sound theology and all the right arguments, but when something like this happens its hard, it’s messy. It isn’t so black and white. I wanted to tell them that Jesus really loves them.

As Christians when suffering comes along we are caused to wrestle with the truths of scripture and God’s character. We ask: Who is God? Is He good? Does the death and resurrection of his Son matter? Does God understand my suffering?

I guess the heart of theology is believing in the middle of my suffering.
It’s clinging to Christ while in pain.
It’s believing in the resurrection when death knocks on your door.

I think theology tastes and feels different when you walk that road. It also sounds different when you walk that road with friends.

I haven’t really gone through great suffering, but ive walked with friends who have. The way they talk about God is different, theology has a different musical note. It’s no longer pies in the sky, but its real and it has to be wrestled with. It’s not about being right or wrong as in a debate, but it’s about clinging to Christ and finding joy and hope.

I think theology is good to talk about. But things aren’t always clear-cut. The part where it really takes effect and really matters is where theology meets real life.

And so, rich theology often comes alive when you go through an experience. Suddenly theology is no longer abstract but its earthy, weighty and holds more significance for you. The Hymn “O Love that will not let you go” by George Matheson, was birthed out of a painful experience of rejection and loss. The reality of the Lord’s love and comforting promises in a time of suffering becomes not just mere words, but wonderful truth to cling to, so that he can sing in his anguish verses like this:

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

What beautiful theology! What a beautiful Christ we have! This is theology in action and I feel the best kind of theology there is, a theology that doesn’t just stay at the edges of the table, but overflows into our lives and helps us cling to our beautiful saviour in times of trials and darkness.

Serving without Sinking

Have you ever had that moment where you are just really fed up of serving? At first it was a joy but now it’s just boring and repetitive. It feels like you are the only one who is serving while everyone else has gone home. And no one praises you or encourages you. Day in and day out it you slog away and you’re tired. You’re tired of it all.

Does that sound familiar? If it does, can I recommend a book to you? I know, another book to read – but it has been one of the most helpful books I’ve read on serving.

servingwithoutsinkingServing without Sinking – by John Hindley is a book that is Christ focused. In fact you spend over half the book looking at Jesus and how He serves you. This really makes you examine your heart and the motives of your heart towards serving. You could be like the person I described above where you are just fed up of serving and you feel very discouraged and tired of it all. Then this book will remind you how Christ serves you first and how he delights in you. It will melt your heart to see the love that Christ has for you. With this in mind it changes the way you think about serving from a “I should do” or a “I have to” turned to a “I want to” and “I delight to” Why? because every bit of service – making tea, printing music, washing tables, welcome team is all serving Jesus and we can do that because he first and foremost serves us.

Or perhaps you are someone who isn’t like the person above – maybe you only serve to get recognition or you just can’t be bothered to serve others. John Hindley reminds us what kind of master we have – He is good and kind and he calls us to serve him. Again he calls us to this only after he has first served us. He is a serving master who loves his servants, servants who are sons and daughters of his Father. He calls us to serve with a glad heart – looking to Christ and not for recognition from others. We can do this because we have the Lord who knows us and a Father who sees what we do in secret.

I found this book to be good news for my heart. It’s a short book but with a deep focus on Jesus. I feel like it is something we all need at the moment.

You can get the book at the Good Book Company.

Ali Bolton has read and reviewed the book here.

Preaching Christ

Just read a wonderful blog post about preaching to the depressed, but I think this is for everyone as well. David Murray goes through 8 ways preachers damage those who are depressed by preaching anything other than Christ. I may be so bold to say, that some of those ways damage everyone. Sometimes I feel damaged by them. This is worth reading, here is the most beautiful part of the post:

And that really brings me to the best way to preach to the depressed, and that’s to preach Christ. Preach His suffering and sympathizing humanity. Preach His gentle and tender dealings with trembling and timid sinners. Preach His gracious and merciful words. Preach His beautiful meekness. Preach His miracles to demonstrate His power to heal. Preach His finished work on Calvary. Preach His offer of rest to the weary. Preach the power of His resurrection-life. Preach His precious promises: ”A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.”

Preach Christ! Preach Him winningly and winsomely. Preach Him near and ready to help. Preach Him from the heart to the heart. Preach Him again, and again, and again. Until the day dawn and the shadows flee away.

The heat of Love

There is the heat of Love, the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper, irresistible—magic to make the sanest man go mad.”
Homer, The Iliad

Last weekend we were at a wedding of a good friend from Uni. I love weddings. I love watching the groom doing the nervous walk, smiling at people as they come into the church. I love the waiting, and you can see on the face of the groom the longing as the clock ticks time on. It could almost make him crazy.

I love how when the music starts to play everyone turns to look at the bride. She walks in and everyone gasps at her beauty, her dress, her hair and her smile. Eyes are on the bride. She is radiant.

    All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
In many-colored robes she is led to the king,
with her virgin companions following behind her.
With joy and gladness they are led along
as they enter the palace of the king.
(Psalm 45:13-15 ESV)

The bride is led to her groom and a union begins. He promises to care, cherish and die for her. She promises to receive his tender love and be taken under his wings for refuge.

Joy and gladness are filled in this place.

“There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.” ― Homer, The Odyssey

It’s a beautiful thing to see two people in love. Its even more beautiful to see how Christ loves his bride, to see how the church takes refuge in Him. As I was reading the book of Revelation, I was soon swept up in the wedding of Christ and the church – the heat of love burns here and the church is covered by the blood of the lamb and she is beautiful. All eyes are on her as she enters the palace of the king, bringing delight to friends and confounding enemies.

Jesus loves the Church. But we aren’t at the wedding yet. The church isn’t quite finished yet. We look forward to the wedding day, but the bride is still being prepared, she is still getting ready. At the moment the church looks messy, it looks broken, and it looks hurt. And so we wait with longing and groaning. We wait with patience and gentleness. We wait for the day when we will take refuge in Jesus, when we see his face, when he wipes away the tears. And Christ waits in eager expectation.

Perhaps one of the songs we shall sing is:

Sands of Time are sinking – by Anne Cousin:

4. The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel’s land.

5. O I am my Beloved’s
And my Beloved is mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner
Into His house of wine
I stand upon His merit –
I know no other stand,
Not e’en where glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.

 

Christmas: The Tender Mercy

lightinreedsAdvent Day 23

Zachariah Says:

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;

for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

to give knowledge of salvation to his people

in the forgiveness of their sins,

because of the tender mercy of our God,

whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

(Luke 1:76-79 ESV)

We know that John will preach the Good News of Jesus and we know that Jesus will bring salvation. The cause of all of this is down to the character of our triune God. He is a God of love and he has tender mercy. This is a beautiful verse. Not only does the Lord have mercy, but it is tender and his mercy is tender to those who are in darkness, in death and are sinners. His tender mercy is for the weak and the suffering, for all those who call on the name of the Lord for salvation.

This is a God who brings forgiveness and mercy. A God who sends his Son to earth to take on flesh and walk in our footsteps and die a death for us. He is a Son who calls out to the weak and helpless to come to him because his mercy is tender and will bind up their broken hearts and offer them comfort.

Spurgeon says:

“Like as a mother comforts her children, even so does the Lord comfort His people, and like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them that fear Him. My Lord is as gracious in the manner of His mercy as in the matter of it. Glory be to His name! O sinner, come to the gentle Jesus and live”

Christmas is about the tender mercy of the Lord.

How to enjoy Relay Homestart

Around this time a few years ago I was getting ready to go on my next adventure by doing Relay Homestart in Peru. I know all the feelings of being excited, nervous, unsure, insecure, scared, happy, sad to leave friends etc… with a million emotions all in one I knew I would be boarding that plane soon with no language skills and no real understanding of what it means to live in a different culture and really no idea of what I was really doing. So as I am guessing that some of you will be feeling these things at some point, I want to write a quick guide on how to enjoy and make the most of Relay Homestart and also short term mission – whether that’s in Europe or China or South America…

  1. Pray and continue praying – this may sound like a given. But we are sinful creatures that like to draw upon Gods help at the start and then when we get use to the culture and the language, suddenly God can be out the picture. Don’t be complacent, continue praying and bring everything to God
  2. Don’t expect it to be like Relay – On Relay you had amazing support every week, you had theology to read, students to meet up with and conferences to build fellowship. But its all different on homestart, don’t expect it to be like Relay at all – you may not get weekly support and it will take you a while before you can speak the language enough to be able to meet up with students one to one. This wont be like fitting on a glove. You are not the star relay worker in your university spouting Grace and Grudem. Your the foreigner that cant speak the language. But there are lots of advantages for it not being like Relay and you will find them out.
  3. Jump into the culture – The Culture your going into is different and can seem scary and you may get culture shock. The only way I dealt with this is by not shutting myself away but being apart of the lives of others in the culture. I was living with a family and so I joined in on everything the family was doing – watching TV with them, going to church events, going shopping with them etc…although I couldn’t speak Spanish, my actions and my time shared with them proved to be shouting louder then words. So join a youth group or prayer group, join in with a family, be with different people and don’t just hang out with English speaking people. Also try and eat everything or at least a bite – it shows your willing to try things.

  4. Don’t live on Facebook – Its very tempting to hide yourself away on facebook everyday. My suggestion is to not touch facebook for the first month – your friends will understand. Its more important that you get to know people where you are living then keep updated on the facebook feed. Your relationships where you are will be better off.

  5. Enjoy the Differences – everything will be different – smells, food, people, clothes… but don’t be cynical – its easy to believe that the English culture is always right, but you will see that its not and there is so much to learn in the differences. At times it will be frustrating, but as much as you can enjoy the differences – don’t complain about them to other people, but let your words be encouraging and pure.

  6. Your Identity is in Jesus – This is a huge lesson I learned. It is very easy to place your worth and Identity in everything but Jesus. You will want to place it in your language skills or how many one to ones you have or what you are doing compared to everyone else. But quickly you will see that when you place your worth in those things you will fall apart because they will not stand up – your language will fail, you will find yourself at times doing nothing or not knowing what to do! But Jesus will always remain and if your identity is in Him you will not fall and he will never fail you. Ever.

  7. Don’t expect to stay in touch with everyone – Some people are good at keeping in touch, some are not. Some will be annoyed that you are not emailing them everyday. The truth is, is that you wont have time to be keeping in touch with everyone and that’s a reality that you will have to not feel guilty about.

  8. Read your bible – Keep yourself in the word even if you don’t have a routine. You will find that church wont be a place where you can get either teaching you understand or teaching that’s going to feed you. But the Word of God will feed you. Keep in his word, enjoy His word, Delight in his Word, Weep over His Word and Rejoice that you have the Word of God in your hands.

  9. Be prepared for crazy emotions – At times you will find yourself so happy your skipping down the road and then the next moment you are crying. You will feel alone and then very loved. This is normal, so don’t worry. But remember your emotions are not reliable – but God is. Your emotions go up and down but God stays the same. God is still God. That is a good truth to hold on to. Don’t be subject to your emotions, but know that God uses you in your weakness and when you are alone, you are actually very close to Jesus.

  10. Love – Love the people, love the fruit lady, love your team mates, love other missionaries, love the crazy drunk man on the street, love the unlovable, love Jesus and do everything in Love. And enjoy every moment.