25/08/2007

Filling the vacuum

I have one more thing that I feel it is right to share before I go away. I'm sorry if what follows sounds "preachy", but it is something that is burning in my soul, so I want to share it. If you are reading, I hope it stirs something in you...


The vacuum

Two evenings ago I was in a community meeting held in our area of London concerning a shooting just up the road from the church and a murder the previous week in the neighbouring district. I came home from that meeting in the evening and turned the news on the TV to find that a boy of 11 had been shot dead in the city of Liverpool. This follows a spate of fatal stabbings and shootings of young people in the UK.

The local meeting was called for by concerned residents. Present in that meeting were the police, elected local representatives, local council officials. A lot was said by local residents, a lot was promised by police and local government. Despite these many words, the word that strongly laid on my heart was "vacuum." There is a terrible vacuum in our society and that vacuum has to be filled.


Filling the vacuum

There might be many reasons given why young people get involved in gangs and violence, and there is only so much that the state can do to stem the flow of violence. Many ideas were given in this meeting, many fears were expressed. But these things will not fill the vacuum, rather the vacuum will only be filled by the power of God.

I believe that as churches we need to become more engaged with our communities. Salt is meant to get out of the salt cellars, and light is meant to be displayed.

I hope that this post might inspire someone to get involved in their community. There is a danger of being so involved in church life that we fail to engage in our community. Church meetings are very important, but we are not called to fill our lives with church meetings, but to change the society in which we live. While we must have Spirit-saturated meetings, we need to receive God's word, and be drenched in His presence, these things are not an end in themselves.


Moving out in the glory

The purpose of the cloud of glory is not only to make us feel good, but to transform the whole community. We are to be drenched in the cloud of glory, but He goes with us into the highways and byways of the streets around your church and around your home.

We are called to follow in the steps of Jesus, and leave the safety of our church meetings and the fellowship of other believers and get out and engage with those around us and to serve our community. This is not the social gospel, but the glory gospel - as we serve in the power of His presence, people become aware of the reality of the Lord.

We have something that the world cannot offer. God has called us to be the means of filling the vacuum. Society will never be in order until the glory of God is seen. So let us get the light, get the glory in our worship meetings, in our prayer meetings and then let us get out and take the glory with us!

The first step is seeking God, being utterly secure in His grace, and praying that the cloud of glory would fall upon us. The next is being available to the Lord. Like Isaiah, "Here I am, send me." (Isaiah 6v8). And He will open doors.

Imagine meeting with young gang members and having word of wisdom that sets them free. Imagine serving in a homeless shelter and seeing people delivered from the power of alcohol addiction. Imagine serving in a hospital and seeing whole wards healed by the power of God. Imagine visiting the elderly and by the patience and compassion that God gives you, hearts are softened and people come to the Lord. Imagine advising parents from God's Word how to parent, and them seeing the reality of God, as His principles work.

Let us get the glory, and let us take the glory out. It is only His glory that can fill the vacuum.

24/08/2007

In remembrance of Me

It has been a long time since my last post and I must apologise again. Also, it will be a while until I can post again after today because I am about to go away with the family for a week's holiday.

Firstly, thank you to everyone for the comments and e-mails encouraging me to carry on posting. Sometimes, I find myself busy with ministry responsibilities and sometimes I do suffer from something of "writer's block". I am still reading and preparing messages, but it has never been my intention to simply regurgitate my Sunday messages on here. I usually preach from an outline so simply to summarise my notes might not be a fair reflection of what I actually said.

Anyway, enough excuses. I have got something to share today!

This post has been growing since I led the church in the breaking of bread a couple of Sunday's ago. Most weeks we read, or at least refer to, 1 Corinthians 11v23-26, and sometimes onto the end of the passage. It suddenly and powerfully hit me in that communion service, really a Word from the Lord into my heart, which I shared with the congregation -

"This is not a time to remember your sins. Jesus told us 'Do this in remembrance of Me'. Make Him your focus. Your sins are atoned for. There is no guilt, no condemnation. Remember Him."


Unbalanced self-examination

During my early years as a Christian, the most highlighted verse in 1 Corinthians 11 was "But let a man examine himself..." (v28). I have even been taught (and spoken myself) that communion is a time of reconsecration to the Lord, that around the table, we need to think on our walk with God and the sins that we have committed so that we are convicted and don't sin anymore.

Yet such an approach by itself can lead simply to guilt. The breaking of bread is a means of grace not a means of guilt.

Yes, self-examination is commanded. But what kind of self-examination?  The context is the irreverent behaviour of the Corinthians towards the breaking of bread (see 1 Cor 11v20-21).  The examination was so that they would "discern the Lord's body" (v29).  This examination has more to do with our discernment of the work of Jesus on the Christ, and our blessing in receiving His finished work, than a deep and introspective examination of sin in our lives.

Don't misunderstand me, confronted with the cross, repentance is right - especially if the Holy Spirit graciously highlights areas that we are sinning.  However, my point is this:  if all we look at is our sins, then we will leave the Lord's table full of guilt.  If our focus is the cross and Jesus' finished work, then we will leave the Lord's table full of rejoicing and passionate to obey Him.  We will worship with reverence and awe because of His amazing grace.


A correct focus

We proclaim His death until He comes. Jesus Christ and His finished work should be the focus of our attention.

Thus communion becomes a means of grace. We lift our gaze to the empty cross - the place where sins have been paid for once and for all, where the wrath of God was satisfied, so that there is no wrath for us. To think about that, rather than my sins, led to praise, to joy. No more wrath, no more guilt - Hallelujah!

Out of that, communion should no longer a sombre time. It should rather be a time of awe-filled joy. This is what the Lord has done!! Amazing grace, that found me - even me. Amazing love, that has cancelled the debt. Amazing favour, that means I am now a son of the Living God.

What a different it would make if, once we have checked our heart attitudes, that we look to Him. What joy, that the victory has been completed, and, in the words of that old Sunday School chorus:

Now I am free,
Now I am free,
Now I am free,
He's so good to me!