A new start - Jesus Army Life, Day 517

Photo by Phil H of flickr.comWell, we just baptised our first man from Worcester. It was a good baptism although he has a long way to go. I think he'll do well.

Tomorrow he stays at home while the other men trek off to a leader's meeting. Sounds cruel? He'll be getting some leadership training of his own. In our church we hold to the basic teaching that men carry authority in a church household. Now, in reality, authority is won by the respect given to and the conviction of the person who holds it, whether they be male or female, but there is great significance in men learning to lead from the front. So tomorrow, as we leave for the meeting, this young disciple will be charged with leading the prayer time before the day's main meal. A small responsibility perhaps, but when you've never done anything like that before, and when there are several other mature sisters there, with far greater clout (in Christ) than you, it is an awesome and humbling thing to do. And it is a great initiation into the reality that as a man you will always be relied upon to look after and speak out for others - this is why it is so important for shy men to learn to lead from the front in humility.

I am told it is also "a means of grace" from the sisters to the brother - they hand over their right to be self autonomous to the brother and so he learns that he has to be responsible for others. The sisters don't have to do that, but in doing so they are bringing great strength and encouragement to him.

The elders meeting itself should be good tomorrow, it being the start of a new year. There will be opportunity to review our journey with God over the past twelve months and hear His Spirit for the time ahead, an important time of consecration I imagine.

Photo by Phil H of flickr.com


He answers prayer - Jesus Army Life, Day 515

Answered prayer:

  • Being bought a minibus by the Trust after we were told the waiting list was too long and we couldn't receive one till sometime next year.

  • A very irate young girl returning to apologise after praying with her intended enemy that she would do so.

  • People just turning up on the doorstep wanting Jesus.

Unanswered prayer:

  • Making avenues into the student community

  • Seeing a friend's relative find healing


Eternal effect - Jesus Army Life, Day 514

I've just watched Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ for the third time. I once heard a film critic describe the movie as a horror film and in many ways it is, it shows the real defeat of evil and is bloody, gory stuff. But if there is something macabre about the cross then it is at once both horrific and profound. No sentient Christian can watch that film and not remember that Jesus was dying for them. You count each wound, each spurt of blood, as an eternal payment on your behalf.

Photo by Giampaolo Macorig of flickr.comJesus is still at work today, but He has triumphed and calls others to follow in His footsteps. Tonight my friend watched the film for the first time and ended up crying over his sin. Two brothers (real brothers) came round for the first time and discovered church where people lay down their lives for one another. And I have seen two of my disciples on their way to finding Jesus again. These things are of great importance to my own heart. Jesus is at work, helping people to find Him. And His work shall continue until He returns.

Photo by Giampaolo Macorig of flickr.com


Love of my life - Jesus Army Life, Day 511

photo by Mr Austin Frothingslosh of flickr.comWell, here I am sitting in our lounge, listening to the various conversations going on. There is a lot of love around. No one is saying “I love you” exactly but there's just some good conversation. People are tenderly affirming one another, relaxing with each other, one sister is resting her head on another's knee, there's lots of laughter around, the lads are making a curry in the kitchen. It's beautiful really.

We've just recently come back from the Sunday evening meeting, which I led (it seemed to go well). And before that we spent the day at our mother-household which is always a heartening experience, a bit like seeing very close relatives whom you love very much. I guess the general feeling I have at the moment is that this is church growing and blossoming in health and it's good.

Not that there aren't issues at the moment. Once again I'm challenged by the progress of various young men, some are doing very well, some are struggling, which is distressing, and simply, it challenges me. I want to see God move in so many people's lives, and I know he will, but I'm impatient!

Beauty mixed with pain: Life.

photo by Mr Austin Frothingslosh of flickr.com


Wish list - Jesus Army Life, Day 509

by Farl of Flickr.comThere are so many gifts you wish you had. I wish I had the gift to reach my friends with my entire heart - the gift of saying the right thing at the right time. I often feel aware of that need because I'm painfully aware that I often get it wrong. I'm usually lost for words and fail to say the right thing; lightening wit is a gift I covet. Another gift I wish I had is the ability to inspire, I so want to share with others the beauty I see, whether it's in God or in them or in life generally. Finally, the gift I would love to have is the ability to make people laugh, I often do, but I'd like the ability to turn it on like a tap, it often evades me.

But then I'm just me, young, gifted, a child of God - I know that is what is important. And I know the strengths I do have, and in some ways I praise God for my weaknesses too.

Photo by Farl of Flickr.com


Time and tide - Jesus Army Life, Day508

by Dean Forbes of Flickr.com Days can begin slowly, in the first muttered words of prayer you mull over all the things that will happen in the hours ahead and you know you'll be in need of God's help, at other times you find your mind wandering, captured, barely able to think past your own vain imaginations. No matter what mood possesses you, all that space to think quickly becomes an illusion and you’re working on borrowed time. Thoughts may move at a snail's pace but real time flies by; before you know it, it's time to go to work, time for lunch, and it's time to go home. And then bang! You’re back into the bustle of community life, face to face with all the hopes and cares you tried to give attention to all those hours ago first thing in the morning. Hopes like: the newcomers experiencing the power of God, wayward disciples finding repentance, closing with that brother about some important issue, or simply making sure you've got enough time to relax before you go to sleep. And before you know it, it's another day.

But God remains true. Our heavenly Father is always working and He gives proper attention to what matters. And so the newcomers come and find a place of rest for their hearts, wayward disciples return a little meeker but much more loved, time is spent with that brother investing in things that will last forever, and time to rest…? This is the Kingdom of God we’re talking about! There’s too much work to do, we’ll rest when we reach the everlasting Sabbath.
Photo by Dean Forbes of Flickr.com


Treasure in Heaven - Jesus Army Life, Day 502

photo by kool skatkat of flickr.comSeveral people have been nagging me about posting an update on my blog. I believe the entirety of my experiences can be summed up in one word: wow!

The truth is that while there are many funny and profound experiences I could have written about lately I haven't been able to because I haven't found the time to do them justice (I'm waiting to get some kit to be able to write properly each evening). Life is great though, it has stretched from the mesmerising astonishment of realising that God wants to give us all His righteousness to the comically crazy event of slapping hair wax under my arms (... I was late for work and got a tad confused).

And so much has been happening in terms of growth at White Stone, lots of brothers staying over, new people, new friends, taking the gospel to Worcester, family life etc I do want to write... but I have to find the time.

Most importantly God has been great. His Spirit keeps reminding me a lot about patience so I need to get my head round that, but I've also been rediscovering the beauty of this "treasure hid in jars of clay" lately and I can't but love Him.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Matthew 13:45-46
Photo by kool skatkat


The darkness within - Jeus Army Life, Day 484

by carf of flickr.comLast night I got together with a few brothers for a meal and a time to think about our spiritual lives. It was a valuable, rich evening which I truly appreciated; and it wasn't all thinking-stuff, we had a practical time of practicing prophecy and anointing our host's flat, but an interesting issue did come out of it that I'll relate in a moment.

On the way to work this morning a brother was talking about how shocking it would be if we all spoke out what we were thinking all the time! We concluded that we'd soon learn to control our thoughts, which begs the question - why don't we? The brother commented that the problem was that thoughts exist in our private world where no one else can see them (except the Spirit of God), in other words they exist in the darkness. We don't have to control our thoughts because no one else can see them. It reminded me of the scripture:

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
Matthew 6:22

In other words what you focus on effects your how good or bad your conscience is. We can be full of darkness (and how great that darkness) because while on the outside we pretend to be good, inside we are truly rotten and wicked, not really focussing on Jesus or giving ourselves to him.

When I had been with the brothers I'd spoken about Jesus' story of the slave who did nothing with the talent given to him by his master (Matthew 25). The slave was an intimate member of his master's company, if he were a modern Christian he would have gone evangelising when his brothers evangelised, he would have prayed for people to be healed if that was the activity of the day, he might be moved to cast out demons, but when asked to do the specific work of personally investing his energy for the profit of his master he failed because he practiced disobedience in his heart. The slave was punished.

How about us?

Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
Matthew 7:21

by bitmapr of flickr.comIt is vitally important that we give ourselves to knowing Jesus with all that we are or he will say that he never knew us. We simply cannot allow the darkness to rule within. Interestingly all that Jesus says before his words on focussing on the darkness is about what we do in secret, and how it must all be given to God. It's too easy for the hypocrite in each of us to do whatever everyone else is doing and think that we are doing good. It's all about what we do when no one else is looking. We've got to get our religion right.

True faith produces a life full of actions, not a head full of facts.

Photos by carf and bitmapr of flickr.com


Get it right - Jesus Army Life, Day 478

by dhammza of flickr.com This world is tough, but have you not yet noticed? We were not made for this world.
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will... establish you.
(1 Peter 5:8-11)


The prayer meeting - Jesus Army Life, Day 473

by zeeDOC of flickr.com I'm going to write this and try not to sound self righteous... and probably fail... here goes: We have a regular prayer meeting which begins at the ungodly hour of 7am in the morning. Up till recently it was attended by all of 2 going on 3 people, this week we moved the meeting from Friday to a slightly more convenient Thursday and now it is attended by 3 going on 4 people. Please note the deliberate tone of sarcasm - there are twelve people who live here.

It's not that I want to begrudge anyone their sleep, I'm an early riser, it's easier for me than others, and sometimes I forget; but getting up one morning a week at ten to seven isn't like being a Cistercian monk and getting up at daybreak, it's just asking you to be a Jesus Army soldier. And I'm cool with those who've decided that this is something they don't want to do, not everybody needs to be there - we're mature adults and we can choose how we manage ourselves. The thing is (sigh) we have made a commitment to prayer meetings, it is part of our covenant together. For good reason we can't afford to be nonchalant about our prayer-life - as a household we have to remain in the will of God.

Please don't accuse me of being intense, this is far from intense. I am simply convinced that God honours our dependence on him.

photo by zeeDOC of flickr.com


Hands held high - Jesus Army Life, Day 470

by lanL of flickr.com At our house-family breakfast this Sunday one of our newest residents described how she was experiencing life in community: "It's like I'm a toddler walking on my tip-toes and being held by my Dad. I'm scared I'm going to fall any moment. I've got my hands stretched up high to hold on to him as he leads me; it's exciting to be taking steps in God!"

I thought that was an amazing description. It's kinda how I'd like to live the whole of my life.


Serenity - Jesus Army Life, Day 466

I'm really trying hard to learn the value of the meaning of this word: serenity. The clearest definition I have of it is: "a disposition free from stress or emotion". I've been trying to focus on that lately. Not so much the emotion but the free from stress part.

by ccgd of flickr.comThere were some prophetic words spoken over me lately about God "broadening my shoulders". Makes sense I suppose but it's a tough one. Still, I know that unless I go through this little trial I won't be able to shoulder greater responsibility in the future. Without embracing the small suffering now I won't be any good to anyone in later life. And I need to be, I desperately need to be. How else can I fulfill, whatever it may be, the work that God has for me to do? And it's what Jesus did for me.

...Worcester tonight.


Couldn't have said it better - Jesus Army Life, Day 457

I found this poem the other day, it's gorgeously wonderful:
God and I?
That’s simple.
We are like two big people in a very tiny boat
who are continually,
unexpectedly bumping into each other
and giggling.

I could not have said it better. It describes so much of how I experience my relationship with God. I would love to meet the Sufi poet who wrote it. I feel we would have a lot to share. I'd like to ask if he or she knows what it is like to wake up and feel in love too because sometimes, not always, but sometimes Jesus makes me feel that way; it is a feeling that is irreplaceable.


Exercism - Jesus Army Life, Day 456

by spidrwegian of flickr.com Okay - I'm going to go public with this one. Having had certain comments about a recent request for a skipping rope I thought I'd explain how tricky it is to do some exercise in community.

Now I know this is going to sound like a moan but did you know moaning uses at least 15 calories an hour so there you go... It's been suggested I do some running which I already do, mostly on weekends - the trouble is that I have to leave for work at about 7.30 in the morning, given that I also want to use some of my morning time to pray as well, if I'm going to exercise and shower I'm finding I have to get up close to 6am. I've tried, I just get tired at the other end of the day.

Doing half an hour of any exercise is difficult because, actually you have to change your clothes, stretch and get a shower afterwards too. You're talking about at least 45 minutes out of your day - and in community terms that's quite a lot.

On the basis that I'm supposed to do 30 minutes exercise a day and that I have a non-active desk job, plus coming up to two hours' car journey for work each day, I'm failing miserably. (For those of you who don't know community evenings are full of meetings so there's virtually no time there.) And then there's the fact that you have to find some room to do it, preferably out of other people's way and certainly away from the embarassment zone of the sisters. We're talking almost mission impossible.

Skipping seems like a useful option because you don't need much space and it's high impact - I can fit it into a busy schedule, don't really need to get changed to do it, but now, following brief mention of the skipping rope the ridicule of the church community is now falling upon me and I'm not sure I'm going to be able do anything to cope with the onslaught except reach for another slice of community cake!


Worcester for Jesus! Jesus Army Life, Day 447

We had a great time in Worcester. We met several people who want to stay in touch and made a lot more friends so we'll be popping back probably some time next week. It was great to be able to share about Jesus with people in a way that didn't seem like we were advertising cold buildings and hard pews.

On Friday night we parked up near the cathedral and were marauded by a load of teenagers. We prayed for a lot of them and some of them expressed a real serious interest in wanting to know God.

Today we marched through town singing and cheering and making a general exhibition of ourselves - people responded well, I think it cut through the consumer frenzy and helped people know that some people are living for something more than the world has to offer.

Worcester for Jesus!


Enough for a fool - Jesus Army Life, Day 445

by Colonel Blink of flickr.com These next few days we're going to be back in Worcester, looking to meet people who are hungry for the Kingdom of Heaven. We've met a couple already and hopefully we'll be catching up with them.

For me it all feels a bit daring, I'm not sure why - it's not as if I've never led a campaign before, I suppose that's just the subversive nature of the Kingdom (denying the world, lifting the humbled etc.) ... but whatever I'm feeling there are people who really could do with knowing that there's a God who cares, who hates the way people are treated and who has acted to rescue us all from any misery. That's important enough to look a fool for.


Vital men - Jesus Army Life, Day 441

by Dorn H UK of flickr.comLast night at 'Men Alive for God' one of the apostolic men gave a brilliant heartfelt speech about the many men in his household. He spoke of how he wanted them to be free to express their daring and wildness, he refused to be intimidated by their new initiative or youthful character but instead wanted to encourage them into more. He said he wanted the kind of men with him whom he could rely on in times of trouble.

This morning I went for a short run with one of our young men. I'm determined to see him enter the Kingdom fully, I want to make allowances for any short-falls on his part and be loving enough to meet him in them. I want to encourage his enthusiasm. He's got an uphill struggle to fight but I want to marching up with him.


Deeper joy - Jesus Army Life, Day440

by simon pais of flickr.comOne of the beauties of community are those incidental chats you have with people where you connect with them just a little bit more.

So yesterday I was chatting over morning coffee to a woman who's trying out community for a month, and we got round to discussing the biblical commandment: "Always be joyful" (1 Thessalonians 5:16). Often this woman has said that she doesn't like theological stuff but in a few moments we were exploring the depths of what such an attitude required.

We agreed it's a beautiful verse revealing the profound realness of Christian faith; we're well aware that life has its sad times and its happy times and yet the requirement to always be joyful shows that the Christian's life is based on a deeper groundwork of faith than mere emotion.

And all that at 7.15 in the morning.


Untouched - Jesus Army Life, Day 439

by Hunaish of flickr.comIt's 5:30am. I've been up for an hour already. There's been lots going on, both in the house and in my soul... I guess I've found things a bit tough lately.

In Agape there was a question asked about family - how close you felt to the household - that kind of stuff. Everyone else seemed to find it easy but it was tough for me. I love this household, they are family to me, but I guess I'm not as close as I'd like to be. Something God's got to work on.

I'm very close to my real family and I love all these guys here. But within me something feels unknown. It's like there's a bridge that hasn't been crossed and on the other side is a paradise in my heart. Few have ever crossed there, but until you get there I just feel maybe you don't know me like I know me - if that makes any sense.

I really do love the people here - they are very special to me. It's just there's something untouched.


How to do Jesus culture - Jesus Army Life, Day 432

I'm reading a book on the behaviour of the English (Dad, no anti-imperialism comments please). It's called 'Watching the English - the hidden rules of English behaviour' and it's by Kate Fox, an anthropologist.

Aside from the seeming irony of the English now being under the scrutiny of their own anthropologists (I always thought their gaze was intended for mud huts and the noble savage - hm, my turn to shut up) this book does offer a delightful opportunity for me to laugh at myself and others as I see reflected in its pages the quirks and oddities of those around me, my own habits included. I haven't yet turned a page without laughing out loud at the peculiar idiosyncracies revealed in the book.

For example, we all know that the English love talking about the weather (this apparently has nothing to do with the weather but is about inviting conversation instead) but did you know that the English are the only nation in the world to form a queue - even if there is no one waiting! In other countries it seems the person waiting for a bus will go sit and read somewhere and turn up when the bus arrives but in our country we will begin standing in an orderly line of all of one person in the sure certainty that this is the proper way to behave in such a situation.

I find this interesting because in my church (a very very English church) we talk not of having an English culture but a 'Jesus culture'. Now, before you laugh out loud, this does make theological sense: we are told in scripture that we are a 'new creation' and that we are not of the 'first Adam' but the 'last Adam', Jesus says 'do not be like them' and it says elsewhere 'come out from them and be seperate'. And so we believe the Church should have a different culture to the world, a culture influenced by the powerful love and grace of Jesus, instead of the cheating corruption and hypocrisy of the world.

Yet while principles such as brotherly love and spiritual authority may well dictate how we are supposed to act as a church they still never completely iron out the peculiar wrinkles of character that makes one people group different from another. Cultural differences are not to be ignored, hence Paul writes that Cretans are lazy and promotes healthy competition between the Corinthians and Macedonians.

In our church some of the things we do are curious and some are still very English. Two examples I would pick are welcoming people and greeting people. I don't know where this tradition began but we have a very strange way of all clapping to welcome someone when they are introduced to the congregation for the first time. It seems like the decent thing to do and I can't suggest many alternatives (it's embarrassing enough to be introduced!) but it also seems silly to be applauding someone you've never even seen before and probably will never ever applaud again.

Hugging is also quite funny because it's very 'Jesus culture' but not very English. It's lovely to have someone express their affection for you (even if again, you don't know them very well) but it's comical to seem some of the embarrassed positions men get into when they receive a hug from some burly character they'd normally run away from.

As I go on (I'll try not to leave it so long next time) I'll try to write down some other observations about Jesus culture - oooh there's lots that could be said...


The fullness of life - Jesus Army Life, Day 421

The last few days have been hectic but I'd be lying if I said I haven't enjoyed them too. The stresses have far been outweighed by the successes, which, looking back now, helps you realise that it's all worth it.

A major concern has been some friends who have found themselves with no place to stay. We've been able to help them out with a bed for a few nights and there's movement towards a solution for each of them. But sleeping arrangements at White Stone haven't been easy. We've had an influx of people stopping over at weekends (two sisters moved beds three times in two nights in order to host everyone!) so I've been told I've got to put on my domestic deacon hat and regulate sleep-overs. It's a good thing though because it means we've also got a few new people living in community: they're all sisters at the moment, one moving in permanently, one doing a Training Year, and one trying us out, but there are some brothers hoping to live here as well which means there's a battle over the spare room to become a brother's room or a sister's room!

Life is Full! photo by davesag of flickr.comThe fullness of bed spaces is somewhat indicative of the fullness of life. I've been up the M6 twice this past week, once to support a church meeting in Stockport and once for an overnight trip to Liverpool (just because I've never been there before). The evening meetings in community have been excellent lately: rather than seeming like programmed events, they've just felt like it's the natural thing to do because we love Jesus and we want to be together.

There have been lots of late night chats sitting round and enjoying each other's company and lots of varied activity too. The last Agape is a good example, it was particularly pokey with questions about how we talk to each other (for good and for bad). The brother leading it has really grown in his ministry of pokiness. But other events have carried their fun: from "I had a dream" speeches to get people doing the washing up, to playing man-hunt in the dark. I've been personally convicted over some teaching we've had about self righteousness and seperate teaching about friendships and I've been trying to put both into practice (yes, I'm really learning the art of self righteousness now.)

And if you're wiped out by just reading the above, imagine how I feel living it! But it's all good. You see, I've just celebrated my 7th year in community - with my sanity still intact... only just.


Sowing from your heart - Jesus Army Life, Day 409

We religious leaders need to look very much more deeply. We can so easily have talks with people, and they can say we have helped, write us grateful letters, even stand steady for a time till the juice we have put into them runs out; but, we may have brought them no hunger for God because that hunger is no ache in our own heart nor brought them anywhere near to the end of self.
Florence Allshorn (1887-1950)

Last night I had a wonderful time with the young men I nurture. We ate pizza and chatted about the church and their lives and I gave them a bit of direction from the bible. As usual I probably talked too much but I really enjoyed the time and I think they did too. The over-riding sense was that we're in it together and we have to look out for one another.
by jowo of flickr.com
With reference to the quote above I do feel quite convicted because I so want to pass on to these guys the love of God of he has placed in me - that reliance on God which means ultimately you derive your faith from no one else but Him.


Stimulating conversation - Jesus Army Life, Day 408

brilliant photo by zoom zoom of flickr.com Last night I had a wonderful chat with two friends whom I don't often get to talk to much. It made me realise how, with all the comings and goings, I truly miss the joys of satisfying stimulating conversation.

This is no one's fault in particular, there are many characters in my social circle capable of holding witty or inspirational dialogue, and they do. But I suppose the trouble is that we are focused on a cause. And so all that we talk about is the cause: its challenges and mysteries, its successes and failures; and, when you see the same people all the time (and when you have a chance to talk) that cause is the only on going conversation. Familiarity breeds contempt? I don't think so. I imagine its the same in various business offices up and down the country: you either talk about the work you do or something shallow like the latest scandal.

And such dominance of our chatter is not problematic per se. It reflects the focus of our heart. But it is so nice to be able to turn your mind to something else or even (remembering that we did talk about God a fair bit) to simply approach the subject from a different perspective.


For the rest of our lives - Jesus Army Life, Day 406

This beautiful shot is of an icy February morning looking toward Baslow Edge from Curbar, Derbyshire by glowingtones of flickr.com
Wow, it's 6.30 in the morning and I've already been awake for about 20 minutes. I don't mind, there's something beautiful about waking up early and gathering in those first thoughts of the day. If you actually bother, the mind seems so much more lucid when the day is young.

I'm just waiting for the kettle to boil so that I can make some coffee and then I'll go and pray, but using this moment this helps me think about what I want to pray for so I don't feel I'm wasting time.

It's looking like it's going to be a lovely day. In a short while I hope to go for a run and then come back, do some household chores, travel over to Birmingham for the wedding, return to welcome early birds for tonight's gathering and then lead the proceedings for our weekly house-church meeting. There are many things I could pray for but most importantly of all it's that people today will advance into the blessing of God's kingdom. It's what Jesus came to bring, it's what he taught, it's all that we have to live and fight for, so I'm going to give my attention to that.

I do so want to be a man of real and deep prayer. I don't really think I've got a lot else going for me when it comes to increasing the life of the church, so I want to learn to truly pray. Seeing the words I've just written before me makes the reality of that aim very stark. Prayer, walking and talking things through with God, is a real challenge and there can be no room for boasting about this. I'm a total beginner trying to learn the ropes. But, what I really want to gain, and this I will boast about, is the heart of God. At least with his passion, a sense of his will and his perspective, I have a modicum of a chance of bringing the power of change to people's lives - the possibility of opening a doorway for others into his kingdom.

I think I could have expressed this clearer but I've said everything that I wanted to say so it's okay... The stag-do by the way was wonderful, with a barbecue in a wooded glade, many friends, worship around the fire, bringing prophetic words with symbolic gifts to the groom and praying for his future, it seemed pretty perfect. And now for the blessing of his wedding.

And now for the rest of our lives. Carpe Dium.


Stag night - Jesus Army Life, Day 405

by vivek of flickr.comLife is stressful when loved-ones find their life is in a mess - I should be used to it by now.

The de-stress plan tonight is a Zion stag-do which will involve prophecy, fun and laughter for the groom. It's ironic that the closest non-church goers often get to 'brotherhood' is probably a stag-do where the women aren't allowed and the men enjoy being men. A shame I guess, in church that kind of lifestyle is happening all the time but er... no strippers!

(...unless they're the paint kind).


Heart of worship - Jesus Army Life, Day 404

Last night in our cell group we decided to spend time in worship. Seven of us ventured down to the prayer shed, we explored some scriptures and then began to worship.

Now, worship is never an easy thing in my experience. Of course, loving God is childsplay, it's the simplest thing to sing out your heart, even the birds can do that. But mankind is a complex creature and, because worship requires two participants, if God doesn't show up you're a bit stuck. The reality is, of course, that God will always show up, (he's omnipresent!) but will we always recognise him? We're not always in a place to receive him. And sometimes, if we're honest, we basically can't be bothered.

And that was the experience of some last night.

by 3rd foundation of flickr.comTrue worship, like prayer, requires an exploring of our own hearts, it means facing up to God - and that is not always easy to do. Jesus said that the kind of worshippers the Father seeks will worship him "in Spirit and in truth" remember. I don't think you can really worship if there hasn't been some spiritual rebirth in you, and you certainly can't if you're not willing to be honest with God. It's fundamental.

Truth be told it's one of the reasons I don't get on too well with charismatic worship, give me a soul searching, bitingly honest dirge over a lively 'Jesus is my girlfriend' song any day of the week. I need the grip of reality to express myself. I can't worship if I'm not being honest about where I'm at. I'd far rather worship with tears than with lies.

You can call me a moody old sod if you like (and you'd be wrong - I have a PhD in moodiness and am well able to blast my own self-pity out of the water when necessary...) in fact, I love a good energetic soul-satisfying knees up; the child in me always longs to dance. But nothing puts me in a stupour as much as falseness.

And I think, in one way or another, that it's the same for all people. True, we come to God by degrees, the closer we get to him the more horrified we become at the cruelty of our own hearts. Yet, whatever stage we're at worship comes down to a basic "I want you God" and an honesty to follow through the implications wherever they may lead.

May we raise men, humble enough and passionately honest enough, to lift the roof off when we cry out to God. And as they break through, may God say "Son, your sins are forgiven."


Mission Bell - Jesus Army Life, Day 403

Huuuzzzaaaggggghhhh!! One of the younger sisters made covenant last night! It's a signal that we're breaking into a new phase of growth, where the radical drive to give up your life for the cause of Christ comes before all else.

We may have been able to grow in our numbers but calling people to commitment has been difficult, but we're breaking through and hopefully this genuine hearted sister will be the first of many.

Radical causes have their strains however. At the moment it is the frustration of still being very busy. Having completed a four day evangelism campaign and a three day festival last month, this month offers more evangelism days, work in the Drop-In, big church celebrations and smaller household and cell-church events. Moaning? Not me (well, not much); we only get these vital opportunities to build the church because we're committed. Really, there is nothing better on earth worth expending our energy for.


No funeral for the Church - Jesus Army Life, Day 401

photot by wilhei55 of flickr.comA few of us went to a funeral today. It was for the father of one of our young sisters. He was honoured by all who spoke about him. And you realise too late you'd have liked to get to know him more.

A visit to another church always has its fascination for me. Just as listening to the story of a man's life makes you reflect on your own life-achievements, so visiting another church leads you to ponder the good and bad in your own congregation, and whether we, as God's people, are achieving our purpose.

Unfortunately for this church their numbers are dwindling and their average age is getting older. I was left angry to think that so many churches in the UK are dying out. Once again I see the reality of the battle we are fighting for Jesus in this country.


Still learning - Jesus Army Life, Day 399

Learning to live in the Spirit is an interesting exercise. Occasionally you might want to, often you don't, but life in the Spirit is a key requirement of living as a Christian. Living in community you often don't have a choice! If you want to be effective you have to live in the Spirit... Oftentimes young disciples will arrive having spent all day in town and, really, they haven't really thought much about spiritual all day. And they come in with moods and moans and fears and anxieties and the Holy Spirit is somewhere very low on the priority list. Obviously this isn't all the time but when they do come in with all this mad stuff if you're not willing to be in the Spirit yourself then you have no hope of leading them into higher things. And honestly you're no better than they are - your carnal self might just be a tiny bit more mature.

by Pandiyan of Flickr.comSo the demand is to get into the Spirit and live the life! To stop being selfish and continue pouring yourself out. To enjoy living in the glory of God. It's the nature of repentance I guess, to keep embracing the cross, that's how Jesus loved us, it's the narrow way.


Snip - Jesus Army Life, Day 398

photo by hues06 of Flickr.com This Tuesday one of our members reaffirmed his commitment to the covenant we share as a church - and he was welcomed to our Agape meal with open arms.

I don't think the significance of this should be missed. Here is a brother who is saying to his church as Paul said "you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you" (2 Corinthians 7) and "you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown" (Philippians 4). When church is so real that it captures our heart nothing else matters; and that is exactly as it should be.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.
Jesus, Luke 14

It is the reality, the cut off from the world, the circumcision, that we are baptised into.


A winning heart - Jesus Army Life, Day 397

Photo by do.se of flickr.comRecently I asked God to teach me more about the power of prayer. I didn't have long to wait for my first lesson. The church had a three day festival coming up and I felt pretty desperate for God to do something in all the guys I take care of. So I prayed.

The weekend was certainly dramatic with healings and deliverances. The power of God was there. One of my friends was broken to tears, the first night, received the gift of tongues on the second and was bowled over by the Spirit the following day. Another two received effective and obvious deliverance from evil spirits that had afflicted them. I continue to pray for some of the other guys.

God touched many of the youngsters we had around in a variety of ways and one can but love Him for it. A week ago at Agape the leader spoke of winning our youngsters into real discipleship. He spoke from Matthew 18 about how we all get things wrong and have to be won into maturity by our brothers and sisters. We can't expect people to suddenly be perfect.

It was a beautiful message for me because for the first time I felt seriously able to bridge the gap between the pledge of baptism and the covenant commitment we celebrate as a church. Not every member of our church has made a covenant but every member is baptised. The difficulty is that, while they may not be seen as such in today's individualistic world, biblically entering into the new covenant with the church and being baptised are the same thing (as evidenced in Colossians 2 and 1 Peter 3). However while baptism is about initiation, covenant is about perseverance. How do our youngsters move from baptism into the maturity of covenant commitment? We win them - it's all about our love, and having big enough hearts to keep them, in spite of their imperfections and failings.

I hope you can see where I'm going with this. The power and strength of the church relies upon the sacrificial love of its core members. It's what we're called to.


Apostolic authority - Jesus Army Life, Day 389

Last night the elders and other trainee leaders gathered together to consider the affairs of the church. It was great stuff, with a review of our thinking on multiracial church, teaching on deliverance ministry and a stern message about being an apostolic church.

This last subject has caught my vision somewhat. There is great certainty in knowing that there are leaders within the church not only willing to provide direction and vision but an authoritative rule for the purpose of modelling the Kingdom of heaven. I can see people clutching for their notions of independence even as I write, but heaven is not filled with independent people. The authority of Jesus has been given to His church (Matthew 18:18-20) and apostolic men are gifted with the servant role of leading God's people into being a people of light. It is an interesting balance of power between the church as a whole, its governing elders and its apostles and prophets providing the foundation, but it's inspiring too and I'm excited!


The Separate Supper - Jesus Army Life, Day 388

On Sundays, after church, we've started having segregated supper scenes. The split is along gender lines, and, if you think that's strange, the lads love it! (I can't speak for the sisters because I haven't asked them yet.)

The youngsters weren't really getting the point about not flirting and entering into the strength of same-sex friendships, so we decided to push the issue. The suppers are fairly popular and we usually have a dozen or so guests back after the evening meeting. Upon arriving the men and women split off into separate lounges to eat and drink together and it's that simple! We still have meals together on other days of the week but this helps to make a point about the need for our relationships to be holy and wholesome.

But I was quite surprised that the younger ones would get into it so quickly. "Yeah, it's a time for men to be men and women to be women" summed up one disciple after I explained what we were doing. And that's just it really, we want both the young men and women to feel good about themselves without having to perform/feel uncomfortable around the opposite sex. We want them to grow into maturity without inhibition, knowing who they are for themselves, rather than defining themselves by how sexy they are. You can't reveal your true emotions, laugh without fear, test yourself against people of the same mindset, when you are feeling self-conscious about that girl you fancy.

Of course we want our youngsters to grow in respect for the opposite sex, and this really helps that. And naturally, you can't truly respect others intimately unless you respect yourself.


Now... this is my serious face - Jesus Life, Day 385

The trouble with having other bloggers living in the same house as you is that you're likely to write about the same thing... So, while James (shock! horror! I mentioned his name - no one is safe now...) Ahem. So... while James writes about the fun and games we had last night I'll stick to the more boring subject of how we had more of an evenly balanced age range.

This was good because sometimes I think we fear bringing older friends round to a youth mad-house! One member brought his (adult) friend round and we actually had time to sit around and chat, which was great... and then we had the games...


Shout out - Jesus Army Life, Day 383

Just want to send a big shout out to all the guys who've been staying over the last week or so - you guys are quality and you know it. It's been a privilege sharing the work with you. And I'm praying now that God speaks into your lives in a very real, noticeable way. Amen!


Together again - Jesus Army Life, Day 382

by SunFlowery on flickr.com Last Tuesday we washed one another's feet. There was great joy and intimacy in this sacramental act: sisters and brothers in separate groups, smiling, laughing past the embarrassment, speaking words of encouragement and appreciation. Friendship encapsulated in the guise of the most honourable position on earth - that of a servant.

It was refreshment we were going to need: the following four days exhausted us with the difficult work of constantly giving and constantly meeting new people as we took the gospel to the streets of Worcester and Coventry. We had a great time but it was difficult.

On the final day we geared up for a gospel music extravaganza and the place was packed. Not because of the work we'd done alone, but because the show, Goldsmiths, has a reputation for being a good message with a good time. I'm in contact with some people we met over these last few days.

Tonight the core team gathers together again. We'll have to see what the Lord does and what our hearts are open to but I'm counting on our need to lean on Him, our Servant King, and His ability to come through.


Scots Family Pollocks Pacific Adventures

Scots Family Pollocks Pacific Adventures

I thought I'd post up a link to Nigel's blog. A great man (believe it) and a great influence on my life and understanding as a Christian - though I still can't understand why he likes wearing shorts so much...


Fighting - Jesus Army Life, Day 378

In a prayer meeting recently a sister prayed about fighting. I wish I could remember every word. Specifically she prayed about learning to fight, not physically but with all our energy for people to break through to God. We've got to get rid of the idea that fighting is innevitably bad. If you don't know how to fight, if you cannot stand your ground, you can't win. The enemy wins instead.

It's no use standing still and hoping that something's gonna come to rescue us, we can't just expect blessing to come; there is a struggle to be won. We have to be willing to work with God and not just sit back. We have to give him our energy and focus on what needs to be done to win through. That's not to discount God's ability to help, but we need to work with him.

That's enough conviction for one day.


Sleeping over - Jesus Army Life, Day 374

I sleep in a room with three bedspaces in it, but currently I'm the only one in there. From time to time (mostly weekends) people stay over and it's great when they do. There's something really cool about sharing your sleeping space, something that harks back to schoolboy days of having your mates stay over. It's certainly a way to make friends quickly. I like that.

We've got a church-wide focus on increasing the number of people living in community at the moment, so I've faith those beds are gonna be filled and soonish. People are certainly keen on the adventure of community, but it's a steep learning curve and we want people to know that when you stay in community you're a disciple - it's a life of fun and sacrifice at the same time.

Last night, I had to explain that to a lad who stayed over and is keen to stay a lot more often. I hope I didn't put him off..... but as our pastor says, "you know a disciple because when you close a door for them they climb in through the window!"


For coming back to God

Penitence does not grow by our looking gloomily on our own badness, but by looking up to God's loveliness, God's love for us.
--William Congreve


Being Touchy - Jesus Army Life, Day 366

Photo by Buhny at Flickr.com At our breakfast together last Sunday we all shared on what we felt we needed most: one brother said affection. That's got me thinking some...

I'm not sure what I can say really. I'm guessing that for men needing affection is more difficult than for women. Touch for men is limited to a very select few and even then it may not be a very rich experience. Women, on the other hand, cuddle, pat and generally groom each other all the time - at least they seem to from my observation. And that's cool, they've obviously learnt socially to fulfill a need that men can't or won't learn - it's not a big part of our masculine make-up. But maybe I'm missing the point, maybe there's affection women need too which is hard to come by.

In community we, even the men, hug each other a lot. That's something I guess (in some cultures men kiss and hold hands without a thought!) But I'm guessing that maybe giving affection has to be a little more intuitive than the occasional brotherly hug. It's important for all people to know some tactile communication. It speaks volumes - it says you're accepted, I can let down my guard around you, I'm on your side, I need you.

But maybe it's just difficult for men to be affectionate when the next moment they need to be ready to knock your block off? All answers on a postcard please...


Milestones - Jesus Army Life, Day 365

Worcester Cathedral set. Looking towards Worcester Cathedral from Powick battlefield. By Fred Bloggz of Flickr.comNew things are happening at White Stone. On Saturday we had an experimental household split. This is the culmination of our 'more than 24' campaign, pushing towards creating two households in White Stone. Even after breaking into two groups there were still about 13 in each party - viable households of their own.

The single hour we spent apart went fairly well for both groups. There was some uncertainty but people rose to the challenge. We plan to have another go in two weeks.

We won't be separating yet, that won't happen until some time in the new year. But God has given us many quality saints and I have faith he will provide more - it should make the possibility for creating two strong house-churches very realistic indeed.

Also last week the brother's cell group made a foray into Worcester. This was also a bit of a milestone, since we plan to visit fairly regularly to evangelise, make friends and potentially begin a cell-group there. It all remains to be seen, but why not? God will build his Church, and he'll use us!

PS. I'm trying to learn the difference between furtive prayer and fervent prayer - see last week's entry.


We received some very sad news today. A friend and brother died last night. I can't really write anymore on this right now.

Many others were far closer to him than I was and my thoughts are with them.


Just life: Jesus Army Life - Day 360

Photo by ilferro_ud of Flickr.comIt's been a week of intimate moments, prophetic leadings, evangelism in a new town, running through the woods, sleeping in the woods, Holy Spirit movement, victories and defeats, love and disappointment, furtive prayer, dreams of the future, and lashings of banana yoghurt...

But that's just life I guess.


Unmistakable beauty - Jesus Army Life, Day 357

This morning, driving to work, the skies were clear, the sun shone brightly in the clean blue heavens and a hot air balloon climbed into the dreamy expanse. I didn't see the balloon for long, sometimes it was eclipsed by things closer to earth, sometimes the view was filtered by the flecks on the unclean part of the car's windscreen. An analogy for life maybe?

On Saturday the household visited Dunraven Bay.

Dunraven Bay by Whimsical Chris' of Flickr.com
I have rarely been to anywhere more beautiful in my life. There were cliffs and rock pools, and hills and secret gardens, and castles and woods and the wide sparkling, beautiful sea. I've never really been a seaside person. Given a choice of the elements I'm definitely more of the earthy sort. But the Bristol estuary leading out to the Atlantic was unmistakable in it's glory and quietly profound in the stillness of its power. So I've come to appreciate the coast, especially along the Vale of Glamorgan, as nature's invitation to freedom: freedom to see things from a new perspective, freedom to remember there is something more lasting than my own arrogant life, freedom to know that even this is a gift of love to be shared. The serenity was eloquence itself.

Days like this are wonderful for the household, they help us to remember that we are bonded together by something purer than the dust and flecks of everyday life.


Larking about - Jesus Army Life, Day 352

Last night, in an attempt to recover something of a liberty of spirit, we relived some of the larking about you do as children. We flew down hills like planes, we did some (spiritual) boasting, we lay back to stare at the sky in the long grass, we smashed our anger with sticks against a tree (and prophecied our passion afterwards).

On the way home, we spoke about building tree houses and sleeping in them and nicking milk of people's doorsteps. I'm getting more and more into the adventure of being spiritual people. There's energy in it... but I was wondering, what pranks did you get up to when you were young?


Spinning around - Jesus Army Life, Day 350

"Again! Daddy, again!" My friend is swinging round his young daughter, having just got home from work. (I've just wolfed down a packet of crackers... compare and contrast - lol). How does love spring up so naturally?

Yesterday evening we sat round the table for a pleasant and lingering meal time. There were candles on the table and various courses, including the mandatory olives. We'd deliberately set aside the time for the whole house-family to be together for a while. Nowadays, it doesn't happen unless it's planned. But times like these remain crucial to our well-being as a church household.

Afterwards we swapped presents we'd bought for one another (for a maximum of £2 each). I was especially touched at the thought that had gone into mine: 3 bottles tied together with a spiritual message about containing the Holy Spirit. Other gifts were special: stuffed bananas, picture boxes, amazing dragon fruit, a calendar of sweets and messages...

It was also the birthday of a young teenager, and delightfully funny friend, so the time together was even more special.

I'm left to reflect that we continue to need to find ways of drawing close. It's all to easy to be drawn in different directions. But like a parent and child spinning round together, it's imperative that together we create a continuous vortex of love.


Thoughts I had today - Jesus Army Life, Day 346

On the scale of 1-5 today scores 2 as an "Oh No!" day.

What happens when my Dad becomes too ill to help himself?

Having the gift of the gab means you get more responsibility.

How can I talk about purity?

The church needs to take up free running to reach the masses!

I'm gonna practice guitar on weekdays and saxophone on weekends.

I want to fall in love with Jesus again.

When you're craving love yourself, you can't love others at maximum capacity.

I wish evangelism was more natural.

My brother is excellent at being fun and doing crazy things with food.


Go down to the woods

Last night, we took the lads out on a spiritual adventure. We blindfolded them and took them into some woods. At a certain time they were released and told to find their way back to the entrance. The objective? To practice walking with God. They were encouraged to pray as they went, to listen to God to see what he would say to them.

I don't think it worked as well as I hoped. They were all to keen on the challenge of finding their way back. Ho-hum, boys will be boys.

Afterwards we had a fire together and explored the woods further, with much moaning from a couple of the boys about getting home on time, but that seemed to be a manifestation of their autism.

Still, I think it was the best cell group I've ever been part of.

Give anything day - Jesus Army Life, Day 345

Yesterday I was asked: If you could give your household anything what would you give them?

The question was in the context of our charity work having just received a big donation of coffee.

My answer? A chest full of colourful, unblown up, oddly shaped balloons.

What would you have said?


Thoughts on solitude continued - Jesus Army Life, Day 344

How is it possible to be with many people and be alone? Please forgive me, I'm not in some depressive state. I don't feel particularly lonely - but this stuff about solitude has got me a bit cornered.

How is it possible to have a meeting where you join in fellowship with others you love, admire and respect. And yet, at the end of it, not feel well met. There's a certain lack of satisfaction which I often feel at the end of the night... a kind of, 'Hang on! It can't be night time yet, I've only just got going. I've got more life in me, I want to live!' But everyone has gone to bed... Almost as often as I refuse to spend time in my bedroom, I am also the last person to go to bed - not always, especially when I discipline myself to get an early night, but often. And then there are other times when I seriously just fear to join in a conversation: because I know I won't find whatever it is in me that wants to be met, met.

Let's not get this out of proportion I'd be happy to go away for a few days by myself, out in the country or in a city, just being alone. I've done it before, it can be enriching, I'm not scared of it.

But they say you can be lonliest in a crowd.

I'm not setting out to point the finger at anyone else either. I know that this is something in me. Something obscure. The trouble is I won't be able to move forward on this one until I find the right door to walk through. As of yet I haven't found it.


Fighting solitude - Jesus Army Life, Day 343

Solitude is the place where we can reach the profound bond that is deeper than the emergency bonds of fear and anger. Although fear and anger can indeed drive us together, they cannot give rise to a common witness. In solitude we can come to the realization that we are not driven together but brought together. In solitude we come to know our fellow human beings not as partners who can satisfy our deepest needs, but as brothers and sisters with whom we are called to give visibility to God's all-embracing love. In solitude we discover that community is not a common ideology, but a response to a common call. In solitude we indeed realize that community is not made but given.

Solitude, then, is not private time in contrast to time together, nor a time to restore our tired minds. Solitude is very different from a time-out from community life. Solitude is the ground from which community grows. When we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we enter into a deeper intimacy with each other...

Henri Nouwen, Clowning in Rome, 1979, p13.

I don't get it? How can solitude lead to community, bonding, finding brothers and sisters? I heard this passage read twice now and each time I haven't understood it. In fairness though I don't think they ever read the last sentence - that explains Nouwen's thinking more. But other people still seem to have keyed into it where I've been feeling left angry and frustrated.

There's an internal reaction within me that means I already don't want to listen to arguments on solitude. An explosion has gone off inside of me each time I've heard that passage and I'm not exactly sure why.

Nouwen is a great writer. He's been described as the leading Catholic intellect of the last century. I've got a lot of time for him, particularly his arguments about fear. But here I find myself disagreeing with him. Perhaps it's because he describes solitude through paradox - that makes it confusing, and admittedly I need to read the book the passage comes from, but then also there's that internal reaction...

I've noticed it before. Of all the people in my community home I'm the person who spends least time alone where it can be helped. I'm almost never in my bedroom during the day. I don't like being there, I want to be where the life is. Personally I do like having time to think and pray, maybe to read, the space to imagine. Nouwen makes sense there, community does exist because of a higher purpose, something that transcends it - it doesn't just exist in and of itself. I guess I just react at the idea of glorifying in solitude - I hate the thought.

Okay, introspective moment: I've always felt alone. At school I had a few mates but always searched for a close friend, it became a fruitlesdisastrousous quest for popularity. At home, things sometimes felt like an emotional wasteland, actually they often felt that way. I'm not good at recognising my emotions, in love I was never sure I wanted to be in that relationship (there are a lot of factors I'm missing out here, but I'm just joining strands together). I remember when I became a Christian it felt like a dam of emotions burst open, I remember feeling at times so angry when Christians didn't love each other, I remember feeling so alone at times. At my lowest point I knew it was because I felt alone. And now, living in community, which I love, with friends whom I adore I still feel partly isolated, incomplete, alone.

I love life, I love people, I love my Jesus, but this is one area of my life where there seems to be a gaping wound - even living in community - I don't understand it. I don't think marriage is a total solution. All I can do at this point is ask God to come in to this situation, point things out, make things clear, and trust him to do the work in me that he needs to do.

The trouble with Maria - Jesus Army Life, Day 342

We've been fasting and praying for breakthrough in various people's lives lately. It's been amazing to see people who seemed to be drifting away make a return. I don't pretend to know how God's divine hand works in these things. All I know is, as was quoted recently, "when we pray, coincidences happen." And it's been happening for a handful of individuals.

I'm not going to pretend that it's all rosy either. We're not exactly talking about the return of Maria in the Sound of Music here (that would be funny). But the love we're talking about is deeper than any Hollywood musical could portray.

I've been praying personally for the kind of grace Jesus always showed. The welcome and acceptance that was powerful enough to soften so many hearts. You may think that's naive, but if Jesus did it then I know it's possible. You see, he's still alive, and he lives in us.

The scary thing is there are some members of our household who know the entire script of this film!!


They touched our soul - Jesus Army Life - Day 337

Last night it was Agape, but it was unusual: We spent the majority of the time talking about the various disciples who are around at the moment, over 30 in all. And then after we shared the covenant meal of bread and wine we prayed for them.

It wasn't a classic Agape filled with spiritual song and the word of God, but it touched the heart of who we are as a household and a people together. Each life mentioned is part of the soul of our church. We care for them all, we spend our love on them, invest time in them, watch them fall and rise, and long for them to grow closer to God.


Surprised by far off thoughts - Jesus Army Life, Day 335

After being away traipsing through the hills (traipsing? ha! trudging through the tetons of titanic torture) I began to miss some things about community. Not surprisingly you may think... but it wasn't the hot meals or comfortable bed. It was other things; things like the companionship of heart-covenanted members, the various activities of the week, the peace of being at the centre of God's will (or as close as this flesh-bag can usually get), the vested interest in seeing young disciples advance. Those things floated to the top of my heart as crucial to my sense of satisfaction.

And I was surprisingly comforted by those treasured thoughts.


The things we've neglected to do - Jesus Army Life, Day 329

Things I've neglected to mention that have happened in community recently...

The two visiting ministers from Pakistan, this year's barbecue, recent thefts, Satan's attack on various disciples, the recent peace among teenagers, the enthusiastic JGeneration meeting and the South African whooping (is it called helele?), early morning prayer, theological table conversations with a 14 year old, chicken pox, inviting the needy to our table, misplaced affection, malfunctioning loos and other pipe work, the greatest prayer shed in the world, being late for work...

The topics go on and on. I'll probably won't get a chance to write on all of them, some of them I don't want to. But I hope it gets you intrigued... he he, perhaps you'll come and stay for a week and find out more...

I'll write again in a week's time... bye!


Table conversation - Jesus Army Life, Day whatever

We actually managed to have some decent table conversation with the teenage lads yesterday. It felt like such a victory! Sure, I still had to tell them "that's not loving" or "that's out of order" occasionally but we actually had constructive chats where we showed some concern for each other.

You cannot imagine what a breakthrough this is!!!


Partaking together - Jesus Army Life, Day 323

As we shared the cup from the eucharist last night, a quiet note of pain sang through me. There are many I long to share that cup with who have never chosen to partake and there are some with whom we once shared the cup who no longer wish to do so. It was the actual sharing in Christ's blood which I was thinking of. I can't help but be selfish and want some of those I love to be with me in this... as close as possible. But,
Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Corinthians 10:15-17


Aiming for purity - Jesus Army Life, Day 322

I've been thinking about purity lately. What exactly is it? The question was prompted when I was challenging one of the younger sisters, an unashamedly flirtatious teenager, to consider purity. Her response was: "What is purity?"

I scrabbled together an answer, but to be honest I was a bit flummoxed. It's not that I don't know what purity is, it's... it's, well it's sort of being clean isn't it? The real problem is that there's not a lot you can relate purity to in this modern age. You can define it by what it is not: it's about preferring to keep your inner life clean rather than let it be ruined by the filfth of the world. But that's a bit vague and, being honest, it sounds a somewhat boring - keeping yourself clean and tidy has never been my idea of fun.

A quick search on the internet doesn't help much either - lots of reference to sex, which is certainly part of the picture but it's not the whole story.

I suppose you could define purity as a utility. Something useful to help you progress with your spiritual life (thoughts of being smelted in a furnace spring to mind), but I always thought of purity as an ideal in itself. Are we losing our sense of virtue and of what is praiseworthy in our society today?

"What is purity?"

The most I can figure out is that purity is something precious. It speaks of peace in the soul, it undergirds our sense of commitment to higher values. It's about not being willing to compromise your heart for something that will waste it. And it is a doorway into the spiritual life... "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5) Purity is akin to integrity I suppose, but where integrity requires you to keep to the truth you already hold dear, purity appeals to your character, it calls you to go for something transcendent. There is seemingly no end to the virtue of purity and that is why it seems so unrealistic in today's "please yourself" social order.

Aiming for purity is best done by degrees: watching what words you say, dealing with the thoughts you think, acquiring a sense of what is right in your heart, holding onto the good, treasuring your valued friends, remembering the most precious moments, submitting your actions to God. Thoughts of purity allied with strength inspires my imagination: immediately I'm in a world of noble warriors and proud queens, dignified friendship and hopeful youth. It's not the world I grew up in, it's not a place I or that teenager know now, but it's a dream that hopefully won't vanish too quickly.


Too true

Sing hallelujah for the C of E karaoke machine - Comment - Times Online:

"Talk to people under 50 and they all, by and large, have a religion: a consistent, recognisable set of beliefs. It's just that it doesn't have a name yet. It usually consists of a selection of the following: doing yoga; believing in reincarnation and karma, but also heaven, so long as Nan and your dogs are there, too; watching Carols from King's at Christmas; using recycled loo roll; intending to read the Koran at some point; knowing quite a lot of the score of Jesus Christ Superstar; a vague affinity with dolphins; trying not to use the word 'spaz' any more; reading The Road Less Travelled; buying joss-sticks; considering colonic irrigation and/or fasting; looking for symbols of the rose on churches since reading The Da Vinci Code; buying make-up that is not tested on animals (apart from Touche Eclat, because Boots Naturals just don't do an equivalent); getting a bicycle; buying Fairtrade; occasionally wishing you were Jewish; never going to McDonald's; sponsoring a child in the Third World; listening to The Best of Cat Stevens; liking Shaker-style quilts; and not believing in a man up there with a white beard, but definitely believing that there's some kind of global conscience, yeah. "

Refreshing - Jesus Army Life, Day 321

It was a packed weekend as usual. The household put on a music show for the church at Live at the Well on Friday. And then there was a wedding for a loveable couple the following day. But we were slightly depleted at our evening meeting - several regulars were not there, otherwise we would have easily have made our target of 'more than 24'. Still, if we took an average for the whole year so far, the barbecue this weekend would easily cover over this blip on the chart. Last year we had about 130 people. Wanna come?

On Sunday I decided to act prophetically and bought the house family some melons. I said that I wanted to 'refresh' the hearts of the saints through an act of love and encouraged others to do likewise. Other actions followed, feet were cooled with basins of water, chocolates and 'delights' (of the Turkish variety) were brought from people's rooms. There was a lot of laughter especially from myself when a brother commented that the Western Isles were the most beautiful place he'd been to on earth. He admitted then that he hadn't been to a lot of places and a sister shot back: "Yes, and one of them is Liverpool!" (his home town). I laughed uncontrollably.

Do note the insinuation that Liverpool is less than lovely is only hearsay. I've never been there, but I do intend to go there one day... perhaps for a honeymoon or something like that.

One of the younger sisters has been going round wearing a t-shirt with the words Style 3 wannabe (Style 3 is a term we use for church members who live in community). She's too young for community at the moment, but she's gaining a good reputation for herself, with lots of loving selfless acts. I heard it said of her yesterday that she wants to go for complete commitment to our radical church lifestyle (Covenant, Community, Celibacy) unless God tells her otherwise. That really is refreshing. So often you hear Christians approach this the other way round: 'I'm not going to do that because God hasn't called me'. May God guide her and keep her on her path.


Working together - Jesus Army Life, Day 318

Last night the entire household (including the extras who came for the friendship meal) worked in our garden to prepare it for the upcoming barbecue. There's something incredibly edifying about working together. For a moment people are bound with a sense of unity, if for just a moment...

I have often thought that if I needed to make a set of people into a team I'd put them on a sailing boat together. That kind of situation means you have to trust each other and work as a unit. You learn to get on

But these things aren't the same as living in community... community is more. It's a laying your life down for your brother - permanently. And there you find real unity.

Nonetheless, last night it was enjoyable, working together in the evening sun.


Needing a dad - Jesus Army Life, Day 317

I got up at 6:30am this morning (not unusual) and cycled across town to another community house. I'd arranged to walk into work with one of the senior elders of our church. Something I hope to do on a fortnightly basis.

It's a response to an encouragement by a pastor from another church. He's the father of one of our members and was highlighting the need for young leaders in our household to be learning from 'older' warriors of the faith. We're a fairly young household so there's not much opportunity to do that (though I do enjoy sitting at the feet of the one seasoned elder we have).

It was good just to "offload"... I hope he appreciated it too. As new leaders of a busy household we hold so many concerns and encounter so many situations where we don't know exactly the right answer, it can be quite a daunting situation. So many moments go by where I think: "I don't know what to do here!" And somehow you just have to go for what you think is best and learn the lessons afterwards.

Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers...
1 Corinthians 4:15

While cycling over I met one of the young lads I am mentoring. We walked and talked for a bit. I hope I can do right by him. I hope I can point him to Christ as others have pointed me.

There are so many men without fathers out there...


Times of intimacy - Jesus Army Life, Day 315

The whole community was round the table last night. It seemed ages since we had last been together just by ourselves - even last night we had a few guests with us. There's been so much going on, some of it in the various activities of the church, and personal situations have kept some of us away, but distracting activity has been going on simply in our hearts and has meant that we were absent even though present at the table.

I've been musing on the importance of intimacy lately. There can be intimacy round the dinner table, even if shared between five or six or even twelve hearts. Guests can be welcomed into that intimacy too, it need not be exclusive, but it is important to value and protect that intimacy: to share hearts and not ride roughshod over what others highly regard. With intimacy comes commitment, in fact you cannot often have intimacy unless there is a sense of commitment. It is a precious thing.

But I'm thinking also about how others can be invited into that intimacy safely. I probably won't find an answer. Intimacy is about sharing, and nothing can truly create that intimacy if one party is not willing to share. Yet there must be a way... something to ponder on I guess. I wonder how Jesus approached the issue. There were times when he deliberately went to private places with his closest men and there were times when that intimacy was invaded by others who wanted to be a part of his life.


Va va voom

Hooray! We have our new 7 seater car back. No more nightmare transport situations... hopefully.

Finding freedom - Jesus Army Life, Day 314

We baptised a lovely fella last night. He's got a long way to go but shows a lot of promise.

At supper, after the meeting, we prayed for him and spoke words of prophecy for him. It was unusual because the Sunday supper is usually a time to relax, but as the household leader pointed out, "Are we as happy to be eating spaghetti on toast as we are to be praying? Is our spiritual life as easy as our natural life?" It's a worthwhile question. We need to keep challenging our natural ways, not so we become intensely spiritual, but so that we open up channels to freely move in the life of God.

I've been getting a lot of questions about homosexuality lately, because a few of the people we have round are working through these issues. It's good to take a hard look at these questions, especially in an environment of acceptance where God is the main thing and sexuality comes a long way down the list (though it's obviously important to each individual). I've always found Martin Hallett a useful reference point in this area.

There's so much that could be said on this issue. One of the things I think our church offers is a social atmosphere of respect, especially along sexual boundaries; brothers associate with brothers, sisters with sisters - love for one another is key, and this helps people find themselves in a fellowship free from sexual pressure.


Okay it's true, community is hell, sometimes - Jesus Army Life, Day 311

One of the things I've realised about community life is that if you share it with people who really don't want community (regardless of whether they live in the community or not) it becomes absolute hell.

Consider how many would not want to share their home with strangers in the first place - many have trouble sharing it with those they love. Sharing your home with those who simply don't want to love you, when you're doing your best to love them, is somewhat exhausting, not to mention entirely and completely, mindboglingly crazy.

This really can apply to those who live outside the community too. People can come round for all sorts of reasons other than Jesus; and where there is disregard for everything you as a people hold dear it is a nightmare. The atmosphere will be tense, people are holding their breath just waiting for the moment to pass, leaders are at their wit's end... again.

I'm not saying you have to be into Jesus to come round, many aren't and that's okay. But it does help if you appreciate that the community exists for a particular purpose. Christians believe that God's grace is available to everyone, the good and the evil. It's when you deliberately don't want to receive that grace that there's a problem. We, in community, can't really offer anything else.

In other words if you do live in community (as one non-community sage pointed out to me last night) you're going to get your heart broken.

And here's the rub: as a Christian you have to be willing to throw yourself into that situation again and again, because you have to be willing to trust that Christ will work in people. And of course he does. If I've started this blog entry somewhat negatively then let me end positively and say that we've seen some beautiful people walk through our doors and leave with even more beautiful hearts, quickened by the grace of God.


Bakeaway - Jesus Army Life, Day 310

There's been a fair amount of joking about brothers liking flowers - with the mocking coming from various sisters no less. I've kept out of this one. Give me a cathedralesque tree to marvel at anyday. I'd always choose a walk through a forest over a hike across the hills, but this is community, we have to accept all shades of opinion, including those of er... tulip sniffing brothers.

So you can imagine my horror last night when, in a group with some of the young lads where we chucked about ideas about what love was about, when I proposed we do something to show love to a particular individual the lads suggested baking him a cake!

Oh the shame! I'd rather take a hike at that suggestion. But actually I'm lying: I love baking. But I'm just quaking in mortal fear as word gets around that in our brother's cell group we do... baking.


It's been emotional - Jesus Army Life, Day 309

The passing of a week leaves you with a lot to write about. I think there are two emotional moments I'd like to recount.

The first was my hugging a young disciple whose faith is on the rocks. I didn't want to, but I was so angry with the lies and thoughtlessness he's shown, things would have been worse if I'd flared up at him. Was I lying myself when I hugged him? I have wondered. It felt like the most emotionally hypocritical thing I could have done. I know this, I love him and will miss him terribly when he's gone.

The second was last night. This time it was a sister who was in tears because she missed someone. I think we could all empathise; the silence round the Agape table said it all. I know I felt the same, if not as intensely then with the same sense of misgiving. It was a genuine moment of grief. The relationships that last in this house are the ones that are built on love, and then sometimes, not even that is enough to keep your friends safe.

Do not lead us into temptation
but deliver us from the evil one.


Encouraging text - Jesus Army Life, Day 300

Received this text from a fella who's been coming round last night:

Hey tschaka thanx 4 the holy weekend and have a lovely spiritual week and godbless ur soul and cud say to every1 i said godbless and c u friday take care

Getting that text was a real boon to my soul. Violent men force their way into the Kingdom... may he be one of them.


Jaffa brotherhood - Jesus Army Life, Day 299

Of all the things I could write about: the brotherhood, great Saturday meetings, 'more than 24', friendships, intimate sharing over breakfast, discipleship, new friends, fireworks, spiritual flak, I wanted to write about this...

Yesterday, a tremendously wonderful brother taught me how to eat a jaffa cake biscuit leaving the orange bit till last! You have to chip off round the edge of the cake, then you need to nibble or scrape off the chocolate, and lastly you have to lever the orange bit from the cake part with your tongue. Of course this brother is an absolute expert when it comes to the practice of appreciating food. He's pretty good at other things too, like being a 'guardian of Zion' and always putting 'the Kingdom' first.

And I love him and think he's great.

And why share on this moment when there are so many other momentous occasions I could write about? Because sometimes it's those silly moments of togetherness that shine like jewels in your day. Life is great, it's tough but it's great, and it deserves celebration.


Not bored yet - Jesus Army Life, Day 297

I'm discovering God afresh. All this stuff about the reality of grace has shown me how much God likes taking risks. He wants us to believe in Him. He's the exciting God who created the world, who brought the man, Jesus, through death into eternal life, the God who heals, who rescues, who wants to be trusted.

But we can't believe in God when we play it safe. There's no life in that kind of security. It's only when we place our future on the line that we have something to hope in, and I'm finding it's only then that we really begin to discover faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for...

I don't want to live a boring life where the risk is minimal, where everything is ordered and where the reality of the gospel has no value because everything else is okay. I want to pursue a life unimaginable, where the pain of every day is payment for the excitement of seeing people discover a miraculous God. Where trusting God becomes a challenge and the hope of faith the only measurable quality of life.

Last night I was praying: God, I don't want to be a thankless man, I want to be a man who rejoices in your blessing, I want to be a man with Your soul, a man with a character of risky grace, a man who refuses to be anything but real, who refuses to hide away and sabotage his own self, a man who trusts in You.

And this morning I woke up singing.

I believe in Jesus,
I believe he is the Son of God,
I believe he died and rose again,
I believe he paid for us all.

And I believe that he's here now,
standing in our midst.
Here with the power to heal now
and the grace to forgive.