Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Which bank would you use?

I want to tell you about two young ladies called Lucy and Katie.
Lucy and Katie both hold similar jobs but work in different banks.

The other day I was with a friend and colleague from the USA who was here making arrangements to move with his family to my city. We had spent the day arranging schools for his children, finding a house to rent, sorting out driving licences etc.
The one thing left to be done was for my friend to open a bank account.
It was late in the day and we were not sure if the banks would still be open but we drove into the city centre to at least try to get something done.
As we pulled up to park, I suggested to by friend that he jump out and run ahead to see if the bank was open and to start the procedure of opening an account.
I parked and began to follow but saw another bank across the road that was open so I thought I would go and try there.

I entered and was warmly greeted by the 'yes' face of Katie, who immediately hearing of my friends need said, 'Of course we can do that and it will take about 15 minutes to process it'.

I then left that bank and crossed to see how my friend was doing at the other bank.
The doors were locked, it was closed, most of the lights were off. Concerned, I knocked on the door and was finally told that my friend was in the bank being seen by Lucy. Eventually my friend emerged and I eagerly ask him what sort of an account he had managed to get.
He looked at me aghast and said Lucy told him it wasn't possible.
He then explained that he was questioned about previous account and personal history and when he told them that he had not yet got an address in the UK, Lucy said it could not be done.
Lucy said she understood his problem because they had seen many people in his situation making the same request to open an account.
He asked, what had happened to them. Lucy replied, 'I don't know, we never see them again'.

We crossed the road to see Katie and within 15 minutes my friend had a new account with a cheque book and card ordered in the post.

Katie didn't see the obstacle in the same way as Lucy. She saw the need and did everything possible to meet it. She succeeded.

I wonder how many churches are like Lucy, who when people come with problems are met with all the negatives. I wonder how many churches ask, 'Why do we never see them again'.

My freind will be responsible in bringing many people to the UK to work. You don't need to ask which bank he will tell them to go to!

Maybe Lucy and Katie can teach us as church that the difference between a 'yes' and a 'no' face makes an immense difference.

If these banks were churches which one would you go to and which one would you tell your friends about?


Monday, 19 October 2009

The requirments of a servant

John 13:1-17 has been used as a description of the perfect example of servanthood shown to us by Jesus as he washed the disciples feet.

I was reading this passage today and was again challenged by the attitudes and actions that being a true servant means. I was looking at it from a leaders perspective but the same truths apply no matter what your role is.

1. The motivation has always got to be love.
v1 tells us that Jesus actions gave a clear demonstration of his love for the disciples 'It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love'. John 13:1

The footnote in the NIV states that this could be put 'he loved them to the last'. In other words, having called them, taught them, trained them, travelled with them and poured himself out for them, enough was never enough when it came to Jesus love.

When he knelt and took hold of their dirty, dust covered feet, he did it not because of hygiene, duty, culture, because it was expected or even because no one else was willing. He did it out of love.

It is a challenge to think that what we do, how we serve and how we lead should always be motivated by our love for people. The tough question is, is this true of us?

2. There is always the need to overcome pride
It seems that culture demanded and good etiquette required that when people came to dinner, the lowest servant would wash the feet of the guests. As the dinning style was one of laying on cushions around a low table, this would mean your neighbours feet would be at head height as you lay and ate together and so the need for clean, sweet smelling feet was a must!

The disciples again manifested the attitude of self-importance that continually beset them. They were over-chuffed to be on the 'leadership team' (Mk 10:35-37 A request to be 1st and 2nd in charge; Lk 9:46 Arguing who would be the greatest).
They simply came in and assumed the position of importance and presumed that someone else of a lesser importance would take care of the 'small' stuff.

It is dangerous when our 'position' causes us to assume rights and privileges.

Jesus humbled himself and got down on his knees. He got lower and most of the time we need to do just the same.

3. The outer garment needs to be removed
v4 tells us that Jesus rose from the meal and took off his outer garment.
To be a servant means the removal of our image.

Philippians 2:7 tells us that Jesus 'made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant' KJV

So often 'reputation' is the one thing we want to make for ourselves. We want to 'big up' who we are and what we do. So often, like all but the Samaritan on the Jericho road, we can tend to pass by the opportunity to serve because our 'reputation' is what we want to keep.

The great thing is, if we will become less, if we will become 'invisible', tremendous acts of servanthood can be seen to be done through the One who dwells in us.

4. When all is said and done, more is often said than done!
Jesus didn't just 'assume theposition' and get booted and suited for serving. He actually got his hands dirty.
He took hold of the feet of the disciples and bathed them in water. He took the towel and wiped them dry.
Being a servant doesn't stop at feeling sorrow or praying for a situation. It strips to the waist, puts on the overalls and gets stuck in.

I love the ministry of LoveCardiff (social action arm of Life Church), because it moves us from the pew to the problem, it takes us from the music to the mess and from the holy ground to ground that needs digging, weeding, planting and reclaiming.

To serve means involvement, not from a distance but from right up close.
Jesus did what no-one else was willing to do. That is what a servant does.

To conclude Jesus said, 'I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you', v15.
The example still stands for us today.
But please note his concluding remarks to this passage in v17 'Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them'.

In other words even right doctrine doesn't replace obedience.

Let's obey our Servant King not just in what we believe but in how we serve after his example.

Pastor Rae

Monday, 28 September 2009

More than just a number

Get a crowd
In Luke 9 v1-17 we read that after the disciples had been given power and authority by Jesus to preach the Kingdom of God and heal the sick, he sent them out in pairs to put what they had received into practice.
In v10 we read that they returned and reported what they had done.
We then read that Jesus took them on a little spiritual retreat to a town called Bethsaida (House of fishing), where it seems a large crowd, stirred by the success of the disciples mission, gathered and were welcomed by Jesus words and actions towards them (v11).
Later in the day the disciples asked for the crowd to be dismissed because they realised that they would need feeding and a place to stay and that both of these things would prove difficult because of the remoteness of the place they were in.

Responsibility of success
However, Jesus challenges them to face the responsibility that goes with the success of ministry and mission and says, ‘You give them something to eat’ v13.

What a great illustration to the Church in 21st century Britain, that there is more to leadership, church life, evangelistic programmes than simply gathering a crowd.
With the success of growth comes the responsibility of care for the needs of those who have gathered.

We see this lesson again in Act 6 where due to the growth of the early church, the needs that arose among the new converts demanded certain actions to be carried out.
New roles were needed and changes in structure were adopted so that the problems that growth caused could be overcome.

Lessons we can learn
So what can we learn from the disciples response in Luke 9 that will help us to carry out Jesus command to care for the present needs of those who join church and not just delight in the ‘numbers game’ or overcome the danger of thinking the crowd is there for us instead of us being there for the crowd!
1. People always come first with God
Not projects, not stuff but people.
Mt 12:20 ‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out’
‘He does not crush the weak, Or quench the smallest hope; TLB

2. Always remember that ‘care’ will always mean cost.
Having looked at what they had (5 loaves and 2 fish) they accepted that they might have to open their own wallets (v13)

3. Care is not the sole responsibility of the leader
Jesus said,’ You give them something to eat’ v13.
Having given thanks it was the disciples that gave it out and collected leftovers.
I wonder what we have got to give Jesus that he can say ‘Thank God, that is just what I can use to help so and so!’

4. Use the effectiveness of small groups (v14).
The Life Groups are a great place to get up close and personal to peoples needs. They help make the problem of the whole manageable.

5. Minister from a place of rest (v15).
Whatever the problems that people have, we at Life Church always need to have confidence that what ever is needed God will provide. Rom 8:32 ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

6. Offer what you have and let God do what only he can do (v16).
Although what you have might not seem enough, with God all things become possible.

7. When you give the help you can you grow in ability to
help others
(v17) 12 baskets leftover

Many years ago there was a TV programme called ‘The Prisoner’, that really popular in the UK.
The plot was set in a village where people were valued not by who they were as a person but by their value to the community. Therefore they had no names, only numbers according to value. The hero’s continued battle was based on his often repeated statement that, ‘I am not a number’.
Today, we can often feel we are just a number because of our continually unheard voice, or ignored individuality, or our unaided needs, sadly even in church.
Here at Life Church we want to make a difference!
Not just in seeing people come to Jesus to find the grace and love he offers but to find a church that cares for them as an individual and not just a number.
This is why our motto is ‘Life Church – Beyond Sundays…’
Like the disciples, we want to see people as more than just someone in the crowd; we see them as those we are commissioned by God to help whatever the problems they have.

So I look forward to seeing you in Life Church in the days between the Sundays where real life is lived.

Pastor Rae