Thursday, 11 March 2010

Gone Home

2 weeks ago I blogged about the Derick Bingham book that I had just read - "North of Shadowlands."

at the time I was unaware how ill Derick had againg become. My mum rang briefly on Sunday morning to tell me that Derick had died. He went to see His Lord on Saturday morning - what a joyful moment that must have been!

Follow the link to read a bit more...

William Crawley interviewed Derick Bingham just before Christmas, and the interview was broadcast on Radio Ulster. You can find the link from William's blog to listen to that remarkable and Powerful conversation.

For me, Derick was just another influence on my spiritual journey. His Tuesday Night at the Crescent Bible studies in Belfast were a breath of fresh air in the sometimes stultifying atmosphere of Northern Irish Christianity, with its tendancy towards Phariseeism.

He often preached for a hour or more (to be fair - sometimes too long), but what a joy to follow him through Romans or James!

Derick is Home now. Thanks for pointing the way, and shining as a light in a dark world. Derick is in the cloud of witnesses now, cheering us on...

Friday, 26 February 2010

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Yesterday morning I received a book in the post sent to me by my mum. Entitled "North of Shadowlands," it is a collection of blogs written by Belfast preacher Derek Bingham during his recent battle with Leukemia.

When diagnosed he was given 2 days to live, and if put on Chemo, was given a 5% chance of survival.

I read it in a day.

So much pain and suffering, and yet, if we will 'lift up our eyes' we will discover that our help really does come from the Lord.

I was once again blown away by the story of English poet and Hymn writer William Cowper, who suffered many bouts of deep depression, even once attempting suicide by trying to drive knitting needles into his heart!

When aware that he was sinking into another season of deep despair, Cowper hurried home and wrote the following words, which I dont apologise for quoting in full...

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines Of never failing skill He treasures up His bright designs And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercy and shall break In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err And scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.

John Newton, who knew Cowper well, said that he never knew a man more in the Grace and Favour of God, who was made to suffer so much despair.

This morning my thoughts have continued along this path. Listening to singer/song writer Steve Curtis Chapman sing "Just have to wait," from his new album "Beauty Will Rise," as he reflects on the tragic death of his 5 year old daughter in May 2008.

Why Lord?!

Job 1 verse 21 "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

Lord, I don't understand, but Blessed be your name. I want to praise you in the light, but help me praise you in the dark too...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

No-one has greater love than this...

I recently read "The suspicions of Mr. Whicher." This is not the kind of book I usually read, but I really enjoyed it.As a parent, I found the horrific nature of the murder, with its family involvement, very disturbing.

I liked the mystery, "whodunnit" nature of this story, and Kate Summerscale did a great job at keeping my interest. The historical detail was superb, however at times bordered on overkill - sometimes I felt I was being told extra detail from the authors extensive research, simply because she had come across it, and wanted to make sure she mentioned it all. It was this extra detail that slowed the pace of the book, and either added, or detracted from the telling of the story depending on your view. For me, it slightly detracted.

The best thing about the story though, was the unproven, though very likely possibility that out of love, one family member took the 'rap' for the murder to protect another family member. My mind was twisting to understand how someone could murder a young child to get back at someone else.... then I remembered that it happens all the time today. What a crazy world where the once 'sensational' murders of the past, are today all too common, particular where men kill their children to get back at a partner!

The redemptive note for me came though, as I read about the way in which one family member flourished, because another payed the price of the crime....

"No-one has greater love than this: that a man would lay down his life for his friends!"

Friday, 6 November 2009

Brokenness and Bogroll

A friend recently told me of a conversation he had years ago with the Christian evangelist, Bruce Anderson. Speaking about a mutual acquaintance, who had entered a time of extreme brokenness in his life, Bruce commented "Now God can really use him!"

Recently I've been meeting with a man whose life is broken. He has, by his own admittance, brought much of it on himself. As we sat chatting in my church office, he wept openly, his heart breaking for himself and others involved in his life.

Having no tissues in the office, I had to nip downstairs and grab an industrial size roll of toilet paper from the mens loos, which for the next two hours my friend slowly unrolled, used and binned.

I had informed 2 of my fellow leaders that I would be meeting this man, and I emailed them to ask them to pray during that time.

As time went by, we both seemed to realize that we were sat in the 'pigsty' of the prodigal son. This was his moment to come to his senses, and find his way back to the Father who loves him.

We read Psalm 51, where David pours out his repentant heart to God. It finishes "A broken and contrite heart God will not despise!"

"Did God forgive David?" my friend asked.
"Yes," I responded, "though there were lifelong consequences, David was forgiven!"

It was one of those moments...

"Would you like to pray with me?"
"Yes please," he responded.

We had talked about the Cross, the place where God himself took our brokeness on himself, and I was about to share with him how he could come Jesus, hoping to tell him the "ABC," or "4 spiritual laws" of coming to Christ.

"Do I talk to God or Jesus," he asked. I told him that Jesus is God, and before I could even finish my sentence, he burst into the Kingdom, pouring his pain and hurt out to a Gracious Saviour, and simply asked Jesus to come in!

I prayed too, then ripped the toilet roll from his hands, my face too, now wet with tears.

Jesus used many images to describe the Kingdom, but right now now seem so meaningful as brokenness and bogroll!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Fresh Paint and the Smell of Glue

For the last few months our church has been preparing to move into our new building. For 13 years we have, like many other churches, been living a nomadic existence. School halls, community centres, and homes have sustained us through various ups and downs since we planted the church in 1996.

As I write I am lying on the floor of the new church office (no furniture yet) as we prepare to open this weekend. The smell of fresh paint and carpet glue fills my nostrils, and seems to heighten the dreamlike sense I have of moving in!

At school today, as my wife picked up our girls, a classroom assistant stopped her for a chat.
"I was on the bus yesterday going into town. Everyone was looking at your new church building and commenting on how good it was looking!"

Those words mean a lot. If you knew the state the property was in when we bought it... Broken windows, the stench of death, smashed furniture. Paperwork and destruction littered the auditorium. A year ago some of us saw a parable there. This broken building is like the lives of so many people in our world - broken, destroyed, and aparently hopeless - but faith is the substance of things not seen!

It is not about buildings is it? Empty churches are the Cathedrals to our folly! It is ALWAYS about people.

Moving into our new church building is a sign of God's promise to us. Transformed buildings make people sit up and take notice. God is in the tranformation business, and He has an agenda for change.

Will you commit again to his agenda, not through conformity to this world, but by being transformed by the renewing of our mind!

Monday, 30 March 2009

Church pastor wins nomination for his inspiring leadership

Kevin Ward is an old friend of mine. HE has planted 3 churches in the last 20 years, and it looks like he is at it again. Have a read of the article linked here.

Church pastor wins nomination for his inspiring leadership

Monday, 23 March 2009

On being Irish (ish)

Ireland, Ireland, together standing tall
Shoulder to shoulder we'll answer Irelands Call!!!!

What a glorious weekend for Ireland's rugby team! I even had the joy of watching it with a group of Welsh young people. From the euphoria of O'Gara's 78th minute drop goal, to the heart stopping missed Welsh penalty bang on time, followed by the huge relief - We had done it. Only our second ever Grand slam, and the first in 61 years.

Mind you, the only time I felt Irish for years, was when we played rugby. For the first 5 years that I lived in England, I got hoarse explaining that I was not Irish - but British! Eventually I got fed up trying to explain the complications of Irish politics to the uneducated of uninterested.

The situation got even more complicated during the muddied waters of the peace process. Talking to the enemy! How easy for those who didn't live in it to tell us all how to fix it.

However, the seeds of peace, reconciliation and hope were sown by men like Gordon Wilson, who in the rubble of the remembrance day bombing at Enniskillen in 1987, held his dying daughters hand as she whispered "daddy - I love you!" Then hours later he offered forgiveness to her killers - amazing! As a young Christian at the time, I felt like killing the b******s myself. Then I heard Gordon Wilson speak from his hospital bed - honestly, it melted my heart.

Like many Irishmen, I am still on that journey. It felt almost complete 2 weeks ago....
2 soldiers and a policeman lay dead on Ulster's streets. Then, standing shoulder to shoulder (just like the rugby team), with the Chief of Police came Martin McGuiness. This self confessed ex-IRA leader called the murderers 'traitors.' "If you have any information give it to the police," he said. It almost felt like listening to Gordon Wilson again.

When Ian Paisley entered Government with McGuiness, and was asked how he could sit with a leader of the IRA, Paisley responded "Even murderers can repent and find forgiveness!"

What a few weeks. What a weekend. What a turn around.