the fruit of the burger

Yesterday was brilliant. We had a lovely service in which we baptised two people with very different testimonies, as I mentioned last week.

just a bun so that my veggie friends are not offended

It was very moving to hear how Dan had turned up at an outreach event we were hosting for Hope in Colchester (Hope 08), drawn by the music. He sat and listened and someone invited him to come to church the next day. He has been coming since then and gave a moving testimony about how he has given his life to Jesus and is committed to following him. If you were part of the Hope 08 event, be blessed and be encouraged about the fruit of that day. Those who organised it, hosted it, played and sang, cooked burgers on the barbecue and gave them out, chatted to the people on our forecourt or in the street, be encouraged because God used that event as a significant milestone on Dan’s journey of faith.

We often don’t get the privilege of knowing that something small we said or did made a significant difference to people’s lives. They move on, we move on, time passes and we forget all about it. Adeyinka, the other person we baptised on Sunday, said in his testimony that I said something to him which helped him decide to be baptised. I honestly can’t remember it. But God used that moment to bless and encourage him.

I want to encourage you to keep on being a free sample of Jesus this week. You may never know the impact it makes on others around you, but God is at work behind the scenes and he can turn a sentence into a new chapter in someone’s life. He can transform a cup of coffee into living water (water into wine is nothing!) He can change a phone call into a conversation with him.

I also want to encourage you to pause and marvel at how incredible God is. He takes ordinary acts from ordinary people and does something extraordinary with them that translates into faith.

Be blessed and be a blessing.

Burger-related joke

At a local Burger King an elderly couple came in and ordered one burger, one order of fries and one coke with two glasses. When they got to their booth, the man placed a napkin in front of himself and one in front of his wife, then proceeded to divide the fries, cut the burger in half and divided the coke equally.

A gentleman nearby noticed and offered to buy them another burger, fries and Coke.

The woman then said, “No you don’t understand. We’ve been married over 50 years and all our life we agreed to split everything right down the middle.”

Her husband then began eating, as she sat with her hands in her lap.

The gentleman nearby noticed and asked the lady why she wasn’t eating.

She replied, “As I said before, we split everything right down the middle, and it’s his day to use the teeth first.”

footprints

I was thinking earlier this morning [sound of readers fainting in surprise] and for some reason the phrase ‘leave nothing behind except your footprints’ came to my mind. Psychologists may have fun with analysing that but I want to lead you along my train of thought that came from that starting point.

FootprintsThe phrase is one which is used to describe how we should treat the countryside when walking through it orĀ camping in it. In other words take all your rubbish with you, leave no human-made objects behind you and minimise the impact on the environment to that which will soon fade naturally.

I realise that it is not intended as a description of our life, but I sometimes wonder if sometimes I live in the same way – leaving nothing behind me except my footprints. Most of us want to be remembered when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, and I guess most of us want to be remembered fondly. But what will be our legacy? Not financial, but what difference will our lives have made?

I think this is where it links to yesterday’s blog. How many people will give thanks to God because we led them to him? How many people will be in heaven because of us? How many people will give thanks to God because we were his hands and feet and voice and hug and encouragement and cook and shopper and gardener and chauffeur and … and … and…

This is not so we can have a great eulogy at our funeral or so there will have to be a full-page spread in the paper to print our obituary. It is about making a difference in the name of Jesus so people will say how wonderful he is.

Footprints

WARNING – if the ‘footprints in the sand’ reflection / poem is precious to you I would advise you to stop reading this blog at this point and re-read ‘footprints in the sand’ instead for your edification and encouragement. Reading on will probably ruin it for you.

OK?

Still here?

You have been warned.

A man had a dream. In his dream he saw himself walking along a beach. He looked back and saw footprints in the sand behind him and realised that he was looking at his life stretching out behind him. He saw all of the major events in his life.

As he looked he realised that alongside his footprints there was another set of footprints that belonged to Jesus – his constant companion.

He looked closer and realised that there were occasions when instead of two sets of footprints in the sand there was only one set of footprints.

The man turned to Jesus and asked, “Lord, why are there times when there is only one set of footprints? Is that because you were carrying me?”

Jesus turned to him and smiled. “My son,” he said, “that’s when we were hopping!”

Keep on hopping with Jesus šŸ˜€

implicated

On November 30 I linked to a Youtube clip from the Vicar of Dibley, where the Vicar tells a joke about an inflatable boy. If you don’t know it I would advise you to go to that blog post and watch the video before coming back here and carrying on as I am about to focus on the punchline of the joke.

Okay.

*waits*

I assume you have done that. If not I hope you don’t mind me carrying on while you check it out.

The punchline of the joke is that the inflatable boy had let everyone down. I was reminded of this joke yesterday when someone who had made a public gaffe issued an apology in which they said that they had let other people down. The thought occurred to me that the implications of our sin are almost always wider than we think. They spread out inexorably like ripples on a pond from a stone that is dropped.

Waterscapes 1
For example:
It is estimated that uninsured drivers cost those who are insured over Ā£2billion in total, which is experienced through increased premiums.

That’s okay, I am fully insured.

If we got unjustly angry with someone that will have upset them. But then they may not deal well with the sense of injustice and upset and they may take it out on someone else…

Ah…

If we are trying to be free samples of Jesus to those around us, how we act and react will affect what they think Jesus is like.

Mmmm…

And so on. It is said that there is no victimless crime. Similarly no sin happens in isolation. If nothing else we let ourselves down, we let those who love us down, we let God down.

There used to be a ‘Green Cross Code’ for crossing roads – stop (before you cross the road), look (both ways to see if cars are coming), listen (for any traffic that you cannot see). Not a bad idea to follow the Clean Cross Code – stop (and think about what you are doing), look (at the implications), listen (to the Spirit and what he is telling you).

Why did the chicken stop halfway when crossing the road?

She wanted to lay it on the line.

Why did the duck cross the road?

The chicken had retired and moved to Eastbourne.

What was the farmer doing on the other side of the road?

Catching chickens.

Why did the chicken go to the building site?

He had heard there was a man laying bricks.

frothing at the mouth

After yesterday’s frothy coffee episode I have gone to the dark side this morning and gone for some instant cappuccino. It is not the same quality but it is wet and relatively safe to make. I could make a comment about counterfeit or pseudo faith (where we go through the motions) but that is not what struck me as I made the coffee. (Thankfully after yesterday I was not struck by coffee either!).

not the cup of cappuccino coffee I just made!

I was struck by the thought that it was not THAT many years ago when cappuccino coffee was only available in the poshest, most expensive restaurants. Now it is available as instant coffee! And the word ‘cappuccino’ is one that most people know. If you go into your nearest costabuck coffee shop you will find an almost bewildering array of different coffee styles available. I want to try them, but am also worried that I might not like them so I usually stick with what I know I like. (Again, a possible analogy there, but I am going to ignore it and press on with the thought).

What I reflected today was that language is very fluid. A couple of days ago my daughter remarked that she was bored. My son and I tried to enliven her experience by suggesting a variety of different boards:

was she narrative? storyboard
was she made of potato? chipboard
was she running round in circles? circuit board
was she under the water? diving board
were people walking all over her? floorboard
was she a humble and poor peasant? serfboard (sorry!)

You get the idea. Not sure it relieved the boredom but we enjoyed it. But what I realised was how the word ‘board’ has so many different applications and some of them are very recent. 30 years ago most people might not have known what a circuit board was. The language we use is constantly evolving and developing to keep pace with changes in society and technology.

When I was writing a while ago, trying to describe how young people are confident around technology I inadvertently hit two keys on the keyboard simultaneously and ‘technoliterate’ became ‘technoloiterate’. I decided I liked the new word, as it described the way that technology is an everyday part of young people’s lives and they ‘hang around’ with it. I have yet to see any evidence that my new word is in common parlance, but perhaps one day it will make it into the Oxford English Dictionary.

We need to be fluid too in the way that we follow Jesus. Not changing our core task or our core beliefs, but prepared to express them in new ways, prepared to experience them in different ways. Jesus took images from his culture and explained what following him looked like in that culture. The parable of the Lost Sheep might well be the parable of the Lost Hamster (see a couple of blogs back) in a suburban culture where shepherding is a lost art. The idea of a camel going through the eye of a needle might become driving a 4×4 down a rabbit hole.

But it’s not just about taking images from our culture and applying them. It is also recognising that we need to be adaptable and change. In a world where gender-exclusive language offends I believe it is right to use gender-inclusive language where appropriate in church. In a world where going to church is an unusual event for many or most people, I believe it is right for us to be attractive and engaging beyond the walls of our churches on Sundays. It is right to be high on fun and low on content so that people will stop and be interested, rather than harangue-ing them with the full gospel as they accelerate past street preachers.

One of my favourite examples of irrelevant communication of truth was when I was walking down a street in Exeter and a street preacher was proclaiming, “Jesus Christ is the propitiation for your sins!” No doubting the truth of that, but sadly I don’t think many people received the truth that day in a way that was relevant to them!

It’s not actually that difficult. The beauty of Jesus’ plan for sharing his good news is that it is truth through personality. It is incarnational. He just wants us to be ourselves with other people. Or rather, he wants us to be the new, improved ‘ourselves’ that we are becoming as his Spirit works within us. Back to being free samples of Jesus, I guess!

feeding the 4000

I have mentioned before how I write this blog primarily for selfish reasons: it helps me stop and reflect on my life in the presence of God and ask myself questions about how I am doing as a free sample of Jesus. But it is also providing me with interesting experiences as I bump into people who read these pages from time to time. (Yes, YOU!).

I find that members of our congregation make comments about things I have written (and have forgotten I have written) and I wonder how they knew. I meet people at different gatherings who say that they visit these pages on occasions and they sometimes make positive comments about that experience. I met someone at the Conference from which I have just returned who had read the entry I had just posted about our toilet and commented on how he did not want any more information about the plumbing! (Very surreal!).

I even meet people who disagree with what I write. To them I have one word to say…

“Yay!”

I would hate to think that people feel that they have to agree with what I write. I would like to think that reading these pages if you disagree with them helps you to reflect and consider your own faith, and perhaps in the act of disagreeing you are affirmed and blessed.

I was surprised this morning when I checked in to discover that my hit counter has now ticked over beyond 4000. I had to check the website stats just to make sure that was not a mistake. Now don’t get too excited, it does not mean that 4000 people read the blog, just that there have been 4000 visits, and some of them will have come back again (fools).

The number 4000 reminds me of one of the strange things in the Bible. Most people are familiar with JesusĀ feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fish. (Mark 6:30-44) And we recognise the chauvinistic counting that only included the blokes, meaning there may well have been twice that number there. But how often do we turn over a couple of pages and read about the feeding of the 4000? (Mark 8:1-10).

Breads and fishesDoes this mean Jesus had started a sideline in outside catering?

It’s incredible in the second account that his disciples had not learnt the lesson of the previous occasion. Jesus presented them with the same problem of feeding the crowd and they came up with the same answer: “Where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

They were still relying only on what they could see and imagine and somehow had forgotten what Jesus had done so recently before in very similar circumstances. Did none of them think: “This seems familiar” or have a sense of deja vu? This time Jesus fed the crowd with seven loaves and a few small fish and there were seven basketfuls of leftovers.

How I mock those faithless amnesiacs who were traipsing around pretending to follow Jesus.

Until I realise that I am at least as bad, or worse. How often am I faced with circumstances beyond my ability and it stops me in my tracks because I can’t imagine the way ahead, when I know that Jesus has always helped me in the past in similar circumstances? Too often to count.

A vaguely bread-related joke that is also about failing to understand…

AĀ new missionary recruit went to Venezuela for the first time. He was struggling with the language and didn’t understand a whole lot of what was going on. Intending to visit one of the local churches, he got lost, but eventually got back on track and found the place.

Having arrived late, the church was already packed. The only pew left was the one on the front row.

So as not to make a fool of himself, he decided to pick someone out of the crowd to imitate. He chose to follow the man sitting next to him on the front pew. As they sang, the man clapped his hands, so the missionary recruit clapped too.

When the man sat down, he sat down. When the man held the cup and bread for the Lord’s Supper, he held the cup and bread.

During the preaching, the recruit didn’t understand a thing. He just sat there and tried to look just like that man in the front pew.

Then he perceived that the preacher was giving announcements. People clapped, so he looked to see if the man was clapping. He was, and so the recruit clapped too.

Then the preacher said some words that he didn’t understand and he saw the man next to him stand up. So he stood up too. Suddenly a hush fell over the entire congregation. A few people gasped. He looked around and saw that nobody else was standing. So he sat down.

After the service ended, the preacher stood at the door shaking the hands of those who were leaving. When the missionary recruit stretched out his hand to greet the preacher, the preacher said, in English: “I take it you don’t speak Spanish.”

The missionary recruit replied: “No I don’t. It’s that obvious?”

“Well yes,” said the preacher, “I announced that the Acosta family had a newborn baby boy and would the proud father please stand up.”