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A salute to Primary Carers

March 8th, 2013

I’m not normally a fan of ‘Hallmark Card’ occasions, but I make an exception for Mothering Sunday. Not only because I love my mum, but also because it’s one of those rare times when our society acknowledges a role that in many ways is counter-cultural.

In fact, any primary carer; whether a dad, foster or adoptive parent, or carer of a disabled adult, fulfils a role that goes against the grain.

How is this? Because these roles involve humility and self-sacrifice; the laying down of your life for another. Things that have the familiar ring of the Good News of Jesus about them, and things which are not exactly celebrated in society. In fact, many of the values society holds dearest are relinquished in order to become a primary carer; personal freedom & independence, academic achievement, and career ambitions, to name a few.

In two fantastic blogs on Motherhood, Melissa McDonald and Rachel Jankovic explore this further. If you’re a mother I urge you to read them and be encouraged!

Being a primary carer is hard. It takes all of you. But in doing it you are reflecting the life of the Servant King Jesus who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20.28).

So in our church, let’s honour and esteem our primary carers, and look to learn something from them about how we can be more like Jesus.

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Christmas; Nicety or Necessity?

December 18th, 2012

I think it’s fair to say people of all ages who’ve lived through 2012 will remember it as a good year, full of uplifting and memorable events like Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France win, the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympic and Paralympic Games and Felix Baumgartner’s space leap. It’s been year that has displayed the best of human achievement and endeavour.

So sad then that 2012 has proved to have a sting in its tail.

Another school shooting, in Newtown Connecticut, where 26 people, mainly children, were needlessly and brutally murdered. This event, just as all its predecessors from Dunblane to Columbine, sent shockwaves across the world, and left us asking once again; how can this kind of thing happen?

The Newtown massacre was all the crueller as it happened so close to the festive season, when people are busy making preparations, buying presents and looking forward to spending time with their families. But Christmas is a time of hope, peace and goodwill to all men isn’t it? Surely Christmas can offer us some hope, some respite from such evil… can’t it?

I would say with confidence that it can. But not the Christmas offered by our culture. That Christmas has become a nicety. My 3 year old illustrated this when I asked her recently what she was looking forward to most about Christmas. She replied ‘Father Christmas giving me lots of presents’. Alongside momentarily making me feel like a parenting failure, she had unwittingly summed up what Christmas has become – the shallow anticipation of material gain, along with warm and cosy feelings and the hope of having a ‘nice’ time. The problem is, niceties cannot answer big questions.

The true Christmas story speaks God’s love, proximity and identification with humanity right into the heart of Newtown, Connecticut. You see, from the moment Jesus was born, he was being hunted by King Herod; a despot who was nervous about a prophesied Messiah being born on his patch. This meant Jesus, having come into the world in the most chaotic and wretched way imaginable, was now a refugee, his parents having to flee to Egypt until Herod’s death. But there was significant collateral damage: ‘Herod…gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under’ (Matthew 2.16).

The slaughter of the innocents is a part of the Christmas story that is sometimes forgotten, often glossed over. How many nativity scenes include Herod’s soldiers alongside the shepherds and wise men? How many times does ‘The Coventry Carol’ feature in a Christmas service?

Yet it’s integral to the Christmas story, which displays that Jesus’ life was one of identification with human suffering  (‘He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain’ Isaiah 53.3). It’s also important because events like Newtown remind us that the spirit of Herod is still active in the world. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, perhaps unknowingly, highlighted this when he stated “Evil visited this community today”. How true. And such evil. But this isn’t the evil of one ‘loner’ who we can distance from the rest of humanity and therefore cling to our supposed inherent goodness. This is the evil of the same ‘spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient’ (Ephesians 2.2) and who holds the world under his control (1 John 5.19).

Nice Christmassy message? Not very cosy and warm and ‘nice’ but then neither is the gospel a nice message, neither is God ‘nice’ in the Santa Claus sense. He is good, and the gospel is good news to a humanity that has rejected its creator, gone its own way and therefore suffers the dual consequence of being morally adrift and open to God’s judgment without a plea. The only way to overcome the awful darkness that we see displayed through our own lives and through atrocities is to believe the message; that darkness is overcome through the death and resurrection of Bethlehem’s baby. For ‘the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work’ (1 John 3.8), and; ‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1.15).

We need saving, we need rescuing from evil. And that’s exactly what Jesus does. He is both the Saviour and the Rescuer of the world. That is why Christmas is a matter of necessity for us. We need it. So let’s tell it boldly, and celebrate the real hope that came into the world through that baby in the manger.

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Terrific Twos

May 25th, 2012

If you’re a parent with children of toddler age or older, you can probably relate to the stereotypical scenario of the public meltdown in aisle seven of the local supermarket, and perhaps, understand why the phrase ‘the terrible two’s’ is applied to children at that stage of life.  I’m a dad to a 2-and-a-half year-old (who is already planning her 3rd birthday party), and I have to say that my experience so far is that this is the best age yet! Let me give you some examples of why.

So we’re trying out the see-saw at the playground and my daughter says ‘I’m happy’. Rewarding enough! I then ask ‘what makes you happy’, to which she replies ‘you make me happy’, at which point I nearly fall off the see-saw, overcome with parental joy.

Here’s another one: ‘Daddy, I don’t like your singing’, ‘why not?’, ‘because I’ve got finger paints’.

How can anyone talk about the terrible twos when your toddler comes out with gems like that?!

Now don’t get me wrong, there are definite challenges of this stage. In fact I’d say that as well as being the best age yet, it is also the most challenging yet (although admittedly I’ve only a couple of years’ experience to draw on!). But the delights of daily seeing my daughter develop as a person and discover the world far outweigh the difficulties. The main reason I can say this is because I have the perspective that being a Christian parent gives me.

Firstly, the perfect model that my Heavenly Father is for me as an earthly one.

Secondly, the fact that there is a purpose to it all, which Colossians 1v28-29 explains well; to present our children mature in Christ. No mean feat! But this can be done with all the wisdom, power and energy that He provides!

Thirdly, the fact that being a parent is a faith thing. We can walk in utter dependence upon God, and while we can’t do it without Him, with Him we can prevail and have a healthy family life and fulfil the purpose of seeing our children develop to maturity in Christ.

Fourthly, the dreaded ‘D’-word! In the last 6 months we’ve had to discipline our daughter in some form on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. This is a big challenge and my wife and I have wrestled with questions like ‘are we being consistent?’ and ‘are we going to ruin our relationship with her?!’ But again, the Bible has much encouragement! Hebrews 12v11 says “no discipline is pleasant at the time, but painful”. That pain is felt by the parent as well as the child! But it also talks about God’s disciplining of us, and how it means that He is treating us as sons and dealing lovingly with us. God’s discipline means that He is shepherding us, not leaving us to our own devices, and that He has a plan to make us more like Jesus. Discipline is an act of God’s grace!

Knowing God’s discipline has definitely helped me to reflect His grace-filled approach to disciplining my daughter (although I don’t always get it right!). And the more I have to do it, the more I understand that discipline is a good thing, and an essential tool in reaching the parenting goal of our child’s maturity[1], and salvation[2].

So if you’re a parent to a toddler, or to a smaller tot who will soon be running around, talking non-stop, and pushing at those boundaries, be encouraged! God is using you to bless your children, and there is a purpose and a goal to it all. Oh, and don’t forget – enjoy every minute!


[1] Proverbs 22v15 & 29v17

[2] Proverbs 19v18 & 23v13

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More Worshipers in this City

May 20th, 2011

It will have been difficult to have been around the church for the past few months without hearing about the vision which God has clearly spoken to us about; to multiply sites across Birmingham in order to see Jesus the most talked about person in the city.

That is an exciting vision, and something I love about it is the thought that this means more worshipers of Jesus in this city, and more places across the city where His excellence is proclaimed and He is worshiped! Bring that on!! If you’ve attended any Churchcentral meetings you will have seen that we are committed to worshiping God together every time we gather, through music, song and heartfelt spoken praise, as well as by welcoming and prizing the work of the Holy Spirit amongst us through the various gifts He gives to us (prophetic words, healing, tongues, interpretations and the like).

I am passionate about building a church where God’s praise is made glorious (Psalm 66.2). In order to do this across multiple sites we are going to need more worship leaders. Over the summer months, while the various training tracks are running, I am going to be running a track for a number of people in the church that already have led, or could lead worship across the sites in future. I am excited about this, and in faith for God to equip and raise up more leaders who can lead us each week into God’s presence.

Secondly though, we are going to need more gifted musicians. I’m sure you’ll agree that we are already extremely blessed by the people God has given us who give not only their talents but their time and commitment to serving us in playing regularly. Part of what makes leading worship so enjoyable for me is working with other musicians to create music that brings God glory and helps the church worship Him.

But we are keen to find more musical talent! So, on Saturday 28th May we are creating an opportunity for musicians to declare their interest in playing in a worship band at one or more of our Sunday morning site meetings, or at other more occasional events such as the Christmas carol service. We’re interested in musicians of all kinds, whether you sing or play an electric or orchestral instrument. In terms of the standard we’re looking for, it’s of a reasonable level, but we’re also looking for people who have a heart to exalt God and to serve. The event will provide an opportunity to meet others who serve in worship and play a couple of songs together. If this is something you would be interested in, please click here to email Owen or you can call either Owen or the church office (0121 200 1995) for further details.

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