Monday, 21 October 2013

The fighting talk of David Brainerd

After preaching on prayer as 'Fighting Talk' yesterday, I've been impacted again by the stories of David Brainerd, who died whilst a missionary to the Sasquehanna Native Americans in October 1747.

E.M Bounds comments that Brainerd 'did his greatest work by prayer', often alone in the depths of the forests, unable to speak the language of the Native Americans and so spending literally days in fighting prayer.
Brainerd knew that if he wanted to reach the Sasquehanna, he must find someone who could at least vaguely interpret his thoughts. Understanding this, he spent whole days praying, asking the Holy Spirit to come upon him so powerfully that these people would be moved by his message.

Dr A J Gordon in his biography of Brainerd wrote the following:
'Once he preached through a drunken interpreter, a man so intoxicated that he could hardly stand up. Yet scores were converted through that sermon. We can account for it only that it was the tremendous power of God behind him.'

Brainerd would not have seen himself as a superhero of prayer. He was simply a called man who prayed alone in the forest and agonised over those whom God had put on his heart.
His obedience to the compassionate heart of God was so stimulating to others, that when William Carey read about Brainerd's life story, he went to serve God in India. Later, Jonathan Edwards was so struck by the now sick and dying Brainerd, that he wrote: 'I praise God that it was in His providence that he (Brainerd) should die in my house, that I might hear his prayers, that I might witness his consecration, that I might be inspired by his example.'

Praise God for a man dying in my house? Oh that we might all be infected with a little of Brainerd's sickness and weakness before God in fighting, prevailing prayer!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Last night I joined the local church......

Last night I joined the local church.

I've come to town to lead the local church, yet I need to be a part, not apart from it. I need to be amongst the ranks of the new, the not yet known, the being made ready. I need to, not out of some cheap political stunt to identify with the troops before brushing the dust off and returning to my ivory tower of leadership. I need to because I too need the local church in order to be formed more readily and purposefully into the life that Jesus has for me.

I've not come to town to dispense life transforming grace. I've come in deep need of it myself, and the place I find it is in the local church. Unless I want to remain on a pedestal of professional perfection, I must recognise my need to encounter life change, discipleship through friendship. I'm not immune to it, not beyond it. Indeed, if I don't get shaped in this way I can't go on.

Whoever started the rumour that pastors, leaders, were above one anothering, called instead to model perfection in isolation? Who said we needed to be the best at everything, the furthest forward, the deepest thinkers, the most perfected? That's a lie spun by the insecure. Amongst God's people is where I belong.

Don't hear what I'm not saying - This is not some distortion of scripture that says leaders are just broken people who limp alongside their fellow strugglers and stragglers.
 No! I'm not called to misery, or introspective neediness. I do understand the need to lead and model a dependency on Christ. I recognise that I've been transformed, I'm being transformed, I will be transformed - But it takes a church to raise a Christian, and the loving momentum of a local church to challenge and shape me into the greater Christlikeness that enables all of us to look and sound more like him in this broken world.

That's why I joined the local church last night.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Tommy Robinson, EDL and the Apostle Paul!

The radio interviews with Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League, over the last 24 hours have been extraordinary news! Emerging from 18 weeks of self evaluation in solitary confinement following a passport conviction, Robinson speaks with an entirely different kind of conviction -that of the ideological convert.

This crowd pleasing street fighter has reflected on his views, on his family and on ideas of race and violence, re-entering the world an apparently changed man. Resigning his leadership of the EDL, Robinson expressed concern about the increasing influence of extreme elements within his movement. He even apologised that the things he has said have not resonated with Muslims. Most surprising of all was this quote, 'I don't hate Muslims. Luton (his home) is a multicultural town, and from day one I've wanted to embrace everyone, all colours and creeds.'
There has been an understandably cautious welcome from British based Islamic groups, wondering as we all are, how a man known for such extreme views is now literally talking about embracing multiculturalism. I would imagine that a response of anger and defiance will come from the EDL any time soon.

I've been studying the conversion of Saul again this week. This EDL story has all the hallmarks of the original 'Damascus Road' conversion. Indeed, Tommy Robinson's change of heart only serves to put Saul's transformation into even greater contrast, and perhaps sheds a light on those around the world today who turn to Christ under oppressive regimes.
Whilst Robinson's new stance is to be welcomed, could you imagine if he not only renounced his old views, but then immediately converted to Islam, attended Friday prayers and began preaching from the Qur'an!
 It sounds crazy, unbelievable - and yet this is exactly the journey the Apostle Paul took. Saul the zealot for Judaism, in an instant, turning away from everything he has ever lived for, laying it all down to follow Christ -The false God of the false sect. 
The very people that he had been stoning to death as a rabble rousing Rabbi, he now embraces. The ones he persecuted and imprisoned, he now accepts their prison chains and their beatings! The disbelief around Saul's conversation meant that he had to leave Damascus by night. Neither the Christians or the Jews believed him. The first were still terrified of him, the latter now wanting to kill this apostate would be Apostle.

All of us to an extent have taken the Tommy Robinson path. When we come to Christ we have no idea of the true change of heart required for us to turn from our old lives, not just into a neutral position, but to fully embrace a brand new, opposing ideology. Around the world today, so many new believers in Jesus see the starkness of this decision, but like Saul, choose to turn their lives upside down for the sake of following Christ. Voluntarily taking themselves out of the safety of their families, culture and national identity, to identify with an oppressed minority.

So here's to you Tommy Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know! Your new world view, embracing all colours and creeds looks a better place, but there is a further step should you choose to take it, which will change you from the inside out for ever.