Is Jesus Angry with Your Church?

So, is Jesus angry with your church?

Now I know this seems like a strange question, after all many people say that Jesus is gentle, meek and mild, so it must be true?

After Jesus entered Jerusalem, he went to the temple courts where he smashed up the stalls of the people selling animals and of the money changers and as he did so, he called them robbers.

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license (Picture source).

Jesus was angry that the poor were being exploited and that people were choosing to make it overly expensive to get to God.Y ou can read more about this in Trashing the Temple Courts: What was that all about?

If people couldn’t pay the exorbitant amounts then they couldn’t worship and this made Jesus furious!

Access to God should be free and we certainly shouldn’t put barriers in the way of people!

Are there ways that we make it difficult for people who don’t know Jesus yet to worship and to find out more about him through our church community?

If we do, then we need to realize that Jesus is angry with us!

Jesus died to save the world and if we are running his church in such a way that we end up excluding people then we need to repent and make Jesus’ church accessible and open to all again.

  • We need to give up on expecting people to behave in certain ways before we allow them to seek within our church communities.
  • We need to give up all judgmental attitudes.
  • We need to ditch the jargon filled services which people need a degree in Christianese to follow and rediscover the Jesus approach to sharing profound truths using everyday language and parables.
  • We need to learn to be more honest about our faith because people will never hear the good news unless we tell them!

Are there ways that we exploit the poor through our choices?

If we do, then we need to realize that Jesus is angry with us!

  • We need to think about how ethical that the way that we spend our money is. Are we willing to invest in and see the importance of things like the Fairtrade scheme when we make purchases?
  • We need to consider if we are good customers. Do we wait until the last possible minute to pay invoices? Do we squeeze everything we can out of tradespeople or do we bless them and treat them well?
  • Are we willing to give generously to the poor out of all that we have and not just what we have left over?
  • Are we willing to give to and to help the poor in such a way that they can find freedom rather than them being beholden to us for more handouts? (Throwing money at the problem of poverty isn’t the answer! Any money has to be used to allow people to help themselves rather than it being out into projects that make the givers feel better).
  • Will we welcome people in to our churches no matter how they are dressed or what money they have. (The poor long for acceptance but often they encounter rejection and judgement. The church is one of the places that should welcome and accept all people.).

Okay, so it turns out that the gentle Jesus, meek and mild thing is a myth!

Perhaps Jesus is angry with us and the churches we are part of, but if he is the good news is that it is not to late to change! The Bible says that God is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love.

As we rediscover Jesus’ priories of leading everyone to the Father and not hindering them and of welcoming, loving and helping the poor then we know that he will be pleased with us as he sees us joining him in his work.

Let’s help Jesus to build his church rather than us turning it into our exclusive club!

I am hoping to write something each day this week to explore something that happened during the lead up to the first Easter Sunday. If you are interested in finding out more then you might find the posts I have written during this and previous years about this helpful.

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Would we like Jesus to give us what we Want or what we Need?

Jesus rode into Jerusalem and the crowd cried out for him to save them. They were expecting salvation from Roman occupation but Jesus had a different agenda.

A few days later many of these same people would have been in another crowd shouting crucify as Jesus stood before them. Jesus had failed to be the saviour that they wanted him to be and so they rejected him and instead they called for a revolutionary named Barabbas to be freed instead.

Sadly Barabbas didn’t free them from the Romans and in an act of supreme irony, their rejection of Jesus led to his death which in turn provided salvation for the whole world.

If Jesus had defeated the Romans life would have been better for those people but because of his death on the cross, eternal life and a relationship with God is possible.

If you were a part of that crowd 2000 years ago do you think that you would we have chosen differently?

When we are in pain, the circumstances and emotions of what we are going through can consume us. Sometimes, all we can see is the particular problem and as a result we then cry out to God asking him to save us from the particular situation.

Sometimes we ask that Jesus acts in the way we want rather than perhaps the way that we most need!

Instead of just asking Jesus to take away our pain, I believe that we should call on and pour out our heart to him in order to express the pain we are feeling. At this point, we should be asking Jesus how he wants to lead us forwards.

Jesus knows and understands our felt needs, but he also knows our real needs and the real needs of the people around us.

Jesus died to save the whole world and not just me or you and so we need to accept that meeting our felt needs isn’t necessarily very high on Jesus’ priority list in comparison to the salvation of the whole of humanity.

2000 years ago, Jesus could have been rescued the Jews from the Romans. If he had done so he would have been incredibly popular (except with the Romans of course!) but in not giving his life as a sacrifice, we would all still be separated from God.

Would we like Jesus to give us what we Want or what we Need?

I am hoping to write something each day to explore something that happened during the lead up to the first Easter Sunday. If you are interested in finding out more then you might find the posts I have written during this and previous years about this helpful.

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Will we give our best to Jesus?: A Thought for Palm Sunday

The crowd was so excited to see Jesus that they laid their coats and palm leaves on the ground for the donkey that was carrying him to ride over.

Lots of people went home that day with clothing that looked like a donkey had walked all over it because that is exactly what had happened.

Although their clothing was filthy, these people knew that it had been worth it! These were exciting times, they had welcomed the Messiah into Jerusalem and they believed that he had come to save them.

How about you? Would you lay your coat under a donkey for Jesus?

The people in the crowd gave their best to Jesus.

These weren’t likely to be people who had a wardrobe full of coats at home! If their coats were ruined then it was going to be costly to them as they would have had to of replaced this necessity out of their limited resources.

As the people saw Jesus, they couldn’t help but worship him!

Do we give our best to Jesus?

How will we worship him today?

Will we mumble a song or two or when we sing or will we focus on our saviour with a heart full of thanks.

How will we serve him today?

Will we consider doing God’s will only when we see what time and energy that we have leftover or will we give our best as a priority in whatever Jesus wants us to do? Are we open to serving Jesus wholeheartedly or does our agenda and will come first?

How will we give to him today?

Do we give our leftover pennies to God or do we give freely to God’s work believing that God has supplied us with all of our needs and that if he directs us to give then we should trust in him? How do we give our money, time, emotions and energy to God?

Many of you reading this have known Jesus for years. It’s fairly ironic that this crowd who met Jesus perhaps only once or twice worshiped him sacrificially and wholeheartedly in a way that some of us never have.

The key is to see Jesus as he is!

We should come to worship Jesus, focused on who he is rather than being consumed by ourselves. We may offer Jesus worship in Church today but we should also consider our everyday lives an offering of worship to him as well and we should make this offering with our eyes fixed on him!

It’s possible that Jesus looked odd on the donkey but the crowd saw beyond that. Perhaps as you look at the world, you have questions and are confused about why Jesus isn’t forcing peace and goodness on everyone. The world is in a mess and it’s hard to understand where God is in it all, but I hope that we will look beyond this as we trust in our Lord who came in peace on a donkey rather than in anger on a warhorse.

Jesus still comes in peace to us today, but one day he will return to judge the world and the god news is that we can spend eternity with him because of his acceptance, grace and love. We don’t have to be good enough to escape his judgement, we just have to trust in him as our Lord and Saviour knowing that if we do that he will save us.

Lord Jesus, open our eyes that we might see who you really are and as we see clearly, may we praise you in the way you deserve.

If you want to read more about Palm Sunday then click here.

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Hosanna Prayers: A Creative Prayer approach for Palm Sunday

On Palm Sunday, the crowd went wild when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and they shouted Hosanna which means save.

Often prayers in church are quiet and calm but Palm Sunday reminds us that a Prayer can be loud, emotional and from the heart.

We will be using a simple form of prayer in our All Age Palm Sunday service tomorrow called Hosanna Prayers.

Everyone will think and pray about a specific area of life eg the world, people we know, things we are worried about etc (this could also be a led prayer about each area). Then everyone will shout HOSANNA (the louder the better) as a cry from our hearts for God to intervene and to change that situation. This can be introduced with the words ‘and everyone shouted …’

When we read the Psalms we see a range of approaches and emotions expressed in prayer and Hosanna Prayers remind us of a part of this variety.

I have also put together an account of what happened on Palm Sunday including some images to help people to think about what was going on and what it means. You can access this by clicking here.

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The one about Egg hunts that don’t mention Easter

Sometimes I am embarrassed to be a Christian!

Various prominent Christian leaders have got upset about the National Trust and Cadbury’s who have ‘allegedly’ dropped the word Easter from their egg hunts.

Whilst it is true that this image doesn’t contain the word Easter, the webpage which it is from contains the word Easter 14 times. When you click from that page to find an egg hunt near you, the next page has an alternative version of the poster that does include the word Easter very prominently.

I’m really embarrassed that some Christians have chosen to be upset about this when the companies involved are using the word Easetr in their publicity.

Personally though, I feel that even if the companies had of dropped the word Easter that I still wouldn’t be that concerned.

Easter is such an important part of the year for me. It is a time when I especially remember the events leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross, when I remember why he died and that he also came back to life in the ultimate defeat of sin and death.

Whilst I am not against an Easter Egg hunt, I need to confess to you that my Easter will be complete without one (after all, why would you hunt for chocolate if you can eat the eggs without the hassle of having to try to find them first?)

I have no problem with people dropping the word Easter from egg hunts because Easter for me (and I would hope for all Christians???) shouldn’t be defined by chocolate eggs or having to hunt for them.

For me, the criticism of the National Trust and Cadbury’s indicates a more worrying attitude.

Has the Church become more worried about things not looking right than we have about people not being able to hear about Jesus?

We Christians may want to claim Easter as belonging exclusively to us (even if we did steal the festival from Pagan’s  hundreds of years ago. Shhh, better not mention that!) In contrast, we seem to be unconcerned about speaking out so strongly about Jesus, why are we not asking the National Trust to include Christian content in their Easter activities, isn’t that a part of our historical heritage?

The real thing we should be upset about is that people can have Easter events where they don’t talk about Jesus.

We should be upset that many people over these next few weeks will eat hot cross buns without knowing that Jesus died on the cross as their saviour.

We should be upset that many people over these next few weeks will hunt for chocolate eggs without knowing that Jesus came back to life and that he literally broke out of the tomb!

We should be upset that many people over these next few weeks will thank a mythical bunny whilst ignoring the God who came to earth as a human being in order to win humanity back to himself.

Instead of being upset about these things, we are complaining that someone isn’t using the word Easter in all of their Egg Hunt publicity and this tells us a lot about our priorities.

We have such amazing good news that we can share and this is one of the times of the year when it is a bit easier to do so.

Please, please, please fellow Christians, let’s not waste this opportunity by whingeing and complaining!
Rather, lets’ be honest about our faith as we talk to people honestly and openly about what Easter means to us.

Jesus died to save the world and that is something worth talking about!

If you are interested in finding out more about what Easter means to Christians then you might find the posts I have written about the various parts of the Easter story helpful.

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The one where people looked at me in a strange way

As I was walking around the supermarket, I began to notice that people were looking at me in a strange way (it may surprise you to know that this is an unusual experience for me). Although it took me a while, I eventually worked out the reason why!

My daughter had brought her toy doll and she had left her in the child seat of the trolley while she had wandered off to look at something else (I expect there was chocolate involved!)

It must have been strange for the other customers who were probably wondering what kind of man brings a baby doll with him to the supermarket!

When I realized what was happening, I called for my daughter and got her to stay with me and everything was back to normal (although I’m not sure if there is any such thing as normal!)

I was thinking about this just now and I was reminded of a video that a friend of mind had shared on Facebook about why people follow Jesus. I was embarrassed to be walking around with a doll (and with good reason!) but do I ever feel that way about Jesus?

These are the reasons that the people give on the video for following Jesus (Transcript taken from greatcommission.co.uk/share-your-story)

– I think everyone in life is trying to make it through, and Jesus helps me to make it through.
– My Lord is the one who gives me hope for the future, purpose for living now.
– In life we face a lot of challenges, but being present with Jesus gives me that confidence to keep going.
– As a barrister, Jesus gives me peace in literally every situation.
– Jesus is always there, and he offers me forgiveness and life and life in abundance.
– Jesus has made an incredible difference to me.
He’s given back my self-esteem.
– I look back at the key moments of joy in my life, and also the key moments of hard times in my life, and Jesus has been my everything through all of that.
– I can never be lonely because he’s with me all the time.
So, it’s an ongoing, living, intimate friendship.
There’s guidance for every day, there’s peace, there’s comfort, so it’s a very real dynamic friendship.
– I discover a peace no matter what I go through in life but also I discover my purpose, who I am and what I’m here on earth for.
I’ve got a hope for now, but also for all of eternity.
– He’s my friend, he’s always there for me.
He’s the one that I can be the most vulnerable with and myself with every day.
– And so, actually, I’ve given my life to sharing that story.

I think that this video and the project behind it is a superb idea. It is so simple to share our story about why we follow Jesus and why he means so much to us, but sometimes we reluctant to do this becasue we are embarrassed about this.

For anyone who would have asked why I was pushing a doll around a supermarket, there was a simple explanation.

For anyone who finds it strange that people follow Jesus, there are many simple explanations but if we don’t tell them what they are, then how will those people know.

Having my daughter with me made it normal to have a doll in the trolley.

When we tell our story and people can see and hear the difference that Jesus has made and is making in our lives then it will make much more sense to them why we follow him.

Perhaps it’s time for us to become more honest about our faith!

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Good Evening Holy Trinity

I was sat at the concert, minding my own business when unexpectedly I heard:

‘Good evening Holy Trinity!’

It turned out that the person speaking was announcing that pupils from Holy Trinity school were there but their announcement caught me off guard.

I wonder what are our expectations of God are when we are living our everyday lives?

Do we expect to say good evening, hello, good morning etc to God or have we come to mistakenly believe that he is just for Sundays?

Which member of the trinity do you talk to? Do you prefer:

God the Father who loves us unconditionally?

Jesus: God the son who became human and who sacrificed himself and rose again from the dead to save humanity?

God the Holy Spirit: God’s presence at work in the world and our lives today, filling empowering, energizing and equipping us?

God wants us to talk with him more but he also wants us to relate to the fullness of who he is!

Is there a member of the trinity who you never or rarely talk to? If so why not try talking with him now?

I pray that our relationship with God would deepen and grow more and more each day!

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Flowers for Mothers Day: Creative ideas on the theme of Nurture and Encouragement

Mothers day services can be difficult. Many people in church will want to celebrate mothers and family life but many who are there will also find it a painful day.

At Orchard Baptist we try to celebrate mothers day whist at the same time trying to make the service useful, relevant and encouraging to those who find the day difficult. Our approach involves using mothers as a metaphor and celebrating one aspect of their role that we can all learn from and be inspired by.

This year, our theme was nurture and encouragement. You can’t be a mother without caring for others but it is also something that should be important to all of us in all of our relationships.

The morning started with breakfast at 9am. We tried to keep this simple by having a variety of pastries as well as fruit, toast and porridge (made in the slow cooker). There were also had bacon and sausages as well.

There were a variety of activities to make use of the time between breakfast and the service. The most popular one was how many words can you make using the letters from ‘mothering Sunday’ and amazingly, the winner found 285 words!

A few people also made cards and some of these were given to other people who were there with a message of encouragement inside and this was greatly appreciated by the recipients!

There were also some paper flowers on each table with an invitation for people to write down on the labels things they were grateful that they had been nurtured and taught.

 

When people had written on these labels, they were invited to place their flowers in the display to show all the ways that we were thankful for the many things that people have nurtured and taught us over the years.

The variety and range of what was written was wonderful and reading them was very emotional and encouraging and this display will be left up all week for users of the premises to look at.

The service (started at 10.30am) was cafe style and we began by singing Everlasting God and Hosanna (Praise is rising) as songs which call on God in a similar way that a child might call on a parent.

We went on to pray together before announcing the winners of the find the words competition and other worksheets.

Next we looked at some of the flowers and what had been written on the labels and we heard a story of someone polishing some ear rings that she had brought in a charity shop. The more she polished, the more concerned she became that they might not be silver underneath but when she had finished they looked really beautiful. Sometimes we can get worried about God clearing things away and getting down to the real us but we shouldn’t worry because God knows what we are like already and he accepts us completely. God longs to nurture and encourage us and he wants to cleanse, shape and encourage us!

Next we played a time-lapse video of flowers growing (there are lots to choose from on YouTube) and we used this for a led meditation which allowed :

  1. Time to remember and to give thanks for the people who have nurtured us.
  2. Space to consider how we can nurture and encourage the people around us in our everyday lives.
  3. A focus on the ways that God has nurtured and encouraged us as well as an opportunity to give thanks to him.
  4. A reflection on the beauty and the blessing that we all have as people who are made in God’s image.

The service finished with each of the ladies being given one of these bunches of paper flowers.

The roses in the picture were handmade and the flat flower heads came in a pack from the Range.

Each of the bunches had a label which on one side reminded us that we should encourage and build one another up.

The other side of the label had an individualized and unique message. These messages were written knowing that the flowers would be handed out randomly.

Two examples of these messages can be seen in the images below. ‘God believes in you’ and ‘You are safe in God’s hands’.

The service finished with Praise my soul the King of heaven.

There was lots of encouragement after the service from the church family and from people from the community who came along.

I hope that you find this service outline helpful, encouraging and thought provoking.

You are free to use this resource or any of the ideas in it. If you share any of the ideas online, then please provide a link back to this page.

You can also read about what we did the previous year in Tissues for Mothers Day

You may also find a variety of ideas for gifts you can give in mother’s day services.

 

 

 

 

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The one about Money, Giving, Red Nose Day and the Lottery

You may find this surprising, but in the UK we spent more on lottery tickets in an average 6 day period than we gave to Red Nose Day in 2013! #rednoseday

Honest about my faith

red-nose-day-logoIf you are living in the UK, then you will have noticed that it is Red Nose Day.

In 2013 Red Nose Day raised just over 100 million (£100,331,808 if you want to be precise) source.

Doesn’t that huge amount of money make you proud to be British?

I thank God for the amazing good that has been done with that money.

In the same period, the population of the UK was 64.1 million source. In other words, if everyone in the Uk gave an equal amount to Red Nose Day then we all gave around £2 each. That doesn’t make you quite so proud to be British does it?

To be fair, you have to take into account that some of the 64 million population are children who don’t have money to give and also that many people may give to other charities but not to Red Nose…

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The one about realizing that we are miracles

I’ve only waited 30 years for an answer but as I prepared last week’s sermon I understood why I hadn’t walked on water all those years ago.

I had stood on the edge of the swimming pool during a school swimming lesson and had told God that I was going to walk on water. My reasoning was that everyone would then see a miracle and they would know that Jesus is real and then they would follow him (it had nothing to do with me not being very good at swimming!)

I stepped out in absolute faith but rather than the gentle lapping of water on my feet there was a loud splash as I sank to the bottom of the pool.

I don’t remember telling anyone about this at the time, but as a young and very enthusiastic christian I was confused about why God hadn’t respond to my faith and let me glorify him through this miracle.

On Sunday we were looking at the second temptation that Jesus faced in the wilderness. The devil told Jesus to jump off the temple roof and that God would catch him, but Jesus ignores him and simply responded with ‘You shouldn’t test the Lord your God’.

One of the thoughts that occurred to me was that if Jesus had of jumped and God had caught him then it would have been an amazing miracle that would have caught people’s attention but then I realized:

Jesus didn’t have to perform miracles to draw people to God because he realized that he was the miracle!

Jesus performed many amazing miracles but he also taught at times with no miracles. He recognized that what people saw in him and what they heard him say should be enough and this is seen in his calling of his disciples. He says come and follow me, not let me convince you with some miracles.

I was shocked when I realized this:

God didn’t allow me to miraculously walk on water all those years ago because I was enough of a miracle already!

I had been saved by Jesus and his presence was alive in me! I remember returning the school after a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit and one of my friend’s asking me what had happened to me because I was completely different.

I look back at some of the things I did and the way that I behaved as a teenager and cringe as I realize that I didn’t even nearly glorify God in many areas of my life. Despite this I can still give thanks that God was and is still at work in me.

There was a worship song that was quite popular in the 90’s and it finished with the line:

You do all things well, just look at our lives!’

The song was very popular but I remember many people feeling uncomfortable about that line because they realized that their lives were far from perfect.

I think that what the song writer was trying to say was

Realize that you are a miracle!

Jesus didn’t need to jump off the temple roof to prove God was real!

I don’t need to walk on water to prove that God is real!

The point is that if Jesus isn’t real in our lives in the everyday then a grand once in a lifetime miracle is pretty meaningless, however exciting it is.

If you are a disciple of Jesus, I would encourage you to take some time:

  • To reflect on the truth that you are a miracle
  • To give thanks for all that God has done and is doing in you and through you.
  • To give thanks that God hasn’t finished with us yet.

It would be great to see more miraculous acts but if we don’t I give thanks that I and my many brothers and sisters in Christ are miracles that can glorify God, despite our imperfections.

This is a third in a series of Lent Reflections.

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