Chantry Chapel

On Tuesday Penny took a day off and I travelled up to Buckingham. I had been given a National Trust membership for my birthday by my father-in-law and was keen to use it. The Chantry Chapel in Buckingham looked like an interesting place to start.
The chapel is about the size of a house, and is the oldest building in Buckingham. Built to hold church services, it still has the depression in the wall where the priest would wash his hands before handling the elements for the Lord’s Supper. Over the years it has served as a school and meeting place for various clubs, societies and charities. Now it is owned by the National Trust, serves coffee and cake, and operates as a second-hand bookshop. The atmosphere was calm and quaint, while the staff were friendly and helpful. We enjoyed our visit.
I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that at some point this building – one with a Christian function – had been built as the first and most important construction in a new settlement. The architect and the person who funded the project had a vision for the place. The Chapel was integral to that vision. What happened to that vision? At some point it died.
We do not know all the reasons this happened, but one thing is clear – without a clear vision and without a clear purpose the Christian faith cannot be lived. Jesus was clear on his vision,

““The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”” (Luke 4:18–21 NIV)

And he was clear on his purpose while on this earth,

“Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”” (Luke 19:9–10 NIV)

If those of us are clear about this in our own lives, we will see our legacy live on far beyond that of any building.

Dolapo

I am looking forward to seeing my old friend Dolapo and his wife Nomteto. We have known each other for around 25 years since meeting in London in the 80’s. He once served me the most chilli-hot Nigerian food I have ever eaten in my life. I survived the experience, and somehow we remained friends!

They are in town from Johannesburg to see family and come to my 50th birthday party. Dolapo has a special place in my heart because, after he became a Christian, he went on to live a truly adventurous life of faith. He left the comforts of London to be part of a church planting to Lagos in 1989. Then he served as Evangelist for the church in Accra, and has been in South Africa helping the churches there for many years now.
I am challenged by this sacrificial attitude. He has heeded the call like the situation in Acts ….


“The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.” (Acts 13:4 NIV)

…..listening to the Spirit and going to a place of need. His trust in God has been tested far beyond most of ours – his wife dying on the mission field in Ghana. God blessed him with a wonderful second wife, and they are very happy, but the pain validates his faith.
Come and hear him share good news about God at work in Africa this Sunday, Harrow High School, 11am. Men of his faith are rare.

Wild as the Wind

Monday morning was an extended prayer-walk on Dunstable Downs. Jack the dog (see picture) accompanied me, although I am not sure he did too much praying.

The wind was the strongest I have ever experienced up there. At the top I could lean into the wind at quite an angle. In fact is was hard to walk forward at all, and I nearly lost my footing several times. In the picture you Jack’s fur is being swept up smooth on one side and normal on the other. He loved it.
As I was pondering on all this a scripture came to mind,

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”” (John 3:8 NIV)

I could hear the sound of the wind all right. I fact, I couldn’t hear myself talk it was so loud. Then it occurred to me that I have always thought of the wind of the Holy Spirit as being gentle. A refreshing wind, a cooling wind, a guiding wind.
But what if the wind of the Holy Spirit is more powerful than that? What if it is the kind of wind that opposes you to the point of not being able to walk against it? Or what if it is so powerful that when we allow it to push us forward we find ourselves moving at an accelerated pace towards maturity and fruitfulness?
That is a picture of the wind of God which fits the Bible’s description much more accurately. Passages like,

“And the LORD changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea. Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt.” (Exodus 10:19 NIV)


“You snatch me up and drive me before the wind; you toss me about in the storm.” (Job 30:22 NIV)


“Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.” (Psalms 104:1–4 NIV)


“The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls—never to rise again.” (Isaiah 24:20 NIV)


Some of those images are a little frightening. But that is the power of our God. His wind is unstoppable and irresistible. What if the wind of his Spirit were available to assist me? Not the weak and feeble breeze that barely shifts the smoke from a chimney, but the majestic gale that changes landscapes? It seems to me that the Holy Spirit’s wind is able to move anything, change anything, direct anything to a better place in my life if I allow it. I’ll be attempting to walk with the Spirit’s wind and not against Him in the future.

Debt Mountain

I paid a visit to the Riverside sector of the London church on Sunday. I had been invited to preach on the topic, “The Prayer God Always Answers”. I was delighted to see old friends like Dayo, Adrian & Maureen, and the Cheng clan – Will, Lorna, Steve & Candace. The food after the service was just what a hungry preacher needed too!
A bonus encouragement for me was Paul Bateman’s communion talk. He used the passage in John 19:16-30, focussing on the section,

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30 NIV)

Paul talked about our total national debt. A difficult number to take in. Something like a trillion pounds. What does that look like? If the hall was filled with a million piles of a million pounds, that would cover it all. What if we were asked to pay it back personally? We all laughed at the absurdity of the thought. But isn’t our debt to God bigger? Not only bigger, but worse in so many ways because it is the debt of sin against a holy God. Not only a debt. A debt-crime.
The passage above says that on the cross Jesus came to the point where his earthly work was ‘finished’. The Greek word (tetelestai) carries with it the idea of paying a debt off in full. The cross finishes paying off our debt to God – a debt we could not pay. That is the reason we take bread and wine to remind us of this fact, and refresh our gratitude for God’s grace.

Jean’s Funeral

I took this picture of Holy Rood church in Watford as mourners were gathering in preparation for a funeral. The service was for Jean – Dodi’s sister. Dodi is a 20-year member of the Northwest London Christian church and a stalwart of the Watford Family Group. Lisa Cronje, Becky Makinson and I were able to go and support her on this difficult day, and it was a privilege to do so. The God of comfort was there too,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–5 NIV)

The eldest brother shared, followed by two of Jean’s daughters. All spoke movingly, and many tears were shed by those speaking and those in the congregation. Funerals are always sobering occasions for me, whether I know the person well or not. Jean was just 62 – young by today’s standards. Life is uncertain and fragile in ways we do not understand and do not want to admit. This is true for me, but also for all around us.

“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” (1 Peter 1:24–25 NIV)

The conviction I came away with was this. No one on this earth knows how many true Christians there are in Northwest London and Hertfordshire. Only God knows, and He is not telling. However, I and all Christians should live as if we are the only hope for the people we know. Jesus lived that way, his disciples lived that way, the early church lived that way, and – if we are going to follow Jesus as his disciples – we must confront wishful thinking about the spiritual state of people. It is not loving to assume people are “probably all right really”. Love speaks the truth, and love wants to know the truth, and love wants to act to save,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15–17 NIV)

Perhaps all of us should pop into a funeral now and again – if only to renew our conviction that life is short.

Prayer and Providence

God got my attention last autumn about praying more with people. A lesson by Mike Desouza convicted me that I was not praying enough with other people – the book of Acts is full of it. For example ….

“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers….. After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly…… Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust……. When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed.” (Acts 1:14; 4:31; 14:23; 20:36 NIV)

Then, the book we have been reading together as a church (“Don’t just stand there, pray something!”) reminded me of the same theme – especially when I preached on Acts 4 last week. Convicted twice over I was.
Yesterday Je Vais and I had a mutually encouraging discipling time talking over life, the singles family group, and many other matters. At the end he reminded me that on the previous time we had met a week ago I had suggested that we pray together at our next meeting. I, of course, had forgotten. Convicted thrice I now was.
So we left the Red Brick Cafe in Wealdstone and walked around the area praying for a while. It was a purifying and uplifting experience. On finishing our prayer together we parted to go our different ways. I popped in to say “hello” to Jenny who runs her card shop from the In Shops on the High Street, and then walked home. Suddenly I realised that someone walking towards me was staring at me. The sun was in my eyes so I was not sure if this was a friendly stare or otherwise!
We drew near each other and I realised it was an old friend. I had lost touch with him, and had been thinking of him recently – hoping to invite him to my birthday party. Somehow I had lost all contact details for him. We chatted, and the first thing he told me was that five minutes earlier he had been talking about me to someone he was visiting.
We got caught up, he got invited to my party, and we exchanged updated contact details. None of this would have happened if Je Vias and I had not prayed together. Why do we pray together with people? There are many good reasons, but one is that it seems to open things up for God to do his stuff. Praying together provides openings for God’s providence.

Family Group Fun

Last night we experienced a singles invasion in our home. It was the occasion of the second singles Bible Discussion of the year. One by one people arrived bearing good gifts of food and drinks (thank you all!). Je Vais led us in a prayer over the meal, and we ate together with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:46).


A short time later (all being satisfied), we settled down to a stimulating Bible discussion on Luke 7:36-50 – the story of the sinful woman and Simon the Pharisee. Je Vais helped us explore the feelings of the woman, the Pharisee and what the lessons were for us. The discussion around the topic was fascinating and helped all of us, and our several guests, deepen our understanding of what was going on in that house 2,000 years ago. Some of us were convicted of our tendency to look down on others:

“When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”” (Luke 7:39 NIV).

Others of us were reminded of how much we really need Jesus’ grace,

“Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48 NIV)


All of us wanted to avoid the mistake of the Pharisee and embrace the trusting attitude of the woman. We hope our guests were inspired to study the Bible more closely to get to know our great God. They certainly seemed to enjoy themselves.


The next singles Bible discussion is on February 16th, 7.30pm at Shaun’s home in Sudbury. Our home gets a break! You can contact him for details for how to get there on: shaunelkington@gmail.com.

London Staff Meeting

I have damaged knees – part bad genetics, part bad experiences on the sports field. The left knee has been badly swollen for a few days, so I was not able to attend the weekly London staff meeting. However, by the power of Skype I was able to join the others virtually if not physically. While a slightly surreal experience, it was, nonetheless, a very encouraging time.

We sang, we prayed, we shared good news, did some ‘church business’, and studied the Bible together. Some highlights for me: Charles Elikwu (recently on staff in the North) joined us. We were housemates in ’84-5, so we go back a long way! Also hearing that a young woman who was reached out to on the tube two years ago by Sarah Desouza and Sonia Louis, was baptised last week in the East.
Plans are afoot for a London-wide teen service in June – perhaps hosted by the NW. I’d look forward to that! So much youth & spiritual energy unleashed in Harrow. Something not to be missed!
Mohan’s lesson on Elisha was a great reminder of what it means to be a person of faith, used by God. He was a replacement for Elijah – but did not just step into his shoes. He made them his own. Often we ‘replace’ others, but we need our own convictions. The main points:
1. He Connected with people, 2 Kings 4:28-37 – by being approachable, honest and passionate
2. He Believed in God’s presence, 2 Kings 6:16ff – never forgetting what God had done
3. He was Single-Minded, 2 Kings 5:26 – had his own convictions that lasted
Thank you, Skype! Next week I hope the knee will allow me to be physically present.
Malcolm