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Kingdom Life City Church | Lisburn
I sat in bed and watched Belfast get a grey misty morning bath. Just then, an aircraft zoomed in and landed at the airport. This was a great view.
I had slept soundly until around 6:30 a.m, then got up and did a little typing. I couldn’t connect to Mitch’s Talk Talk Wi Fi so it was a case of just type and wait, type and wait, type and wait.
Mitch’s kids were up and were delightful. Mitch and his wife keep two chickens in the garden and they get an egg from each one each day. The kids regard them as their pets, calling them Nugget and Drumstick. Funny. I wasn’t hungry this morning so Mitch put the eggs in his suitcase for lunch (as you do) and we were off, not to Lisburn however but to Belfast city centre. Mitch calls his city ‘ten minute’ Belfast because everything you could ever want or need or delight in is just ten minutes away! Mitch loves his city.
I spent much of the day in the offices of ‘Crown Jesus’ ministries accessing the internet and getting somewhat caught up on my own personal administration. I got a lot done but not everything and sure enough Mitch made scrambled egg on toast from the four eggs he had toted into the office. On this same road, either side of the offices are the bases or outlets of several other Christian ministries and within 50 yards is the street where one of the July 12th bonfires is annually burning and at the back of that, a very tall fence to stop ‘petrol bombs’ being thrown from either side of the Catholic Protestant divide. Mitch took me on a quick tour of the area which went past ‘Freedom Corner’ to view the many murals. The paramilitary murals on both sides are pronounced and intimidating. I ended up back at the local Roman Catholic Chapel of St Michaels. It still bore the marks of last July’s paint throwing and not too far down the road the dry dock in which the Titanic was built, Chinese visitors were taking pictures of each other against a grey and grumbling sky. Belfast is a confusing place for sure, but churches abound and good churches and good people along with it. This a city that will never be free of its’ history, simply because its’ people will never allow it, but, if the bad done to it and even by it can be mourned over and the good from both sides can be respectfully celebrated without malice or malignancy then I am sure that ‘the troubles’ will never re-appear? All these people are proud of their city though, the peace work in process is just that, and its fruit is seen all around Belfast in growth of all kinds. I felt assured that these folks would make it through all the ‘comparatively’ minor setbacks that would occur, I am sure of it, and I wish them all well, for God had certainly answered the prayers of the people of this city and obviously is doing good to Belfast and so to other cities in Northern Ireland.
Mitch made some Spagbol in the evening after which I made my way to Lisburn and the church I was speaking at, to a gathering of men from a number of other churches. The welcome was wonderful and the expectation was high. I was introduced as ‘The man who does for the Bible what Jamie Oliver does for food.” How about that! “Gulp”.
When we coach amateur boxers one of the things we try to get across is some spatial awareness of angles of attack. Boxing is all about angles. If you cannot get at your opponent from one direction then change the direction of attack. In effect this is what good boxers are always doing. Punches land when attack angles are varied and pressed home. I feel preaching can often be the same. My own subjective thoughts regarding the tough message I shared from ‘Amos the Iron man’ with these guys was that despite the many changes of angles, it was ‘a messy fight’ and in the end I lost on points to a majority decision. I felt that no matter which angle I came from, I couldn’t get through the way I wanted. On reflection, my real problem was simple. Lack of preparation. Like all coaches tell their charges, “Failure to prepare means be prepared to fail”. Even so, God was good and the guys were gracious. I had some good conversations after and some of the men seemed genuinely challenged. Others seemed a bit bemused. It felt a very different night in Lisburn to Belfast. I felt like the problem but I hope and wondered if that some of the damage done to the Kingdom of darkness there might come out in the coming days? We shall see.
The leaders of the church were great. And it was good to meet my initial contact guy called Darren. I had been calling him Dan, simply because the broad accent which pronounced the letter ‘r’ right at the back of the throat simply ate up the ‘e’ vowel and it disappeared. Darren simply sounded like Daan, with an elongated ‘a’. Mitch had already shared with me that a couple of Americans had stared intently over the view of the Dockyard from his house looking for two large Yellow Koreans who were responsible for building all the ships in Belfast. They found this most fascinating, but couldn’t see them. The Koreans were of course the two massive yellow painted ‘Cranes’ which dominate the Belfast skyline. This time the pronunciation of ‘r’ had given birth to two other vowels in the form of an ‘o’ and an ‘e’. Funny!
I love being with men and especially with those men that have a heart to minister to other men. Like all leaders in men’s groups, there is a desperate need for reality, brotherhood, backing and blessing among these kind of men. They want to see redemption, they want to be rid of a religious spirit, they want to be the honourable heads of their homes. Tell me, who would not want to be around men like that? I am harping on a bit I know, being a bit whiny I know, being a bit self indulgent here, yes, but felt I had done them somewhat of a disservice. On the back of being transparent on the back of sharing my heart and struggles I pointed out that Amos was an Iron man in that “He counted the cost, examined the price tag and did what God told him to do anyway.” I pounded that one home I can tell you! Why? Well because in the end we must all stand before God and give an account of what we have done in the days of our flesh. We are ALL going to judgement. All things end in judgement. You know, the very first sermon I ever preached was from the book of Amos and it was entitled “Prepare to meet thy God!” It was in 1984, Wharf lane Salvation Army chapel in Staveley, and last night, my message was based on this very same text. I suppose it’s hard to ‘tart up’ a hand grenade. Amos didn’t, even though he was preaching in a place that could have got him killed. It’s a dangerous thing being a prophet. Oh and by the by, certainly in the Old Testament, if the hearers didn’t get you for delivering the message, the failure for God’s man to deliver the message, was often a call home. God’s P45 often came in a casket.
I received a text from the men’s group leader at around 11:30pm which said “Pastor we were totally blessed to have you share your own experiences and your heart with us………” Phew! But you know, even despite this, I went to bed wondering if I had been too disjointed, too open, far too vulnerable, too……and so it goes on.
I share these thought simply because most people don’t realise that many Pastors agonise over their messages, both pre and post delivery. What most Pastors don’t realise though and deal well with, is that once the message is delivered, then it is done, and it’s time to deal with the fallout and fruit and then move on. A pastor can’t keep feeding on the same fruit of seeming success and you can’t keep beating yourself with some personal perceived defeat. You need to move on to the next message and I had to do the same and saying that, it was time for me to move on, for how on earth was I going to share the merry message of the shortest book of the Old Testament, Obadiah, in the no doubt very wet border city of Newry? I had no idea!
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