The Bartender of Bethlehem: the unsung hero.

A young pregnant woman and her husband were on the run from their country. The Government was trying to kill them.

The young woman was about to give birth. With no money to rent a room they begged to stay at a pub. It was full of drunkards, laughing and shouting. But the baby was close to arriving. The water was breaking. It was the young couple’s last chance. They had no choice.

But the barman told them “No room here.”

But they begged and begged. They begged for shelter. They pleaded for refuge.

“My wife will give birth any minute,” the man said.

The bar tender was struck with compassion. How could he throw a pregnant girl out in the cold. She only looked about 17.

“Here,” he said. “It’s the key to the barn on the farm, next door.”

So they rushed to the barn and a baby boy was born kicking and crying amid the cows, the sheep and the squabble of the chickens. It was chaos.

There were no blankets to keep the baby warm, so the young mother  wrapped him in rags.

There was nowhere for the baby to sleep, so her young husband grabbed some hay, stuffed it into the ‘manger’ which was the long wooden box the cows ate from.

And so the young family were safe. Thanks to the barman.

And today, on our European borders, we are also turning away young pregnant mothers, desperate fathers, letting them freeze in the cold – families on the run from a government trying to kill them.

Merry Christmas.

So let’s thank God for that barman – the unsung hero. Without him there might not have been a Christmas. Baby Jesus may have died in the cold.

Click here for how to donate to the Syrian Refugee Crisis appeal.PAY-Syrian-Refugee.jpg

Sons of Anarchy / Children of God.

SOA5_BW_1

I’ve been watching Sons of Anarchy recently.

It follows the story of Jax Teller – a young man struggling to follow in his father’s footsteps as leader of a biker gang.

Jemma is Jax’ mother.

She’s a real tough cookie – a biker mom. In one scene she talks to a priest who tells her:

Service to others is the only thing that keeps the self-loathing to a tolerable level.

I think he’s implying that his self-loathing for his own sin is so extreme, that his gratitude to God for taking His sin away can only be expressed through service to others.

Step 12 of the 12 Step Recovery Program is also all about service to others.

Jemma said she didn’t know how to serve others. She didn’t feel she had anything to offer. The priest told her she was serving him, now, just by listening to him, just by being there and being a listening ear. After all, we all need someone to listen to us.

The priest told her to look out for opportunities to serve because God presents them to us every day. We don’t have to sign up to volunteer for homeless shelters or drug rehab centers. We don’t have to train to be medics or join the Red Cross, although of course God needs people to do this work. But God presents opportunities for us to serve others every day in small, simple ways.

Look out for them.

It makes you wonder if it’s really going to be the people we think sitting closest to Jesus at that Great Wedding Celebration between Christ and His church in Heaven.

Me, I’m such a ‘bad’ Christian, I fail so much every day that I’ll just be happy to be there. I’ll be happy to be the homeless guy sitting on the floor, waiting for scraps to drop from the table (and I probably will be). Seriously, the way I fail in my life every day I don’t even deserve a place at the table.

But thanks  be to God it doesn’t depend on how good at being a Christian we are. It doesn’t depend on what we do. It doesn’t depend on our good deeds. It isn’t our own ability to be great human beings that gets us an invitation to that Great Feast. Being ‘a good person’ doesn’t open the door for us to spend eternity with God.

We only get to go to God’s great party because He loves us so much. We only get to go because He loves us enough to die for us, in our place, on a cross. We only get to go because He has made us supernaturally holy by the power of His spirit as a free gift.

We have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ…

  • Hebrews 10:10.

I’ve received some messages on my blog recently about how, if we don’t live up to God’s moral standard for the rest of our lives, we will lose our place in Heaven.

I’ve received some messages saying we can lose our salvation.

I pity those who believe this.

I really pity them.

If they really believe their acts of goodness is the reason God invites them to that Great Feast then they have missed the good news of the gospel. The good news of the gospel is that God has invited us to spend eternity with Him because of His great love for us. It is a free gift. Paul makes this clear:

Not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.

  • Ephesians 2:8.

Those people who believe they can spend eternity with God because of their own ability to live good lives will be so proud while sitting at that table. I expect they expect to have a seat next to Jesus. I expect they hope to be like John at The Last Supper reclining with their head on Jesus’ chest.

And I hope they are.

I must admit, that does make me a little jealous.

I want to be close to Jesus at the table. I want to recline with him. I want to be ‘the disciple who Jesus loved.’

Yet I know, in my heart of hearts, I’ll be lucky to even be there.

I believe, absolutely, that I will be there.

But I won’t be at the head of the queue.

If Heaven were a nightclub I won’t be the one who the bouncers wave in first. I won’t be given the royal treatment. I’ll be the one who has to wait out in the cold for ages, and then only get in because I know someone ‘cool.’

I’ll only get in because I know Jesus.

Perhaps, once inside, the Prince of that Heavenly nightclub might wave at me from a distance, across the dance floor. He’ll be sitting, enjoying the best wine, surrounded by beautiful angels and all those superstar preachers will be with Him. Mother Theresa will be there. So will Billy Graham. TD Jakes will be sitting there in that VIP section. So will Benny Hinn, Joseph Prince, Creflo Dollar. CS Lewis. John The Baptist. The VIP section will be awesome. All those superstar preachers and old school teachers. I wonder if John the Baptist will be dressed in a loin cloth or will he upgrade to Versace?

Me…I’ll just be a nobody, as usual. I’ll be lucky to be there. But I’ll be grateful. And if Jesus were to come over and say hello, shake my hand, or even give me a hug, I would be so proud – not of myself – just proud to know Him. And if he were to offer me a drink at his table, I’d be so delighted, so excited. But overall, I’d just be so grateful to be there.

Because I feel like Paul, who says:

Here is a trustworthy saying which deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.

To get invited to the party is something to celebrate.

We prodigals come home and our Heavenly Father kills the fattened calf, puts His best robe on us and puts a ring on our finger.

And in gratitude for that great gift, that gift that cost so much suffering, that gift that cost the blood of Christ on the cross, let’s keep our eyes and hearts open for those small opportunities for service.

Because Me, I want to say thank you. But not because I want a better seat at the table. Not because I want a seat with the cool crew in the VIP section of Nightclub Heaven. I know I don’t deserve that.

No. I want to help people because I know how much He has helped me. I myself am an ex-addict, ex-homeless, ex-criminal.

I want to help others because of these words of Jesus:

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me.

  • Matthew 25:40.

Like Jemma, let’s look out for those small, simple opportunities for service that God presents to us every day.

sons-anarchy-season-7-spoilers

He hangs out with “sinners”.

My first year here in Cambodia I was accused of being a ‘predator’ by the leader of a church because I would go out to nightclubs, reaching out to sex workers.

The reason I came to Cambodia was to battle the sex trade. Admittedly, I came to combat child sex trafficking but God didn’t open those doors. He opened doors to the nightclubs of Phnom Penh where not children but young adult women were working.

What did that leader think? I came all the way to Phnom Penh from England to stay in at night and watch TV?

I came here to reach out to the lost and the broken.

Often, in the clubs, the girls would stare at me with confused looks as I danced exuberantly on the dancefloor, praising Jesus, eyes shining.

The girls didn’t understand it when I looked them in the eye.

They didn’t see lust and sexual desire.

They saw the light of Christ.

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

– John 1:5

I wasn’t a ‘predator’. I wasn’t out to pick up the girls. I was out to help them, to guide them to NGO’s that might be able to offer them a way out, a training program or a safe house.

I was misunderstood.

Tim Keller, in one of his podcasts says:

Unless you are vulnerable and being misunderstood, you are not in mission.

What a statement!

Jesus was a man of ill-repute. He hung out with sinners and ‘women of ill repute.’ He let a prostitute wash his feet with her hair. He was vulnerable. He was misunderstood.

That’s why I had to post this by Mick Mooney:

As much as we love Jesus, I think until we allow our own reputation to become as trampled and dirty as he allowed his to become, we’ll never quite understand him, nor his message. Until we break free from the prison of maintaining a religiously acceptable reputation, we will continue to read about the wild Jesus in Scripture, but we’ll struggle to truly understand him, and the way of life he exemplified.

Read the rest of the awesome article here.

Steve Edwards

What is Community?

(Originally posted in 2013).

This week we shared a pizza and cans of coke at our cafe in the red light area.

We shared a meal, broke bread (pizza) drank the blood (coke) and thanked Jesus for giving us eternal life.

This is what Jesus meant by “whenever you do this, remember me.”

He meant share a meal together, and when you do, remember Him.

 I have given you life, and life in abundance. 

It was a great moment. A moment of sharing life with people passionate for God. The cafe hub was buzzing, people outreaching to sex workers, ladyboys, sex-pats, huge tattooed Christians ministering to American / Cambodian returnees (people who have been deported from the US back to Cambodia because they have committed a crime – forced into leaving their families, their loved ones, into a country they don’t know, some don’t even speak the language).

So, life is a rich mixture. Shakespeare called life a feast.

This is what Jesus means by communion.

Community.

And we don’t always find community in that place we’re supposed to go and park our butts for 2 hours on a Sunday.

Community is wherever we are.

Whereever we are, that is church.

Whereever we are, Jesus is.

Letter to Pastor Tullian: Keep Preaching Grace!

I am deeply saddened hearing news of Pastor Tullian’s resignation as Senior Pastor from Coral Ridge church.

My heart goes out to him as he faces the consequence of his choices.

God knows, we’ve all fallen morally.

Some of us are in the public eye. Others aren’t.

I’ve failed morally many times, yet God’s grace always picks me back up. Jesus’ blood washes me clean once again and I get on the horse and ride again.

God knows, a recent study showed 30% of Christian men admitted to moral failure here in Cambodia.

But if we are all to resign after failing morally, who would there be left?

There is no one righteous. Not even one.

Where do we draw the line?

Correct me if I’m wrong, if we are saying a man is only fit to preach the gospel and lead a church if he is morally upright by human standards, then aren’t we missing the whole point of grace? Aren’t we missing the gospel?

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

  • Romans 3:23

This is all about obeying the law.

We are saying that the position of leader in a church depends on our own ability to live a moral life.

This is all about obeying the law!

But all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

According to Isaiah, compared with the righteousness we have received from God as a free gift – our own righteous acts are like filthy rags!

Not even our sin.

Our righteous acts!

If we can only lead a church if we are righteous by our own acts then NO ONE is able to lead a church…

As the only reason any of us are righteous is because of Christ in us. 

I’m sure if we delved into the secret lives of pastors NOT ONE  would attain the moral standard God requires.

NO ONE would be fit to lead!

This is why we depend on Christ.

It is He who makes us righteous.

He is our holiness, righteousness and redemption.

It is He who makes us fit to lead. Not by ourselves. Christ in us makes us righteous.

Leaders of Coral Ridge church: we are not morally righteous by our own acts.

Pastor Tullian is, if anything, more qualified to preach from the puplit, as he knows what it is to depend on the grace of God!

Seriously, what secret sins are church leaders keeping to themselves?

Where do we say “You did that, so you can’t lead,” and “You did that, so you can’t lead.”

Watching porn? Fantasizing over a congregation member? Cross Dressing? Having homoerotic desires?

Who draws the line?

Jesus drew the line – in the sand. And what did he write?

He who is without sin cast the first stone!

There is no one righteous. Not even one.

And if the church is saying we are only fit to lead a church because we have obeyed certain laws and managed to live righteously by human standards – then that church is living according to the law.

On its website, Coral Ridge acknowledged that Pastor Tullian

…admitted to moral failure, acknowledging his actions disqualify him from continuing to serve as senior pastor or preach from the pulpit, and resigned, effective immediately.

– Christianity Today.

Disqualifying him to serve as senior pastor or preach from the pulpit.

Who says?

God?

Or man?

This smacks of legalism.

We are only fit to preach from the pulpit if we manage to live upright lives and obey the law.

Legalism!

Law!

And under The Law no one can stand.

There is no one righteous. Not even one.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace.

We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has gone to his own way.

Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love.

Pastor Tullian will be aching in his heart.

Let’s all gather round him and nurture him back to seeing himself as God sees him – holy, rightoeus and perfect – because of Christ’s sacrifice.

Nothing we do can altar the way Jesus sees us.

Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love.

Pastor Tullian – you are still a Senior Pastor in God’s Kingdom.

You are still an anointed preacher, a gifted writer and a great man of God.

You are still a warrior for Christ, saved by grace and righteous by faith.

Perhaps God has taken you out of a church that appoints its pastors depending on their own self-righteous acts, rather than on their honest preaching of the grace of God from the valley of their own shadow – where, if we are brave enough to admit it, we all visit.

Whatever happens, God’s grace is sufficient for you.

His power is made perfect in weakness.

From this trial you will grow stronger and the message of grace will reach far and wide.

I leave you with the words of Paul:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.

  • Philippians 1:12

Bless you brother.

Wishing you a fast and powerful recovery.

Amen!

Steve Edwards

Absolutely, perfectly, completely free!

Not sure if I told you before…but I’m an actor.

As an actor who’s used to memorizing whole Shakesperian roles there’s nothing I enjoy more than memorizing God’s word.

I memorize whole chapters.

All books even!

I can recite Philippians to you off the top of my head, together with books like Isaiah 53 (The Sufffering Servant Song) certain chapters of Hebrews, chunks of Romans etc. 

I’ve recently started to record them.

I only record the ones I know by heart.

Anyone can read from the bible and record but a lot of work goes into memorizing chapters and books. And on that memorizing journey you get a lot of insight, too.

Once I’ve learned a chapter my favorite place to recite it to myself is in the sauna after a workout.

Don’t ask me why!

I guess because it’s so quiet, and usually empty, so I get the place to myself.

At the moment I’m reciting Romans 6.

You can listen to the recording here.

I love Romans 6.

I love the way Paul repeats over and over again that we have been set free from sin.

Have a listen and see.

It happens in verse 7.

Anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Then again in verse 18.

You have been set free from sin.

Then again in verse 22 !

You have been set free from sin.

I think Paul was trying to tell us something!

And it doesn’t take a genius to work out what Paul was trying to tell us:

You have been set free from sin!  Tweet: You have been set free from sin! http://ctt.ec/e9UDW+ @thegracebase

We are free.

Free from sin.

Absolutely, perfectly, completely free.

Amen!

It is Well With my Soul

I was exposed to this hymn at the weekend.

I mean, sure, I’d heard it before, sang it before, but this was the first time since my ‘grace’ revelation.

It seems the writer – Horatio Spafford – had had a grace revelation, too.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

My sin, not in part but the whole.

Old Horatio knew his sin had been dealt with once for all.

He knew that all of his sin, past present and future was crucifed on that cross with Christ.

He knew, just as Paul teaches, that he had been set free from sin.

He knew that he was approved by God.

Approved and beloved.

As we are.

No wonder it was well with his soul.

It is well with my soul, as well!

Do you know that all of your sin was crucified with Christ?

not in part, but the whole

Is it well with your soul?