Salt in Secular World.

In our sound-bite society wisdom seems to have been reduced to pithy retort, so it is no surprise that every week I read tweets and comments that assume you are backward or down right duplicitous if you believe “religion ” is good for society or humanity as a whole. Pop wisdom “knows” that “no religion” means “nothing to kill or die for, a brotherhood of man”; and they know that real love is laisez-fair while religion is always wanting to get involved where it’s not wanted.

But the truth is very different if you take the time to look for it. Academic analysis of wars shows time and again the underlying causes of wars,  even ones labelled as “Religious” or “Sectarian” are normally initiated for baser reasons (i.e see “The reason for wars, Stanford University) . And what is celebrated as  “live and let live” is more often than not an excuse for “live and let die”. Love gets involved, whether given by an atheist a Christian or Hindu, it is by definition interfering.

religious-wars-bar-chart
Drawn from Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles and sites cause for 1,763 wars.

This post doesn’t have the room nor the reason to explore the well documented truth that in fact the nations prosper when the Gospel grows in them (see “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy”).

But truth is often more complex and multi-layered than can be conveyed quickly and so of course I risk contributing to the fog of of unreasonable debate with this post… So let’s be clear … I’m not enshrining absolutes here, there are hurtful and hypocritical Christian’s and there are caring humanist, I’m just proffering a perspective that  deserves to be considered. And that perspective is that when  Jesus’ life and death  is enshrined and honored in our people, institutions and systems the prosperity and the well-being of those affected by the same is improved.

Strangely when we endorse an idea we find in Christ but divorce it from Him things often get worse. So Tolerance becomes totalitarian in its control of dissenting voices. Equality empties the differences in diversity of any intrinsic  meaning or value.

muggeridgeThis happens at the macro level as one times atheist, journalist Malcolm Muggeridge observed quoting a previous thinker…

“[Pascal] was the first and perhaps is still the most effective voice to be raised in warning of the consequences of the enthronement of the human ego in contradistinction to the cross, symbolizing the ego’s immolation. How beautiful it all seemed at the time of the Enlightenment, that man triumphant would bring to pass that earthly paradise whose groves of academe would ensure the realization forever of peace, plenty, and beatitude in practice. But what a nightmare of wars, famines, and folly was to result therefrom.” ―  The End of Christendom

But it also happens in day to day life too. Which is where it becomes relevant to us.

As I try to live out my faith, it is not sufficient to simply employ “Christian principles” in the workplace. Honesty, integrity,  fairness are all good and noble ideals found in the teaching of Jesus. But divorced from Him they become a sense of my own moral superiority over my co-workers, even humility can make you proud!

“Ideas” are profoundly powerful in shaping our actions. But personal experience, and I believe history itself, shows us that the ideas themselves are not enough. It is Christ in us that is our “hope of glory”, the salt that cleanses and brings out the flavours of a good life, the leaven that raises the mix and makes it edible.

It is in bring the person of Jesus into our work with us that we will have our biggest and best impact.

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Back after time off for illness

thumbsupAll those of you who are regularly part of the Light Lunch, First Friday, West End Wednesday community will have picked up that back in September I suffered and unexpected stroke which knocked me out of action for a couple of months. But I’m pleased to report that I’ve recovered remarkably well, I suspect the prayer play it’s part in that.  So I’m now nearly back to full time work again, driving, speaking, teaching, mentoring etc.

Which means I will be back for Decembers events, both the First Friday breakfast at Bar Remo on December 5th and then for our Carol service lunch on Wednesday 17th. So really looking forward to seeing you all then.

Christen Forster

 

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Abraham PLC (Promised Land Community)

Abraham and familyAbraham is acknowledged by over half the world’s population as the Father of Faith; Christians, Jews, and Muslims of course, but several of the world smaller religions too, such as Yazidism, Bahai-ism and Rastafarianism. Abraham is one of the most important people in history and yet most of us hold to a very flat and unrealistic images of him. I find myself imagining a lonely nomad wondering the desserts in richly coloured nightwear with a community of extended family and servants, a few camels and a flock of sheep.

But then you read about how Abraham rallies 318 of him fittest men to pursue, and defeat the armies of four kings. Four kings with an army that had just trashed five city states and where trafficking their inhabitants North and into slavery. Abraham’s nephew Lot was a captive. So clearly my image of Abraham is too cosy.

If Abraham had 318 fighting men then he was head of a community, a household of well over 1000 people with many thousands of of sheep and goats.

In modern terms we could think about Abraham as the CEO of an SME (Small to Medium Enterprise), Abraham’s household was not a nuclear affair, it was a complex wealth creating venture that could both threaten and bless the settled communities it dealt with. Abraham had to negotiate cross border deals and the rights to natural resources with a range of different officials and cultures, Genesis 23:3-20.

Interestingly the English word “economics” comes from the Greek word “oikonomia” which means a “household”, because large households where the Limited Companies of the ancient world. They where the building blocks that created the commercial success of a region.

So how does thinking about Abraham as the owner/director of a significant company change what we understand about him?

Well first we need to lose the idea of Abraham leading a simple life sitting by dessert streams watching his sheep. Every day would be busy, and Abraham had responsibilities for every layer of the lives of those who worked for him, from wages to worker disputes to even to marital arrangements.

So when Abraham took time to seek The Lord or to offer sacrifices, it wasn’t from a place of indulged interest in spiritual things. It was a necessity to make good decisions on behalf of large community of dependents.

Now that community would have been pluralistic, reflecting worship practices and deities from the various cultures Abraham had collected people from. Abraham had to create a spiritual environment that protected and was healthy for everybody, while at the same time following the very precise and sometimes counter-intuitive requirements of the God who had called him.

As we look at Abraham through the lens of business executive we find all sorts of examples and models that can be applied by and for those called to lead and direct commercial enterprises in the modern world.

We see Abraham interceding for a parallel and to a degree symbiotic industry, Genesis 18:23-33. You see archaeology has shown us that Sodom grew rich by harvesting and exporting the bitumen that bubbled up to the surface of the Dead Sea in bronze age.

Abraham had to trade in an immoral environment, which meant that to increase his work force he sometimes had to buy slaves from the nations around him. But when he did, Abraham was to include them in the mission, promise and family God was building through him, see. Genesis 17:13.

Fundamentally Abraham was tasked with blessing others as God blessed him, Genesis 12:3. Commerce done the right way always blesses the communities is both serves and relies on.

It is my conviction that if the modern/western world is going to rediscover business as blessing rather than as just control and power, it will need a multitude of SMEs led by CEOs who walk in and with the Faith of Abraham. A new generation of Rowntrees, Cadbury’s Samuel Lloyds and the like.

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July’s First Friday Breakfast

Wow times flies, the dust has just settled on our first First Friday Breakfast and I need to flagging the next. So we will be together again on July 4th at 07:30 am at Bar Remo. Then there will be a break for August.

So I wanted to use this time to really shape the agenda for the coming season. To hear what would be most useful to those that  most want these breakfasts (and the lunches) to work and serve the Kingdom in the West End.

I have some ideas … but we want to see a community grow not just put on a show. So there will be time for people to share both what they do and their needs from this forum, plus contribute ideas and request services etc.

If you can be with us this July Breakfast will be a great time to shape where we go!

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Personal connections

Just a reminder that most Wednesdays I’m on Oxford Street and available to meet up with anyone connected to Light Lunch, First Friday Breakfast etc… or if you’ve not been to either yet but work in the are it would be great to get time with you.

And don’t forget the next Friday Breakfast … it will be at 07:30 at Bar Remo on July 7th. I want to get more input from attendees this time, so if you have a story or something to share please drop me a line.

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Managment and God’s Therapy

“So who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will put in charge of his household to give them their rations at the right time? That servant is blessed, whose master finds him doing so when he comes. Really I’m telling you, that he will be put in charge of all his possessions” – Luke 12:42-43

I love these verses in Luke for one very simple reason, the word translated above as “household” is the Greek word “therapeias” from which we get the English word “therapy”. (Some versions of the Bible translate the word as “service”, but that makes the sentence grammatically odd in English as it doesn’t make clear who the “them” are that get treated therapeutically by the faithful and wise manager).

Now management is always about people, sure there is a task to be achieved, but a manager coordinates a team towards an end, they would not be a manager if they just did it themselves. And so the way we manage is always therapy for someone, good or bad our leadership has an emotional impact.

Jesus’ assumption is that good management is good therapy for the team! It is not just short term target hitting..

parableNow if you look at the outside shape of this story in Luke 12 for its Kingdom principles, it doesn’t fit easily as a parable about the church and it’s leaders, (despite being given to the Disciples regarding their own leadership calling). In the parable the the managers are willfully abusing people and the master is pretty harsh too, violence reaps violence. True it might describe some churches at their worst, but what is Kingdom about that! .

But if we look at it from the inside we see the leven of the Kingdom at work, the principle that changes the world from the inside out. Even those with middle-management responsibility have the ability  to create a therapeutic environment, a place of that aids well-being.

Now we see something incredibly relevant to every believer, not just to church leaders. In fact Peter starts by asking if what Jesus is teaching them is for just them or for everybody? Luke 12:41, and Jesus’ answer is clearly that it is for everyone.

After all every follower of Jesus should find themselves in a position where that are responsible for managing people, it is part of being the head not the tail. And in those positions, team leader, department manager, business owner etc, there is something about the way in which we manage that can be incredible therapy for our bruised and broken colleagues. It is more than just being kind and fair, we have the ability by the way we hold those around us in our hearts and attitudes to release a supernatural grace and love, a grace that heals.

In fact I would go further and say that the opportunities offered by our work life give us a responsibility to minister to those we manage regardless of whether they want “it” or even whether we want “to”! The therapy of the Kingdom can be healing for those we manage long before they come to church. And if your wounds don’t hurt so much you don’t need to be as defensive with those that might challenge or change you.

So even in a harsh and competitive industry we can create micro-climates that are good for those we cover, in fact our kindness contrasted by the wider and harsher reality may even make our testimony stand out more clearly.

So what might this therapy look like day to day…

Well our jobs can be very different and so our solutions will be too, but I suspect they all start with prayer, prayer for the well-being of those we have responsibility for. Then I suspect there will be times when we take criticism as the manager that is really due to a team member, our own mini modelling of the cross.

Good ManagerThen we should always try to see the person not just their activity. To see past the projected persona and encourage the truth of who they where made to be.

We might use our role to be developmental even in ways that can be painful in the moment for the recipient… because it is indifference that doesn’t bother, love of course cares. Jesus was often tough in his love with his disciples, but he never sought to control or exclude them for the things he had to challenge them on.

Promotion is great blessing when we get it, but we shouldn’t forget how Jesus ends this teaching.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required and to him who has been entrusted with much, of him all the more will be asked” – Luke 12:48

It’s an honour to be given a role over people, we should enjoy the privileges but not shirk the responsibility intrinsic to the favour. To be the faithful and wise manager of Jesus’ therapy. And if that is not enough, there is a blessing associated with good therapy too:

Really I’m telling you, that he will be put in charge of all his possessions” .

turkey-4
This image has nothing to do with the post, but it is what came up on the google
image search when I looked for “faithful and wise servant” !!

 

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Quick thought for next Friday Breakfast

This is a quick note to say that on July 7th I am proposing to ask a few people to share their heart and and issues regarding their workplaces … so we can start to understand each other, get to know each  other and be supportive. I’ll probably share a short thought… but I wanted to focus on us getting to know one another.

Please use the comments to feedback on this as an idea.

Christen
PS: Hope you’ve spotted the quick review on last Friday’s breakfast.

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Report from the first First Friday Breakfast plus thoughts going forwards

Well it was a great start to our new breakfast meeting. That is not to say that there weren’t things to lean and do better going forward, but it was great to see regular Light Lunch faces but also new faces too.

Paul SzkilerIt was great having Paul Szkiler with us and some of his team from A Call to Business. I was also thrilled by the range of people and occupations present, there where charity workers, a local councilor, surveyors, business owners, a dentist and church workers present.

Going forward on a practical note, we will probably arrange for a couple of breakfast options at a fixed price.. this way we give you a coloured token dependent on your choice of say Full English, Scrambled Egg with Salmon etc … then when Breakfast arrive we don’t have to disturb whatever else is happening trying to find out.

Then on a content note… I would like to mix up formats a bit… sometimes using a speaker and other times leaving space for input from attendees with prophetic encouragement and prayer as we get to know each other.  I’m happy to hear peoples thoughts on this too.

So if you came it would be great to get your comments, and if you might come in the future please let us know and ask your questions here too.

FEBAnd finally a big thank you to the staff of Bar Remo who had to get things ready a bit earlier and quicker than usual… they where very helpful and worked to disrupt us as little as possible while they prepared food and venue for the day. So once again a big big thank you.

Plus the Full English was quite simply awesome!

 

 

 

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Entrepreneurship and the Kingly Anointing

“It’s the glory of God to Conceal a Matter and the glory of Kings is to discover it” – Solomon in Proverbs 25:2

I often hear this verse used… sometimes in relation to prophets revealing God’s purposes and plans and sometimes in relations to teachers unpacking hidden truth hidden between the lines of scripture. I’m sure these uses are both legitimate, but they are both using the proverb in a metaphorical way after all the verse is about Kings, not Prophets or Priests. If we only read these words as a metaphore we miss the profound truth hidden in its plain meaning.

It is Kings that see and release the value in stuff and in people. That is how they become leaders in the first place. Where everyday folks saw a pile of rocks, a King noted that if you smashed them up and threw them in a fire you could get useful metals out of them. Kings grew wealth and pursued conquest by the “matter”, the stuff hidden by God in the raw materials of the Earth and understanding what it could be used for.

Iron Age CartoonThe Old Testament covers the ages we now refer to as the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, (hover here for more?). Kings led their people through these ages into increased prosperity by developing the qualities hidden in the minerals lying around them. Each new idea gave the King’s people a competitive advantage.

The best King’s like David saw qualities in people too, so David received a rag-rag of the discontents, the stressed and the bankrupt, 1 Samuel 22:1-2, (as did Jesus, Luke 15:2), and within a few years the Bible is calling them “mighty men” and recounting their exploits.

Solomon, gave the quote I started this post with, we are told that he understood nature and people, 1 Kings 4:30-34, he used this understanding to build a prosperous and peaceful empire and to establish God’s covenant on the Earth through the Temple.

Of course most kings are a mixed blessing bringing security for some people while exploiting and conquering others.

But now I want to come to the point of this post… Kings are one of three anointed offices we read about in Scripture, which makes the qualities of Kingship a part of the Messiah and a quality that is released by the truth of Christ in us.

Prophets are custodians and managers of God’s words, plans and direction.

Priests are custodians of God’s presence and administers of God’s love, forgiveness and fellowship.

And Kings are custodian’s of God’s resources, organisers and releasers of wealth and people.

And so in the modern world Christ’s Kingship in us produces business and social entrepreneurs.

We the Kingly anointing as much as we need the Prophetic and Priestly anointings.  And I have a sense that in the season we coming into we are going to see Christians stepping out with their own ideas and insights, building new business or leading old businesses in new ways.  They’ll lead with anointing and by their ability to see qualities in things and people where others just see a pile of rubble.

Now there is a caveat, because a meet a lot of Christian’s who say they feel called to business and who I suspect are fooling themselves because they just want to be rich… Solomon, who was very wealthy warns us though not to become obsessive about gaining wealth or working out how to get it, because when we are motivated this way wealth becomes illusive, Proverbs 22:4-5.

Solomon’s wealth had come because he desired the wisdom that saw wealth in what was already around more that the fruit that insight would bring.

History is full of people who have benefited their societies because they have done something extraordinary with their passions multiplying their clever insights through process that lots of people can get their heads around and get involved with. And that in essence is what makes a good business.

I want to encourage you to explore what you love to do and the things you love learning about and start a dialogue with Jesus about whether these motivations could be turned into an income stream and into a product or procedure that others would benefit from.

On July 5th I’m hosting a day to explore the dynamics of how we relate healthily to money and how we prosper and create the financial freedom to be what we are called to be! Use the button below for more information and to register (for free).

Eventbrite - Money & the wealth in me: Exploring how I relate, make & bless with money.

I don’t claim to be an expert but at the moment I find myself helping create mini-businesses with various people in different fields, in construction, third world trade and manufacturing, in soap making, art selling, financial services, publishing, energy saving and more. There are common themes and themes and and excited by the prospect of an explosion of kingdom businesses and employers.

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The first First Friday! June 6th 2014

Ok I suppose on a Christian blog post this title sounds like an ad for a passion play… “The first Good Friday”… although as I think about that it sounds more like a film with Bob Hoskin about a London gangster who upset’s the IRA during the 1970’s troubles… but I’m getting side-tracked.

The truth is far simpler… After the summer we will be hosting First Friday breakfasts every month in the West End. An opportunity to meet and eat with other believers and/or people who are on a journey with Jesus.

If you’ve not been before… don’t worry, nobody has, we’re all in the same boat together.

Paul SzkilerSo on June 6th 2014 we will be meeting from 07:30 downstairs at Bar Remo, the closest Cafe to Oxford Circus Tube station. The cafe doesn’t normally open until 8am. So on arrival we can order breakfast … then we’ll worship together until they open the upstairs for customer. We will be the first people to be served breakfast which we’ll eat while Paul Szkiler chairman of the Truestone Group and founder of A Call to Business shares his vision to see the commercial life of our city transformed by the Gospel.

We really want you to be there! So please let us know if you are coming if you can, but just turn up and bring friends on the day if that is easier.

Check out the breakfast menu!

BarRemoMenu

 

 

> Click to Enlarge<

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Midweek worship, prayer and support for Christian's working in around the West End and Westminster