I’m not one for superlatives, but that trip to IKEA was life changing. I know what you’re thinking – and yes, the ninety-five pence scented candles are quite something – but it wasn’t that. It wasn’t that I bought some new wall art or a budget side table. Four years ago today God changed my life, He used a Swedish furniture shop as the venue and the local church as the method.
Four years ago today God changed my life, He used a Swedish furniture shop as the venue and the local church as the method.
It’s difficult to explain the circumstances I’d came to in life in the years, months and weeks leading up to April 21st, 2011. I can’t explain how bleak the outlook was, some things are best left unwritten. There was no one to turn to for help; charities, organisations and even the government don’t really know what to do with a mess like that.
I had spent a sustained period of time in study and prayer. I had, over the course of years, wrestled with God, with His word, His will, and everything else. I had pursued answers and honestly? I’d probably missed them entirely. I spent several months in a state of nervous despair. The song goes Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat. I went Don’t Eat, Run, Pray, Repeat. I was at my lowest point and knew that it was there, at my weakest, that the most strength was needed.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
– 2 Corinthians 12:19 (ESV)
The great thing about moments like that is the knowledge that you can’t get through something, it leaves you in an area where all you have is faith. As is often the case life, human weakness and trouble was the place where God met me. He didn’t wait for me to do something to sort my self out, He didn’t ask me where things had went wrong, He just met me and fixed the stuff.
I was aware of the fact that NCLC ran a men’s breakfast at that time, so I got myself to IKEA restaurant and there, amongst the sausages and the bacon and the hash browns, I met with God. He met me through one of His favourite methods, through the method He has chosen as the answer to a hurting world: the church.
I got myself to IKEA restaurant and there, amongst the sausages and the bacon and the hash browns, I met with God.
I arrived timidly, asking a guy in hushed tones if this was the church group. It was. His name was Henry, and he and Jonny sat with me for the next two hours and we talked life and church and they gave me a little card inviting me to the Easter Service that weekend. I met a whole heap of other guys, all of whom were welcoming and kind and caring and normal. They weren’t monks. They weren’t wearing socks and sandals. They were just normal blokes who loved Jesus.
I’ve been a part of the community at NCLC ever since that day. It was in the community at NCLC that I became surrounded by people who were dedicated to showing Jesus through their lives. People genuinely cared if I was okay, they wanted me to succeed, they wanted to help me not only in my walk with God but also to succeed at life.
And everything changed. I remember two weeks later I met my now friend Mark at the same men’s breakfast. I’d only met him very briefly but he knew me by name, and he congratulated me on my new job and explained that he’d found out because at the leaders’ meeting the previous evening it had been a praise report and everyone had cheered. I was overcome. It didn’t make sense. Why did this whole community want me to win? Why would they sit on the phone well into the night and help me deal with things that were going on?
Because they were committed to reflecting Jesus to their world and to pursuing His agenda of loving people. They were Christ’s ambassadors to me. I knew Jesus already, I was not unsaved but I was still lost and hurting and in need of His love.
All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
– Ephesians 1:20-23 (MSG)
I’m grateful to the local church because without it I would have given up. Without it I would have been abandoned to circumstance. I’m not one to misappropriate credit; all glory and thanks and honour for the transformation in my life goes to God and Him alone, but the vehicle He used was His church.
I found my home; I’d encourage you to find one too. It is not too late, you are not beyond hope, God loves you and He has commissioned and equipped His church to help you.