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God's not boring

Hi, welcome to the website for Joe Story and the Unboring Book Company.

All the material on this site, which ranges from serious theology to the slightly humorous, aims to reflect a view of life and Christianity which acknowledges Jesus as Lord and Christ. We will try to be practical, helpful and easy to understand. Because we are still writing several more books and need the time to do that, we will not be taking comments and replying to them at this stage. However, if you do want to contact us please use the form provided. All material on this site that has been written by Joe Story, can be copied or quoted for any honourable, not for profit purpose with an appropriate acknowledgement. All books can be read free on line, purchased from your local (UK) Christian bookshop, or ordered online from this site. Contact us for bulk or overseas enquiries.

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Bridge-building

And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.

But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.” (Acts Ch 9 v 26 -27)

If there is one person from the Acts of the Apostles that I would like to have in any church that I went to, I think it would be Barnabas. I am sure that it would be more exciting to have Paul, or Peter or Philip, but I just love people who are risk takers in welcoming in the spiritual surprises. At this stage, Paul was still Saul, the one who everyone in Jerusalem thought was an enemy of the Church, everyone that is except for Barnabas. It takes a special sort of faith to be a bridge-builder, the sort of faith that can believe that God is able to cope with and convert even the most unlikely individuals.

Over twenty years ago, I had the privilege of meeting several people who were members of the Worldwide Church of God. At that time, the Church had come through a ten-year period of metamorphosis from what was acknowledged to be a cult, through to an evangelical church with a sound understanding of the gospel. Originally founded by Herbert W. Armstrong and known as the Radio Church of God, after the death of the founder, the new leadership went back to scripture and instituted a period of genuine reformation. The folk that I met in the church had demonstrated a willingness to reconsider their faith in a way that I had rarely seen in any mainline church.

Encouraged by what has happened in the Worldwide Church of God, since that time my wife and I have been praying for Jehovah’s Witnesses, as we believe that it is possible for God to accomplish a similar reformation in them as well. I get excited at the thought of hundreds of biblically aware God-fearers, being truly born again through an encounter with the risen Jesus on the level that Paul had on the Damascus Road. We have been to a couple of Kingdom Hall meetings, and we invite any Jehovah’s Witnesses in who knock on our door. I do not acknowledge them as Christians, and I can understand that some may classify them as enemies of the gospel, but what a potential pool of zeal and enthusiasm waiting to be transformed and harvested for front-line ministry for Jesus Christ.

I do believe it possible that we shall see some dramatic conversions from the ranks of those who presently at odds with the gospel. Who can say whether some might even be on the same level as Paul, and can we even consider the invigorating effect that might have on the slumbering church?

But if it happens, we shall need some bridge-builders like Barnabas who will be happy to welcome them and nurture them.

What becomes of the broken-hearted?

In 1966, a young soul singer named Jimmy Ruffin sang of the heart-break that comes when dreams are broken.

As I walk this land with broken dreams

I have visions of many things

But happiness is just an illusion

Filled with sadness and confusion

What becomes of the broken-hearted

Who had love that’s now departed?

I know I’ve got to find

Some kind of peace of mind

Maybe”*

His song was a reflection of the heart-break that can follow disillusioned young love, but many Christians today are also facing heart-break: the heart-break which can come when we too are disillusioned and our first love for Christ is lost or has drained away.

Jesus said many things which cut across our ways of thinking, but one of his first recorded sayings is also one of the strangest.

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted”( Mat Ch 5 v4)

Such sayings, even when spoken by the Son of God, are hard to receive when we are experiencing the condition, which they are addressing. When we are mourning, it does not seem appropriate to be classified as ‘blessed’ – whatever we might understand that to mean.

There are no accurate statistics to support various claims that substantial numbers of Christians have stopped going to church, because they have either lost their first love for Jesus, or they have become disillusioned with church. However, few of us will not know folk who appear to fit one or other of those categories, and some of us will fit in there ourselves.

I consider myself one of the fortunate ones who, having lost my first love for Jesus, and who, having been thoroughly disillusioned with church, have actually found peace of mind and discovered the blessedness promised by Jesus.

Jesus has comforted my own mourning by revealing that he, and he alone is life and reality. When he was on earth, the only people that Jesus really slammed into were those who were hypocrites. In his days, they were mainly scribes and Pharisees: those who made a good show outwardly, but who were dead inwardly. If he were to walk the earth today, he would not be beating those who are mourning a lack of reality, but those who claim to have it but who offer no more than an illusion of it.

Outward appearance is of little significance in the true Church, whatever shape or form it might take. The Pharisees were lavish in their gifts, prayers, and pomp and ceremony, but Jesus called them “whited sepulchres”– that is fancy tombstones with nothing but a corpse on the inside. The sort of person whom Jesus singled out for praise was a widow who gave all her money into God’s treasury. I suspect that many a church, even a good evangelical charismatic church would send her on a debt-counselling course to learn how to budget properly, rather than commending her and then inviting her round for a meal.

I am encouraged knowing that Jesus hates the hype and pretence that I have learned to hate. If you are truly fed up with pretence in church, please be encouraged: accept that as a step toward the blessedness that Jesus promised. We are to love the church, and to love it passionately, but we are also called to reject that which is no more than an outward show. What we desperately need is the wisdom and discernment to know the difference. The first step toward that is to examine ourselves and ask God to strip off our own facades. Once we see our own poverty we begin to realise that is a blessed place to be and we can encourage each other to rediscover reality.

*What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

A Children’s Story?

I have been wrestling for some time with trying to write for children. I do not really think it is my forte. Even when I try to simplify the language, I seem to end up with concepts that are more appropriate for adults. Then I thought that maybe some folk might appreciate my attempt,– so here goes.

Once upon a time, there were two lamps. Lucy Lamp and her younger brother, Lionel Lamp.

They lived in a skip outside a house, where they had been thrown a long, long time ago.

One day another lamp came along and shouted up to them “Why are you two living in a skip? There is a whole world out here just waiting for you.”

Lucy leaned over the edge of the skip in order to see who it was that was speaking.

It was a lamp, not unlike herself or Lionel, but much cleaner, and in his hand he held a candle.

“Why have you got a candle?” Asked Lucy

“All lamps were made to give light” said the lamp whose name was Bill. “If you come and join me, you can be all cleaned up and you can give light as well.”

Lucy looked at her lampshade and her lampstand. They certainly were very dirty. Then she looked at Lionel. “He is even more dirty than me” she thought. “We could both certainly do with a good wash, and it would be good to do what we were made to do.”

So taking Lionel by his lead, she gave him a lift up to the side and they both climbed down to join Bill.

“Come with me and meet the others, said Bill.” He led them both to his car and they drove off to a hut where there were lots and lots of other lamps. Over the door was a sign saying “THE TRUE CANDLEBEARERS”. All the lamps were singing and praying to the Lamp Maker, from whom, Bill explained, all the power comes from.

“The Lamp Maker lives in the electricity station in the sky and that is where all the power comes from” said Bill. “The Lamp Maker wants all of us to be bright and shining lights. He cleans us up and then tells us to give lights to others.”

Later that evening, Lucy and Lionel were talking. “I have always suspected there was something more than the skip” said Lucy. “It does make sense that lamps should give light” said Lionel, “let’s join this group that Bill is in.”

So Lucy and Lionel became True Candlebearers and the following Sunday they were taken to a sink and washed amidst lots of singing and happy faces.

The True Candlebearers were certainly a nice group of lamps, but Lucy had a nagging question: if they were all lamps, why did they all rely on candles? Bill tried to explain that when they had been made, the Lamp Maker had intended that they should actually give light themselves, but the first lamps had been disobedient, and although the Lamp Maker had forgiven them, they now had to try and shine themselves, and the best way to do that was to carry candles.

Lucy and Lionel tried very hard to be good True Candlebearers. They trimmed their wicks every day and regularly met with the others so that together they might give more light; but it was all very unsatisfactory. Lucy felt sure they were missing something.

Gradually Lucy and Lionel became a bit sloppy. Some days they didn’t trim their wicks, and occasionally they missed lighting them all together. The smoke and the soot from the candles made them dirty again and when they tried to clean themselves up, they got all smudgy.

Disheartened, Lucy and Lionel started visiting the skip again and, after a while they climbed back in amongst all the old familiar grime and rubbish.

One morning however, Lucy was poking around and discovered the original box that she had been packed in. Inside she found an instruction manual. Suddenly she saw the words “PLUG THE LAMP INTO THE ELECTRICITY AND IT WILL SHINE BRIGHTLY”.

“Could it be that easy?” thought Lucy. “We have been trying to be what we were made to be, and it has been such hard work with so little results.”

Showing the Lamp Makers instruction manual to Lionel, Lucy suggested they pray and ask the Lamp Maker to help them. The very next day, an old man came rummaging in the skip and took Lucy and Lionel out, put them in a bag and took them away. “These lamps will look just right in my living room” thought the man.

When he got them home, he plugged them into an electric socket and Lucy and Lionel lit up and shone as they had never done before.

So the moral of this story is: if you want to be a True Candlebearer, forget the candles and get plugged in!

Geriatrics for Jesus

"Geriatrics for Jesus" t-shirt

I have never really worn tee shirts, I much prefer a loose fitting, open neck, short sleeved shirt for comfort. However, there is no doubt that a tee shirt carries a printed message better than any other garment.

Last week whilst in town, I noticed a lady helping an elderly gentleman along. She supported one arm whilst he leaned on a stick with the other. Although obviously physically weak, he did display a measure of sense of purpose, and I could not help noticing that his black tee shirt was emblazoned with the word Jesus in dazzling white.

I might now be described as an elderly gentleman (or at least as elderly) being within a year or two of the ages when both my father and brother died. Certainly, I am of an age when it is appropriate to get a funeral plan (done), write my own funeral service (partly done) and make a will out (on the urgent to do list). Much more important than these though, is ensuring that I am ready to meet the God who created me. Over the past few years I have given this matter some priority, and, I am now pleased to say that I am unaware of any outstanding matters in this respect.

The process has included some painful elements, such as asking God to judge me now, rather than saving it all up to be dealt with in one go later on when it will be too late to do anything about it. This has meant some apologies, some forgiving and some very real repentance. The great benefit, I realise, is that I appear to have a far lighter load to carry around every day, and a better ability to apply myself to important things. Another thing, is that I am much more sure of my faith and willing to agree with God regarding what he has done, rather than wavering on the matter. It would be valid for others to remark ‘and about time too’, and I freely admit that it is.

What has struck me recently is that I do not seem to be alone with what has happened. Of all the folk I come across, those who are getting sorted out appear to include a fair proportion of elderly men. That might be due to the fact that we are possibly nearer to dying than others, but I suspect that another factor is that we have finally got fed up with messing about with matters of faith.

Jesus told us all to the make the Kingdom of God our priority. I disobeyed for years. Sure, it was one of my priorities, but it was not absolutely at the top of the list. Now as I enter the ranks of the geriatrics, I am determined to make up as much time as I can, while I can.

I might stop short of wearing an actual appropriately worded tee shirt, but that will be for other reasons than fear or embarrassment. I will seek to show my light in other ways, and maybe just figuratively own up to “been there, done that, got the tee shirt”.

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