Face-to-Face

I’m writing this on the plane back to London after a short visit to see my kids in the US. We keep up regularly with texting, Facebook, email – the social media img_2522options seem endless.

But none of this compares to sitting down face-to-face with my son or daughter. This weekend, I took my 16-year-old son to lunch at Culver’s, a local fast food place, to discuss his future. Talking over french fries and ice cream was soooooooo much better than having that conversation over Skype!

It’s interesting that John had some of the same thoughts: Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. (2John12)

John knew that it is best for relationships to be conducted with personal interaction. He couldn’t just write a letter from afar and expect that to do the job.  John dearly wanted to see the family of God – the church – in person.  Letters or social media are OK but face-to-face is so much better!

The questions is: Do you treat your spiritual family like a long distance family member whom you see occasionally?

Watching a sermon video or listening to a Christian podcast is no replacement for the face-to-face interaction we have when we’re committed to a local group of Jesus followers. Your joy will never be complete if you keep your church family at arm’s length.  If you never take the time to invest in face-to-face relationships, you are stunting your spiritual growth.

It’s time to end long-distance relationships with the family of God.

Engage with God’s people in your local church face-to-face.

And over time, enjoy the fullness of joy that John spoke about in his second letter.

Joy while suffering?

My friend Shafkat Khan passed away in Nairobi, Kenya recently.  Here’s my eulogy which was read at his memorial service:

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There have been times when I read passages in the bible about suffering and they just didn’t make sense to me. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Can one have joy in Jesus when life stinks?

I know the answer is “yes” intellectually but in reality – I’m wasn’t so sure. That is until i met Shafkat. Shafkat was the walking answer – no, make that, he was the rolling answer – to my questions about joy in suffering.

I met Shafkat years after his accident and faith in Christ. My wife, Josephine, is from Nairobi so we’ve been making trips to visit family and friends every few years since 1991. During one of those trips, Josephine and I met Shafkat and Sabia. In their home over food, at the Muutuki’s and at New City (Nairobi), our friendship continued from one visit to the next.

Shafkat was the kind of man whom one does not easily forget. It was obvious from seeing him that there had been struggles in his life, and yet, there was a joy in his speech that was almost beyond comprehension.

The reality of a man who had suffered & was yet filled with joy was stunning.

Conversations were marked with passion and laughter and energy. Shafkat had a mind that moved – moved in ways that displayed the love of Christ he knew personally and deeply wanted to share with others.

Can God use suffering for his glory? Yes. Can those who suffer experience joy right now – not just later in some “by and by”? Yes. Can those who suffer now be used by God to bring hope and peace to others? Yes. God brought Shafkat to me and to many others to let us know that the answers are “YES and YES and YES!!”

We thank God for the life of Shafkat Khan. Not just because he was a godly man in a wheelchair who was used by God. If that’s all we focus on, we make him out to be some sort of unusual example that’s not really relevant for the rest of us. No – we thank God for the life of Shafkat because he was a humble and yet energetic man who loved Jesus.

We thank God for the life of Shafkat Khan because his life pointed us to a God who redeems us AND then uses us in all of OUR shortcomings for His glory.

Paul also wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17 that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”. God prepared Shafkat over many years for the glory he is now experiencing.

May our lives honour Shafkat in such a way that we too, live with joy now as we are filled with hope in the days to come.

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