Do you ever feel like you’re not fully conscious? As if you’re living the longest dream, blinking, about to wake up and return to reality?
Everything at the moment seems incredibly surreal. I leave home in under 2 weeks to start a gap year with BMS World Mission. I have always known that I would do this however now that it’s happening, it looks and feels so different to what I had imagined a couple of years ago.
First of all, I’m going to live in Africa for 6 months – one of the poorest places in the world! It’s going to be such an adventure. But the closer I get, the more I have to come to terms with things, and the more I have to give up: family, friends, diet, communication, reliable electricity, toiletries, clothes, money, a years worth of appointments and dreams… Even the freedom to walk or run alone!
I am quite literally laying my everything down right now! I am surrendering so much to God – so many things that I have never surrendered to God. Yet I am fully confident that it will be worth it. He will protect me and give me joy!
Already I have built strong friendships with the others on my team. Already so many unexpected donations have come through. Already so much equipment has been sourced.
Most of all, I know now that I am about to step into the unknown: a new country; a new culture; a new world of political background; an unknown landscape. There are almost no photographs to look at, very few travel reviews and I don’t even know the exact location of my accommodation yet. I have absolutely no control over anything! Am I willing to accept that?
God wants me to take my biggest leap of faith yet. Literally! I know for sure that I want to say yes – to let go of all control is to allow God to show me that he really is in control of everything. Only one thing remains – God’s compassion.
BMS World Mission are an excellent organisation and they look after their workers so well. I know that God will be my protector and that this next year will bring the adventure of a life-time as I learn to rely on the one true God, whilst helping others at the same time.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. He will keep me safe. He will go with me and He will allow me to have joy as I adventure further than I’ve ever been before!
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Galatians 3:9 so those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Today I want to talk about Paul, Silas and Timothy. These three leaders were incredibly influential and played a significant role in the faith of the church in Thessalonica. You can read all about their influence, the growth of this little church and the things that the three leaders taught in both 1 and 2 Thessalonians. However what catches my eye is how faith thrives amongst these three leaders…
In 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10, we learnt that Paul and Silas were suffering a horrid persecution. However Paul makes an effort to send Timothy to Thessalonica, in order to find out how the church is continuing to grow. When he discovers that faith is truly thriving in this church, he writes back immediately, encouraged by all that he has heard. In fact, by asking fellow Christians about how they are journeying with God, Paul was made alive despite all of his suffering.
Hearing testimony, even when we ourselves feel as though we are far, spiritually dry or simply insignificant, should shake us alive! How often do we ask one another, “what is God revealing to you right now?” Or perhaps, “what have you been challenged with recently?” This question is vital so that we may all be shaken to life, grow in the knowledge of the many marvellous ways in which God works and be leaders for each other.
So without further ado, “what is God doing in your life right now?”
I know for sure that within my own personal journey with God, I am learning more and more about how my faith applies to real world situations. Recently, God has been revealing areas in life where he is present. The recent general election has been a particular growth point – this year I was eligible to vote for the first time. Previous to this I had rarely payed attention to politics, knew very little about policies, cared even less about the need to vote and simply had never even considered how God could be present in politics. Over the past month through prayer, scripture and reading, God has shown me just how many Christians there are in politics and simply opened my eyes to be more aware of our country’s affairs. As a result, I was able to prayerfully make my own personal choice whilst having the confidence to know that God is in control and will use whoever is currently in parliament to govern our country. God is present in the every day.
I would also say that I have recently been learning from various leaders, including Moses, Paul and Jesus himself. I have been growing in the knowledge of how they actively lead their people in the small things – that leadership is largely about attitude, outlook, and humble steps. I’m still journeying through this and learning so much – this idea of making effort to ask each other for testimony is one of many little learning curves.
When turning to friends, I was amazed to hear some wonderful stories: the power of healing; finding purpose; walking alongside those who are questioning God…
May you share with one another and be made alive in the thriving of the faith of God’s church!
The question is, what is God doing in your life right now?
This morning I woke up as usual but as soon as I swiped right to turn off my alarm, the words “Manchester Terror Attack” boldly sat staring up from my lock screen. Immediately I awoke from my slumber and came to the realisation that the city I have known for so long, had now been targeted with violence. Reading those three words and shortly after discovering the details, I felt sickened, angered and completely speechless…
Half of my family live in Manchester. My best friend was supposed to go to a concert tomorrow – it could have easily been her. I’ve walked down those very same concert hall steps.
It really, utterly hit home and my heart just cried out for all involved – I honestly wanted to jump in my car, drive to Manchester and start helping those affected. But I knew that wasn’t possible.
All day I felt riddled with anger and upset, as I’m sure thousands have today. But when I came home, I turned to my bible and I randomly came across Psalm 141(NIV). What I discovered was incredibly moving…
This Psalm is a prayer written by David, who also found himself surrounded by a violence (whether physical, emotional or mental I don’t know) caused by someone else. David felt angry and frustrated. His heart also cried out for mercy. I found it incredibly comforting and humbling to read that I was not the only one.
We can’t deny that evil is in this world – after what happened today we can’t help but stand stunned, angry and devastated. But in a similar situation, David (who was just as stunned) turned to prayer and remembered the truth of who God is – despite how he felt.
In vs 3-4 David acknowledges that violence is a very real thing – daily, people are doing evil all over the world. David acknowledges that this indeed is sickening, poisoning and dreadful. He recognises that these evil things are devised from corrupt, lost and broken hearts that do not know what goodness really is – that being the goodness of God. He responds by looking to God, declaring His goodness and praying for rescue. By doing so he turns his focus from the violence (not a blind eye – he still acknowledges it but refuses to dwell on it) and surrenders the situation to God, knowing that God can bring rescue.
Then in vs 4-5, David prays for protection. He is humbled by the violence, realising that He cannot keep himself safe. He chooses to rely upon God, and acknowledges the daily traps that entangle him, giving them to God. In the same way may I challenge us today to acknowledge the traps surrounding the Manchester Terror Attack:
- Terrorism causing fear – lets pray over our country, and the protection against fear so that we may rebuild a confident society, not allowing fear to cause worry or racial speculation.
- Blame: pray for protection against Islamic or Religious societies so they may not be trapped by prejudice labels regarding terrorism – sadly today I had to tweet somebody who wrongly and racially claimed that “religion has caused this hate.”
- Trauma: pray for protection against trauma, that all involved may be healed physically, restored emotionally and allowed to completely recover psychologically, not trapped by fear or trauma in the future.
Next, in vs 6-7 David cries out in mercy. Today’s events were sickening. As mentioned before, when I awoke today, my heart dropped and all I felt was compassion and hurt for all involved. Perhaps I couldn’t actively go and help, but like David, I could pray – I could cry out for mercy on behalf of those involved. Many injured may not know Christ and so as a follower of Jesus, my responsibility was to pray for them and ask the Holy Spirit bring comfort on behalf of them. I’m not talking about a quick, #prayformanchester tweet or arrow prayer. I’m talking about an invested, heartfelt faith-can-move-mountains prayer. Spend time praying and crying out to God for these people – prayer after all, is powerful.
When we look at vs9-11, we read that unfortunately, there will be people today who stand proud of what has gone on – how inhumane! Firstly whilst the psalm says that they will be, “thrown into the fire,” we must remember that these are David’s words, not God’s. Undoubtedly David, like many (including myself) today, was angry and craved justice. But unlike David, we have the truth of the New Testament. Jesus has died and rose victorious to take away sin, so all may be forgiven. I am not saying that the man who carried out the attack last night was right – he was very, very wrong. However, Jesus has already dealt with all wrongdoing. We don’t have the power to punish or judge this man (especially since he has died) but God does, and has already, dealt with it – we don’t know the outcome of this but we can trust that God is in control. Now, we must focus on applying the “all may be forgiven” aspect, not forgetting that what he did was wrong, but in our hearts coming to terms with it and moving on. This allows us to turn the tables, counteract the violence and have peace in our hearts.
World peace starts with inner peace and the first step is forgiveness. It’s hard and we don’t want to forgive right now – but the result will be worth it in time.
Finally, in vs 12-13, David finished his prayer with a great hope. He reminds himself that God is good and declares this over all of the violence. Right now it’s hard to see all the suffering and believe that God is good. But he is. Due to freewill, God can’t stop people from doing evil. He didn’t cause this pain, and he is rebuilding already through the work of emergency services and other aids. His presence is real and current – God is walking with the suffering.
We can all experience this goodness today amongst such violence – simply by opening our hearts with, “God, I need you – come and change my life, show me who you really are.”
If we do this, although there will still be hatred, we may enter a relationship with God and encounter his presence so that whilst in the storm, we may know and trust his good, strong and loving power.
This afternoon after reading and thinking about Psalm 141, I sat and prayed through all of these points. As I prayed for God to free and protect, I saw an image of a mouse trap clenched closed. But then the glorious light of Christ shone upon it, and set it wide open – free! In this moment, my heart suddenly felt peaceful. Suddenly I felt able to forgive and all my anger disappeared. I felt comforted knowing that the situation was now in God’s hands and that he is carrying those involved.
My prayer is that you may also know this freeing power in your heart.
Pray for Manchester – cry out for mercy and invite God in. Live freely set apart from all the violence in this world, simultaneously praying for, walking with and acting on behalf of those who are suffering.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
We are oblivious.
Once upon a time there was no way that we could comprehend what Christ has done. Perhaps that’s you – maybe you just don’t understand who God is or why we need him as much as we do? From my experience, now that I know him, I cannot imagine what life would be like without such knowledge. That’s just it – knowledge. We all seek it yet somehow all fall short of it. I guess one could say that we are “blinded” from truth – we don’t and can’t know everything. Frustrating? Not quite…
There’s a verse in 2 Corinthians 5-12 (vs 6 to be exact) that says, “For God who said, “let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” We are completely oblivious but we have been presented with the gospel as God declares, “let there be light” over our hearts, so that we may understand more of who Jesus really is and so that the glory of God may be displayed in our lives! As we patiently step to learn more, God aids us in that, whispering encouragement and revealing new wonders each day.
We have the light of the knowledge of God’s glory within us! This not coming from ourselves but God’s mercy.
However although Jesus’ light is living within us and shining out of us to present us as holy and pleasing to God, we ourselves are still unclean. Nobody is fully good. Nobody completely understands the bible. Nobody lives in faith without a little doubt. In fact, without Christ, we are nothing – we lack the knowledge of love, acceptance, and God’s purpose here on earth. Without Christ we are full of weakness and this is to be made known more than our strength…
I can be a bit of a control freak. I’m not always happy. I sometimes get angry at my siblings. I often lack ideas. Some days I can be selfish instead of serving others. I am a normal, everyday, messy individual but I know that Christ is shining in me and presenting me as strong and holy before God. You to can have this light – it starts with yes.
It’s as if we are jars made of clay. We are completely earthy! But if we ask Jesus to fill us with the light of his knowledge, our jar fills with treasure! We are jars of clay filled with treasure – this treasure being the knowledge of who God is and all that he has done, as well as a personal relationship with the Father. This treasure doesn’t just look good either – it reminds us to trust the true spoken promises (that from experience have always been fulfilled) of God: when we feel attacked or challenged, we will never be 100% defeated for Christ’s strength empowers us; when we are confused or begin to question, Christ comforts us and listens to us; when others harm us, Christ reveals an encouraging light and whispers, “you are not alone – I will never forsake you nor harm you”; when we are exhausted or lose control, we can never fall because Christ stands tall within us!
Be real. Accept your flaws and dare to say yes! Life in faith does not mean trying to be perfect but rather allowing God to give you rest from the frustrating world that tells you that you must know and understand everything. We come because we heard but want to understand. We come because we are weak but God will make us strong. We say yes because we don’t yet believe but are curious to find something to trust in.
We are jars of clay – filled with treasure? I can assure you it’s a beautiful life with God, the creator of the world!
2017 so far has been a real challenge… I got my hopes up about an application to Cambridge university despite knowing that chances were incredibly slim. I received an interview but later was rejected. At first I kept questioning God and then once I’d got fed up of doing that, I then started to question myself with, “I could have done this better… Or maybe if I’d have said this…”
The truth is it just wasn’t God’s plan and one day I have to face up to that – I must be willing to trust his plan. In fact it’s only over the past few days as I visited the university now first in line, that I realised why God has closed such a door. Don’t get me wrong – Cambridge is a dream! However it turns out that this other university also has great career opportunities and their syllabus seems to line up will all of my architectural interests – completely! For example the course is centred on the collaboration between architecture and engineering (something I’m 100% interested in and often a controversial opinion that can be neglected). Not to mention the city looks amazing!
Now I can see that God has all my best interests in mind and I can’t wait to see where He leads me! I just have to keep going and push onward to get the grades that I need now. But I’m fully confident that if I try hard, God will work through my weaknesses and get me to the right place (hopefully the university currently in mind but if not, somewhere better)! Don’t be afraid to trust him! Try hard and God will honour that!
“See I am doing something right before your eyes that you wont believe though it’s staring you in the face” Acts 14:31
If there’s one thing that truly makes me speechless time and time again, it’s the generosity of grandparents. Have you ever just stood, embraced in their warmth as they shower selfless love upon you? No matter how many times you try to refuse, it just keeps coming…
I’m very fortunate to have two wonderful sets of grandparents both of which never cease to care for me. Whether it’s encouraging me with random, “I’m proud of you” moments, purchasing little gifts, giving up their time to do things with me or even offering to help financially, their generosity always overwhelms me. As a child, all four of my grandparents seriously influenced the person that I became. I am extremely grateful. Through each of them I’ve learned how to love and been led to know that I am precious.
Over the Christmas period I was able to spend quite a lot of time with my grandparents. However one occurrence provoked a little more within me that usual. Following some beautiful and thoughtful gifts, my Grandma kindly offered to take me on a December morning shopping trip. We got up early, chatted on the way, shopped around and enjoyed our traditional Grandma-Grandaughter sales-shopping. As she proceeded to treat me to a coffee I suddenly felt convicted – her generosity overwhelmed me. My reaction? This time, I wanted to buy the coffee. It was the best I could do in such a moment…
“No don’t be daft – I’m paying,” was the fierce response I received. Boy was that one line a pounding strike in the stomach, winding me unable to argue. In such a speechless moment I had no other option but to accept her generosity – that which quite frankly, I didn’t deserve!
The endless generosity of my grandparents is a daily reminder of the cross – Christ’s agape love. Agape is undeserving, eternal and heart throbbing. We have moments when our minds recall our shame, guilt and weakness but by dying on the cross, Jesus has said, “don’t you dare pride yourself into earning this gift!”
At the cross we are left completely speechless. We cannot repay such a life-changing gift. Only can we accept such a blessing and offer ourselves in service, by showing and investing in this loving relationship.
Be grateful, open up to generosity, love your grandparents and let Christ’s love be gifted to you!
P.S. Photo credit goes to my cousin Matthew for capturing such a beautiful moment back in the Summer!
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Recently, as a response to my “This Christmas, Knock” post, one of the questions raised was, “why are Christians against gay rights?” Unfortunately, this was submitted anonymously, and no email was left so I couldn’t get back to whoever it was! However, this question challenged me and really got me thinking. I really hope that whoever asked this is currently reading – after some thought I hope I can answer this for you.
Firstly, the question is, are Christians actually against homosexuality?
As followers of Christ, the word made flesh, we live our lives to please God. Part of this, means studying the bible and applying it’s truth to our lives – not to gain righteousness, but to find out more about who God is. We follow the laws within it because we believe that God is much wiser than us and He knows what is best for us. By following, we live our life to the fullest!
The bible is split into the Old Testament and the New. The old lays out hundreds and hundreds of laws (many that will never be lived out today eg: don’t wear clothes of wool and linen woven together Deuteronomy 22:11 – there’s no way I’ll be hunting down rare 100% wool jumpers any time soon!) as well as telling us of life before Jesus. The world was a mess and still is. The old testament shows us just how far the world is from the beauty that God intended it to be.
The Old Testament shows us the need for a New Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus comes, dies and raises to life in order to overcome death and bring grace. This grace allows all who believe in Christ (even just the tiniest bit – Matthew 17:20) to be presented as holy and free from sin! Jesus cancels everything and restores the beauty within us, so that the world may one day be beautiful again!
How does this relate to such a big question in today’s society?
In the bible, we can read the metaphorical image of creation that shows us that God created the world and He intended for men and women to be together – it’s mother nature and how the life cycle works. However, as Adam and Eve ate from the fruit tree, sin entered the world and this picture was distorted. As a result, our world has now become full of sin. However this, “sin,” doesn’t just refer to wrong doing such as, murder, theft and dishonesty. Sin simply refers to anything that separates us from a relationship with God or is separate from God’s original intention for this world.
Therefore, in my opinion, being gay would not class you as a “murderer” when we evaluate the seriousness of the issue. However regardless of the seriousness, since we know that Jesus came to bring equality, we know that in reality nobody is perfect and it doesn’t matter what your “sin” is, because we can all be reconciled to God! Jesus is victorious and He reigns for eternity – we have been wiped clean.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that God loves everybody unconditionally. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in God or not, whether you’re gay or straight, whether you’ve murdered somebody or been one to stir gossip. As Christians, we believe that we are no longer slaves to laws, but slaves to love and grace! We are free to be who we are, as we walk hand in hand with God!
Therefore, although Christians at times have been presented to be against gay rights, I personally am not. I’d also point out that there are many churches that support gay people, welcome them and love them. I also know Christians who are gay – the LGBT christian community is huge! Whether Christians continue to practise homosexuality however is between them and God, for we must not judge another person’s walk with God – first remove the plank from your own eye so you may see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5).
Christ came and died for everyone. Therefore, everyone has the same rights! It saddens me to think that being gay suddenly creates a divide between one and the church – in reality, (Romans 8:38-39) nothing can separate you from the love of God! In my personal opinion, churches that do not support gay people need to reassess their values – yes in the bible, being gay is wrong however no one is perfect and everyone needs grace in some way! We should not allow personal difference, or such an issue take our eyes off whats important: Christ on the cross!
So in answer to your question, I would say that Christians are not against gay rights. There are many things in this world that are “wrong.” But Christ has already put all of this to death on the cross. Now, we are living in Christ’s kingdom! Even if some Christians struggle with this approach, it demonstrates the need for God! Christians don’t know or understand everything – they need God as much as you do! Sometimes we just have to accept in our hearts that opinions will differ, whilst remembering that we all are equal in God’s eyes!
I hope this answers your question and you find what you are looking for. God loves you. He wants to reveal himself to you and take you on an amazing adventure! Will you let him? Run to him with this issue – have faith, and he’ll change your life!
P.S – please do not hesitate to comment below with any further questions relating to this issue, or any other burning questions you have. If wanting them to be confidential, feel free to send them via the contact page, but please leave an email so that the system can get back to you!