Over the weekend, I took a trip down to Berkshire, and whilst there, not only did I discover opportunities to test out my camera and a relatively new lens, but I was also able to stay with a good friend of mine, and attend her baptism. In this moment, perhaps many of you are associating baptism with babies, family traditions, and rituals, however, this was an adult step of faith…
Adult baptism marks the conscious decision to follow Christ with all your life; not just a declaration of faith, but a significant turning point that often follows (months or even years) after one initially accepts Christ into their lives. It’s a journey through the waters of baptism, being cleansed from sin and distractions, and being renewed with the power and promise of the Holy Spirit, ready to be a new creation in Christ Jesus, living your life for the Lord!
Being able to see a very close friend, Eloise (who is said to be my ‘twin’) get baptised made me extremely proud – showing much maturity, and passion to want to continue to develop her relationship with God, walking hand in hand with her Lord and Saviour. Not only this, but the time brought back a calming sense of nostalgia, reminding me of the day back on the 3rd of February 2013, when I myself journeyed through the waters of baptism. Being able to reflect upon the past, and look back over the years, I realise times when God’s presence and spirit has been an encouragement, light and guidance – it excites me to anticipate the work that He does in the lives of others after baptism!
Yet, of course, this work after baptism is simply continued rather than established – leading up to our ultimate decision to mark our trust in Christ, God works to deepen our faith and reveal his loving nature to us. At baptisms, the person being baptised shares their testimony: how they became a Christian, and how God has worked in their lives. It can be as simple as being brought up in a Christian family, and encountering God’s presence for yourself, or a reality change, from a dark past to one filled with love. However, these are only two examples, as each and every testimony is different yet the most beautiful factor, is that all are life changing, and reveal the work of God in true honest, lives; all who hear gain an insight upon the work of God in the lives of others!
Baptism is an occasion to step out in faith, reach out to others through testimony, and to celebrate the work of God in your life. There’s no certain age criteria or pressure, and neither a checklist of bible knowledge, nor a number of necessary encounters with God – whether little faith, or abundant, baptism is the opportunity to go further, and to come to know God more as He continues to work in your life, through the Holy Spirit!
Have you ever shared your testimony? If so what is it? If not, what would you say, given the opportunity?
Grace: The condition or fact of being favoured by someone.
In faith, we stand covered in grace – in fact, if grace was an ocean, we’d all be sinking! In all walks of life, including suffering, God favours us and we can rest, sharing in his glory, as his spirit of love is poured into us, in order to build up our character and hope; grace is love, but grace is also the freedom of identity in Christ. The thing is, we are powerless – confusing, right? When we look at world and see the influence that scientists, government leaders, and families have upon our world, we may begin to think that all things are in our hands, but, this is not so true. Yes, in God’s grace, we are favoured with gifts, that allow us to influence others however the thing is, when it comes to God, we have no control: God came as Christ and died for us as unrighteous people – how many people in today’s society would die for a righteous person? Not many. Yet God died for the unrighteous, and there’s nothing we can do – our actions can neither increase God’s favour, nor decrease it. God is gracious; whilst we were his enemies, He died, establishing relationship, because He is desperate to get to know each of us – He’s more desperate for you know that He loves you, than He is for you to give your life to him! This gift of grace overflows to many – it brings the justification of all trespasses (any past burdens, God will forgive) and a life to the full. Often, the only reason for someone to not turn to Christianity, is the fear of being held accountable, yet forget about religious stereotype, and focus on the endless boundaries of faith! Grace gives us the freedom to make mistakes, forgive ourselves and try again; grace is eternal. And where sin increases, grace also increases, not to allow us to intentionally make mistakes, but so that no matter how far we find ourselves falling, righteousness will still reign forever over our lives, in the love of Christ. Grace is infectious, its liberating, and its character building, allowing us to make mistakes and learn from them, instead of living in self-doubt…
So stand in faith, and allow God to be gracious.
Last week, I gained the opportunity to go to Spring Harvest in Minehead, where the theme was ‘Immeasurably More’ – For those who don’t know, Spring Harvest is a large, Christian organisation, and every year they host a big conference in both Minehead and Skegness. I learnt many things over the week but mostly, that we can encounter God in immeasurably more ways that we could ever imagine – it just takes faith! Returning home from such an amazing week, I was determined to not lose the passion, gained from two worship sessions a day, and so I got stuck into Romans ch 1, which really inspired me…
At first, it discusses how the apostle Paul, was called and set apart for God – set apart for the word that had been spoken years before, through prophecies, and that word, in flesh, was and is the Son of God who died and rose again, giving us grace and discipleship with Him. In the same way, we are also called to be set apart from others and these same prophecies were not just spoken over the salvation of people in general, but over your salvation as an individual! What does being ‘set apart’ look like? It’s about not being afraid to be different, to make sacrifices that put God first, and give him glory, all the days of your life.
Yet, not only did Paul set himself apart, in an intimate relationship with God, but he desired to reach out to the people in Rome, and to help them encounter the holy spirit for themselves – to encounter God in immeasurably more ways that they could imagine! His desire did not sit on his heart, as an, “I wish” dream, but he prayed to God, for an opportunity to reach out to them – He asked God’s help, to be able to bring the love of Christ closer to other people so that he could harvest a people of God – a team, a family, and a nation. However, he did not only reach out to those in Rome whom he desired to reach out to, but also, he was not ashamed to reach out to the Gentiles (the people seen as outcasts and ‘undesirable’ in society at the time) either, because he was comforted by the fact that God reveals righteousness to all, especially those who perhaps make us fearful… He saw potential in the most broken of lives…
A very inspiring verse within the passage is that “faith is being reported all over the world.” Faith is rising! This movement of faith is not just national, within a certain group of people, but international and cross-cultural! We too, can be a part of this international movement, by taking the first step to reach out to God, and then by reaching out to others in faith.
Moving onwards, Paul begins to change topic, and dicuss how people know God but don’t give him glory – in other words, they know and see forms of love and happiness around, but don’t acknowledge God as the provider of these emotions; they don’t give the glory to God, but to the earthly things in which they discover God’s goodness. They take God out of the equation. The result? They also take the glory out of these things, and the goodness fades leaving only half-hearted goodness, so many begin to search for goodness elsewhere, all in all, leading to sinful desires…
As people take God out of the equation, relationships are destroyed, bodies are disrespected and minds become depraved; gossip rises, and slander becomes normality yet what’s more, is that people become trapped in approval of this because they don’t know of any other method, of happiness – this isn’t even happiness, but sadly is the very limited 1% of thrilling ‘happiness’ that they know and think to be all. Do you see? The world is desperate for happiness, because they do not know God. For some, God is foreign to them – they don’t even have the opportunity to take Him out of the equation in the first place. This is why we are called to be set apart, so that others may see us praise God with joy, and look towards the hopeful without having to seek for something more fulfilling; we are to live in such a way that makes others question their disbelief, and be led to repentance. The world needs God (they just don’t realise it) and it’s our task to reach out, and put Him back into the equation!
So, set yourself apart, ask God for opportunities to help others encounter Him, and join the international kingdom of God, by reaching out in love as you put God back into the equation. Reaching out can be simple – a random act of kindness that will start a conversation. Perhaps start with a food substance: bake a cake, buy someone coffee or invite someone for a meal, then contribute in conversation, see where it leads and then mention your faith, giving an insight into the love of God. In summary: Eat out, Reach out and Preach out!
What opportunity will you create this week? Share some opportunities below, and together we can reach out to others!
He has risen! Three days later, Christ rose from the dead, victorious having conquered death. Many witness testified to this, and many encountered his presence:
28 1-4 After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move.
5-6 The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.
7 “Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”
8-10 The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. “Good morning!” he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him. Jesus said, “You’re holding on to me for dear life! Don’t be frightened like that. Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I’ll meet them there.”
Jesus Christ rose as saviour, and impacted many with complete joy, telling the women to go and spread the news! Just as He told the women, we too have nothing to fear. There’s a wonderful line in the song, In Christ Alone that says, “And as he stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me….” and the song ends with, “Here in the power of Christ, I’ll stand!” Christ has done it – He lives, and gives us freedom from pain, fear and sin, fulfilling us with great joy! He has conquered death, so that we may live in his eternal love, and power but, what does living in the Power of Christ actually mean? It means going into every situation, knowing that Christ is Lord of all, looking to him and knowing his love. Through the death and resurrection, we may have a realtionship with God, where we are able to talk to him, listen to him, know the truth and be filled with joy, as well as praise. If Christ can conquer death, he can move mountains for those who have faith!
So rejoice! Praise God, who was, and is, and is to come – Our God Reigns, and has taken the punishment for all our sin, replacing it with life, with our Heavenly Father! So, Happy Easter from me!
Go and listen to the modern version of In Christ Alone, and comment below your favourite lyric! How have you found The Easter Series? Would you like to see more series on the faith section?
Good Friday, marks out the crucifixion of Christ; after praying on the Mount of Olives (aware of what he was about to do, yet still trusting his Father and bearing the cup) Jesus was betrayed, and arrested by Judas Iscariot. You can find the whole story in Luke 22:1-23:49 but skipping forwards, he was taken before Pilate and Herod, where he was trialled, and Pilate found no basis of charge. Christ had done nothing unlawful and Pilate almost released him, however under pressure from the people, he washed his hands and handed him over to the crowds for crucifixion. He was crucified, with two criminals at a place called The Skull – nailed to a cross, and left there to die, in agony. At around noon, Christ died and gave up his spirit: the sky was darkened and the curtain of the temple (extremely strong, and thick, that separated the average man from the presence of God) was torn directly in two. The event was so powerful, that even the Centurion said, “surely this was a righteous man.” Other witness came to realise that he was indeed the Son of God. But why? May you ask, was Christ on the cross?
This world is messed-up, and full of sin (we all know that) and it separates us from God, because we become self-obsessed, and involve ourselves with all sorts of hurt. God knew that the only way to ever regain us as his children would be, to come himself, as Christ, out of love, taking all pain, and sin on the cross – even though he was perfect. The crucifixion was the sacrifice, paid for us all.
Looking in greater detail, at the crucifixion, we see a wonderful story of salvation on the cross. Beside Jesus, were two criminals; Christ was perfect, he had not sinned, and here he was, punished in the same form as two criminals. One of these criminals, began to insult Jesus, yet this is where the story become so marvellous – the other sinner told him to stop! He rebuked saying, “Don’t you fear God, since we are under the same sentence? We are punished justly for we are getting what we deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” At deaths door, this criminal accepted that Christ was Lord, and he then looked to him, in trust and faith saying, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Here is a criminal, deserving of nothing, seeking God, and being saved with eternal life. At this minute, the criminal’s deeds were taken from his cross, and placed onto Jesus’ righteous cross. His punishment was taken – he was vindicated, and given eternal life despite his criminal acts.
Vindication is beautiful:to show that someone is not guilty of crime. In other words, through the sacrifice of Christ, all of our guilt, shame and wrong doing, has been put to death on his cross. Have you ever done something that you shouldn’t have done, and never quite forgiven yourself – or perhaps felt extremely ashamed about? Perhaps it was a crime, or maybe just a broken friendship, or telling a lie. Either way, no matter how big or small, God wants to vindicate you from this – he has already died for it, and has also died for all the wrong things that you will do in the future. What does it take? It takes trust and faith – being able to say, “You know what God, I know you can take this, and I know that you died for me, so I give all to you” That’s all – it’s not about being perfect, or doing so many good deeds, but it’s simply lifting your head, seeking his face and giving it over to his control. This is all because of love: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, so that whoever beleives in him, shall not die but have eternal life. John 3:16. Once we seek God’s face, he places a coat of salvation over us – imagine it bright white, and when ever God looks at you, he sees the pure white light of Christ, knowing that you are righteous because you have been vindicated – you are saved, and one of his children, to be granted life.
So seek God’s face – stop trying to be perfect, but rest in him, allowing the blood of Christ, and the gracious love of God, displayed on Good Friday, to fulfil you and make you righteous in him. Forgive yourself – all wrong doing, judgement, appearance and reputation has been put to death in him. Look beyond yourself, to the cross, and come to know his compassionate power, of forgiveness and sacrifice. This is love, selfless love – agape love. A love that brings life to the full!
I’d love to answer any questions – or any prayer requests! Or, perhaps, you would like to share your own personal thoughts about the events of Good Friday!
Palm Sunday: dating back to Christ’s journey to Jerusalem exactly one week before his resurrection. Pinpointing straight-out, important facts, Jesus rode to Jerusalem on a donkey as crowds cheered, singing, “Hosanna” and laying down not only palm leaves, but also their coats upon the roads for the donkey to walk upon…
John 12:13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
Read the full story here:http://www.gotquestions.org/Palm-Sunday.html#ixzz3VzEphdtA
Humility, would be a very appropriate term to use when describing the events of Palm Sunday. Now, lets picture a colt – dirty, lowly and unworthy; there’s no way that the Queen of England would visit your town (or say a big city such as London) riding on a horse, unprotected and without it having had a groom before hand – never mind a donkey! Its also unlikely that she would not be accompanied by a cavalry band of some sort but here, is the King of Kings, humbling himself, making himself much lower than others, and enduring what in my opinion, would be a very uncomfortable ride… But that’s the thing, despite his glory, Christ isn’t about status and wealth but is and forever will be about compassion and humility! By choosing a colt, he made himself available for all, and allowed others to be on the same level as him – don’t you see? His humility was perfect and welcoming.
Not only was this display of humility alone so magnificent, but so was the response; the crowds threw down their cloaks (that were most probably required for the journey home) and palm leaves, so that the donkey would not have to walk upon the dirty road – I can be sure that it’s not only I, that finds this slightly unusual considering that a donkey is used to such muddy, outdoor environments. Yet, looking further, this is what makes the event so significant – these people knew who was riding! He wasn’t just the healing, lowly Jesus, leader of the apostles but he was the Son of God – the Messiah! In awe, they through down their cloaks in worship, as if bowing to him, and sang “Hosanna,” which is defined as an expression of joy and adoration. Everybody in the crowds was in complete awe of Christ despite his appearance, as a lowly, colt-riding carpenter. Through his humility, they saw compassion and holiness singing, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” They weren’t just excited, but awakened as they truly experienced the King of Kings, before them – in person!
With Palm Sunday, just having passed, we can reflect upon this event in order to shape our faith. Looking at Christ’s perfect example of humility, we can ask him to help direct us towards changes in attitude – to notice our boasting or high status, turning to humility and making others equal to, or higher than ourselves, rather than being a careless, “Look at me” individual. Becoming humble is key – it causes us to fully rely on God and our identity in Christ, as we allow his word to fulfil us.
Finally, we can respond as many did that day, by going to God and declaring him as Lord – King of Kings, whilst expressing adoration and praise; when we choose to shout with Joy, for the Glory of God, we fill with Godly excitement, and passion! Recommitting to God this Easter, whether as a first or a hundredth, and choosing to live a life of love, passion and satisfaction as we walk with our father (the King over all the earth and heavens) is the start to a fulfilling life, that God so desperately wants to give us (I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full John 10:10). So respond, await and be excited about Easter!
Come back on Friday for the next post, in this year’s Easter series! What was the most exciting day of your life? I’d love to hear!
Being a Christian can be tough sometimes – every now and then, we receive questions about our faith which we would love to openly answer. However, it’s always frustrating, when we don’t quite know the answer ourselves yet; we haven’t yet discovered what God has been saying to us about the issue. For me, that question (that often left me confused) was, “How can there be a loving God, when so many bad things happen to so many lovely people?” Only now, after being enlightened am I able to spread some light upon the issue…
Firstly, something needs to be set in stone – the world is one truly messed up place! No-one can deny this; there’s crime, discrimination, terrible disasters such as earthquakes, and other more personal forms of trial. The thing is, there is good, and there is bad – opposites attract – and so there is God, and there is the devil. Also, there is sin, which ultimately separates us from God, and causes bad to affect others. But, God sent his only son, so that whoever just simply believes in him, and accepts him can live in his love and mercy; Jesus stood in the way of our sins, took our burdens and wrong doing, so that we can have a relationship with God. There will always be sin, and bad – it’s inevitable – but there is also good from God, we just have to look for it, whether its an obvious pay rise, or a subtle smile from somebody in the street…
The above can be hard to understand – that’s because God’s love is so unconditional that we don’t deserve it! We don’t deserve our wrong doings to be forgiven without punishment! Only, when we start to live in God’s light, do we come to know him, and understand for ourselves…
Recently, I came across Psalm 4 and verses 6-7 say:
6 Many, Lord are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. 7 Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.
The psalmist, in this case David, refers to this commonly asked question, and he highlights the fact that we need to allow God’s light to shine upon us, and ask him to fill us with his joy. It’s simple – go to God and submit to him, and he reveals goodness in every aspect of life. It may seem that only bad things happen in this world, but that’s because often we do not focus on God’s joy, love, and peace. God never makes the bad things occur, but unfortunately they happen; he may not take them away straight away, because otherwise we would not grow as individuals, or come to dwell in God’s love and goodness!
I do hope I managed to spread a little bit of light upon the topic – I apologise for anything that doesn’t completely make sense, after all, I’m only human! Feel free to ask any questions!
Sometimes God hides his face from those who love him. As humans we would just give up on God, but those with spirit, feel distressed and far from him, they feel so lost and try to seek his face. He does this so that we realise our need for his presence, declare our love for him, and allow him into our whole lives, not just half of it because we are so vulnerable without him. And when we declare our love for him, calling out “Lord I can’t live without you, without your presence,” he starts to build up that passion again, that sense of presence! This is often so that we can use our experience to shape our faith and make it better. For example, take Christ, God hid his face from the one whom he loved the most, on Good Friday. But Jesus didn’t give up, he called “My God” and on that day, the world was saved with love! That passion will come back, but it’s your choice – it’s called free will! If you are distressed, you are not far from God at all, you are very close, with the spirit within you so call to God and let the new passion change your life!
Two weeks ago I did just that and instantly, I felt so happy and laughter came upon me amongst joy – I felt God surround me in a hugging presence and to the Lord, I give my whole life, that he will show me his face each day and I will follow. I am so passionate to continue to study his word and live for him – so here’s to a brand new category, dedicated to faith! Spend as much, or as little, time as you please discovering all about my faith, or use it to develop yours! Distinctivemode would not be here without God’s gift of creativity!
When was the last time you resubmitted? You may have been faithful for years like I but it’s important to resubmit!