Categories
Church Posts

Where two or three gather

Oh the irony.

In 2010, after a long wrangle with God (I’d like to say it resembled Jacob’s struggle in the desert when he wrestled with God. I’d be fibbing – it wasn’t nearly as dignified as that) – we left a church.
We assumed – naturally, that God would place us in another local fellowship – but after much visiting, and yet more wrangling, it became clear this was not His plan.

So we spent the next 7 years (Yes, 7) doing church somewhat sporadically online,and with small groups we got connected to online that were more local. I started a few things, led one or two, got invited to share here and there. None of it was bad, there was much good that came out of it – but it wasn’t consistent fellowship.

In 2017 we finally found, and felt able to join, a local church in our new hometown in Norfolk. Happy days.

Then last year through my husband’s work we found ourselves moved to Plymouth. It was a major upheaval emotionally but we knew God’s hand was on it, and that gave us comfort and courage.
We found another GREAT church. (They might read this ;)) and settled in. All going swimmingly. The more I settled in to the church, the less inclined I was to share online and even stopped writing for the most part. There was plenty to get my teeth into in the “real” world.

Then BANG. Coronavirus hits.

And I find myself in (online) meetings discussing the way forward for church in a world where at least for the moment, we are unable to meet in person.
The news gets ever more distressing each day and the Government measures get more and more restrictive as we fight to keep things manageable and preserve the lives of those most vulnerable.
With the official advice being not to meet in groups most churches, ours included have made the decision to stop all face to face meetings. To the casual observer, that’s the end of church meetings.

Yet, I’m encouraged.

Because the church is still very much alive.What’s more, the church will emerge stronger. Throughout history and across the world, whenever the church faces difficulty, we flourish.

Suddenly facebook groups and Zoom meetings are where the church is gathering. Whatsapp and Google hangouts are the new school halls and coffee shops. Prayer meetings and online worship is suddenly everywhere I look.
Churches across the world are re-imagining what it looks like to build community and how to reach out with practical help to those who are undoubtedly going to need it in the months to come.

So watch this space. And your facebook feed. Church is happening close to you. In your front room in fact – if you choose to join in.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”   – Jesus

Categories
Daily Life Kingdom Posts Questions Stuck Unstuck

It’s Not Linear

I sometimes wonder if we don’t get altogether too sweaty when it comes to seeking God’s will for our lives.
(Understand that when I say ‘we’, I often realise in retrospect that God in fact meant ME. With that understanding, read on, He might mean you, too)
My church family meets in a school building, and on my first visit there back in February I noticed this poster.
It made me smile at the time, because the reason we were even trying out a new church was because of a completely left-field life event, which involved a change of job for my husband and a move across country to go with it.
On the face of it, our lives had just fallen apart. In fact what followed actually lined up with a number of things that God had said to us over the years – and so we could move forward with quiet confidence that this was the right path.
Hence my smile when I saw the poster.
Our talk at church a couple of  Sunday’s ago was actually about vision. The church vision, and how our personal call can intersect with the broader aims of the church. Our lead pastor Arthur shared about how the vision has been honed and developed since God first placed it in their hearts to plant a church, 16 years ago.
The core vision to “change lives, one soul at a time” has, and is, being fulfilled- but the detail of how it happens is ever-evolving, refining, recalibrating.
I loved that Arthur shared the original vision statement, which by his own assessment was rather wordy. I loved that he shared that neither he nor his wife had any formal training, just a passion for God’s people and a willingness to say ‘Here I am, send me’.
I suspect this was by design (because he’s quite clever), but the end result in my heart of hearing Arthur’s talk was to say ‘Ok, Lord. Let’s forget all the reasons why not, and just launch this dinghy, shall we?’
On my own journey of the last 16 years, I have blundered about in the general direction of God’s call in my life, but often felt I lacked clarity on exactly HOW to do what God was calling me to. I’ve launched a few things, written quite a bit, joined in with lots of stuff – and I’ve seen obvious successes, and abject failures in equal measure. I’ve abandoned a few ideas, and got it wrong more times than I can count.
Perhaps that’s ok though. To see success and failure I mean. Perhaps the failures were part of His plan to mould me into who I am now?
Maybe, like the poster suggests, success is not linear. Perhaps God’s plan isn’t either.
I find myself with a more or less blank canvas in my life at the moment. It’s exciting, but a little scary too. That all too familiar thought looms large
“What if I choose the wrong thing?”
So following prayer from a friend, I cleared the decks and gave God a specific amount of time to speak to me about what I am to do now I’m in Plymouth.
Sure enough, after a few weeks, He began to speak and bring me opportunities.
Which brought me full circle
“What if I choose the wrong thing?”
To which, the quietly whispered answer came
“What if the only wrong choice, is to do nothing?”
So I will continue on with my wiggly line of obedience. Hand me that crayon, would you please?
Categories
Prophetic

Have a break..

Climbing a ladder.

Racing to the top as fast as I can without slipping. To my right I become aware of another parallel ladder. Angels are ascending and descending on it – one of them pauses when he sees me and hollers across

“Where ya goin’?”

“I’m goin’ to see Jesus!” is the answer that pops out of my mouth. It’s news to me as much as it is to the angel – I only found the ladder moments before.

I reach the top of the ladder and emerge into a bright, white room.

Jesus is waiting for me, seated at a white table. There is a vacant seat opposite and He motions for me to sit.

We each have a coffee and for a few moments, we sip in silence.

“What’s this about?” is my unspoken thought.

Jesus answers me aloud “It doesn’t have to be about anything. It’s just two friends, enjoying each others company”

I notice a two-fingered chocolate biscuit on the table between us. Jesus picks it up and removes the scarlet wrapper.

“Is He going to share that?” I wonder.

Grinning, He snaps the two chocolate fingers apart, then leans across the table to offer me one.

I hear myself say “Ooh, chocolate is my favourite”

He smiles again and replies

“Yes. That is one of my better ideas, isn’t it?”

Categories
Posts Stuck Uncategorised Unstuck

Resurrection NOW

Something died in your life. A project that didn’t get off the ground, a relationship that failed, maybe you lost your job?  Maybe something else – [insert life’s disappointments here ] Maybe all of the above.

You are exhausted, beaten down, almost defeated.

It’s left you feeling devastated, like your whole life is in tatters. It’s left you wondering, “What comes next ?”

Resurrection comes next

Resurrection is the key to the christian faith.
Our certainty that Jesus was resurrected and sits at the right hand of the father.
Our sure and certain hope of our own resurrection to eternal life, through faith in Him.
Good things come in threes…
The first thing I mentioned, Jesus’ resurrection, is a past event.
The second thing, our own, is a future hope.
That leaves us with NOW..
What does it look like to believe in resurrection on a daily basis?
It looks like not giving in to despondency.
It looks like actively looking for what God is doing and saying in every situation.
It looks like confidently believing for better when all about us looks hopeless.
When Jesus hung on the cross, to everyone around Him it looked like the end.
God knew it was a glorious beginning.
I want to challenge you today to look at the endings in your life, and then look past them – to the glorious new beginning that God has in store for you – look through the lens of faith and you will see.
Categories
Daily Life Kingdom Posts Unstuck

Best Foot Forward

Five years ago, we moved our family across country for my husbands work.
In two weeks, we do it again.

Last time, because of legal hold ups with our house sale, we had to rent a (very small) holiday lodge so that we could be here in time for our children to start the new school term – with no guarantee that the sale would go through. It was a real test of faith for a couple who had lived in the same county our whole lives.

In the middle of all this I found myself reading Joshua 3 – which recounts the people of Israel walking across the dry bed of the Jordan.

At the end of three days the officers went through the midst of the camp; 3 and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. 4 However, there shall be between you and it a distance of about 2,000 [a]cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.”

5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” 6 And Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, “Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over ahead of the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went ahead of the people….

14 So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), 16 the waters which were [d]flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, … those which were [e]flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. 17 And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan. Joshua 3 2-5, 14-17

An encouraging passage, at a time like that.
You’d think so wouldn’t you?
Me being me though, I checked out what 2,000 cubits is in more familiar measurements.
Its about half a mile.
So as the Israelites walked towards the crossing place, they could clearly see a long way ahead that the waters had stopped and they were in no danger.

I mentioned this to a friend, who paused for a moment before saying
‘Aah yes, but it still takes faith to believe that the waters will STAY stopped when you put YOUR foot on the river bed”

Fast forward 5 years and we are selling our current home before the legal stuff is done on our new place. We have a rental organised for a few weeks, but there are no guarantees that our purchase will go through yet.

I believe Lord. Best foot forward.

Categories
Daily Life Uncategorised Unstuck

Roller-coaster

The last time I was a (slightly unwilling) passenger on a roller-coaster was 5 years ago.

I know this because coincidentally, it was also the last time our family relocated, 3 kids dog and all, for my husbands work.

Those who know me probably don’t see me as a fearful person, so it may surprise you to know that I really don’t like heights.

I mean REALLY don’t like them. I’m not a big fan of uncertainty either. I like to know what’s coming and plan accordingly.

So what on earth was I doing on a roller-coaster, I hear you cry?

Good question.

We were mid-move at the time. That really horrible part where you wait for the legal people to do their thing. It feels like it takes forever and you get conflicting information from every email and phone call you receive.

A friend called and offered to take myself and our youngest daughter to a Theme Park for the day. I accepted because my daughter really needed a day out, and it would take my mind off things.

Mid afternoon, after a few goes on the more sedate rides, my friend talked me into going on the ‘little roller-coaster’. (Her description, not mine).
I decided to at least attempt to be ‘cool mum’ for the benefit of our 11 year old daughter.

The one thing I wasn’t was ‘cool’.

I spent the entire hour (well, more like 5 minutes but it felt waaaaay longer) muttering in tongues and screaming ‘Jesus’ at the top of my lungs. It wasn’t blasphemy – I was genuinely calling for help. As the ride came to a stop, it moved forward incrementally to allow passengers to get off. I panicked, thinking the ride was going round again
‘Oh God no! It’s starting again’
My friends reassured me that the ride was over, and reminded me how breathing works
(In, then out. That’s right, slowly. You’re ok)

When I got off, I was actually struggling to speak for several minutes, and my legs felt like I had borrowed them from an octopus.
I did get off though. It ended safely and the only damage was to my pride.

Five years on, I find myself on another, metaphorical roller-coaster, moving cross country again.
This time without my two eldest children. Who have now flown the nest.

Jesus is still with me though, and when this is over, a whole new roller-coaster ride begins, in a new city.
(I’m also grateful for friends who reassure me, and remind me how breathing works.)

‘Oh God no! It’s starting again’
‘Scream if you want to go faster’ says Jesus, with a wink.

My legs feel like jelly, but I’m game if you are, Lord.

Categories
Bible Study Daily Life

Watch Your Mouth

The following post is taken from a “New Testament in a Year” challenge that I was asked to write some contributions for by my home church, Gateway.

Matt 21:18-32

Today’s scripture is all about the power of words.
The disciples are amazed when Jesus curses the fig tree, and it whithers before their eyes.

 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

What an amazing statement! That if we have faith, we can tell a mountain to move – and that whatever we ask for, we will receive. Notice that there is a distinction made between speaking to obstacles, things that need to be removed from our lives “say to this mountain” – and asking for things, things that we would like to be added – “ask in prayer, you will receive”.

There is a caution in here too that I think we miss a lot though. If you have faith – we tend to read this and think about having faith to move the mountain – but what about the poor old fig tree?

It wasn’t its fault it didn’t have any fruit yet.

As Christians, Jesus – by His Holy Spirit -lives in us. This is how we can do the things He did when He walked the earth – heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons (Matt 10:7-8)
With great power though, comes great responsibility – if we have faith, we can speak life – and death over things, situations and people’s lives. Including our own.

There are varying views on Jesus and the fig tree. Was he annoyed with the tree? Did He do it to make a point?

I believe He used this moment as a teaching moment for the disciples.
Yes, you can move mountains – you can also kill things with your words. You might not be intending to do that, but because you have faith, and you operate in the anointing of God – you can do it without realising.

There are many scriptures that speak to us about being careful with our speech.

Proverbs 13:3 says “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

The book of James includes a whole chapter filled with warnings about controlling our tongues!

In the second half of our reading, the Pharisees are once again trying to corner Jesus – this time with a question about His authority. Jesus side steps them neatly with a parable.

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered,

‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

The first son in our tale says “no” to his father – then changes his mind. The second son says “yes” – with no intention of following through.

His yes becomes no – outward lip service followed by disobedience.

Jesus says that the tax collectors and prostitutes – who heard the word through John the Baptist and believed – are entering the Kingdom ahead of the Pharisees – who are still holding out and refusing to believe that Jesus is God.

The pharisees looked good on the outside – they gave their outward “yes” to Him – but then refused to believe when Jesus was standing right in front of them.

God wants your heart. God wants your honest “yes” – even if it starts out as a “no”. You can decide today to give your “yes” to Jesus.

Lord help us to remember that our words have power.Help us to use them wisely, and to give our honest “yes” to you,

Amen.

Categories
Bible Study Kingdom

Queue Jumping

The following post is taken from a “New Testament in a Year” challenge that I was asked to write some contributions for by my home church, Gateway

Yesterday’s gospel account was of the rich young man who felt unable to part with his worldly wealth in order to obtain eternal life.Today’s reading also involves money – but from a different perspective.

Jesus tells us that The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who hired people to work , and paid those who started later the same as those who were there from the beginning.

It is worth noting here that Jesus is talking about
Heaven – not God.

Elsewhere in the New Testament Jesus tells us that Heaven is all around us.
It’s at hand. (Matt 3:2)
It’s within us. (Luke 17:21)
(Its not just where you go when you die).
In this analogy, Jesus explains that heaven’s rewards are not based on length of service, or amount of work – it’s based on you turning up.If you believe in Jesus you are in.

You are in. That’s all that matters.

At the time Jesus spoke these words, the chief priests, religious rulers and the Jewish people would be regarded as the first, and only ones in line for God’s favour. They were God’s chosen people from the start – but Jesus says that those who were last – the disciples – and then the gentiles – and then us – will be first in line!

In our world, when someone jumps a queue, or receives a reward we feel they didn’t work for , we cry

“unfair! I worked harder than them, and longer than them, why should they get the same as me?”
When we live under heavens rule though – the rules are different. Everyone is welcome in heaven and everyone receives the same reward.
That includes you. Wherever you came from, no matter what your background or how late in life you came to faith in Jesus.

As if to underline this idea of the first being last, and last being first, Jesus’ next statement to the disciples is to tell them that he will be put to death and then rise again to life.

Jesus was, and is the first, and the last. He is both beginning and end – yet He humbled himself and allowed man to put Him to death. He died for our sins – in the ultimate sacrifice – and then His last act (dying) became His first – (He rose again) – so that through faith in Him we can “queue jump” and declare

“I’m IN!”

I’m in. How about you?

Rebecca

Categories
Bible Study

Money, Money, Money

The following post is taken from a “New Testament in a Year” challenge that I was asked to write some contributions for by my home church, Gateway


Matt 19:16-30

Today’s gospel account is one most of us will be familiar with – the tale of the young man who walked away from Jesus because he couldn’t give up his worldly wealth. I have often squirmed in my seat when this tale is recounted – because honestly, I sometimes wonder if I would pass this test!

If we look a little closer though, we might discover that this encounter is not as straightforward as it might seem. The young man wants to know what he can do to earn eternal life – Jesus tells him to keep commandments and when asked which ones Jesus mentions all the “other people“ ones.

The young man asks Jesus “Which ones?” And He replies

“You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honour your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”(v 18-19)

The young man has kept these and so we can imagine his chest puffing up a little.“Done that!” – he declares – “What else?”

In just a couple of sentences Jesus shows him his folly:

“Go and give away everything you own – then come and follow me”

The point here is not so much what Jesus says – as what He leaves out. The commandments Jesus doesn’t list are:

  • You shall have no other gods before Me
  • You shall not make idols
  • You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain
  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
  • You shall not covet.

I suspect – and this is just my theory – that the young man had made money his god.
The Lord tells the young man to give away everything he owns and then he can follow Him – not because poverty is a spiritual virtue – but because He knows that in this young man’s life, money is occupying the place of God. He needs to be freed from his unhealthy relationship with money, in order to learn to put God first.
Jesus then goes on to explain to the disciples that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom.

“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ ” (v23-24)

The disciples are dismayed – “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looks at them and says,

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus refers to “the deceitfulness of riches” and tells us that it can choke our faith – especially in the early stages (Matt 13:22). This is not because money itself is bad – even in large quantities – but because when life is going well and we have everything we want, the human tendency is to forget our need for God. We can become self-sufficient (or believe we are!) – and forget to include Jesus in our decisions and life.

Wealth can indeed, be deceitful:
– It can deceive us into thinking we achieved success on our own when in fact we are just a recipient of God’s blessing.
– It can deceive us into thinking we don’t need God.

When we love God and serve Him, money is just a tool with which to serve Him better. In itself, money is neither good nor evil – it’s what you do with it that counts! The disciples had given up much to serve Jesus – and Jesus assures them of their reward.

Lord, help us to keep money in its proper place in our lives, and to remember always to thank you for our blessings, give generously to those in need, and to use money wisely to further your kingdom on earth.

Categories
Bible Study Kingdom

Bring Me What You Have

Todays post is one of my contributions to a “New Testament in a year” daily reading challenge that I was asked to write for my home church.

Matt 14:1-21 20

In this passage Jesus has actually just withdrawn (or tried to) from the public eye for a while, after the brutal murder of His cousin and friend, John the Baptist.Yet even in the midst of His own grief, He still sees the people who had gathered and heals their sick. As a result, even more people gathered and by late afternoon a large crowd had formed.As the day draws to a close, the disciples are concerned that the people have no food. Jesus tells them to feed the people – but they have only five loaves and two fish to hand.The disciples focus is on what they dont have.

Jesus says “Bring me what you have”

Many of us are familiar with what happens next – but there is a point in this passage that we often miss:

  1. The loaves did not multiply in the hands of Jesus – they actually multiplied in the hands of the disciples!
  2. Jesus didn’t pray, and He didn’t ask God to multiply the bread – He simply said a blessing, and then the disciples gave the food out until everyone was fed – and there were still leftovers!

Having seen multiplication happen myself, I can tell you that actually, the one thing you never see is the actual multiplication itself. Instead, the food just keeps going, and it is only afterward that you realise that it should have stopped long ago!

The other thing I have learned, and this reading shows us, is that the Kingdom principle is to take what you have, and use it.Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have.
Jesus didn’t tell the disciples ahead of time what was going to happen – I would imagine that as they first began, they were thinking “Well, this isn’t going to be any use – we have over 5 thousand people here and He thinks we can feed them on 5 loaves of bread!”
Then as they got further and further into the crowd and the bread still had not run out, there must have been a moment where the disciples realised what was happening. How amazing to witness a miracle on such a scale!

I love how this account shows us that Jesus is interested in our needs, not just in a spiritual sense but in a very practical sense too.
How often have you thought that a situation was hopeless, only to realise when you looked back afterward, that God was with you all the time?
I know I have.

It’s still January – lets make a resolution that this year – in every situation – we will bring what we have to Jesus for His blessing, and then use it – in the sure knowledge that our Father in Heaven will always provide for our needs.