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Monday, 31 October 2011

Christmas presents: to give or not to give...

'More Presents!' photo (c) 2005, Aaron Jacobs - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
So.. I just had an interesting, errrr, 'debate' with my husband. To be fair this is not a new debate, it has reared its head several times in the last few years - usually at my insistance, I just can't seem to help myself... As soon as the subject of Christmas comes around we discuss whether it would be better to give the gift money to charity or a needy cause, rather than buying tat for our nearest and dearest.

Most of the people we buy Christmas pres for are financially blessed. They really don't 'need' anything tangible (if they did I would feel better about this whole debate!), or anything that we could buy. Kids that we buy for, have ooodles of presents, on top of the already overflowing toy boxes. It seems to me totally wasteful and wrong to be buying presents for these people when we could be really and truly blessing a family that is in need, or providing food for a starving family, or sleeping bags for the homeless. The truly in need.

My husband totally disagrees with me and so far we have not managed to come to a compromise. we have done things like buying gifts from charity shops (marginally cheaper, but lower class of tat...) or for own own kids asking people to combine to get a larger gift that we couldn't afford. This is all well and good, but doesn't solve the wider argument. My husband believes Christmas is the perfect time to be showing Gods love and by blessing those around us with a gift, (tat ot not). I understand where he is coming from but I feel that our nearest and dearest are far more blessed by coming to spend time with us as a family, sharing lunch, dinner, Christmas day etc, and equally we are all blessed by that too.

What really gets me is the needless waste of money Christmas is. Our parents are not easy to buy for. they have all they need and are usually unforthcoming about present wishes (if there are any). The huge number of kids on our lists are all very blessed and do not need any more toys! other random adults tend to get random books or other tat, as we have no idea what to get them.

I would much rather bless those truly in need but am I being too 'bah humbug' about this? are there better ways to bless people at Christmas, or is it just about giving, regardless of the gift?

Friday, 28 October 2011

Biblical Metaphors: The Temple

Hmm, just a thought that came to me this morning... When we see Jesus turning over the money lenders tables in the Temple... could it also be a metaphor for us, ridding ourselves of the sin within our own bodies? In order to honour him?

This just came to me this morning, prompted by the word 'temple' in a tweet! So much of the bible, uses symbolism and metaphor and can be read several ways, not sure if this is just me putting my own spin on it. But...

Mathew 21: 12 - 14 says this:

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says:

 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

 I know the obvious point being made in the Mathew passage is about the temple not being used as a house of prayer, as a sacred palce but when where dishonesty is thriving. However if you look at the use of the word temple in the corinthians passage, relating to us as Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, one can read the Mathew passage a different way...It implies to me that when we sin, we allow it to enter our own bodies, (perhaps through thoughts, it doesnt have to be an internal thing) and therefore, then we are dishonouring God but by allowing that within our own temple, our own body, as it houses the Holy Spirit...

Thoughts anyone...?


 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Stuff I like..

I know everyone else has been doing this for yonks, but I keep coming across other peoples posts that I want to share. So here is my first round-up of stuff I like...  (and twitter names in brackets for those that are that way inclined..)

Which aptly brings me to the first post from Jon Acuff at 'Stuff Christians Like'. This week I loved his post on people praying with British accents... :   @jonacuff
I know that your prayers don’t travel on a more direct route to God than mine. I am well aware that there is not an “express prayer lane,” that gets prayers to heaven faster. But every time I’m in a prayer group and someone prays something with the “Queen’s English,” I’m pretty sure that prayer gets heard by God first.

Banksy goes for religion. Thanks to 'Changing Worship' who in turn pinched this from Richard Littledale. A fab new work from Banksy, collaborating with MOCA in L.A. Just love this picture on so many levels...  @changingworship

God of the Moon & Stars. A friend used this clip in a talk recently. The video is a little cliched but I just liked the song. The lyrics are quite thought provoking in places. (may blog on this at some point...)

A21 Campaign:  I know I have flagged this organisation up a few times, but if you haven't checked them out, please do: Human trafficking is the second largest global organized crime today, generating approximately 31.6 billion USD each year. There are 1.39 million victims of commercial sexual servitude worldwide.


Worship Central: Spirit Break Out  (@worshipcentral)
The Worship central guys are based at HTB, this is their latest album and I LOVE it! the title track 'Spirit break out' is amazing (although the rap is very HTB, darling...!!)

Inherit the Mirth... a whole selection of faith/church based cartoons. I admit I have totally used this one without permission so please do go look at their site and maybe buy a card or two!







Monday, 24 October 2011

Primary School Sex Education

So, ok I know I have written on this before but this time it was flagged up by 'Christian Concern'. Now, I know what you're thinking, but don't dismiss it just because it was raised by 'them'. Today the Lords are debating the issue of sex education in primary schools. CCN says this:

Sex education campaigners, and some backbench Peers, want to make sex education compulsory in primary schools by forcing a vote at the Report Stage of the Education Bill on Monday 24 October. At present primary schools are not forced to teach sex education, yet if it becomes part of the national curriculum then highly expicit resources are likely to be used for children as young as five.

This concerns me I have to say. When I wrote about this issue before it was in reponse to a Catholic blog where I was concerned by the  extreme reaction of some parents to the issue. However I still find myself concerned with it on a personal level. As a parent, and perhaps as a Christian parent, I want to protect my childrens childhood. We live in a society where kids are exposed to sexual images in advertising, on the TV and elsewhere from such a young age. Of course it isn't just sex, it's violence, swearing and so on, too. I feel a bit like Mary Whitehouse as I write this, and perhaps there is still a place for someone like her, well not perhaps at all... There IS more of a need for someone like her now. The 9 O'clock watershed seems non-existant anymore and I have even turned off breakfast radio on occasion as I have been concerned about the discussions.

Don't get me wrong, I am no prude, and I do extol the benefits of sex education. Regular readers will know my background, I was not a 'no sex before marriage type', and in fact I got pregnant at a young age. (I did get decent sex education at secondary school - I was just filled with the idiocy and arrogance of youth and was having a good time...) BUT... I think it is so wrong that our kids to exposed to so much at such a young age. Thankfully we live in a small rural community and so they are quite protected here.

What worries me about this issue, is firstly, the fact that schools will have no choice over whether they teach it or not (and this is to kids from the age of 5). I know, living in a small community that the lives of my children are very different to those living in large towns or inner cities. The experiences of kids within more urban areas, more naturally, are exposed to things earlier and more frequently than those in more sheltered areas. Schools are different and they should be allowed to make decisions on this based on their own demographic, their own pupils. Too many of these decisions are made at a national level and foisted down the line without taking into account individual circumstances.

Secondly I worry about what they will teach them. The Christian Institue have produced a report here. showing various 'approved' literature. I am sure this is produced to make their point, but much of what they show worries me. I have no problem with kids being taught the facts, from a reasonable age and when it is appropriate, and with the correct terms, but really do they need to know about m*stubation and where the clit*ris is? (I am probably opening myself up to numerous spam bots here, hence the *s and not because I am being  a prude!)

Lastly, I really don't think this will make a jot of differnce with the teenage pregnancy problem in this country. Most teenage pregnancies are over the age of 13 anyway, by which stage the kids will have had sex education at secondary school. My own opinion is that whilst there are a minority of kids who really may not know the consequences of sex, the majority do know the risks of getting pregnant. The problem is no different to 50 or 100 years ago, we still get pregnant in the same way as we always did. It's just that now it is so easy to do it! It's hardly surprising that as more and more kids are experimenting with sex before marriage or even just at a younger age, statistically the numbers of kids getting pregnant are going to be higher.

And thats before I even include my Christian views as to what they are taught about when to have sex, and whether they should be taught about 'waiting' or what the bible tells us about sex.

Really, do we need to expose our primary school kids to this? At our local village primary they cover it in Class 4, (which includes years 5-6) which for our local area is absolutely perfect. They chose what to cover and how, according to the kids present. What is so wrong with that? Why does it need to be dictated from governement down...?

DDO update

So... my twitter followers will know that I saw the DDO on Friday for the next step of my discernment jounrey. To be honest I had no idea what to expect. I knew my VC had completed her report on me but I didn't know what it said. I almost half expected the DDO to send me away for a 6 month placement  or similar, before going further. And I was all prepared for a bit of a battle.. but thankfully, grace abounded and that was not necessary!
So it was 3 hours... but we basically went through his previous report on me and what my VC had written step by step and filled in any gaps. There were a lot of questions and a few 'ok, anything else...' prompts in places. It was hard to know what to say as I couldn't see what he had written in front of him and I think I missed a few key points because of it. For example when asked what I felt ordained ministry was, I didn't give a list of roles of the Ordained Minister, I told him what my key aims were. So needless to say he told me the Bish will want to hear more on what ordained ministry is. Good heads up and I will gen up.
Also realised I must not ever, EVER,  tell the Bish that I take communion without a minister present as it is against Church Law. Oops.. (note to self, shut mouth on this issue, do not debate whether this is right or not!) more on this in another post..

All in all though, it went well and he expects me to see the Examinig Chaplain in November and the Bish before Christmas, with BAP in the spring... Blimey..

So whilst I still stand by the fact that I will not jump through their hoops unnecessarily, or tell them things they want to hear if they are not true of me, I do feel a little bit of 'genning up' is required. It is probably 9 months since I read 'Being a Priest Today' and to be honest I did find it rather dull (to say the least), so perhaps now is the time to study it with more interest!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

What is worship?

I've been thinking recently about what worship is (again)... I have been challenged by some things at church, where changes have been taking place.  But within that, it is abundantly clear that regardless of anything else, God wants us to worship him.

Aside from that, my Spiritual Director has been advising me on studying the bible via topic, so I have been studying worship, what the bible says about it and what we think it is.

Worship to many, means the music in the service, and I admit I am probably one of those, I always confuse my non-evangelical freinds when I talk about 'the worship team'. Evangelicals know this means the band. But of course they are right to be confused. God doesn't just ask us to worship him in music.

The bible talks about bowing down in worship; kneeling. The wise men (oh, oops I mean Magi) came to worship the newborn Jesus; it tells us to honour the Lord, to serve Him. I love in Mathew where it talks of the women seeing Jesus after his resurrection. It says:
And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. (Mathew 28:9)

I really wonder what they did. It says they grasped his feet and worshipped him. I don't suppose it means that they burst into song. Perhaps they declared their love for him, perhaps they were bowed down in front as they grasped his feet (probably couldn't do that standing up, let's face it..). I imagine they were delighted, relieved maybe; laughing, smiling perhaps, and even fearful - after all they had seen him die. I think if I were them I'd give him a big hug. Could all of this be worship?

I love the Changing Worship Blog and came across this post recently looking at the Lenny Kravitz song 'are you gonna go my way', which idiotically had never occured to me that it was about Jesus. derrr...;)  But that's beside the point, the point is I love the blog because it (I mean him - Robb, the writer) is focussed on alternative worship, usually rock-based, and I love that. If the church is going to move forward, we need to look forward. And not only that we need to look out - to people who are, lets face it, never going to come to a 'normal' church. Not difficult really, but to some it seems like the end of the world... If the bible can refer to worship as many different things, shouldn't we be drawing lessons from that?

I'm sorry this post isn't longer, there is so much going round my head, but I think there will be more posts as I analyse it all (probably too much...) and I would welcome input or suggestions of places to visit on this subject. thanks :)




Dominant Christians

Ok, we all know one, don't we?  a DC - dominant Christian. You know, the ones who hog all the prayer time, speak out prophecy at every opportunity, can talk for hours on the subject of faith and what it means to them. To be fair, some of them are truly inspiring (and I know a few of them too), others just get up everyones noses, even though we try not to let it, because 'that would not be very Christian of us, would it?'

I have been struggling with some things that have been spoken to me and about me, prayed over me, or revealed to me, in prayer by a DC. I have felt pressured, condemned, have lost belief in myself in some areas. Last weekend I had a revelation (and I don't use that word lightly), when I realised through a series of events, that these things are just not true.

I actually felt like someone had lifted a weight off me when I realised what had happened. These things had been spoken over me and I had believed them, I had taken them in and accepted them.
I was reminded of the scriptures:

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat it's fruit. 
Proverbs 18:21


"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”  Mathew 12:36

When we are children we proudly chant 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me'. The thing is, that's just crap. Words really do have power, and when we speak them over someone, they really can cause damage. Particularly to the vulnerable. And especially if spoken by someone who seems to have authority. It's hard to disagree with a DC isn't it!?

We have to be so careful what we say to people. If one really feels they have a word that could be negative, then we have to weigh up so carefully how and if we should share it, not speak out all over the place, regardless of what damage may be done.


Monday, 10 October 2011

Kingfisher prayer


A friend of mine shared this with me and I rather like it, so now I'm sharing it with you...


Prayer is like watching for the Kingfisher.
All you can do is Be where he is likely to appear, and Wait.
Often, nothing much happens;
There is space, silence and Expectancy.
No visible sign, only the Knowledge that he's been there And may come again.
Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,
You have been prepared.
But sometimes, when you've almost Stopped expecting it,
A flash of brightness Gives encouragement.


"Disclosure", by Ann Lewin - 20th Century

Friday, 7 October 2011

Giving God TIME

Whats the most precious thing we can give God?

aside from ourselves, or perhaps in conjunction with it, I reckon it's 'time'.

I was in a meeting last night where we worshipped and then it just led into silence. And it felt so calm and still. I didn't feel like I had to say anything, I didn't feel awkward it was just so calming sitting in silence, before God.

And it made me think, that for most of us, the thing we lack most is time. Time to pray, to do the things we want to do, or to just 'be'. So, to give some of the precious little time we do have to God, is special. more than special it's one of the most important and valuable things we can do.


Thursday, 6 October 2011

So much hate, so little time..

I am really saddened as I write this. I just saw a tweet making fun of Westboro Baptist Church for annoucing that they will picket Steve Jobs funeral, tweeted using an iphone... That is bad enough, and indicitive of the hypocrisy at work within their organisation. However it is not that, that I found so bad - that is just quite funny. I followed the link out of curiosity and a few links later I arrive at a truly awful website.

My goodness if that website isn't the very pit of hell I don't know what is. Such vitriol and hatred. I cannot begin to descrie how I felt looking at the site, I mean I don't think I am naive but I am amazed that people would feel so happy with these kind of opinions that they would even put their names to it.
For example:

blank blank has no hope of heaven, and you know it. Yet, you refuse to tell him the truth and enable him in his sin. God Hates Fags and Fag-Enablers alike -- you are all worthy of death (hell). Read the words!

..and then I read lists of US soldiers funerals they are planning to picket, presumably simply because they were gay. These men have fought for their country and this is the reaction they get, pickets at their funeral? I am all in favour of free speech but surely this is illegal? Surely it is inciting hatred and potentially violence?

The Church in general has a lot to answer for, but this...? No wonder people get so angry with the church in general.

I just don't even know where to direct my anger with this, I expect it's not new to many of you, but I just cannot imagine how these people think that they are Christians and doing Gods work and yet be filled with such hatred. Regardless of what you think about homosexuality, God tells us to love. God is Love. How could a God of love be encourgaing people to such hatred and anger? Not my God that's for sure.

postnote:
I have removed the domain name of the website I found (above), after it was flagged up as blocked, but I did feel unsure about including it originally, as the last thing I wanted to do was publicise it.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Simple Pleasures


Since giving up my business and being at home more often I have really noticed the simple pleasures of life. I can't believe I spent so much time running around after other people that I missed these without batting an eye lid. What a shame it would have been to get to old age and only then realise what I had missed...

: Baking crumble with freshly picked bramleys
: Picking the bramleys out of a neighbours box, placed outside their gate ;)
: The smell of the air when rain is on it's way
: Cuddling up in bed with my littlest kids for story time
: Playing football in the park with no.2
: Watching no.2 in school matches (and being the loudest mum on the sidelines even though I hardly know what is going on!!)
: Sitting on my sofa in the middle of the day with a cuppa, my cat, and a bible
: Silence
: Going for a run in the woods in the daytime
: Looking for conkers
: Ironing (ok so thats weird but I have gone from hating it to actually finding it rather pleasing. Even made my hubby get me a new iron and board as I finally realised how rubbish the old ones were!)
: The smell of washing, dried on the outside line
: Taking a flask to the park, watching the kids play while I have my tea :)
: The fact that my house is tidy and there are not huge piles everywhere to be dealt with
: Having time to spend with friends
: My bed. I can appreciate it now as a place of rest and not insomnia (most of the time..)
: Doing my daughters hair in something other than a quick pony tail in the morning!
: Radio 2 breakfast show
: dreaming up colour schemes to redecorate the house

the list could go on...  I'm actually feeling rather lousy today with the start of a cold and needed to remind myself!


Monday, 3 October 2011

scripture vs women in ministry...

I
 wrote a few months ago about whether the bible is infalliable and it sparked much debate... It was an interesting discussion and made me think. However I still find myself in a sort of 'no mans land' on it. I had a very interesting discussion yesterday with some good friends which touched on it and made me think again. I think my problem is that I attend an evangelical church, but as it is CofE there are a huge range of attitudes within it. I am not immersed in one set of beliefs (which I think is good, of course). But it means I seem to be stuck in the middle. I cannot align myself with the conservative right because I feel called into ministry and therefore cannot accept the 1 Timothy passage about women, being absolute and final. I just can't. I know I have been called to this and it would not be my first choice of career move right now! So how can I accept that God is calling me to lead and minister within a church, and also accept that the bible is infalliable or inerrant? At the same time I am not liberal enough to be a real Anglican!

So then the next step is to look at what I believe about the bible. I believe it is the Word of God, but what am I saying? that it is Gods word, but we have to interpret it to understand what it says? that if we don't look at the context and social history of the time, who wrote it etc (hermeneutics I guess) that we cannot understand it? That seems rather arrogant and suggests that those who are not academically inclined cannot understand the bible. Which smacks of the upper classes preaching to the poor in the 'cheap seats' down the back doesn't it? harking back to, I don't know 200 years ago?

I totally believe the church has to move with the times. That if it doesn't relate to people in their own environment, or community, that people will deem it irrelevant. And the thing is, the bible and the church are still so relevant in todays society, but that doesn't always come across. So in that sense we have to interpret the bible according to our world, as it is today. And that, therefore, requires some thought, debate and putting it into context. Doesn't it? I'd be really interested to know how far right churches appeal to the people of today and yet still stick to the premise that the bible is absolute and final. Is that what produces the 'Stepford Christians' that we discussed in the last post?

Part of me wishes that I could just accept the bible as word for word, from God. Man, wouldn't it make my life easier. But then I don't think that's the way it is supposed to work. If it is the living word of God:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Then surely it must be allowed to 'work' in order to judge the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts, in order for it to penetrate our souls? If it were just a list of rules and regulations, then it wouldn't be working at all, it would just be involking guilt and condemnation, which are not of God (Romans 8:1).

So.... where do I stand? I still believe it is all Gods word and therefore cannot be wrong, (I cannot bring myself to believe that there might be mistakes in there!) but if it is open to interpretation then who says which interpretation is right?

My friend yesterday said that we have to accept that it will speak to us individually, for that one person. Which kind of suggests that maybe theologians should swallow their own theories! But I think maybe be has a point, because scripture can be taken in so many different ways, according to the 'lens' that we see it through. Something I read may mean something personal to me, but might mean something totally different to someone else.
Which is a bit tricky if you're going into minsitry and people come to you expecting answers, because I agree with him that one cannot put judgement or ones own interpretation onto someone else. Yes we can guide them, but surely if they have a relationship with Jesus, then he will speak to them individually. All we can do is guide, be supportive and help practically if need be. We cannot give people the answers they need, only God can do that, surely?


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Serving with Jesus on our hearts: todays talk

I preached this morning in the main service (for the first time.. eek!)... It was the culmination of a big 'project' - guided by God, where everyone laid down their team roles within the church and prayed about where God was asking them to serve. All very 'step of faith' stuff but very exciting! So today was the first Sunday in new teams and I was asked to do a 'fight them on th beaches' kind of talk.. not sure it was exactly that but God totally spoke to me about it. The passage was Acts 14: 8-18. So here it is:

Acts 14:8-18.

‘We too are only human’

Intro: Paul/Lystra/Gods - CONTEXT

I haven’t got long but I just want to start by putting this passage into context. Here we see Paul on his travels, along with Barnabas, visiting the Roman Town of Lystra, in what is present day turkey. Then, of course, it was part of the Roman Empire, (before it was Christianised) and the local religion was that of the Roman Gods, and had been for some years. In fact in this particular town there was a prominent legend featuring Zeus and Hermes, the Gods mentioned in this passage, who according to the story visited Lystra in disguise, but apart from one old couple no one recognized them. This couple were lavished with gifts from the Gods whilst the rest of the people were killed!

So whilst it may seem odd that to us, that the people here think they are Zeus & Hermes, actually it was probably a fairly natural reaction, these were Gods from their own religion, with a history in their town and what’s more they didn’t want to received the same fate as their predecessors! So it’s probably not as unusual as it sounds.

PAUL: bad press/ amazing man of  God

You know, Paul gets a bad press sometimes doesn’t he? But I just think he is such an amazing man of God. Bearing in mind where he came from, and he has given up everything, literally, to travel round sharing the Gospel. He is so sold out and passionate in his mission that he is persecuted, ridiculed and even, as we see later in this chapter, attacked and stoned.

So one can only begin to imagine how he felt when he realizes that the people here in Lystra, think that he and Barnabas are Gods. It must have been heart breaking. The Passage says that they tear their clothes, which is an ancient practice, used to express grief, sorrow or righteous indignation. In fact in one definition I read: a reaction to a calamitous event, in ‘righteous indignation’, an act of self humiliation. All of which I’m sure could be said of Paul here.

Paul wears his heart on his sleeve doesn’t he? His passion for Christ is so evident in all that we read of Him. He has his eyes firmly fixed on THE ONE, on Jesus. As he says, here, we are only human… we just have to do what God asks of us and let Him do the rest.


This CHURCH: CHALLENGING TIME

This last few weeks has been a pretty challenging time, I think, for this church. God has asked a lot of us, we have asked a lot of you! but I hope that throughout that, we have all, kept our eyes fixed on Him, on THE ONE.

Ultimately we did not know how it would go. We had a vision that God was asking us to do, and we could only do our part, we had to step out in faith – all of us – and let God do the rest. Because we are only human, if this was going to work, God had to be at the centre and we had to step out and let Him do His will. And he did.

I personally have been challenged through it all, thinking about what church is and why we come here, or anywhere, what do we need in order to worship God. At the beginning of this week, just as we were in limbo! I had an email from one of last years IBTI students  - James - who is now back in his home country – living in Kampala, Uganda.  He says:



‘God is doing great and amazing thing, I have started a new work planted one Church at the country side last Sunday and I have got home group in Kampala which will soon be started to a Church’

And he sent some pictures, and they are just of people worshipping in shacks mostly! On benches in some cases and he says the one thing they need is plastic chairs. That’s it!! Plastic chairs.

And as I was thinking about that I was reminded of a conference I went to earlier this year…

And to the opposite extreme, earlier this year I went to a Women’s conference run by a very large church organisation. The first thing I saw was all the branding. There were signs and logos everywhere. When we walked in we were registered on ipads by hundreds of glam looking stewards all dressed in black. My instant reaction was ok, what is all that about?! Aren’t we here to worship God? It was really hard to see past all that, to see past the exterior.

However, as soon as I stepped foot in the building I knew God was there. I could see him in everyone around me. The smiles, people looking out for each other, sharing food at lunchtime, women they had never met before, it was quite moving actually! Everyone involved was passionate about Jesus, in everything they did. About sharing Gods word. Not just on stage but in every aspect. God was there…



And so here we are looking at our church…


OUR CHURCH: REAL CHURCH, REAL PEOPLE…

So here we are. Looking at how our church is set up and run. And it is not about the branding, the coffee or the worship band. It is about Him. And it is about his we serve Him.

But God has shown us through this process that we are on the right track. And in having all this set up, we are creating an environment where we can help people to meet God.  So within that let’s serve God with a passion, with a heart for Him (like Paul).

When I was preparing this I felt God give me the phrase ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’.  And I don’t think he meant let’s all overcome our British stiff upper lip and start sharing our emotions all over the place … I mean in whatever way we can - so that while we carry Jesus in our hearts, it can be seen on the outside. That people can see within us, without us saying a word, that we are serving Christ. If we are welcoming people in, we’ll be doing it with a smile and with genuine care for that person, if we are working on kids team, we are doing it with a passion to see them know Jesus more, if we are on the new babyzone, we are looking out for people, maybe exhausted mothers, with compassion.



Let this church be a place where people don’t have to look past the ‘branding’ the exterior, because they can see God within it. 

What would we aspire to have people say about us as a church? Not that we have fantastic kids work, or an awesome worship band, or that we serve the best coffee around (all of which are of course true!) what I’d love people to say that when they visit this church, they see God. And that they see people serving with a heart of God.



People need Jesus…

I think I said this a few weeks ago, but hopefully most of us here, know what a difference God has made in our lives. There are people out there who don’t know what that feels like. They are lost, they are in need, some of them really truly in need, beyond what we could begin to imagine, and wouldn’t it be amazing if we could welcome some of them here, that they would see God here, that they would meet with him and have their lives transformed like we have. Let them not be confused about what we are doing here, like the people of Lystra, let them see Jesus!



WINESKIN:

James, when this whole process started, talked about Mathew 9 - creating a new wine skin.  (reading passage)

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”  

Maybe our wineskin had got a bit dry around the edges... So now here we are at the point of creating our new wine skin, and like anything if it is made with love, people will see that.

But it isn’t finished here. if God is going to our His spirit into the wine skin we are creating, if He is going to bring people here, we need to go on making it with love, polishing it, loving it, making it beautiful so that people can see God in that wineskin. And to trust that God will go on filling that wineskin.



This is a new season for this church, an exciting time. Really exciting! I can’t wait to see what God is going to pour into the wine skin we are creating!

So in that, let’s honour God and serve Him in whatever capacity, with love and with Jesus in our hearts (and on our sleeves!)



As James would say.. ‘is that alright?’…

Go serve Him!!