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Saturday, 29 June 2013

Unity in the Church and avoiding Twitter spats...

So I've been thinking this week about what it means to witness for our faith.  We are called to preach the gospel, to show the love of Christ and be Jesus to those around us. Most of us choose to do this in different ways and this is good. God has gifted us all in different ways and through those different gifts we have the ability to reach all people. 

One thing that annoys me about Christian circles is the labelling of people, for example, liberals, evangelicals, conservative evangelicals, charismatics, Anglo-Catholics, theologians, social commentators, and so on... It annoys me because these are just labels, they don't tell you anything about the person themself. On top of that they can be totally misleading, if I describe someone as an Anglo-catholic, that description comes with a set of assumptions about what they believe, how they practice their faith and how they are likely to feel about certain situations or theological view points. Those assumptions are often complete rubbish. As just one example, when I felt called into ministry the first person I spoke to is someone who has regularly been described as an Anglo-Catholic. As a more charismatic believer I assumed a lot about what his reaction would be. In fact I was completely and utterly wrong, he was incredibly encouraging and made no mention of the fact that I was a woman or a charismatic evangelical. In fact it was he who first put me on the road to Ordination.

So why am I going in to all this? Well it's twofold. Firstly because the worldwide church is so broad and vast that it takes in many different viewpoints, theological issues and denominations and yet we are all united in our love of one God. Secondly because as Christians in this vastly differing melee of views and standpoints, we are all representing that God who unites us, to the world at large.

Someone once told me a quote which was attributed to John Wimber, and I've got to be honest I can't find any evidence of that, but it was along the lines of:

You've got to love the whole church, from the smells and bells to the weird and wacky. It's all God's church and who am I to decide which bit is getting it right?

Now as I said I don't know for sure it was Wimber who said it but I do know that it's a great quote! It speaks of unity, and love of God, and of his church. I remind myself of this often, when I am frustrated with a particular part of the church or a particular belief. The truth is if we are going to reach the world with the Gospel we are going to need many different ways of doing it.

So often we see different areas of the church and different people within it getting annoyed with each other publicly. Different ideas are good and debate is certainly healthy but I would really love to see this done in a more loving way. If I find myself speaking to someone holding a different view point to mine I want to find out more - I mean what if they are right and I'm not?! I don't often change my mind on these things but I do like to be challenged because then I find, you can be sure of what you believe, if it has been questioned and yet you are still standing in the same place then your belief becomes stronger.

I admit it, I do like to be challenged, I like a good debate and I hope that I come across as loving in my questions and not arrogant. So I would always encourage others to do the same, to discuss differing views, to look at opposing ideas, but to do so with love and understanding. I have found on several occasions recently Christians in the public eye being less than loving towards one another in the public arena. If you don't agree with each other that's fine, but have some respect for each others position and don't forget that if God has put you in the public eye you can be sure people will be watching closely. The bible says that those in ministry will be judged more harshly and that's a tough calling, and I know many of us make mistakes, after all being a Christian or a leader does not make you perfect, but we just need be aware of who is watching. The church gets slated in the media, especially over anything that divides it, and we have a responsibility to avoid that wherever possible, not add to it.

I love social media, but so often we can be tempted to fire off something online as a response to a problem or personal situation when really our first response should be to seek God, pray and see what the bible says. Many times I have heard the phrase ' and she calls herself a Christian' or 'I thought you were a Christian'. Hardly a good witness is it...

As Christians we all have a responsibility to be salt and light to this world wherever we can, we have a responsibility to walk Gods line and not that of the world, we have a responsibility to show the world that there can be another way to respond. And yes, of course, sometimes we will get it wrong but let's try and make those times as few and far between, as possible.  Let's turn to the bible before responding out of frustration or anger, let's put love first rather than taking offence.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Haiti Week Update

So we launched the charity! Hurrah! It was a great day last week at my daughter's school, dubbed 'Haiti day', the kids dressed in red and blue, we ate rice & beans, there was of course tea & cake, the Haitian flag was raised and shock horror, the sun shone!

Yvrose spoke so powerfully about life at Hope House and I know many were really touched by what she shared.  You can find out more on the blog here... so I won't write the same info all over again, but do check it out and if you want to know more or be kept updated with a monthly email newsletter, just send an email to: info@hopehousehaiti.com with 'subscribe' in the subject line and we'll add you to the list...

Our amazing banner donated by our friends at Forest Litho
Yvrose & our Chairman Leandra

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Jesus is THE WAY... talk 160613

Here's my notes from this mornings preach on 'The Way' for anyone who is interested!

John 14:1-14 ‘The Way’

So the background to this passage, Will has spoken about the last few weeks but just to refresh our minds. These few chapters happen right before Jesus death, in fact scripture indicates it is the night right before he died.  Jesus is about to go to his death. He knows it. The disciples know something is up if not what exactly... 

At the end of the last weeks passage, Jesus has just told Peter that he will disown him 3 times.  He has just told the disciples he is going away, and more than that he has predicted that one of them will betray him.

One can only imagine the atmosphere in that room. Anxiety, fear, the unknown. As a group these guys have been traveling with Jesus for around 3 years. They have known he is the Messiah. But even so they have had to learn so much on the way. Jesus has TAUGHT them, he’s CORRECTED them, he’s LOVED them, he’s SERVED them, and what’s more he has LED them in every way, and here they are staring really, into the complete unknown. 

I think it’s pretty clear they don’t really understand what is actually about to happen. Even though he has told them the truth, that one of them will betray him, that he will die, that things are about to change, they don’t really get it do it.
and on top of that Jerusalem is hardly a stable place at this time, there is so much unrest, concern over the governing forces, people fighting back against it,  and to be honest Jesus has really been adding to that, hasn’t he and yet now, he’s told them he will be leaving them.

So we start our passage today with Jesus saying don’t worry!

Jesus Comforts His Disciples
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

So this passage is abut Jesus comforting them, reassuring them. Here he says to them, don’t worry! I think that maybe he sensed the atmosphere in the room. You know sometimes  you can be in that situation, maybe excited about something or engrossed in talking about it when you look up and have a moment of realisation that maybe people haven’t understood you, or people look concerned. Perhaps thats what happens here because he seems to change tack doesn’t he, from the previous Chapter were he’s telling them the truth of what is going to happen, to now reassuring them.  He says:
do not let your hearts be troubled’  trust in God. My Fathers house has many rooms... you know the way...

and yet we still we see them almost answering him back almost, ‘but how we can know the way?” what do you mean?  show us the Father..

Clearly still much confusion amongst the disciples. I love the disciples, they are there with Jesus. Actually with him, they are seeing him first hand performing miracles, they themselves are performing miracles and yet they just don’t always get it. Sometimes they come across like these amazing characters for leaving everything and following Jesus, such an example, and other times they just seem a bit dense, don’t they! 

But they are just like us, even though they were physically with him. We learn from Jesus just as they did, sometimes we walk in amazing confidence and other times we are a bit slow aren’t we? we forget, we doubt, we misunderstand. I just love the disciples, and I love the fact that the bible shows us that they got it wrong sometimes, well quite a lot, because we can learn so much from them can’t we?

But I really want to focus on one line from this passage today. It contains one of the most often quoted lines of scripture:

‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.

such an often quoted line. And it can seem so simple can’t it, but yet to the disciples it’s not enough! 

I love that little conversation between Thomas and Jesus: Thomas says: ‘but how can we know the way?’ Jesus is like ‘ ‘hello’ its me, I, me, standing right in front of you. I AM the way!... and not just the way but the truth, and the life too...

what does it mean that Jesus is ‘THE way’, the only way to the Father?

Well to start it’s probably one of the most defining arguments for the importance of Jesus isn’t it? He says, No one comes to the Father, except through me.
So often people who don’t know Jesus will say, well there’s many ways to God, or My God is in nature, or My God is in energy, or well, I believe God can be reached through all faiths... there’s lots of things people say aren’t there? But. NO! The bible says right here that the only way to God, to the Father is through the son - Jesus. 
Some of the staff went to HTB leadership conference recently and one of the speakers, PATRICK LENCIONI talked about this in relation to our current society, he talked about the concept of moral relativism, which is a really interesting concept if you have time to read up on it or listen to his talk via the HTB website, but he was talking about how in our society people invent God in their own image, rather than the other way around and how dangerous that is, because we have no authority or governing morals if you like, except the ones we have invented. Like you make up your own God, to guide you in your own life you have chosen for yourself.
Well for us, it’s quite clear here isn’t it - Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father.So we know that you cannot get to heaven, you cannot get to the Father, except through Jesus. 
And that can be quite hard to take on sometimes can’t it?. So often people say ‘well I think I’ve lived a good life, I’ve done my bit for charity, or I’ve done right by people, or I’ve not done anything wrong, I think I’ll get to heaven, but the bible says otherwise and that’s really hard to actually deal with.
loved ones who aren’t saved? perhaps we even know of people who have passed away who, as far as you know did not know Jesus. 
We don’t really want to have to face that do we? It’s not a nice thing to have to consider, what if they didn’t know him. And of course there is so much we don’t know. People can make decisions on their deathbeds we might not know about - the bible says the Kingdom of heaven is for everyone whether they sign up at the beginning or at the very end - parable of working in the fields and they all get paid the same. truth is, we won’t know for sure what exactly happens when we die, but we can be sure of our salvation in Jesus.
It’s a tough one, but the bible is pretty clear about the way to get there, and I don’t think we should shy away from it. 
and in one way it’s a very simple thing to follow - Jesus is the way to the Father so we follow him. But actually what does that actually mean?
The word ‘way’ has so many different meanings.  
I love words and text, fonts etc I guess I’m a bit of a geek like that, you know I love where words are derived from, meaning, translation, etc. I love a good thesaurus! So in this context we automatically assume we know what it means to say “Jesus is the way", he’s the route we follow, the route/way to the Father. 

But have you ever thought about how many ‘ways’ you can use the word way? and I want to look at some of those further because I think that little word “way” means so much more than we give it credit...

For example:

A road, route: highway/freeway/railway

An opening: a doorway

Opportunity to Advance: the way to proceed...

Behaviour/conduct: his way of doing things.

Freedom to do as one wishes: if I had my way... how often do we say that!

State or condition - John’s in a bad way...

that’s just a few...!

If we are to follow Jesus as the way to the Father, that means in all areas of our lives... all consuming, in all ‘ways’, it’s not just a simple journey from A to B.

So lets look at a few of those meanings to expand that a bit further...

Way: Road/path
We are travelers on a journey, there’s no doubt about it. But on a journey in our daily lives, a trip is rarely just about going from place A to place B is it? There is preparation, how are we traveling, in what mode of transport? how long is the journey,  etc. So there is preparation and research , if it’s  along journey. And if it’s a long journey (which our journey the Father probably is!)  there might be things to do on the way. Stops to make, people you come into contact with, food to eat. Things happen on a journey. We see new things etc

And there are ‘ways’ to make a journey. You can choose to get a sleeper train and sleep through your trip, arriving in your destination as you wake up. But you’ve missed all there is to see and do on the way. A journey is an opportunity isn’t it?

Way: An opening/ eg. a doorway, the way in,  so Jesus is the road, the path we follow but he’s also the doorway, in fact the bible talks about exactly that - Rev 3:20
 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
that means so much more than us just opening the door to Jesus, it means literally inviting him into our lives, being fed by him, spending time with him.
Just think for a minute how often in your day you go through a doorway. It must be hundreds, right?  I don’t want to be silly about this but for example: to get into this hall today you have gone through at least 4 sets of doors. If you went to the loo that’s about 8 (2 doors in and out!) if you’ve taken the kids out add on 4 more.
So imagine those doors as opportunities that Jesus is giving us. Does Jesus act like a doorway to us as often as that? He is the entry point to so many situations
Way: An opportunity to advance: the way to proceed or the way is clear to proceed
Jesus should be our way to proceed ahead. Are we proceeding in our faith or stagnating? Are we sitting here waiting for God to do something, waiting for him to talk to us? or are we proceeding in Jesus, moving forward.
It’s so easy to go through the motions isn’t it? Your car engine can be running, you can even put your foot on the accelerator and make the engine race, but you can’t move forward unless you put it into gear and take off the break. Are you just sitting on the driveway waiting for a tow?
Way: as Behaviour or conduct: we might talk about ‘that’s his way of doing things’ or that’s just her way, that’s what she’s like.
So, is our ‘way of doing things’ Jesus’ way? Jesus is the way.... Can we say we conduct ourselves in the way he did? Of course that is the goal isn’t it? to be more like Jesus every day? and yes I’m sure we all fail, well in my case daily sometimes! but we try don’t we? try to be like Jesus. the old phrase WWJD? What would Jesus do? cliche maybe but perhaps we should ask ourselves that more often?
Way as Freedom: eg ‘if I had my way....’
Come on how many of have said that, well if I had my way, they’d drop the price of those, or if I had my way you’d be in detention, if I had my way those curtains would be blue...
We get that freedom in Christ. It’s not if I had my way, but if I had Christ’s way... and there’s no if about it! 

Is our WAY of life, all encompassing. are all aspects of out life lived out in a ‘way’ for Jesus ?? IS HE OUR WAY?


The Way to the Father. So when Jesus talks about the way to the father, it’s not just a simple journey, it is every aspect of that journey. The sights we see on the way, the way we drive. or walk, or travel. It’s the smells, it’s the flat tyre or the late train, it’s the filling up with fuel, the stop for lunch, it’s our traveling companions and the people we meet on the way.
So if we take all of this on board, when we look at Jesus, all of him, everything he does, the way he does things as our guide, then when he talks of the destination, OF THE FATHER it seems clearer doesn’t it? Because actually it’s not just about the destination, it’s about how we get there too. And in the journey we see the destination, its signposted all the way. As Jesus says, in him we see the Father.
So often when people talk about taking a significant journey, or possibly a pilgrimage, they say things like, well it turned out it was all about the journey  or that the destination is in the journey...
The disciples ask to see the Father - the destination if you like - and Jesus says  I am in the Father and the Father is in me.... the destination is there and apparent in the journey.
is this making sense? 
and I think JESUS makes it even more clear because he tells the disciples they need to continue what he has been doing - he says, they will do even greater things, because he is going to the father. Their journey, their way is not yet done...
The Message version puts it like this:
The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it...
So because he is going away, he’s reached the destination if you like, he’s giving us the work to do that still needs to be done. The same work he has done. So we are doing all that Jesus has done and would have done - his work continues through us. 
So actually he’s saying we have a job to do on our journey. We are not just traveling on this road to a destination we have stuff to do on the way. we’re not starting in Brighton and following the A23, the M23, the M25, then the M1 and to get t our destination as quick as we can. No we’re going to stop on the way, see the sights, work a little, have a bite to eat.... And it takes time. we don’t get from Brighton to Glasgow in 5 minutes....
It’s a bit like this... you get a new job. The person who did your job before you was the son of the Boss, the guy who set up the company, right? But the son has now gone to be on the board of directors with his Father. So he doesn’t do the daily work, he has delegated that to you, and trained you in how to do it, in your job, which you took over from him. 
Now it happens that you’re not the only one doing that job there are actually lots of people in the same position, with the same role but each one has slightly different job descriptions. does that make sense? And you know that one day, the option is there for you to be on the board too with the Boss and his son. So how are you doing in your job? what is your job description? How are you making your way along the road?
I’ve been reading this week about a pilgrimage that many people take along the Camino de Santiago in Spain (or The way of St. James). During Medieval times it was one of the most significant christian pilgrimages that could be undertaken. It’s a passage some 800km long across France and Spain to the church of Santiago de Compostela where it is believed that St James is buried.
Thousands of pilgrims make this journey every year, some traveling longer portions of it than others. People take the journey for all sorts of reasons, spiritually, personal health, marriage problems, mid life crisis etc etc
They say everyone is seeking something on their journey whatever their reason for undertaking it. Well for us, OUR pilgrimage is seeking Jesus in all we do, not just as a destination, but as the journey, as the pilgrimage.
On the camino people say to each other ‘buen camino’, which i a literal translation means ‘good road’, but we would probably say ‘have a good journey’ . But on the camino it means so much more, it’s a greeting, locals say it to pilgrims passing through, it’s an encouragement to those struggling ‘buen camino’ keep going, be encouraged, it’s an invitation, to undertake all the journey has for the traveller, it’s a prayer, be blessed on your journey, it’s so much more than just have a nice trip!
And just like that there is so much more to following Jesus as our way than just having a good journey...
Every aspect of the journey is revealing the destination, both to us and through us.
So I guess I want to encourage you all today to have a ‘buen camino’ and whether you are right at the beginning, half way through and weary or maybe even nearing the end of your journey, don’t waste a moment or an opportunity. Live it all with Jesus as the way...

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Haiti Week Part 2

Just a very short post to say 'we've launched the website'!! check it out here...

So excited this is becoming a reality. The website is pretty basic at the mo but gives you an idea of what we're all about and we'll add more as we go along...

Friday, 7 June 2013

Haiti Week

So this week I'm going to try and post a bit about Haiti. On Thursday we are launching a new charity called 'Hope House Haiti (UK)' to support Hope House Orphanage & School in rural Haiti. Here's a bit of background...

On January 12, 2010, Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake, with a death toll estimated at 220,000. The capital city, Port-au-Prince, was effectively levelled. A million Haitians
were left homeless, and hundreds of thousands are hungry. 

Three years on there has been little visible progress. Much of the rubble remains in Port-au-Prince, and a lot of the money initially given in aid to Haiti never reached the people who needed it the most. Hundreds of thousands still live in make-shift camps, unemployment is ridiculously high, and most children are denied their most basic childhood needs.

Yvrose, Pierre Richard and their family of orphans
In the aftermath of the earthquake, with so many displaced people, Yvrose, a Haitian born teacher, and her husband Pierre-Richard, set about trying to reunite displaced and orphaned children with members of their families. When all avenues were exhausted, they looked after the children themselves and set up an orphanage currently offering a safe and loving family environment for over twenty children aged from a few months to teenagers.

Initially they lived in a tent and later a one roomed house. They had no water, sanitation or electricity. Two years ago the organisation ‘Victory Compassion’ provided them with 3 small metal prefab buildings and they now have an indoor kitchen, where school meals are also cooked.

Many of the children they look after are siblings but each child has their own story of  past neglect or such great a desire for education that they suffered great hardship just to get to school, some walk hours to get there, sleep in the fields during the week and go without food. Yvrose and Pierre Richard live by faith, trusting God for all their needs.

Part of the Hope House site.
They have also established a school in their remote region at the foot of the mountains, which is aimed at the poorest children in the community, offering a free education and a meal for each child – often the only meal the children get that day. There are now around 260 children attending the school each day. They employ 11 teachers, 1 director and an administrator, plus school cooks and a care taker at the school. 

Initially the school met in tents but they deteriorated in the sun and hurricanes left them no longer usable. They are now housed in an open sided , metal framed barn type building.  Donors from England kindly purchased wood last year and Pierre Richard taught the older boys how to make the wooden benches as previously the children sat on rocks and concrete blocks. 
Inside the school building

I have friends who have been out to Hope House and seen for themselves how little the children have, their stories are heart breaking. Even the basic of needs are luxuries there. I am delighted to be part of the new charity supporting Hope House and I pray that God will use us to bless them abundantly...

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Immigration Mathematics

So, a friend of mine posted this on Facebook and I think it's brilliant. A clever and unique rebuff to some of those who are so fond of the 'traditional England', 'the way it used to be England', and quite good timing bearing in mind some of the activity of the EDL lately... Sorry if you find some of the words offensive but she's making a point and actually she's just quoting others anyway...

You can find out more about her here...

H/T to my friend Phoebe for sharing this.