About Me

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The power of a word from God


So, I love to pray for people. It is an absolute privilege to be allowed into someone's life, to walk with them in prayer, in some cases for just a few minutes, others in an ongoing relationship. And something I find happening more and more is receiving words for people from God. 

Now I know the skeptical will say 'oh that's just your imagination', or 'you are just perceptive', however I don't believe that is the case. Words from God, often called 'words of knowledge', can be so specific that they speak right into the heart of someone's situation without any prior knowledge. It's great as an evangelistic 'tool' as to approach someone to speak about God they are more than likely to tell you where to go, but if you explain that you have something to share with them, and then speak into a situation they haven't told you about, then automatically they are more receptive.  And let's not forget, Jesus did just that with the woman at the well, in John 4:

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 
John 4:28-30

He told her everything she ever did and he had just met her...



So as I said this is happening more and more to me, and I find it so rewarding. One particular example happened when we were on holiday in France this summer. As a family we were eating outside in a restaurant when I felt drawn to a man sitting near us. Although there was nothing that really stood out about him I just had a sense of deep sadness over him and that was was in the military. I saw a brightly coloured band on the floor which was so bright it really stood out against the dark ground even though it was tiny, and God gave me the the actual word I had for him through that, which was was: that God had made him to be someone who stands out, who people look to for guidance. Often that is the way God speaks to me, through circumstantial things. So I told my husband I was going to talk to him (he's quite used to me doing this now so it wasn't strange that I was going to speak to another man!) and approached him. Now of course this isn't always easy, how do you tell someone you feel God has given you a message for them without sounding totally bonkers? and of course we were in France and I had no idea if he even spoke any english (and my French is pretty basic to say the least!). But in my experience, if God sends you to speak to someone then he will find a way... in this case the man was english so I needn't have worried!

So I went over and just said (this is my usual staring point) 'Hi, I wonder if I could talk to you for a minute, I know this sounds crazy but I am a Christian and so I believe in God and sometimes I feel that he gives me a word for people and I think I have something to share with you' - usually this is enough for people to at least hear me out! and as yet no one has told me to get lost... (famous last words!).

He was looking at me like I was a bit bonkers I have got to admit, so I very quickly gabbled off what I felt and was about to retreat, saying, 'if it doesn't mean anything to you, that's fine just forget I was here', but as I went to stand up he suddenly opened up, telling me that he was blown away. I am not going to go into all the details, but the short of it is that everything I said to him during that conversation was spot on and apparently absolutely perfect timing (funny that). We ended up chatting for some time (by which stage my husband had paid our bill and him and the kids were ready to go!) and I prayed with him before we left.

I haven't seen him since and I don't know anything more than his first name, and I don't know how what we talked about has impacted him or the decisions he had to make, but the thing I am absolutely certain of is that God sent me to talk to him that day. Not only that but he gave me exactly the right words, and I do mean exactly, he gave me enough detail to start the conversation but also guided me through it, revealing more to me as we chatted. 

Sometimes people need to meet with God and often that happens through us, if we are open enough and bold enough to be used by him. So often people are not interested in the church, or skeptical or even completely anti, but God is not the church (much as I love the church) and if we can enable people meeting him personally, then what a difference that makes. It cuts through the anxiety, the past experiences, the intellectually thought through arguments, and brings God right in front of them.

 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Storm Meets Jesus / Luke 8:22-25 // Talk 16/11/14 The Point Church



Talk from The Point Church, 16th Nov 2014. As always, these are from my notes so might not be exactly what I said but gives you the main message.

INTRO

I wonder how many of you feel like there is a storm in your life right now?

The thing about storms is they can vary so much can’t they, and our descriptions of them vary too. I mean this week we’ve had torrential rain! But a storm might include any number of things: Thunder, Lightening, Hail, Rain, wind. Could be a terrific thunder storm or it could be a howling wind or just a lot of rain. Storms can vary hugely. 
And it’s the same when we describe our own personal struggles, our own personal storms isn’t it. We might describe them in many ways, what it means to one person might mean something else to another. We might say we are struggling, we are stuck, we are suffering, we’re having a tough time or we are really going through it… So I wonder what you might say are the storms in your life right now?

xxxxx

So as I was prepping for this talk this week, and praying, I was really struck by the title. ‘The Storm Meets Jesus’ not ‘Jesus calms the storm’ as it appears in most bibles but The Storm Meets Jesus… You might think it’s not really any but you know when I was preparing I really felt it was significant. You see Will sets these titles months in advance usually, and when I was praying this week, I felt like God was saying it was prophetic – ie: from God – because that’s what he wants to do here today – that Jesus is going to meet us here and the storms that we face are going to meet Jesus. He wants to work through those storms today.
The difference really is that notion of meeting Jesus. It’s not just a process of calming or commanding or praying or declaring, the change happens when we, when our situations and, when people meet Jesus.
So I just had a real sense that that’s what God wants to do today, that he wants to not only meet with us, but meet with the things we are going through, the challenges we are facing, the storms we are stuck in. And by that I just mean, whatever you are facing right now. Whether you think it’s a gigantic squall or a little gentle wind, those storms are going to meet Jesus today.  Because look I can stand up here and tell you what I have learned about this passage, what I have prepared and prayed about yes, and that’s part of my role, but what is the point in me teaching on Jesus calming a storm if we don’t actually give him the opportunity to do it right here and right now. Right?!

So I am going to do a bit of teaching but then we are going to take some time and invite Jesus in to meet our storms. So is that ok?

xxxxx



So there’s really just two things I want to focus on here. One is Jesus (obviously! Kind of goes without saying) and the other is Faith. This passage highlights who Jesus is, but he also highlights the faith of the disciples, his followers.

So let’s start with Jesus. And I might get a bit theological but I hope it’s going to all make sense, just shout if it doesn’t ok!? Bit of audience participation is always good!

xxxxx


So when I read the bible, I love to really imagine myself in the story, in fact I really recommend it. Sometimes you can skim over passages without really understanding what they are all about and this I think is a classic example of that. It’s actually quite a simple story, basically Jesus performs a miracle. But there is so much more than that.
I did think about doing that this morning, dramatizing it but we haven’t got time ad I want to keep time to pray at the end, so why not go home and try it yourself! Prayerfully!

But in doing that myself one line really struck me: that ‘Jesus fell asleep’.  I mean he’s God, right, but he’s just there asleep in the boat? Doesn’t that seem a bit odd? Well one thing I have learned over time is that if something in the bible seems a bit odd then its probably saying something important. Well its all important obvs…

So here we go with the theology… so just keep that thought in your mind for a mo.

So this term at college we’ve spent some time looking at the Trinity and the Incarnation. So the Trinity – God is 3 parts – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And Incarnation – Jesus was incarnated, became Human, on earth,

So we believe, and we sometimes say or here we often sing The Creed – in the song:  ‘I believe in God the Father, I believe in Christ the Son, I believe in the Holy Spirit, Our God is three in one, in much of the Anglican church they declare it each week in the Nicene Creed.

One of the hardest things to get your head around is that Jesus is both fully God and fully human. We can’t separate out the bits that were human and the bits that were divine, so we cannot say that here the human bit is sleeping, then the Godly bit wakes up and calms the storm. He is both at all times. It’s a ‘paradox’  Which is part of the mystery of faith, part of the tension we have to hold on to in our faith. And it is something that has kept theologians and academics in work for years so don’t dwell on it too much!  But in relation to our passage here I think the very fact that we see Jesus asleep helps us to understand that he knows, I mean he truly knows, what it is like to be human, the bodily needs but also the emotional ones. He knows what it is to suffer or to be in pain, he knows what it is to be filled with joy and laughter and as we highlighted last week, with our Remembrance video – John 11:35. He knows what it is to mourn.  Jesus Wept.

He knows what it is like to be us, to be me, to be you. He knows.

xxxxx

But this passage gives us such a sharp contrast doesn’t it?! he’s asleep one minute and performing an amazing miracle the next!

But if we understand this, in his divinity… as God…. he doesn’t sleep.
He doesn’t leave us, he doesn’t sleep when we are in trouble, he’s right there in it with us. Just as he was on the boat. He hadn’t left, or abandoned them in their hour of need, he was right there with them. Just as he is always with each of us.

So. He’s human but he’s also God.

It is not an easy concept to get your head around… but I think its helpful for us to know that Jesus understands whatever it is we are going through.

xxxxxx

Atmosphere

Do you know that when Jesus is present the atmosphere changes?

So here’s the thing, do you know what happens when a storm forms? In a very basic form (and if there are any amateur meteorologists out there you can correct me - but not until I’ve finished ok!) a storm happens  when there are differences in atmospheric pressure coming together.

So when Jesus calms the storm, he is literally changing the atmosphere. And that’s what he does, when he comes, the atmosphere changes. Spiritually and physically, the atmosphere changes.

What the disciples realised that day that, we know already. Jesus is Lord over all.
I just love their reaction, I mean can you even begin to imagine what it must have been like? They are on the verge of drowning then Jesus just commands it all to stop – I mean we see in the passage, the disciples are like: who even is this? The wind and the water obey him – what is that all about?!

Well we now have the benefit of the bible and the bible tells us that Jesus is the Lord of creation, it is under his command. Colossians 1 says this of Jesus:


15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.


So that’s:
: The fullness of God dwells in Jesus.
: In Jesus all things hold together.
: All of creation is under his command.

If he can command the wind and the waves, what is there that he cannot do?


So we’ve got:
Jesus is human and knows what it is to be human, what we are going through, living with, but Jesus is also God, and Lord of all creation. Everything is under his command.

Xxxxx


So, we know who Jesus is, yes?

So then what about us? What’s our role?

Faith.

I love how when the disciples wake Jesus up, the passage just says ‘He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters… it’s just sounds so chilled out doesn’t it.  I’m not sure it was as simple as that, I mean when I wake up it takes about half an hour to get moving, and then I’m not even properly awake.
Not only that they were going to drown, the boat would have been lurching from side to side, rocking, filling up with water. And he just ‘gets up and calms the storm’. Now I don’t know about you but if I get woken up, I’m pretty grumpy about it. I don’t do waking up well. And I don’t know, but Jesus seems pretty grumpy here doesn’t he, I mean it is a bit harsh, the disciples obviously thought they were going to drown and he’s like ‘where is your faith?’. Well, derr, I mean I’m not sure how many of us could be in a situation like that and just be calm about it. What did he want them to do? They did actually call on him, they woke him, so what else did he expect them to do?


Well do you want to know what I think? Well I’m gonna tell you anyway….
I think the point here is that they even took their gaze off him at all.

Hebrews 12 tells us – ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.’

Faith is not just about believing in Jesus, it’s about being truly and utterly focussed on him, in all things, at all times in all places. In fact Hebrews 11:1 tells us that: faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Sometimes it isn’t even about believing, it’s about trusting. And there is a difference.

Listen we can spend all our time focussing on the things that distract us, whether they are little niggly things or great big boulders that block our view, they take our gaze off Jesus. I heard someone once say that even something as small as 1pcoin can blot out almost your whole view, if its right in front of your eye.
But if we get fixed on the stuff, on the rubbish, we shift our eyes from the one who is right there with us in it all.

Fix your eyes on Jesus. Focus on the truth.

If we focus on the storm, we will drift, we will be swept along by the tide, we will be tossed and turned by the waves.

I don’t know if any of you have ever danced but you know when you see dancers ballet dancers particularly, not sure if you will see it on Strictly! – perhaps ask Karen, she can tell you! – anyway when they do lots of spins on the spot, to stop themselves getting dizzy, or falling over or drifting, they keep they eyes fixed on a spot on the horizon, so if you watch they move their body but the head stays still and flicks at the last minute, keeping their eyes fixed on one spot…

So I think that’s why Jesus was asking them ‘where is your faith?’ because they were so focussed on the storm, I think they probably even forgot he was there. I mean how easy would that be, you can imagine it, they were probably all running around grabbing ropes, trying to slop the water out of the boat, or hanging on to something to avoid getting washed out of the boat. Would one man asleep in the corner be grabbing their attention.

But then we forget – they had travelled with Jesus, for weeks if not months, they have seen him do extraordinary things, healings, raise someone from the dead!! they have given up everything to follow him. And yet, here he almost withdraws slightly and at the first hurdle they panic!

Is that we do? Are we so fixed on Jesus, UNTIL something comes along to distract us?

You know that’s why things like discipleship, small groups, reading your bible and praying regularly are so important. We need to have Jesus and our faith so ingrained in us that when the proverbial hits the fan, we are still set firm on the rock of Jesus, So that in the midst of the storm, we can still fix our eyes on Jesus. That he can be our focus in all that we face
xxxx




So, here’s what you need to remember:

Jesus is fully human – he really knows what we are going through, from the every day stuff to the real challenges.
Jesus is fully God – He is Lord over all, nothing is too great for him, he even commands the wind and the waves. He can perform miracles.

And us – well we have to play our part. Where is our faith? We need to focus on him, fix our eyes on him, even in the midst of the storm.



Prayer:

 So I said at the beginning I really felt God wanted to meet us this morning, the storms are going to meet with Jesus. We should have plenty of time to pray.  Couple of things I want to say first:

Sometimes, especially in really challenging situations we can feel let down by God, we don’t understand why things happen, or why he doesn’t heal, or why he hasn’t answered our prayer. That’s ok. But this morning let’s focus on who he is. If you have a storm, or a challenge or a situation that you need help with, or you need healing, I encourage you to bring it before him. We can’t always understand, that is so hard, I know, but we can make a choice to fix our eyes on Jesus. So let’s try and do that this morning.

And secondly it’s ok to get angry with God. He wants to know you – all of you – the Psalms are full of David getting cross with God and then praising him all the same! You can be cross with God or not understand where he is or what he is doing, and still have your eyes fixed on him! So that’s ok… and hey if you need to shout at God this morning, this is a safe place! Go ahead!



  Followed by Prayer and ministry time...

Friday, 14 November 2014

Share the Hope



So for the second year running I am overseeing the Share the Hope Project which came out of an idea to 'reclaim Advent' from the craziness of Christmas prep that has swallowed it up. I mean let's face it, it's just the second week of November and we are well into the consumer hype aren't we? Christmas trees are up (and in my local supermarket it has been for weeks!), the dulcet tunes of tinny Christmas carols are filling our high street stores, the Tesco cracker hat is already adorning their logo, the Christmas ads are upon us (lovely though they are) and the dreaded conversations about who is 'having Auntie Marge this year' are once more upon us. 

I don't know about you, but from about September onwards, as hard as I try otherwise, my thoughts are drawn to Christmas. To the hosting, to the meal planning, to the presents, to the entertaining, to Christmas cards and decorations and so much more. It is so busy that by the time Christmas arrives I'm a bit fed up to be honest. Which is crazy isn't it? One of the most special times of the year, spiritually and otherwise, and we get too caught up in the preparation to enjoy it properly. If anyone does notice Advent it's usually just about the chocolate in the calendar (although at least now we can get some good Christian ones - plug here for the Real Advent Calendar...).  My kids love Advent as it's the only time of year they get to eat chocolate before Christmas!

So last year I came up with the idea of trying to encourage people to spend just a few minutes each day thinking about the hope that Advent is really all about. It is about preparation in a way, but not preparation for just one day, but preparing for the coming of a King.  And, so last year we launched Share the Hope, a sort of online Advent Calendar for the digital age, sharing a message of hope each day from 1-25 December (yes I know Advent starts on 30th November but we are going with the masses ok?). And I'm so excited that we are back for a second year! 

Just like a traditional advent calendar, each day will tell part of the Christmas story according to Scripture, but will have an added reflection on hope for people to think about. These have been given by a range of people across the wider Church, including Vicars & Pastors, an Arts Chaplain, an International blogger, a Charity director and the Bishop of Lewes to name just a few. It promises to give a really varied view of what Christian hope is all about and will hopefully encourage people away from the hectic Christmas preparation for just a few minutes!

So I encourage you to go and sign up! The reflections will be published daily and you can sign up to receive the daily doses of hope online at: www.sharethehopeuk.wordpress.com  or on Facebook: Facebook.com/Sharethehopeuk  & Twitter: @sharethehopeuk 



And don’t forget it’s all about sharing the hope, so get sharing and please help us spread the word by going and telling someone about it! Thank you :)

Monday, 3 November 2014

#CNMAC14 - Otherwise known as The Christian New Media Awards & Conference






It's funny how you can go to the same conference year after year and have such differing experiences. Well in this case actually it was only twice as circumstance had conspired against me in the past but I was very pleased to be at CNMAC14 this year in my second visit to the conference. The Christian New Media Awards & Conference run by Premier (which BTW seems to be taking over the digital Christian world - anyone else noticed that?!) is all about celebrating, promoting and encouraging the use of all things digital in the Christian world. Part conference, part awards ceremony it seems to attract a wide range of people from across the breadth of the church.

The theme this year was 'Transforming Church, Transforming Society' a title I could have written myself as I seem to be banging on about this theme rather a lot. Although I suspect that's more about 'being on trend' (hideous phrase that it is) in the church world, rather than any particular brilliance on my behalf or that of the organisers. Joking aside, it is a theme that is so important to the church right now (and I refer you to my previous post on the future of the CofE)...

This year I thought there was a much older age range of visitors to the conference which may of course be my own inaccurate observation, but I have to admit to a rather uncharitable chuckle at two older chaps in front of us struggling to take a selfie with their iPad... In all seriousness, though it is nice that it isn't just the young hip metrosexuals who are keen on the digital age, it is essential for the whole church to embrace this 'new' technology, not just a few. And I use the quotes as one of the repeated phrases this year was 'but is it new?' What we are talking about is not really that new anymore is it, it's becoming main stream. I mean the stats on the numbers of Facebook and Twitter users staggered even me, a seasoned Soc Med user and fan - there are literally billions! and not just that but social media is responsible for getting the real news out from places where journalists are banned, it enables charities to raise thousands of pounds with no overheads, and creates a form of communication for those who often cannot communicate. One of the best seminars I went to looked at the #ALSIceBucketChallenge and #AntiHomelessSpikes and looked at the way those hashtag 'campaigns' created such a stir. I was rather amused when one woman asked at the end what a hashtag was?! but again it made me think how good it is that people who don't 'get' the whole digital thing, can come to somewhere like this conference and ask those questions.

I have to admit though, the above example aside,  I'm not sure I made the best choice of seminars this year, which just goes to show that my Father-in-Laws old adage ' time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted' is one to remember at all times. In my defence, in advance I had looked at the list but then left my choices at home and arriving late at the conference I seemsed to run from one thing to another. However there were highlights of brilliance and challenge which I scribbled furiously into my journal. The seminars that perhaps were not the best choices, were not because they weren't good, just that I felt that it was telling me stuff I already knew, perhaps for next year a guide to each talk on level of competence/difficulty or experience might be helpful for the organisers to add. But then at the same time it's good to know that one is on the right track too.

One of the best things though this year, for me, was the networking. Pre-arranged get togethers via Twitter meant meeting up with old online friends and some new ones too, which was really lovely. I know there is an ongoing debate about whether the virtual world is 'real', but it was great to meet people who I know online, for real, as well as cement friendships with some I'd met before. 

I think one of the things that challenged me most was Pete Philips talk (from CODEC), the title of which I have already forgotten, but gave us a glimpse into the future of the digital world. In something that resembled the kind of world that we were warned the 21st Century would be, he posed the question 'are we already cyborgs?' taking about the evidence for the human race being one that adapts to every environment and talking of chips under ones skin and goodness knows what else. However, somewhat freakish as it was in parts, I love a good challenge and it really made me think, I am someone who calls herself a 'pioneer' and wants to be at the forefront of the church trying new things, but am I really at the forefront or just feeding off other peoples ideas? It's not good enough looking a few years ahead, we need to look decades ahead and plan for the kind of world we will be then. If we just face the challenges of now, what are we achieving? we will always be years behind! Again my memory fails me, but one of the speakers yesterday said that the church needs to be the forefront of invention/society/new things and in the past that was always the case. 300 years ago the church had oodles of money, with patrons who funded work in the arts, sciences and other areas, the newest ideas, inventions, the best artwork and sculpture was at the hands of and for the benefit of the church, well for the glory of God actually. So the thought I am left with is: Isn't it about time we got to the fore again?