Tag Archives: Faith

Poverty, Faith and Music

My local Methodist Church recently had the privilege of hosting a choir from Uganda they were the Abaana New Life Children’s Choir. The charity Abaana works to rehouse and educate impoverished children and families in Uganda and they do an amazing job. Ten families offered to host the choir of 30 and those hosts were inspired and touched by their experience.

It is the second time in recent months that I have been challenged by my experience with Africa, the first was Burundi (see on facebook) and now Uganda.  After a meal where there was an appeal for the Burundian Christian University I found myself sitting late at night and writing this message on Facebook.

Tonight I learnt about the poorest nation in the world and the brave work of the university www.bcu.edu.bi attempting to educate the next generation to build their broken nation. I find myself at 12:30am after a fundraising meal for all they do feeling ashamed of my ignorance and my privilege as a man living in Britain. 

I need to pray:

Forgive me God for my ignorance and guide me in my response to all I have heard tonight. Help me to do all I can for the others using the influence and resources that the Lord has given me. Amen- 

September 2016

Looking after the Abaana choir last month was a privilege and a wonder. Their appreciation of basic education (a right that you have to pay for in their country) was hugely challenging to me, as it’s something I fear we take for granted. IMG_2432

We were told of one of the choir, now in her early 20’s,  the Abaana Charity had given her the opportunity to go from primary education to university and become a social worker so she could give back too her choir and community, reinvesting in the community she came from.

IMG_2384

So what lessons can we learn?  That we don’t need the latest or the best, or most shiny and sumptuous. Hearing from people who hosted the choir children and their chaperones over that night, we hear how the children were delighted over seemingly small things or offers of generosity like being given a ‘onesie’ and jumping up and down with joy shouting over and over again ‘onsie, onesie, onesie’. I suspect to the Ugandan ear that word sounds funny and weird. There were stories of children delighting in loom bands, warm food and warm beds. Being just happy to sleep in a ‘safe place’ was the comment on a card from one of the girls we hosted.

I was again reminded of how difficult it would be for me to live with such bone gnawing poverty. Even more profoundly to live with that and find contentment, and know God in that place and actually, find joy in life.

Their faith in God rests not on some formulaic, ritualistic, routine, but it is living, real, and sustaining. It is part of their identity and existence it is more than, as someone put, a positive attitude.

Instead, it is something that shows and reminds people that God can be found in hunger and opulence, poverty and wealth. But it’s how we live out that faith that matters, how we express outwardly those values that truly makes a difference.

So what next, how is God calling us to use our resources for the benefit of others, how is he calling us to love our neighbour, even if that neighbour lives thousands of miles away? How I wonder is God answering the prayer I cried those 8 months ago:

Forgive me God for my ignorance and guide me in my response to all I have heard tonight. Help me to do all I can for the others using the influence and resources that the Lord has given me. Amen

New posts appear at godlifechurch 2nd and 4th weeks of the month. This Blog also links with the author’s photography website www.lobecphotography.com for more ispiring pictures and purchance prints do take a look.

 

Simple Powerful Hope

Hope

NOUN

  • A feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.

  • Grounds for believing that something good may happen. ‘he does see some hope for the future’

  • A feeling of trust.

Hope is a vessel where we place our desires, dreams and even our faith in God. It can appear vague, flimsy, incongruent and perhaps illogical. Yet living without hope is like peering into a black hole! Hopelessness is crippling, physically and psychologically. Hope, even the smallest kind against insurmountable odds or just existing in terrible conditions, gives life.

Yet exercising hope that is unrealistic can be crippling and destructive to the person. The best kind of hope is that which you consider to be possible. It is the scent you are following hoping that at the end of the journey you have begun you will find that hope realised. It could be as simple as your favourite dinner or something more meaningful, like social or political change.

Hope is both personal and corporate, it can be held by many or a few. Hope can be contrary to laws, you can have opposing hopes, one who would hope to harm you and one who would hope to survive.

Regardless what you hope in or for, it’s important to have a plan to see that hope fulfilled. The plan may or may not work! Yet looking back through the lens of hindsight the journey for hope can be as just as meaningful as the realisation of hope itself.

At key moments of the year such as getting ready for Christmas or Easter there is always a journey that is made. That journey defines the quality of hope, the emotional connection we have with that which is hoped for. In the journey we discover for ourselves how important that thing is, how much it means to us. Which in turn makes attaining or losing that hope more joyful or more painful.

At this kind of year especially I question my own sense of hope in the resurrection of Jesus and what it means for me, how it completely defines my life and work. How a decision when I was a rebellious, narrow-minded, conflicted, teenager set me on a path I still follow over 25 years later. How this hope has grown with me, and my understanding of this hope has deepened and reshaped my understanding of what God was doing all those thousands of years ago and today in the world. Because of that history it makes it easier for me to answer the question I conclude with:

Would I hold to this hope I have, if I was the only one hoping in all that Jesus offers through his death and resurrection?

I wonder what your answer is and why?

Have a great easter journey and a great Easter 2017.

 

The Tempters Question

Temptations give us a choice, by their nature they pose a question. That question is focused on our identity, our beliefs and our determination.

I used have difficulty with that idea that succumbing to temptations was nearly a choice. This is made especially hard for those who are afflicted with chemical based addictions. Their ‘choice’ is made all the harder, as they fight a battle with themselves!

The rational part of them says smoking is bad, drinking too much will kill them, having that affair will lead to the breakdown of their current relationship, looking at porn will degrade their value of men or women.  Yet as they say ‘the heart wants what the heart wants.’

The battleground of the heart

 

The difficulty is that succumbing to the temptation can be, at least for a while,  justified. That fleeting excitement, the adrenalin rush of living dangerously, or the satisfaction of quenching  their inner thirst for nicotine, alcohol, prescription drugs or whatever. The rational part of them doesn’t even get a look in. Their heart rejects all the facts and charts and knowledge. If temptation is a question, we should therefore answer it in a particular way. This could be, Who do I want to be tomorrow? The answer for most of us would say to be thin, alcohol-free, smoke-free. Most of us, I hope, if we paused and pondered wouldn’t want to put our health, wealth, family and the very lives and of those we love at risk.

 

Make a different choice for them rather than for yourself. But don’t go into the fight alone. 

 

No military general plans to go to war with one soldier with their gun. The General sends in many soldiers into the fight fully armed, marshalling all the forces he or she has at his disposal. So as you enter the fight against the tempters power, bring your troops, bring every weapon you have, and choose to not loose the war.

 

There may be skirmishes when you are overcome, but the war is still yours to win. I know the war is winnable not because of my army or my own strength, but because Jesus has already won his own struggle with temptations power. He has already told it to get lost and because of that, my hope remains strong, my guilt is passing because I am loved and I know some day my own war will be won.

Discarded and Dented

Discarded, dented, abandoned to the elements, not appearing to have any use. Yet it caught my eye, it somehow had its own beauty, that caused me to top consider it and take its photo.

It’s so easy to see the kettle the leaves the blurred bricks in the distance. In amongst all the starkness, and decay it’s easy to miss the green shoots around the base of the kettle. Even when all seems bleak there is still life, new fresh sometimes fragile life to be found.

If you feel like the kettle in the image today, look out for those shoots of new life, and take hold of them. Allow them to take you to somewhere new. Just because you might feel devalued there is always someone or who sees your value and knows your name.

 

 

www.glcphotography.co.uk

Shadow Of Love

The White Cup, the red heart, is perhaps one of those cute images of romance. Yet for some people the reality is a mere shadow of what was promised. I hope your valentines day lived up to the image you had in your mind.

Sometimes faith can be like that, the smiling people at church, the over joyful minister can sometimes hide a hidden reality. That life with or with out God can sometimes be a shadow of what might of been promised.

When those promises seem to have been broken we might want to walk away, or perhaps we stop trusting as much in God or people in general.

So when you hear stuff from the front of church, ask yourself did Jesus really say that? Fact check what you are hearing, discern if what you are listening too is in fact alternative facts!

Jesus never said all would be healed, or all would have incredible lives. He didn’t say it would not be hard at times. He did say he would be with you until the end of the age, that in him we can be fed, in him we can know life in all its fullness.

Perhaps I have become skeletal in my grand old age of 42, but as a people we need to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves, so that we can avoid the traps set by the cunningness of man. so that we keep travelling authentically with Jesus, that is sustaining, forgiving, loving and joyful.

 

Faith When it’s Subzero

Freezing Highland cow

 

 

 

 

 

 

December is here, this Highland cow was shot in subzero temperatures. It is standing in the sun thawing out after a long cold night, and he doesn’t look too impressed at having his picture taken. A reminder perhaps that in life so often, and behind the beauty of this shot as been a long cold and dark ni

A reminder perhaps that in life so often,  as in behind the beauty of this shot, life takes hard work. But it’s worth it to keep going, the sun always rises.

Prayer: God keep us going when the nights are long and cold that we may bask in your beautiful light. Amen

 

 

 

Were Has Jesus Gone?

When we listen to what’s happening in Syria, when we listen to the news stories of mayhem, shattered lives, broken people, communities and nations, you may well ask where is Jesus?  In the midst of church decline, gossip and back biting, we may ask where is Jesus?

The lyrics to the popular christian chorus, I’ve Found Jesus… I love this song, its an old chorus from my teenage years, that brings back memories of when I became a christian back in 1992!

Just for fun you might like to google the where’s Jesus book, its a cheesy version of where’s Wally!

We need to find the Jesus who is more real than words on the pages of Scripture, who is more then the one who raised the dead, healed the sick and rose again on the third day. We need to find a Jesus that is perhaps bigger than our religious proclamations from the pulpit.

For so many where is Jesus is not even a question that occurs to them! Jesus is some renegade from mythical times. Where is Jesus? Who cares, people today have a enough to think about, worry about and to be concerned about. For so many Jesus, never raised their dead, healed their sick, and probably didn’t raise from the dead. That may be the sentiment of people in church as well as outside.

If the church can’t find Jesus, then how can we expect others to find him, know him, listen to him. Perhaps a conversation and journey with the community needs to look at the historical Jesus, leaving to an up-to-date real living experience of Jesus. John Wesley would say of his discipleship groups that you could not tell a testimony, any longer than a week.

So how are you being in communication with Jesus this week?  How have you listened and what have you heard? Certainly the conversation is multifaceted, one of hearing with the spirit and heart as well as with the head, but that doesn’t make it any less real and living.

As we go about our business this week, as we encounter all that life has for us in the days to come,  where do we find Jesus?  From the warm comfort of church worship, to the hardest days where all it seems to do his rain trouble down on you, where do you find Jesus?

If we are really serious about this relationship with Jesus being real and living, let it be more than soundbites and glib phrases. Lets journey with the idea that it is living and real. Listen once again to the stories of Jesus in scripture, and look for what God might be doing in your life and the lives of others. Encounter Jesus in your own discipleship and walk, as well as through the kindness, grace and love of others.

So when we look at the broken world around us, it might not seem so broken, we as a church might hear with fresh understanding, Jesus calling out to us, to go, to be, to do. To become the body of Christ that feeds the least of these, because they’re feeding Jesus, that comforts the most broken because we’re comforting Jesus, who bring healing to hopeless situations, because in doing so like so many actions we might conceive, we are doing it to and for Jesus.

Have a good week.

Listening For God in your Life

When considering what God wants you to do, how you might be used to further the Kingdom of God, we must think about listening to God.  It may seem obvious and perhaps it is at first glance, but listening to anyone is a challenge at times. it takes attentiveness, quietness as well as speaking.

People have been listening to God for centuries and God seems to tell people all kinds of things, from the deranged to inspired and all the shades in between. Understanding how God speaks and what God might say is important for us to have perspective on the nature and personality of the one we follow.

If for a moment we step back from the stories in scripture and instead look at the vista, the overview of what it tells us, what do we see? We see a big picture of God’s action in various kinds of interaction with people?  With you and I? There are some things about being in and outside God’s kingdom.  There is a need to share the message, to all, believer or not, there is a need to liberate humanity and challenge oppression.

So when we are acting on Gods command in what ways does that offer hope, liberation, and challenge? Or perhaps in the words of Jesus, how does what we hear lead us to love our neighbour more?

When we are tuning into God’s broadcast, let’s fact check it, so that there is more of God and less of us, less of our agenda.  If when we walk with God we think He agrees with us 90% of the time, it may be time to check how well we are listening.

When we listen to people, being attentive is so important, it enhances the back and forth of the conversation, it shows we care about their opinion. It is too easy for our heavenly communications to become one sided.

When we speak to God let’s take the time to be attentive to what we might be listening too, not just to fact check, but listen in a way that deepens our walk with God and ultimately increases our faith in God.

So how we listen is important.  I expect God sounds different to all of us, perhaps he sounds like a man, women or child. How God sounds is influenced also by how we view God, either as a friend or benevolent dictator.  Our image of God affects how we listen. In the same way, I listen to a policeman differently than that of my own child or my wife.  (Though she may question if I listen at all lol!)

We know that God is omnipresent, in every moment, where you are is a moment of potential interaction with God, a point of communication. God may communicate to you audibly, or situationally, or in a myriad of ways. Let us be open in our conversations with God for God to speak to us in whatever way works.  That means we hear properly what he is calling us towards when we are unfiltered by our agenda.

The Church Isn’t In Decline

The church is not in decline if you are talking about evangelical, modern churches such as the vineyard network and some fresh expressions of church, though some would say they are just benefiting from the shift away from traditional church structures.

Facing the truthfulness of church decline is tough, and not at all pleasant. It causes us to wonder about Gods faithfulness, and even our own sense of call is brought into question. Articles around church decline can make for pretty depressing reading.

I tell a story sometimes in church about a boy, a sand pit and a rock. In the boy’s sand pit there is a big rock, which the little boy doesn’t want. So the boy tries to get rid of the rock, he shoves it in every way imaginable, but it doesn’t move. Finally after some time, he sits defeated, the rock is still there. The boys chin wobbles a little and then big tears begin rolling down his cheeks.

His Dad had been watching to this point and runs over picks up his son and hugs him close. The little boy tries to explain through tearful gasps what he was trying to do, and his dad replies:

“You didn’t use all your strength.”

his son responds, telling his dad how hard he tried. His dad gently replies, “you didn’t use me.”

The Church is in decline, and we can’t find the solutions alone, like the kid in the sandpit, who had to face the reality he needed help. The sooner we face our reality, the sooner we can do something about it. The church in the uk numerically is in a free fall at the moment and has been for years, the  collective numbers of decline hides where growth is happening, and it is in scattered places. Mid weeks, messy churches and such are proving that there is still an appetite for spiritual engagement in our country.

“Cancer patient who chose road trip over chemotherapy dies aged 91” 39164c3800000578-0-image-a-87_1475583459836

Like Norma Bauerschmidt we need to be brave, we need to at some level accept the reality of our situation and then be willing to do something about it. She made the best of her situation by going out into the world. We must do the same, rather than retreating into our enclaves, huddled together waiting for the inevitable, now is the time to listen to God anew, learn from others and grow.

If we know of churches who are experiencing growth numerically and spiritually. Why not put our pride to one side and take the time to learn from them. We must see such places not as threats against our survival, but rather, as places of teaching and learning. That we might draw into our own context, wisdom and fresh focus. Such places become like teaching hospitals, helping us serve the living God and the needs of others.

There is of course the chance it is time for some congregations to reform as something new. I have been involved in leading two such communities. The building might have gone, but the worshipers didn’t. The structures of that church life, might have passed into history, but God leading his people hasn’t. There has been and will be still more to experience and do in the will of God, wherever the Lord has moved you too.

Be brave, as God calls us to new places or new ways of being church together. Be brave, acknowledging or own desire to hold on tightly to the comfort blanket of the past, instead rejoicing in what was, we step into what is new. Holding the hand of our heavenly parent who was, who is and who will always be.

The Church maybe in decline, may our efforts cause it to slow and turn around. Not because we love church but because we are listening and loving God, who doesn’t leave, or disappoint.

Lets get to it.

Keeping Faith: With the World

How we act as people is influenced to a greater or lesser extend by the expectations, of society, family or even our employer.

So understanding what the world outside our church doors, and stain-glass windows should be of importance. Keeping faith with the world means understanding its expectations. Means that we should resists isolationism and seeks better engagement and understanding.

Called To be Hermits?

It maybe that the lord has called you to the life of a hermit or to closed religious orders. If God has, you have my admiration.  Yet for many more that is not what the Lord is calling us too. Instead God is calling us to create a church that is  a place for rest, reflection and healing. A stopping place on your journey, or somewhere you regularly visit, like a bench with a particular view that lifts your spirit, and offers light into your life.

How we Engage

The bible calls us ambassadors for christ, and that is what individually and collectively we are.

ambassador noun: ambassador; plural noun: ambassadors

1 an accredited diplomat sent by a state as its permanent representative in a foreign country.”the French ambassador to Portugal” 2 synonyms: 3 envoy, diplomat, ambassador extraordinary, ambassador plenipotentiary, plenipotentiary, consul, attaché, chargé d’affaires, emissary, legate, (papal) nuncio, representative, deputy;

Building on this definition, whilst we have the agenda of the kingdom, and are emissaries of Christ, we are in a foreign land and therefore treat that land with honour and respect, engaging with it carefully, prayerfully and lovingly.

How to be an ambassador

An ex British diplomat wrote in his blog that, “One of the arts of diplomacy is to find solutions to problems that depend not on trust but on (mutual) interest” this is quite a provocative statement about working in a foreign land from a blog about ambassador training.

What we might take from it for our missional context, is the importance of engagement, even if we are not sure or who we are working with. Instead we come together for a common good and purpose to build something bigger than ourselves.

The stories or parables Jesus tells are ways people can connect with what the kingdom of God is about. Jesus is the embodiment of the living God, the fullness of the coming Kingdom.

In our engagement let’s remember we are in a foreign land, not in some super spiritual, theologically narrow way, but one that reminds us to take care. Like we do if we are on holiday somewhere  abroad, we carefully listen and try to communicate, we may even try to learn some of their language, but we are careful in how we handle ourselves not wanting to inadvertently offend or be misunderstood.

Yet be confident in who you are and what the Lord is calling you to be. Be assured of in whose name you stand, in whose ways you are living out your life. Just as the ambassador to the UK has the backing of the Queen, you and I have the backing and support of the King of the universe.

A parting thought

As we keep faith with the world, in all of its diversity let’s be relevant up-to-date, kind, loving and embody all that it means to be a citizen of heaven. In what we do, let’s offer hope, not ridicule, challenge corruption, and the demeaning of the other. Live full and brilliant lives in the light and love of the one who puts air in our lungs and knows the number of beats our hearts will make today.

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