Tag Archives: Jesus

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.

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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.

 

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.

 

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.

Keeping Faith: In Brokenness

Twenty three years ago my family were burgled and then again 15 years ago while on a year out mission all my computer gear got stolen while I was working for the church. This had a profound effect on me, one that I still struggle with today.  I laughingly call it my ‘bit of crazy’. I know this is not very politically correct, but it helps me acknowledge that sometimes my thinking and fearful thoughts are just crazy and I should not give them airtime in my head; instead I need to get some perspective.

We all have a level of brokenness. Mine is small compared to proper mental health issues, but we all carry a burden of some sort or another.

Sometimes the church can be amazing when dealing with people who are broken and sometimes shockingly bad, offering glib answers such as ‘it will be ok’ or ‘just pray/read the bible more’ and the one that trumps them all of course is, “is there some sin in your life holding you back?” This belittles and patronises the person who is suffering, as if they had never thought to pray more!

I don’t know why God allows suffering, and its top of my list of questions to ask Jesus when I get to heaven.  But there is something the church can do.  In fact, three things at least.

Love, even if it hurts

There needs to be a willingness for particular and called people to walk a mile in the shoes of those in pain, to really and deeply connect with people, to be willing to sit in the darkness with them and move at their pace; to offer respect and dignity that elevates their humanity; to continue praying, loving and hoping for that individual.

However, such people need the support of the wider Christian community as they sacrificially give of themselves.

Offer Hope and never stop.

Individually and as a community we must abundantly minister the gift of hope, always leaving a door open for those who are struggling, especially if they leave. Not offering hope that is a phrase but hope that has been tested and scorched by life. A hope that is real, visceral and life changing.

Jesus never gave platitudes to the sick, but met them face to face and eye to eye, always breathing new life into them, leaving them better off.

Hold tightly onto Faith 

I do not understand why for some there is a lifelong struggle with mental illness. I do not understand why God sometimes doesn’t seem to heal. However, in my journey of faith I have learnt that faith is more than an emotion but is an act of will. I have learnt that there can be nourishment in the desert places and I learnt to seek out those places and the people who can becomes as Christ’s hands and feet, to carry you for a while.

To you who are struggling, know you are in my prayers even if I do not know your name; we worship the same God who does.

Directions To Jesus

Continuing our month of summer devotionals I wonder how signposts have been useful in our lives? I wonder then in what ways have people been signposts for us?

Like most people I love to explore new places, I especially enjoy cycling and driving. However, I do have a tendency to get lost rather easily!

For the most part this is okay as I have my in-car satnav and also Siri on my phone, they will patiently guide me to my destination, or recalculate the route when I ignore the directions because I think I know best, which of course I don’t!

Part of getting lost occasionally means I need to ask for directions. Which sometimes unfolds in this way:

Me: “Excuse me could you tell me the way to …?”

Passerby leaning into my window: “Sure, you go down here, turn left, at the traffic lights turn right, when you make it to the mini roundabout go straight over…

As they continue their helpful directions, my mind begins to wonder, so much so I forget the directions they are telling me and wish that they would stop talking! I do thank them for the directions when they have finished and am none-the-wiser on where I need to be!

Paul in the book of Acts chapter 19, metaphorically leans into the window of the lives of a group of Christians in Ephesus. He asks them directly, have you received the Holy Spirit? However, this group has neither received the Holy Spirit or heard of Jesus, having only received the baptism of John.

So Paul becomes a signpost for them, just as John the Baptist was a signpost pointing people to Jesus. Paul becomes a signpost pointing to the one who is risen from the dead, helping the lost traveller like myself, find their way.

How do we show people the way, in such a manner that means that they don’t switch off halfway through the conversation?

Originally Posted in Dchurch

A Faith That Inspires

As a fan of watching England play rugby (at least when they are winning) I would look forward to whenever Jonny Wilkinson walked onto the pitch, or prepared for a kick. You knew the other team would be nervous. He was a game changer or a play maker, in the league of other sporting greats, like David Beckham, Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, Jessica Ennis-Hill, and Paula Radcliffe.  Their presence and talent would raise the game of others and the expectation of the crowd.

Their actions could change not only the dynamic of the game or a race, but also the team. There are players like that in all sports.  They are the fans’ heroes, going onto the field of sport carrying our expectations on their shoulders as well as their own hopes of sporting glory.

We may be able to name our sporting heroes easily or perhaps we have heroes in other areas of our lives that we are fans of and that we follow on twitter.  But what if we are in the same field of life as them, involved in the same sport or the same area of academia or research?  How does our hero inspire us?  How do they move us to be more that the sum of our parts?  How do they cause us to raise our own game?

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Get Your Faith Lift Here!

Has your faith become sanitised, tame, lukewarm? Is church ‘run of the mill’, no more challenging than what you might pick for breakfast in the morning? The video below that reminds us otherwise; the sheer challenge of the gospel, the agony of the early mission leaders to choose Jesus every single time.

Today in ISIS held land Christians are facing the kind of hate these early missionaries experienced. And just see what God does with that. The story is based a long time ago, but it could be a story and narrative that happens today. Not in our comfortable, westernised lives perhaps, but where people live in fear from those who would have them killed for their faith, this story is real and relevant.

Be warned, the story in this video is not for the faith hearted!

Finally, what does your faith mean to you?  How far would you go?  What would you give up for the sake of the gospel?  As you listen to the words, the story alongside blows you away.

1 Step Towards a Healthier You

There is nothing quite like that first waft of chocolate hitting the nostrils when you open the Easter egg box. Each of us has our own rituals, I’m sure.  I like to take all of my eggs and break them up in a tub so that for the days to come I have a lucky dip of chocolate delights.

Let me explain the step we need to take to become healthier Whilst eating your easter egg. Easter, perhaps more than any other point in the year, offers us the opportunity for a fresh start, to take hold of our health in a new way.
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Jesus Crosses The Line

 

Lent 5: Palm Sunday- Jesus looks towards Jerusalem, taking a moment to, focus on his next step, the step which would begin a collision course with the political and military classes, and destiny.

The crowd gathered, to worship and honour their messiah, and their chosen captain, to lead them to victory over the romans…

 

 

Lent 4: Jesus is Whipped.

 

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Lent 4: Jesus is humiliated, tortured and isolated.

 

Plenty of Christians and people of faith throughout the aeons have known torture, dismemberment, and all kinds and manner of violence verbal and physical.

In our day, our time, where perhaps we should expect to be more enlightened. We find that this behaviour continues, and those that could act justly, do not, and become bystanders to the horror hate inflicts upon humanity. Shouting in their own words like the Pharisees did to Jesus crucify, crucify, crucify. Or worse still stand in silence watching it unfold, like some scene from a horror movie.

Then Pilate had Jesus taken and whipped. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and dressed him in a purple robe. Over and over they went up to him and said, “Greetings, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face. Pilate came out of the palace again and said to the Jewish leaders, “Look! I’m bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no grounds for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here’s the man.” When the chief priests and their deputies saw him, they shouted out, “Crucify, crucify!”- John 19:1-6
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