Monday, 14 November 2011

The church starts here

"If everyone who fell asleep in church was laid end to end they'd be a lot more comfortable" - Abraham Lincoln.
When I was younger, my memories of church were sitting on wooden pews, listening to a man talk about stuff which happened thousands of years ago, and putting my hands together for a recital of the Lords Prayer, with a man (who's face was never visible) playing an old organ, in a cold church in the middle of winter. This is, I would imagine, the experience of many millions of people who have yet to rediscover Jesus.
I was talking to one man earlier today, who describes his childhood church experiences as meaningless, irrelevant, before going on to say 'The church never left the building'.
Of course, the recent events at St Pauls, involving the church seemingly shutting its doors to exactly those people whom it should be supporting, have done very little for the Church's public image.
I remember someone being suprised that I didn't know a particular hymn, and the amount of times people have appeared shocked when I have informed them that I don't spend Sunday services singing 'All things bright and beautifull', or 'Shine Jesus Shine'.
Since rediscovering my faith, one of the most frustraiting things has been seeing how different the public perception of Church is, compared to my own experience of it. This Sunday at trinity Cheltenham, we had just the most incredible baptism service. 15 people of all backgrounds were baptised in front of a full church, there was laughter, cheering, clips of comedians sending up Christian prayer positions, the message from the preacher was tied together nicely with a Lilly Allen video, people were singing and cheering with joy and dancing around to contemporary christian music. It felt like an amazing journey, It all meant something.
Trinity have just converted an old garage, and built showers, a kitchen, and a lounge area for homeless and vulnerable people. Tell me that this is irrelevent? I was there tonight, and everyone had a glint in there eye, the people I was talking to, who were either volunteers or service users, had all been positively influenced by this service - people who had got back off their feet from drugs problems, people who had experienced the lowest lows in life, and were now helping there.
I feel truly blessed to be at Trinity Cheltenham. It seems to me that there is a real buzz of excitement around the place at the moment, and that God has big plans for the place. They are doing exactly what the church should be doing; reaching out into the community, changing communities. They have also managed to remain relevant; able to speak into the lives of it's congregation, as well as giving them ample oppertunities to serve.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Hi everyone, how are you all?

Realise I haven't posted in a while now. This has been due to a lack of a computer, but I am at a computer now, and I just felt I should share something, because I was reading a question earlier from an atheist, wich was actually a really good one. What they were asking was whether forgiveness from God was more important than forgiveness from the person you have sinned against.

I actually think that for a Christian, the two are intertwined; Can you truly be sorry to God, if you are not sorry to the person that you have wronged? Likewise, as a Christian, can you truly be sorry to the person you have wronged, if you... are not sorry to God. Asking forgiveness and seeking reconciliation is talked about in Matt. 5:23,24. If we don't ask for forgiveness of others, we are displeasing God. To illustrate further, Matt 25:25, says this: '35‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
41“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
In a nutshell, if you sin against man, man, you sin against God, therefore if you sin against man, and don't ask for his forgiveness, you also sin against God, and don't ask for his forgiveness.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Johnny Cash

I was watching ‘Walk The Line’ the other night – something I had wanted to do for a long time but never had the chance. It was a fantastic film, and superbly acted, even if I didn’t recognise Elvis until I was told!

As I was watching the film, and his faith was touched upon at various points – such as when the record label guy question’s Cash’s faith in God, I started to ponder more on this side of his personality, and as the film moved on I started to build much more of a picture, and realised that in many ways Johnny Cash optimizes the Christian struggle; He struggle’s to deal with the many issue’s he has, and struggle’s to put lean on God, rather than on the drugs, and temporary solutions of the world, which actually aid in his continuing downward spiral. He hurts just about everyone he knows, drives his wife away, loses access to his kids, wrecks his career.

Then things begin to change, and God provides a light in the form of an intervention by his future wife, June, and his family. In June’s words, ‘God has given you a second chance to make this right. This is your chance’.

It just seems to me that there is probably a part in all of us as Christians who can relate to this. If we are honest, don’t we all have experiences which are not so dissimilar? But no matter how badly we mess up, God always gives us a second chance..,. and a third…. and a fourth… Even in the most hopeless situations, he never gives up on us. Johnny Cash messes up allot in his life, he is by no means perfect, sinless. But he has a relationship with God and he is saved by that.

I would bet that actually he knew more about what it meant to be a Christian than many other Christians do. I remember when a record label guy says ‘The boy’s don’t want to hear you tryin’ to cheer up a bunch of murderers.’, Johnny’s reply is ‘Well they’re not Christians then’.

So what can we learn from Johnny Cash? That no matter where we are on our Christian journey – no matter how profoundly we may ‘understand’ what it means to be a Christian, we are always going to have this struggle. We are always going to make mistakes. But we can also see that God continues to forgive us, pick us up, and give us second chances.

I think that this song illustrates Johnny’s Christian ‘message’ beautifully.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A Burglary, A Fire, and a Job. All in a day’s work.

Saturday was one of those days when everything happens. I guess really though, for the point of view of this story, I must start a bit further back than this; One of the things that I have become acutely aware of the last few days, is how crazy this summer is going to be. I guess in a way I had put off dealing with it, because in a lot of ways it is actually quite scary. By the time my course restarts in September, I will have produced my first show, Performed at the Edinburgh Festival for the first time, and moved house. This entails me being in Cheltenham to rehearse for the Edinburgh Festival, in Canterbury (A five hour coach journey) To rehearse for my show, having somewhere to stay in Cheltenham, and having a Job.

I remember Thursday night having a real worrying session. I was actually watching a Matt Chandler video at the time, with him talking about how the Lord tells you not to worry, and how you should put everything in the Lord. Sometimes no matter how much you know it is true that you should be doing this, it just doesn’t seem to be that helpful advice does it? You think to yourself ‘No, no, no, I’ve got to hold onto this one.’ Sometimes you go even further and start thinking ‘Jesus WANTS me to keep thinking about this, even though I’m just going round in circles in my head, and really not achieving anything with it.’

Anyway so eventually it got to the stage where I thought ‘You know what, I’m probably not going to stop worrying about this, but I can at least get the Lord involved. So I prayed. I would say that I prayed for most of the rest of the night, in one form or another. I would love to say that my prayer was some grand peace of poetry, but it was actually a far more desperate ‘LORD PLEASE HELP ME TO FIND A JOB’, with my hands clenched together like to clamps. I was far more like a young child clinging for life to his mother, ‘PLEASE GET ME THAT GAME, I NEEEEEED THAT GAME!!!’

The next day, I phoned a nightclub in Cheltenham, and they said they needed glass collectors, and to pop in the following day.

So that night, I’m now worrying ‘what if I get this job? What am I gonna do?? How am I gonna do this job, go to Edinburgh, and do my own show back in Kent?? What have I let myself in for? I’m gonna have to concentrate all the rehearsals for my show into a short space of time. How is that gonna work? Will anyone be able to do the show like that? Will the show be any good even?

Then I remembered something which I had heard in church from a guy called David Gate. ‘We all wing it.’ Winging it is a part of life. I realised that I was just gonna have to make a decision and go with it, rather than procrastinating over it. I realised that I was gonna have to just make it work. This was the best option I had, and I was going to have to go with it, and that there was always going to be a certain amount of blindness about the situation, but I was going to have to go with it, to jump in the waves, and let them carry me.

How was I going to go tell these potential employers that I was going to need all this time off? I decided to take the advice of Matt Chandler, and not worry about it. I would judge the situation at the interview, and take it from there.

So onto Saturday. My plan for the day: Go get a job, then meet a friend in town, come back to mine to get ready and then go to a party. Well, two parties – one after the other. First thing’s first, the job interview. I got into town, stood outside the nightclub pretty nervously, partly hoping that the manager wouldn’t be there and I could go home, but mostly thinking ‘No, I need this job, and I need to start it as quickly as possible.’

After waiting for a while, the manager arrived, and I had my interview, which went very very well, and praise the Lord, he told me that I had pretty much got the job, and I just needed to come back on Monday to see the other managers.

So I went home, then went back out to meet my friend. On the way down there, spot a fire, so have to call the fire brigade. Actually it was just a bin fire, but to be honest, the area I live in, so full of drugs that it could have easily caused a massive chemical fire! Actually what got me about the bin fire, was everyone just seemed to be walking right on passed it, without even thinking to try and deal with it. To use biblical terms, ‘walking by on the other side’.

Anyway eventually the fire brigade came, I was able to leave. I met my friend. I had phoned my friend to tell her I was held up by this fire. It turned out what she heard was ‘held up, fire, bus, bomb’, so she was understandably a little scared!

Party was fine, me and my housemate came back home before going out again for the second one, which was at a nightclub. On the way out, I noticed some kids staring at us from across the road. ‘I bet they try and break in’ I said to him, as we walked into town.

The person who’s party it was, was a friend of my housemates. It was a really good night out actually. So good we didn’t get back till four in the morning, and we were more than a little drunk. We got out of the taxi, said goodbye to the others, and opened the porch door. Immediately we noticed that something wasn’t right. The door from the porch into the house was open.

‘Okay, that’s odd, this door is open’, my housemate said. We went in further, checking all over for signs that someone had been in the house. When we got into the living room, we saw the back door was wide open. Did we leave it open? We wandered. ‘Looks like nothing’s been taken’, my housemate said. ‘Yeah’, I replied. We were lucky.

Then it hit me. My laptop. Where was my laptop? I went back into the living room, where I had left it. It was gone. It had been stolen. I looked everywhere for it, but nothing. It had definitely been stolen, and we had definitely been burgled, so I phoned the police. My memory cast back to the boys across the road, and my words at the time, ‘I bet they try and break in!’.

I remember being very calm about it – something which has continued since then. ‘No point worrying about it, or getting upset about it’, I said to my housemate, ‘That won’t solve anything’. Looks like I had learned something from my experiences the previous days! I remember at the time as well just opening my Bible, and it turning to psalms which just helped me to express and sort out how I was feeling at the time so well, but at the end of it all, I kind of felt sorry for those who had broken in. I just thought ‘they risked there freedom for one piddly laptop? How desperate must they be? But it’s worth remembering as well, that – as easy as it would be to hate these kids in one way or another, are they not just the same as us? God views all sin as the same, and we are all sinners. It is important to remember that no matter how much someone sins against us, we need to try to hate the sin, not the sinner, because actually we are no better, or no worse than them, based on sin. You can only be made righteous by Jesus.

This weekend has been so full of experience, good and bad. But it is possible to get through anything with God – with his support. With him showing his understanding. With him helping you to fly through the hard times, and grounding you through the good. He always watches over and looks after us. No matter how many things may fly at you at once, how much you may feel like you are winging it, or how badly people treat each other at times, Jesus is the true path, and is the light in the dark to follow.

Isaiah 57 Series: God-Idol Part 1.

 3 “But you—come here, you witches’ children,
      you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes!
 4 Whom do you mock,
      making faces and sticking out your tongues?
      You children of sinners and liars!
 5 You worship your idols with great passion
      beneath the oaks and under every green tree.
   You sacrifice your children down in the valleys,
      among the jagged rocks in the cliffs.
 6 Your gods are the smooth stones in the valleys.
      You worship them with liquid offerings and grain offerings.
   They, not I, are your inheritance.
      Do you think all this makes me happy?
 7 You have committed adultery on every high mountain.
      There you have worshiped idols
      and have been unfaithful to me.
 8 You have put pagan symbols
      on your doorposts and behind your doors.
   You have left me
      and climbed into bed with these detestable gods.
   You have committed yourselves to them.
      You love to look at their naked bodies.
 9 You have given olive oil to Molech[a]
      with many gifts of perfume.
   You have traveled far,
      even into the world of the dead,[b]
      to find new gods to love.
 10 You grew weary in your search,
      but you never gave up.
   Desire gave you renewed strength,
      and you did not grow weary.

Immediately here we see the focus changes from the men of God who are being rescued from the world they are IN, to the idolatrers who are OF the world.
The first thing that sticks out to me is this idea of being MOCKED wich appears in verse 4. It points out that the actions of these people is actually mocking to God. I would say that if this verse were to be paraphrased another way, it would say 'Who are you to mock God? You represent everything that is wrong, you give yourselves to sins and lies.'
It then goes on to point out what is wrong with the way they are living. This is important to us, because I think we are all guilty of many of these things - even as Christians. Here is the list, and in brackets I will put an example of how this could apply to us:
Worshiping Idols with a passion (sports stars, celebrities, etc)
Making sacrifices to them (paying money to them, buying the football shirts, etc)
'Your God's are the smooth stones of the valley' (substitute stones for something more modern - i.e a premiership footballer)
'They, not I, am your inheritance' (Instead of getting God, the gifts of the spirit, eternal life, a seat next to the Lord in Heaven, you're inheritence is... Wayne Rooney)
'You have committed adultery on every high mountain.
      There you have worshiped idols
      and have been unfaithful to me.' (When you worship , for example, Wayne Rooney, you are actually commiting adultery with him against God. Nuff said)
'You have put pagan symbols
      on your doorposts and behind your doors.' (Posters of celebrities, etc)
'You have left me
      and climbed into bed with these detestable gods.' (gods = celebrities)
'You have committed yourselves to them.
      You love to look at their naked bodies.'
'You have travelled far... to find new God's to Love' (X-Factor, American Idol, America's Next Top Model, etc)

Just something to think about. Although this was aimed at people living Well over 2000 years ago, are we not just as guilty today? Something to think about...

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Isaiah 57 Series: The Blessed Death the World Disregards

In the last blog we put the book of Isaiah as a whole into context, as a way of better understanding Isaiah 57. No we are going to start to unpack it a little bit more, and this blog is going to focus on the first two verses.
1 Good people pass away;
      the godly often die before their time.
      But no one seems to care or wonder why.
   No one seems to understand
      that God is protecting them from the evil to come.
2 For those who follow godly paths
      will rest in peace when they die.
Personally I don’t understand why Christians don’t draw on these two verses more often; the amount of times I have been asked why people die by Non-Christians, and why God seems to desert his people, sometimes in seemingly the most horrific ways, ‘leaving them’ to die – well, this straight away provides an answer – People of God often die as a way of God protecting them from the evil to come.
Just on that subject, it often amazes me that Atheists in particular try to use God letting Christians die as some kind of sign that he must be an unjust God if he exists. I personally don’t see anything wrong with leaving this planet to go to heaven! If Heaven is this perfect place, where we are made right, and all pain ends, then surely leaving this fallen planet to get there is not a particularly unfair deal!
If heaven truly exists, then I don’t know about you, but when I get there, as hard as it may have seemed on earth, that process of death on this planet is going to seem very much worth it! I must make it clear here that I do not in any case condone suicide. We all know that this is wrong, the Bible says that it is wrong, Christianity is pro-life.
But if you are a follower of Jesus, then death is a bad thing in the sense that because of sin, we have to go through it – but it is surely worth it to get to the promised land. We as Christians have all of that to look forward to – it is promised to us!
God abandons us by letting us be reborn in Heaven? God would be abandoning us by leaving us here! According to the Bible, we should all be condemned to Hell. But because Jesus Christ died for our sins, we as Christians are saved.
By the way, this is all sentiment echoed by the Apostle Paul, when he says this:
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (in this life)
                are not worthy to be compared with the glory
                which shall be revealed in us (in Heaven)." (Romans 8:18)
But going back to those first two verses of Isaiah 57, it seems fairly clear to me that this first verse is saying that people of God are taken out of compassion, so that they may not be subjected to, tormented, and tempted by evil any longer. That peace may be ours. I personally think that no matter what happens in this world, Jesus offers us the hope of Heaven, and this is something that we should be forever greatfull for. He doesn’t have to offer it to us, but because of his grace and compassion, he does. If we wish to accept it.
But, by implication, the verse suggests something else as well; ‘For those who follow God, will rest in peace when they die’. implies a contrast – that for those who do not follow God, life will be very different…
More next time. (available from Tuesday 24th May 2011)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Faith and Princes

Had a long rehearsal day today, and new it was going to be long.  I spent a large amount of the bus journey reading my new book, 'The Authentic Gospel of Jesus'. It is a fascinating book. Just to take the blurb off the back - 'Who was the real Jesus? What was the original message of the charismatic Jewish healer and moralist who changed the world? Renowned biblical scholar Geza Vermes distils a lifetime's knowledge to examine every saying attributed to Jesus, scraping aside millennia of Christian tradition and writing to return to the true teachings of the man behind the Messiah.'
The first chapter of the book examines all of his commands, and what i have realized more than ever, is how faith underpins them all; 'Your faith has healed you', - every healing he says happens because of the persons faith - their belief that it will be cured.
Of course Jesus also tells us that 'If you have so much as a mustard seed of faith, then if you ask that mountain to move, then it shall move'.
But how often do we truly put our faith in God, for this to happen?
I know that I find it so hard to let go of certain things to God. Some times I try to do things too much on my own, because - lets be honest, I don't trust him with it. Because of a lack of faith.
But actually, it's not because I don't trust HIM with it, it is because I wouldn't trust ANYBODY with it. It isn't because he is not trust worthy, rather because we don't like losing control, and we think that - possibly because of our experiences with other people, 'if you want something done, then you should do it yourself'. Maybe this is the case when it comes to people, but God is not a person.
Can we truly say that we would be able to do it better than God? This God who created the universe down to the very smallest detail?
But he doesn't know what I want! This God who knows our hearts better than we know our own first names?!! He knows what we want better than we do!
Back to the bus journey. I also spent about 10 minutes or so praying, asking what God wanted of me that day. What I kept getting was that he wanted me to step up to the mark more - that I was a Prince, and I needed to start acting like one, and believing it. It then got me thinking - isn't this the same for all of us? We are brothers of Jesus, and he is the King of Kings. Therefore, we must be Princes.
And the people we call Royalty on this planet - there is really no difference between us and them; Scientists say that there is about 2% genetic difference between every healthy human being on the planet. Therefore that is how similar we are to every prince and princess on the planet - we are 98% the same.
We are all built to be Royalty. Lets start believing it. Let’s start believing that anything is possible, because with God, it is.

This song says it all perfectly.

You Never Let Go–Matt Redman


Monday, 16 May 2011

Isaiah 57 Series: Introduction

Ok, I have decided to try my hand at a little mini-series. The subject of this first mini series is going to be Isaiah 57. For those of you who are interested, this came about through asking God through prayer to give me a chapter. As I was doing this, I opened the Bible, and Isaiah 57 was what it opened to. The interesting thing about this is that, having not read Isaiah 57 before, I will be viewing it with very fresh eyes.
Before we read Chapter 57, I personally value putting parts of the Bible that I read into context. The Grace Institute: Isaiah In Context, is a fantastic resource for this, but for those of you who don’t have time to read this, I will bullet point what I consider to be the most important points it makes.
- The book of Isaiah is the longest book in the longest book in the old testament.
- It is the most quoted old testament book in the new testament – reason alone to take the book seriously.
-  In the Hebrew Bible, the book is found in the second section – the Prophets, the primary purpose of which was to proclaim God’w word to people, and fore-tell the future.
- The prophets were all based in Isreal and Judah. They were from all walks of life, and weren’t ‘pawns of the monarchy’.
- Isaiah 1 says this on the context Isaiah: ‘These visions concerning Judah and Jerusalem came to Isaiah son of Amoz during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah -- all kings of Judah’ (NLV)
- Around this time ten northern tribes rebelled against King David, meaning Isreal was divided into to kingdoms – Israel and Judah.
- At the time, both were insignificant in world terms, acting as pawns for the world’s super-powers, such as Assyria. However, Israel and Judah both experienced brief rises in influence and power, due to political turmoil and epidemics in Assyria. At this time, Israel was ruled by King Jeroboam II.
- Meanwhile, King Uzziah ruled Judah. he followed God and lead Judah into peace and prosperity not seen since the reign of King Solomon. However, he contracted Leprosy, and his son jotham ruled in his place.
-When King Jeroboam died, Israel fell into political chaos; Four of the next five kings were assassinated in military coups. Also, Israel faced new threat as Assyria regained its strength.
- Under the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III, Assyria, conquered almost all of the middle east.
- “God warned Israel through the prophets that unless they repented of their idolatry, that Assyria would destroy them (2 Kings 17:13-18). Yet the people did not listen. In 722, Tiglath-Pileser's son, Shalmaneser V, discovered that Israel was plotting with Egypt to rebel against him. So he destroyed Samaria, and carried away all the people of Israel into captivity.” – Israel ignored the prophets of God and was destroyed.
- Under the rule of King Hezekiah, while Israel ignored God’s prophets and was destroyed, Judah heeded their words and experienced a national revival. Hezekiah destroyed the idolswhich were tripping up the Jews, and trusted God.
- “The most telling example of Hezekiah's trust in God came in 701 BC, when King Sennacherib of Assyria launched an invasion of Palestine. Sennacherib had faced the Egyptian army in a major battle in the plains of Judah and won. With this victory under his belt, Sennacherib headed to Jerusalem to lay siege to the capital city. In this story, told both in 2 Kings 19 and Isaiah 37-39, Hezekiah does not surrender, but heeding the advice of the prophet Isaiah, leads the nation in prayer and fasting. The Assyrian army is stricken by a plague from God and returns to Nineveh.”
- After his death, Judah went into a downward spiral of civil war and money problems. Meanwhile, Babylon’s power and influence was rising, and became the new dominant empire after defeating Egypt at the battle of Carchemish (605 B.C). Babylon would be used by God to bring judgement to an unrepentant Judah.
- The Jews were exiled to Babylon from 605 to 536 B.C, when King Cyrus of Persia Conquered Babylon, and gave permission for the Jews to return to their homeland.
- “The exile accomplished its purpose, as the worship of foreign gods would never again take place in Judah.”
- In Isaiah’s day, most King’s of Judah followed God (Yahweh).
- Yahweh is a monotheistic God, meaning their is only one – no separate God’s. This is something that was unique for Isaiah’s day.
- Yahweh insists that you must not worship any other God’s:
Exodus 20 says
3 "Do not worship any other gods besides me. 4 "Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. 5 You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god! I do not leave unpunished the sins of those who hate me, but I punish the children for the sins of their parents to the third and fourth generations.”
- Jeroboam deliberately perverted the worship of God, building his own temples, so that his people wouldn’t have to visit Judah. he also built to Gold Calves – therefore breaking the second commandment.
- The next major perversion was that Israelites started worshiping Baal – an ancient Canaanite God of fertility. Worship of this God heavily involved sexual acts.
- The next major perversion which Isaiah faced was when King Ahaz of Judah ordered the tearing down of an alter to God (which had been given to Moses by Yahweh himself), to be replaced by an Assyrian design, in order to win favour with Tiglath Pileser.
- In 2 Kings, we learn that Ahaz sacrificed to many other Gods – even sacrificing his own son at one point.
With all of this in mind it is probably a good idea now to read Isaiah 57, so here is the NLT version:
Isaiah 57
1 Good people pass away;
      the godly often die before their time.
      But no one seems to care or wonder why.
   No one seems to understand
      that God is protecting them from the evil to come.
2 For those who follow godly paths
      will rest in peace when they die.
Idolatrous Worship Condemned
3 “But you—come here, you witches’ children,
      you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes!
4 Whom do you mock,
      making faces and sticking out your tongues?
      You children of sinners and liars!
5 You worship your idols with great passion
      beneath the oaks and under every green tree.
   You sacrifice your children down in the valleys,
      among the jagged rocks in the cliffs.
6 Your gods are the smooth stones in the valleys.
      You worship them with liquid offerings and grain offerings.
   They, not I, are your inheritance.
      Do you think all this makes me happy?
7 You have committed adultery on every high mountain.
      There you have worshiped idols
      and have been unfaithful to me.
8 You have put pagan symbols
      on your doorposts and behind your doors.
   You have left me
      and climbed into bed with these detestable gods.
   You have committed yourselves to them.
      You love to look at their naked bodies.
9 You have given olive oil to Molech[a]
      with many gifts of perfume.
   You have traveled far,
      even into the world of the dead,[b]
      to find new gods to love.
10 You grew weary in your search,
      but you never gave up.
   Desire gave you renewed strength,
      and you did not grow weary.
11 “Are you afraid of these idols?
      Do they terrify you?
   Is that why you have lied to me
      and forgotten me and my words?
   Is it because of my long silence
      that you no longer fear me?
12 Now I will expose your so-called good deeds.
      None of them will help you.
13 Let’s see if your idols can save you
      when you cry to them for help.
   Why, a puff of wind can knock them down!
      If you just breathe on them, they fall over!
   But whoever trusts in me will inherit the land
      and possess my holy mountain.”
God Forgives the Repentant
14 God says, “Rebuild the road!
      Clear away the rocks and stones
      so my people can return from captivity.”
15 The high and lofty one who lives in eternity,
      the Holy One, says this:
   “I live in the high and holy place
      with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.
   I restore the crushed spirit of the humble
      and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.
16 For I will not fight against you forever;
      I will not always be angry.
   If I were, all people would pass away—
      all the souls I have made.
17 I was angry,
      so I punished these greedy people.
   I withdrew from them,
      but they kept going on their own stubborn way.
18 I have seen what they do,
      but I will heal them anyway!
      I will lead them.
   I will comfort those who mourn,
19 bringing words of praise to their lips.
   May they have abundant peace, both near and far,”
      says the Lord, who heals them.
20 “But those who still reject me are like the restless sea,
      which is never still
      but continually churns up mud and dirt.
21 There is no peace for the wicked,”
      says my God.
Hear is an audio version from the King James bible for you to meditate on:
Isaiah 57 KJV
In the next part of the series, we will start to unpack the text a bit more, but I want to leave you with these questions:
What is your first impression of Isaiah 57? What would you say are the themes running through? What are the most powerful, tender, scary, and hopeful messages that Isaiah 57 gives you? How does it apply to today?

Click here for part 2

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Archbishop Of Canterbury on the Royal Wedding

It’s going to be a great day. Enjoy! And God bless William and Kate. Also it is going to be a great opportunity for evangelism; A Christian service for a Christian couple being seen by 2 billion people worldwide. These words from the Archbishop really spoke to me…

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

There For Me

As many of you who are close to me will know, about a month ago, my Nanna died. It was very sudden, and was obviously very sad, and a big shock to all of my family. I can only begin to imagine how hard it must be for her children and husband.
I remember though through the whole situation, getting this amazing sense of God just being there; He was taking care of things when she was ill, he ended the suffering in a humane way.
He helped me to mourn – bringing verses on mourning to my head through prayer, moments BEFORE I had found out she was ill. He also gave me great avenues – whether it be speaking at the funeral, or at the Christian Union, or any of the many other ways.
He was there to comfort me; Through his words of comfort in prayer, to the wonderful friends were there for me (you know who you are Smile).
He was there to keep me going – the strength he gave me to get coursework done in that first week, which was also deadline week. This strength came through prayer.
He was there to pick me up; He found the right services for me to listen to and watch, the right words to say to me.
He found my words – when I was speaking to relatives, and words were hard to find, he helped me to do this.
He guided me, including already mentioned verses on mourning, given to me moments before I heard she was ill, as well as getting me to read John 14, with no one knowing I was reading it, and then the next day being asked to read that exact chapter at the funeral.
Thanks for everything Lord,
Thanks for everything friends,
Rest in peice, Nanna

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Platini: Politics and religion should be kept out of Football.

"We have to keep politics and religion out of football and sport, that is very important.”
These were the words today from Michel Platini, President of UEFA, European football’s governing body. This was a statement made in response to recent events including the the bombs sent to the Celtic Manager, Neil Lennon.
I would like to first of all say that he is right to condone this kind of behaviour. But although this has been done by Christians, it is not Christian behaviour. At no point in the Gospels does Jesus tell his disciples to attempt to ‘maim and kill’ anyone they disliked. In fact, Jesus teaches the opposite. ‘Love your enemy’.
It is not so long ago that football hooliganism was causing horrific casualties every week, and it still happens occasionally. Was the the fault of football, which encourages fans to support a certain team? Was it the fault of the footballers? No. It was quite rightly the blamed on the perpetrators – the football hooligans.
So in this case, is it the fault of religion, or those who perpetrated the crime?
I am going to go as far as to say that this type of behaviour has no place in Christianity, so rather than focusing on removing religion from football, why not focus on keeping this kind of behaviour out of religion?
Why not work to use religion as a force for good in Football? There are many organisations out there that recognise the importance of the link between the two. Organisations such as Christians in Sport.
Religion should be kept out of Football? Try telling this to Christian professional footballers Linvoy Primus of Portsmouth FC and Darren Moore of Barnsley FC; They set up the organisation ‘Faith and Football’. Here is a quote from their website,
‘Faith & Football was started in 2002 by Christian professional footballers Linvoy Primus, Portsmouth FC and Darren Moore who now plays for Barnsley FC. Along with Mick Mellows, the Charity Director, they decided that as Christians they wanted to serve their local community by helping young people and their families, be positive role models and help make a real difference!
From that simple beginning Faith & Football has grown so that it now provides a range of community, educational and overseas programmes using football as a platform for relationship building. We have mobilised the Church to meet and serve people where they are in life’s journey and to make Jesus’ message of hope known to all.
A team of 4 full time staff members and over 150 enthusiastic Christian Faith & Football volunteers in Portsmouth, Birmingham and Plymouth faithfully serve their respective communities by delivering our programmes. Christian professional footballers support and participate in everything we undertake.’
Would they agree that religion should be kept out of football?
I would say that if Football authorities want to get rid of violence in football, they should actually encourage people to read the gospels. Where in the ‘Love thy neighbour’, ‘Love your enemy’, or ‘Do not judge’, does that suggest sending letterbox bombs to people?
Jesus is not the problem. He’s the solution.

Monday, 11 April 2011

What a few weeks!

It is really hard to believe the last few weeks have only been a few weeks. It started with family tragedy (which I will talk about at a more appropriate time), then business presentations, choreography assessments, and finally a show!

The family tragedy element I will try to leave out of this blog, out of respect for my family. I will concentrate instead on everything else.

Ok, the business presentation....

This is something that I will again go into more detail about in a future blog, because it is part of something much bigger that I believe God has put onto my heart.

It has been such a mad rush trying to get everything together, and there have been so many times when I have thought 'This is never gonna happen', and then thought 'No, if it is of God, which I believe it is, then he will make it happen, I just have to keep faith.' It was one of those situations where I HAD to rely on God, because I was winging it; I couldn't see really past the next couple of minutes of work at any given time. Not saying that I wasn't working hard, but large amounts of the time I was winging it, as I think we all do to a certain extent; Hoping that if we keep ploughing on, it will all come together.

The day before was a nightmare day; with one person suddenly saying they had to leave for a doctor's appointment, leaving us a person down. When that happened I really didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The rest of the team worked so hard; I have been blessed to have had them on my team.

And actually, i think this is a great time to mention just what they each achieved; One of them managed to get over their fear of writing academic work by plunging himself right into it; The amount of times I would get home and find him working away. Yeah, he found it hard, but he stuck at it.

The other managed to produce a fantastic website. He never needed any reminding or prompting, he just got on with it. He also turned into reality the company Logo, and created all of the design elements. I think both of them did some fantastic work.

I remember the night before, me and one of the others on my 'team', stayed up pretty much the whole night trying to get everything finished. Part of the work was to write a journal. We only had one computer between us, so we were doing 15 minute shifts.

It must have been about 4 in the morning, and he was on the computer. I decided to use this time to just pray and worship; I went into the other room, stuck on some worship music, and suddenly felt something hit me. It was like God whacked me into action. In the next half an hour of working time, I must have easily written 1000 words. I was finished by 5.

I woke up again at 6 to get ready for the presentations, which started at 8:30. I made sure that I spent a good deal of time again before this praying.

The presentation went really well. I really felt God moving in that room when we did it. The three of us seemed to really pull together. The presentation itself seemed to pull together. I think that we all seemed united behind the idea. Bare in mind as well that we'd only had about an hour or two's sleep between us.

This is an area of my life that I had very much included God in. I would dare to say actually that it is God's idea that he has very much had the grace to include me in.


On Wednesday night, I did some healing on a friend of mine's leg injury. I have since heard back that the healing worked, and the leg is much better.

'Why Make A Song And Dance'

One of my regrets whilst doing this show, is that I didn't make enough time for prayer; Because of rehearsals, I missed things like cluster meetings and worship sessions, without really making up the time anywhere else. This led to a lot of times when it felt like something was missing.

The times I did pray though made a massive difference; I remember on the Friday night, for example, I spent the remaining seconds before going onstage to sing my Solo, asking God specifically to 'speak' through the performance. This was actually the first time it felt like I was telling the story to the audience. it felt like I was preaching a message rather than just singing.

On the other nights, he also helped me to manage my nerves; Nerves are a funny old thing; You can be completely confident one night, and flooded with nerves the next, and on the Saturday night, I was really feeling it. I could feel a gulping reflex developing in my throat, and i knew it was going to be a job of nerve - management. I prayed to God for help getting through this - for strength, and I saw that he was right by me, as he had been the other nights.

Yes, I was still nervous, but I managed to get through the performance with this gulping reflex, without it being derailed.

I think as well, it is just a massive comfort to know that he is there, onstage with you, and that he can help to make up for your shortfalls. I remember I really felt him there on the first night, and although I came of the stage with legs that were so much like jelly they were ready to cave in, it was a real comfort to know that he was there with me, holding me up, supporting me so to speak.

It was really nice to hear encouraging comments back from people as well; The head of faculty said to the head of performing arts 'My God! Hasn't Joe improved!' Well I genuinely believe that this is down to the impact that God has had on my life, the changes he has made in me since I came to faith, and all of this is available to ANYONE who asks God for it, and comes to faith. It is so hard to believe that I have only been going to church for a year, and I am so excited to see what he is going to do in me in the future.

Anyone reading this – Christian, Atheist, Agnostic – here is my challenge to you. Close your eyes, put your hands out if you want to, and just ask God to come into your life, to reveal himself to you, to work within you, to bless your life, to give you strength, or for anything else you feel like you need in your life. Maybe you feel it’s time that you gave your life to Christ. Spend as much time as you need, and don’t forget to include some listening time.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Street Pastors

The other night I was out with two friends of mine, and we saw a girl fall over. She was quite clearly drunk. We immediately went over to her to see if she was alright. I then saw a bouncer on his radio. He sent the following message…

“are there any Street Pastors around?”

I didn’t know much about street Pastors, but it made me think ‘wow, these Christians are so valued and relied upon, that this bouncer’s first response to this incident has been to call for them. A few minutes later we saw a few of them in action. This made me want to find out more about them, and I just want to share a video I found.

Cheltenham Street Pastors

What a great way of evangelising, and serving the community. Even if we don’t feel called to be street pastors, should we not all be aiming to be more like this in some way or another? What can we take from this and put into our everyday lives?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

If God Is For Us, Who Can Stand Against Us?

Like a lot of us, I have a heavy exam period coming up, and I have been worrying a lot recently. Then when I was worshiping on the way to Christian Union last night, I suddenly thought ‘Why worry?’; We have this amazing God, who created the entire universe. If what we are doing at any given time is of him, and we involve him in it, then he is going to bless it! If whatever we are doing is not of him, then it really shouldn’t matter to us if it doesn’t work out.
Incidentally after praying on it, releasing it all to God, I felt so different; Rather than feeling worried, I felt confident. Rather than feeling down, I felt lifted. I felt so anointed for the task ahead. When I got back, I was suddenly able to do lots more. When you allow God in through prayer, it can change everything.
As Romans 8:31 says: ‘If God is for us, who can stand against us?’
“And if our God is with us, then who can stand against us?”

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Another Update…

This morning I went to the early service at Trinity, as I was going to a friends Baptism in Cheltenham in the evening. Today the talk was on confession – confessing our sins to both God, and fellow men, as well as confessing the good stuff from God.
One of the things talked about was confession in relation to reconciling with your ‘neighbour’. The idea of admitting to them you have sinned against them, and asking them for forgiveness. This then set off a spiral in my head; there was someone last week that I thought I might have sinned against, but wasn’t entirely sure. It was nothing major, and nothing that I had really done on purpose, but as soon as I had realised what I had done, I immediately felt bad about it, and apologised to God… But the problem was that actually admitting it to this in this situation would have undoubtedly done more harm than good, because it would have just unsettled them, and opened up a whole new can of worms. What do you do in this situation? This confession thing is hard than you might first think!!!!
When I spoke to God about it, he seemed to say to ‘move forward’, which I interpreted as meaning ‘move on’, and in this case, not to tell them. I decided whilst walking home, that next time I saw the person, I would ask him to speak into the situation.
As soon as I got back from Church, it was time to quickly have some lunch, and then straight back out to do some drama workshops. This was a workshop that four of us had developed as part of our business project for our personal development module at Uni. I was running late, so when I got there I had the perfect opportunity to try out what we had learnt this morning about saying to people we have done wrong to ‘I’m sorry, forgive me’.
I remember on the way to this workshop really feeling God suddenly anointing me for it. I was on my way, preparing myself and praying, whilst listening to ‘King of Wonders’ (I don’t know about you, but I personally find it helps allot to focus myself on God, and get into the ‘God-zone’, by listening to worship music).
The workshop ended up going pretty well in the end, and we got out of it everything that we needed to. God seemed to give me a calmness and confidence that sometimes I can be lacking, especially when I feel under-prepared (we had only decided on exercises last night, and this was our first experience as a ‘company’, running our own workshops). I am very positive about this project, as I think God has been blessing it from the start; The whole idea came out of a prayer just under a year ago… Still, this is for another blog! Maybe in two weeks time….
After the workshops, It was off to a friend’s baptism. Whilst i was on the bus, I decided to test what I felt God had told me in the morning, by talking to one of my Christian friends about it. I confessed to her what I had done, and talked about the situation. We agreed that – like it had seemed God had been telling me, I shouldn’t tell her, because it could open up massive cans of worms and cause hurt rather than it being for the right reasons. What we decided, was that I should instead correct the sin (just a case of correcting a bit of information I had given somebody, without going into too much detail).
The baptism service was great. It was wonderful that they were all young people getting baptised! Me and my friend both agreed that Kendal Road Church was very nicely ‘Youth Orientated’, and the the Vicar and his wife were really nice; it was a nice touch that even though we had both only visited there once before, they both remembered our names.
It’s amazing what humbling experiences baptisms can be. I remember going in there and feeling almost quite cocky – holyer than thou’. When you start hearing people’s testimonies thou, and seeing how God has effected them, it really puts you back in your place, but in a good way. I had a ‘word’ for one of the people who got baptised. I wasn’t sure whether it was any kind of prophesy, but I wanted to keep to a deal made during the week that if I felt like God was telling me to say something, then I would say it, as long as it was scriptural true, and encouraging. It was ‘If God is for you, then who can stand against you’? I quickly realised that in this case, it was probably because one of the songs earlier had used that verse, but nonetheless I was pleased that I had taken the step of faith. It also, btw, marked the first time that I had actually spoken out in a church in a service.
Ended the evening with a friend of mine talking about how someone they know has died today. I am very slowly learning to apply the art of listening to God in my conversations with others, and without going into the details of the conversation, I cannot express how much it helps as a Christian to be listening to God through these moments. He just changes how you deal with it, right down to the smallest subtlety. By listening to him, you allow him to use you to speak into the specific situation. I am trying to make it habit to listen to what God wants me doing NOW, as well as in the future
Just as a final note, one of the things that was mentioned in the service this morning, was something Barack Obama said at a prayer breakfast a few weeks ago…
“When I wake in the morning, I wait on the Lord, and I ask him to give me the strength to do right by our country and its people. And when I go to bed at night, I wait on the Lord, and I ask him to forgive me my sins and look after my family and the American people and make me an instrument of his will.”
This seems like a great prayer for all of us (maybe changing the ‘country and it’s people’ bit). And I’m wondering if it’s something that anyone reading this blog could attempt to do over at least the next week. We all know how powerful prayer can be!


Wednesday, 16 March 2011


Just wanted to give some testimony of some ways God has been helping me the last week…

On Friday, at Christian Union Small group, there were a few things that we prayed for for me. Firstly, that my performing arts course would be able to find the £900 that was suddenly needed by this coming Friday to make sure that we could still go – thankfully, a number of people on our course have been able to pay their money towards the trip early. It looks like this prayer has been answered, so thank you guys!

Secondly, we prayed that God would strengthen me to defend myself from attacks on my faith.

The next day, we had auditions for the performing arts course I am on. After the auditions, we were in the bar, and my voice teacher came up to me, and said ‘Oh, I have something for you… I was meant to give it to another student, but he hasn’t turned up. I think you’ll find it useful’. It was a book called ‘A Ready Defence – Over 60 Vital “Lines of Defence” for Christianity, Topically Arranged for Easy Reference”. He then briefly talked about his faith to us, and on the way home, was talking to me and Alex about how he knew there was something in Christianity, because he had literally seen friends get out of wheelchairs, snap out of strokes, seen babies literally cured of aids – all whilst being prayed for.

Interestingly another teacher on Monday suddenly started telling the class about how important their Christian faith was to them.

There are of course, many other ways, but maybe these are for another blog….Smile with tongue out

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Romans 12–Love In Action


Tonight at Christian Union, we looked at Romans 12. I just wanted to post it here, because judging from the many different reactions I have seen from different Christians over the recent events in Japan, and with an eye on how we should be responding to these events. I also think that this verse links well to my previous comments about how we can strengthen our church family, in my previous blog, Brothers of Christ, Sons of God.

But wherever we are, and whatever we are dealing with in our lives, I think this is relevant to all of us.

Romans 12 - Love in Action
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

   “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
   if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

God and the Tsunami

I just want to start with Christian Aid's prayer for the victims of the Tsunami.
Please join me in praying this prayer:

‘O God, our refuge and strength,
our help in times of trouble.
Have mercy on the lands where the earth has given way.
Have mercy on the lands where the weather has destroyed livelihoods.
Prosper those who rebuild houses,
and strengthen those who rebuild hope
so that entire communities
may face the future without fear.

It seems to me that you can argue all you want – is God to blame, isn’t he, but is this really the time to be having this argument? All the time we are arguing, we are not helping those who need it. While we are doing this, we are missing a chance to live out the commandment of loving our neighbours, and to defend our faith by showing God in action. Lets use this as a time to show and facilitate God’s love, rather than trying to argue for it or rationalise it.
In my last blog, I was talking about the power and strength of the Church Family. Lets be praying on how this Church Family can help victims of the events of the last few days.
Just pray, and listen to God – let him tell you how you can help. Let his love shine through the situation.
It is worth remembering that a lot of the time, God’s light shines brightest through struggle: I was talking to a teacher of mine, who had lived in Africa, and had been to a church with over 50,000 members. He said that one of the reasons he just can’t ‘let go’ of Christianity, is that through God’s response to their problems through prayer, he knows that God is definitely there. He talked to me and some other classmates about seeing children being prayed for and being completely cured of AIDS, he has seen people who have had strokes, leaving them paralysed down one side of the body be prayed for and literally completely snap out of it, and again, through prayer, he has seen friends in wheelchairs instantly get up and start walking.
Undoubtedly we are going to be tested in our faith over this issue, but we just need to hold strong and keep faith that God will show through. He has proven since the beginning of time that he shows up, so have faith that he will do the same this time! One of the things mentioned in the blog about steps of faith, is that God’s word stays true no matter how we are feeling. We need to keep faith, and keep encouraging each other as a family, as well as praying for strength and guidance. Once again, I would like to point people towards the documentary about George Muller, for inspiration.
Here is an article on how a number of Christian Organisations are aiding relief work already.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Brothers of Christ, Sons of God



Particularly the last week or so, as people I know have been going off on mission, and with my home group coming to a crossroads, I have found myself very much thinking about the family side of Church. I am realising more and more the importance and value of this family, and this is what I am going to talk about in this blog. This is how Jesus talks about the Christian family...


Mark 3:31-35 (New Living Translation)

The True Family of Jesus
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them. 32 There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.”
33 Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 35 Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
As Christians we are all part of the family of Christ. We are all brothers and sisters. Statistics say that there are 2.8 Billion people on this planet who call themselves Christians. There are approximately 6-7 billion people on this planet. This makes almost half the population of the planet Christian. This is a massive family! This number of Christians is growing, by the way – not shrinking.
In Christ, we have family all over the word; I saw earlier this week on a friends Facebook status that although China has one of the worst records in the world for persecuting Christians, there is currently a bigger increase in people going to church THERE than in all of the western world put together! Not only that, but other members of the family around the world are risking their lives to get Bibles to their Brothers and Sisters in China! That is how strong and full of God’s love this family is!  This family that God has given us through his son, Jesus Christ, is so strong that it is able to not only survive persecution, but GROW through it! Forgetting about ‘spiritual gifts’, this is an amazing gift itself! THIS is a ‘miracle’ of God that we should be thankful for, and we should treat it as a gift which God wants us to hone, to grow, and to use for good, to further Glorify him. 
From an evangelical point of view, often one of the things which draws people towards Christianity is the community spirit that they see within it. I was talking to one of my teachers the other day about my experiences, and how the having that support network of church family had really helped me in the last year, and she said “I used to hang around with Cliff Richards and his wife, who were both Christians, and one of the things that I saw through them was that the Church was a real community – a family, a support network”.
One of the things that I take comfort in, when things are tough at Uni, or in any other area of my life, is that I always have my Church family there to support me, and that God will always support me through them.
I remember last week, when one of my friends, Will, went of to Rwhanda. When we were praying for him, it became very clear how much everyone in the family supported him, and what he was doing. It was the same with another friend, Hannah, who is leaving this week. f course, they are also blessed with the knowledge, that such is the extent of this Christian Family, that they will be able to go out to these countries, knowing that however tough things might get for them, they will have christian family out there as well, who will love and support them. As mentioned before, in Christ, we have family all over the world. That is one massive pile of love!
On another note, I remember leading up to my baptism, just the sheer power of having 25 cluster members singing worship songs whilst praying for me. Some of the most powerful connections between Christians happens during prayer. I also remember, at my baptism, the sheer levels of noise from screams of support from both my C.U Friends, and my Cluster friends. I am so greatfull for the relationships that god has given me within this family of his, and we are so truly blessed for having this family.
In my cluster, as mentioned previously, one of our leaders is leaving in a few days, and we have had two meetings this week, to discuss how we can move forward as a group. One of the fantastic things has been to see how we have developed as a group up to this point, since that first ever meeting last September, to now planning where we are going to take it in future. It is a group of people that is really starting to make that transition into a family. There are some really strong bonds growing.
As a slight dovetail, what was interesting was that there were only a few of us at the first meeting this week, and many more of us at the second meeting this week, and when we all prayed on the future of the cluster, the guys who weren’t there at the first one were getting pretty much the same answers to prayer that us who were there at the first meeting got. I guess God is shouting loud and clear, and this will further help us build a sense of purpose and unity.

How can we further strengthen our Church Family?

I have been writing this blog since last Sunday, because, as stated before, God has really put Christian Family on my heart this week. I think that it is no coincidence, what with God’s perfect timing, that our C.U small group leader, Lizzie, decided that we were going to talk about Unity in the Church this week. We did this through the study of Ephesians 4
Ephesians 4
Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
   “When he ascended on high,
   he took many captives
   and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
There are of course, many things which come out of these passages, but without going into a complete biblical analysis, the first thing that stands out to me about what Paul is saying here, is that we build unity through love for each other, the father, and the holy spirit. 
There are things that get in the way of this…
We Sometimes fall into the trap of becoming judgemental. One of the things we were talking about at this meeting, was how sometimes we, in different church denominations, and even Churches, can think that we are better than other churches – we become ‘holyer than thou’. But when we were reading, in Ephesians 4 “11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” it made me and a number of others in the group think that although it says ‘prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, maybe this applies to branches of church as well – that none are ‘better’, but rather each serves a different purpose in the church body.
We would all do well to remember that actually most churches have very little difficulty agreeing on the main teachings of the bible. Any differences tend to arise from the application of the teachings. Not many churches are going to have difficulty agreeing with basic teachings that God created man in his image, with free choice, man rebelled against God, which brought sin into the world. God became flesh in the form of his son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save us from our sin, and that any person can have his or her relationship restored with God by having faith in Jesus. We are all united by this faith in Jesus.
One of the great things about the Christian Union, is that it doesn’t belong to any particular church denomination, in the sense that it is a complete melting pot of many of them! Baptists, Evangelists, Orthodox, Anglican, etc. You would hardly notice that we are all coming from different churches. The great thing about this system, is that it is building a generation of Christians who are less likely to have these visions, and will be able to hopefully further remove these psychological, false boundries within the church.
When we were praying at the end of our C.U session, there was palpable movement from the spirit in the room. I got a strong sense of the Lord working on Uniting us as a small group, and wanting us to actively unite. He was telling me that we need to work on becoming more united at a small group level, and that this will help the international church to become more united, because as ground level Christians, we make up the foundations of the international Church, so the less cracks there are at local level, the more stable at international level. This is something we should all be thinking about. How do we do this, by loving our father with all of our hearts, minds and soul, and loving each other as ourselves.
We also have to watch that our accountability doesn’t become condemning judgement towards other Christians and none-Christians; It saddens me to see gay men and woman leaving the church, because they have been told that they are ‘going to hell’ for being gay. When Paul talks about homosexuality, it seems to me that it is usually in a context with other forms of adultery. Are we not all adulterers? Jesus tells us that you commit adultery by even looking and thinking about it. Did Jesus not die to save us from our sins? Why then single out one issue and make it different? Didn’t he teach us to ‘Judge not lest ye be judged?’
How do we achieve this? By loving our father with all of our hearts, minds and soul, and loving each other as ourselves.
We are truly blessed to have been given this amazing family by God, and it seems to me, that these two commandments that god has given us, are both the reason for the strength of the Church family, and also the roadmap for growing even stronger in future. As a friend of mine, Charlie, put it at the end of the second cluster meeting, to grow as a church family ‘we’ve got to keep loving each other’.