God and the poor

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The gospel of Luke focuses on the ministry of Jesus amongst the poor and social justice. Luke 10 we read about the good Samaritan who picks up the beaten man and pays his bills.  The lost son in Luke 15 who found himself in extreme poverty and the father who longed for him to come home. Hebrews 13:16 “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” God likes it when we share what we have. He has given us so much through Jesus it’s not much to ask that we now share our lives too. 
The book of Luke is full of such stories. I am sure we could recount stories where we have noticed the poor in our world and done a random act of kindness toward someone. I try to practise this as a way of life. Not that I feel the need to be a do gooder. It’s that I can’t turn my back on social injustice as God asks us to bring reform and be the change thats needed.
When we look around societies around the world we don’t have to look far to see the resident poor. Whenever I travel to Europe, Africa, US and around the UKI notice the poor have a presence. We don’t have to look far to see them if we open our eyes and heart to engage.
I once sat and watched a woman who was mentally unwell be avoided in a cafe in the UK because she was different. I brought her a coffee and breakfast ( the staff could handle it ). That day she knew someone had noticed her. Be the change that is needed.
Another time I was with a friend and we took a woman who had severe mental health issues to lunch with us on a conference day. Six months later I saw her carrying her belongings in a trolley in Liverpool Street Station talking to herself and people avoiding her. That lunch day was a precious day that I often reflect on.
As I walked around a city in Africa. I noticed a group of women fighting in ripped clothes and high on drugs. One woman was beaten badly I knew I had to respond to what I was seeing. Hence we now have a transformational ministry that reaches out to poor women who have to sell themselves to feed their children and pay the rent. Become the change that is needed.
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I noticed a bunch of young people in Uganda sitting under a tree playing instruments. They were school dropouts so we helped a friend get a farm up and running so the young people could learn some skills and eventually earn some money fro the project. It is a growing farm and young people are given value and self respect through it. We all have something in our back pocket to use, time, energy and finance to help someone else it is only a matter of our choices.
What I notice is this. As we notice the poor and respond in various ways. Our hearts are made healthier as we are look away from ourselves and our own self obsessed behaviours to become more like God the father who is love. It’s a spiritual practise.
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Finding Yourself

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God has His plans and purposes set out for us. We can think we are doing one thing and actually God is up to something else. I thought I was going through a mid life thing and have had a sense of discontentment for a couple of years. Great to know He had a plan to help.

On reflection I think I got lost in becoming who people want me to be. In a way I have been rejecting myself hence the discontentment.  The most helpful thing that has happened this year is my reconnecting to a long lost friend after eighteen years.

Three months later we ere on the plane to east Africa together.. This is the place where I connected with God twenty years ago and where I am still called. The Bible speaks about where your treasure is there your heart is too I certainly have a passion and love in my heart for the people in east Africa.

By taking my friend with whom I have a shared history I realised who I was again. I noticed  that I had become lost in being who people want me to be trying to fit in and avoid rejection. This trip I have been more my real self, laughing and joking ( not taking myself seriously) I felt free to worship God,dance, pray and speak from my heart when preaching than ever before.  I think there is an unspoken pressure to perform in modern society and that behaviour is unsustainable.

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Jesus invited people to follow Him as they were. Yes, the disciples were challenged and formed by hanging out with Jesus for three years. But I don’t sense a rule book when reading the gospels but a shaping of character through relationship with God in human form. Jesus accepts people unconditionally and draws out the true self.

I am a simple person who wants to pursue God 100% because I love Him. It’s as simple as that. I was born with a personality that is fun loving, kind and considerate person. Africa and the many friendships developed over the last twenty years have formed my relationship with God.

I have loved being in Africa with my friend and being able to laugh a lot and enjoy all Gods goodness in my life. I do sense a new beginning of being real with who I am. So thank you God for setting this up and thank you my friend for coming on the journey with me. If you feel lost ask God for help and let Him bring life to the lostness.

 

Chapters in Life – Pages in a book

 

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Around every corner is a new horizon an opportunity or a choice to move in a new direction. It strikes me that in our lifespan we can have many chapters and those chapters are written from the story of you and I. Our ups and downs, people we encounter, places we travel too, family we have, locations we live in. Each twist and turn we make expands our life story.

In the book of Psalms 139:16 it is reflected that all our days are written out in Gods book.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” 

What amazes me about this is that God has a book and our days are noted in that book – how cool is that. That’s how much we are cared and loved by Him. However if there is a book it may have chapters. Those chapters may have sub chapters with interesting avenues to walk down in the ever-expanding story of our lives.

I think our stories are meant to expand and grow. The story of God in the Bible is one of growth and development with His love being shown to many generations. So as followers of such a person with an amazing story our lives are surely not meant to be narrow but rather be a reflection.

Each week we could look at our week as a fresh page in this exciting book being written. This grants us permission to turn the page of last week or begin a new chapter and close the last one. Even if we have had successes in the last chapter we may not want to bring those into the next. Growth, impact and creativity are the kind of words that conjure up possibilities to write a fun and inspiring life story.

So full steam ahead this week fill some fresh pages or start a new chapter. Embracing a change in our world enables others to get on the journey of change and transformation. Even Jesus spoke about the opportunities of change to His followers as He prepared them for His leaving

John 16:7 “but very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

 

 

 

Finding Jesus in the Rubble

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Life is difficult and we can all get lost, feel crushed through whatever situation has has come to visit. Jesus warned his followers “in this world we will have trouble but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world” John 16:33. So if Jesus knows the path of overcoming then we may want to walk that path out with Him. Jesus mentioned that he would never leave or forsake us but be with until the end of the age so we can reflect on that promise until it becomes a reality.

We can look around at people and presume that we are the only one struggling. It takes vulnerability to speak honestly about what’s going on. Social media seems to be the tool many choose to judge themselves against the latest perfect day, event, photo that virtual friends are uploading. A photo may tell us a great story but it can also mask the inner story /wrestle/struggle – it reveals what we want to. So it’s best not to judge the success of life through that lens. Look for a deeper authentic reality.

I have been looking searching for Jesus lately in various places, books, meetings, people, and have failed to find Him there. I have however noticed Him to be amongst the rubble of my life and there He sits with me speaking wisdom, compassion, healing, restoring words and ways. I have written this for those of you who feel your life has crashed in around you and you are surrounded by nothing but rubble.

Following Jesus is not about being successful it is about building a friendship with Him and listening to what He speaks and doing what you see Him doing. If we can do that a little each day from the platform of rubble rather than what the world deems as success then we can start to find Him and Know Him.

“Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10

 

 

The cycle of mission and evangelism

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I never dreamed that God would take my life and use it do something incredibly good. However, as I read the Bible, I realised that God takes the most unexpected people and does amazing exploits. You don’t have to be the loudest one in the room to be an evangelist or preacher; you just need to see God’s lead and follow it.

I’m often asked, ‘How do we keep going in mission and evangelism?’ I have been-full on in frontline ministry for the last twelve years. There are amazing days and not-so-great days, as I’m sure everyone experiences. It’s really good and helpful, though, that we have a clear foundation for why we do what we do—especially on the less remarkable days.

There are seasons when we hear God’s calling coming to us. I was first awakened to this when I was eight years old, reading comics about missionaries preaching the gospel in distant countries. I remember thinking, ‘That’s what I want to do’. At 18, I was interviewed at a Bible college and was excited to start—but they said, ‘No’! You are not called, nor are you clever enough’.

The shock was immense, and I turned away from God and the church. I was angry and confused for ten years, as I was sure I’d heard God calling me. Ten years later, I recognized Him calling me again. I met a man who took me with a team to Africa and felt like I’d come home. In fact, on that trip, I preached for the first time and remembered those pictures from my comic. I’d started walking in my calling. I loved it. From this experience, I learned that when man shouts ‘no’, God maybe saying ‘yes’.

I eventually found a college that would accept me. Not that everyone needs to go, but I always felt led to study and participate in the community. During that time, I again felt God impress the nations on my heart.

The foundation that keeps me going in mission and evangelism every week is the ‘Go’.  Two scriptures keep me focused on what to do and what to avoid:

Matthew 28:19 – ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’.

Acts 26:18 – ‘…to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me’.

God’s word enables me to keep going on the challenging days. I’m reminded that I have a vision and purpose in this world and to stay on track. This is why I was born.

Your calling may be different than mine, but the principle is the same: hear God and explore what he says through scripture. Then do it. Callings rise up and come out as passion toward people and nations. If you sense God’s passion stirring, why not explore it? Hang out with the group you’re passionate about, visit the people you’re drawn toward, do some evangelism and see what God says while you’re there. Don’t sit on opportunities; be active, and watch things open up.

When you hear God calling you, explore what that looks like and how it will emerge. That’s the mission and evangelism cycle.

 

Spiritual Benefits

 

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The heavenly realms are all around us all of the time.“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ Ephesians 1:3. It is the realm where the spiritual activity of God’s Kingdom and the kingdom of darkness happen. The term “blessing” means we have God’s approval placed on our lives when we come into relationship with him. We do this by accepting the work that Jesus did through his death and resurrection and then devoting our lives to his leadership.

God then sees us through the lens and person of Jesus, as we have become what the scripture calls “in Christ” and then spiritual blessings are ours to live in the good of. Spiritual blessing means “God speaks well of us”. When this reality sank into my mind and heart, the course of my life and thinking lifted. There is no accusation from God, but only good things are said about me in the heavens.

The benefits of engaging with Jesus : Ephesians 1:1 -14

1. We are made co heirs with Jesus. God has appointed him an heir to all things in heaven and earth. “Holy and blameless” is how God now knows us and this salvation was a plan, even before sin came into the human race.

2. Accepted through Christ and in Christ, we have favour and grace through Jesus. Elsewhere Paul speaks about “putting on Christ.” God sees Christ’s holiness when he looks at us. In Colossians, it speaks of Christ being the image of the Father and we are the image of Christ when we are in him. So the Father sees the reflection of himself, Holy, blameless, his glory, this is the work of the blood of Jesus poured out for us. It changes our lives. Our position shifts from sinner to righteous. This makes sense as to why we can come before the throne of grace according to Hebrews and when Jesus speaks of asking and it will be given to you. When we realize how God sees us, then faith comes alive on the inside and burns, as we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

3. Praying the price. In Christ, we are no longer slaves but we are free, as the Israelites were led out of slavery, so we have been too. The behaviors, addictions, history that bound us, no longer have the ability to keep us chained. It is true to be said that we often don’t realize it, so we stay bound in Egypt and do not head for the desert – but the power of the curse has been lifted. The enemy has let you go, but you choose to stay. We must pursue to understand our freedom and walk it out as revelation comes.

4. Belonging – our identity becomes changed we are no longer orphans as we are marked with the Holy Spirit and have an eternal home. We go from being insecure to secure confident people with a purpose to make this message of love known to the world.

I have only touched on a few gems there are more and as we research, think and pray, God will bring fresh revelation so that we may know the full joy of all we have through because of Jesus.

Desert training

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The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert Matthew 4:1-11. We can find ourselves thrown into what feels like a desert place. We become hungry for God. Yearning to hear from him and yet can’t seem to find him. We can feel disconnected when we try and engage in worship and our prayer life becomes an act of discipline rather than a flow of communication from desire. In the desert we not sure how we got here or how to be during it. We certainly can’t figure out when it will end.

Psalm 23 refers to “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” and the desert can feel and look likes the shadow of spiritual death. Interesting how Jesus handled the desert. He spoke the word of God when the temptation came from the voice of the devil he came to offer an immediate way out and encourage Jesus to follow him rather than the voice of God the father. But Jesus stood firm and spoke scripture to deal with the temptation. What ever takes us to the desert it could be a situation, pressure or the leading of the Holy Spirit it doesn’t matter. What matters is how we navigate it and what our response will be.

God is always looking for our response and to see how we will act under pressure. We probably always act well on the stage of our life but when we are behind the closed doors and the desert experience is strong how will we respond then?

We learn from the book of Job that our character is tested and formed at the same in the desert. Job lost everything except his own life and yet still he had a faithful response and would not slander God or blame him when his so called friends came to offer him a way out. Both Jesus and Job remained faithful and trusted in God despite what they felt like.

I wonder if we can reframe the desert turning it into a training camp where our motives are purified and character is put to the test as if we were being prepared for greatness. Rather than spending ours complaining to God or to those around us we can use the desert wisely and enter training.