Shaking the Tree

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When God starts doing a deeper work on the inside it can feel like being on roller coaster ride. You are thrown around different corners of faith facing difficult situations with no answers. What we knew to be true the day before is now in question. That’s when our faith feels like it is being shaken although right now I perceive humility is growing and a deep inner work only God can line up being achieved.

Rather than trying to get off the roller coaster I am choosing to go through the process, the Bible reminded me this week we are in actually in Gods hands being transformed For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:10, we only need to go with it.

Maybe it is only when the tree get shaken that we truly die to self to become selfless servants willing to go where God leads and function in what He appoints for us then we are being followers of Christ. Humility comes when we “place ourselves under Gods mighty hand then He can lift us up when ready” 1 Peter 5:6.

Can we turn a corner in our perceptions, find our feet again and somehow find God in the hidden shadows when the tree of faith gets shaken? I feel we can if we are prepared to wrestle with the reality and pain of what shakes the tree and return to the Bible to seek the answers. Times of hardship/ struggle /wrestle can shape our future and sometimes be the catalyst to open a brand new page in the story of our life.

God spoke to the people of Israel a long time ago when their tree had been shaken He said “you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart, I will be found by you then I will bring restoration” Jeremiah 29:13 -14.

As we keep humility in focus and walk that path seeking God knowing we find him during the shaking of the tree of faith. Gods transforming work in us is for his handiwork to be seen by all. Then God is glorified and not us; humility at its best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s New

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What’s going to be new for you this coming year? I have a few loose ideas bubbling away but I wouldn’t call them resolutions. I do know what I don’t want to do anymore so you could say I am working to bring change in that way. A different life is often the focus of a New Year approaching. Many wish upon a star for something to change but by the time we get to the end of that year we look back and find we have lived life on repeat.

I am not so sure that New Years resolutions work unless you are a very strong goal orientated person; then you may be able to stick to it. Once you have achieved your new goal you will find you are still the same person – you have not changed at all. Trust me I was that person for many years. I did read a great quote this week that I loved and thought yes I can get my head around that “Be thankful for the gift of another year” by @womaninlondon.

I am currently trying to reframe my own perspective on situations I may find myself in. We normally desire change when we are not happy or think that happiness is something we have a right to everyday. The reality is maybe that we are not too sure what happiness is or what we even desire. We only know that what we have at the moment is not working for us hence we desire change and believe that a New Year has the power to bring that change about. Rather strange.

Rather than always be waiting for the future it maybe helpful to reframe the life we are living now. My faith is based in following the teachings of the Bible facilitates the concept of change as transformation of the person through a relationship with Christ. As a person is transformed fresh perspectives come into sight and we see situations change, fresh opportunities open up and so on held in the framework of eternal security through the relationship.

Primarily we change on the inside through the creative power of the Holy Spirit Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20

I have come to the conclusion that life is not so much a box of chocolates but a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces full characters we encounter, places we will travel, situations we will face all of which make an interesting jigsaw picture of our life. Only when the final piece is fitted into place can you see the richness of your personal jigsaw.

Jesus beckoned men and women to follow him and so he could teach them his ways and thinking. He reframed their world and he is still beckoning people to himself today through His Holy Sprit wanting to enable people to live courageously. I would encourage you to let Him bring transformation to you though a powerful relationship rather than a powerless New Year. Don’t walk alone through life walk with God.

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

 

 

Relationships and ministry

I have been thinking through what it’s like to be in a relationship and share life with someone who is committed to the call of God on his or her life. So I thought I would start with my own husband’s perspective. Enjoy reading his thoughts.

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Six months after being baptised in the Holy Spirit in April 1995 God called me to help start a church. That was 20 years ago and since then the church has been established and gone on to have a strong presence locally and internationally known as New Life Family Church Suffolk. Before all this in the early nineties a local evangelist prophesied “one day I would be married.”

I simply believed it especially after an experience in 1995 of a man and wife coming over to me in Church of England service saying God has revealed to us that your name is Richard (no one knew me there) and that every thing is going to be ok. They then prayed for me to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which I did with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. Things were moving so quickly now I expected to be married soon. However everything went quiet for fourteen years not even a hint of Gods word coming to pass so I would continue praying strongly what God had said. I would be praying on the farm and people would think I was ploughing. You can be in an open place yet pray in secret.

In September 2003 I was praying and God spoke in my innermost being “soon she will come to you.” I wrote it down and two weeks later Alison an evangelist come my house saying “I have two suit cases with all my belongings could you keep them for me as there is not room for them where I am staying.” The rest is history we went on to get married in Kigali Rwanda in February 2005. The suitcases became symbolic of a much more transient life that I would become used too. Planting natural seeds on the farm and spiritual seeds in the church has now become a firm foundation for us to launch out into the deep with the practical and spiritual support of both RSVP trust and the Church.

Whilst we maintain routine where possible and appropriate much of life has become spontaneous within the routine in order to engage and have time to reach out to many people. I guess now I routinely get things done quicker in order to have more time to be spontaneous. Where there is vision there is always Gods provision. The ministry to many women in Suffolk has been replicated in Rwanda and many of these people have become friends and not a project.

Before we married God spoke to us that “Richard and Alison are a vision joined together.” This I find a great help especially when Alison is on the road or travelling without me because in the spirit we are joined in that piece of mission especially when we pray. At other times we are together on the street, in the homes of vulnerable people, helping people to recover from addiction, in Africa praying for the sick, feeding the poor, training leaders wondering if it’s all worth it. Then hearing and seeing about how people touched by God ten years ago have been greatly restored.

Together we do lots of normal things. Going for a bike ride, learning to swim, running, shopping, watching films and going on holiday, having a tractor ride, hosting missionary friends, encouraging pastors home and abroad on sight and through social media, moving furniture, sharing our faith, redesigning the house to sharpen creativity skills, helping with conferences, picking blackberries. Whatever we do and wherever we are TOGETHERNESS is the key when married to an evangelist.

By Richard Fenning

 

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.