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

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

What a night

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For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Today is Christmas Eve the day when we can stop and think about the reason for Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ. Nineteen years ago I walked into a Church on Christmas Eve and gave my life fully to Christ. I invited him to come live with me as I travel through life.

Jesus Christ came into the world as the saviour of the world. He is known as the light of the world and brings everlasting life to those who choose to embrace him. Today I have been able to stop and stand still to look at the amazing gift of God to us. This gift being God himself coming to dwell on the earth in the form of mankind known to us as Jesus Christ.

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As I stood in a Church this afternoon and lit a candle, prayed a prayer to dedicate my life afresh to Jesus I was reminded of being connected to the amazing story of Christmas and the person who invoked it. Christmas is where the sacred world of God meets the human world of us and I am so pleased that am able to know God and He knows me all because of the birth of Christ.

Christmas time is our opportunity to say hello to Christ.

 

A prayer for Christmas

Heavenly Father

As I stand and look for you this night. Bring love and hope into my heart.

Bring peace and comfort into my soul as I sit and remember your gift of Jesus.

I place my life into your hands and trust your ways and direction each day.

Bring joy and love into every bone in my body, a joy that overcomes all pain and fear.

May that Joy spill out to others.

May your Love flow through me to be a blessing.

Thank you Heavenly Father for Jesus the light of world that lightens up my heart.

 

 

Your life counts

What story are you writing through your life? I am writing this from Uganda, having been out here for two weeks. This was not my first time in fact the story of Uganda and I began in 1997 when I first travelled to an area called Kumi. That trip was the tipping point for me that led to making changes in my life. The impact of that trip will never leave me and causes me to keep investing in the story that is unfolding every time I return.

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In the west we are so goal driven to tick things off that we sometime fail to see the bigger picture that is being painted over our life span. In 1998 I went back to Uganda with the intention to live in the country and co ordinate medical services for the poor. However sometimes it is not possible at the time to go ahead with the best laid plans. But a seed had been planted in the hearts of the Ugandan people and I.

I met a man in 2003 called Simon. He helped a team I was leading with translation and logistics – he had a humble heart working as a cleaner at Ngora hospital and lived in a small garage at the time. He told me how he would come to the UK and study one day. I was blown away when he did. He studied and went back with an MA in theology and development. Whilst in the UK he had worked at a takeaway shop and sent the money back home.

Once home he brought some land and built a house in a remote village with the money he earned. Simon is ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church of Uganda and together we train and equip men and women in the ministry. This land now serves the community in that area by providing clean water that we at RSVP Trust helped to construct. Young people who were unemployed are employed to help with the project. They deliver water to elderly people who have no children to help them. They help the sick when food and wood are needed and they cannot manage. I sat down and met the young people on this trip and talked about the importance of having a vision for living whilst you are young.

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The land is about venture into poultry farming so more hopeless uneducated young people can gain employment and have a purpose in life. Who would have dreamed that the man I met who lived in a garage and cleaned the hospital would have such an impact in his community through our friendship. His latest project is to restructure and regenerate Ngora hospital. I had the pleasure of spending a day at the hospital distributing gifts of hope and thinking about how we can support local people receive medical care.

As I reflect prior to returning home I am again awe struck realising that what I thought was lost had an even larger vision waiting to be unveiled sixteen years later. I thank God for allowing me to take this journey having learned to trust Him with my life plan. So I wonder what story your life is revealing?  I would encourage you to sit back and look at the wider impact that your life is producing.