Hopecasting by Mark Oestreicher – A refreshing book that manages to unravel the tangled web of christian cliche to impact the heart and provide fresh perspective. A great book for those in tough situations who want to see a brighter future and need some solid thinking to assure them. 9/10
A Man on Fire, The Story of Maynard James by Paul James – The story of an evangelist preacher who was a key leader in the UK Holiness Movement during the 20th century. A personal account that talks of the strengths and weaknesses of a man of faith as he sought to share the gospel message. 7/10
Something that I wrote for the Ambassadors2020 website in March:
Almost a lifetime ago, Bob Hoskins’ BT adverts reminded us that ‘it’s good to talk’ and ever since we have seen the growth of the telecoms industry and an explosion in social media. Like others, my smartphone addiction needs careful monitoring, and so, I have chosen to say hello to the people that I pass when I walk down the street with the following caveat; to be willing to talk with folk that are up for conversation. It is so much more fun than the handheld screen.
A few weeks in and there have been remarkable results. I wait for eye contact and then nod, smile and say a casual greeting. Most people pass on, yet from this simple gesture, a number of conversations have been sparked. One guy shared the story of his life and the challenges he faces in retirement, and an elderly lady shared about her fears for her future as she is being relocated in a new development. Quite wonderful life stories that began with a simple smile and a ‘hello’.
In both these cases, there was no need to share a full gospel sermon to go into great depths about Jesus love for them, but there was an opportunity to say that the local church is a safe place to talk of these concerns, to find friendship and to learn about faith in Jesus. Perhaps the greatest witness was the time that I gave and the willingness to listen and respond. Both these conversations ended with the individuals saying thank you for taking the time. It cost me nothing but left me with a sense that I had been a friend and that listening to them had been a support.
As an ambassador, I do not need all the answers, to solve all the world’s problems, or correct all the mistakes of others. But providing a little salt or a smidgen of light can make a big difference in the lives of those we meet. When we make ourselves available, in Jesus name, who knows what can be achieved?
As Ambassadors, it is ‘good to talk’, what conversations can you have today?
You know that you want you community to be a place where Jesus is seen and accepted but how do you begin with a missional community. Most communities start with a team but there are occasions when you have nobody…..what then?
1)Adopt the posture of a learner – it can be easy to make assumptions and to think that you know a community well. However, demographic studies, stats, maps and more stats are no replacement for legwork in the community and getting under the skin of the place. You need to be ready to learn more, listen more, observe continually and accept things may be different to what you perceive. Be ready to learn, be willing to learn and spend a great deal of time listening. Adopt a learning attitude.
2)Seek someone who will inform you – who is the person of peace, someone who imbibes the community, who will share their knowledge and is a friend. They do not necessarily hold your beliefs of faith but they are willing to share with you. Their willingness usual strengthens when you adopt the posture of a learner and not that of teacher.
3) Build relationships – as you talk with people, seek them out again, develop friendships, go deeper and let this rootedness in the community help you to flourish. Not all relationships will be tight, see it more of a spiders web with a central strength and a growing network beyond the fringes. Relationships are critical.
These first three steps are very practical and the holy people reading will ask, ‘what about prayer?’ Prayer is the most necessary component and I have assumed it will underpin, surround and inhabit everything. Without prayer you have nothing and the steps above only help begin a social club, not a missional community. Prayer is the blood running through our veins….do not abandon it.
All the above takes time….it is worth it!
Yesterday we celebrated the Risen Christ, it was great seeing social media feeds full of talk about Jesus. Today we discover the difference that makes in community, in cities, in the world.As ministers of reconciliation, we are called to bring hope, bring change, to see justice and declare the Christ. Let our words of yesterday stay strong and let’s adorn them with action….we are in a new season that this nation may once again turn to Christ.
Hope can be an odd thing. It comes and goes with the wind and can be so transient as to be unbearable. A great example of this (for sports fans) is the current English Premiership campaign – last week, Liverpool were the favourites and there was a huge amount of hope that a 24 year barren spell was at an end. One bad result and another team could now take the title on goal difference……for many hope evaporated. However, there is still a great chance that Liverpool could win – still games to be played and results required for all teams. However, the news and reporters have transferred all their hope to another. Fickle, transient and denying what is possible.
It is the same with life. The smallest of margins can evaporate or sustain hope and we can be like the wind blowing in different directions with all the challenges and changes that come our way. How much easier life would be if our hope could be certain, if it was guaranteed.
In truth, it comes down to what we have faith in, to those things that will sustain us – we discover very quickly in life who and what can be trusted. Trust in those things that will bring hope, peace and happiness. Then and only then will the flickers of hope become a flood.
Sometimes life sucks, not just a few bad moments but times when numerous bad moments come at once….and keep coming and keep coming, and hope that you have clung to for so long gets dashed again and again. In times like that we Christians can quote all the verses from Scripture, we can give all the life experience stories, share lovely platitudes and share from the ‘giants of faith’ but when life is really low, these things don’t always work. Sometimes you just want the person you are talking to to accept that life sucks and be present with you because meaningless hope is not hope at all and crushes you further. Christians can be a barrier to Jesus.
Thankfully, it is not faith in other believers but faith in Christ that matters. He walks with is, He embraces us and He holds us in the tears and whispers gently, “I will give you rest”. That’s the Saviour that I know and that is why I do not walk away from faith in Christ. I trust Him even in the midst of the storms but sometimes that faith is stretched….thankfully He still holds me and says, “be still, for I am with you.”
In 1 Kings 18, Elijah is on the mountaintop and seeing great blessing as he serves God, yet just a chapter later he is in despair. Last week, I was in chapter 18 but the last 3 days have been a chapter later and I have been despondent, like Elijah, wanting to run away from my ministry and hide. It has been a struggle and so this morning, I decided to go and sit in a public area away from my office.
As I walked to a seat, I was pleading with God to give me a sign that this ministry was worth it, that it was worth persevering, to give me a sign of hope. On sitting down, and with immediacy, the raven fed me. A man came up to me on his mobility scooter and began a conversation. It was a conversation when the man quickly opened up about his life, both good and bad, and over 30 minutes or so we were talking about Christ, forgiveness and hope for the future. It was an important conversation – as he said goodbye there was the opportunity to pray for him and he promised to go away and reflect on what we spoke about.
Like Elijah being fed by the raven, God was feeding me with hope. This ministry is worth it, it is worth persevering and this conversation was that slither of hope that I had cried out for. God’s grace was not just apparent, it exploded in these moments. An explosion of grace…beautiful!
Do you ever get a day where all sorts of things are happening around you but none of it makes sense? It can be quite off putting, especially when you have a personal clarity and everything else that others throw in seems to be ‘skewed’ to you but so clever to them.
Life can be like that, there is unlikely to be a seismic shift that changes the landscape, you just have to knuckle down and accept it, hard though that seems, or get out and do something different.
It may appear wise to think outside the box but the box still exists, where possible you have to enlarge the box so that the bigger world you dream of is attained or remain content and do nothing. That is organisations and the life they espouse. Don’t waste time fighting, if necessary spend time changing, even when the journey seems long and hard, even when you feel that you do not fit, even when you feel alone. In time, it will be worth it, stick with it, be patient and, in the meantime, fight for what is right and what is just. Seriously, it will be worth it.
Sat on a train travelling to a conference an pondering on a few things from the life of Elijah.
I have regularly spoken on 1 Kings 18 and 19 but only today have I noticed that Elijah used the same expression in both strength and weakness. In 18:22 and 19:10, he refers to being the only prophet left – one leads to a major spiritual battle were Elijah stands for God in the tumult, a place of strength, yet in the 2nd instance the belief that he is alone leads him into a cycle of depression.
Elijah was not alone but it does raise some interesting thoughts for me. One day our understanding may lead to great victory whilst the next it may be our downfall. Something to ponder.
The great news is that Elijah was not alone…7000 others. Wow.
Even better to know that ‘we are not alone’…God has preserved others who have not given in to false gods…not alone. All this happened in Gods knowledge and presence – God is at work, whatever the day brings! Hallelujah
As a Christian, I seek to listen to and understand what the Bible is teaching and make attempts, though not always successful, at putting its truth into practice. There are some verses that trouble me because they challenge me. Two such verses are;
“if anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)
Those verses hit me right between the eyes! Imagine that, sharing my possessions with people in need. Using the things I possess to help and support others. How willing am I to do this type of thing? It is not something that is easy, in fact it is probably something that I should be more willing to do, but my selfish nature does not allow it.
There have been some occasions in my life where I have been good, on one occasion insuring my car for a time so that a neighbour had transport when her car was unusable. It was right to do but the surprise for me was that it was members of the church who had the greatest objection. They were horrified that, as the Youth Minister, I would be so free with my possessions and not more protective. We obviously had not shared enough from 1John in our church!
What about our money? What about our homes? Our computers? Our mobile phones? Our treasures are in heaven, not on earth, where moth, rust and decay settle in, yet we can be so hesitant. God’s gifts are given to be used in His service, not for us to hoard and control for our own ends only. A truth that is far easier to hold in theory than in practice. I have all the excuses, all the reasons why I should keep hold of things for myself but justifying them is more difficult.
I long to live out these things in a better way, thankfully it is a journey and Gods grace is sufficient to help me through my failings, meanwhile, these verses continue to challenge me to the core.