Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Thy Will Be Done


Have a click on the link above and listen to the song "Bury the Workman" by Unspoken.

This is such a clever song, about the power of God's will.
"When the Spirits moving His Will will be done". I find it such a comfort to know that nothing and nobody can come between God and His Will. When God wants something to happen He makes it happen!

God has an amazing plan for each of us. We can put our lives in God's hands and go where He leads...trusting completely that everything that happens is meant to be. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11.

The problem we have is free will. Now, free will is super important. God doesn't come before us in person and say "this is what I want you to do" and forces us to do things His way. We wouldn't force our children to live as we would like them to (as much as we would like to!)...we don't plan out their entire lives and ensure that they don't stray from the straight path that we set out for them. It would be so great if we could! But we want our children to grow, to learn, to make mistakes and to come to us for love and advice, not because they have to...but because they want to. Our children need to make their mistakes and experience pain in order to learn and to grow.
God, as our father, wants us to follow His plans for us, but we can choose to do our own thing.
Of course if God appeared in front of you right now and told you "do this", you would do it without question and without hesitation...and He knows that. When He really wants something done He can make it pretty obvious, but still in a way that when the excitement wears off and time has past, doubt can creep in and tarnish the memory. Eventually you will forget, or think "was that from God?". And it's on purpose. God wants you to come to Him by Faith, not by force. Because you want to, not because you have to. God is subtle and He wants us to be faithful to Him as He is to us.

However, you can say "no". Sometimes God wants us to do things that we aren't ready for. He might want us to let go of something that we are stubbornly clinging on to. He might want us to go somewhere or do something new. We might not understand why God puts us in certain situations, we might not trust that it's what is best for us. We are stubborn creatures and just like children, we think we know best!
We have the freedom to say no, even though our freedom actually comes from saying yes. It takes time to learn this.
I know this, but I am terrible at being faithful under pressure! When things get rough or don't go how I expect them to I am quick to blame others, or mostly myself, before I remember that if it was GODS will then He would have made it happen.

Take a look at Jonah...God needed him to do something for Him and Jonah said "no". "But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord .  Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up." Jonah 1:3‭-‬4.
He ran, he made himself miserable and made others around him miserable. But God used Jonah's disobedience to His Glory by showing His power to the others on the boat, and Jonah ended up doing what God had asked, but suffered on the way.
Saying yes to God isn't always the easy option, it takes faith, it takes boldness. But saying no can be worse. The good news is that God can be quick to turn our mistakes around and straighten our path.
Do you really think that your plans for your life are greater than God's plans?

I'll bet you can think of many instances in your life where everything seemed to be going wrong, but God has very clearly pre-planned and coordinated things in a way  that is almost undeniable...lots of coincidences culminating in something awesome happening...but it's often in hindsight that we realise "aaah yes, there you were Lord!".

Lord, help us to remember that you are ALWAYS there, in EVERY situation. Give us the strength to trust in you especially when the situation seems too difficult and impossible for us to handle alone. Help us to remember that you have a plan for each of us and that whilst the journey to get there might be tough, your plans for us are far better than the plans we have for ourselves. Help us to have the faith to let your will be done in our lives! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Busy Bees


I'm starting this blog with a video instead of scripture...let's mix things up a bit!

Hopefully you have clicked the link and have had a look at the video, but for those of you who haven't...it's all about bees! Specifically how each bee naturally falls into the role/s that it was born for. I feel that the same is true for us as a Christian community.

Recently I've been thinking about "calling" and what God's purpose is for my life. It's probably something we have all thought about at some point. 
I have discovered that I am already doing what God wants me to do...I am already living out His plans for me. And so are you!
We have one purpose (to love in the name of Jesus) but we live out this purpose in more than one role in our lifetime. Where we are right now is just as important as where we are headed.

God made us the way that we are for His purpose. We are all different. He gave each of us a unique combination of gifts, talents, abilities and passions to ensure that we don't all live the same life. He gave us different opportunities and experiences to shape us in order for us to carry out His plans.
If every person were passionate about teaching, who would be a doctor? If everyone were talented singers, we wouldn't have musicians or record producers...or artists to design the art on an album cover.
Imagine a world without inventors, chefs, teachers, customer service advisors, builders, hairdressers, bankers, cleaners, police, firefighters...I could go on, but you probably get the gist of what I am saying.

We all want to be important, significant and respected. From a young age we strive to be something special! If you asked a classroom of children what they want to be when they grow up, I'll bet you that not one of them would say "I want to be an administrator!" But yet administrators are so important for the effective running of an company! No child would strive to be a security guard, and yet we need security guards at airports, business premises and prisons etc for the safety of the general public.  

We are all important and significant in God's eyes. God equipped us all with all of the tools that we need to carry out His plans for us. Our talents, our interests and even our circumstances are pre-planned and laid out for us by God, even before we were born. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

These plans might not be as glamorous as we would have wanted. We might not be rich, we might never be well-known and respected in our careers ...we might not even have a career...but we must not forget the whole point of God having a purpose for each of us in the first place. 

We are here to do God's will. We are here to help His Kingdom Come on Earth as it is in Heaven. We are called first to Him, gifted with His spirit, and sent out to preach, teach and care for His creation. Our purpose is to be an example of His love and His light in whichever circumstance and role He puts us in. 

How would people know us and know God through us if we were all called to be in the same role? 
If we were all glamorous movie stars who would relate to us? 
It's not just in a career sense either! If we were all confident extroverts, who would relate to the humble introverts? If we were all rich then who would relate to the poor? Jesus could have been anything he wanted and He chose to be a mere carpenter's son and He bonded with the disciples who were fishermen and craftsmen. He related to the sinners, not the pharisees.

God can do anything, He literally breathed the world into existence...but He needs us to be His hands on this Earth. He has planted us into all different places, jobs, communities and situations...just where He needs us to be.

If you look at 2 honeybees they look the same on the outside, but they were born to carry out different roles in the hive. Each one is as important as the other, not one bee looks down on the other based on role or class. They all work together for the sake of their community. The same principle is true of the Church. 

We are branches of the same vine. As Jesus tells us in John 15: 5- 8 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

I've often found myself amazed at how the Church functions. It is pretty similar to a bee hive! 
First of all, we need people to come in to the Church in the first place in order for it to be worth opening the doors. These people would have needed to be invited in. 
We then need people who are called to lead and teach the congregation, and people who are called to care for the congregations spiritual needs. We need people to lead Worship, people to reach out to the children and families, people to organise the mountains of paperwork, the bills, the registers etc. We need people to welcome others at the door, people to clean the church, people to organise events, people to work the sound desks....and each one of these people have different interests and skills, but what they all have in common is their motivation. 
Each person is just as important as the other. Have you ever stopped and thought how amazing it is that each church has the specific people that they need to function? 
What would it be like if noone in the church wanted to help with the children's work and outreach? Or if noone wanted to clean or serve the coffee? What if noone had a clue about how to look after the Chuches finances or organise the fetes?

It's pretty evident that God has called together the perfect mix of people in a certain place in order to carry out His plans. 

So if you find yourself confused about your calling, take a look around you...you are already doing what you are supposed to be doing. You are exactly where you should be. Every experience (good and bad) shapes us and equips us to do God's work and prepares us to do more...whatever, whenever and wherever that may be. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Digital Christianity

The internet is a wonderful thing, isn't it? We can do our weekly shop online, we can learn online, go to university online, watch videos and movies whenever we want to, listen to whatever music we choose, buy gifts, chat to friends and family, connect with people from all over the world, work from home...we barely have to leave the house anymore!

In our modern world, access to information has never been easier.
If we want to know something, we can "google it" in seconds; in fact, the average person "googles" 3-4 times per day...I can relate to that! I can never seem to remember how to soft boil an egg, so I am constantly googling "how to boil an egg" when I fancy some egg and soilders! Google has also settled many debates in my home...such as "where do butterflies live?", and "how do giraffes clean their ears?".

Google have released their own stats to show that they get over 63,000 searches per second! These searches can lead to any of the 1.94 billion websites. With free WiFi available in so many public places, information is literally at our fingertips!

If you go onto Google, you can search for any bible verse related to absolutely anything! You can type "bible verse on parenting" and up comes loads of results to choose from - I've tried this search myself on many occasions!
As well as finding a bible verse, you can also click on "images" in your google search and find awesome pictures of scripture to print out or share through your social media accounts.

The most searched for bible verse, according to the Bible app YouVersion is Isaiah 41:10, "so do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God." If you aren't one of the 268 million people who have downloaded YouVersion, I highly recommend having a look. Not only can you access 1492 versions of the bible and in 1074 languages, you can download and read over 900 bible reading plans relating to specific topics, bible verses and books. You can even complete reading plans with friends! It is an amazing app! Sorry if I sound like I'm advertising it, I just think it's great!

As well as being able to read the bible for free on thousands of websites and apps, you can also watch sermons and worship sessions on YouTube. One of the top Christian YouTube channels is Elevation Church who have 1.21 million subscribers tuning in to watch their services!

There are podcasts and sermon archives where people can search for sermons on specific topics and listen whenever and wherever they want to. My church has a sermon archive on our website, which is very handy when you have missed a service! (Check it out on www.smartchurchliskeard.co.uk click resourses, then sermon archive).

Facebook is a great platform for Christian's to gather together. There are countless bible study groups to join for fellowship, support and discussions. Many churches have their own Facebook pages where they communicate with their local communities. It is a really great way of giving people a window into who we are and what we do. One local church that I know of even broadcasts their evening worship services for anyone to see and comment on. What a brilliant way of letting people experience a church service from the comfort of their own home!

My church is currently running The Prayer Course in our house groups, which is also available for free online...as are many other similar courses. You can find the prayer course by clicking the following link https://prayercourse.org/ .

Worship music is another aspect of Christianty that benefits from the digital age...through spotify, iTunes, youtube and other music apps, you can find and listen to pretty much any of your favourite pieces. I personally like to search for "rocked-up" versions of my favourite worship songs and youtube does not usually disappoint! Worship leaders can also find tutorials and sheet music to download.

All of these platforms are brilliant for finding quick answers to our questions, for learning more about Christianity and for mission.
Sharing scripture images, worship songs and bible readings on social media is an awesome way of sharing our Faith with people who would otherwise not encounter it.

The Bible Lover blog has had over 1200 views since March, with pretty much all of these views coming from Facebook! There are also countless other blogs that have far more reach than mine. It's amazing to see so much information on Christianity online. I think the best part about this is that people who are curious about Christianity but who don't want to walk into a church just yet, can explore the Faith anonymously and take things at their own pace. Though if you are reading this and have any questions, please feel free to send me a message, I am always happy to have a chat about Jesus!

People spend roughly  6 hours and 42 minutes online each day, and are bombarded with information, so it's great to know that some of this information is God's word! It's a wonderful thought that God's call for us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15) has become so easy for us to do.

So with such a big audience online, there is a great amount of responsibility as a Christian. We must be aware that we are representing Jesus when we are posting online.

The internet poses many challenges, especially as we are putting ourselves out there for the world to see and scrutinise. The anonymity that the internet provides makes it a minefield as a Christian. One wrong move and we can be descended upon by atheists, who, from my experience, can be ruthless.
1 Peter 3:15 says "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect". As tempting as it is to defend our Faith in the "comment section" of many a Christian- related news story on social media, we must remember that we are representing Jesus, and losing our cool online can do far more damage than good.

The Church of England recently released some guidelines for how we should conduct ourselves on social media, and they are guidelines that I feel EVERYONE should be adhering to online.

The Church of England's social media guidelines are:

Truth - we should hold ourselves to high ideals of checking that what we post online is fair and factual.

Kindness - we are all different and that makes the world an interesting place – and at times a challenging one. Think the best of people, whether they share our views or are speaking against them and aim to be constructive in the way we engage.

Welcome - in the language we use and the way we interact. It’s easy for Christians to speak in another language using words that those outside the Church might not relate to.

Inspiration - we are called to be witnesses of our faith and to use social media in a way that genuinely engages others.

Togetherness - we are one Church and other members of this Church are our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is crucial we treat those around us in this way.

Safeguarding - if you have any concerns about the wellbeing of children, young people and vulnerable adults, please contact the relevant diocesan safeguarding adviser.

Agree - to the Church’s and Archbishops’ social media guidelines.

You can find more information on this at https://www.churchofengland.org/terms-and-conditions/our-digital-charter .

I challenge you, dear readers, to "google search" your favourite bible verse this week and find a scripture image to share on your social media account.
Pray that at least one of your non-Christian friends will see it, and that God will work in them to bring them to Him. Let us go and make disciples of all the nations!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Listening out for God

"My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:1-5

When I was a new Christian listening to people talking about God speaking to them, I imagined that they heard a loud booming voice, undeniably from God. Some people do, but generally he speaks through us, through our surroundings, and through others.

While I was waiting to hear that audible voice, I was missing the other ways that God was trying to speak to me. He will do anything to get His message across to us when He wants us to hear Him.

God's voice is familiar to us, it sounds like our own thoughts. It sounds like our friends and our families. He will use a friend to tell us exactly what we need to hear. He will use the lyrics of a song to talk to us. He will inspire a sermon that resonates within us so profoundly that we can't deny that it was meant for us.
It is a familiar voice...but also not quite...which is why we can recognise it if we are really listening.

I prayed a few weeks ago that God will give me an undeniable sign so that I will know that the plans I have for my future are from Him and not from myself. I feel that He had been planting little seeds in my mind about where He wants me to be and what He wants me to do, but when He speaks through our own thoughts it can be difficult to discern whether it is from Him or from ourselves, and I needed confirmation.

He first answered this prayer through a friend who had sent me an encouraging message about where she feels God is leading me. Then He spoke to me through my Chinese Takeaway...my fortune cookie said "new and rewarding opportunities will soon develop for you". I did laugh when I saw that message...He will use any means necessary to get His point across! It's always important to listen to fellow Christians, because sometimes they can confirm or debunk what you feel that God is saying.

God speaks primarily through His written word. There is a piece of scripture for literally everything. The bible offers us comfort, advice, instruction, encouragement, I love that one person can read a bible passage and get one message from it, while another person can get a different message from the same passage. God intended the Bible to be like that...so that we have to come together as a community to get the whole picture of what He is saying. The same goes for hearing God speaking to us in external ways; we get pieces of the puzzle from various people and places that come together to show us the whole picture.

God can also speak to us through our dreams, as He did to Joseph in the Old Testament and others throughout the bible. "he said, "Listen to my words: "when there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams."

Our minds use the stillness of our sleep to process the information that we have gained throughout the day, and God can plant little seeds in our day that come together during this process of dreaming. God made us that way and gave Himself that tool to speak to us.

Have you ever had your mind wander off during a sermon or during prayer? You are definitely not the only one! You may have felt guilty for not paying attention and you bring your focus back...but sometimes your mind isn't wandering as aimlessly as it might appear to be, God can guide our thoughts.

However, sometimes it's hard to hear His voice because our lives are so busy that we don't take the time to be still and listen. I'm guilty of sitting down to a bible study hour and then being distracted by a "ding" from my phone. It's almost a knee-jerk reaction nowadays to grab my phone and get sucked into my Facebook new feed, or my emails, or texts from friends. My house is pretty loud too, having 4 children, a husband and a Dog who all need attention. I also have a cat who likes to sit right on my bible! While writing this post I have actually had to grab endless things from the fridge for the kids, answer questions from the Husband, stop to put a load of washing on...I have a daughter opposite me who is watching videos on youtube, and other next to me who is listening to music. Daily distractions are inevitable, so I completely understand Jesus' need to go to a solitary place to pray and spend time with God.

Of course, God could speak to us audibly, clearly and directly (and he can when he needs to!), but he makes it so that we can ignore His words if we want to. He makes it so that we have to show our faith when listening to Him.
If Jesus appeared before you and said "I want you to do this..." you would do it without question; but the fact that He talks in such subtle ways, ways that we can easily push aside and ignore, means that He is giving us a choice. He is giving us free will to decide whether to listen to Him or not. When He speaks through our friends and through our circumstances, His voice gets a little louder, but still we can brush it off if we choose to.

God wants us to choose to listen to Him. He wants us to search for His voice and obey Him.
If we choose not to listen, He won't give up trying to speak to us, but the more time we spend searching for Him and listening for His responses to our prayers, the easier it becomes to recognise when He speaks.

On the flipside, the enemy uses the very same ways to feed us lies and nurture our insecurities.
For instance, he may use one friend to tell you that you aren't good enough, yet God, being stronger, will send 3 more friends to tell you that you are.

Unfortunatley, we will usually dwell on the one friend who feeds us negativity and makes us question ourselves and question God's voice.

The best way to discern the voice of God from the enemy is to remember that God will never contradict scripture. The enemy will make you think "I can't do this!", whereas God's Word says "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". The voice of God is calming, reassuring and full of love, whereas the enemy will bring anxiety, worry and doubt. If the message we hear is not helpful or from a place of love and guidance, we can assume that it is not from God.

We must also make sure that we aren't being  that one friend who the enemy is using to discourage and weaken the faith of our friends and those around us. We must build each other up with love, and not knock each other down.

I actually had a friend (or two) when I gave my life to Jesus react really badly. I was called "stupid" and "easily led". I was made to feel like a crazy person, I was called a "bible basher" and it hurt to have so much hate directed at me. My faith got me through those difficult conversations, and I recognised that the enemy was using these people to wear me down and put doubts in my mind. We will unfortunatly encounter people like this over and over again.

As 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing", and also Ephesians 4:29 "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." We are called to be a community of people who love, encourage and trust one another, so when we find ourselves as that one who the enemy is using, we should put on the armour of God and remember His word.

When we are getting closer to God, the enemy works harder to pull you away, which is why it is SO important that we can discern what is from God and what is not. If we are not "loving our neighbour" and are holding ourselves above others then that's a pretty good sign that we are being used by the enemy and we could be muffling the voice of God to the person we find ourselves (intentionally or unintentionally) putting down. We also find ourselves becoming further from God by opening up our hearts and minds to hate and selfishness.

We are all called as Christians into a ministry that welcomes people into our family; encouraging, nurturing and leading them to Jesus. Listening to God on this one is easy, because it is written in black and white in the Bible. Any message we seem to get which goes against this is not from God.

In Pastoral Ministry, we are trained in "good listening", which means that we must put our focus entirely on the person speaking. We must be prepared to sit in silence and just "be" with the person who needs us. I feel that we must do the same when listening out for God...we must be patient and attentive, putting our focus on Him and noticing where He is speaking to us externally, as well as internally.

What are the ways that YOU have noticed God speaking to you? Let me know! It's always encouraging to others to hear how God is working in other people's lives, and quite often this can help us to discern God's voice in our own lives!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Prayer - strength in numbers?

I heard a discussion yesterday about the verse "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20.

The question was "so is Jesus not with us when we pray alone?".

I was at our Church's midweek service and the Vicar was talking about this.
He reminded us that Jesus also prayed alone, but there is power in corporate prayer. 
He also said that praying together is especially important when someone is going through a tough time and they can't pray themselves, so we pray for them. I love that.

I had a bit of a revelation while we were praying, and I wanted to share this with you all.

These two verses came to mind. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6, and "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love" 1 John 4:8.

So Jesus is the way, the truth, the life, and He is love. 

When we pray with others, there is truth, there is life and there is love.

We pray differently with others. We pray for what THEY need, as well as what WE need, so there is love.

We pray together because that is what Jesus wants us to do, and coming to other Christian's in prayer is His way.

When we pray with others they hear our prayers, and so they hear our problems, our needs and our fears, as well as what we are thankful to God for...and so there is truth.

The fact that we gather in prayer as Christians at all means that we believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and then rose again...and so there is life for us all.

Praying alone is just as important, it is vital to have a relationship with Him and to open up your heart to Him through your requests and your praise, putting your trust in Him for all things.

However, God also uses our prayers as a way to show others His love and His Grace when He answers us. He will answer prayers regardless, but "it is right to give thanks and praise" to God. It is important to share what God reveals to you and what He does for you with others, so that they might see how great, how loving and how amazing our God is.

During our service this morning, God put the lyrics to a song in a lady's mind. The song was about God being present. He also put the words to a prayer in another lady's mind...words about being before God. 
Through these two revelations, the whole congregation was encouraged and knew that God was there with us. It just shows that sharing what God says to you is so important in strengthening others.

So when we pray alone, God hears us and answers us, but when we pray with others, we pray with love, truth and life, as is His way.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

What does it mean to Worship?

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught" Isaiah 29:13.

The dictionary describes worship as "the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity." Or, in other words,
"Worship is the believer's response of all that they are – mind, emotions, will, body – to what God is and says and does"(Warren Wiersbe)

Of course, worship in the church is usually performed by singing songs of praise.
Now, If the point of worship is to first recognise who God is and what He does for us, and then to respond to that with all that I am...with my mind, body and soul...HOW am I noticing what others are doing around me? How am I worrying what others may be thinking of me when all of my thoughts should be on God and God alone? Instead, I'm thinking "Am I in tune? Am I too loud? Should I be putting my hands up too?"
Being self-conscious means that I am being self-centred and not christ-centred. I am not truly worshipping.
This isn't the same for everyone, of course, this is just me being honest about my own experiences...so I was really relieved when I learned that I was worshipping in other ways...ways that I didn't even know were worship!

Jesus said "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." John 4:24.
Jesus told us that He is the truth, and here He tells us that God is spirit. So we must be completely focussed on Him as we worship. And being completely focussed on Him is worship.
Human rules and traditions are seen by God as not true worship if we are only going through the motions of what we have been taught by other people. Our words are empty and we worship because we are told to stand up and sing.

Worship is not just about telling God how much he means to us, it's also about showing Him. That could be through singing praise to Him, through prayer, serving in His name, reading His word, using the gifts of the Holy Spirit to glorify Him, living your life according to Jesus' teachings and following where He leads us. We must worship from within and then let that pour out of us in any way that we feel led to.

All things were created for and by Him. We were created to worship God and to do His good works on his behalf, glorifying Him, not ourselves. It doesn't matter if we put on a good show for others around us if it does not have the purpose of glorifying God. The pharisees would do everything right in the temples, but Jesus called them hypocrites, because they did these things for themselves.

So how can we worship in a meaningful way?

You may not have realised that reading the bible is a form of worship in it's own right. We study scripture because we want to know God and hear His word. Reading the bible shows Him that we care about what He has to say to us. Preaching the bible has been described as "an act of responsive love toward God", the need to preach is an overflow of that love and shows Him that you love and care for His people. Have you ever watched a movie that you thought was so amazing that you had to tell all of your friends to go and watch it? Or have you heard a song that you loved so much, you had to share it with all of your friends on Facebook? Sharing scripture is the same thing, you love it so much that you feel that everyone else needs to see it too!

Serving people is also a way of glorifying God. When you serve others you are imitating Jesus and reflecting God's image. Serving is a way of allowing God to work through you to show others his love for them. When you serve others in His name, as a Christian, you are shining His light from you like a beacon for everyone to see. You are pouring love on others from your acts of kindness and it's a powerful form of evangelism.

Singing praise is the most common form of corporate worship, and is important, but new Christians may be mistaken in thinking that this is the only way of worship. God wants us to sing to him, and to enjoy it. Singing releases endorphins to make us feel good, similar to the feelings of love. It also releases oxytocin which relieves anxiety and stress. This is undeniable proof that God comforts us as we sing to Him in worship, just as He planned when He created us.
My favourite time of singing praise is when I am at home, headphones on, noone around, singing some up-beat christian rock anthem as if I were singing straight to Jesus Himself...and that's exactly what we are doing when we sing songs of praise. We are singing the songs in front of Jesus. There's no better feeling than singing with everything you have, singing straight from your soul, from the foundations of your very being...to our God. And that feeling is just one of His responses to our praise.

Giving is a form of worship that allows us to put our trust in God in a practical way. Our modern world is obsessed with money...striving for a great high-paying career, jetting off of luxurious holidays, having a nice big house, having that designer handbag, the flashiest technology. Money is a sign of status. But what kind of status are we trying to gain? We definitely aren't gaining any status with God, he doesn't care about how much money you have, he cares about your spiritual wealth, how much your heart is worth, not how much your car is worth.
He chose to come and live on this Earth as a mere carpenter's son. He chose to be born in a manger, in a stable. He could have been born into royalty, living in comfort and luxury.
Of course, we need money to live. We need houses and means of travel. We deserve holidays...they are a great way to spend much needed quality time with family and friends. God isn't saying that you have to go without, but he did say in Matthew 6:21 "for where your treasure is, your heart will be also".
The bible tells us that we should give 10% of our earnings to the church, and that may seem like a lot of money, but we put our trust in God that He will provide for us.This money goes towards keeping the church buildings open, warm, bright and inviting. It goes towards supporting a Vicar to devote their life to teaching and caring for the congregation and community. It goes towards training of new clergy and the church's mission. It also goes towards helping the people in need who come to the church for financial help. Without regular giving from church members, God can't be as present in our communities as He wants to be.
Giving, as a form of worship, is the only one that comes at cost to ourselves, so it is a real test to whether we can put God first.

Roman's 12:1 sums all of this up perfectly.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship."

So what is your favourite form of worship? Have I missed out another important way that we can glorify our Lord? Do connect with me and let me know!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Christ-Centred Life

"Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23.

This is what Jesus said to his Disciples after they had already set out in faith to follow Him, leaving their homes, their friends, their jobs, their families and their comforts behind. "At once they left their nets and followed him" Matthew 4:20. "And immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him." Matthew 4:22.

By faith they had already surrendered completely to Jesus, but Jesus' message to them, and to us, was more than letting go of material things, but letting go of internal things too.

Jesus is telling us to deny ourselves; to renounce all selfish wants and needs of our old lives before we knew Him. We are transformed by Jesus when we invite Him into our lives, transformed into new people with new values and new morals. Jesus teaches us to let go of our self centredness and self interests and centre our lives on Him.

The key to centering our lives on Him is motivation and priority.
There is a motivation behind every choice that we make; whether that is money, our happiness, family, our careers or pleasure. Whichever motivation is behind our choices is the thing that we centre our lives around. Centering our lives on something like money can cause us to become spiritually "misaligned", making us unhappy and unfulfilled, making decisions to benefit ourselves.

Jesus gave us two main commandments: to love God above all else, and love others. Making all of our decisions based on these two commandments keeps us aligned with His will. Are we making our decisions based on our love for ourselves, or our love for others? Are our lives centred on us or on other people?

Our main aim should always be to glorify God, and the only way to do that is to follow Jesus, keeping Him firmly in our sights and striving to be love-centred, as we are taught to be.

When making decisions, we should put Him at the forefront of our minds. "How can this decision glorify God?". "If Jesus were stood in front of me right now, would I still make the same decision?" "Would I still give in to this temptation?". Being aware of Jesus in our day to day lives makes it easier over time to make better decisions.

This is what it means to deny ourselves, we give up our old ways of doing things, our old motivations, and we re-align our lives. We put Jesus first, making it easier to live a life centred around Him.

It isn't enough to go to Church every single Sunday, writing sermon notes and studying the bible every day. These things are great, but having the knowledge of what God is asking us to do, and yet not putting it into practice is meaningless. When learning to drive, what would be the point of passing your theory test if you don't want to take the practical? We must use what we learn from sermons and from our own studies and put it into practice!

We must 'take up our cross daily', which  means that we must put to death our old lives and any negative thoughts or temptations. We must check in with ourselves regularly to make sure we keep our lives firmly fixed on Jesus. Being Christ-centred leads to being Christ-like, and that, as Christian's, is our goal and our purpose. "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20.

Challenge yourself to give up some of your time each week to do something for somebody else. It could be taking time to have coffee with someone who is lonely, volunteering in the community or your Church, knitting hats for the local maternity unit, or offering to mow the neighbour's lawn. Small acts of kindness can be massive in terms of shining Jesus' light into other people's lives, and giving up your time to help others is a perfect way of putting Jesus first, above things that you would normally do when you have a spare hour or two.

I will leave you with something that I came across last week. In our church (and others around my town!), people have been volunteering to put together "Fun and Food" sessions during the summer holidays to provide a bit of help to families who usually rely on free school meals during term time. These sessions also had a Christian theme, such as decorating a big cardboard boat one week during a "Jonah" themed session.
These sessions were such a wonderful example of putting Jesus first during a time when everyone is off on holiday, spending time on the beach or at home in the garden, enjoying the rare Cornish sunshine...but these volunteers decided to spend their time cooking, making sandwiches, prepping food, serving, washing dishes, cleaning, setting up and running the activities and spending time talking to the families who made use of this much needed service.

At the last session, the volunteers gave out little notes with the below "letter from Jesus" to the parents and carers.
It's such a lovely piece, and makes you realise that somehow, despite everything, Jesus is YOU-centred! He puts YOU first without question and without hesitation. He thinks of YOU in everything He does, and so we should do the same for Him.
I pray that some of those families who were given this letter felt Jesus' love shine through these words and through the actions of those volunteers.

Letter From A Friend

I just had to write to tell you how much I love you and care for you.

Yesterday, I saw you walking and laughing with your friends; I hoped that soon you'd want Me to walk along with you, too. So, I painted you a sunset to close your day and whispered a cool breeze to refresh you. I waited - you never called - I just kept on loving you.
As I watched you fall asleep last night, I wanted so much to touch you. I spilled moonlight onto your face - trickling down your cheeks as so many tears have. You didn't even think of Me; I wanted so much to comfort you.
The next day I exploded a brilliant sunrise into glorious morning for you. But you woke up late and rushed off to work - you didn't even notice. My sky became cloudy and My tears were the rain.

I love you. Oh, if you'd only listen. I really love you. I try to say it in the quiet of the green meadow and in the blue sky. The wind whispers My love throughout the treetops and spills it into the vibrant colors of all the flowers. I shout it to you in the thunder of the great waterfalls and compose love songs for birds to sing for you. I warm you with the clothing of My sunshine and perfume the air with nature's sweet scent. My love for you is deeper than any ocean and greater than any need in your heart. If you'd only realize how I care.

My Dad sends His love. I want you to meet Him - He cares, too. Fathers are just that way. So, please call on Me soon. No matter how long it takes, I'll wait - because I love you.

Your Friend,

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Why I am a Bible Lover?

The Christian Bible is a selection of books, separated into two parts; the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the Jewish Bible, The Torah (or the Pentateuch). Each book written between 1200 and 165 BC. It is in The Old Testament that you can find well - known stories such as the story of Adam & Eve, Noah's Ark, Moses, David and Goliath...to name but a few. The Old Testament records the history of the world and of God's people, from creation to Jesus. The New Testament books were written by the early Christians in the first century AD and starts with the Gospels, which record the life, death and resurrection  of Jesus,and move onto to the early church being formed, the Holy Spirit coming, and ends with Revelation...Jesus' return.

The bible is God- breathed, which means that through the Holy Spirit, God has inspired the people who wrote the bible to include everything that he wanted to be in there. Atheists believe that the bible was completely man- made, made to control the masses. I'm unsure what these men would gain for themselves by telling people to love and help each other. The bible is so full of perfectly written, amazing teachings which could not have come from man alone. Romans 15:4 says "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope".
The bible gives us hope through Jesus. The stories in The Old Testament tell us how people got it wrong, how they failed God and ruined His plans for us. The Old Testament gives us sneak peeks of what is to come, the Prophets saw Jesus coming. Jesus came and paid the price for all of our failings and set us free...we don't have to do anything in return other than believe in Jesus.

In the 14th century, the bible was only available in England in Latin, for only the learned scholars to read. That is until a man named John Wycliffe and his friend John Purvey translated the bible into English and made it available to all...much to the distaste of the authorities at the time...they didn't want the average Joe and the women to have access to such sacred texts. So much for wanting to control the masses, eh?

The bible has inspired some well known sayings in the English language, such as "bite the dust", "The blind leading the blind", "by the skin of your teeth", "a leopard can't change it's spots", "eat, drink and be merry", "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth", "go the extra mile", "see eye to eye", "the root of the matter", "put words in one's mouth", "scapegoat", "rise and shine", "straight and narrow"...I could go on and on! I won't tell you where to find these, try spotting them as you read through your bible, like a type of scripture version of "Where's Wally". The bible is so important and it is so widely read that it's sayings have been integrated into our language and our lives without us even knowing it!

It's a common misconception that the bible isn't relevant to our lives today, if you read through it, you can find passages that will inspire, amaze and comfort you. God speaks to us through his word; you can read the same chapters or books over and over again and each time a different passage or verse might jump out at you, depending on what is happening in your life and what He wants to reveal to you at that time.

The reason that I love the bible is this; God wrote us a survival guide to life! There is literally a piece of scripture for every single moment of our lives! His word is read at our Baptisms, our Weddings and our Funerals. God gives us advice and instruction on ALL things, so we can turn to Him and His word for everything. He loves us so much that He made sure that we weren't left to wander blindly through life...though He made it possible to do so if we choose.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."


I am delighted (and shocked!) to announce that The Bible Lover has been featured in the list of Top 60 Bible Study Blogs 2019!

God is amazing, and through us He does amazing things!


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Undone in God's Presence - Guest Blogger

Here in Your Presence, we are undone are lyrics from a New Life Worship song. I have been marvelling at this phrase and wanted to briefly explore what that really means and what vulnerability looks like and in turn the privilege that carries.

So, one of my favourite American series is Grey’s Anatomy. It’s a medical drama set in Seattle; originally based around a group of interns trying to make it as surgeons – though it does tend to focus heavily on love, sex, arguments and drama rather than medicine! A phrase was given birth through the show; “my person”. This is a phrase that two characters in the show use to define their friendship. Basically “my person” means "that one single soul that you can depend on”. They are more than a friend, they are with you through thick and thin, they are the one person you turn to in a crisis and the one person who would always have your back. That’s quite a friendship goal!
Now if I wanted to be vague, I’d wrap up there and say “well God wants to be your person” – job done. But I think we need to go deeper.

See, with God you cannot fake it. If you are fortunate enough to have an earthly “person” who you can turn to (spouse, parent, sibling, friend for example), let’s consider whether you really could go freely to them with all of life’s worries? Do you really allow yourself the complete freedom to be “undone” in their presence? Would you reveal your deepest hidden secrets, fears and failings to them? Those longings, dreams and desires that burn deep? How about those dark thoughts that creep in and take you unaware? Now, if hand on heart you can say yes to all of this – stop reading. Because I know, personally, that there’s hidden stuff within me that’s hidden; hidden from my spouse, family and my closest friends. What would she think if she knew I thought that? Would that hurt him if he knew I felt that? They could never know I’d done that. Can I really trust someone that much?

You see we all have a stowaway place within our hearts that is secret. But with God you don’t need to hold things back because God knows everything about us. David tells us in Psalm 139 that God knows us, He is familiar with all our ways. The writer of Hebrews writes “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything in uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13 NIV Translation). In the NLT translation the phrase used is “naked and exposed”, whilst the NKJ translation says, “naked and opened”. Laid bare, exposed, naked, opened – sounds pretty vulnerable right? Pretty undone.

How does that make you feel to know that God sees everything? That he knows our hearts? That nothing is hidden? I know that could make me feel quite concerned, embarrassed, ashamed and vulnerable. But then I’d be judging God on man’s attributes. Expecting him to be shocked, disappointed, hurt, judgemental, uncompassionate and unforgiving.

I have been richly blessed with an earthly father who, when life has gotten hard for me would enwrap me in his arms and that would enough to make me feel safe. Though when I was in trouble just the thought of him telling me that I had disappointed him broke my heart.

What is your image of our Heavenly Father? Is it modelled on what your earthly dad was like? Maybe you don’t have an experience of that relationship, so struggle to get an image to compare. Well stop! Stop comparing what we can fathom here on earth with what our Heavenly Father is like. Stop trying to build a box sized image of what God is like because you cannot put that into a man-made box. God’s love is unmeasurable, unfathomable. Paul presses this incredible, unfathomable image of our Father’s love in Ephesians; “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of God” (Ephesians 3:18). John puts it in a mind-blowing way, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin” (1 John 4:10).

A thought for another day – could you sacrifice your only child for the lives of a bunch of wretched, sinful, ungrateful people? Well that’s our Heavenly Father right there – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ dies for us” (Romans 5:8). God knows all our trash; all our baggage, all those dark thoughts, disappointments, deep scarred hearts – God knows all of this. We cannot shock him.

He is not unforgiving. He is not going to say we’re on our own. On the contrary, “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love” (Psalm 145:8). God knows us. Christ died for us whilst we were still sinners – not when we were blameless, not when we had everything sorted and figured out or going well. He accepts us as we are; he doesn’t say “Oh, you’re a mess, I’ll walk off and leave you in your mess”. He says “Come to me. Talk to me. Be yourself. Scream at me, cry at me, questions me. Tell me what’s going on in your heart and what’s on your mind. You are free to be undone with me.”

The creator of the universe cares about what is going on with you. Whether big or small – the grand designer who cares about the detail in creation cares about the detail in your life.

“Here in Your presence, we are undone” We are vulnerable, we are exposed; there are no hidden chambers, no locked thoughts – God sees all of us and he still loves us and cares for us. What an amazing and incredible privilege. That no matter how far gone we think we are; God is right there still wanting a relationship with us. Still loving us. Still never letting us down.

Dear Lord, thank you that in your presence we are undone. Thank you that nothing can separate us from your love and that we can truly be ourselves with you. As we come and talk with you; freely and openly – I pray you will work within us to help us become who you created us to be. Amen.

~Written by Nikki Carter.

Friday, July 12, 2019

God Knows!

Isaiah 30:21 says, "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.' ".
This is so significant...
Did you catch that God isn't saying "Go this way" or "Go that Way"?
What God is saying here is that no matter which way you walk, no matter where you go, or which path you take...God will be right behind you. He knows that you will still end up right where you are supposed to be.
Another verse that I think highlights this point perfectly is Proverbs 19:21 "many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD'S purpose that prevails".
You might feel God guiding you down one path or another. If you feel peace about a decision then that's great! You know exactly what to do!
Sometimes we might not know what God wants us to do, we don't always feel his hand gently guiding us in the right direction and we can become stuck.
Sometimes we might know what God wants us to do, but it isn't what WE want to do. He might be asking us to do something difficult, or something that is the complete opposite of what we have planned for our lives.
Well here's some good news...it doesn't matter which path you take, because "it is the LORD's purpose that prevails"! You will still end up where you are supposed be, where God needs you to be.
God knows you better than you know yourself, he knows what you can and can't do. He knows what is in your heart, what is in your past and what is in your future.
Jeremiah 29:11 says " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future' ".
If you are currently at a crossroads in your life, take a deep breath and step out in faith, God's got this!

The One Lost Sheep

Luke 15:3-7 "Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
I have heard it said in the Church recently that too much is being done for the young people, and not enough is being done for the older folk.
Churches are upgrading and modernising with new technology, new music and new ideas. This is great news for the older Church member who prefers a more traditional service...and I will tell you why!
We have all heard the Parable of the Lost Sheep, most of us since we were children. So how are so many of us missing the point of the story?
Older and more experienced Christians are generally quite sturdy in their faith. They have a lifetime of testimonies and experiences to strengthen them. They still need fuel for their fire, of course, though they do not need convincing and evangelising (generally!).
These people are like the 99 righteous people.
Luke 5:32 says  "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
The one lost sheep is like a younger Christian, younger in age or perhaps younger in their faith. Perhaps a person with no faith at all.
The 99 can stand together and be secure in the open field whilst the Shepherd chases down the 1, and when the 1 is brought back to the flock, it will be the flock who influence and encourage the 1 so that it does not stray again. The 1 will follow the flock.
It is the honour and the privalige of the more experienced and knowledgable of us to do as God told us and support and mentor the inexperienced and unenlightened.
Through traditional services we sing, we praise God  and we pray for the same things as in the modern services...for His Kingdom to come and for His will to be done. We pray for change and revival, we promise to go out into the world and make disciples of the people.
Those who have a strong faith do not need to be convinced of the existence of God, but can help testify to the faithless.
Those who already walk with Jesus can help to guide others to him.
That's not to say that the older church members are not important...they are extremely instrumental in God's plan! He gave us the job of spreading the Good News of Jesus, and in spreading that news we bring others to Him.
Surely we can all agree that the fact that there are more and more younger people coming to faith and coming to the church means that we are doing an amazing job!
By nature I am an old soul, though as a "millennial" I understand today's attitude of the young people to live life to its fullest...YOLO! You only live once. If it's not fun then don't waste time on it.
We as Christian's need to reach out to these young people and entice them with fun...before we drop the bombshell that through Jesus they can actually have eternal life! YOLF! You only live forever!
Through having fun and engaging with the younger generations, through involving them in church life and through events and modern Worship music, we will bring these people to Jesus and that is our only goal. That is our purpose. To bring others to Him.
We can learn from each other and have meaningful friendships across the divides of age, and eventually that one sheep will become one of the flock, ready to stand with the others while the shepherd chases down another wayward sheep. And so it goes on as it has done for generations as our Church continues to grow.
Luke 14:23 "And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled."

The Power of Prayer

Ephesians 6:18 "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people."
Prayer is something that is so simple to do, and yet we find it so hard. It is described by the online dictionary as "a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or another deity." 
We are told to pray on ALL occasions and with ALL kinds of prayers and requests. So, for everything!
Some people pray aloud, some people pray silently in their hearts and thoughts, some put their hands together and some open their hands and hold them out. Some people pray every morning or every evening, and some only pray occasionally as a last resort. There isn't a right or wrong way to pray, though i'm sure most of us don't pray anywhere near as much as we should.
So why is prayer so important?
According to the NIV Exhaustive Concordance, the word pray is used 121 times in the bible, not including the various conjugations of the verb. After pray, you have prayed at 68 times, prayer at 106 times, prayers at 32 times, praying at 36 times and prays at 12 times, for a total of 375 times (quora.com). The bible is God-breathed, written through man by the Spirit, so God must have felt it was extremely important to drum this into us, using examples of what amazing things can happen as a result of prayer. It is so drilled into us that even non-Christians pray! They "send prayers" to people in need of prayer, they say things like "God help me", they put their hands together, eyes closed and say "please please please" when they are waiting for an answer to something important...we've all seen examples of this. Prayer is hard-wired into our souls.
The early Christians show us throughout the bible that prayer is central to their faith.
Jesus Himself prayed and told us to pray. He gave us The Lord's Prayer when asked how we should pray, just to simplify this for us.
I, like many others, struggle to pray aloud in public. I think this stems more from what other people would think of my prayer rather than what God would think. Capturing the requests of the people present can be tricky and it's easy to feel worried that you will miss something important. Prayer can be quite personal, and the thought of people listening in on mine is nerve wracking! Am I using the right words? Is my prayer long and elaborate enough? Truth is, God doesn't care about what words we use, and He tells us that we should pray in private as well as with others. He knows what we are trying to say, He just wants to hear us say it.
I was told that prayer is "just talking to God", and that's so true. It's a conversation; we talk to Him and He replies. 
One of the most important parts of prayer is listening to His answers. It could come as a thought; your mind could wander through your prayer and you will find you know the answer before you have finished! Sometimes it takes a lot longer, in God's perfect timing, to recognise the answers. Answers could come from anywhere, from a sermon, scripture, music lyrics, other people...it's hard to know where to look sometimes, but when God wants to talk to you, He will find a way! Keeping a prayer journal can be handy to remember those past prayers that we have forgotten about, but have been answered without us even realising or remembering!
Through prayer, God gets to know us better. You may be thinking "but God knows what's in our hearts! He already knows us!" and you would be right...but what we choose to put before God, what problems we prioritise probably shows Him a much clearer picture.
Do we pray for ourselves more than others? Do we pray for towns and countries other than our own? Do we say thank you and sorry, or just please? I think this tells US alot about ourselves too. We have this direct line to God, who can do literally anything! Jesus suffered so immensely on that cross so that we could come before God in prayer! So what do we use this amazing privalige for?? We can move mountains through our Faith and our prayers. Our God can do anything and He wants to know what He can do for YOU! We can help so many people through our prayers, if it is His will, people who are sick can be prayed for and healed, people who are sad can be prayed for and filled with His joy and His peace. We have been given a powerful tool and so we have a duty to use it! "Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people".
Prayer isn't a one sided conversation, God uses our prayers to talk to us and to speak to the people around us.
When God answers our prayers He is giving us an amazing gift, He is showing Himself to us. If we told people what we were praying for, they too could see our answered prayers and be encouraged. If we pray for and on behalf of someone else then we should tell them, so that they can see God at work in their own lives and encourage them to pray themselves! 
A great example of God speaking to others through our own answered prayers is 1 Kings 18:36-39 "At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be knowntoday that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
God uses answered prayers for His Glory, though we often forget to give that to Him by keeping our prayers to ourselves. Through Elijah's prayer, many people were brought to God! I think we should be telling people what we are praying for more often, or even better,  praying with others more often so that other people can see God working in our lives. It's great to give our testimonies, they are so encouraging, but how much more encouraging would it be to have others witness first hand the power and love of God? What an awesome way to bring others to Him...by letting them see His love for us all themselves. 
Prayer keeps us dependant on God. By letting Him into our lives fully, by handing over all of our worries and fears, and letting Him guide us and strengthen us, we are opening up our lives for God to use for His Glory. We weren't designed to battle through life alone, which is why we find life so hard sometimes. By leaving our problems in God's hands we un-burdon ourselves and are set free from our troubles. If something is not God's Will then we can rest assured that it wasn't meant to be for us, and not be brought down with feelings of our own failings.
So as you can see, prayer is essential to Christian life, for reassurance, for peace and for testimonies of God's power. 
Next time YOU pray, remember to tell someone about your prayers and share God's love and power with others. Share revelations that God gives you, share stories of how He has helped you in your life. You may pray silently in thought, but don't be silent about what or who you have prayed for, so that ALL people can see God's awesome work! 
Just a little note here, thank you all so much for your support and for reading these posts! It means so much to me that you are enjoying reading these! Please feel free to connect with me through comments on here, through my Facebook page "The Bible Lover" and through Twitter @thebiblelover1. I love to hear other people's opinions and faith stories so do come and say hi! Tiff x

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Jesus is our Guarantor

"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory." Ephesians 1:13‭-‬14 NIV
In this verse from Ephesians, the Holy Spirit is described as being a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.
When we think of deposit guarantees in modern times, we think of the rental market.
"No DSS" is a common tag on rental property searches, usually hidden at the bottom of the listing, ready to disappoint the families who claim housing benefit.
In 2015, 4.8 million families were receiving housing benefit, of those 2.7 million were unemployed and in receipt of other benefits such as income support or job seekers allowance. So 2.1 million families are working and yet still need that top up to make their rent payments each month.
This isn't surprising. Minimum wage currently stands at £8.21. If someone was working full time at 30 hours they would make £1067.30 before tax deductions. The average rent on a 3 bedroom house in Liskeard is £650 per month, which is cheap for the rest of the country. In Reading, the average rent for a 3 bed house is £1300...more than the average monthly wage. Council tax is another £112 a month, utilities are another £100 on average, food shop is another £80 per week...it's not hard to see why so many people need that bit of help towards their rent. If both parents are working, you can add childcare costs into the equation, which can cost around £200 per week. So you can see we have a problem here, think of the number of people who would need a guarantor to secure a tenancy.
Working families, families where one parent works and families where noone is employed need to claim housing benefit, which puts a hurdle in place when trying to rent a home.
For the unemployed, things are far more difficult. The amount of tenants in arrears is double the national statistic if the person is claiming the controversial Universal Credit. 2.7 million familes in 2015 (and I believe the figure is around 4 million in 2018), have the added hurdle of needing a guarantor.
I had a friend recently who needed to move due to being overcrowded in her flat. She had to pay more money as a deposit to make up for the fact that she could not get a guarantor. She was very lucky to have the landlord accept a bigger deposit in lieu of a guarantor.
Now, a guarantor is somebody with a good credit rating who is forced to pay your rent should it fall into arrears. Whether the arrears are due to illness, loss of a job or other unforeseeable circumstances, the guarantor will be liable to pay up on your behalf.
I'm not sure about you guys, but no matter how much I trusted someone, no matter how much faith I had in their character and financial stability, I would not be able to predict whether they will be made redundant, or whether they will become sick and unable to work, or whether a relationship breakdown will leave them struggling.
I couldn't afford to be lumped with the bill, which would most likely come after a couple of months of no payment...so here in Liskeard that would make me liable to pay £1950! No thanks.
Not that I would be accepted as a guarantor anyway, due to some unwise decisions as an 19 year old who had discovered the joy of online catalogues!
But in the same situation, how could I ask someone to be liable for my debt? I wouldn't want to risk it, so why should I expect a friend or family member to risk it themselves? And just to note that most people who are asked for a guarantor are either unemployed or first time renters.
The unemployed are susceptible to sanctions, to underpayements and to overpayments. So through no fault of their own, their guarantors can be billed.
It's such a shame that the people on low incomes and the people who are unemployed are penalised in this way. It is yet another example of people falling short and failing people in need. Landlords must know how hard it is to secure a guarantor. 79, 800 families were homeless or living in temporary accommodation in 2018. 320, 000 people in total are homeless (according to the charity, Shelter). Surely it is a right for every person to have a home?
Of course there are reasons behind this, we have probably all seen the stories of "tenants from hell" and seen the devastating photographs of the mess and destruction that some tenants can leave behind, on top of rent arrears. According to Property Times, "Ten per cent of all landlords had serious problems with tenant damage to the property. Landlords who let property in the North East of England reported serious problems with tenant damage most frequently (25 per cent) compared to only one per cent in the East of England or four per cent in East Midlands and South West." This means that in general, 90% of landlords have had no issues. 
It must take a person with alot of faith in the tenant to take on the role of guarantor.
I will bring this back around to what the verse meant in the times it was written in, now that we know the role and huge responsibility of a guarantor in the present day. Through Jesus, the Holy Spirit is deposited in us as a mark of Jesus' faith in us. Jesus, through our faith in him, guarantees our place in heaven, as the ultimate guarantor. He has already been lumped with the bill of our sins and he paid our debt in full.
Jesus is also helping us in a practical way today by inspiring Christians to help people in debt through Christians against Poverty, a charity aimed at providing help, support and debt counselling to anyone who is in debt. If you need help, or would like to donate to CAP, please visit www.cap.org. There are Cap debt centres all throughout the UK and they are ready to help.
Shelter is a Christian charity set up to help people who are homeless or facing eviction and need help and support. They give advice on renting, deposits, eviction and benefits. You can find them at www.shelter.org.uk if you need help or would like to donate to their cause.
Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

My Baptism Anniversary!

Luke 3: 16 "John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
I am coming up to the 1st anniversary of my baptism and I wanted to share with you all some reflections of how my life has changed in the last year. It has been quite a journey from that cold plunge in the sea on a packed Looe beach!
Before I carry on, I just want to say a massive thank you to my best friend who gave me that first seed of curiosity. She is so inspiring and so humble, she would never admit that she was so instrumental in bringing me to Jesus, and I am certain that she has brought so many others to Him. I also want to thank my Church family and our Vicar for being so welcoming, encouraging  and supportive to me and my family, you guys are literally the best people and we feel so blessed by your friendship, love and fellowship.
During this year I have developed a servant's heart. I have a passion for helping people and I find it a real joy to help people in the name of Jesus!
Since my baptism last summer I have felt compelled to always "do more". I feel a constant prod from God to "do more".  In this last year I have organised an event to raise money for Breast Cancer Care, organised an event to "Fill our Foodbank", signed up to help with Sunday School and the youth club, helped out in the Church office, became a member of the PCC, helped to run an Alpha Course, started this blog, signed up to a Leadership Course, taken on the Church's Social Media accounts, served coffee, scrubbed the toilets in the Church halls...pretty much when any opportunity pops up to help, "Here I am!".
Here's a fun fact, my name is Tiffany, which comes from the word Epiphany. Epiphany translates as "manifestation of God". Manifestation translates to "dancing hand". So my name means "dancing hand of God"...I feel like I'm living up to that right now! Haha! 
Two years ago I was shy and self-conscious. Definitely too anxious to put myself forward for anything that put me in a spotlight. I suffered with depression and anxiety for a couple of years before moving to Liskeard and never thought I would be where I am today. God plucked me from such a dark place and dropped me straight into His light.
I am having the best time!  My family are also growing in Christ and it's just so amazing to witness!
My children attend the Church youth club, the Christian after-school club and Sunday School. My husband is currently on an Alpha course, which is so exciting for us all! My eldest daughter was also baptised last year and she is having a great time getting involved in the youth activities. She is also part of the Junior Worship Team at her school. She asked us for a Bible for her birthday and my heart melted!
Please don't confuse this post as boastful. This is me saying that I have a fire sparked in my soul and I have let it fully consume me. We all have that spark as Christians. That spark comes straight from God Himself, just as Jesus promised in John 14: 15-17  “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."
 It is His spirit burning in our hearts and we can and do sometimes choose to extinguish it when it feels a bit "too hot". When we don't want to risk being burned. We pat at it and blow it out. But God will always reignite that spark, like a pilot light in a boiler.
Just imagine what could happen if we all let God's spirit burn through us, lighting us up so that we shine openly and brazenly for all to see! How many other people's lives could we illuminate? Fire catches and spreads so easily and quickly...
In saying that, sometimes life itself can extinguish that fire. Evil whisperings of doubt in our ears can make that flame flicker, our own stubbornness and selfishness can snuff it out in an instant. We can become discouraged and our spiritual thermostat winds right down.
We need to feed that fire with the fuel that is God's word. With prayer and with fellowship that brings encouragement and stokes the embers of our souls.
I once asked my friend "How can some people have such complete faith and KNOW that God is real, yet loose their faith and their belief?" For all that I have witnessed and experienced, I could never imagine losing a faith that is so set in concrete. But it happens, doesn't it?
My friend replied with "bottle that feeling, because you might need it later".
I remember once singing in church during one of the Worship services, and I looked around at everyone singing; some dancing, some with their hands in the air....and I thought for a split second "what if it's not real?". Then my mind was flooded with memories of physically feeling God's spirit, of answered prayers, of the exact verse that I needed to hear popping up all over the place at that time, of the time that I dreamt of our Church leaders wearing "St Martin's" Tshirts before being told they were already being ordered...too many "coincidences"....and the thought of "is this real?" was replaced with peace and conviction as I carried on singing.
So where will I be next year? Only God knows, and I'm so excited to see what He has planned for me next! 
I pray that I will continue to let that fire burn with a white-hot fury for all to see... and people do see it...4 of my friends are on the Alpha Course with my Husband! 
I pray that God continues to work in me, through me and for me.
I also pray that if you are reading this and you feel as though your fire isn't burning as brightly as it once was, that you will feel encouraged to add fuel to your fire, un-bottle that first love you felt for our God and we can shine brightly together with the love and light of our Lord Jesus. Amen!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Share in His Sufferings

"Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Romans 8:17 NIV.
I am currently taking part in a Leadership course at my Church, and though I find it really exciting...it is terrifying too!
Leadership isn't necessarily standing in the Pulpit and delivering a sermon to a crowded Church, but sometimes God will call you to do just that...and the closer you get to following God's plans for you, the more you will become attacked. You will doubt yourself, you will feel inadequate and you will feel like giving up.
I have found myself in more and more situations where I have to talk in front of groups of people, and it is getting easier over time but it's something that I still struggle with.
I have always had an issue with public speaking, I get nervous, stumble over my words...I forget to breathe!
Isn't it funny that when I'm sat here with a coffee in hand and typing on my laptop I can freely say everything that I want to, but once I have more than one pair of eyes on me I become an incoherent mess.
Yesterday was Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, and during our celebrations God revealed something to me that changed everything for me...and I want to share it with you guys so that it might help you too!
Our speaker for the day read the above Bible verse and my ears pricked up at that last line "if indeed we share in his sufferings...".
I might suffer while trying to speak to people, but I don't suffer anywhere near as bad as Jesus suffered for us all on that cross! He did that for me, so I can do this for him. We too can suffer for His cause. We can try to share in his sufferings and hopefully be worthy to share in His glory!
The next verse that stood out to me yesterday was this: "Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did."Psalm 86:16 NIV.
"Show your strength in behalf of your servant". This verse stood out because of the odd wording, it made me re-read the line and take notice of it's message. "In behalf", not "on behalf". Show your strength THROUGH me, not instead of me, especially when I am speaking out to serve Him.
When I ran all of this past my friend she said "Well of course! Peter could walk on water when he kept his eyes on Jesus! He began to sink when he looked away".
God was telling me to keep my eyes on Jesus and embrace my suffering and He will strengthen me.
How amazing that through those 2 verses and through my friend, God reached out to me and told me exactly what I needed to hear. Through 2 verses that were completely separate...one I heard in the service in Church, and the other in a Children's activity in the Church Hall, but both on the anniversary of the day that God's spirit came upon the disciples and strengthened THEM ready for their ministry.
I pray that anyone else who is feeling called to ministry but has this same issue... this anxiety that stops you from doing what you feel you need to do, reads this post and discovers God speaking to them and strengthening them too.