Sharing Some News With You

I wanted to let you all know that I have been called to become a Regional Minister in the Eastern Baptist Association. Sadly this means that I will be leaving Orchard Baptist Church in October in order to respond to this new calling.

I have been and still am so incredibly happy at Orchard; the church is in a good place, it is healthy and growing and the rest of the church are an incredible blessing to me. My ministry as a part of the Orchard family has been a real joy and a privilege.

In the light of this, it has taken various colleagues to encourage me to apply for the Regional role (one of them did this very persistently). As I have listened to and thought about their encouragements I began to reflect on who I am, my life experience and what God is calling me to at this time. I began to realize how much time that I was already spending helping other Ministers and Churches and as I prayed about this it felt like this is something which I should be doing more. There was no bellowing voice from heaven, no angel fanfare but there was a growing realization that I was being called by God.

A few weeks ago I had the surreal experience of being interviewed for the Regional Minister role. I was able to say with certainty that I felt called but also that I hoped that they didn’t appoint me because I am very happy as the Minister at Orchard. It was an all day interview with several sections and normally I expect that it would have been quite stressful but instead I actually found it enjoyable. Instead of trying to impress the interviewing panel to try to get the job, I was just able to be myself. Talking honestly about my experiences and what I think is important in church life was a pleasure and a joy rather than something I needed to present in a certain way to get the right result.

As I went through the various interviews that day it became even more obvious to me that who I am and where I am in life is the right fit for what the EBA needs in a Regional Minister at this time. It turned out that the interviewing panel agreed.

Tracey and I  have spent the last few weeks sitting on this news which has been quite difficult. Yesterday my appointment was shared with and confirmed by the Eastern Association Gathering and it was great to be prayed for as a part of this. This morning we finally shared about our news with the Orchard Church family which was very difficult for them to hear. We had already told the leadership team of the church and so they were able to prayerfully stand with us which has been real blessing to us and also to the rest of the church today. You can listen to what was said by myself and the leadership team through this link.

From October I will be joining Beth and Nick (the other two Regional Ministers in the EBA) in working with the churches across the region on this map. This will be especially across the central section from the coast across to Cambridge and just beyond.

I am excited by what God has for the EBA and I am grateful for his provision for our family in helping us to remain in the Colchester area. Your prayers are appreciated for us as a Regional Team as we follow God in faith, trusting in Him each step of the way as he leads us forward as an association.

You can find out more about the EBA at www.easternbaptist.org.uk

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She Came Last but the Crowd Cheered Loudly

It was sports day again this week and it reminded me of this amazing race that happened last year.

Who are we cheering on in life?

We have the power to do such good, simply through encouragement. So what is stopping us?

Honest about my faith

I had never been to a school sports day like it.

The largest cheer of the day was for someone who came last in what was the slowest time of the day by a very long way.

My daughter attends a school for children with learning difficulties and recently it was their sports day. It was a real joy to watch these young people taking part and it was refreshing to hear how much someone had improved being celebrated alongside who was winning the various races.

The highlight of the day came during the 200m when one of the runners sat down on the track with around 100m to go. A member of staff made their way over to the runner and helped her up and they both began walking towards the finishing line.

The girl involved was clearly distraught and she looked down at the ground as she trudged along…

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She Looks Young and Old at the Same Time

My wife and I were walking our dog recently when a passer-by stopped to say hello (it’s amazing how easy it is to meet new people when you are walking a dog).

He asked how old our dog was and when Tracey said she was only two he said that he was asking because he couldn’t guess her age because;

‘She looks young and old at the same time’.

As we walked along I began to ponder these words and it occurred to me that they are a good description of a healthy church.

Old enough to have experience, wisdom and maturity in faith but young enough to have enthusiasm, childlike faith and an openness to risk taking.

Do churches gravitate towards being respectable and places that are safe? Do we want to think about or try to apply the teaching of Jesus about ‘becoming like little children’ as we follow him?

Perhaps it is the opposite and the church you are a part of has no rules or structure and anything goes? Churches can also gravitate towards immaturity as being a stage of life to stay in when the Bible encourages us to grow in faith.

As I pondered some more it occurred to me that the words were also a description of healthy faith.

Old enough to have experienced God at work and to have learnt along the way but young enough to be curious and to realize that there is always more growing to do.

Some Christians seem to project a sense of them having arrived or that they have grown well enough in their faith. It’ s also easy when we have been Christians a long time to settle for where we are and to try to live a comfortable life of faith that doesn’t mean and great change is required.

It can be the opposite though with some people clinging to immaturity of faith as an excuse not to pursue growth in faith or holiness. For others faith is only about feelings and there is a resistance to learn who God is and what he wants because we just want him to make us feel good.

Where are you? Where is the church you are a part of? Are you young or old or hopefully both?

My prayer for the church and for your faith is that you would be really young and old at the same time.

To Ponder:

  1. Would you describe your faith as being young or old?
    If it is at one extreme or the other, what can you do to restore the balance?
  2. Would you describe your church as being young or old in faith?
    If it is at one extreme or the other, what could you do together to restore the balance?
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Surrounded by God’s Love

When I think of being surrounded it feels like it has a negative connotation. The police officer might shout ‘we have you surrounded’ to the criminals in a building. Soldiers might shout to their enemies ‘we have you surrounded’ as they try to encourage them to leave their hiding place.

Being surrounded though can also be positive. If I was in space, I would be glad to be surrounded by a spacesuit so I could breathe or in a hailstorm I would be glad to be surrounded by some shelter. Someone who is upset is glad to be surrounded by a hug as they revive comfort and someone feeling vulnerable feels safe when surrounded by bodyguards.

Psalm 33 v22 speaks of being surrounded by God’s love:

‘Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone’.

God’s love can give us security and being surrounded by it and God’s presence will help us to feel safe if we trust in and put our hope in him.

Pause and think about what it means to be surrounded by God’s love.

Will we put our hope in Him or are we looking for our security in other places?

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When I can’t do it is the right answer!

To certain members of the Ross household it felt like the end of the world – our internet had stopped working at home! While we waited for an engineer to come and fix the problem I bought a mobile wifi dongle thingy (I’m using all my best technical language here!) to create a wifi hotspot using mobile data.

I brought it home and unboxed it, turned it on  and connected to it via my laptop. I immediately got a good connection to the gadget but no internet.

Then I did the unthinkable, I decided to read the instructions (thankfully these were in the box and not just available online). Having discovered I had done everything right I started trying to open and to adjust settings.

After some time I decided it was time to bring out the big guns and use the greatest technical solution I could think of.

Yes, I turned it on and off again!

It connected instantly to laptop but no internet – AARGHHH!! I even turned it off and took the sim card out and reinserted it and still nothing – double AARGHHH!

I decided that perhaps my laptop was at fault so I tried it with my phone and then a tablet (a computery thing, not paracetamol silly!)

In all I tried to get this thing to work for three hours – that’s AARGHHH x lots!

One of the saddest things about this whole episode was that if I am honest, it was fairly obvious within half an hour that the gadget was broken.

That’s right, I wasted hours trying to make something work that I knew deep down was broken, how crazy is that?

As I thought about this later I wondered if this is a picture of where I sometimes go wrong in life? I get it in my head that I will achieve something and so I keep trying and trying without giving God a look in because I can cope!

Sometimes we need to let go and let God.

Perseverance isn’t wrong but sometimes when we serve God, it’s ony him that can open the way.

At the red sea, Moses could have tried to build rafts but it wouldn’t have ended well when the Egyptians turned up!

When a hungry crowd was in front of him, Jesus could have tried to break the loaves and fishes into really small pieces but it wouldn’t have worked.

Sometimes we need to let go and let God do a miracle but the key is letting God lead.

So we returned the faulty device and were given a refund. Oh and randomly the internet started working at home again!

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Are you excited about the Royal Wedding?

Are you excited about the Royal Wedding?

My oldest daughter is, to the point where she has asked a few times now if we can go and watch.

We are only 98 miles away from Windsor and so we could go for the day but then if we did, we would only be able to join the crowds outside of the ceremony. We possibly wouldn’t even see the happy couple despite travelling all of that way. I suppose we could say we were there but it feels like a lot of effort to go to when we were not invited and even if we went that we might struggle to get close enough to see

Harry and Meghan are getting married tomorrow and I pray that they would know God’s blessing on their marriage and that they would be very happy together.

Thinking of their wedding reminded me of another royal wedding:

Once there was a king who sent out invitations to his wedding of his son. On the day of the wedding feast he sent his servants to bring the guests but they refused to come. So he sent further servants to impress on them the fact that the feast was ready and the food was prepared but the guests still refused and some of them even attacked the messengers. When he realized that the guests weren’t coming, the king sent his servants out to tell everyone they met that they were invited to the wedding feast. The servants were to invite anyone irrespective of their reputation, everyone was welcome no matter had happened in their past.

Jesus told this story to explain what the Kingdom of Heaven is like this (Matthew 22.1-14).

The story is odd, after all why would you not go to a royal wedding if you were invited? I guess you would have to be seriously ill (I feel so sad for Meghan’s dad who can’t attend his daughter’s wedding) or perhaps it might indicate that you didn’t want to align yourself with the King and his family.

Jesus told this parable to illustrate that God is for everyone, not just the religious, rich or famous. Jesus came to demonstrate and to let us know that everyone will be welcomed by God ‘irrespective of their reputation’ and ‘no matter had happened in their past’ if they accept his invitation.

If I received a lat minute invitation for Harry & Meghan’s wedding I would make the time to attend (as long as I could take my daughter who might otherwise never speak to me again!) To be invited would be such a privilege!

We have all received an invitation to join God in his Kingdom and this is as much about knowing him in our lives now as it is about being with him when we die. All we need to do is to respond to God’s invitation by turning to and following him!

To be invited to a party by God the king of kings is such a privilege, so what is stopping you?

There is more to this parable because the Church is described as the Bride of Christ. The wedding feast speaks of a time when Christ will invite his Church (another way of saying his people) to live with him permanently in eternity. If you are interested you can read more about that here.

Image: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle by Mark Jones [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Honest about my faith is 4 years old today!

WordPress have just sent me this reminder that my blog  is 4 years old today.

This seemed to be a good opportunity to thank all of you who take the time to read along (127,583 hits so far).  I would also like to especially thank those who take the time to get in touch to provide encouragement.

I find writing quite difficult and I still am amazed at the way that God has taken something that I don’t feel very good at and has used it for such good.

I have over 100 blog post ideas saved as drafts so your prayers are appreciated as I try to make the time to share some of them.

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Pentecost: Knowing God rather than just knowing about him

As we think about the day of Pentecost it is not juts a nice story, it is life changing!

Honest about my faith

ephesians 5.18 - be filled with the spiritIt’s Pentecost Sunday but did you know that during the Jewish festival of Pentecost (originally called Weeks) they remembered the giving of the 10 commandments?

What do you think that the significance is of the giving of the Holy Spirit taking place during the festival when they remembered the giving of the law?

The giving of the 10 commandments and the rest of the law to Moses was God’s way of showing his people how they should follow him. The law taught people how to live and also showed them what they had to do to make themselves right with God.

The Law taught people what to do to follow God but the Holy Spirit enables us to know God.

Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit who would be another comforter / counsellor / advocate (John 14.16). The word ‘another’ tells us that the Holy Spirit’s role is to be the…

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Are we thankful for Pentecost?

God chose to pour out his Spirit at Pentecost which was a harvest festival where the Jews celebrated the firstfruits and looked forward to God’s greater provision.

Honest about my faith

cyo chaplain thanksIt’s Pentecost Sunday tomorrow but did you know that the Jewish festival of Pentecost (originally called Weeks) was a harvest festival?

What do you think that the significance is of the giving of the Holy Spirit taking place during a harvest festival?

The Bible says, ‘Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest’ (Exodus 34.22)

The festival of Weeks (later known as Pentecost) was a time when the harvest was celebrated but it was also acknowledged that there was so much more to come.

On the day of Pentecost, 2000 years ago Jesus’ followers were in a house in Jerusalem. Just over a week earlier, Jesus had ascended back into heaven but before he went, he had told them to wait until the Holy Spirit gave them power.

As the disciples gathered on that day, they would have been thinking of harvest and in particular of the firstfruits.

On that…

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Meeting Jesus when we feel broken, afraid or full of doubt

Mary was distraught. She had come to the tomb and was shocked to find that Jesus’ body wasn’t there.  We don’t know how long she stood there or what thoughts were spinning through her head but we do know that she reached the conclusion that someone had removed the body (John 20.2)

She ran to tell Peter and John who had responded by coming to see for themselves. They had both looked around but now they had gone and she was left alone, crying outside of the tomb.

One of the things I find sad (if it’s possible to find a sad bit about the resurrection story) is that the Bible says that John believed that Jesus had risen but then he just goes home leaving Mary crying. Did he say something on the way past or was he too wrapped up in what he was feeling? Either way, I really feel for Mary.

Mary then encountered some angels and then Jesus (who she didn’t recognize) and they all asked her (unlike Peter and John who had cleared off) why she was crying. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

Mary felt broken. Her fellow disciples had left her and now people kept asking her why she was crying. Why would they ask that, wasn’t it obvious? Her Lord had been tortured and executed and now it looked like someone had taken his body away.

The description ‘Mary was crying’ is completely inadequate. We can only imagine the anguish that she was feeling. She was so consumed by her pain that she didn’t recognize that angels were talking with her and she also didn’t even recognize Jesus. Then in a wonderful moment of clarity, Jesus speaks her name and the penny drops as she realizes that no one has moved the body but that JESUS IS ALIVE!!!

Do you feel broken today? Are you living with hurt that conumes you?

If so, will you meet with Jesus and pour out our hearts once he asks; why are you crying? As we do so, our honesty will begin our healing!

Posted in Being honest about our faith, Bible, change, depression, Faith, Life experiences, Listening to God, Relationship with God, restoration, Resurrection | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment