A Prayer for the UK

I wrote this just over a year ago but it still feels relevant today

Jesus, may we see your light shining even brighter in these coming days
May all those who are walking in darkness find the hope and salvation that only you can bring.
Help us, your people, to let your light shine in us and through us.
Amen

Honest about my faith

They lived in a time of despair and uncertainty, a people looking for hope and to these people, God makes a promise:

The people who walk in darknesswill see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. (Isaiah 9.2)

The Jews who first heard this message through Isaiah hundreds of years ago would almost certainly have taken it to be a promise of a military leader who would come and defeat all of their enemies. Their hope was to become a secure and sovereign nation again and they longed for God to make this a reality.

We now know that these words spoke of Jesus who was the Messiah but in an unexpected way, he rescued us all, not from other nations but rather from separation from God.

Jesus came into this world and the people who…

View original post 99 more words

Posted in Faith | Leave a comment

God, Help us to See more Clearly – A Prayer

Have I been looking in the wrong place? If I am honest, I been struggling to comprehend the complexities of the fast changing circumstances that we are living in and at times everything feels quite frantic.

As I considered this, I realized that I have been so busy looking at information about what is happening that I have not been looking to God consistently.

I am a visual thinker and so as I tried to make sense of what I was thinking I did an image search for keywords like ‘focus’ and ‘lens’ and I came across a great picture by Steven Wright on Unsplash.

As I looked at the picture and prayed I wrote this prayer as a summary of what I wanted to ask God and it felt fitting to combine it with the image I had found so inspirational. I hope you find it as helpful as I have.

God, help us to see more clearly so that we can discover more of who you are and see more consistently the ways that you are at work each day.

For me, this prayer is not about burying our heads in the sand and turning away from the world. As we see more clearly who God is and the ways he is working then this will give us the insight that we need to engage with the world around us. 

Perhaps I wasn’t looking in the wrong place. It was my perspective that needed to change and I pray that I will continually look to God that I might see the world a little more like he does each day.

Posted in creative communication, Faith, Prayer | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye Darkness My Old Friend?

Imagine that you were sat at home at night (that’s probably not too hard at the moment) and all the lights in your house went out, what would you do? 

a. Turn your phone on and use the light, perhaps to find some candles to create more light?

or

b. Stumble around in the darkness?

This may seem like a no brainer unless of course you don’t have a phone! I don’t imagine that many of us would choose to live in the dark if we had the option of light!

Hello darkness my old friend?

This famous opening line from Simon and Garfunkel’s song ‘The Sound of Silence’ sounds incredibly depressing and in recent years it has been used as a meme to communicate despair. There is so much to be sad about as we look at the world, particularly as we are live with the Covid-19 Pandemic. We hear about death rates daily, people are feeling the loss of not being able to be with people they care about and the time when this is all behind us seems a very, very long way off.

When we are living with the sense of things being dark and we are spiralling towards despair, how do we cope?

Goodbye darkness my old friend?

Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8.12)

As I was thinking about living in dark times, it struck me that we can either choose to focus on the darkness or to look to the light. God’s light will not remove the darkness but his presence with us will provide us with hope and comfort as we look for a way forward.

Night vision and the light

Many years ago I remember walking in the pitch black. My eyes had began to adjust and I could see around me to some extent, I was walking cautiously but I was managing to find my way along the path I was on. As I stumbled along, I became aware of a small  light moving towards me and I soon realized that someone with a torch was headed my way. As they were about to walk past, they raised their torch and shone it in my face and in that moment the light felt blinding! Once they had gone past I realized that the night vision that had developed was now completely gone and the darkness felt very uncomfortable again.

God has called us out of darkness

The Bible describes disciples of Jesus as people who have been ‘called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’ (1 Peter 2.9)

If you are struggling with life and things feel dark then I want you to know that Jesus wants to offer you light and hope. As I prayed about this, this phrase came to me:

If your eyes are closed you are still living in the dark

How often do we close our eyes to the light of Jesus? His light will not help unless we open our eyes and focus on him.

What will we choose today, the darkness or Jesus as a friend?

A prayer:

Jesus, light of the world, sometimes this world feels like it’s a very dark place.
In these moments anxiety, we ask that you would help us as we open our eyes and look to your light.
Forgive us if we have become comfortable with the darkness,
help us to be willing to have the courage to let go of our despair, bitterness and pain
Thank you that you are with us offering friendship, healing and hope
May each of us receive your light afresh now and may your light bring transformation to our lives and the lives of those around us.
Amen.

Image Dmitry Ratushny Unsplash

Posted in Bible, Faith, hope | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Who you gonna call?

Is anyone else struggling?

Let’s be honest, life has been turned upside down and inside out in recent times in ways that we never could have imagined. Like me you may well be feeling like you are stumbling along, trying to work out how to live well in this new normal.

For me, I still feel that Hosanna is the word that we need these troubling times. Hosanna is both a shout of hope and a cry for help at the same time and that is exactly how I (and perhaps many of us??) feel. I can honestly say that my hope is in God and I trust in and am confident that he is working but life is also a struggle at the moment and I am learning to hold these things in tension as Hosanna moments.

At some stage soon, things are going to change again as the UK Government is going to make an announcement about easing lockdown restrictions at some point this week. As we head towards this newer new normal, we may feel an even greater sense of bewilderment as we try to make sense of the changes happening around us. 

In these times, who are you gonna call?

If you just shouted Ghostbusters then you really are in trouble!

I thank God for family and friends who support me but ultimately they too are living with circumstances that we have never faced before.

For me, the only person who I can trust in who has a unique perspective is God. In Proverbs 3.5-6 we are encouraged to trust in Him with all of our heart and to seek His will in all we do and if we do this, then He will show us which path to take.

It’s really isn’t rocket science! As we head into the unknown, who are you gonna call? This is a time when we should be crying out to and looking to God for his help, hope and leading. For some of us this will involve slowing down and acknowledging that we don’t have the answers. If this is true for us, are we willing to do this or do we like it a bit too much when people put their trust in us?

I wanted to highlight these posts that have challenged and stretched my thinking in this area of learning to instinctively call on God more consistently in the whole of life. I hope that you will fine them helpful.

Nobody should put Jesus in the Corner: In a storm, the disciples are afraid but Jesus is asleep in the corner of the boat. Everything changes when they cry out to him.

The experiences that triggered Holding On and Being Held and The one about the blind trail really spoke to me about the reality of what it means to have God with us.

As we continue to head into the unknown, who are you gonna call?

As we are make space to call on and to listen to God, he will guide us. This short video is an example of the sort of thing that I think that God is trying to say to us, if we will only stop and listen.

The image in this post has been made by me using a picture posted by Daniel Gonzalez on unsplash, you are free to reuse this picture but please include a link to this post in any online use. There is no need to provide any credit for use in presentations.

Posted in Bible, depression, Faith, God is with us, hope, Life experiences, Relationship with God, trust | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

People are searching for Prayer during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Google searches for the word prayer have increased dramatically in the past few weeks as we face this global Pandemic. hen I read this, I looked up the data at trends.google.com  and this chart shows the increased growth of the use of the word Prayer in the past few months across the world and in the UK.

Google defines interest over time as ‘Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. A score of 0 means there was not enough data for this term.’

This increase in the search for prayer was highlighted by Jeanet Sinding Bentzen’s research land you might be interested to look at this.

If people are searching about prayer, how can we engage and share what prayer is and what it means to us? 

For me, prayer is really simple, it is a conversation with God where we can tell him how we feel and talk with him. As we pause, I believe that we can be guided and receive from God and for me this is invaluable in life.

If you don’t know where to start, you might find these words from Psalm 62 helpful to listen to and reflect upon.

Posted in Faith, Prayer, Relationship with God | Tagged , | Leave a comment

If you are feeling Brokenhearted, you are Not Alone

During our times of greatest pain, when we feel brokenhearted, we often feel isolated and alone. In these moments, God wants to remind us that he is close to us and that we are never alone:

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34.18)

So many of us are struggling at this time for a whole variety of reasons. It’s good for us if we can be honest about this and if we can also reach out to others for support, help and encouragement.

If you are feeling brokenhearted or like your Spirit has been crushed then God especially wants you to know that he is close to you and that he wants to comfort and help you. 

God may be close but we still need to call on him and this requires us to admit that we really are not okay. It’s necessary to have these moments of honesty before we can begin to receive God’s healing. 

As we cry out to God, he will meet us in our pain offering love, comfort, support and his presence – that he will never leave or forsake us.

May we each know God’s closeness and be open to receiving his help and healing during these difficult times.

Posted in Bible, Faith, God is with us, Life experiences | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are we Trying to Bottle or Pour Out God’s Presence? Some thoughts inspired by the Transfiguration of Jesus

As I was walking in some local woods a few days ago I walked past this shelter and I began to think about the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17.1-9). On a mountain top, Peter, James and John saw the majesty of Jesus revealed as his face shone like the sun and Moses and Elijah appeared and began to talk with him. Whilst this was really a moment for stunned silence, Peter (who always had something to say) blurted out “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” His question got lost as God’s majesty continued to be revealed in increasing glory: ‘While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”’

Was Peter’s suggestion driven in part by his Old Testament understanding of the temple or tabernacle as places where God’s undiluted presence could be found? As Peter sees the power of God in Jesus, Moses and Elijah, it must have seemed natural to him to offer to create some tabernacles so that the presence of God could dwell in a way that fitted with his understanding. Peter’s desire was to try to bottle the presence of God and in contrast to this Jesus leads them down the mountain. Jesus knew there was no need to try to ‘bottle’ or cling to the presence of God because it could be freely poured out again and again and again. Is our understanding of God’s presence closer to that of Peter’s thinking here than we would like to admit? We would all say that God is present everywhere and that he is at work in the world but the way we sometimes engage missionally implies much more of a tabernacle like understanding of God’s presence.

Peter wants to put Jesus in a shelter, but Jesus wants to take God’s presence into the world.

Peter wants to bottle the presence of God, but Jesus wants to see the presence poured out.

In the past month, churches have been turned inside out as we have been forced to take our approaches to discipleship completely out of church buildings. I wonder if in years to come we will look back and see this aspect of what we are going through as a blessing rather than a curse? This global Pandemic is horrendous and whilst I don’t believe that God caused it, I do believe that he is at work in it. I’m reminded of the first Christians who were told to go into all the world with the gospel but who instead settled in Jerusalem. A few months later and a great persecution caused the church to be scattered and as a result the gospel began to spread throughout the world.

Will we allow the lockdown we are in to reshape our thinking about God’s presence?

Are we open to hearing what the Spirit is saying in these troubling times?

If you watch the video, you will see that when we came to film that the shelter had been knocked down and I wonder if this a prophetic picture? I hope and pray that during these troubling times that any ‘come to us mentality’ that still influences our evangelism would finally be broken. May we embrace the truth that God lives in us which means that people can find God in and through us rather than having to go to a building. ‘We are temples of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Cor 6.19, Ephesians 2. 21-22), what does this really mean?

Peter never got to build his shelters. Jesus wasn’t willing to be put into lockdown, rather he chose to take God’s healing presence into a hurting world, and this is still his priority. Will we join Jesus in this pouring out rather than trying to bottle the presence of God just for ourselves?

I have produced a short video (just over 3 minutes) that also explores these thoughts.

video link

Posted in Bible, creative communication, Faith, video I have taken | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Nobody should put Jesus in the Corner

When I was called to be a Regional Minister, I spent some time asking God what he wanted to say to his Church.

As I did this, I began to think about Jesus calming of the storm and I was remind that during the storm that Jesus was asleep at the back of the boat (Mark 4.35-41). Everything changed as the disciples cried out to Jesus to wake up and then the miraculous peace that had allowed Jesus to sleep in those conditions was unleashed to bring calm to the storm.

Nobody should put Jesus in a corner but is that what we do?

Do we cry out to God just when we need him? At times, is he only found in the corner of our lives and churches or is he at the centre where the peace and presence of God can flow out?

As I travel to different churches each Sunday, this is the message I have been sharing. If you have 16 minutes to spare, you can watch the video I have made about this where I talk through the passage and explain these things using storytelling and visuals. For fun, we have added five Easter Eggs (hidden references) to the video, four are visual and one is verbal. See if you notice them if you watch.

This is one of the visuals that I use in the video as an illustration. Peace is only found naturally in some of the pictures but it can be found miraculously in every single one of them. When we are feeling overwhelmed by life and stress, there is a peace that passes all understanding that we can receive.

Questions to consider:

  1. Do we ever put Jesus in the corner of our lives? What leads to this happening? How could things be different?
  2. Do we ever put Jesus in the corner of church life? Jesus is the centre of attention in our worship but is this true in the rest of church life? In running a church, do we just give Jesus a quick hello and then get on with things ourselves? How could things be different?
  3. Think about the story that I share in the video about God acting in miraculous power. This all came about because I was stuck and as a result I called Jesus out of the corner to help. How can we change our thinking so that we realize that we are supposed to be joining Jesus in his work rather than calling him in to bless our bright ideas?

Nobody should put Jesus in the corner!

 

Posted in Bible, creative communication, Faith, Life experiences | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are You Tired?

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

I have been thinking about these verses for a few days now and was planning to write something about them but Beth, who I have the privilege of working with, has beaten me to it. She wrote this in the EBA thought for the week which we send out to Ministers:

“These verses as presented by Eugene Peterson start with the phrase ‘Are you tired?’ This morning Graeme shared this with us at our team Skype call and my heart went ‘yes, I am tired’.  Now the passage goes on to talk about being worn out and burnt out on religion and I don’t echo so much with that.  But why should I be tired, I am sleeping well, eating and exercising well, so why?

I think many of us at this time are feeling tired and worn out and there are so many reasons for this.  We are dealing with a huge change curve and trying to find our footing on that curve on a daily basis.  At times it is a slippery, slidey curve and at others a more measured manageable staircase, but what is certain is that it is unpredictable.  Many of us have had to re-invent what our life looks like, at home, in ministry as well as how to relate to far flung family and friends.  Experts tell us that it is like culture-shock and it is akin to grief, as all that is familiar shifts and fades.  So when the God’s word asks me, ‘am I tired’, I echo with ‘yes’.  (Having said all that I recognise that some thrive best when grappling with the change curve and so I applaud and bless you!!)

The next phrase that jumps out for me in the Message paraphrase is ‘Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it’ or the more familiar words are ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me’.  The imagery of a ‘yoke’ is a hard one for us who mainly live outside of rural life, but perhaps the imagery of walking is particularly helpful for us right now.  Each day, we take our daily walk, probably in a more routine way than we would have done a few months ago.  When we walk, what do we take with us?  Do we walk with head and shoulders bowed down, plodding, feeling weighed down considering our next Zoom meeting or how to manipulate the technology yet again?  Alternatively can we walk with the rhythms of grace that Jesus taught the two on the road to Emmaus as they walked and talked with a stranger, until as they broke bread together their eyes were opened.  I am sure they walked much more lightly back down the road to Jerusalem.

So as you negotiate the slippery curve of change and the present certainty of our unpredictable times, may you sense that you are keeping company and walking with the risen Lord Jesus and may we all be able to live freely and lightly because of Him and in the power of His resurrection.

Thank you to everyone for the amazing ministry you are carrying out at this time, may God continue to sustain you in all that you are doing both for your churches and the wider community.”

Thanks to Beth for giving me permission to share her thoughts here

You might also find The one where the heavy bit of wood is light to carry interesting if you want to think a bit more of the language of being yoked.

Posted in Bible, Faith, Life experiences | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who will Move the Stone? A Stop Motion Video

I was thinking about Mary and her friends walking towards the tomb to embalm Jesus’ body. They were so anxious about moving the stone but when they got there God had moved it and he had also done more than they cold have asked or imagined.

Thinking about this inspired me to make this to minute video. I hope you enjoy it

Posted in Bible, creative communication, Easter week explained, Faith | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment