Friday, December 07, 2018

The very highest energy of which the human mind is capable

"Brothers and sisters, pray for us". This is what St Paul wrote to the new believers in Thessaloniki towards the end of his first letter. He knew that these were young Christians, recently converted from paganism or Judaism, and very green indeed. Yet he recognised that he needed their prayers, and would not be able to function in the teeth of fierce hostility where he was (in Corinth) if God did not help him. He had entered into a partnership with those whom he led where they each depended upon the other praying for them.

Later, in his first letter to Timothy, St Paul sets out a further vital imperative in intercessory prayer. "Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation." (1 Tim 2:2 The Message). In the case of the UK, there has not been a more urgent need for such praying in probably 50 years. Next Tuesday, the British government is facing almost certain defeat in a motion to endorse the EU Withdrawal Agreement that Prime Minister Mrs May has signed with the EU leaders in Brussels. Whatever your opinion of this deal, or the whole matter of the UK leaving the EU, the leaders elected to the House of Commons need our prayers at this time. We should also pray for Theresa May and her ministers that they may have supernatural wisdom - it looks like they're going to need it!

Whatever happens, don't be afraid. Look at my previous post and repeat those wonderful fear-fighting Bible texts! God is in charge, but He does call us to join Him by prayer - training for reigning if you like. So, even if you are a new Christian still wet behind the ears, St Paul's advice is good advice, and what we should be about in the next few days. “The act of praying is the very highest energy of which the human mind is capable” (E M Bounds, Power Through Prayer). So why not rise to it now!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Project Fear Throttles Hope and Peace

There's not much fun in British politics at the moment. Was there ever? No surprises there then! But Brexit is like two toddlers riding towards an unknown future with terror on their faces. Maybe one really wanted to be there - like the Brexiteers - but the other wanted to stay safe with Mummy - "comme les Remainers" (pardon my French!) - but now they are careering together towards who knows what! When the whole debate about Brexit first arose in 2016 and the nation faced the now infamous referendum, the term "Project Fear" was coined. It was used to describe attempts by the government to head off Brexit and get people to vote remain. Did it fail?  Not really, because now FEAR is the watchword of both sides! If Britain goes with the deal Mrs May has negotiated, or leaves without a deal, the people are being fed a diet of fear. As Christians, we really need to make sure that "Fear doesn't Make the Decisions Around here!"

People are very afraid today. Fear is endemic in our society, as Jesus prophesied it would be in the last days. ‘Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world’ (Lk. 21:26). Fear is a powerful force in its own right, whether the thing feared comes to pass or not. It can grip our hearts and minds and make it impossible to enjoy life - like those toddlers unable to see the fun they could be having on the roundabout! You may have heard it said that New Testament says 'don't be afraid' 366 times - one for every day of the year and one for a leap year!

Whatever happens in Westminster or Brussels God is still on his throne and is not wringing his hands in fear that the wrong decision will be made. Extremists on both sides may accuse me of sitting on the fence or failing to discern real dangers, but I prefer to trust the God who says that he loves us and has an exciting plan for our lives.

In my book Braving the Storm I offer a list of 10 fear-fighting Bible texts and I will include them here. Go on - choose to trust God and don't be afraid to enjoy the ride!

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Deuteronomy 20:3b,4
Do not be faint-hearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before [your enemies], for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.
1 Chronicles 28:20
…Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you ...
Isaiah 43:1,2
But now, this is what the LORD says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.’
Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 118:6
The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
Proverbs 29:25
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.
Hebrews 13:5,6
…because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’
2 Timothy 1:7
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
Psalm 56:3,4.
When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Brexit-bruised Premier finds Comfort Close at Home!

I don't think the British Prime Minister has much to laugh about this weekend! After the kind of week she has endured at the hands of her Conservative Party colleagues - never mind the Opposition - Mrs May is probably quite bruised. You have to admire her, though, for her tough-minded determination to push through with what she believes to be the best for the country, whether or not she turns out to have been right. It remains to be seen whether she will survive in office for very much longer, but I think she probably will do so, and yet confound the ranks of snorting behemoths that confront her.

In a Daily Mail interview Mrs May puts her ability to withstand criticism and opposition down to the sterling support of her husband, Philip May. His cooking, encouragement and unflappable belief in her, combined with his quiet and loving support of her, have got the Prime minister this far, and may well see her through. If this proves to be the case, then the first couple of the UK are to be commended for offering a role model of marriage in a period of intense activity and crisis.

I know how much Diane's support has meant to me throughout our life together over these last 46 years of marriage, and especially through the two decades of acute and chronic pain from which we are just emerging. I would wish that kind of support for you and for all I know that are passing through high pressure circumstances right now. The bible says that two are better than one and asks "how can one be warm alone?" If you are on your own, seek out company with others who share your faith and perhaps your loneliness, as we simply weren't made to face this difficult thing called life alone.

Well done Mr May!  But I don't think your work is over yet!

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Uprising in a Great Cause

It was great to be in Vazon Church and hear the stories of some of a group of young people and their leaders who went to the national gathering of young people run by the Elim churches in UK last weekend. They obviously had a really great time and were deeply moved by the large crowd of young people from all over the country who were worshipping, receiving Christian teaching and having fun together. One after another told of the impact that it made on them to feel the love and sense the dynamics of so many young folk sharing their enthusiasm for Jesus.

This comes against the backdrop of rising levels of crime amongst young people, especially in our large cities. It also sets into stark relief the statistics about youth suicide which are far too high in our Western society and reflect the hopelessness and alienation that some youngsters feel. Even this week a couple of older teens made a suicide pact and decided to throw themselves from the roof of a Spanish shopping centre. The young man went first and died but his girlfriend hesitated and was grabbed by security guards, but she had to wrestled to the roof level to prevent her also killing herself. Our children are in desperate need of the love of God and the life-changing message of the good news about Jesus.

I became a Christian in my mid-teens and children and young people are open to choosing for themselves at an age when sadly some churches write them off as irrelevant to their worship or way of doing things. They are not the church of tomorrow - they are very much part of the church of today - and we need to make provision for them before it's too late. Thank God, the Uprising did just that, and we must pray that every young person, and older leader, who made a decision there to follow Christ more closely, will not only stick to that commitment but share the good news with others so that they too can be spared the hopelessness that seems so obvious in a lost generation.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Extra-judicial Execution of Middle-Eastern Man Leads to International Consequences.

Jamal Khashoggi, a gentle mannered and highly respected Saudi journalist, is dead. He was allegedly tortured and murdered in the Saudi consulate in Turkey on the 28th of September. International outrage has followed his death and the Saudi handling of it, and the profile and writings of Jamal have probably never been greater. Perhaps like me when you have seen the video of him entering the consulate you have shouted at the TV screen  saying "Just don't go in there!" but in vain.

A prominent journalist who covered major stories including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of Osama Bin Laden for various Saudi news organisations, Jamal was close to the Saudi royal family for decades and also served as an adviser to the government. But he fell out of favour and went into self-imposed exile in the US last year. From there, he wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he criticised the policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Now he is dead.

Last night in our Alpha@Vazon course we viewed the video 'Why did Jesus Die?'. It was powerful and moving, and there were quite a few tears among our 50 or so guests. Of course, the death of Jesus 2,000 years is of immense significance to Christians everywhere and I would not want to offend by trying to draw any kind of equivalence. But there are one or two similarities that are impressing me today. One is that you can't kill truth. The exposure of the Saudi regime by this journalist is greater today than before he died. The impact of the death of Jesus (who once described himself as "I am the truth") was also magnified globally by his death, and then his resurrection of course. The other is that there are forces of evil in the world that resist criticism and change, and that both men paid a high price for doing just those things. Jesus criticised the religious leaders of his day and urged repentance and change.

The great difference, of course, is that Jesus rose from the dead. The Turkish authorities are having a hard time finding the body of Jamal Khashoggi, but we know it is out there somewhere. The Jewish leaders and Roman authorities in Jesus' day only had to produce his body and all the theories of resurrection would be ended. But they could not - because he is risen indeed!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Leaders Gather to Plan and Pray

Had a great three days with Matt Gregor at Elim's Church Leadership Academy this week. Based at Birmingham City Church it offered us the opportunity to chat, think and pray about the future strategy for Vazon Church and our ministry together. At this October's AGM I will step into the role of Associate Pastor alongside Matt and look forward to supporting him in his exciting vision for the church, the island and beyond. As it is now over a year since my major surgery I am so thrilled with how my recovery has gone/is going and how prayer has been answered on my behalf after 22 years of the most appalling pain.

Something that really struck me at the Academy was how amazingly healthy some churches around the UK are, despite the kind of opposite impression most people seem to have, especially the media. Senior Pastors from Birmingham, Cardiff, Derby and Northampton came together as a team to share what God is doing in their locations, and to bless and help the several church leadership teams that were present. They told stories of huge gatherings of people of all ages, worshipping enthusiastically and making an impact in their communities for Christ. Of course, they have their problems too, but their willingness to share and be open was a real inspiration.


Here are a few of quotes:

"Some people think that if they have a million pound vision they will only have a one pound problem! A million pound vision usually comes with million pound problems!" (Stephen Ball quoting Paul Scanlon I think)

"We are traders in hope" (Stuart Blount)

"Sundays are for God" (Jason Heron)

"Does your team member light up the room and can you imagine working with them for a long time?" (Mark Ryan)

"The church that does everything usually ends up doing nothing" (Mark Ryan)

"All that we do in church life should be driven by vision not the fear of man or anything else". (Mark Ryan)

"The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them" Genesis 11:6.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Is there More to Life than This? Alpha@Vazon begins today


Alpha@Vazon 2018

Alpha@Vazon begins this evening, Sunday the 7th October 2018 at Vazon Church, Guernsey. Alpha is a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith, run over eight Sunday evenings and one Saturday daytime. Each talk looks at a different question around faith and is designed to create conversation. Alpha is run in over 100 nations all around the globe, and everyone is welcome. It runs in caf├ęs, churches, universities, prisons, schools and homes – you name it. No two Alphas look the same, but generally they have three key things in common: food, a talk and good conversation.

The food is going to be good – finger licking good with great desserts! Then, the talks are designed to engage and inspire conversation. Usually around thirty minutes long, they will be played as a video. They explore the big issues around faith and unpack the basics of Christianity, addressing questions from Who is Jesus? and How can we have faith? to Why and how do I pray? and Does God heal today? etc

Good conversation means just that – an environment where you’re welcome to say nothing or ask any question about life, faith and meaning. This is the chance for you to revisit the foundations of your faith or discover why others believe as they do.

So, please pray for us as we welcome around 50 guests this evening and if you would like to tell a friend, or even come yourself (if you're in Guernsey of course) then message me or email matt@vazonelim.org.gg.