Nearly two years ago, seventeen of us had the joy of visiting a church in Angers for a long weekend. It was full of fun, food and discovery; from an excursion to one of the Loire’s magnificent castles, to a visit to a vineyard as well as ministry on Sunday.  These are some of the reflections from those who went in 2017:

“It was an amazing and memorable experience. For me each day was a real tonic and full of God’s blessings. I went from being really ill the week before to coming home feeling spiritually, emotionally and physically refreshed.” Anne Smith

“We were spoiled rotten, loved and made some incredible new friends. Such a wonderful experience.”  Lee Nancarrow

 “Mike and I joined the group going to Angers not knowing many people. We were made welcome on arrival and the hospitality flowed. Our hosts Michel and Claudette not only took us on the arranged trips, but showed us the area at other times. It was such fun. They visited us when they came over in the summer, which was great. We now have new friends in France.”  Derry Burn

 “France = fun, food, and fellowship; a memorable experience of heartfelt worship with fellow Christians, in both English and French languages, and a real sense of unity” Angela & Brian Benford

 “Fantastic hospitality, great fellowship with our French brothers and sisters and a chance to get to know your fellow travellers better, as well as getting refreshed – perfect!”  Pete Hamilton

 “I felt so welcomed by the community in Angers and really enjoyed getting to know others in the group over a glass of wine and great food! Our hosts were lovely and made us feel right at home. Spending time with people from a different language and culture who share our faith in God was an encouragement and reminded me that we are all one family.” Laura Nancarrow

Are you ready for an adventure in 2019? Are you open to be impacted by God and willing to be a vessel for him?  Then this trip is for you! If you are interested this cultural, relational and missional exchange then get in touch with Laura or Bruno (mail@revelation.org.uk)

Our friends at Chichester Baptist Church have run the very successful CAP (Christians Against Poverty) centre in Chichester for approaching ten years. For the past three years Martin Jenkins has worked as the CAP Centre Manager. Martin will be stepping down from this role by the Spring of 2019. The Baptist Church have advertised this position previously but not made an appointment. The Church leadership team feel that it is right to re – advertise the position again. If you are interested in finding out about this position and what it entails, please do talk to Martin Jenkins, Ellen Wild or Ken Benjamin from the Baptist Church. This would be a paid, p/t role for 16 hrs a week with flexibility around days and times. A job description and application forms are available from Chichester Baptist Church Office on 01243 782582 or info@chichesterbaptist.org.uk  Let us also join the our friends at CBC and pray as we seek the right person and guidance for the future of the CAP Centre in Chichester.

 

This weekend I visited my parents church in the valleys of Wales. The church is small (around 40-60 attendees) and is in one of the poorest areas in the south of Wales. There is high crime and unemployment rates and they have had two murders directly in front of the building. This is a tough area with tough people.

Before the service began two little girls sat on the two chairs next to me and one of them was reading the church news letter and the other was reading her bible (see picture above). There was no one there looking at her apart from me and she did not know who I was. She was not pretending to win any favour or look like she was a good girl, she just wanted to read her bible. I asked her what she was reading and she just looked at me and giggled.

Later on she went out of the service and as she did she held her bible so tightly as if she never wanted to damage it or loose it. Her bible was the most precious thing to her.

That girl had a simplistic love for what God has for her and there are so many times in life when helping to lead a church that you loose that first love, the passion for the word of God.  I regurgitate old revelations or second hand words instead of what God has personally shown me.

So often I get home, put my feet up and veg my brain with FIFA or rubbish TV and escape. And yet God never turns on FIFA, he never makes sure he gets in the latest episode of Xfactor before he hangs out with me. No he is there, waiting, willing, excited, passionate! Desperate to hold us close and unpack the things he has for us.

Father God help me to have the same desire for the things of you as you have for the things of me.

Matthew 6 v 21 (NLT)

‘Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of you heart will also be’

 

Does your heart start racing when you start to hear or see the values that you hold dearest? Mine does….

  • DEPTH
  • CONNECTION
  • TRANSPARENCY
  • LOVE
  • KINDNESS
  • INTEGRITY
  • COMMUNITY
  • FAITHFULLNESS
  • HOSPITALITY
  • AUTHENTICITY
  • GENEROSITY
  • GROWTH
  • WONDER
  • VULNERABILITY
  • CREATIVITY

I hear these words or I see them in action and life excites me.  It sometimes surprises me.  I have been bowled over recently by stories of people showing the most amazing compassion, integrity, creativity, vulnerability and kindness.  For me, this is what makes life worth while.

I regularly check what I do and how I am against the values that are most important to me.  I often don’t measure up.  I often settle for less than what I want.  I choose ease over living life to the full.  I choose selfishness over community.  Pretence over authenticity.  Hiding rather than being transparent.  I am faithless rather than faithful.  Surface rather than depth.  But I do try.  There is something within me that seems to not want to settle and until it finds what it is truly seeking.

My heart will also start to beat, panicked, when these values are dishonoured.  Often by me.  Sometimes by others.  My conscience reminds me, yet still I walk into situations where I choose what is ‘less’. And as a result I am less. These values are who I want to be.  Who I am meant to be.  Created to be.  And when I choose to be a lesser version, it hurts.  Life is not so bright, so full. And neither am I.

God has called us to be many things.  We are called to be living wholehearted, full lives.  I think He has sown individual values into our characters.  Our souls.  And we notice when they are not honoured.  When we don’t measure up.  I think it is because we are not yet who we are created to be. And that ache in your heart, that’s the reminder.  We see glimpses now and then.  But we are not there yet. We have to persevere.  To reflect.  Grow.  Choose.

God is showing me that I CAN choose.  I have been convicted of the phrase “that’s just who I am!”  The many times I have been less than what I can be is because I have allowed myself to believe that it is out of my hands and that the box I put myself in is really who I am.  It is not.  I am an evolving being that is sum of her choices.

We can choose and own the consequences of our choices.  And then choose again.   This is freedom

So lets do just that.  Lets choose daily.  Choose to be what God has created us to be.  Choose to change and grow.  When we grasp the fact that we hold the reigns of life, we are set free and can move in the direction God calls us.

Recently I have been spending some time and asking God how we can see some serious growth in our church. We have so many things happening and have a large congregation but we do not see massive growth. I look at pastors from the states like Matthew Barnet (The Dream Centre), Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill) and Bill Johnson (Bethal Church) and they see huge growth numerically in their church and regularly lead people to God. The way they do ministry is totally different. Matthew B is all about projects in the community, Mark D is all about Truth, word etc and Bill J is all about signs and wonders, miracles etc. They all basically believe the same thing but their focus is different. I have seen lots of pastors try and imitate these church leaders and what they do over here in the UK but it never seems to quite kick off. I don’t know of any church who is seeing the kind of growth that they see in the US.

So I spoke to God. I asked him what I should do. How I should lead? I believe that my motivations are right, I mean its not for my glory it is for his glory. It’s not for Ego but for the kingdom of God. Should I copy someone else?

There is one common denominator with these church leaders. INTIMACY WITH CHRIST!

God then reminded me about the times in my life when I had tried to copy someone else. This never went well. And I remember what some of the biblical giants had to face when they started telling God they knew how to do something or started trying to make formulas.

God told me to be intimate with him. He told me to find him in every part of life. He told me to be known as someone who has Jesus living inside them. He told me to be a light in the darkness. He told me to guard my tongue and to watch what I say. He told me to look at my lifestyle and ask myself if I am inline with Christ. He said nothing about strategy, vision, direction, big picture, little picture. He just told me to be intimate with him.

So this week I have been with him more. I have thanked him for the rain in my holiday instead of being annoyed that it was sunny last week. I have taken time out to look at listen to creation. I have been aware of how I treat and speak to my friends and my wife. I have found my God in the strangest of places!

1 Corinthians 10 v 31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”


These last few weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster. There have been amazing highs and some swooping lows.  It is has been tiring and draining but I still have the overwhelming sense that God is there.  God has been speaking clearly over the last couple of weeks.  Prophetically through others.  Visually through pictures.  Amazingly through every day life.   It feels like spring has finally arrived.  

All the little pictures and whispers have been specific and spot on.  They have been a relief to hear since winter felt very sparse.  Spring has already bought many new things.

Challenge to step into what God has in store for me.

Permission to step up and out.

Reassurance that I am loved.

Insight into what is in store.

But Gods whispers are not just for me.  They are for you.  He loves you with an everlasting love.  He has started doing good work in you and will not stop until it is finished.  He has good plans to prosper you and not to harm you. You are part of the plan and you are unique.  It cant be done the same without you.

So many times I have opted out because I have not grasped those truths.  There always seems to be someone better, more experienced.  Someone more connected to God.  But it is not about what you or I bring, its that we opt in.  Whether we turn up.  God puts what we need inside us when we need it.  He doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.  And you are all called. You are equipped.

I had a picture recently of golden orbs of light falling down from the sky into people.  As I was mulling it over and wondering what it meant I felt like God was saying He was giving us the gifts and abilities we had laid down when we chose to believe we are not called.  Not part of the plan.  Insignificant.  He has held them and looked after them, but now He was giving them back to us to use.

You may not think you have anything to offer.  I guess in some ways you might be right.  Its not about you, its about God working through you.  It is His wisdom, prophesies, words of knowledge, kindness, hospitality,  love that we can give away and bless others with.  It is not in our own strength.  All He asks is for us to be still and know that He is God.  We are just a vessel He chooses to use.  But we have to step out and use it to get those things to give away.  They are not for us to keep to ourselves.

So, my challenge to you is this.  Will you pick up that golden orb of light?  Will you use what God has given you?  Is giving you?  Will you step out in faith?  Will you look to bless others?  Really seek it out?  Will you practice and learn how to use your gift in the best way? Will you practice on a Sunday so it comes more natural when its Monday to Saturday? Will you choose to opt in and be used?

You were born for such a time as this.  To be used.  To bless.  To make an impact.

 

Today, I sat in a room with professionals who all work with young people learning about the sad subject of child protection.  We were reminded that we not only have a responsibility but a duty of care for the young people we are in contact with. My heart started to race, the proverbial walls started to close in.  Fear and panic gripped me.  The weight of that responsibility is heavy.  The consequences of decisions I can make are huge.  As we looked at case studies, I realised that, in some cases, it is life or death.  To say I felt under qualified is an under statement.

In my role, I mostly feel like I am juggling students.  Picking up the ones that need some extra care and attention.  But it often feels like I am dropping them or don’t have enough hands to hold them all.  I deeply care for a lot of these students.  Don’t get me wrong, they also infuriate me and frustrate me.  But I care.  I carry them with me.  Sometimes they weigh heavily on me.  And sometimes I feel like I drop them because it all gets a bit much.  I snap.  I lose focus.  I fail at being who I wanted to be in this school.

Today as we were hearing more about legislation and practice when dealing with child protection issues, I was mentally preparing for picking up even more burdens.  Seeing more sadness.  Facing even more darkness.  And then I stopped.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

These burdens are not mine to carry.  They never were.  But although this is a relief to remember, I am not good at putting them down.  I don’t realise they are still in my arms until the pounding headache starts.  The sleepless nights persist.  The impatience sets in.  But I must learn.
The bible is FULL of wisdom reminding us of Gods care and love.  His power in situations.  His plea for us to surrender ourselves and the burdens we carry to Him.  He reminds us that it will be ok in the end.  The verse that is resonating with me at the moment is from Psalm 91..

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.

He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day. ” 

I find that place “under his wings” when I spend time in His presence.  Time in nature.  In beauty.  In prayer.  That is when I can willingly give over the burdens.  Entrust Him with those I carry.  That is where I learn to share.  To put down what is heavy and pick up *LOVE*.  If I carry what is not mine, I end up tired.  Impatient.  Stressed.  Worn out.  And weighed down.  But with picking up what God has given me I will have the strength to face each day.  Each situation.  With grace.  With compassion.  With love. I will have the resources I need to care long term.  To help.  To stand with each individual.  To be able to know that it will be ok in the end.

God has got it.

 

 

Last night at Alpha, we were discussing the whole topic of faith.  Questioning whether we could be a Christian without change.  We talked about the difference between knowing about God and having a real, tangible relationship with God.  The difference between head and heart knowledge.  If God dwells within us, can we do anything but mould.  Change.  Grow.

When you think back over the last week, the last month, the last year, the last season..have you seen any change?  Change in your situation?  Change in your character?  Change in your behaviour? Have you grown recently?

Philippians tells say that we can be…

 

“…confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

 God has started doing a good work in us.  In you.  In me.  He has promised to keep doing that until the day we are deemed perfect by our Father in Heaven.  He works in us and through us.  But do we get in the way?  Are we stubborn to his gentle call?

I look back over the time since I became a Christian and life is vastly different.  I am different.  I have found the promise that we become a new creation to be true.  I often meet people who I haven’t seen in several years and they literally don’t recognise me.  It is not just my outward appearance, it is everything.  I hold my self differently.  I think and speak differently.  I am no longer little timid Louise.  I am Lou.  I have a long way to go, but I am on that journey.  I look back and see that I have grown.  But has it been recently?

I always find it amusing when I hang out with a friend for a prolonged period of time, I end up sounding like that person.  Sharing phrases and mannerisms.  I change and grow more like that person.  I think its a sign of a good friendship.  So shouldn’t that be the same with our faith?  Should it be natural to become more and more like Jesus as we spend time in his presence? Perhaps the reason I am not more like him is because I don’t spend enough time with him.  Is it because I unconsciously lock him out of my heart?  Is he still knocking at a door thats been barricaded in a while?  I wonder if I need to get into the habit of inviting him in every day.

I want to be transformed.  I want to grow, to journey, to change.  I seek out mentoring, those deep relationships that challenge, inspire and motivate.  I welcome (most of the time) conversations that move me on and point out where I am going wrong.  I am part of an amazing community that worship God.  I spend my time doing things for Church.  I have been reading the word each day.  But how often am I welcoming Jesus in?  Really letting Him dwell within me?

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

All those choices, habits and disciplines are good, don’t get me wrong.  They are all part and parcel, but I wonder if I unbalance my relationship with God by doing rather than being.   Maybe daily growth would come by sitting and beholding.  Opening the door of my heart and gazing at Him. I wonder what revelations, what challenges, what calls I would hear if this was part of my day?  I wonder if I would grow.  More tangibly.  More wholly.  More often.  More like Him.