Friday, 17 December 2010

Make it a wonderful life


One of my favourite things about the festive season is the old movies that come on the T.V, especially the Christmas ones. The other day I sat down and watched, probably my favourite of them all; 'It's a wonderful life' with Jimmy Stewart. The story of a man called George who spends his life putting others before himself and sacrificing his own dreams and ambitions in order to help his family, friends and neighbours. Towards the end of the film, disaster strikes and it looks as though our hero is going to lose everything when his business faces bankruptcy. In desperation he contemplates suicide and wishes he had never been born. At this point he has an angelic encounter and realises that life is more than possessions and money in the bank. True riches is having friends and loved ones, and it is those same friends and loved ones who come to his aid when he needs it most.

Life is not about accumulating wealth and possessions, it is about touching peoples lives and leaving the world a better place than you found it. Putting other people first goes against the world's ethos, but it is at the heart of the gospel message. 'For God so loved the world that He gave.' God is a giver and God's people are, by their new nature, givers. This Christmas don't worry about how much stuff you accumulate, instead look at how many lives you can touch in a positive way. One man's gift is another man's miracle.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Freedom for Belarus


In 2008 my two friends and I embarked on a Christian mission to the nation of Belarus on behalf of “Ministries without Borders.” Our trip was part of a global outreach to make contact with Christians in every country represented in the United Nations, and show them practical support.

We chose Belarus as our destination knowing that it is the last remaining communist dictatorship in Europe, and that Christians are routinely discriminated against and oppressed in that country. We particularly wanted to meet a man called Slava Goncharenko, the pastor of New Life Church in the capital city of Minsk, whom we knew had been particularly oppressed by the Belarusian government. He is known in his own country as a man of tremendous courage, who has stood strongly against a brutal and unjust regime on behalf of His God and His people.

In less than twenty years the congregation of New Life Church has swelled from a handful of teenagers to over twelve hundred people. As the church grew it became increasingly difficult for them to find places to worship together. Not only does the Belarusian government not allow churches to own property, but was also it was also forcing the managers of theatres and other municipal buildings to close their doors to New Life Church. Against all odds the church managed to purchase a disused cow barn on some land on the outskirts of the city and convert the building into an auditorium to house the church’s meetings, as well as classrooms for the hundreds of children attending meetings.

Since the completion of the building the government has tried to repossess the land the building stands on. They have cut off the power and water going into the building and even brought troops and bulldozers onto the property to try and force the church to give up what they had legally purchased. At one stage the church went on a fast/hunger strike for almost three weeks in their own building as government officials stood outside. This protest drew media attention from all across the world and even support from the ambassadors of a number of nations including the U.S. While the Belarusian government has backed off from the tactic of removing the church by force from its land the oppression continues as an assortment of underhanded tactics are employed to harass and intimidate the Pastor and his people.

We have created a website which is intended to highlight their situation and rally support for Pastor Slava and New life Church. Please subscribe to the site and lend your voice to theirs. You can also purchase Pastor Slava’s book which tells their story in greater detail through this website. All profits from the book will go towards their ongoing struggle.

http://freedom4belarus.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Not Ashamed


I watched a brilliant documentary on the BBC the other night, with Ian Hislop telling the story of "the do-gooders," or those folks who changed the face of British society for the better. People like William Wilberforce who spent a lifetime pursuing the abolition of slavery( among other noble causes) out of a strong faith in Jesus Christ and a belief in a society based on the Christian values of fairness and equality.

These days with the rise of aggressive and militant atheism in our country, and people like, the increasingly ludicrous, Richard Dawkins, peddling his intolerance and hatred, Christians can feel like keeping their head down rather than confront this half baked nonsense. While we still have rights we need to stand up and be counted for what and who we believe in.

Today has been designated "Not Ashamed Day" across the UK as Christians from a number of denominations stand up against discrimination by those who would seek to banish Christianity from public life. I really hope that it does not end with today, and that Christians everywhere will wear the symbols of their faith and unashamedly tell people that "Jesus IS Lord."


Friday, 26 November 2010

Testing Times


“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

James 1:2-4 (The Message)

Someone once said that “if you don’t have a test you won’t have a testimony.” Going through tests is part of life as a Christian, and rather than complain when testing comes, we are supposed to somehow enjoy the experience. How is that possible? Well it’s all to do with perspective. It’s important to understand that God allows us to go through tests so that our faith will be perfected, and we will become mature as believers, trusting him in every situation. (Ps 26:1-3) The Bible talks of us being refined like gold and silver as we go through the fiery tests. When you realise that God wants to do something in you by allowing some things into your life, all of a sudden the test becomes more bearable.

What kind of testing do we go through? Well as you read through scripture you see that tests seem to fall into two main categories. Firstly there is the testing that comes from opposition. Paul the apostle described this kind of opposition as a “thorn in the flesh;” A demonic adversary that made his life difficult. Paul recognised that the opposition he faced was spiritual in origin even though it was usually manifested through people. (2 Cor 12:7, Eph 6:12)

The second type of testing we go through is simply the test of obedience to God’s word. Will we hold onto his promises when things don’t appear to be happening as quickly as we think, and rely on them rather than our own wisdom and efforts? (Jud 2:4-23) Too many times we give up before our breakthrough comes, and miss out on the great things he has planned. It is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6) and that is the area he wants to work on.

Understanding that God is interested in our maturity as believers and that he will not let us be tested beyond what we can bear, will help us to go through the trials of life with a level of peace and joy that the world simply cannot understand.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

No Fear Here


Every time you switch on your television or pick up a newspaper, you are bombarded with stories that are written to stimulate fear and worry. People in the world are continually frightened of crime, the recession and rumours of imminent disaster. Fear has a paralysing effect. It stops people moving forward with their lives. It causes them to lose sleep, and will affect their health if left unchecked.

I heard someone once define fear as “False Evidence Appearing Real.” In other words the fear of something is often much worse than the thing itself as people magnify the problem out of all proportion. Fear sells newspapers and even gets people elected to high office. But fear is not the way that God’s people should live.

The Bible says “For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” (2 Timothy 1:7 HCSB) That means that we do not have to live in fear, because fear is not from God. We have “sound judgement”, or a “sound mind.” We can see situations through God’s eyes and in the light of His promises and not fear. If you are in fear then confess this truth over your own life three times a day. Take God’s word like medicine to your soul. Remember that He IS your provider. He IS your healer. He IS your strong tower. Refuse to live in fear instead give your worries and your fears to him and start enjoying your life.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Power of a Good Conscience

The Bible has much to say on the subject of conscience. Paul, the apostle, wrote that he would "strive to keep his conscience clear before God and men" (Acts 24:16). In other words, he believed that a good conscience was of of paramount importance in the Christian life. Why? Well we need to understand the role that conscience plays and the power it has over us. The condition of your conscience will cause you either to shrink back, afraid to face God, or it will release you to move in great acts of faith and boldness.

Is your conscience the voice of God?

The simple answer to that question is "no." If you look at the little cartoon above, you get some idea of how the world thinks our conscience operates. On one shoulder a little angel speaking for God , and a little devil, tempting us to do wrong on the other. However the conscience is nothing more than a set of values that were initially instilled in us when we were children, and then developed as we got older. That means that a person's conscience will vary according to what he or she believes is right or wrong.

Even for Christians there can be differing views on a variety of subjects. Some will not touch alcohol, yet others see no problem with the occasional glass of wine. I know of one Christian who will not drink coffee for reasons of conscience, while others wouldn't begin their day with any other drink. While I won't be debating the issue of who is right and who is wrong, the point is that they can't all be right, yet all would say that they are acting according to their conscience.

So does the Bible define the conscience? Simply as the consciousness of sin in our lives.

How does the conscience work?

So when gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law unto themselves...They show that the law is written on their hearts. their consciences testify in support of this, and their competing thoughts either accuse or excuse them. Romans 2:14-15 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

These verses paint a picture of a courtroom scene. We have the law (right and wrong) sitting as the judge. The conscience standing in the witness box. The prosecutor and the defence lawyer represent the accuser and the flesh respectively. One wants to condemn us and the other tries to offer mitigation for our crimes. And finally you (or me) standing in the dock. The conscience is a faithful witness, he cannot lie. He is not against you, but he won't defend you when he believes you have done wrong. The prosecutor stands and points the finger, accusing us for our crime. The defence lawyer (our flesh) tries to make excuses for our misdemeanour's. Whatever the outcome of the case we have to live with our conscience. If we deny the truth and fail to confess our sin then our conscience will torment us and give us no rest. If we confess our sin we can live in peace with our conscience. Better still would be to listen to our conscience before we make the wrong decisions in the first place.

How do we obtain and maintain a clear conscience?

How much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

First of all realise that it is the blood of Jesus that cleanses our conscience from dead works. In other words, His blood does not only pay for our forgiveness, but we no longer need to feel guilty for our past. Does that mean we can now live any old way and continue to sin? Of course not. The way we maintain a clear conscience is by first of all listening to the voice of our conscience, which as a Christian now has the Holy Spirit to instil God's standard of living within us(Romans 9:1). Not only that but we must also "strive to keep a clear conscience" (Acts 24:16). We do this by making sure that when we do fall short of God's standard that we confess it and put things right with Him immediately (1 John 1:9)

What are the benefits of a clear conscience?

  1. Peace and joy in our lives. The Bible says that Jesus was "anointed with the oil of joy above his contemporaries." In other words, He was the happiest man on the face of the planet. And the reason was that he "loved righteousness and hated sinfulness." He walked right and never violated his conscience.
  2. Boldness before God. Because our hearts have been cleansed by Jesus blood we can come boldly to Him in "full assurance of faith" (Hebrews 10:22).
  3. A good testimony. People had no accusation to make against Jesus because he lived a life of integrity. He always acted righteously in whatever company he was in. As Christians we have a responsibility to God to represent Him well on this earth before the world's eyes.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

A vision for your lfe

Proverbs 29:18 (The Message)

If people can't see what God is doing,
they stumble all over themselves;
But when they attend to what he reveals,
they are most blessed.


The importance of having a vision for your life cannot be overstressed. People without any sense of purpose tend to live uninspiring and mediocre lives. As God’s people the opposite should be true. Our heavenly father has created each one of us with a destiny and a purpose which he wants us to take hold of. He wants us to see that our lives can be an adventure every day, but not only that, but they can count for something in God’s great plan for the world.

How do you know if the vision you have for your life is from God? Simple it should line up with His vision for the world. God’s plan is to see the whole earth filled with the knowledge of His glory and His goodness (Habakkuk 2:14). God’s plan is to see His people exert influence and power in the world over the kingdom of darkness (Isaiah 2:2-4). His plan is to see disciples made of the nations, as His people teach the world His ways (Matthew 28:19).

Any vision you have for your life that does not have God’s purposes at its core needs to be re-evaluated. You were bought with a great price to fulfil a great plan.

“What you see actually motivates how you live, what you see is that which draws you on” Tony Ling (The Lion and the Lamb)

Monday, 20 September 2010

Quote of the day

"You will never change your life unless you change something you do daily."
John Maxwell

Monday, 30 August 2010

How to live in peace


No matter how hard we try, worries and cares are always angling to find a way into our minds and rob us of our peace and our joy. I often find that it is last thing at night, just before I drop off to sleep or first thing in the morning, while it is still dark, that fears and worries try to crowd my thinking.

God’s will for you and me is for us to live in peace. That means living without fear, worry or strife in our lives. The peace that God gives has nothing to do with what is going on around you, instead it has everything to do with what is going on inside you. In Philippians chapter four Paul gives us the steps we need to live in peace.

1. Rejoice in the lord ALWAYS
Decide to rejoice and praise God no matter what the circumstances. Praise will open prison doors, change the seemingly hopeless situation and will cause the enemy to flee from you in seven different directions.

2. Let your gentleness be evident to all.
Graciousness, patience and consideration must be the hallmark of your dealings with others at all times. You are Christ’s ambassador.

3. Remember the Lord is near
Jesus said he would never leave you nor forsake you. He promised you his presence every moment every day. That means walking with him and fellowshipping with him.

4. Be anxious for nothing
In other words refuse to worry. God’s word to us is that we should cast our burdens worries and fears on him, because he cares for us. If you can’t handle it then give it to the one who can.

5. Pray with thanksgiving
When we pray according to God’s will the bible says that he hears us and grants us our request.(1 John 5:14-15) The prayer of faith is one where we decide to trust God’s word and thank him for the answer even before we see it with our eyes.

The promise is that God’s peace, which passes understanding, will guard your heart and mind. If you are afraid or worried follow these simple steps and enjoy the peace that God has provided for you.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Tools from the Toolbox


I have just returned from our annual Bible Camp in Stafford and have been both challenged and thrilled by the word of God and the display of His power in miracle sign and wonder. On Tuesday we met as elders and leaders from the various churches to hear from our senior Apostle, Keri Jones, who encouraged us in the word and directed us clearly to be both inspirational and practical in our preaching and teaching in the year ahead. He particularly encouraged us to place great emphasis on equipping the saints in our care for the work of the ministry, and this I am always keen to do.

In Ephesians chapter four we read that the goal of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers is to "Equip" the body (church) for acts of service (ministry). In other words, every person in the church to be trained to live a victorious life and be a blessing, not only to the rest of the church, but also in the world. So over the next twelve months as a church we will be looking at twelve key tools that every Christian needs to have in their tool kit.

1. The word of your Testimony (Revelation 12:11)
2. The Power of the Blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:18-20)
3. Speaking in Tongues (Jude 20)
4. The Power of your Confession (Hebrews 4:14)
5. The Power of Agreement (Matthew 18:18-19)
6. The Name of Jesus (Acts 3:6)
7. The Power of Blessing (Luke 9:16)
8. The Power of Prayer (James 5:16)
9. The Promises of God (2 Corinthians 1:20)
10. The Word of Prophecy (1 Timothy 4:14)
11. The Power of Faith (Hebrews 11:1)
12. The Power of a Good Conscience (Hebrews 10:22)

It will be an exciting time of growth and challenge for each one of us. For some of our newer brothers and sisters these topics will be revolutionary. For others it will mean a sharpening and a greater clarity in these wonderful truths from God's word.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Building up the Church


Everyone who is “born again” into the family of God is destined to work in the family business. That business is to see the whole earth released from the bondage of sin and satan, and living under the lordship of King Jesus. God has decreed that this great mission will be accomplished through the church (Ephesians 3:10). That means that as the church becomes all that she should be, the world will see the glory of God and His kingdom will increase.

The church is described as the building (1 Corinthians 3:9) where God dwells; therefore it is not just a pile of unrelated bricks. Each brick should be in the right place and joined to the other bricks around it. This means not simply bringing in more bricks to add to the pile, but making a priority of helping each brick find its place in the building and therefore fulfilling its purpose.

So while it is important to see numerical growth in the church, unless we are seeking to see the people in the church built up and everyone growing, maturing and functioning, we will be nothing more than that unrelated pile of bricks.

How will it be accomplished? We first need to be devoted to fellowship (Acts 2:42-47). That means placing a priority on meeting together with the purpose of encouraging others and being shaped and encouraged ourselves by the ministries that God has placed in the church. Secondly we need to be open to God to use us. We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit and need to understand that that gift is not only for us, but is to be used for the building up of the church. (1 Corinthians 14:5) It’s time to start thinking like a builder. Can we do it? Yes we can....(Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Mature Christian


Hebrews 6:1 (New International Version)
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity,


The goal of every believer should be to progress in their faith and knowledge of God, pressing on to become mature Christians, who can themselves train others. This doesn’t happen by accident, there is a process involved and steps to be taken, to reach the ultimate goal of being like Jesus. Where do you think you are right now on that journey? Here are some things that God is looking for in the mature Christian.*

1. He/she accepts himself/herself. Not thinking too highly (or too lowly) of oneself, but having a correct measure and assessment of one’s gifts abilities and challenges. (Romans 12:3)
2. Characteristically submissive in attitude. Being able to receive reproof or correction from others without anger and resentment. (Matthew 11:29)
3. A balanced character. Self controlled and not given to extremes in mood or behaviour. (1 Peter 1:13)
4. A real friend. Someone who put’s more into fellowship and relationship than they seek take from it. (Proverbs 17:9)
5. Able to cope with frustrations, misunderstandings and depression. Doesn’t go down the tubes when things go wrong. (James 1:2-4)
6. Can take the strong meat of God’s word. Has moved beyond the vary basics of the gospel and is now able to discern good and evil and teach others also. (Hebrews 5:12-14)
7. Steadfast and dependable. Doesn’t give up easily, but presses on and is reliable in heart and service to God and others. (Philippians 3:12-17)

It’s always good to check our own progress. If you see areas that need to be addressed (and we all will), then why not seek out and observe a more mature believer who displays the area (or areas) that you are lacking, and imitate them as they imitate Christ.(1 Corinthians 4:16) Let us press on together towards maturity.


*(With thanks to Hugh Thompson. Restoration Magazine, March 1975)

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Necessity of Faith


One the most bizarre questions I have ever been asked was; “Are you in one of those ‘faith’ churches?” This was closely followed by “... so you actually believe the Bible?” What amazed me about both these questions was that they were asked by someone who called himself a Christian. My response (unsurprisingly) was along the lines of, “if you are not in a ‘faith church’ what kind of church are you in?”

The Bible tells us that it was “through faith” we were saved (Ephesians 2:8), and that without faith it is “impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is the most fundamental ingredient in the Christian life. Faith means not only believing that God exists, but that He “rewards” those that diligently look for Him. Faith is the ONLY way that Christians can access the promises that God has made towards them. If you have been saved, it didn’t happen by accident, it was an act of YOUR faith in GOD’S word. It was by BELIEVING (Faith) and RECEIVING the benefits of what Jesus has accomplished for you that you became a Christian in the first place. What is faith then? It is quite simply, believing in the character and nature of God as a person and in the integrity of His word.

But it doesn’t end there...The plan of God for you was that faith was to be a lifestyle, not merely a one off event (2 Timothy 3:14). In other words, faith is something that you practice, continue AND grow in every day.

So to go back to the original question... Am I in a “faith church?” Absolutely! What is the alternative, a doubt church? Do I believe in the goodness of God and the integrity of His word? Absolutely! To build your Christian life on any other foundation would be complete folly, and only lead to a life of uncertainty and failure (Matthew 7:26)

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Reach the world from your living room


Matthew 9 10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.
(New Living Translation)

Whenever Jesus went to a house people wanted to be there, because they knew that their lives would be changed and enriched when they came into contact with Him. As you read through the gospels and the acts you will notice that the house was often the base for the church to reach the world with the gospel, not the synagogue or the temple. When Jesus sent out the disciples across the region He told them to base themselves in houses in each place they went to, preaching, healing and casting out demons. (Luke 10:7)

In the same way our homes can and should be places where the life of Jesus is evident, and people can encounter His love and His power. So how can we start to reach our friends and neighbours with this good news?

1. BE hospitable. Invite people in for a coffee or a meal. Look out for the lonely or the needy in your area and show them practically how much Jesus loves them.
2. BE consistent. People are looking at your life all the time, especially if you profess to be a Christian. You can’t live one way on a Sunday morning and be someone else when you are at home.
3. BE bold. Take a step of faith and tell someone about Jesus and what He has done for you. If they are sick or facing a difficulty, ask to pray for them and expect a result. Jesus said don’t hide your light, let people see who you are.

Your home can be a fruitful place, where miracles happen every day, and lives are changed.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Roots of Restoration


I have just taken delivery of the complete collection of Restoration Magazine from 1975 to 1992 on CD-ROM, and I am thoroughly enjoying going through it. For those of you too young to remember, "Restoration" was the voice of the new church movement during this period and contained articles by men such as Bryn Jones, Arthur Wallis, Terry Virgo, Tony Morton and the other pioneering men of this era. These magazines are more than just a history of what went on, they contain the revelation that inspired these men and transformed the church landscape in the UK and abroad.

The CD-ROM is available from Revival Library in the UK. For more information go to www.Revival-library.org