Grief and prayer, after Auschwitz

It was the anger which took me by surprise.

I had anticipated sorrow, tiredness, and questions, but not anger.

I hadn’t really known what to expect on my return to Romiley after a pilgrimage to Auschwitz-Birkenhau.  I was partly afraid that my emotional journey might take the familiar path of numbness to guilt and self criticism for being ‘shut down’.

It happened as I set off in the car to the Peaks to find space with God to process and pray.  The usual necessities had taken up time, few people knew I was unavailable this week and I had a flood to texts and voicemails to ignore and feel guilty about.  I remembered a trivial practicality and pulled over to call my wife, when she answered, I exploded.  Furious that my precious prayer day had been invaded, frustrated that the world felt it needed me when I was unavailable, judgmental on those who were carrying on normal lives, serving others.

mellor-cross-2There was no rational reason for my anger, no one had wronged me, no crisis had invaded my protected time.  Raw and slightly afraid at my outburst, I detoured to Mellor Cross,
a wonderful place of prayer for me.  The mists cut out the glorious views and the farmer’s no parking signs were officious, but that didn’t get to me.  The 20ft Mellor Cross has lost its top bar and we, God’s church in our area, have not yet restored it.  (another job to feel burdened by) The symbolism pierced my bubble and provoked the question I was avoiding:

“Is it all derelict? – even this cross is desecrated, is there any good left in the world?”

auschwitz-1-2That was when it hit me, my anger was grief.
In that moment, I could see no good in the world. If I looked outwards I could only see tensions, unresolvable problems or hollow frivolity;  If I looked inwards, I saw fear, guilt and heard the agonising screams of the victims of Auschwitz.

Recognising that my anger was grief, brought perspective,  but who was I grieving for?

I had asked the Holy Spirit to navigate my emotional journey this week, what was he wanting to do in this tunnel he was taking me through?

Grief is chaotic, it generates questions, throws them up into the air, bats them around, rarely answers them and then rushes onto the next one.  Amongst the many questions my grief generated, were some about prayer which I want to explore here.

‘If my grief anger is at those closest to me – Why am I not angry with God?

It was an irrational anger with no object to blame, so it spilt on those I had subconsciously calculated will forgive me or be unharmed by my unfounded outburst.

Why not God?  Why am I not angry at him?

A skilled psychoanalyst might try to lead me to a conclusion that I am, that I blame God for the mess and pain in the world.  Yet as I leant against that headless cross and wept in surrender, all I could feel was gratitude to him, because I know that he really is the present one, with us in sorrow, suffering, martyrdom and desolation.  Our teaching in Auschwitz was built on God with us before he is for us.  One of the most profound moments of my pilgrimage to Auschwitz was encountering again to a new level of emotional engagement with Jesus, my beloved older brother on the cross, carrying my suffering.  Through this trip, I have recovered a profound closeness to him as other preoccupations have been expunged.

auschwitz-1In my past experiences of intense grief, I have rarely turned to anger against God, usually I turn away from the assumption that he is to blame.  In the Psalms he gives us freedom to express our anger, he is bigger than our emotions and in so doing he opens his arms and invites us to come and pummel him, confident that he can bear it until we punch it out of our system, his unconditional love soaking it up.  But this doesn’t answer my question.

If I try to blame God for Auschwitz, somehow I can’t.  Because to do so, would be to attempt to place myself closer to the victims than he is.  To place me in solidarity with them and have the pride to judge God makes no sense.

auschwitz-1-1

He was there and I wasn’t.

He was alive and I wasn’t yet born.

The victims were his family and not mine.

 

 

 

My mind bats away the vast and complex, ’is God powerless?’ but the next question which my grief, in its bleak outlook on the world raises, is terrifying.  When I consider how my heart responds to numerous prayer requests, I have to ask, “have I given up on the notion of God being powerful or likely to act? and has this trip further pushed that faith away from me?’

This is a substantial area of grief for me, a substantial challenge to my faith and ministry and mission.  In the face of Auschwitz, Syria and Donald Trump, the painful mess I see in so many churches, the frustrations of trying to share the best news ever with a world that so often shows little interest, and other disappointments, is there any point in asking God to do something?  When I look around me right now from a place of grief, the weight of evidence of what I focus on tells me that God is not active, not bringing change, not ruling from heaven and bringing resurrection life in the midst of the decay of this fallen world.

auschwitz-1-6My head might wrestle with the theological constructions, but when I catch a glimpse of my own prayer life and moments of ambivalence in prayer right now, I see that a big chunk inside is tempted to let go of hope, let alone faith, that God acts when we pray.

That is a scary place to be.  img_6127That is the decay of a central pillar of my life and ministry.  To play with this as a percentage game, when I start to believe there is a less than 30% chance of a prayer being answered, then why bother praying it at all?  Have I really lost the faith that when I pray, God will act?

img_6157What happened in the Holocaust was horrific, extreme and beyond imagination.  In so many ways  millions of prayers were left on earth unanswered and so it seems that God was powerless or disinterested.  We can of course refer to the bigger, eternal story, that God is responding in the long run, some theological answers are satisfying, others not.

But what about day-to-day prayer now?  How can I pray for the civilians of Mosul and Aleppo today? How can I pray for America this week? They are facing the alarming historical parallels of a sociopathic populist leader being democratically elected by a protesting disaffected people.  Hitler wanted to ‘Make Germany great again’.  How can we pray, if we start to feel like God isn’t going to act?

auschwitz-1-3When it comes to prayer, protest and resistance, Auschwitz was not binary.  In late 1941 three girls smuggled gunpowder out of the munitions factory and then blew up one of the gas chambers , this raises good questions.  450 prisoners were killed in response to this plot, but it put a gas chamber out of action.  That slowed down the killing by 20% for a few months until liberation. Each chamber could kill 2,000 at a time, potentially many thousands a day, maybe thousands of lives were spared because of that?

There are Holocaust survivors, Judaism was not eliminated, there are stories of those who escaped Nazi occupation, there are Oscar Schindlers and Nicholas Wintons.  Some prayers were answered.  Just because we may not see the whole outcome, we will see more of heaven invade earth if we pray than if we just watch.

Also, perhaps prayer is more instinctive than that?  As I consider the reality, I can’t stop praying.  We were led in meditations on the Stations of the cross around Birkenhau, one of the most moving parts personally was the prayers of intercession at each station, img_6137for women, for children, for Jewish and Romany people, for perpetrators of evil.  These were amazing moments, because my heart took over and in wordless cries turned to God for help in compassion for those who are powerless.  I will continue to pray and intercede, because I am unable to not pray.  I cannot bear the burden of compassion and empathy I feel with those I am otherwise powerless to help, I have to share that burden with God and carry it with him not for him.

“What are we asking God to do when we pray?” 

The lectures, worship, reflections and leadership of the trip was outstanding, it was a privilege to be with such exceptional wisdom and emotional intelligence.  However there was a moment when a typical litany left me yearning for more.  As we travelled around the world in a nicely constructed list of ‘people we ought to pray for’, I found myself deeply dissatisfied.  No words or time were  available to help us consider what we were asking God to do for these beloved people.  The prayers were devoid of verbs, and so the nouns became like tokens.  The only lists I write are shopping and ‘to do’ lists, a collection of things I lack, an expression of poverty or pressures.  These two words perhaps best describe how I feel about merely listing to God a series of people he is already fully aware of.

And so its redoubled my consideration on how can we encourage one another to pray with verbs.  Most (but sadly not all) of our collects manage it.  An example from next Sunday

Almighty God,
 in Christ you make all things new:
 transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace, 
 and in the renewal of our lives
 make known your heavenly glory;
 through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
 who is alive and reigns with you…

We urgently need prayer which expects something to happen, prayer which does more than express empathy or train memory, prayer which turns to a powerful God and asks for change.

 

[Grateful to Richard Frank for his photography]

A follow up post on the dehumanising which happened at Auschwitz is available here. https://romileyrichard.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/dehumanising-a-reflection-on-auschwitz/

 

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Knitted angels

Last week certainly took us by surprise.

Back in September  I received an email offering a plan for Christmas, the crazy idea of placing hundreds of knitted angels in Romiley as free gifts to our community.

One of my priorities is to empower and support the creative and crazy ideas which arise in St.Chad’s and so I thought ‘Why not?’ and said “yes, go for it”.  This was someone offering to do something fresh and inventive, outside the walls of the church, to initiate connections and bless our community.

By Sunday 11th Dec, over 600 had arrived, Angels - 1 (4).jpghours and hours of knitting and hundreds of conversations had happened.  We prayed that God would use the angels to bless people and very early on Tuesday morning we hung them on railings all around Romiley.angels-8

As the village woke up and set of for school and work, the place came alive.

The Surprise worked! – delight, joy, smiles and stories bursting everywhere.  The atmosphere in the school playground was transformed – reluctant schoolchildren (& parents) trudging to school in the dark, were running and laughing again.  Kindness broke forth, our lollipop lady found a child with no angel in tears and so gave her the one she had chosen for her tree.  Within minutes a grandfather ran off to find one in a yellow coat for the Lollipop lady.

But something else was going on – it felt more than just a happy little surprising occasion.

Something shifted.

There was a new found generosity of heart.
A celebration of what the Romiley community is about.

Commuters, walking in darkness, struggling with an early start, facing yet another draining day ahead, were lifted.  People who had been struggling with burdens, felt loved.

We provided some photos and video footage for BBC NorthWest, who put it online, their Facebook videos usually get c.20K views, by the weekend ours had been viewed more than half a million times!

But there’s another dimension to this story – which I want to share.

My confession:

A few years ago, I was excitedly preached about Angels, stories in the Bible and experiences of people I’ve met, of the vast, majestic, overwhelming heavenly beings.  In my talk, I threw in some comments, which were – let’s be honest – not entirely positive about little knitted angels. angels-4 In trying to make my point – I chose to stamp on something precious to others – and I’m not proud of it!  (The damage done when we preachers choose to trash talk something to emphasise something else, is for another blog, it’s destructive and endemic)

So what did God do? – He chose to take the very thing I had been cynical about & use them to do something really quite powerful and dramatic here in Romiley.

The church I lead, now becomes famous for being ‘the knitted angel church’…

I had some interesting conversations with God about this on my early morning dog walks last week!

God, in his love – took another opportunity to remind that building up, not pulling down is how we do things in his family.    But he didn’t just take the opportunity to humble me (he gets plenty of those) because when he has our attention, God makes the most of it.  When struggling with internal conflict between what we know is right & the tantrums of our feelings – He has a chance to speak.

angel-in-lightsSo with my full attention, God had another surprise.

As well as the outbursts of joy, and chatting and fun around Romiley.

As well as the grateful recognition that we seek to show God’s generosity.

Then the requests came in.  A flood of them.

Emails, Facebook messages to our church profile,  phonecalls, even people turning up on the church doorstep having driven to Romiley to find us.

Requests for these little knitted angels – to give to sick relatives and unsettled children.  Requests for these to bring hope and healing to those in distress.

angels-10At first we weren’t sure what to do about this – a knitted angel is cute – but it has no magical powers.

I had to wrestle with all sorts of religious thoughts,  along with my preach all those years ago slagging off little angels – I considered all potential negatives.

Was this superstition and folk religion?  Was dropping cute knitted angels in the nighttime too cowardly as a form of mission?  Was this a misrepresentation of the heavenly reality?

But then I remembered that we’d prayed for those who received these angels, we’d prayed that God would use them.  We’d taken something very simple, very natural – something sweet and lovely and prayed that God would use it – and now he was!

It was a wake up call for me.

People are hungry for God. – They are looking for him, searching for him, reaching out asking for his help.  We are surrounded by people longing for love and connection – and these angels were a sign that God’s people want to show kindness.

People are desperate for hope, for something playful and fun, wonder and surprise.  Finding a knitted angel, hanging on a railing early on a damp dark December morning – is a reminder that there is fun and playfulness in the world.

People are desperate for healing – for sickness to be overcome and they’re looking for the God who heals.

And there was such faith and expectation out there, that God could use these little tokens to bring healing and hope.  Amidst my religious reactions and our preoccupation  with a video going viral, we were discovered vast amounts of faith, outside the church.

So we started praying differently.  God used handkerchiefs and aprons in the book of Acts, to bring healing to those in need, so I got past my religious reactions and started asking him for that.  We’ve already heard of one lady’s daughter who had been in intensive care for a long time, making a dramatic recovery the day after her Mum took her an angel.  We’ve heard of insomniacs, sleeping peacefully.  I’m praying for many more, God loves these people and we long to see his kingdom touch their lives.

In many cases it seemed that there was more faith in God to heal outside the church, than within it.  And yet those inside the church have already received that love, that joy and that power from him.  We’ve already experienced connection, freedom and healing from God and  can share that.

So God took the little thing that we had to offer and used it to remind us that He has so much more.

angels-2I wasn’t totally wrong all those years ago – knitted angels are just nicely constructed arrangements of wool.

But this stopped being about the angels a long time ago.  Angels are only messengers who bring good news of great joy.  Whether they are 10ft tall, radiant in overwhelming light and carrying vast swords – or 5inches tall, made of scraps of wool with a bit of tinsel.  They have one job, to point people to Jesus.

God used this little tokens of love, to catch people’s attention, to express his love and to point people to Jesus.  He is the one who can heal, restore, refresh and bring hope.

Adventure in Kaunas day 2.

Lithuania blog day 2.

Last Tuesday I woke up in a bunk bed in a Catholic seminary in Lithuania, to find out how I got there, then you can read about last Monday here. (or watch the video here)

Having orientated where I was, I settled on my pillow to thank God.  It was an easy, joyful moment of prayer simply: ‘Thank you Father, you were brilliant yesterday”.

He had provided, He had shown himself as real and kind, He had totally taken care of us and given me evidence of the reality of His power and goodness.  I giggled with God about my journey of doubt, fear, anxiety and maybe even testing him on the way to Kaunas.

Still blown away and rejoicing we ate the breakfast the Catholic Youth centre staff had given us, enjoyed coffee from a teapot and washed away the dried sweat of unfounded anxiety in the Dousus. (Our new favourite word, found on a post-it note on the shower door)

Having landed connection, provision and accommodation the previous day, we had no plan, the day lay open before us, nothing fixed until 4pm.  When you are trusting God for his provision and can’t buy your own lunch, you have a whole chunk of day available.  We walked around the town, open to whatever God brought to us and he didn’t bring anyone, so we rested and trusted.

Our staff team at St.Chad’s are all detailed planners and I’ve built up a reputation that in contrast to them I’m not.  I like spontaneity, I respond to the urgent, I try to let tomorrow take care of itself until deadlines force my priorities.

It turns out however, that this isn’t true.  I like plans, I live with an agenda, purpose, target and to do list full of objectives to achieve.  This was God’s next agenda item for my learning.  Having prepared for the trip, built up for weeks the intensity and purpose, suddenly we just had to wait and be available.  Having no targets was a new form of powerlessness and dependence upon God.  I engaged with whole layers of frustration, anxiety and guilt at the difficulty of having nothing to achieve, these made me profoundly rest-less.  It took me until mid afternoon just to enjoy the place of rest and provision, just to receive the gift of a day in the sunshine, in a beautiful place with two friends, to chat and explore and laugh.  To receive rest as a gift is an act of obedience.

So we walked, talked, joked, laughed and made ourselves available to God.  We went to Kaunas’s junction of two rivers, aware that prophetic intercessors would probably have some deep revelation of the significance of place.  God didn’t give us one, but we had a great time throwing stones to hit a buoy (I only mentioned that because I won … eventually) IMG_4024

It’s amazing what you see in a city when you have no money.  Cutting out the whole paradigm of being a consumer, means you ignore shops, cafes, restaurants and advertising, you have no access to paid tourist sites.  Block these out and you see more beauty in a city, the people, buildings and what’s in the gaps.

Pilgrim not tourist

Pilgrim not tourist from Andy Crouch ‘Strong and Weak’.

As a pilgrim not a tourist, as a missionary not a consumer, I was more able to see the city through God’s eyes and let his love for it grow in me.

We visited a series of Catholic churches, and just dwelt there, enjoying the majesty and praying.  This was God’s next gift to me.  A radically new love for those many Catholics who are earnestly seeking for God.  In every church we visited there were women, silent in prayer.  We sat in the stunning Cathedral and enjoyed the art and architecture and then sat silently in the side chapel, a designated place of prayer, a helpful sign refused mobile phones and cameras.

 

Raised and trained as a Protestant Anglican, having studied theology, and pondered extensively for my book on ‘hollow religion’, I would have been very sensitive to the contrasts of this place and its traditions to the theology of the wing of the church I dwell in.  The reformation is an unavoidable part of our theological history and I believe God worked through it.  But having met the young passionate worshippers the day before and knowing God had taken us there to bless and pray, my focus shifted.  Not analysis, not comparing, not reacting, but choosing instead to bless.

I believe the Holy Spirit lives within us and wants to get out.  As I prayed, I simply asked him to pour out from within me and dwell in that place.  God gave me a deep love and longing for the many people who go there to seek him.  I simply prayed for that to increasingly become a place of encounter.  We all need to encounter God, we all need those moments of connection with the one who loves us, forgives us, accepts and welcomes us.  To be in this place of prayer, I was touched by the many who go there daily to be with God.  Some with a longing generous heart of gratitude or petition for God’s blessing on others.  But also those who were there in fear and superstition, those there in duty or religious process of trying to appease God or earn his favour.

In simple longing, I asked the Holy Spirit to establish these church as wells of living water.  That those consumed by religious superstition, fearful duty, or shame or striving to earn his favour, would be surprised by Him, encounter his grace, acceptance and unconditional love.  God had taken me there to deposit a blessing, and to shift my perspective.  God took me to a Catholic city, to pray for renewal, for hope and the fact He had done this demonstrated his abundant love which transcends theological differences.  It was a simple moment of theory becoming reality in my life.

Millions of Catholics across the world have a hunger for God and barriers which would prevent them finding him in other denominations.  So how about this for a strategy from the Holy Spirit: to bring renewal of faith, grace and the good news within the Catholic Church?  I prayed for Pope Francis, a man God has called to shape history.

At 4pm we attended a BBQ at the Youth Centre we’d connected with the previous day.  ClN1xPXWEAAhWuF.jpg-largeIt was great to hang out with the students and encourage them, we went on to a Taize service which was beautiful space to worship and subtly intercede for those around us.  Then open to God we just lingered to see what happened.  Two young men turned up, Matas who we’d met the day before and Teddy, who we had never met.  Amidst banter and some random linguistic cultural exchanges, we saw in them a hunger to connect, to cross the first layer of chat and talk with us more deeply.

When the centre closed, they left with us, taking us to climb a hill and enjoy stunning views of the city.   This became the next set-up from God.  As we walked and talked with them, they opened their hearts.  As three church leaders with a longing to empower and disciple young men, God had taken us to two young men who needed wise counsel and encouragement.  The Holy Spirit was at work in all five of us that night.Kaunas - 11 (1)

Reflecting back, this trip wasn’t just about God teaching us to trust, rest and love others from different church traditions.  Much of the reason we went was not for us, but for them.  Pilgrimage and mission are about being available to God to bless others.  God chose to use us to impact them (and vice versa)  We didn’t go merely for risk and adventure.  We went for them, we went with a desire to bless and God used it.

13433107_10154298453759703_7119781326205410162_oMatas wanted to used his last €16 to buy us a simple Pizza to share, as we arrived at the restaurant he bumped into a Christian friend, as he explained what he was doing, this friend gave him €10 to bless us.  We were able to feast on pizza, beer and friendship.  Our final unanswered prayer (to taste Lithuanian Wheat-beer) was now fully answered.

So what does God want to teach you this week?  For all of you who have kindly read this far, I pray this: “God, surprise us with your fresh gifts.  We trade our comforts for your adventure, our fears for trust and ask simply for new experiences of what you are doing around us.” 

Having read this story, how will you approach tomorrow?

God’s provision in a risky adventure to Kaunas

I live and serve in suburbia and a large national institution provides me with a comfortable life.  Almost every activity and ministry I do is required to have a risk assessment.  I long to see the power and provision of God….

In March I bumped into my friend Luke Smith, when I mentioned my sabbatical, he asked me to join him for Escape and Pray in the summer, I couldn’t grab an excuse fast enough so I ducked the offer with a promise to pray about it.  Within a few hours as I listened to a talk on risk and adventure, the Holy Spirit nudged me and said “If you really want to see me work, then you’ve got to put yourself in places where you depend on me”.  I vowed to the Lord that I’d say yes to Luke.

Kaunas - 1 (1)Escape and Pray is a wild initiative run by Fusion an amazing organisation which equips and inspires students and churches in mission together.  This June they are sending 333 people in 100 teams, (mostly students) into Europe to pray for a move of God in universities across the continent.  Each team is sent a pack plus a date and time to turn up at a certain airport.   When they arrive, they open the pack put on their T-shirts and open an envelope to discover where they are heading and their flight tickets. They go with no food and accommodation booked, (just €20 for emergencies) they trust in God to provide.

The team:

IMG_4094Luke Smith: works for Fusion, building teams, linking with churches and having creative radical ideas.  He’s become a good friend in recent years, including our shared love for sport and sympathy in being ginger.

Dave Tonks: a brilliant Scouse church leader from Chester, who I had never met before Monday, but will be a lifelong friend now.

The team dynamic was a highlight of the trip, great honour and support, easy communication and quality banter. I loved spending time with them both.

Kaunas

Pronounced (Ko-nus) is the second city of Lithuania, population is c.300,000, of which 50,000 are students.  The city centre is beautiful, at the intersection of two rivers it has a clean, open, gentle feel to it.  Some traditional architecture survived the Soviets and many churches and older buildings too, we walked past many stylish cafes and bars.  It is somewhere I’d take Nells back to for a romantic weekend!

We arrived at Luton at 6am on Monday morning and opened the envelope to discover we were heading to Kaunus in Lithuania, to be honest, none of us had ever heard of it!

We filled up with a big breakfast, prayed and set off. (We were constantly praying through the whole trip)

Flight was straightforward and we arrived at the airport, picked up tourist maps and asked the taxi drivers how far it was to walk to the city centre.  They laughed at us!  We found a good spot to hitch-hike and within a minute a big Audi stopped, the passenger spoke English and they happily took us to the city centre in comfort. (about 20km away and off their route)

IMG_3993We looked around the city, found a prominent church, which was beautiful but no one spoke to us.
We walked down the main street and an old man enthusiastically chatted to us, attaching himself to us as tour guide.  He led us to the old town, and disappeared.  There we found an Ignatian college, Luke is pursuing the Ignition scripture meditation exercises and we were there for students so we rang the doorbell.  We were immediately welcomed in, we explained our story and purpose and asked to meet and pray for the college director.  Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 15.55.35The kind woman who let us in took us upstairs and found some colleagues including the English teacher.  We chatted for a while, asking about the college, its Ignatian principles and as we did so, my caffeine addiction kicked in.  I simply thought ‘I wonder if they’ll give us some coffee’.  Within seconds our host interrupted herself and said  “Sorry, we’re standing, come and sit down, would you like some coffee?”  They were lovely, and over coffee, water and amazing biscuits gave us insight into the city and directed us to the local Jesuit priest and mass at his church at 5pm.

IMG_3997.JPG

The Main square in ‘old town’

We turned up for mass a few minutes late and sat through it, not understanding a word, but recognising the structure.  At the end the priest disappeared, so we grabbed a young man in the row in front and introduced ourselves.  Again we explained our story and why we’d come.  He was amazed and said “Wow, these things never happen to me!”

He then phoned his friend Agne and said I’ll take you to meet my friends.  We walked across the city square and into a building to find ourselves in the Kaunas Arch-diocese Catholic Youth centre.  We met a couple of the staff and some of the students, who used it as a social base a bit like a Chaplaincy.

Kaunas - 7

A Lithuanian delicacy

Their English was amazing, (true for all those under 25 we met) and they invited us in, offering food and drinks.
A group of about 12 students and youth centre staff gathered around and we talked.  We discovered that they were passionate for Jesus and shared our taste in worship music and hunger for the Holy Spirit.  Ange made a couple of calls and then told us that she’d sorted out accommodation for us in a spare room in a local seminary.  After a while someone suggested we worship and pray together.

We went through to an open meeting room, someone opened in a brief liturgical prayer and then we worshipped, all facing the cross, with a guitar and songs with familiar tunes but in Lithuanian.  It was spontaneous and passionate worship of Jesus.  Luke, Dave and I then offered to pray for each of them, so we went round as they worshipped and laid hands on each on, sharing specific prophetic words for each of them and encouraging them.  It was stunning in every way, to see the Holy Spirit impact them and to see their freedom, joy, friendships and desire to know God.  Just like earlier in the year in Mumbai, God reminded me that the simplest way to cross cultural barriers is to boldly lay hands on someone’s shoulder, speak out prophetically whatever the Holy Spirit gives me and pray for healing wherever possible. IMG_4003

Kaunas - 8After that, we were taken out of the city to a retreat house log cabin in the woods, where a team were training and preparing for a children’s camp this summer.  We shared our story and then we offered prophesy or prayer for healing to everyone. There were about 20 teenagers and students there (and a Nun) and they all came forward to be prayed for.  We prophesied, prayed for personal needs and for healing.  One 17yr old lad who had lung problems (asthma, I think) said he felt extreme heat in his lungs as I prayed for him and then they felt very clear and breathing easier.  The Nun was so humble and hungry for God and asked me to pray for healing for her too.
We were buzzing!

IMG_4057

Kaunas Fort

 

We played silly games with them late into the evening and then returned to Kaunus and taken to the empty seminary building, where beds had been made up, we had our own kitchen, bathroom and they gave us food for breakfast and the next day.  From our window we looked straight onto Kaunas’s Medieval fort.

 

 

Reflections

Before God acts, all we have is trust.  As we flew there, I trusted God would provide, but I had no idea how and I had a whole bunch of fears about worse case scenarios.  Underneath each of those fears was a lie about the character of God.  One of those fears for me was that God would provide for other teams, but not us.  I had to recognise and let go of a bunch of lies: That we didn’t matter to God, that we didn’t have enough faith and that it depended on us and that God might make it hard for us to teach us a lesson.

As the day unravelled those fears and lies shrank and disappeared, to be replaced by faith and joy.  This side of the story, the whole thing seems so natural, it was so easy and God so kindly placed it all together

God had us totally available, because we were dependent upon him.  So he took us somewhere we’d never have planned to go, and took us to a group of people whom he wanted to encourage. This trip wasn’t just for us, it was for Kaunas, for a community of young disciples of Jesus, to see that God is real and that they matter to him.

More to follow…

Kaunas - 20

Why do you search for the living, among the dead?

IMG_0028

“Why do you search for the Living amongst the dead?”

They had travelled from Galilee, served his practical needs, hung on his every word, and watched him die.  Where else would they search?

They had seen him battered and bleeding, mocked and mutilated, seen the spear plunged into his side and his body carried from that horrific cross to the cold tomb of a rich stranger. Where else would he be?

They had cringed at his pain, feared his enemies and felt angry with his betrayers.  They had spent the sabbath waiting and spent their money on embalming spices.

What more could they do?

And they are greeted with an obtuse question…

Why do you search for the living among the dead?

If the Resurrection happened today in the UK, I wonder whether the grieving women would have taken offence at the angel’s question?  We live in a culture wracked by insecurities, each covered with defence mechanisms.   I can imagine a modern reaction would have been to try to justify themselves or find fault, blaming this radiant man in the garden as harsh and cruel.

But the women weren’t like us.

They were humble, they had listened to Jesus and they remembered his words.

The question came, as everything does from heaven – saturated in love.

God doesn’t ask us questions in order to find out information.

He asks us questions to pull us out of earth’s story to be a part of heaven’s story.

On earth, all was black and desolate.

Strangers lost in a hostile city, grieving their closest friend,  directionless without their leader and bereft of their shield and protector.  Their band had dispersed, the movement was over, the vision had died.

In heaven, all was glory and victory.

The conquering hero had returned, with captives set free and the keys of death in his hands.  The beloved son had fulfilled his mission, had shown his amazing love and trust, the Father had demonstrated his power and the Spirit was just waiting to launch a new era of hope.

The angelic man in the garden asked a simple question to pull them from one story to another.

Why does God ask us questions? –

So that we see things differently.

He wants to take our minds away from the bleak or mundane anxieties of earth and into the hope-fuelled joy of heaven.

Away from the poverty of earth, into the glorious riches of our inheritance.

From fear, into faith.

From passivity, into purpose.

From decay, into creativity.

From anxiety, into prayer.

Away from cynical dismissal of what’s unseen, into being sure of what is hoped for.

The one who taught us not to worry, knows the questions to ask, to help us see differently.

Why do you search for the living, amongst the dead.? –

 He is not here, he has risen.

 

Do we know how to pray for salvation?

The Church of England is shrinking.

 

‘Church of England attendance declines below 1 million’

‘No religion now the new religion’

‘Decline is accelerating…’Picture1.png

3 weeks ago I attended a training course, which focussed on
church growth.

During that week, new statistics came out with harrowing evidence that attendance in Anglican churches is still in decline and weekly attendance has dipped below 1million. There is a growing urgency and momentum in radical and bold thinking about church growth.  Whilst you could be excused for believing that the only thing senior Anglicans talk about is unity and sexuality, the reality is that a lot of leaders are very aware that if we want to turn things round and see change, we have to change what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and assess why we’re doing it.

There are many facets to this: church growth, decline, attendance, sociological change, ‘Christendom and the kingdom’, and much more.  I came away from the course focussing on one aspect: Prayer.

I am convinced that the Church of England won’t grow until we get serious about praying for salvation of those who are not following Jesus.

As I engaged afresh with the complexity of numerical decline and the place of the Anglican church in the UK, what grew in me was a stronger and stronger passion to pray and to motivate others to pray for the salvation of those who don’t know Jesus.

I first drafted this blog on the day I got back from the course, but have sat on it for a few weeks, mostly due to busyness, but also a sense from the Spirit to wait and ponder.

This weekend the Archbishops have announced an initiative for the week of Pentecost to inspire Christians to focus on an intense week of prayer for evangelism.  Excellent news.

The challenging question I’ve been pondering is this:

do Anglicans know how to pray for the salvation of non-believers?

Or put it another way:

Is praying for ‘salvation of those outside God’s kingdom’ core to Anglican spirituality?

Are you ready for a broad sweeping generalisation with no data to back it up?

In my experience, if you ask a group of Anglicans what to pray for, the focus of the list will be:

  • To ‘remember before God’ with empathy: the sick & those struggling with challenge.
  • And more traditional Anglicans will follow the biblical mandate to pray for the Queen, Bishops etc.

What if you ask a group of Pentecostals, or members of new church movements?

I think the focus would be for the salvation of people in their community and transformation of society.

As a brash young curate I wrote a course called ‘Intercession made slightly less complicated’ which had a contrast as it’s central premise.

On one hand, the definition of intercession being someone at the front of church reading out prayers for the Queen, government, key news item that week & the sick. (I’m not dismissing that it is a very valid part of corporate worship)

On the other, Intercession being a passionate, sacrificial, extended process of crying out to God for the lost to be saved and communities transformed.

One of the key things I learned on the course on church growth, was research (found here ) that the characteristics linked to decline are: empathising, persisting and managing.  Whereas characteristics linked to growth are: motivating, envisioning and innovating.

IMG_1430

Manchester at dawn – my love for a city grows as I pray for it.

In my experience, motivating (encouraging, inspiring, calling, urging) others to pray is most effective when we inspire with a vision and a target.  For empathetic prayer this is the comfort or healing of those in distress, by contrast much Pentecostal prayer is motivated by a longing for Revival or Awakening.  We pray, because we long for something, so a starting point is to question what do our hearts long for?

If I had the skills, time and money I would love to do a statistical research to assess how the content of different church’s theology of prayer is linked to church growth or decline.

I believe for the Church of England to stem the tide of decline, the first strategic step is to learn to pray.

Teaching prayer isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

It’s hard to measure invisible results.

It’s a reality that we are one body with diverse parts, passions and priorities.

When a leader preaches ‘we need to pray more’ or better still says ‘let’s pray’ – then that means a vast range of things to all those listening.

In my sabbatical this summer I’m committing some time to study and research this challenge more.

As I’ve reflected on this subject and my own weakness in this area, I’m aware that it’s actually quite challenging for some to call others to pray for individuals to be saved.

  • img_2494

    How confident are we to publicly lead others in praying for the rescue of those who don’t believe they need help?

    We have to overcome the sensitivities that we’re praying for people we know and love to repent and change, how will they react to knowing we’re doing that? Are we somehow uncomfortable with them knowing that we believe they need rescuing?

  • Or we’ve got to overcome disappointment, where we or those in our churches have prayed for decades for friends or family and then seen them die without knowing if they did turn to Christ.
  • Or maybe we know deep down that when we pray, God will also call us to action, so we back off a few steps back.

It takes boldness to call people to pray for the salvation of those whose backs are turned to Jesus.

I’m delighted to hear that bold leadership from both Archbishops, calling the Church of England to prioritise prayer for salvation this Pentecost.  Can I encourage us to really think now about how we can prepare and resource our congregations to know how to pray for evangelism.

I would love to hear other’s perspectives on this.

[As always I welcome positive contributions aimed at growth above defensive debate, points scoring or destructive judging]

How can we respond?

Early on Sunday morning, I sensed the Holy Spirit tell me to lay down the sermon I had written and instead preach on how we can make a positive, biblical response to the rapid movement of people displaced form Syria and Iraq through the brutality and evil violence destroying the place they have called home.

Having read the parable of the Good Samaritan, here’s a blog version.

  1. Wake up!

The scale.

The reality of this migration has been going on for months, the growing camps of refugees in Calais has been the summer’s news story and the hideous challenge faced by the global community by the violent aggression of militant groups in the middle East is an ongoing issue.  But the issue has captured our attention and the attention of the world’s media this week.  We need to wake up to this.

On the way back from church, my 11yr old son who had heard my sermon asked me some great questions, including how ‘big’ this thing is.  My reflection is that this is probably the largest scale historical event in my lifetime, alongside the collapse of communism and the invention of the internet, [Pushing the 2005 Ashes series into 4th place!]

Taking a step back and looking at people and land, rather than ethnicity and nationality,  this is the largest displacement of people in Europe since the Second World War.  This will mix people from different cultural backgrounds to an unprecedented level.  We need to wake up to this change.

the bigger picture – 

The sermon I was due to give this morning was on Ephesians 1, landing on verse 10. God’s eternal plan to bring all things in heaven and on earth under the Lordship of Jesus.

I don’t know what your attitude or belief is with regard to end time prophesies and the direction of human history.   My reflection is that many of my generation in the church in the UK have disconnected the now of our experience from the direction of all history.  We’ve experienced too many bogus, outrageous, unfulfilled prophecies and predictions about the end of the world and what will happen and perhaps become cynical or disconnected.   The internet has meant that every President, Pope or Pop-Star has probably been denounced as the anti-Christ by someone and this whole subject feels overwhelmingly complicated, we feel allergic to talk of millennia, beasts and world systems.   We are both a rationalist generation and yet intuitively feel apocalyptic fatigue.  We tread carefully about pinning events in our time, with the bigger purposes of God, because we’ve seen others try that and then look very silly a few years later.

The danger of this cynicism is that our bigger view of where things are going, rarely informs our day-to-day life.  That makes it hard to reconcile the images in our newspapers or Facebook feeds now – with the bigger picture of all things, of eternal purposes.

Across Europe,  Muslims, fleeing hideous violence and destruction are finding a mixture of grace or defensiveness from historically Christian nations.  That will shape human history.

As this happens, churches – across Europe are showing love, welcome, service, compassion to Muslims.  Old wounds, perceptions and prejudices are being reinforced or broken down.

You probably won’t hear it on the news – but many are encountering Jesus through this. – Coming to know the living Saviour, when his followers show love, generosity and compassion.

2. Assess our attitudes. 

I have had to reflect a lot this week on my personal response to this.  I was asked to speak on Radio FiveLive on Thursday morning about the petition to the government and my immediate response was fear.  Complexity paralysis: the fear of saying the wrong thing, of expressing a view on a complicated matter and then being shot down for it.
Then I stepped back and looked again, as a disciple of Jesus this isn’t very complicated!  The Bible is clear that we are to show mercy and generosity to those who are vulnerable or poor, regardless of ethnic or religious labels.  Jesus beautifully and powerfully communicates that in the parable of the good Samaritan.  The complexity isn’t whether we should act, it’s how we prioritise our actions.

In the parable, the Priest is going to Jerusalem, perhaps for his once in a year opportunity to serve at the temple.  This was his big gig, the event he’d been preparing for and looking forward to.  If the victim by the road was dead and he touched him, he’d become unclean and be unable to fulfil his dreams and calling.  We are all busy, we lead hectic lives, we are at full capacity, Jesus points straight at that and challenges our priorities.

This summer, I heard someone teach on this passage (I think Karl Martin at NewWine), saying that the Levite was perhaps in eye-sight of the Priest and had seen him not act.  He feared that if he did, he’d be criticised for doing so.  He was paralysed by the fear of getting it wrong, he let that shout louder than his call to show compassion and generosity.

This situation forces us to ask how we can respond with compassion and sacrifice.  What would we be willing to give up to help? – how can we individually help? – What do we have available? What if 100 refugee families were located into our community, what could we do as a church? – what would we need to stop doing? We need to be ready to assess our attitudes and priorities, not just see this as a someone else’s problem.

3. Challenge bad attitudes.

It’s cheap and easy to judge & attack David Cameron and our government from afar with the limited knowledge we have of the complexities and range of opinions they’re processing.  Criticism doesn’t help those who are desperate to find home, food and shelter and a place of peace.  Write positively to your MP, expressing kingdom values, encourage them that as one of their constituents you care.  (include your home address so that they know you live in their catchment area)  I wrote to mine this week and immediately got a positive constructive response.  The more voices of compassion and generosity they hear, the louder they can amplify them in Westminster.  Negative judgement and criticism of our politicians only complicated and paralyses them in making the big decisions they need to make. They need our prayers and our views, rather than our judgement.

The real influence we can have is with our neighbours and workplaces.  What are people saying? – is there a defensive, selfish, critical attitude amongst those you spend your time with, which you can challenge?

We will each spend this week in different contexts, there will be different agendas or agreed values in your workplaces, groups of friends, clubs, local neighbourhood.

Be bold and courageous in being compassionate and positive. – challenge small minded selfishness and promote a movement of grace and generosity.

  • Don’t judge or slam people down – but ask provocative questions, draw out prejudice and lack of grace and help them to see it.
  • Complexity – there are lots of debates, arguments, criticism and ‘knowing best’ – that’s not kingdom – its destructive and obstructive. – If people are anxious about taking positive action, because they fear criticism or having motives or strategy challenged – then they’ll second guess and hold back.  Sadly, it seems for every positive statement about welcome, grace, generosity and compassion – someone will pipe up with a negative, a counter argument. – This isn’t the time to argue, it’s the time to love.  We have no right to an opinion, if we’re not willing to personally make some sacrifice to help the vulnerable.
  • Think about what you read and what perspective it gives.  Discern whether it is fuelling your prejudice or inspiring kingdom compassion.  There are newspapers which generally criticise, take a nationalistic attitude, stir or sensationalise a situation and feed thoughts that aren’t rooted in God’s love and grace. – Don’t read those papers and certainly don’t buy them!

4. What’s in your hand?

What have you got to give?

I am excited that there are multiple ways we can all do something.  Don’t be overwhelmed by choice, don’t compare, just act.

If you want to give money, then there are many great charities who will steward it wisely.  Personally we’re giving to Tearfund, because I love their approach of empowering and resourcing local churches in the places where there are most refugees.

[www.tearfund.org]

There are many who are going to the refugee camps, taking essentials, warm clothes, shelter, bedding, food. For example CalAid – a new response charity – taking essential items from North West and volunteering to help. [www.calaid.co.uk]

And then a great way to help children engage is Project Paddington – sending teddies to displaced children with messages of love and compassion.  This is a great thing to do as a family, or better still encourage your local school to get involved in. Find them on facebook, or email: projectpaddingtonuk@gmail.com to register interest.

Many new, compassionate initiatives are starting up and have been swamped, which is fantastic! Help them and be patient as they work tirelessly to find ways to respond fast and help those in need.

5. PRAY.

The one thing we can all do is to pray and this makes a huge difference in the heavenly realms.   Prayer is part of your relationship with God, express to Him what’s on your heart.  If a suggested structure helps you, here’s a little list.

  • Pray for those displaced. – Safety in travel and unity in the camps.  Food and essentials – particularly as weather turns.
  • Pray for children & the most vulnerable. – Major migration also creates dangers of human trafficking and exploitation. – Pray for protection.
  • Pray for government and those making decisions. – careful diplomacy and working together in Europe. – Wisdom, freedom from the fear of criticism (they’ll be attacked whatever they decide – but God put them in place of leadership, so ask Him to bless them)
  • Pray for churches & charities who are serving those displaced. – resources, unity, power off the Holy Spirit.
  • Continue to pray against the spiritual forces of violence which influence the Islamic fundamentalists in Syrian and Iraq.  Pray for God’s victory over the evil which is causing this.

Grief and Religion. (part 1)

Religion often doesn’t handle grief well.

Many people I have met who have walked away from church and as a result pushed God away to what feels like a ‘safe’ distance have been hurt through hollow religion at a time of intense grief.  When those who are bereaved are handled by the cold, rough, unyielding hands of hollow religion, the damage can be irreparable.

Two weeks ago, my brother-in-law died in a cycling accident whilst out on an early morning ride with friends.  He leaves behind my wife’s sister and two young children and a huge archive of fabulous memories.  The words said about him at his funeral on Thursday were overwhelming in their honour of his eccentric, generous, joyful, character.  But when we grieve we don’t want memories, we want to turn the clock back and prevent the tragedy, or rush it forwards to resolution.

George’s tragic death has hit my wife and I hard, because of our deep love for him and his family.  We have  been plunged again into the dark wild seas of bereavement and thrown around on it’s turbulent waves.  I’m convinced that we can’t control grief, it buffets us around.

corfu waves2 - 1

I wrote earlier this week about my experiences of grief at NewWine (Grieving-in-a-crowd/) I have had a remarkable response to that and as I’ve reflected further, I have been considering the interaction between grief and religion, linked the the material in my forthcoming book ‘Awakening: from Hollow Religion to Heavenly Relationship.’   Having first drafted this, I’ve had a number of nudges from God and encouragements from people that what I’ve written can help others.  In the midst of my own grief, my passion to rid the church of hollow religion has intensified because when we are grieving, we are at our most resistant to all that’s inauthentic.

I hope what I have written in the book can speak hope and life to those who have been hurt by hollow religion at the most painful times in life. Recognising the contrast between hollow religion and heavenly relationship can help the church to love and not control those who experience intense pain.  This is the first reflection I’ll post on this, with further parts to come.  If you are yourself in a place of grief and bereavement right now, I pray that this can help you.  If you are supporting someone through grief then I pray this can help you to love them effectively.

Hollow Religion tells us what we should believe but in the kingdom we’re invited to know the King, and believe what he says to us.

Through my own experiences and study of grief, I’ve encountered the 5 recognised stages of grief; Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and resolution.  I am convinced that they aren’t linear, we are all different and go through them at different pace, different order and sometimes a few all at once!  Someone could probably tell me what stage I’m in right now and why I’m writing this, but that doesn’t really interest me.

Striding edge - 1One thing that does interest me, is that those who are walking this path are not helped by being controlled or told what to do.   Religion tries to either offer a dogmatic grid to tell people how they should be feeling, or facile answers attempting to rush the process.  Hollow religion isn’t comfortable with death, grief and raw emotion, it’s too messy and dangerous, many religious beliefs are attempting to prop up an ‘everything is awesome’ culture.  As I’ve considered how religion cack-handedly makes a mess of caring for the bereaved, it’s usually because religion wants to pull people through grief too quickly, damaging them on the way, rather than let them encounter God in the midst of the pain.

When we’re grieving we need freedom not regulations, space to be found by God, not information about Him.

That isn’t easy to write, because one of the most painful and challenging parts of grief is that we both experience the depth of engaging encounter with God and the desolation of wilderness feeling separate from him.  In many ways we can’t do much about that, yet grief screams within us that we need to do something to make things right.  Over the past fortnight I’ve once again experienced the troughs and crests of the unyielding waves of grief, one hour bursting with creative ideas and drive, the next crashing into a drained numbness.  One thing I’ve experienced in grief is the restless angst of not knowing what to do with myself. I long for stillness and then crave distraction, all activity loses it’s appeal and yet doing nothing seems worse, I have a jumble of thoughts to bring to God and then find they disappear when I try to pray.

Bereavement card - 1It’s not easy to find God in the midst of the internal chaos, but that’s made worse by the external pressure of religion attempting to meddle in the holy ground of knowing God.

When supporting a bereaved person please, please don’t tread on that holy ground, don’t invade it, don’t try to tell hem why they can’t feel God, don’t give them your tips and techniques to find God, don’t invade their space with your autobiography, however amazing you are! Lovingly pray for them, listen to them and do what you can to offer practical support, to clear space around them, so that they can pause and let God find them.  Let the Holy Spirit do her job, she’s better at it than you!

Religious lies which push God away.

Hollow religion develops when we believe lies about God’s character and start to live at a distance from him, hoping to appease or please him.

A few years ago, I took a funeral of a man in his 40s who had died suddenly, it was a huge crowd.  He and his family and friends had almost no church background, as I prepared my talk, I heard a whisper from the Holy Spirit; “Please tell them that it’s not my fault”.  I could sense God’s pain, that those He wished to comfort were pushing him away and blaming him for the tragedy.  As I delivered the talk, I could feel the tension in the building, a sense of defiance.  As I shared the Bible’s truth I could almost hear the resistance; “How can he dare speak about God when all this is His fault?”  The Holy Spirit enabled me to speak a very clear and simple prophetic message.

“God did not cause this! He is the one who fights with us against death, not the one who makes it happen”.

Death is the enemy, not God.

The New Testament is joyful and triumphant in it’s declaration that death is defeated.

Hollow Religion mixes a cocktail, combining a view of God’s sovereignty based on philosophy not Jesus, with the desire for simple answers and trying to make everything awesome.  It both leaves a foul aftertaste and is hugely unhealthy, don’t drink it!  Trite comments like;

“He does everything for a reason” or “He wanted them in heaven” are both unbiblical and very damaging. – We will not go to the one we are blaming for comfort.

Religion is what we do, when we believe that we are distant from God.

When we walk with God through this process, he leads us through the valley of the shadow of death, besides still waters, through the wilderness and into his presence.  He sets the pace and the rhythm of that journey, let him lead you however long it takes.

Wisdom and Revelation

Wisdom and Revelation

In Ephesians 1v17 Paul begins the first of his two amazing prayers for the Ephesian believers:

“…remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”

One hindrance to praying is that we don’t know what to pray. It can feel empty just listing information to God, not knowing what to ask Him for. Since I memorised this verse, I find that I use it a great deal in praying for people. If we consider almost everyone in every situation, whatever else they need to get through, they need wisdom and revelation. Pray for those political leaders who need to respond to the horrors of IS in Iraq & Syria, pray for those battling the spread of Ebola, pray for those called to be leaders in your workplace, community and church. They all need wisdom, they need good foundations to make big decisions.

In our small group this term we are studying Bill Hybels’ excellent book, ‘Making Life Work’, based on Proverbs. And on Monday we discussed the question, ‘what is wisdom?’ It’s a question that I find very helpful, because it focuses me as I pray.

Wisdom is a gift of God. It’s not based on our experiences and learning from our mistakes: that’s hindsight. In the Bible, wisdom comes from above. It’s the foundation God places in our lives to enable us to make good, healthy decisions. We all need to grow in wisdom and we do so not just through reflection, but also through asking God for this gift, just like Solomon did.

We live in a world that wants to make money out of us through advertising which targets our desires and which believes ‘If it feels good, then it must be right’. That isn’t wisdom; in fact in the book of Proverbs that’s foolishness. I am guessing it won’t just me who can recall having acted foolishly based on impulse or desire. The mess this got us into is a very strong argument for asking God for wisdom! Wisdom gives us the maturity to make decisions based on what is right, or the long-term best outcome rather than our selfish, immediate impulses or desires.

Paul doesn’t merely pray for wisdom, but for revelation too. Alongside the foundations of truth, love and wisdom, we also need to hear from heaven; we need God’s revelation too. Life is complicated! Not everything makes sense and we don’t always see the bigger picture. The Bible tells us that God speaks if we’re willing to listen to Him. He is a loving Father who wants to show us things we can’t work out for ourselves. In almost every situation for which we pray, it’s valuable to pray that God will ‘turn on the lights’, revealing a clearer, heavenly perspective on what’s going on to those who need to know.

But Biblical wisdom isn’t just a lump of something we have inside us; Biblical revelation isn’t just information sent from heaven. The verse finishes, ‘in the knowledge of Him.’ The word Paul uses here for knowledge is relational. It’s knowing a person through meeting with them and engaging with them, not just reading their CV or their facebook page. Both are about a connection with God, being led by Him in relationship. The greatest wisdom we can have is to choose to follow and submit to His wisdom by knowing Him and revelation comes through relationship.

Take time this week to pray for those who need wisdom and revelation. Ask God to give it to them and above all for them to know God personally. And let’s pray that we grow in the same.

Something weird is happening to me.

Something weird happened to me last Sunday.
As I baptised four people who have recently encountered Jesus & been saved, set free & renewed by him, something new and fresh & quite overwhelming burst inside me.

I JUST LONG TO SEE MORE PEOPLE SAVED!!

The taste of salvation testimonies has given me a craving for more, that’s what real Spirit inspired testimony does to us, it raises our faith.

It’s burning in me, whenever I stop the daily busyness of family & work & pause to listen to my heart, it cries out the same longing to Jesus. “I want more”.

I still want renewal of the church, maturity disciples in St.Chad’s, to see my boys grow up as contributors not consumers & all the other things on my list of things that matter.
But a depth charge of longing for salvation has gripped me and I want it to become infectious.

So will you pray just two things right now?
Let the Holy Spirit do the same to you.
Pray for Romiley, (my community) & your community, that many will encounter Jesus.