The Power of Prophecy

So, a couple of weeks ago, along with some folks from work, I went to a day conference on church leadership. It was a fairly low-key, local thing, I was expecting it to be interesting, and perhaps get some good tips on leadership, what I was not expecting was an encounter with the Holy Spirit. Not at all.

It was a very well organised day, including the most delicious 3 course lunch (they had even catered especially for me who has food intolerances much better than some restaurants do!), with several speakers, all talking on different aspects of church leadership. For someone like me who is fairly green when it comes to church leadership, it was a mine of info, so much to take note of and learn from those who had been in ministry for years, and also for our church specifically.

Anyway, the last speaker was actually a friend of ours and he spoke really powerfully about some difficult times during his church leadership and how he and his family had coped. It was an amazingly honest and emotional talk. Towards the end he said he wanted to pray for those who needed to feel that God had their backs and people who were tired in ministry. To be honest neither of those applied to me but I really felt God pushing me forward to be prayed for. I’m not one to turn down prayer, but I do allow myself to be guided by what is fitting for me, I don’t just run forward at any opportunity. So it was a bit weird to be honest, the call from the front wasn’t me at all and yet I felt this nudging from God. So I sat for a while, weighing it up, in fact I was actually convinced the call was for one of my colleagues, but for several reasons I could not have suggested this. So I sat some more and then I just thought, no, I have to do this and so off I went.

A chap who had previously spoken came over and asked what I needed prayer for… so that was awkward, I had to be honest and say, I don’t really know I just know God was telling me to come out here and that I didn’t know if it was for me, my colleague or my church.  Straight away he said, ‘it is for you’ and began to prophecy over me, giving me a picture he felt God wanted to share and a scripture… and then I started to have one of those Holy Spirit experiences that you know when it begins is not going to be pretty… There was shaking, there were tears, there was snot…. lovely… and the thing was, it was just in a little old church not far from here, with probably less than 50 people there, and it was a leadership conference, not a spirit-filled ministry day, and the only other 2 chaps getting prayer were standing quite respectfully and quietly receiving prayer and I was right out the front, a snivelling snotty mess…. I was making quite a spectacle of myself (or rather God was…!)
Although I didn’t really care, as the words spoken over me were amazingly accurate, this chap had never met me before and I hadn’t offered him anything that I needed prayer for. He was spot on, just gradually revealing things that he felt God was saying and praying for things that I had prayed for myself in my own prayer times. And so even without the shaking and the snot I would have known what he had to say was from God.

I just love how God works like this sometimes. In the times when we least expect it comes a moment of utter clarity and encouragement. Which is exactly what the bible says about the gift of prophecy, in 1 Corinthians 14 that it is to strengthen, encourage, comfort and build up.

And I think sometimes we forget that. I try and remind myself regularly that if God is offering me something to share with another person, it will be for exactly that reason: to strengthen, encourage, comfort or build up. If it doesn’t fit within those then I probably haven’t heard right! I wrote recently about the power of our words, and again I think we forget that so often. Words roll off the tongue so easily and yet can have such impact, for good or for bad.  

I am so grateful for my experience a few weeks ago, it was such a comfort to know that God was speaking to me, and in order to build me up and encourage me.

Ups and Downs…

So, the last month I have been ill on and off, or recovering. Firstly from tonsilitis and then from a further (although apparently unrelated) throat infection. Not only has this made me feel frankly, crap, but has also curtailed much of my usual activity.

I have been pretty fed up and grumpy about all of this. I am not gracious in illness. You know people talk about those they have met with awful illnesses, or debilitating pain who just get on with life and are always positive? yes, well not me. Me, I hate being ill. I am not good at it, I just want to get on with stuff which then finds me not recovering because I am not resting. Over the last 3 years I have written quite a lot about being diagnosed with CFS (Chronic Fatigue) which Praise God has been under control for at least a year and I continue to feel more well each week that goes by. So it is even more frustrating to then be floored again by a silly bug. and thats 2 sillys bugs. GP says I am unlucky. hmph, some comfort… (especially when I had to miss the cnmac12 conference yesterday…)

So, my life is fairly finely tuned. It has to be, so that I know I don’t floor myself by doing too much. I also have to juggle the needs of my husband and 3 kids with working 2 or 3 days a week. Although let me say, I am not complaining, I love all of those things and the juggle is fine, that’s how we make it work, whilst still allowing for some me time, prayer time and running. BUT, it is all rather finely tuned. And being ill really throws a spanner in the works. My husband is lovely and so supportive and totallty steps into the breach, but I am sure I am not alone in having a husband who doesn’t quite have the same level of cleaning/cooking/what-the-kids-are-doing knowledge as I do… So things do get missed, favours must be asked to do school runs, work must be put to one side and so on.

So just as I was catching up on the backlog from the tonsilitis, I get ill again. grrr…. and now as I actually start to feel almost normal again, and can swallow more than ice cream or mashed banana (and by the way can someone please invent a hot toddy drink ala Beechams & co, that doesn’t make you want to hurl? I mean really, if you don’t feel bad enough already then you try and swallow that…. yikes…) …I have come out of the haze and seen the chaos around me. So what do I do? yes that’s right I sit at my laptop and ignore it all… ;)

But as always my wonderful heavenly Father has been there through it all. There have been moments of irritation (anger? no,no… just extreme irritation!) why am I ill? again? haven’t I had enough of that in the last few years?… to boredom – seriously is day time telly really that bad? my saving grace being Great British Bake off on the iplayer – have watched the entire series twice now… to joy – just moments of prayer time (interrupted only by dropping off in the middle – I’m sure He understands) with real clarity of thought and amazing input from God… and a sense of continual revising of my life, readdressing the things I do, really asking myself if I am doing what He has laid out for me. I think for someone like me who does have everyting scheduled to a T (BTW I didn’t use to be like this – I was once a free spirit who did what she liked and lived a rather hap hazard but joyful life..!) it is only in these moments of forced rest that revelations can appear. I mean it’s not that I don’t have enough prayer time, but I just wonder if in that prolonged, ongoing space, in which I couldn’t do anything other than sleep or pray, that the prayer became one long ongoing prayer….or conversation. I am still annoyed at having been ill but I seem to have come out the otherside reaffirmed in what I am doing and when. I guess it’s a bit like being on a retreat but less enjoyable… the illness retreat, you feel like utter crap but hey God really speaks to you..;)

I don’t know if this is making any sense and to be honest in my infected state I’m not sure many of my prayers made sense either… and just in case I am still delirious I shall wander off for another dose of paracetamol-laden-brew…

Money & Giving

At church we have been doing a series of talks on Money (in the run up to our gift day) and this morning it was my turn to preach. The title was ‘money and giving’. Lovely title (not) and not all that easy to preach on, but if you are interested this is something like what I said…. (oh and the passage was Luke 6:27-38)
 
 
‘Money and Giving’.  It’s the
kind of talk that you know before it starts you are going to come out of
feeling guilty and that you need to give more to the church, right?

Well,
no! I hope not,
This is not just going to be a plea
for more of your hard earned cash… I recognize that this is a really difficult subject for some. Some
of you here are facing real financial hardship and the last thing you need is
someone asking you to give more. And hey God isn’t going to love you any more
or any less whether you give money the church or not – we cannot buy his love.

BUT
what this talk will do, I hope, is encourage
you
to look at your giving as part of your walk with Jesus. I want to look
at giving as part of a Christian life that is guided by God in all aspects of
it.

So for example, I’m not going to ask for a
show of hands but I wonder how many of you actually
pray
about what money you give away – whether to the church or charity or
other causes? I mean how often do you get a begging
letter through the door and either a) chuck a tenner in and send it back or b)
throw it in the bin, without much thought in either case?

My
Dad,
from about September onwards makes a big
pile of the charity letters that come through the door and then at Christmas he
goes through them and decides who to donate to. I used to love being able to be
part of that.

We
can’t get away from it.
As Christians we are
called to give. The bible talks about tithing, it talks about looking after the
poor, it talks of helping our neighbour. It is something we are called to do.
But for most of us there is probably a big discrepancy between what we want to
give and perhaps what God wants us to give. Deut says this:

Deuteronomy 16:17
Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your
God which he has given you.

We are all able to give but in different measures according to
what God has given us…

But lots of people give – why is it different
for us as Christians? Because as Christians we have a responsibility to give as
a representation of our relationship with our heavenly father.

And obviously the focus this morning is
money but giving is not just about money
is it?
It’s about what we give in
love, in effort, and in our time
. I was thinking the other day, what do you
think is the most precious thing we have? The most precious thing that could be
given to God. In terms of commodity it used to be gold. Not so any more, there isn’t a consensus, but things like ink,
Rhodium, (metal), saffron (spice),
now looking at things less tangible – data,
companies talk of how valuable their data is to their business,  anti
matter
(prices at $62.5 trillion per gram!!!), but do you know what I think is the most valuable, and is irreplaceable
– time!
How many of us wish that we could add another hour each day..? we
live such crazy busy lives, we always say I am short of time etc… So when we
talk of giving perhaps time is the most precious thing we can give to God… so
although I am talking really about money today do bear that in mind…

So what does todays passage say:

it really gives us a lesson in how different God sees things than us. This
is like a lesson in how to bring a little
bit more of Gods kingdom on earth
– and it really does show the parallels
between this world and His. And it’s pretty controversial really isn’t it? I
mean if we really look at it, it a tough
ask actually.

Love your enemies

Do good to those who hate you

If someone hits you, let them do it again…

That would not be classed as normal behavior round here would it?!
What’s the normal or earthly reaction to be slapped or hit in the face? Hit
back maybe!? Run away? Report them to the police?, but not in Gods Kingdom…

Have you ever been hit in the face?… what
would your reaction be?

I
was once hit in the face.
At uni, I was in a queue
for a gig, with my ticket in my hand, a girl walked past and grabbed the ticket
out of my hand. My gut reaction was ‘hey’ and I turned to take it back and she
hit me in the face. On the cheek actually! Well thankfully my reaction was not to hit
her but my goodness was I cross. It was out of nowhere, totally unprovoked. What does the bible say I should do here? Well
probably willingly giver my her ticket, wish her well and the same time offer another
cheek!

What else does Jesus have to say in this
speech?

Has anyone ever stolen your clothes? Jesus
says let them… And give them more! The MSG version says this:

If
someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it…’

Well an ex boyfriend once ‘borrowed’ my favourite U2 t shirt that I bought
at one of their gigs at Wembley. I loved that T shirt. Loved it. And when we
split up, he didn’t give it back. Did I gift wrap another one and send it over
to him…? Not exactly…

I was angry. I was irritated. and… I
mourned that T shirt! Understandable of
course…. to us –

The thing is, my natural earthly reactions
to things are not what God wants to see. His
way is so different to our ways.

This whole passage is about giving. Giving
away our possessions, giving love to our enemies, giving good things to those
who hate us. Even giving our lives… and giving
without expecting anything in return…. Giving in absolute abundance – That’s giving
in a Godly way!

Giving
in a godly way: thinking about what that means…

Three
things I think are important when we are thinking about our own giving. We
should do it:

Be
prayerful

Give
By Faith

And
when we give, it should be Honouring to God

So I want to look at these three in a bit
more detail.

GIVE PRAYERFULLY:

We all have different things we can give, from talents and time to our
finances. But all those things come from God. When we tithe or give, we are
really just giving back to him. So surely that should be done with thought and prayer?

There
are so many things that we can spend our money on aren’t there
?
From buying our food and paying our bills, to things for the kids, family days
out, football clubs, ballet, music lessons, toddler groups, a pint or two at
the pub… and that’s before we even think about the ‘worthy causes’. We can’t possibly help them all, can we? But is it
just assuaging our own guilt, if you
like, by making a quick donation here or there?

It is worthy of God, if we just
thoughtlessly write out a cheque in response to an email and throw it in the
post? Does it ease our own consciences?

When
you are faced with a request for a donation what do you do
?
You get a letter in the post, there is a picture on the front of a starving child in Africa, swollen
belly, flies around them. What do you do? My usual response I think is: look at
it, spend 1 min thinking how awful it is, then think, ah but it’s so far away,
feel a bit guilty so I might write out a cheque for a few pounds and chuck it
in the post and forget about it. Or perhaps the opposite, perhaps look at it
but immediately think I have no spare money and so chuck it away.

Or how many of us have responded to an
email of a friend or relative doing a challenge for charity – marathon/cycling
etc, do we ignore it or perhaps make a quick with just a click of  a button online? I’m not sure either of those are Godly are they?

How
often do we actually seek God for these decisions?

Please hear me!! I’m not saying don’t send
money or make a donation, or do when you can’t afford it. But I’m asking you to
think about how or why you make those decisions. I’m saying ask God first!!

You know, there are statistics that say there should be no poverty in this
world that between us all we have enough money, enough food, enough water to
live well. I wonder if everyone prayed about what they should give and to who how
much impact that would make on the worlds poor?

And
for us at church – as Will said we have gift day coming u
p.
So let’s be honest, how many of you have already thought, we might give church
a miss that day…?

Come on be honest… I’m sure it’s crossed
some of your minds…! You know traditionally for many churches its often the lowest attended service… But do let me
say, please don’t let that be the case here. If you can’t or don’t want to make
a donation on gift day, please don’t stay at home just to avoid it, we do
church together to meet Jesus together,
so please don’t be put off coming!

But by the same token… Don’t just ignore gift day, don’t just think, well we give money
already we don’t have to do anything, this is a real opportunity to seek God and ask him. Praying with faith and
trusting God is scary sometimes especially where money is concerned but it’s
exciting too! It’s an opportunity for
him to use you… and it’s up to you whether you want to take it…

And being prayerful about what to give also
means praying with faith and then acting on it – the second of my three points,
giving in faith.

If we pray and feel that God is asking us
to give something that is out of our means, or something that would be tough,
we just have to trust Him. Giving as
an act of faith is also an act of risk! Of self sacrifice….

The
bible has several examples
of people giving what
they can’t afford to and yet they are blessed in return and I want to tell you
a modern day example:

I have a friend who is going on a mission
trip in January to Haiti. She is
married with 3 kids and they do not have much money, they make ends meet but
that’s about it. Anything extra takes a long to save for.  So you can imagine finding money for an OS
trip is not easy at all. Over the last year she had managed to save up just a
few hundred pounds towards her ticket, not much but an inroad in to the ticket
cost. 2 weeks ago she felt God telling her to give this money to a friend in
need. She wasn’t exactly happy…!. It had taken her a long time to save this up
and there was no way she was going to raise the £1000 she needed to get out to
Haiti in time. But she was faithful, she knew this was of God. And the friend
that she gave it to was so blessed by it. I can’t tell you all, but just that
few hundred pounds completed a chain that enabled her to change her life
totally. Wonderful. I know my friend felt so blessed by that.

But that isn’t the end of the story. Less
than a week later someone knocked on my friends door and said they felt that
God had told them to give her £1000…

That
is the power and the generosity of our amazing

God J
My friend had little, but she trusted God, she stepped out, did what he was
asking and was abundantly blessed in return. Which is exactly what it says in
todays passage.

‘Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down,
shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the
measure you use, it will be measured to you’.

Explain:
lovely description –  a ref to how grain
was sold – filling the gaps.

Like saying – if you give, give with your whole self, not leaving any gaps, or
any grain behind, but as much as you can – abundantly….
The same will be given to you…

Now we don’t do things or give things away
in order to be blessed, that would not be in the right spirit, but when God asks us to do something that’s
different. When we respond to his instruction, and we do that knowing that we
can trust him, and that he always has a plan, we do it in complete faith. He
won’t abandon us.

Of course for many of us the decision about
what to give and who to and how much is not
entirely our own
– if you are married for example, then often it’s not just
your own decision and different people manage money in very different ways,
even in a relationship. And of course for some of you your partner might not be
walking with God which means a prayerful approach together isn’t going to be so
easy! But at the same time, don’t ignore it! Talk about it together, it might
actually be a great opportunity to talk about your faith!

In
our home,
Phil handles the finances, (after all he
does work for a bank!) not from a traditional point of view but just because I
am totally rubbish with money. I just hate to think about it.  My mum budgets
everything. If  I ever owed her money as
a kid I had to pay her back exactly on the nose, even to the last ½ penny! She gave
me a budget book at age 9 and tried to
encourage me to budget my 50p pocket money. You’d think that might have helped.
It didn’t, the thought of writing down how many penny sweets I had bought that
week or in fact to remember how many
as they were usually gone by the time I got home! So I guess her tactics didn’t
work – I went the other way! Thankfully Phil is more organized about it all
otherwise we’d probably be living off baked beans in a camper van somewhere. As
the main bread winner, Phil takes an approach that he feels God has blessed him in his work and therefore it is his responsibility
to use that money wisely and in a way that honours to God.

And so lastly: it should be Honouring to God

We should be good stewards of our money,
the bible tells us. What we have is his blessing upon our lives. All good
things come from him.

Yes you might work hard for your money. You
might work long hours. But do you work harder than someone else? How did you
get your job? What got you to that place? I don’t believe for any of us that it
was completely of our own merits. Our background, our schooling, our life
experiences shape who we are, and where we end up. So much of which has nothing
to do with what we choose to do. God’s
grace is upon us all.
I know for myself I feel so blessed. I have a
wonderful husband and 3 amazing kids, I have a nice house, we have work. But
that wasn’t always the case. I know there are times in my life that things
could have been so different, just by one little decision, or leaving an event
a little later, or anything, it’s by Gods grace that we are all where we are. It’s
down to him that we have what we do and to spend it thrivolously or to make snap
decisions about it seems dishonouring to he who has put us here.

…steward it well…

 

Being
honouring to God also means Giving unselfishly and generously:

The MSG: (vs 35/36)

‘Live out this God created identity the way our Father lives
toward us, generously and graciously, even when we are at our worst. Our Father
is Kind; You be kind.’

When God calls us to be generous, his gauge is different to ours.
Remember his examples

 I
mean giving away your best coat to someone who has pinched your shirt, and not
just that but gift wrapping it?

We can never match his generosity, after all He gave his life for
us. How’s that for generosity?

But we can try… and we can do it graciously…

It is by Gods grace that we can give, so let’s
do it with grace in our hearts. Give in
love,
give with no strings or
expectations
(as it says in the passage) and with joy. Don’t begrudge it. For some of us giving
might mean one less night out or one less treat at the Supermarket, for others
of us it could mean real hardship. But
if we seek God and trust in him then we can give joyfully knowing that we are
honouring Him and doing his will.

Give, knowing that we are giving to our
heavenly father. …

So as I draw to a close, I want to encourage you – before gift
day in a few weeks time, spend some time seeking God, praying about your
giving. Don’t just make a snap decision, don’t rule anything out or in for that
matter! just seek Him, ask Him and then faithfully act on what he tells you.

If
you feel it’s not right for you to give anything extra on gift day, that’s absolutely
fine, I just encourage you to make the decision with God at the centre and remember
these three:

Give prayerfully, give in faith and give in a way that
is honouring to God…then have courage, and trust him, his plans for you are
good.

 

 

Women Blogger Rankings// October 2012// Religion & Belief

So here we are again with the latest rankings from e-buzzing, from which I have pulled out all women blogging in the top 100. I really ‘ummed and ahhed’ this month about whether to continue with this as there has been much discussion around the way rankings are worked out since e-buzzing has taken over. I’m not convinved of how accurate their algorithm is and there have been various discussions around this over the internet, and some people have even removed themsalves from the rankings as a result.
However for some I know it still useful to see the list, and I still think it’s a positive influence for women who blog so for the time being, I will continue to post them.

Blog Title Position October Rating Change
iBenedictines 1 11
Lay Anglicana 2 14
Cyber Soul (Vicky
Beeching)
3 18
LLM Calling 4 31
A Reader in Writing 5 32
Dreaming beneath the
spires
6 38
Living Stones 7 39
Living To Please God 8 42
The Vicar’s Wife 9 48
Learning from Sophie 10 54
Looking Deeper 11 57
Seeker 12 63
RevRuth 13 64
Revising Reform 14 66
Significant
Truths
15 72
Apples of Gold 16 82 →←
Talking
  Christian 
17 84
Tracing Rainbows 18 88