Blog Giveaway !

So I’ve been clearing out my study and have some bits that I have accumulated through various means, including stuff I’ve been sent to review, so I thought I’d do a blog give away competition for anyone who fancies a few more theology/Christian books (yes I know limited audience…!)

The prize selection includes the books as pictured above, a mug, small bag and some other bits. There may well be more when I finish clearing out… I should note that everything is new, except that I have added hand written notes in the ‘Parish Handbook’ from when I was reviewing it!

How to enter //

All you have to do to enter is tell someone about my blog via social media and encourage them to sign up to it – either by subscribing via email (which can be done by filling in the box to the right under ‘join the conversation’) or by following the Facebook page.

You can do that either by sharing this post, retweeting or tweeting about it, sharing the Facebook post or just generally sharing info about my blog on social media and pointing people to it (feel free to tag me in any posts). Then, and here’s the thing, you must tell me you’ve done it, either via Twitter, email or FB message. I’ll draw a winner at random on Friday evening and post out next week.  

One entry per person but feel free to share as much as you like!

Sorry but entries are limited to mainland UK because of postage costs.

 

Any questions do let me know!

 

 

NOURISH // One Word for 2017

a nice healthy gluten, dairy and sugar free breakfast!

This time last year I began a journey seeking ‘joy’ as I chose that as my one word to focus on for the year ahead. It was a really helpful tool rather than choosing New Year’s Resolutions, to just let joy be a bigger part of my life, and not to let it be robbed away. I also have some wonderful guest bloggers to thank for helping me on my joy journey too, it was great to get different perspectives along the way, thank you all for sharing!

However as I reflected before Christmas on what my word for 2017 might be I realised that whilst I was thinking more about joy and trying to focus on it, the things that were robbing me of joy were still there: ongoing back pain, tiredness, not enough time to rest – they were still constants in my life. So, the challenge for 2017 is how to overcome those, or at least how to live with them in a more balanced way?

One thing I’ve started to do more of is really think about what I am eating and I’ll share more on that as the year goes on, but a word that has stuck with me out of that is ‘nourish’. How do I nourish myself? do I in fact? intentionally? Nourishment is all about sustenance, making sure we are fed with substances necessary for growth, health and good condition so the dictionary says. Feeding ourselves well – and not just with good food, but the dictionary definition also includes, holding a belief for a long time. We need to be nourished spiritually as well as physically.

It’s interesting that a passage I focussed on a lot last year was Jesus’ command to love your neighbour as yourself. But it really stuck me recently: AS YOURSELF. What does that even mean I began to wonder? I often rail against the cultural trend that seems to scream at us from every advert, window or poster that says we can all be perfect, we deserve it after all, focus on you, you, you; but here it is in holy print, love yourself. Not something I am all that good at as I am sure many of us aren’t, my recent post on feeling guilty at being a working mother was a testimony to that.

So I began to pray into that and explore it and I was struck by this passage from 2 Peter 1 –

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

 

So, He has given us everything we need for a Godly life. How often do we whole heartedly accept that? or live that out? That line alone struck me like a shot of Tequila… And then. It goes on…

 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Might have been written for me in this moment, it’s all about being intentional – make every effort to add to your faith…

 

But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

I have to say I regularly question my calling to ministry, I mean I know it in as much as I know I have red hair, but at the same time I question how I am supposed to do it, how can I balance life, motherhood, being a wife? – which are equally callings on my life. All of this felt like a challenge to me. If I am going to be able to continue with these callings, keeping them in rhythm with each other and not falling apart, then I have to focus on me a bit more, and more importantly on me and God. As I reflected I realised that my joy is robbed away when I am not looking after myself, when I am in pain, when I don’t spend enough time with God. And in fact that last one should go first, because when I am completely focussed on God, then the pain is not as significant, my time is more balanced, and I am less grumpy! I don’t mean focussed on me in a selfish way, I mean that as a wife, Mum and minister most of my time is given over to others, but that’s the point, that it’s ok to make some time for ourselves too.

So what will ‘nourish’ look like? Well I’m not sure yet but there are definitely three strands to it: to be nourished physically, mentally and spiritually. And not just for me, but for my family too. I’m not setting myself any real goals, as I think this is going to be a journey over the whole year, seeking to live in a more nourished way, but I’m sure there will be plenty for me to post on here!

 

The Blog Year in Review // 2016


Well another year draws to a close and I thought I’d look back at what’s appeared on the blog this year, so here’s a round up of the top ten posts of 2016 in terms of most viewed.

 

  1. Top Tips for Starting Vicar School – as quite a niche post I was rather surprised to see this at the top, with some advice for these entering ministerial training.
  2. Discernment Guide – less surprisingly though still quite niche, the guide was first published last year and in various chapters. It has advice for those going through the discernment process for selection to train for ministry in the Church of England (long winded sentence that one, rather like the process…).
  3. Dog Collar Dilemma – written in several parts, this was the first of them, looking at what it’s like wearing a dog collar as a woman.
  4. Chocolate Nativity Story – telling the nativity in Chocolate actually first appeared last Christmas but has obviously continued to be popular!
  5. Curate’s Journey  – a new part of the blog this year, with various posts on life as a new Curate.
  6. Inked – Are tattoos ok? why the heck not?!
  7. Becoming a Revd – It actually happened!
  8. Marriage Motherhood and Ministry – probably the first of many posts on a similar theme, balancing being a Mum in ministry.
  9. What’s your Vocation? – this was actually a round up of posts looking at vocation as part of the C of E’s month long focus on the theme in Feb.
  10. Being different and being relevant – ‘in the world, not of the world’ how can we play this out

JOY // Guest post by Amanda Robbie

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my one word for the year). This month we have a post from Amanda Robbie, otherwise known as ‘The Vicar’s Wife’.

 

 

Where is joy when life is grey and dull, when life is hard, when life is just boring and feels like an uphill journey?

Last year I was given a beautiful Christmas decoration.  It’s made of twisted twigs and is decorated with tiny red seed-like beads. The twists and turns and clusters of beads spell out a word. The word is JOY.

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In difficulties and sorrows, when we are striving to live for God in a godless world, when we are battling against our own sinful nature and against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, that is when we sow tears. Often it’s just tiny tears of disappointment and discouragement. Although sometimes there are great buckets of pain and struggle.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow,

will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

Psalm 126:5-6

Psalm 126 compares tears to seeds, sown by God’s people. And we see that those tear-seeds grow into sheaves of grain, and God’s people end up singing songs of joy, bringing in the harvest. I can’t say that’s how I usually see my difficulties and battles : that God is growing something with my tears that will start me singing.

So, as I face daily challenges, inside my heart and outside in my life, I want to remind myself that I will reap with songs of joy. And if I will sing songs of joy in the future, I can begin to sing them now. As the tiny seeds spell out JOY in my Christmas decoration, so tiny seeds of tears will grow into great songs of joy over the harvest that the Lord is gathering in.

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Amanda Robbie is a former designer of sewage works who is now a vicar’s wife in a multicultural urban parish in the West Midlands. She likes writing and baking. but not filing or clearing up. You can find her on Twitter @thevicarswife or (somewhat erratically) on her blog .

THANK YOU!

So this weekend as I sat at home with a horrible cold, coupled with the joy of celebrating my son’s 13th birthday I was also watching the tweets roll in from #PremDAC16 and was absolutely to delighted to see that I was chosen as Runner Up for ‘Most Inspiring Leadership Blog’, woop! (I was also shortlisted for ‘Blogger of the year’ and as with last year when I was runner up in that category I am just so chuffed and surprised!).

You can see all the winners listed in the Premier Digital website here, and huge congrats to all the winners, it was an amazing line up, I feel honoured just to be among them. Especially check out Youth Work Hacks who won this category – a really brilliant blog and resource and not just for those doing Youth work I would say.

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Thank to Bex Lewis for this pic, shamelessly stolen from her Twitter feed :)

So, I also want to say a huge thank you to anyone who nominated me and to all of you who read this blog. Over the last 7 years or so it has changed, grown, had various guest posters, looked at different themes, had many a rant, and also a lot of love. But more than that, it has been an outlet for me to work out what is going in in my head, and to my surprise I have found that has often been helpful to others doing the same. It’s quite humbling when someone sends you a message or an email saying how they have found something you have written, really helpful or encouraging or inspiring. And, so, basically I want to say, ‘right backatcha!’ I love writing but it makes is so much more enjoyable and special when I know it reaches other people and touches them. So thank you all :)

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Last year at the awards dinner above! This year, in PJs and socks at home ;)

JOY guest post // Naomi McBain

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have a post from Naomi McBain. Naomi is a friend of mine who has nurtured my faith in amazing ways, over the years. She also runs ‘Hope’, a non-profit organisation building confidence, creating a future for families and communities, find out more here.

 

It’s taken a while to get down to writing this blog as joy has been a concept I have had tussles with on and off for many a year. Don’t get me wrong… it isn’t that I have had a bad life making it hard to understand joy, or even the absence of a deep joy in worship and growth in faith. I got the concept that joy is a deeper thing than happiness; indeed there have been many occasions when I have felt I am soaring in the strength of Jesus and His deep peace, my hunger for Him, a driving force as I sought to know Him more, to plunge to deeper depths in His abundant kingdom of blessings. My faith led me to go places that challenged me and took me out of my comfort zone. This was equalled by the presence of God showing up, to light my path and provide my needs. There has never been any doubt in the Lordship of Jesus since I gave my life to Him 28 years ago, nor a let up that there is always more to find.

So what was it you were tussling with then Naomi I hear you asking… sounds like you were rocking and rolling? My issue… the consistency of joy; passages like “the joy of the Lord is my strength” or “I’m content no matter what my circumstances” challenged me as I faced times where others seemed so much more together, when I struggled to worship or make sense of what the day was bringing me. Where despair, comparison, unanswered prayer, and hopelessness in the promises I felt for things to come drove me down. I was coping on the outside but inside doubts and low confidence, lack of self worth and inferiority were speaking loud. Joy was far from me. Faith and belief in Jesus took me to his feet in prayer but joy gave no light or hope of comfort or strength.


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So what changed?

Circumstances I was in meant I saw the true power of the bible at work, certainty came in the sufficiency of Christ in me and I saw, for the first time, what it was to wear the white robes of righteousness. The certainty that comes through His grace and the joy he takes in having me surrendered to Him in loving others for the enrichment of His kingdom in their lives.

Now passages such as Habakkuk 3v 18… “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will take joy in the God of my salvation” ring out from the page and cause a flood of worship and praise and delight in the goodness and passion Jesus has for me. I have a clearer awareness of how loved I am. Even though circumstances haven’t changed, and there are still challenges and mountains to climb, there is a joy in my core that wasn’t there before. I am able to enjoy the spacious expanses of the green pastures as I still myself and truly know He is God, taking joy in just being with Him for no other reason than hanging out with the most amazing person ever. The conquering king, my saviour, for whom nothing of my life goes unseen and nothing is bigger or beyond Him. The vibrancy and colour of His kingdoms ways are a sight to be seen, full of light, beauty, love and abundant life in the river of His delights.

I thank Him for His goodness, grace and mercy and pray that these words inspire hunger and hope to others needing a fresh insight into a deeper joy in Jesus. There is always more!

JOY // Guest Post from Katie Stock

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have a post from Katie Stock. 

 

 

 

In my experience joy is an elusive state, something I observe in others, catch glimpses of in myself but can never quite grab a hold of.

Joy is mentioned 179 times in the Bible. Trees declare it. Men shout for it. Widow’s hearts sing for it. Joy permeates throughout Scripture.

The thing that all of the peoples, individuals and trees (!) experiencing joy have in common is that their joy comes from an experience of the presence of God.

Wherever God is there follows joy.

Then why do I not experience this? Do I not experience God’s presence? Do I not pray enough?

I certainly don’t pray enough. I experience God’s presence but not in a complete sense.

Joy is still elusive.

It is elusive because I am broken. I was broken at birth because of my fallen nature. I continued to be increasingly broken as I grew due to the sin of others around me. I continue to be broken due to my own sin now.

I struggle to experience joy. I know I’m not alone in that. But, rest assured, one day I will experience God’s presence in its unbridled entirety. Then we will all experience joy like never before. Then our broken bones will rejoice and we will be made glad with the joy of God’s presence.

 

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Psalm 51: 1-8

KatieStock

Katie Stock

Katie is a fundraising copywriter at an international NGO, theology postgraduate, Mama to the delightful Miss F & Miss T and wife to the inexplicably handsome Boy (her words!). Katie also won ‘Young Blogger of the Year’ in last years Premier Digital Awards for her rather fantastic Theology Bee blog – do check it out.

‘I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…’ // Preach 24/07/16

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This is my preach from the 6.30pm at TRINITY on 24th July 2016. It is part of a series on The Apostles Creed, each talk based on a passage of scripture as well as a line from the creed.
As usual this is my notes/script so may not be exactly as I said it!

 

Preach // John 1: 1-18

“I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…”

 

So… do we?

I don’t think any of you here know my story or testimony, and I’m not going to share it all this evening, (but more than happy to chat about it if anyone wants to!)

However I spent my life from a baby to the age of about 18 going to church regularly, in several fairly traditional parish churches. I must have said that line ‘I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son’ and others from the Creeds, hundreds if not thousands of times. And yet for over 30 years I didn’t really know what it meant. I didn’t really know what I was saying, I just said it because that’s what we did in church.

After that I was in and out of church for years until my 30s. In fact the reason I stopped going to church eventually was because I couldn’t stand the fact that I didn’t understand what it was all about.

>In my mind it was all turmoil, did I believe in God? Or not? Who was Jesus? Did he actually live? Was he really God’s Son?

And finally I decided I didn’t want my kids to go through the same experience and uncertainty and so we stopped going.

Just like that.

For a few years I was in some kind of spiritual blender where I looked at various different faiths, explored meditation and mindfulness and tried to find some answers.

Then our lives changed when we had some work done on our house and a builder who was a committed Christian started to tell us about Jesus. Not just ‘Jesus Christ the Son of God’ whose name or title I had repeated all those years, but a Jesus who he knew, who was with him always, who was his friend, who he couldn’t live without.

This was a Jesus I had never heard of before, but I wanted to know more…

And there is of course a lot more to that story, the fact that I’m here and ordained is part of it! But the reason I wanted to share that is that for me, now, when I say those words: ‘I believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God’ I mean it. I mean it with all my heart and I mean it because I do know him, and I couldn’t say anything other than I believe in him. It’s not just repeating a name and a title because I don’t just believe – he is my reason for living

 

: Now we are focusing on The Apostles Creed, which is based on doctrine, which in itself is based on scripture.

And so to look at this line today, “I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…” we are focusing on John 1:1-18 which is a fantastic passage because it declares such amazing truths about who Jesus is.

But I believe it also actually says as much about us as believers as it does about Jesus.

So we’re going to look at who he is but also who we are in him.

Now some of you will have similar stories to mine, some might not. Some will perhaps recognise where I was a few years ago, others may always have known Jesus, but wherever you are at, I hope that in what I share this evening, that all of us might know Jesus a little by more by the time we all leave this place, but also that we might seek to find who we are, in Christ also, to seek how he sees us. Is that ok?

  

So what does John tell us?

 This passage, is really John laying down what he believes, to frame the rest of the gospel. And the opening lines of the chapter here – vs.1-18 are like a prologue to the whole thing. It’s a bit like John’s creed, his declaration of who he believes Jesus to be: He says:

Jesus was there in the beginning

he had a part in creation – all things were created through him,

he gives light to all men,

he gives right to become children of God,

he brings grace,

John even takes us back to Moses and the law, just confirming again Jesus as the fulfilment of the law.

 

Those are some pretty big claims actually, so let’s take a closer look at some of them and what they might mean for us.

 

  • logos – foundation just as today

 

And he really starts by laying down a foundation stone:
‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God’.

 

This is a direct description of Jesus. And I love this about John’s gospel that he is far more poetic, mysterious even, more spiritual than the others, and this language here is really beautiful and creates an amazing picture of who Jesus is throughout this passage.

But even so, why does he use ‘word’ (or ‘logos’ in Greek) ? why doesn’t he just say ‘Jesus’? wouldn’t that be simpler?
Well if we imagine the time he was writing and those who would have read or heard these words, we know that he is appealing largely to two groups of people – the Greeks and the Jews.

So for the Greeks – As you might know the Greeks were very into thinking and reason, philosophical thought. So ‘logos’ was a word for reason – a way of referring to thought. Both in terms of inward thought – so our own ideas and things whizzing around our brain, but also an expression of thought in speech. Speaking thoughts out loud.

So, in referring to Jesus as the word, the ‘logos’ he was appealing to the idea of reason, not just declaring who Jesus is, but putting the idea of him into a framework the Greeks would understand. He’s saying there is a reason for life – and Jesus is it.

But John also appeals to the Jewish readers too. They would have understood that idea of the word ‘logos’ in a different way – as a revelation from God – a word spoken from God. For example in the Old Testament, prophets were God’s mouthpiece, he spoke his words directly to the prophets and they then shared that with the people.

In some scripture God’s word can almost be seen to have a life of its own in this sense –

Psalm 107:20 ‘God sent forth his word and healed them’

or Isaiah 55: 11 ‘… so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it’.

So actually John is, as well as being very arty and poetic, is actually being very clever in appealing to different readers using the same word, to help them to understand who Jesus is, in terms they might know.

So for us, as the modern reader, today, in our lives, are these helpful terms? Do they help us to get a better handle on who Jesus is? Can we imagine Jesus as our reason for living? Or can we picture him as someone sent out from God, to do his work?

If you imagine in those lines above that I read – imagine ‘word’ replaced with Jesus it can really help us to understand what is being said here:

God sent forth Jesus and healed them’

‘… Jesus will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent him’.

I think they are quite helpful actually as a foundation, but there is so much more to Jesus than that isn’t there?

Jesus as God – there in the beginning

And John doesn’t stop there, he goes even further than this, he wants to really cement that the word, Jesus, is not just a revelation or expression of God but that he is in fact God himself too. So he highlights:

‘he was there in the beginning, through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made’.

Which is also echoed in v10 – ‘through him the world was made’…)

Wait, so if it weren’t for Jesus, if it weren’t for ‘the word’ there would be no world? That’s enough for people to stand up and listen isn’t it?! And that’s the truth of how fundamental Jesus is to us too, that without him there would be nothing. Without him in our lives, is it all worth nothing?

Again John wants to reach a range of readers so he uses language to reach them. Jewish readers would know their own scripture, for example the Torah, the first 5 books of our Old Testament, was for teaching and all about the law and instruction.

And how does it all start? What are the very first words of the bible in Genesis

Anyone know….!?

 

‘In the beginning…’ the very same words John starts his Gospel with. He is aligning himself, his beliefs and Jesus, with the Jewish faith, placing Jesus as the Messiah, there at the very beginning. Of everything. Not just with God, but he was God.

But also again he’s appealing to the Greek reader who placed such emphasis on thought and reason with the very idea of ‘the beginning’ – what was the beginning? What was there, before there was anything?

Jesus was there ‘ in the beginning’. Just as later we read in Hebrews 13:

‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’

Jesus that was there in the beginning, was the same Jesus who came to earth as a baby, the same Jesus who died on the cross, the same Jesus who offers us eternal life now, if we choose it.

So for us, does this bring meaning to us? Personally I believe both show Jesus as a reason for life, but in different ways. So just as then, now we might understand Jesus as the Son of God, the reason for life, the reason we are here – bringing meaning to the universe and the world around us.

But also he continues to bring us the word of God, he is the one who enables us to know God the Father.

 

…o0O0o… 

So John goes on with his fundamental truths… and so far we have really looked at who Jesus is, but now, we get a sense of who he is for us or within us. For example in:

– In v.9 He is the ‘true light that gives light to every man…’

In v 12: ‘he gave the right to become children of God’ – this is for us today

In v14: the word dwelled amongst us

In v.16. through grace we receive blessing 

These are all amazing statements about who Jesus is for us, but I want to focus now on Jesus as the Son of God as we declare in that line:

 

“I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…”

So, in verse 12-13 John says:

‘he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, not of human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Jesus gives us, all of us, the right to become a child of God. We can call God our Father, we can call him our Dad. Strange though that might seem, Jesus’ came to restore each of us to a relationship with God, the kind of relationship that a truly loving Father has with his children. That is what is on offer for each of us!

And I wonder, can any of say that that is how we see God? That we truly believe that we have the kind of relationship with him where we see him as a truly loving Father?

It’s actually really hard to get our head around, especially if you may not have had a loving Father in life.

 

…o0O0o…

 

But it’s actually much more than that even – In the Jewish and Greek culture, generational lines and the importance of Father-Son relationships were hugely important. For example:

In Hebrew culture, a son or child was deemed to be so, not just by birth but by who the father chose or named as his son, so sometimes men would take others into their family and deemed them to be sons (sadly rarely happened with women!). Doing so not only meant that others then saw the new son’s status as the same as the Father but that they were representatives of the Father, they had his rights, could make decisions in his name. So a slave could (and did in some cases) be taken into a family and given the same rights as the head of the household.

 

…o0O0o…

 

In a way that’s what Jesus does for us – offers us adoption into his family. And how could he offer this? Because he was the son himself – he could share his inheritance with us…

For those of the day, unlike other religions of faith cultures, Jesus offered ‘membership’ if you like, to anyone. This was a world where status mattered hugely, from governors, army generals and Rabbis who carried importance, weight and power, to slaves who often had no rights of their own and no prospect of getting any.

 

Jesus and what would become Christianity, was something so different to anything seen before. It was a faith for everyone, irrespective of intelligence, age, gender, race or religious background.

They could all receive from Jesus.
We can all receive from Jesus.

And today there are still vast chasms between the rich and poor, between those with status and those without, sometimes just as arbitrary but nothing can keep us from Jesus – well nothing except ourselves.

Actually sometimes we put those barriers there ourselves, we question ourselves, our identity – many of us suffer with a real lack of self worth, but God’s word tells us that as Christians, as believers in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we are nothing less than the personally valued, dearly loved children of God, irrespective of how others may see us or even of how we see ourselves.

 

Romans 8:14-21 says this:

 

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

 

>>We get to be children of God, we get to share in his glory. You are special, every one of you. EVERY one of you. Can we believe that? <<

  

…o0O0o…

 

But it’s not just a theory either, not just something we choose to believe –

Jesus came here…

 

Verse 14 – I’m going to read it from the Message Version – have come across that? (explain)

Says this:

The Word became flesh and blood,

    and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

    the one-of-a-kind glory,

    like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

    true from start to finish

 

I love that – he moved into the neighbourhood. What a great way of describing it – because we can hear that Jesus was: the incarnation, he was born of Mary – but what did it mean?

So just imagine, Jesus moved into your neighbourhood – imagine Jesus was here in Lewes. He might have grown up on your street, he might have been at events you were at – a wedding maybe or a funeral, or you might have heard him speak at the Speakers festival this weekend!

 

Have you ever seen someone famous in real life? A celebrity? I’m sure there must be a few around Lewes! It’s like you see them on TV or maybe or read about them, you’ve seen plenty of photos of them, and then you bump into them in the street, or see them at an event. Undoubtedly they look a little bit different, but more than that, you will see them in the flesh, 3D if you like, you get to see them in all their glory – the fullness of who they are.

It’s the same with Jesus. This is John’s story – he saw Jesus, he knew Jesus, this is his testimony that he saw him.

Jesus (God) was actually here on earth, he dwelled among people like you and I, he revealed himself, as God, the Son of God, he was a revelation of God here amongst us.

 

Jesus is God but he also knows what it is to be human, to feel emotion, to feel pain – I know some can’t get around the theology of what Jesus could feel, but do you think as a child he never fell over, scraped his knee or stubbed his toe? Did he never get a cold? If he was fully human as well as fully God then he experienced these things just as we do. And we know, he certainly experienced suffering.

 

And he is still with us. Yes we don’t get to bump into him down at Tesco, but he’s here, in our hearts, longing for us to know him more.

 

…o0O0o…

 

 

And in fact the last few verses 16-18 just reiterate that too, and again I’m going to read from the Message:

 

 

We all live off his generous bounty,

        gift after gift after gift.

    We got the basics from Moses,

        and then this exuberant giving and receiving,

    This endless knowing and understanding—

        all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.

    No one has ever seen God,

        not so much as a glimpse.

    This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,

        who exists at the very heart of the Father,

        has made him plain as day.

 

 

Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the fulfillment of the Jewish faith.

And that word Messiah, by the way, is translated in the Greek as Kristos – Christ, It literally means ‘anointed one’ and it was often used as a title, for someone who was thought to be anointed – maybe a Priest or Prophet, even a King. So whist we know the word as solely referring to Jesus, it was something prior to his time on earth.

John is reiterating here again the history, going back to Moses – reminding the Jews of the heritage of their faith, Moses a fundamental figure for the Jews, here being superseded it seems by Jesus – he’s taking them forward, to the next level, Moses didn’t see God but we get to – we get to see him in Jesus. As do we today.

We get to receive this generous bounty – through grace – none of us deserve it but we get it anyway. We get to know Jesus. Jesus Christ the Son of God. The one who was there at the very beginning, will be at the very end and is here right now.

 

…o0O0o…

 

Ending…

 

So… When we say that line

 

“I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…”

 

Let’s ask ourselves – do we?

Because when we say this line (and the Creed as a whole) we are not just declaring what we believe in, but we are declaring who we are.

If Jesus lives within us, then we are also declaring our own identity.

 

So do we believe that Jesus is God, that he was there at the very beginning?

Do we believe that he is our very foundation? Our reason for living?

Do we we truly accept that we are Children of God? that we are special?

Can we say that we have received God’s grace? Undeserved and unearned, but there for each of us?

 

Those are the questions I want to leave you with, I’d love you to ponder on them this week, to think about your reason for living and who you are in Jesus.

…o0O0o…

 

Prayer and Ministry….

 

 

Joy // Guest Post from Jacqueline Peart

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have a post from Jacqueline Peart who I met when we both did the Woman to Woman show on Premier Radio earlier this year.

 

 

 

What Joy Means to Me!

It’s a real joy (no pun intended :-) to be sharing a guest blog on Apples of Gold. Jules and I met at Premier Christian Radio where we were both guests on the Woman to Woman Show with Maria Rodrigues. Within a short time, it was clear that both Jules and I (and Maria of course :-) were real ‘joy carriers’. During the show, we discussed some sober topics and yet there was still room for laughter as genuine warmth filled the air.

So, the question I was asked to address today is, what does joy mean to me?

Joy is a fruit of the spirit, as found in Galatians 5:22, and if I could capture its essence, I would say it comes from within; it is a gladness and a warmth; joy is alive and I believe it is a strength and a choice.

I decided to start writing this blog right after unexpectedly receiving some sad news because I wanted to be sure that what I was getting ready to write was authentic and achievable.

Can I tell you? It is and it was!

You see, happiness is dependent on things that ‘happen’ to us or around us, but joy is resident, it doesn’t go and come depending on our emotions or circumstances. Joy is alive irrespective of life’s up’s or down’s; and despite receiving sad news – as I write – I still choose joy; and in choosing joy there is hope.

I write poetry and inspirational thoughts and several years ago I wrote a piece called, ‘Are you a joy carrier or a joy quencher?’

Joy carriers have the ability to transform an atmosphere or a situation. They can see the glass as half full and they transfer the joy they carry to those around them. Joy is and should be contagious. Those who come into your presence weighed down with the issues of life should be able to draw from that ‘joy-well’ and leave carrying their own joy.

However, ‘joy quenchers’ have the distinct ability to sap your energy and joy. They see only half empty glasses and, equally, they have the ability to change an atmosphere that was once joyful to one stifled by ‘sorrow’, the antonym of joy.

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Jules, Maria & Jacqueline at Premier Radio

The bible says in Nehemiah 8: 10 that, “The joy of the Lord is your strength”, and I can say I am living proof of this truth. The Joy that comes from the Lord continues to by my strength!

So, what does joy mean to me? In a nutshell it means carrying something that has the ability to ignite, lift, encourage and build up self first and then others.

If you’ve identified yourself as a ‘joy quencher’, get around some ‘joy carriers’ and allow their joy to impact you. Read books about joy, find scriptures on joy and find what makes you smile.

You’ll be glad you did!

 

About Jacqueline Peart

Jacqueline is the founder and CEO of Jacqueline Peart International Ministries a charity birthed with a mission to ‘transform lives through wholeness.’ She is an ordained minister, inspirational speaker, poet, mentor, entrepreneur and author, who is known, loved and respected for her honesty, openness and ability to ‘keep it real,’ as she teaches and ministers.

Jacqueline is the author of a number of books including the book series ‘Inspirations for…’ a collection of inspirational thoughts and poetry, ‘Will the Real Women of Destiny Please Stand UP? Study book on the life of Rahab and the ‘Wholeness Equation’.

As well as speaking nationally and internationally, she runs a training and development business, ‘Training With Purpose International Ltd’ (TWPI), offering high quality training and development solutions to church and secular organisations alike.

You can find her on Twitter @jacquelinepeart

 

Joy // Guest Post from Dave Lucas

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have Dave Lucas from organisation ‘Disability and Jesus’ guest posting. To find out more about the organisation, see their website here.

 

 

Five in the morning is not a time that most people associate with joy but in our household that is the time my guide dog Jarvis bounds in to our bedroom with whatever happens to be his favourite toy of the moment. It’s a real joy for me because being a guide dog owner is the single most transformative experience of my life. When I got the news of my sight loss back in 1987 I was full of rage, I had to stop driving which meant the end of my career, my life was turned upside down over night.

My chosen way of handling the news was to put my fingers in my ears and tell the whole world to “F Off”! This became my default position for more than ten years, simply refusing to face the issue and running away. During this period I developed lots of techniques to hide the severity of my sight loss. I would listen to the news on the radio but buy a newspaper and pretend to read it, I would memorise phone numbers so I didn’t have to look them up – at one time I sat down with a friend who didn’t think this was possible and wrote a list of over 300 phone numbers!

By the year 2000 things were so bad I could no longer hide it, I was crashing in to things and people, I could not walk in a straight line, I knew the game was up and something had to be done. When someone suggested a guide dog I was furious, a guide dog would be a big badge that told the whole world I had a problem, this was not cool, not cool at all.

In the meantime I was involved in the world of Celtic Christianity as part of the music team with the Northumbria Community. After many tantrums and a few tears ‘Guide Dogs’ managed to persuade me to be matched with a dog. Now here comes the good bit, they brought this eighteen month old black lab retriever, “this is Abbot” they said. I remember looking up and saying to myself “OK God, I get it”. The idea of me, a Celtic Christian, a new monastic being led by an abbot tickled me greatly! Abbot and I qualified on December the eighteenth 2001, and that was the Christmas filled with the most joy I’d had since as a kid I came downstairs to find a shiny new train set. Abbot gave me my life back, I found a new career, did an MA, moved house, started a business, all this in the eight years Abbot and I worked together – as one friend put it “he gave me my life back”.

In 2010 Abbot retired and along came Jarvis, Abbot lived on in a happy retirement with us until August 2015 but I feel his presence with me always. Jarvis is a totally different dog but equally fab and this is a great new chapter…

 

Dave Lucas

 

David Lucas is proud owner of guide dog Jarvis, he is an access auditor and low vision awareness trainer and co-founder of Disability and Jesus. Here he is with Jarvis.