JOY // Guest post from Ben Hollebon

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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 a friend of mine – Ben Hollebon.

 

 

I love making films. It’s one of those things I just enjoy in every part of the process. Capturing that clip that you know is going to solidify your story when it comes to the edit is so satisfying.

I love God. Spending time with Him gives me peace. I can’t describe in words the reassurance His everlasting faithfulness brings to my life.

I ask God for stuff in prayers. I know it’s a bit cheeky and they’re not always things that I necessarily need, but I ask anyway. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think it works that you ask God for something in a quick prayer, He snaps His fingers and suddenly there’s a fanfare outside as the National Lottery pitch up at your front door with a nice big cheque for a few million. I think God is cleverer than that. He is interested in our hearts desires and giving us gifts; but these gifts are not meant to be held tightly and relished by ourselves alone. Instead, they’re meant to be used to glorify His name, His grace, His mercy and His love.

God gave me a gift last year. It was pretty amazing and I can tell you now – it made me rather joyful. He gave me the gift of a brand new job; one that I didn’t know existed, one that I wasn’t looking for, and in fact one that wasn’t even advertised. My wife saw a job advertised on Twitter (she’s never on Twitter and what are the chances she was on just as this was tweeted?). I went for the interview and didn’t get the job; but they told me there was another job, that wasn’t being advertised yet that they thought I’d be perfect for. So I came back a month later and interviewed successfully for it.

What do I do now? I make films for The Church of England. I work up in Westminster and get to communicate stories of the God I love through the medium that I love. God wants us to be fulfilled through His provision.

This Remembrance video, used in many churches and across Social Media is one of those Ben made.
Pretty cool right? God knows my hearts desires and wants me to be fulfilled in life; but He also challenges me to use the good things He provides to make a difference in this world. This isn’t just a “nice gig” nor is it God giving me a break and moving on. I feel called to work here and with that comes the responsibility that what I am doing is for God’s Kingdom. 

My joy this Christmas is knowing that I have a God who not just knows my every need, but finds ways to meet those needs in ways I could never have imagined. My God can literally find the perfect job for me, where I can use the skills He has blessed me with to communicate His Gospel each and every day.

And my God is your God; is our God; is THE God who loves us all immeasurably more than we could ever imagine.

I wonder what gift He has waiting for you to unwrap…

 

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Ben Hollebon works for The Church of England Communications Team at Church House in Westminster. He makes films and loves all things digital. He even got shortlisted at the Jerusalem Awards this year. He is married to Pollyanna and together, they have a cat called Herbie.

 

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

 

Movement of Love (again)

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So I’ve been going on about this for ages I know but it seems that God is taking the whole #MovementOfLove thing to another level. So as you know I’ve been writing and preaching about this theme for a while and I have been promoted to actually do something with it. But you know I never felt it was the right time and anyway I’ve been preparing for Ordination and Curacy, and if there was ever a time not to take on something new it would be now, I have enough ‘new’ to keep me going for a while!

However earlier this week I was praying and I felt God prompting me that now was the time. Well, my reaction was not entirely positive for the reasons I just said. So I put a short line on my FB and Twitter to see if anyone might be up for joining in with it. At the same time I prayed, Lord I need a sign! I’m not normally one to do that, I’m happy to be led by prayer and prompting, but this needed more.

So, cue masses of positive feedback and support, emails from people in positions of responsibility who thought it was a good idea. Hmm, ok God…. But in a moment of ‘me of little faith’ I asked for another sign, so the following day I headed off to a Christian conference and left it in God’s hands. Mid afternoon there was a prophetic word given out that pretty much matched what I had been thinking and when I went to talk to the person who gave it after, he went into more detail and I knew I couldn’t ignore it any more. Plus by that evening I had a few people committed to helping run it and one key person in Cate Williams (Mission and Evangelism Officer for Gloucester Diocese) who was up for helping getting it all going.

So I know it’s crazy, I have enough to be doing right now, and I am well aware of time constraints and being careful but I just know God is in this and so ‘Movement of Love’ is launching Monday morning… (and yes my Training Incumbent does know about it!)

So if you want to know more, here’s the blurb below, but do sign up to the Facebook page and Twitter and please join in, the idea is to be a community where everyone inputs and everyone receives, it won’t be me and Cate running the whole thing (apart from anything else neither of us have the time for that!). The launch will be at 8.30am Monday so we’re asking people not to start sharing the page or links until then so as to create a real buzz, but for now please do like the page :)

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Movement Of Love is a new online community (launching officially Monday 4th July) for people who want to spread a message of love across our nation, to counteract the hate. It is for anyone and everyone who wants to see a difference and bring a more positive atmosphere to their communities, towns and country. We have an opportunity and a desire to speak love and life into our nation from the ground up. 

Why?

Like many, we are struggling to come to terms with what we are hearing in the news and concerned at the current levels of hate and anger in our nation. Recognising the disappointment, anger and hurt that many are expressing we realise we have a choice at this point about whether to despair, or, to hope.

We may not be able to do anything politically or change decisions that have been made but we can choose not to partner with hate, darkness and ill feeling. We can be a part of the healing of our nation’s divisions and the making of a better society.

What?

Movement Of Love is a new online community of people who want to see an attitude of love prevail across the nation. Anyone can join simply by agreeing to try and be a more loving presence in their daily lives.

The group of people who have started this off find inspiration in the Christian faith and in a passage many people will have heard read at weddings, 1 Corinthians 13, love is described as:

patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…

We hope that others will join us and pledge to have an attitude of love like this, impacting our nation from the ground up, regardless of their beliefs. We have set this group up for people of all faiths or none, for anyone who wants to be a part of a movement of love in our nation. We will be open and honest about our inspiration but we have no expectation that all who want to be a part of this movement share the same faith. We want and need to work together, because healing of what divides us is what this is all about. The message of God is that love is abundant, extravagant and beyond expectations. Our aim is to see more of this and less hate and bad feeling.

 

How ?

Anyone can join and we encourage you to:

  • Take the pledge: Simply agree to try and be a person of love. Sign up to the Facebook page or Twitter and join the community.
  • Put it into practice: We will be sharing ideas of things you can do to be a loving presence and we encourage you to share what you are doing, or ideas of how you can impact your community on a smaller or larger scale.
  • Get others involved: Use your networks – perhaps your school, workplace, church or organisation to share a message of love

 

What it is not!

Movement Of Love is not political and does not stand for any agenda other than sharing love and encouraging an atmosphere of love. There are plenty of places and ways to express criticism, hurt, pain, anger or strong opinions and agendas, so our aim is that this will be a community or place of peace.

 

Where Joy Resides // Guest Post by Ali Campbell

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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 Ali Campbell from ‘The Resource’.

 

 

Find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss joy is to miss all.”    Robert Louis Stevenson

 

My eldest daughter, Hannah, was 4. It was a hot day in June and she begged me for a ride on the bike. At this time, although going great guns on a tricycle, “a ride on the bike” meant sitting behind me on a seat attachment while I pedalled.

We set off. Heading out of our road and off in to Lindfield, it was pretty much downhill all the way. There were squeals from behind me as we freewheeled our way to the park. We chained the bike and messed about in the park, climbing, swinging, running, hiding and jumping… all the usual stuff. Then came the time to head home. I’d been run ragged and was not looking forward to trudging back up the hill we had freewheeled down!

If I was tired, this was nothing compared to 4 year old legs on a hungry and worn out Hannah. I plonked her in the bike seat and began pushing the bike. Now, in my head this conversation started… I’m ashamed to remember it, but it went something like this, “Man, we need to get back… I’m shattered.” “I wish I was 4 and someone was pushing me up a hill… AND, we haven’t even GOT to the hill yet!” “Flip, I’m unfit!”…

When I say “conversation” as I said, it was in my head. One of those internal dialogues with myself I do. Maybe you do that? Anyway… there I am “monologuing” away to myself, now beginning to feel the burn in my calfs as I pushed up the incline.

I turned round for a moment. There. On my daughters face. A great big beam! She was grinning. She was chuckling away to herself. She was WAVING to the cars and pedestrians from her throne as I sweated and strained with the bike.

My internal dialogue would have shifted to a shout if It had been out loud. “WHAT does she think she is doing?” “THIS isn’t fun, if she could swap places with me for 5 seconds she wouldn’t be grinning and waving!” I think at this point my internal grumbling might have become an audible muttering under my breath as I continued to push and heave us up the hill.

Then.

From behind me my daughter suddenly exclaimed,

“I’m so happy!”

Boom. My internal voice of dissatisfaction, frustration, selfish and silly nonsense was stunned in to silence.

I felt tears prick my eyes.

Here we were, sharing a precious afternoon on this beautiful day – the same experience, the same time, seeing the same things, doing the same things (well, apart from the pushing from me and all the sitting from Hannah!)…

My daughter was full of joy and delight. That exclamation was unbidden, I hadn’t asked her how she was, if she had enjoyed the afternoon… it was just a natural response to what was happening, our time together, the fun of watching the world go by as her Dad pushed her up a hill!

I began to feel it. I began to feel a bit of the overspill of joy from my daughter. A different internal conversation began, “This is amazing!”, “What was wrong with me? I nearly missed this!” “How wonderful… !” Physically, I was not feeling wonderful (good grief my calves are burning!) but, suddenly I looked at our time together and the day completely differently.

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I started above with a quote, “to miss joy is to miss all”. Did you know that kids laugh and smile about 400 times a day? Adults might hit 20 times on a good day.

Joy for me is found, increasingly, in delighting in what is right in front of me. As a dad I just don’t want to miss magic moments with my kids, and what that story showed with Hannah was, even though I was THERE – actually spending time with my amazing daughter, I nearly missed how special and precious that time was. It took my 4 year old to express her feelings in three simple words – I’m so glad I heard them and responded.

There is joy in the mundane, the ordinary, the regular, the usual moments of life. For a child there is a joy and wonder that overflows and creates those 400 laughs and smiles a day. I don’t want to become childish, but I do want to become more childlike. I want to regress and rediscover laughter, fun and joy at the heart of the everyday – EVERY day.

 

Ali CAli Campbell

Ali runs “The Resource” which is aimed at equipping, supporting and encouraging those who work with children, young people and families in the church and community. Ali is passionate about seeing this generation reached with the Good News and equipped to live life to the full – John 10:10! 

 

 

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.

Being different and being relevant…

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I’ve been thinking recently about how hard it is to balance trying to be relevant as Christians in society, with being Godly. By which I mean for example, I find it helpful to use every day life examples when I’m preaching or talking about God. I might refer to a current song or TV show, a piece in the news maybe, or something I’ve seen on Facebook or Twitter.

But at the same time that requires us to be up to date and know what is going on in the world, the things that people are into, the music that is popular and the TV shows people are watching. Which isn’t in itself a problem, until we come up against something that is hugely popular but might go against our Christian principles. Now listen I’m not going all fundamental here, I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to Radio 1 or watch Harry Potter (and I’m not talking about hard core stuff which most people would be offended by anyway) but I’m just thinking about where the balance is. 

Here’s the challenge – ask yourself, how much TV do you watch, say 10 hours a week? and then ask yourself how much of that is spent watching anything Christian? Or how much time do you spend reading books and then compare that with how much time is spent in God’s word? How much do you listen to the radio, versus listening to preaching podcasts or Worship music? How many posts do you put on Facebook each week and how many of those reference your faith or something God has done in your life?

…o0O0o…

As Christians we often quote the line that we should ‘be in the world but not of the world’ and say it’s from scripture. Actually it isn’t, the theme is biblical but the line itself is not. Probably it’s one of those things that someone has paraphrased from scripture and then it has been repeated so many times that people believe it is in the bible.

The nearest we can get to it is the following:

If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you.       John 15:19


And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.       
Romans 12:2

 

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.     1 John 2:15

 

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.        John 17:19

 

All of which point to the fact that we are called to be different, but not that we need to be completely removed from contemporary culture.

I think the most helpful line here is from Romans 12 – ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. And that is the challenge – how are we allowing our minds to be renewed? If actually the majority of the time we are simply filling our minds with the X Factor, Kanye West or Fifty Shades of Grey that sounds like our minds are more likely to be transformed and renewed into the culture of this world, not of the Kingdom of God.

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So back to my original question, how can we balance being relevant with being Godly? Well, I don’t have a magic formula I’m afraid. But the key has to be in seeking God and being led by him. My husband and I watch a lot of what we call ‘murder based entertainment’ – i.e. crime drama. I like the challenge of it, the suspense, the trying to suss out who did what. But just recently I realised that is pretty much all we watch on TV! So, we have been choosing to fill our minds with stories of GBH, murder and deception and the scenes that go with it. And let’s face it, TV dramas these days don’t hold back on the gore and realism do they? And I have to be honest I’ve felt challenged on that. Do I want to fill my mind continually with this kind of stuff? I’m asking myself how is this renewing my mind? So instead I’m trying to balance what I put in to my head with a range of things, We’ve switched to watching something less murder themed, I am trying to listen to more sermon podcasts and choosing to watch less TV in general actually.

I think it’s good to challenge ourselves on these things regularly, that is not to say ‘that programme/book/song is not Christian’ but more to balance it out. We do need to know what is going on in our world, we need to be able to relate to people who are not Christians and we can’t do that by hiding ourselves away, but let’s really think about how we are feeding ourselves and how our minds are being renewed and transformed.

I would love to know peoples thoughts on this. Do you think we can we find the right balance? What about your own popular culture intake – do you think you have the right balance? What might God be saying to you in this?

 

Joy // Guest Post from James Prescott

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This is the first in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy, my word for the year. I am delighted to have James Prescott guesting today. You can check out his blog here.

 

Joy is such a loaded word. It’s one of those words which we say endless times, but often don’t fully understand. We often mistake happiness for joy – when they are, in fact, two very different concepts. Happiness comes from the word happen-stance, which is linked to circumstance. Happiness is about the present. Being happy is about a feeling about something which is happening.

Joy, however is something different. It’s not an emotion. It goes far deeper than that.

When my Mum died in 2000, it was the worst day, the most painful experience of my life. And as anyone who has experienced grief knows, you feel a tidal wave of conflicting emotions. Anger at the person leaving you. I had that for a short time. Then there’s the pain of knowing they aren’t coming back, that there is suddenly a space in your life which nothing else can fill. Eventually you have to come to an acceptance the person is gone, and move forward with your life.

This process took years for me. And all the while, I was feeling nothing good could ever come of losing my mum. What possible good could come from losing someone I was so close to, who loved me so much?

As time went on however, I noticed something. The anger, the hurt and the bitterness began to subside. As I received counselling and prayer, and time passed, I began to reflect on the good things my mum had brought to my life. How she had shaped who I was. The intimate experiences we had as mother and son. Her fun, her free spirit and her immense love and compassion.


Then I began to look at who I was, and the shape of my life. I’d become more independent. And because I’d been left a two bed maisonette, I’d been able to host a church acquaintance when they got back too late from football matches, have deep conversations with him, and ultimately become best friends. And he had introduced me to the church which changed my life and I’ve been part of for 11 years. Losing mum had caused me to question my faith and ultimately deepen it, discover a bigger, wider and more intimate view of God.

And the truth is, none of this would have occurred if my Mum had lived.

As I realised this, I felt a deep sense of what I can only call joy. I wasn’t happy – my Mum was still dead, still gone from my life, and I still miss her. The pain is still there. But there was this sense that God had redeemed this. That it wasn’t for nothing. And also a sense of gratitude for all my Mum was, that I’d had her for 23 years, which is longer than many do. And a joy that even in her death, she had shaped my life in ways I could never have imagined.

And that is joy for me. It’s acknowledging the reality of our lives, acknowledging all our experiences, and somehow trusting, or even knowing on a very deep level, that there is good even in that. Knowing that God will take care of us. That He’s been with us all the way through even the darkest times. And remembering and celebrating the good, even in the midst of our pain.

Kay Warren’s definition of joy sums this up perfectly:

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”

Joy is laughing with tears in our eyes. Celebrating, but weeping. Trusting and worshipping when there seems no reason to. Seeing the thin grain of light in the darkness.

And joy is when walking the valley, seeing the sunlight piercing the mountains.

 

  

JamesP profile

James Prescott is a writer, author, coach & editor from Sutton, near London. He’s author of the e-book Unlocking Creativity’ & editor of ‘Christian Writer’ the magazine of the Association of Christian Writers. James is passionate about creativity, identity & spirituality, and blogs regularly at jamesprescott.co.uk & has a weekly podcast, ‘James Talks’ which you can follow on iTunes. James is a big movie buff & has a not-so-secret love of lip sync battles.

A Movement of Love

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You know what I think our society needs? A movement of love.

Over the last year or so the thing I have felt God talking to me about the most is, all about loving each other, loving people. Our culture now seems to be largely formed upon what is best for ‘the self’ and yet God’s word tells us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. We seem to be doing ok with the loving ourselves bit, but what about our neighbour?

Individualism is the thing that rules us. We want what we want, and we want it now, often at the expense of others. And well, maybe you could say that’s a good thing, we won’t be lorded over by dictators or tyrants. We have freedom to act and live as we want, there is greater safety and support for the marginalised, we might say we are free to become who we were always meant to be.

But…

I feel that the more we do that the more we are isolating ourselves from each other. We have no responsibility for any other, no concern for our community or clan, no regard for our country, and yet we can feel free to tear down and criticise those who do.

Years ago people generally lived within an area, extended family were nearby, locals knew each other and looked out for each other. Now, how many of us even know who our neighbours are? I live in a tiny little rural village and here, if you are connected in, maybe through the school then you do live a bit like it once was. You walk to school and see people in the village, you get to know local characters, you chat to parents at the school gate, you have probably met the local Vicar, even if you are not a church goer. When I was injured people rallied to cook for us. When a local man dies, people gather. There is something here about respect for each other.

And yet, I know for many, they don’t know their neighbour, they don’t feel connected to their community, they don’t know what is going on locally. They just happen to live there, going in and out daily.

…o0O0o…

I wrote a while back about us living in bubbles and that’s what has happened, we live in our own individual bubbles, often unaware of the wider world, and when we do take an interest it is largely only because it might affect us.

and we love this right? we love that we get to do what we want and when we want to don’t we?

But…

There are thousands of people living and struggling every day with loneliness. Whether the elderly, isolated and perhaps less capable, stuck at home, no friends to talk to. There are thousands living daily with depression and mental illness, isolated and suffering, often alone. There are refugees in corners of the world who have lost everything and struggle daily just to live, just to feed their children. What happens to them? well now we have organisations and groups and governments to handle them right? We just palm off any sense of responsibility, or dare I say compassion, on to someone else, onto something else.

We need a movement of love.

…o0O0o…

These are our fellow human beings. In our communities, in our towns, in our villages, in our world. Because of course community means something else these days – we talk of the global community, the online community, and we need that, people need that, the lonely, isolated and suffering need that.

But how can it be that an elderly man can live in squalor and ask for help and after months is still waiting for it? How can it be that a sick woman, once with a life filled with friends and fun, is alone and isolated when she needs love the most? How can it be that a couple struggling, but desperately trying, to find work are treated as pariahs and penalised rather than supported? How can it be that troubled young people are looked upon with disdain and disrespect when they just need someone to love them.

We need a movement of love.

Of course we need organisations and bodies and support groups but above all:

we. just. need. to. love. people.

…o0O0o…

My Nan was in care home for about 5 years before she died. For the last year of her life I visited her once a week for about an hour. 1 hour a week – not much is it? Sometimes it was a chore, sometimes (often) she was very grumpy but I know she loved me visiting, just being there. In an average week she had 2 visitors – that’s 2 hours a week of just being with other people. How would you find that?

When I was out with my back injury, how many people came to see me? in 3 months – a handful.

This week I made a promise to God that if I passed any homeless people on the way to uni I would stop. I bought coffee and food for two men. And I just stopped to say Hi, ask them their names and bless them. One of them, Simon, was feeling unwell and so I offered to pray for him. When I left he gave me a smile that was full of love. Who is this man? why is he here on the street, begging, in freezing temperatures? He was once a baby, a child, how did he end up here? My heart breaks…

…o0O0o…

For goodness sake, where is our sense of community? Is it just a word we use for groups and programmes and technology? We need a movement of love that brings love and compassion back to the heart of our communities…

Ask yourself, do you know who your neighbour is? Do you know what their life is like? are there people you know who are sick and just need some human company? Do you have a relative in a care home? how often do you visit them? Do you know someone who has just had a new baby? Why not take them a meal, do some housework for them? Or just stop and talk to people. The homeless guy on the street? buy him a cuppa and ask him his name, he has a story. Make time to meet up with people for a chat, it’s so easy to overlook, we are all so busy but so vital that we do. 

It’s Valentines day, so how about we start a movement of love?

 

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‘Prayers on The Move’ App Review

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So thanks to the lovely peeps at SPCK I’m taking a look at the new ‘Prayers on the Move‘ app which officially launches next week but is out now. If you’ve not come across it yet it’s a free app, available on Android and the App store, helping people to get started praying each day.

The blurb says this:

‘SPCK’s Prayers on the Move app is designed to enable you to get into the habit of praying. Habits are formed by repetition, and it has been said that it takes 30 days to build a new one’.

Which is perfect as there’s prayer for each day of the month!

The press is full of depressing stats about the church dying but if you take a different tack and ask people about spirituality or prayer their answers are very different. For example in a recent YouGov poll 42% of people answered ‘yes’ to the question: ‘do you ever pray?’. That’s quite staggering really and as an evangelist I think we need to build on these kind of results. ‘Church’ ‘Christianity’ ‘Religion’ are all terms that people tend to roll their eyes at but yet ‘prayer’ and ‘spirituality’ seems to provide us with an opportunity, an opening to reach out to people. Clearly this app is Christian in focus but actually a lot of the prayers are open enough to encourage those who might be put off with an overly religious or specifically Christian message.

The app has a decent intro, with info on prayer itself, a section on why pray? and how to begin to pray – another fab feature for those who might be new to anything of faith. And it’s so simple to use. Each day of the month just has a very simply quote or prayer to pray, like these which you can either listen to or read.

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Their suggestion is, why not give just 1 minute a day to prayer. So, it’s not exactly aimed at your seasoned prayer warrior, but it’s perfect for a friend who expresses an interest in prayer, or an attendee at your Alpha course or just to suggest to people via your Facebook page maybe. As the app says:

‘praying may help you to develop your spirituality and to connect with something bigger than yourself’

There’s also an intro video (below) from the rather fab Justin Welby who notes that if we encourage people to open themselves to God, who knows what might happen…  So often I think when we want to share our faith we worry about things like what people might think, or ‘when to Jesus‘, or whether we are going into full on bible bashing mode, but this is actually a great tool to share with people that is non-threatening, relevant and might just start people on a journey that you can help them with. 

Although all that said, I’m actually loving some of the prayers like the one pictured above from Lord Astley: 

‘O Lord, you know how busy I must be this day; If I forget you, do not forget me’

To be honest I should be praying this every day! and actually if you are a well-worn pray-er then maybe you could use the app to just kick start your prayer each morning, or to give you a prompt, there’s some really beautiful stuff in there. So first off, give it a go, then why not share it with people around you, as the good Archbishop says, you never know what might happen…

 

Is sharing your faith *actually* counter-productive?

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So you may have seen that some new research has just come out looking at perceptions of Jesus, Christians and evangelism in England. Called ‘Talking Jesus’ the research was done by the respected Barna group and commissioned by the Church of England, Evangelical Alliance and Hope.

My mother in law actually flagged this up to me, as she arrived to see us today clutching a piece clipped from the Telegraph. In the paper the story is shortened and immediately got up my nose, with the implication it gave that sharing one’s faith does more harm than good.  The full version here has more info and seems a little more balanced. But it is this kind of reporting that irritates me most. The media has a role to give us the news, not their version of it. If you actually read the full report it is actually very positive, so it’s just typical that the Telegraph has highlighted the negative stats.

For example, the report begins with these questions:

What do people in this nation know and believe about Jesus? What do they really think of us, his followers? Are we talking about Jesus enough? And when we are, are we drawing people closer towards him, or further away?

and goes on to say this:

This piece of research had the potential to equip every Christian to have these conversations. But we wanted to make sure. So denominational leaders agreed to fund further, more comprehensive, research… This piece of research should provoke us to prayer as our hearts are heavy with the reality of how little our friends and neighbours understand about who Jesus is. But there are glimmers of hope; we are excited about this unique opportunity to understand the landscape we are in. This is not a quick-fix strategy, but a long-term commitment to changing the story in our nation, so that people might meet Jesus, love him and follow him.

Hardly an overall summary that sharing one’s faith does more harm than good, more that perhaps we should do it more. The report doesn’t just look at evangelism it also looks at who people think Jesus was and what their perceptions are of the faith. But as evangelism is something I’m passionate about I want to highlight that.

So to balance it out, here’s a few positives:

66% of practising Christians have talked about Jesus to a non-Christian in the past month

72% of practising Christians feel comfortable talking to non-Christians about Jesus

44% of practising Christians credit their friends for introducing them to Jesus

 

Woah, so 66% of Christians have actually talked to someone else about their faith in the last month? How encouraging is that!? I’m always hearing people say they find it hard to talk about their faith or they would feel awkward or wouldn’t know what to say. But these stats seems to show people do still do it! And what’s more it is clearly having an impact as 44% of Christians credit friends with helping them come to faith.

There are some negatives so here’s a few:

40% of people do not realise Jesus was a real person who actually lived

One in four 18 to 34-year-olds thinks Jesus was a mythical or fictional character

This is sad but not unexpected, so perhaps we need to change the way we are having these conversations rather than stop them completely! The Great Commission in Mathew 28 tells the disciples to share the good news and to teach believers to do as they are doing, so then it is our commission too, to tell people about Jesus. We cannot deny it. I’m sorry if you are a quiet ‘my faith is personal’ type., because that’s just not biblical I’m afraid (yes yes you can disagree but how do you think people will know about Jesus if we don’t tell them…?). The report says this:

Each of us is called to take part in the Great Commission. As followers of Christ, we should be vocal about our faith, and it seems many of us are. Our research showed that 95% of practising Christians believe “it is every Christian’s responsibility to talk to non-Christians about Jesus Christ”. That’s why so many of us are often talking to people about Jesus.

However it also says this:

More than half of non-Christians (54%) who know a Christian, have not had a conversation with this person about faith in Jesus. Two thirds (64%) of 45-54 year olds who know a practising Christian say they have never had a conversation with any practising Christian about their faith in Jesus Christ.

This is more what I expected to see to be honest. But despite this, figures also show that generally Christians are liked and well received, for example friendly and caring, with much lower numbers saying Christians were, for example, narrow minded or hypocritical.

As the report also points out, not everyone had a positive reaction even to Jesus himself. Heck, even in his own town he was nearly thrown from a cliff! (Luke 4) So perhaps that should give us some encouragement too. The bible shows us that not everyone will respond to the gospel, so we shouldn’t expect everyone to. Our commission is to tell people, not drag them into the kingdom kicking and screaming! And that can be tough of course. For those close to us, for those in true need, we so long for them to know Jesus, to see their lives transformed by him. But we must also remember others salvation is not our responsibility. My heart is currently breaking for a few people who I long to turn to Jesus. They are broken, in need, struggling with life and yet something holds them back…

The report ends with this:

What this study reveals is that people are far more open than we might realise. After we’ve had conversations with non-Christians about Jesus, one in five of them is open to finding out more about him…

So we need to talk about him: to more people, more often, and more relevantly. The research shows that so many of us are already talking about Jesus. We are not ashamed of the gospel, despite some of us feeling ill-equipped to talk to our not-yet Christian friends and family members about Jesus.

So, let’s focus on that, let’s be encouraged, let’s share the good news that we know can transform people. Let us not be put off by scaremongering Journo’s with nothing better to do that knock the church some more…