As regular readers will know I’m a big journaling fan, so I was excited when the lovely peeps at SPCK sent me 4, yes 4, copies of this lovely new journal to give away! Want to be in it to win one? Then read on…
If you love journalling but are a bit bored of blank pages; or you’ve had a secular journal but need something to help you draw closer to Jesus; or maybe you just want to try something new, then this journal is for you!
When I asked author Carol Petley if she had written books previously she guffawed with laughter; ‘no Jules!’ she said. Then she told me how she had searched for a Christian journal that would challenge her, get her thinking and help her grow closer to Jesus but couldn’t find one. Instead God sent her on a journey to produce one herself, surprising her every step of the way.
Carol first had the idea after buying a secular Q&A journal for her daughter-in-law a few years ago. She liked it so much she bought one for herself too, so they had something to talk about together. But it turned out that the journal was going to be so much more than a talking point as she found that, as the years went on, it really spoke to her about her life as she reflected on each year gone before.
This inspired Carol to think about writing a Christian Q&A journal. As she notes, what better way to end each day than thinking about your relationship with Jesus? And each day the journal helps you to do just that, with a short scripture to read and a question to get you thinking. From life questions like ‘what major task have you accomplished recently’ to the more overt ‘how are you trying to draw near to Jesus?’ there are great prompts for each day and, because the journal covers 5 years, you can go back and reflect on the year(s) gone before too.
God’s journey to production was full of surprises: Carol helps runs an organisation called Waggy Tails that uses dogs to help teenagers with learning disabilities (do look it up, it is completely fab!) and when she first met with SPCK they had assumed that was what she wanted to write about. Carol felt she was there under false pretences! But God had a plan and her idea passed all the approval stages, even with SPCK admitting they had not published anything like this before. And it seems like God’s plan for the journal is already playing out. Carol told me how she took a pre-release copy of the journal along to a group of friends who are not Christians and she saw how it was a great conversation starter, as they were keen to look up special dates like birthdays and ended up having the most evangelistic conversation she’s ever had with them!
So that’s where the give away comes in. We have 4 copies of this beautiful book to give away, so to enter, we’d love to hear who you would choose to give this journal to if you won a copy and why? You can send your answers by commenting below or via the blog Facebook page here.
The Q&A bible verse 5 year journal is published by SPCK and released on 16th November, priced £14.99 and is available from Eden and Amazon (at, it has to be said, varying prices!)
Give Away T&C
To enter the giveaway you must suggest someone you would like to give a copy of the journal to and why. Entries will only be received via comments to this post or the relevant post on my blog Facebook page.
You may enter as many times as you like.
Entries must be received by 11.59pm, Saturday 18th November 2017, any entries after this point will not be included.
The 4 winners will be decided by Jules and Carol and notified via social media by Wednesday 22nd November. Winners will need to provide a postal address to where the prize can be sent. They will be sent out within 3 days of receiving this information.
Family members of Jules and Carol may not enter this giveaway
The essential guide to healing – Bill Johnson and Randy Clark
Those controversial gifts – George Mallone
There is More – Randy Clark
Well here we are in our series on the gifts of the spirit (in our life and church) and today we are looking specifically at healing and miracles. Our main focus is still the passage from 1 Cor 12, and particularly today vs 9-10
to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers…
But I’ve also chosen the John 9 passage we just heard to take us a bit further than that.
My view point //
And I need to say I come at this from the view point that the spiritual gifts are for today and for now. I have seen them at work in my life and in the lives of others and I think we need to embrace them more, so I won’t apologise for being very enthusiastic about this subject!
However I will say that if you don’t agree with me or you have questions do come talk to me or to one of the leadership team, because we really want people to embrace this subject, but we also recognise it is a difficult one.
So healing is our focus today.
Did you know that out of nearly 4000 verses in the 4 gospels, 727 relate specifically to the healing of physical and mental illness and the resurrection of the dead – that’s 1/5th of the gospels.
Healing was a big part of what Jesus did and how he taught people about the kingdom of God.
So then if that’s how he taught, shouldn’t it be the same for us as we share about the kingdom of God?
We had a phrase at my last church and it was ‘there is more’ (from the RC book)
Because I believe there is so much more to life following Jesus than we are seeing right now.
We are only seeing a tiny fraction of the kingdom of heaven and what that means for us here on earth now. We really need the gifts of the spirit to step into the fullness of what God has for us. I was taught in that environment that we should always be seeking the more. And I have carried that with me ever since.
John 9 / doubts etc
Now I imagine some of you are still unsure about this kind of stuff and perhaps not ready to totally embrace it yet or step into it for yourself. So I chose this passage from John 9 because there is so much in it – there is of course the healing miracle, but there is also doubt and questions, and there is even humour too:
You can see later on the man who was once blind is obviously getting a little bit exasperated with the questions from the Pharisees and he says:
“I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
now that’s some banter right there. The pharisees are seriously important guys and our guy here is giving them some serious sass – it’s like a comedy routine almost!
But as well as humour there is also doubt and questions as well as the miracle of course.
All of which can help us relate to the idea of healing with our own questions.
Because questions are ok – I think we can grow in our faith by asking questions but let’s question intelligently – and let’s hold our doubts tension with the truth of who Jesus is, with what scripture says about him.
I want to show you a video clip now, this is of a man called Randy Clark who I believe has been given the spiritual gift of healing and has seen hundreds if not thousands of people healed. And here he is interviewing people who have been healed during one of his conferences:
>>>CLIP Randy Clark video 3 mins ish
Now, I’d be really interested to know what do you think when you see that? Anyone want to tell me – what is your immediate response to seeing that clip? Honestly.
Get responses… >>
perhaps you are inspired and in wonder at the power of God.
Or perhaps you find it really challenging. Did God really do that? Why? How? are they even telling the truth? Is this fake… it’s all pretty unbelievable right?
And that’s ok, it’s ok to have questions about stuff and especially when we don’t understand it or haven’t experienced it.
You know, I literally was writing this preach sat in the Royal Alex hospital this week with my son who broke his arm – ironic right ?! I was writing this surrounded by sick kids who needed healing.
That was really hard, I was like should I be going round offer to pray for healing?!
And here’s the thing he had lots of prayer for healing and the bone did not get healed,
So about now I could be thinking, well I know God has the power to heal and he hasn’t and why hasn’t he? But if I focused on that I would be missing the answers to prayer that we did experience.
When we left the hospital on the day he broke it, we were told he’d need surgery and to come in on Monday for the op. So we began praying he wouldn’t need surgery. Monday morning after he’s already fasting – nil by mouth – we get a phone call to say they are not going to operate after all, they’ve taken another look and can he come in the next day to have it manipulated instead. Praise God!
Plus his pain levels which were through the roof even maxed out on paracetamol and ibuprofen dropped hugely, meaning he could go to school in between hospital visits to finish his end of year exams.
So I can take comfort in the fact that God has been with us all even if he didn’t heal Elliott as we would have liked! So I can hold the question of why didn’t he get healed this time alongside what I know to be true that God loves him and wants the best for him.
And I can’t say it enough, it’s key that we recognise that it’s ok to have those questions, so long as they don’t take over. So long as we hold them alongside the truth.
Here, in our John 9 passage we see 2 different ways of dealing with questions.
Firstly you’ve got the Pharisees with all their rules and objections:
: But it’s the Sabbath
: He must be a sinner because he did this on the Sabbath
: But how can he be a sinner and have the power to heal?
And so on…
But they just end up tying themselves in knots with all their questions and seem to deny the truth which is right in front of them, that Jesus healed a man who was once blind.
And then you’ve got the man who was blind – our second example – he says it all when he says:
“Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
It’s as simple as that! He doesn’t care who or how or why, he just knows, he can see!!
But still the Pharisees question. In fact they end up where this passage started – the idea the disciples suggest in v1 when they say:
“You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!”
they just can’t get beyond their objections and questions to see the truth.
Let’s not get too bogged down in what we don’t understand, it will just cloud our vision…
So what are the gifts for?
So, we believe that these gifts are for today, well what are they for? Or Why are they there, why should we take notice?
Well I’ve got 3 reasons here but you might have others…
For the Common good
To bring Glory to God (Evangelism)
Jesus told us to
For the Common good
In our 1 Corinthians passage v7 we see that the spiritual gifts are given for ‘the common good’
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
And that theme is picked up later on in the passage from verse 12-22 when it talks about us being one body with many parts
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable
We are in this together people!
We all have a part to play.
Just imagine as our passage says, one part of the body says to another, I don’t need you.
What happens? The body doesn’t function completely as it should.
So say the hands don’t work, well that would make life very difficult but the body would still be alive right – my son has only one working arm at the moment and it’s a challenge! But he’s still living, going to school, etc but it means his body is not functioning to it’s full potential.
So take that metaphor to the church. What happens if we say, well we don’t need that bit of the church, we don’t need that part of worship, or that part of belief. What happens?
>>The church doesn’t function to it’s full potential.
So if we do away with part of what God has for us, we are missing out big time. If we say well the spiritual gifts are not for now, or God doesn’t heal today, or that’s not for me, then we are not achieving our full potential as Christians or as a church.
2 For the glory of God
Paul says in Romans 15:
17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19 by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.
His service is all about bringing glory to God and look at how he notes that through these signs and wonders the HS is doing through him, he is leading gentiles – ie: non believers – to come to know the Lord
Do you know what happens when people get healed?
They are so full of joy and excitement they tell people about it. See our clip earlier – look how excited they were to tell about what had happened to them!
In our John passage, verse 3 Jesus says of the blind man:
“this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
When signs and wonders happen the glory is for God. And more than that – when God’s glory is displayed people want to know more.
There’s an example of this in Mark 5 when Jesus healed a demon possessed man. And afterwards it says:
20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
The miraculous power of God at work, inspires people to give glory to God and to share about who he is…
3) Jesus told us to
Ok , one of my favourite scriptures really speaks into this – it is from Matthew 10:8 when Jesus sends out he 12: and he says:
As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
So he says: preach this – the kingdom of heaven has come near. And then the action is to – heal the sick, raise the dead etc. The two are connected.
Now I love that passage because of the message but more… this is as much for us all now too, that we should both proclaim the kingdom and act accordingly – and if you’re not convinced let’s look at Mathew 28:19, The Great Commission – Jesus tells the disciples to:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Ok so they are to make new disciples – ie: preach the kingdom of heaven – and then teach those new disciples to do what they are doing. Yes, get that? Ok so what did he tell them to do back in Mat 10?
Yep you got it:
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.
So this is as much for us now as it was for them then! Make sense?
Hard stuff //
Now before I finish I do want to touch upon the difficult stuff –
God doesn’t always answer our prayers, for healing or otherwise, in the way that we would like.
And that can be really difficult, I am sure there are people here who haven’t received healing through prayer or have had a bad experience with people praying for healing for them. And it can be quite damaging actually. We need to recognise that and be super sensitive when we are teaching about and praying for healing.
People can come up with all sorts of reasons people aren’t healed – just like the Pharisees saying well he must be a sinner that’s why he’s blind.
I’ve heard for example:
well you haven’t got enough faith
there’s something blocking your belief.
Well you know Jesus himself said in Luke 7:
“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
A mustard seed – do you know how big a mustard seed is? tiny! I am pretty sure we could all muster up a mustard seed’s worth of faith!
(no pun intended)
Or you get those over zealous pray-ers – you know the type – people rock you around, pushing you over, or getting shouty, trying to force healing to happen… I’ve experienced plenty of that and it’s just really distracting, in fact I find it decreases my faith because I am just thinking ‘will you stop shouting in my ear you are spitting on me…’!
And those kind of experiences can just leave people with even more questions or with their faith damaged as a result
We have to remember it is not us that are the ones doing the healing, our role in praying for healing or anything else in prayer ministry is to bring that person closer to God, to help them to meet with the Lord in their situation. It is the Holy Spirit that does the work not us. They should be able to walk away from prayer feeling they have drawn closer to God whether healed or not.
And for some of us in those kind of situations, when being prayed for, trying to hold onto the truth of God, alongside what we are seeing in front of us can be really really tough.
If that’s you I’d recommend the book of Job, I have found it really helpful – in it there is a whole discussion going on between Job to whom terrible things have happened, and his friends who are trying to justify and answer and come up with reasons why all this has happened.
And then God shows up. And asks ‘where you there when I laid the earth’s foundation? Or when I made the clouds? Have you given orders to the morning, or seen the gates of death, or comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? And this goes on for some time!
And the answer is No, so how can you possibly understand!?
Because at the end of the day He is God and we are not.
Now I know some people think that is a cop out, they want to explore and argue and come up with answers to everything and I know because as a Christian I’ve been accused of being foolish, thick, naiive, brainwashed.
They think faith without proof is mumbo jumbo, a crux for the weak. But I say the opposite, wow I mean how much strength and courage and boldness does it take to believe in Jesus? It’s rarely easy!
The thing is he is God, He’s God! If we could fathom him out and answer all our questions then we’d have no need of him in the first place!
We have to get to a place where we can be comfortable with an element of mystery.
We don’t always know the answers, perhaps one day when we are up there we will, perhaps we won’t but for now :
What we don’t understand we hold alongside the truth.
So let’s finish with some truths…
Healing and the spiritual gifts are for now as much as in Jesus time.
They are for the common good
They glorify God and point people to Jesus
: Jesus IS the Son of God, he loves us and want to know us more and for us to know him more.
: He will be with us in any circumstance, no matter what we’ve done, no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in.
We are a church that wants to see lives transformed by the love of Christ.
The more we know Jesus in all his fullness, we more we get transformed, the more we see others lives transformed.
Randy Clark said this:
“God is not looking for the well financed, the well educated nor even the well experienced in “ministry.” He is simply looking for those who are willing to yield their hearts and lives to all He wants to do working through them. He is looking for those who are willing to believe for more, because there is more!” p.26 RC There is More
so my question today is – Do you want to see the more?
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
I often hear people utter in prayer: ‘less of me and more of you God’.
I don’t know about you but I really can’t stand it. It just makes no sense to me at all. Oh yes I know what the sentiment is, before you all holler: it recognises our own brokenness and the need of a saviour, I get all that, we want to be more like Jesus. But for me, focussing on that phrase just leads us down the path to self denial, to dark and condemning thoughts, it leads us away from the truth that God made us, that he knit us together in our mothers wombs.
Look, of course there are always the few who think the sun shines out of their own derrieres, but there are many many more who question themselves, not fully convinced of their identity in Christ. Lack of self worth and recognition of the talents and characteristics that form us into unique and beautiful individuals, leads us away from God, not to him.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
In the same breath that the Psalmist asks God to search him, to sift through his heart, to seek out the specks of offense, to lead him into the light, he notes:
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
So wouldn’t a better prayer be: ‘more of the me who you made me to be and more of you God’?
I write less than 48 hours after being ordained a Priest in the Church of England. 72 hours ago I was heading off to retreat with my fellow Curates, feeling utterly convinced of my own brokenness, less than prepared and with a host of reasons why God was wrong about sending me to this.
(I know it’s common to feel that way and it was suggested to me over the weekend that if I didn’t feel that way I shouldn’t be doing it anyway).
I was walking towards the retreat and Priesting with my head hung low, making my bed in the depths. And yet over that 24 hours God spoke to me saying:
Where can you go from my Spirit? Where can you flee from my presence? all the days ordained for you were written in my book before one of them came to be.
Gently lifting my head, speaking precious words over me and leading me towards the way everlasting…
It all started with a few words: ‘I’ve re-discovered Jesus through you…’
– an unexpected email arriving moments before leaving for retreat gushed with such love and encouragement for my ministry. I believe God sent me those words to break through the wall of condemnation I had built around myself. To remind me that I am doing what he has called me to do. That really it’s not about me, it’s about him, and about the people round me. I’m just the bee busily buzzing round in the middle, hoping to pollinate those I come across with the potential for new life, for transformation and growth. I sobbed as I read that email, knowing that yet again God was peeling back the darkness and revealing his truth.
Then a few hours later, a suggestion from an advisor to focus on Psalm 139. I know it well of course, but an hour spent sat in the gorgeous surroundings of the Bishops Palace Garden, and taking in those words peeled away more. Noticing the beauty in the detail of God’s creation all around me, a robin coming to join me for a snack so close I could see the detail in his tiny feathers, the light glinting in his beady eye fixed on me, seemingly searching my heart. As I sat, prayed, wondered and read, those words spoke warmth and validation into my soul afresh.
And then the words of the Bishop himself, ‘charging’ us afresh for the ministry of a Priest, encouraging us to be ourselves, but ourselves with Christ in us. That people see our face – they want to see our face, our humanity, our reality, our humanness, not a ‘clerical cardboard cut out’.
Then finally the moment arrived, my robes which felt so alien just a year ago, now feel like a faithful friend (though I’ve only worn them a handful of times!) and we process in together, surrounded by those who have taken this journey before us, those who stand and support us now and those who are beside us in the work we are doing.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
We stand and face the congregation as they are asked to affirm their support for us, I am face to face with my Vicar – someone who knows me, has seen me in distress, in anger and in doubt. And as he looks me straight in the eye and tells me he supports me and will pray for me and encourage me, I feel those last bits of self doubt falling away.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
Then one at a time we kneel before the Bishop, again someone who knows me well, who knows my frustrations, my hopes and fears for the church, and in spite of this he prays for the Holy Spirit to fill me, equip me for the office and work of a Priest, gives me a bible and anoints my hands asking for the empowering of God upon me.
We turn and stand before the congregation to rapturous applause and cheering and I am undone.
Despite my self doubt, despite my failings, my mistakes, my frustrations, this feels right. It seems completely insane, I still wonder why God has called me to this, but I know it’s right and recognsing the gifts God has given me and my characterisitcs, they are there to enable me to fulfill this role. Traits I’ve thought were negatives in me, suddenly become essential tools for ministry; emotions that I find hard to handle, appear as necessary to support others; and my wilfullness and stubborn nature become the backbone I need to survive ministry.
I feel affirmed.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
So, Lord, now as I step into this future, I pray :
more of the me who you made me to be, and more of you God.
Both these pieces depict the raw emotion of a Mother with her dead son. Can you feel the sorrow through the artwork?
As we come to the end of the week’s reflections, why not commit yourself afresh to the Lord? You could use this prayer – The Methodist Covenant Prayer which Methodists repeat every year in committing themselves afresh to the Lord.
This painting was inspired by a drawing, kept in the Convent of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain, which was done by Saint John of the Cross after he had seen a vision of Christ during a powerful spiritual experience. Dali talks of the unity of the world in Christ through his own interpretation. What does it speak of to you?
Song: Strange way by Martyn Joseph
A cleverly written song on the Crucifixion, have a listen to the lyrics and see what stands out to you and think about why.
We sometimes talk of nailing our burdens or our sin to the cross. What do you need to let go of and give to the Lord right now? Lift it to him in prayer.
Pray for those who are persecuted for their Christian faith around the world.
What are the things that make you angry? Why not spend some time thinking about a time when you were angry, frustrated or annoyed recently. Spend some time reflecting on how Jesus might have reacted to that situation?
Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 3 and 4. Click on the numbers to go to the audio.
For Holy week at my church, I have gathered a selection of resources and ideas to use as an aid to prayer or as a reflective tool, as we remember the week that Christ. Feel free to reuse or point people to it.
I have included passages of scripture from the Holy Week narrative, paintings and images, poetry in the form of Malcolm Guite’s, ‘Stations of the Cross’ and prayer points, so there is plenty of variety. You might find you just want to focus on one theme, perhaps just choosing to listen to the stations of the cross each day and reflecting on those, or looking at the paintings and seeing what thoughts they raise in you, you can do as much or as little as you would like or have time for.
There is a section for each day and I have kept the items, questions and prayer points simple so that if you are short of time you could do all of it in 10-15 minutes each day, but there is also scope to spend much longer if you would like.
The purpose of this set of resources is to encourage and enable you to interact with the truth of the gospel message afresh in your personal faith. Some of the ideas might be more accessible to you than others, some might challenge you or make you think, others you might simply skim over. There is no right or wrong way of going through this, it is up to you…
First one up tomorrow and I’ll publish them each day until Holy Saturday…
It’s great to be asked to review this book as Simon was my biblical studies tutor at college during my ministerial training. I am a big fan of the Psalms, but I also recognise that they are a bit like marmite, with some people choosing to read them as infrequently as possible. But I would say, don’t let that put you off, this might just be the book that helps you combat that!
Songs for Suffering is a wonderful guide for those in a season of struggling or as Stocks notes ‘for anyone who is going through tough times, whatever form that takes’. And it really is for anyone, written simply and not full of theological jargon, making it hugely accessible, but with a depth of knowledge evident from Stocks’ own academic experience.
Focussing on psalms of lament, the book takes us on a journey. Using personal reflections and stories from peoples lives, the author encourages the reader to deal with questions in their own lives, from personal failure, to issues of identity, and deeper still to despair, grief and personal suffering.
Each chapter guides us though a particular theme, asking questions for the reader to consider and pointing us to specific psalms for individual needs or circumstances. It is written in a very practical way, addressing how we can personally use the words of the psalms to deepen our own prayer life and each chapter finishes with some suggestions for what to do next.
However this is not just a practical guide, but a book filled with the authors own experience of life and pastoral ministry, written with compassion and a deep understanding of what it is to encounter personally, and come alongside those who suffer.
Stocks doesn’t shy away from difficult themes like shame, doubt and anger, but on the contrary embraces them with confidence, bringing a sense of assurance for the reader, encouraging them to engage with the themes for themselves.
Although my sense is that this is a book to work through from start to finish, it could also be something to dip into in particular times of trouble, or in supporting others facing difficult times, and in fact a helpful index at the end points to specific psalms for different circumstances.
Stocks reminds us afresh that The Psalms are a wonderful resource, passed down through the ages and used as the bedrock of Christian prayer for centuries, that are just as useful today, giving us the tools to pray in ‘just about any situation imaginable’ keeping us in touch with God even when pressures threaten to stop us.
The author notes: ‘may you find deeper connection to God, as you do so, even in the toughest of times…’ and this truly is a book that will help you do that.
Songs for Suffering will be published by Hendrickson Publishers Inc in April 2017. and can be pre-ordered at most good book stores online including Eden (priced £12.99) and Amazon (priced £11.99). There is also a website that goes alongside the book and will host other resources linked to lament at: www.cryhard.org
The Rev’d Dr Simon Stocks teaches Biblical Studies at St Augustine’s College of Theology, England (formerly known as SEITE). He is Chair of the Theological Educators’ Network and also ministers in the Anglican parish of Christ Church, Purley. After a career in civil engineering, he trained for ministry and worked in parish ministry in the Diocese of Southwark, before undertaking doctoral studies. His research interests include the interactions between poetic form and interpretation in Hebrew poetry, and the theology of lament.