This Sunday we launched our theme for the coming year entitled "Talking Jesus." Our heart and vision is to see more people encounter the living God and come to know Jesus as their Saviour. As a church we want to be a people who are more motivated to openly share what we believe with others, whether this be with work colleagues, at the school gates, with our friends, at the gym - wherever our daily life takes us! We want to be bold and courageous in talking about Jesus, what He has done for us and what He can do for others.
We believe that prayer is at the heart of this journey. Praying for ground to be broken, for spiritual eyes to be opened and ultimately for our city of Chichester to come face to face with Jesus and accept Him into their lives.
That's why, this coming week and at the start of 2016, we are going to be praying and fasting together (to read more about fasting click here). Each day will have a different focus and liturgy to follow which will be posted on our website. At midday we will be praying the Lord's Prayer together via Periscope (to find out more click here) and each evening, between 8pm and 9pm we will be holding a prayer gathering at Revelation Central.
Please join us in any way you can!
This weekend I visited my parents church in the valleys of Wales. The church is small (around 40-60 attendees) and is in one of the poorest areas in the south of Wales. There is high crime and unemployment rates and they have had two murders directly in front of the building. This is a tough area with tough people.
Before the service began two little girls sat on the two chairs next to me and one of them was reading the church news letter and the other was reading her bible (see picture above). There was no one there looking at her apart from me and she did not know who I was. She was not pretending to win any favour or look like she was a good girl, she just wanted to read her bible. I asked her what she was reading and she just looked at me and giggled.
Later on she went out of the service and as she did she held her bible so tightly as if she never wanted to damage it or loose it. Her bible was the most precious thing to her.
That girl had a simplistic love for what God has for her and there are so many times in life when helping to lead a church that you loose that first love, the passion for the word of God. I regurgitate old revelations or second hand words instead of what God has personally shown me.
So often I get home, put my feet up and veg my brain with FIFA or rubbish TV and escape. And yet God never turns on FIFA, he never makes sure he gets in the latest episode of Xfactor before he hangs out with me. No he is there, waiting, willing, excited, passionate! Desperate to hold us close and unpack the things he has for us.
Father God help me to have the same desire for the things of you as you have for the things of me.
Matthew 6 v 21 (NLT)
'Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of you heart will also be'
Recently I have been spending some time and asking God how we can see some serious growth in our church. We have so many things happening and have a large congregation but we do not see massive growth. I look at pastors from the states like Matthew Barnet (The Dream Centre), Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill) and Bill Johnson (Bethal Church) and they see huge growth numerically in their church and regularly lead people to God. The way they do ministry is totally different. Matthew B is all about projects in the community, Mark D is all about Truth, word etc and Bill J is all about signs and wonders, miracles etc. They all basically believe the same thing but their focus is different. I have seen lots of pastors try and imitate these church leaders and what they do over here in the UK but it never seems to quite kick off. I don't know of any church who is seeing the kind of growth that they see in the US.
So I spoke to God. I asked him what I should do. How I should lead? I believe that my motivations are right, I mean its not for my glory it is for his glory. It's not for Ego but for the kingdom of God. Should I copy someone else?
There is one common denominator with these church leaders. INTIMACY WITH CHRIST!
God then reminded me about the times in my life when I had tried to copy someone else. This never went well. And I remember what some of the biblical giants had to face when they started telling God they knew how to do something or started trying to make formulas.
God told me to be intimate with him. He told me to find him in every part of life. He told me to be known as someone who has Jesus living inside them. He told me to be a light in the darkness. He told me to guard my tongue and to watch what I say. He told me to look at my lifestyle and ask myself if I am inline with Christ. He said nothing about strategy, vision, direction, big picture, little picture. He just told me to be intimate with him.
So this week I have been with him more. I have thanked him for the rain in my holiday instead of being annoyed that it was sunny last week. I have taken time out to look at listen to creation. I have been aware of how I treat and speak to my friends and my wife. I have found my God in the strangest of places!
1 Corinthians 10 v 31 "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
This world is tuned to answers. Whenever there is a story on the news of injustice there is a demand for blame to be placed. When we look at the world around us we need an explanation of how the science works. I am guilty of it myself, I cannot watch those programs that my wife watches like Lost, or Prison Break, or 24 because I need the answer! Lost went on for 6 series, 24, 1 hour long episodes a series and still gave no answer in the end. I would want that part of my wasted life back!
And yet what if sometimes there is no answer? I mean in all the amazing work science does to bring us an understanding of life and the universe, there is not a scientist in the world that can tell me exactly what light is.
God works in a similar way. I have seen miracles. I have seen a person with no knee cap get prayed for and a new one grew in front of my very eyes. I have seen money appear from nowhere in my hand and yet out of the many thousands of people I have prayed for healing with, I can count the successes on one hand.
I want to box God, I want a formula. I want to know that if I touch my nose, jump up and down, throw mud in someone's face then they will be healed every time! But we all know what happened to Moses when he started to think he knew better than God! I want to understand why his Word says that we only need faith of a mustard seed to see God move but when the disciples were shocked that they could not cast out demons on one occasion, He said their faith was not enough!
And yet if all the answers were there in black and white in the Bible then we would have no relationship with God, there would be no need for faith. He could never surprise us, He could never teach us. He could never meet us in suffering, He could never astound us with that which is supernatural and we would live according to the law, not in relationship with Him.
So I don't know why God allows some things to happen. I will always be stuck between knowing God CAN and God will. My faith may sometimes lack in believing that God will provide in the immediate! But I know God is God, I know His word is true, and while sometimes I may not know the answers, I am actually ok with this because if I knew it all then God would be no better than me and He wouldn't be much of a God!
'Father in heaven, help me to rest in the peace that you are in control. Help me to not always obsess with getting answers and help me to not always say "teach me Lord" but to sometimes say "I know you are Lord"
Psalm 33 v 4-5:
'God's word is true, and everything he does is right. He loves what is right and fair; the Lord's love fills the earth.'