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Be Bold, Be Strong for the Lord our God Is With Us

Faith, Youthwork and Family…

Month

March 2016

Be prepared to give a reason…

I have always believed that it is hard to argue with someone’s “testimony”, you are taught in history class, the best and most accurate source is “first person anecdotal” evidence, if you were there, or it happened to you, then of course you can doubt it, but you will find it hard to change someones view about it unless they have doubts themselves.

The bible says

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

The “answers” I was prepared to give and did give at my baptism were

  • I would not be here if it wasn’t for God
  • My parents met through a church youth group (and my dad wasn’t from a believing family!)
  • God made me, the chance of conception is something like 1 in 60000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000 000000000000000000000000000000000000!  There are so many factors that could affect the event its astronomical! Then there are so many things that could affect a baby during pregnancy, we are all miracles and winners!
  • God kept me alive, despite not breathing for 20 mins as a small child whilst I had an operation (some say it has affected my brain!)
  • God has kept me from being harmed, – I have almost been run over a few times and my friend once launched a garden spike over a bush and it landed inches from my head!

But now what would it be, sure I can still say “I am alive for a purpose!” (what the full purpose is, I am still discovering!) since my baptism God has:-

  • used me to pray for people before he healed them.
  • put my wife and I together, which was remarkable enough if you knew us before we got together, but despite some challenges at the start, we are strong and have 3 miracles of our own.
  • used me to encourage others.
  • Provided for my needs.
  • kept my wife and I alive when we got food poisoning in a rural village 1 hour away from the nearest hospital, who wanted a deposit of more than we had!  We found a doctor who gave us what was needed at a ridiculously small price!

When talking to atheists, without much delay they go back to “there is a lack of evidence for…” “the bible says this…. so…”, this has challenged me to think more about what I believe, I do not like to think I have a blind faith but there is so much I do not know, there is all the church history with armenians, calvinists, lutherans, catholicism, protestantism etc. There are apparently over 40 000 denominations of churches, most it seems to be localised i.e. Greek/russian orthodox, one cause was Henry VIII wanting to divorce his wife and the pope wouldn’t let him so he made the “Church of England” where the royals are still a “figurehead” but the bishops speak for the church, some are more liberal and others are more conservative.

I was watching QVC a few nights ago with my wife and we were watching them show a green bag which they claimed to keep food fresher for at least 10 days, it wasn’t sealable, I said to my wife “that proves nothing! all it shows is they put food on a table and some is mouldy and some isn’t!”

food bag

You could blame the fact that I may have been watching too much “Hustle” where things are not as they seem and chatting to atheists has made me more demanding of firm proof.

They say “actions speak louder than words“, I could study about church history, be able to recite words of saints/martyrs/men of christian renown but what would that benefit me or those around me?!  My wife is an inspiration! She has a heart for those in need, I am still a little sceptical of people I meet due to the number of “needy” people I have met who were not as they claimed to be, but as I said in my blog “There but by the grace of God  go I” we all could find ourselves homeless, hungry, penniless.  But fortunately for most of us, we aren’t!

I have learnt a lot recently about being “incarnational”, a long-winded “churchy” term for being “real”, being “christ-like” or “christ in every situation”.  We only earn the right to give our reason, when we are living differently to the rest of the world, Christ prayed for us in John 17, one of the things he asks God is:-

15 I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but I do ask you to keep them safe from the Evil One. 16 Just as I do not belong to the world, they do not belong to the world. 17 Dedicate them to yourself by means of the truth; your word is truth.

How can we expect others to ask us or even get into a conversation about why we have a hope, if we act as they do with the same attitudes, the same behaviour and the same foul language? Jesus lived and died over 2000 years ago, but at this time we remember the fact that it isnt the end of the story! My favourite passage is Isaiah 53, the whole concept that a man approximately 700 years before Jesus Christ even set his tiny feet on the ground, prophesied the exact punishment he would receive and how he would react is incredible to me, maybe one other reason is that my namesake Philip explained who Isaiah was talking about to the Ethiopian eunuch.

Easter is a time of “rebirth” many people will be baptised this sunday and maybe in the days leading up to it, maybe it is also time for us all to take stock, remember why we have a hope that Christs death was not the end of the story and why we are destined for the biggest party and feast that mankind cannot even imagine!

I think the final word has got to be given to Vicky Beeching’s song “Wonder of the cross

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Nothing easy is ever worth doing!

dahl

For years, I have felt called to do something and now after over a decade, I was scared witless that I am actually doing it!  When I was about 18 years old, I spent a month in South Africa, with a lovely family that were like an uncle and aunt to me, I shared a little of this story here.

As I was taken to different places, I saw the passion and fire that the young people had, their willingness to testify of God’s blessing every chance that they got! I sat in meetings and “mission” nights in abandoned shops or people’s homes, realising that the young people’s faith and their relationship with God was so much more real than mine! I wanted to be like an Olympic torch bearer and bring the “fire” home!

A lot has happened since then, I have been a part of four churches and eventually returned to my home one, I have married and now have three children, each one with their little quirks and gifts!

When I was about 20, I was given a prophetic word, before I left to volunteer at a youth residential centre. It was that God would teach me about relationships, and not just marriage! Well he has done that!  I have learnt about the relationships

  • Between young people and their youth leaders.
  • Between family members.
  • Between church staff
  • Between long standing members of churches and those leading them
  • Between Christians and non-Christians.

I am definitely not the angry but passionate young man, I once was, but I am now a more experienced, slightly jaded and shattered father of three, a husband who daily tries to balance work, home and serving God where I can.

I have been blessed in so many ways! At times I have felt like I have got nowhere, but God has kept his hand on me, his provision has always been present!  My testimony at my baptism and for a long while was about God keeping me alive when I was very small, as i had a lot of operations as a child and I even stopped breathing for 20 mins! Now, as an adult, I know that whatever God has planned, he’s not finished with Me yet!  He won’t be finished until I am taken “home”.  As I said in “expecting the unexpected” God doesn’t want the mediocre for us, our actions and inactions make cause us to not enjoy the blessings that he has for us in the way he meant.

Regrets and guilt about failures, about poorly chosen words or actions, are all in the past, Jesus died on the cross for all our mistakes, it isn’t easy to live “christ-like” every day, life is full of distractions and challenges, making you struggle with what he has planned and has in store for us but remember

“GOD’S NOT DEAD!”

Despite the last ten years of “wilderness walking” I am ready and raring to go, I am sure that it wont be easy, and may wish i was back eating cucumbers and relaxing where it was easy and safe but God’s provision is, has and always will be present and plentiful.  My confidence must be in him as my own is too low!  I look forward to the journey that I am going to be on, as I heard on sunday,

“If you have a dream, do not let go of it, strive for it, hunger for it!”

 

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