The Truth about You

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I can remember one evening when I was about thirteen years old: playing about with some make-up when no one else was watching. I was surprised when I looked in the mirror and realised that the face that was looking back at me was actually quite beautiful! I was so used to seeing something ordinary: too thick hair; a genetic disposition to blackheads and spots (thanks dad!) and glasses long before they were considered trendy; that I was shocked and embarrassed to actually think of myself as pretty. I so felt guilty that I quickly washed off all the make up before anyone could see me.

I guess that I didn’t believe I could hold onto that identity of being pretty, that even when  it seemed it might apply to me I was quick to rip it off again.

I was so used to my slightly geeky identity, that I simply couldn’t take hold of a new one.

Christ has given us all new identities. The problem is sometimes we hold on so tightly to our old ones, that we can’t take hold of the new ones.

One of the new identities Christ has given us is BEAUTIFUL: We are the apple of his eye, we are his perfect bride (and who would dare call a bride ugly!) and we are more precious than the most beautiful jewels. This is true whether it feels it or not. And I know that especially for women it will more often feel like not. But the great thing about what God says about us is that it IS true, no matter how it feels. No matter how hard it feels we can let go of our striving for beauty and worth and we can hold on to our true identity as a beautiful child of God.

Another of the identities that we can struggle to hold onto is that we are CHOSEN: God has chosen us. I know this can be hard to take hold of, if you were always the last one picked in PE, or someone who struggles to attract anyones attention. Christ chose you, not because he had to, but because he wanted to.

Christ has also given us the identity of LOVED: have you ever noticed how a shy woman can become confident when she knows she is loved? Or how an awkward child can transform when they know you care about them? Christ has loved you so much that he died for you. You can hold onto the label of loved, you can take this one and staple it onto your forehead or tattoo it onto your arm; because Christ has told you that you are loved.

The final label that I want to focus on is that you are FREE. The opposite of freedom is fear. And so many of us are still living in fear. Even though we have been set free. We have been set free. There is no captive, in their right mind, who would choose to return to their chains, once they have been set free. Christ has set you free, don’t tie yourself back up in those chains again.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! (1 Corinthians 5:17)

 

 

The Crazy Kind of Christian

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Sometimes, when I walk past that man standing on the corner with his bible in hand (the one screaming and shouting about salvation) God speaks to me, and says: “One day, that’s going to be you.”

I laugh. I tell him I have my own ways of doing things. (Ways that don’t involve me looking like a lunatic, embarrassed,  being either ignored or laughed at.)

God says to me again. “One day, that’s going to be you.”

I argue, and tell him that I prefer to speak to people who I know about him. People I already have a relationship with, not complete strangers.

Truth is: I’m lying. I’m not afraid of looking like a loon. I’m afraid of sharing the gospel.

I’m afraid someone will ask a question I won’t be able to answer. I’m afraid I’ll look stupid. I’m afraid they’ll reject me. I’m afraid and I’m ashamed.

But what if they need me, and I don’t tell them? What if they go home tonight and sleep forever? What if they have to live the rest of their life without knowing they are truly loved: Without experiencing real peace and understanding hope?

Would my embarrassment be worth them having to live a life without Christ? Would it be worth them having to die a death without him?

If we can’t imagine a life without him; why should we expect anyone else to live without him?

I think a lot of us have forgotten just what we have been saved and set free from. If we truly knew we wouldn’t be able to help but be the crazy kind of Christian. The kind that just can’t shut up talking about Jesus.

The kind that knows that action do speak louder than words; but doesn’t use that as an excuse for not speaking out.

The kind that isn’t afraid to look daft sometimes, and who knows that when they take a chance on sharing their faith, that God always comes through for them, and gives them the right words to say.

The kind of Christian who knows that sharing the greatest message is the most exciting thing that they can ever do.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Romans 1:16)

 

 

A Secret Garden Devotional

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A couple of months ago I recently re-watched my favourite films from childhood: The Secret Garden. What wasn’t to love: children who are wiser than their parents; secret cousins hidden away; and, of course, the Yorkshire accents!

But deeper than that, the story of orphan Mary, sent to live with an unaffectionate uncle, is one that we can all relate to. Her longing to belong, and have a place to call her own resonates, no matter what your age.

There are so many things that I could take out of this story, but it’s her invalid cousin, Colin, that have chosen to focus on. (Forgetting the slightly creepy scene where he tells Mary he wants to marry her!)

Colin had always been told that he was an invalid. He spent his whole life believing that he was unwell. Unable to leave his room or have contact with other people for fear of spores. His legs have become so weak that the can barely walk, and looks pale and sickly. As if he were really unwell. Until Mary comes along, and sees through the lies that he has been told, literally pushing him out of his comfort zone and into the daylight.

Before she came along he was barely living. He had believed the lies he had been told all his life, living in the dark, barely seeing the sunlight. But when she come into his life, she broke the power of those lies, by telling him the truth.

Maybe there’s some lie you believe about yourself. Maybe you believe that you can’t achieve anything, or that you are useless. The only thing that can break through those lies is the truth.

When you shine the light on those lies, you begin to realise that they had no power in the first place.

This might be hard at first. In a sick kind of way, you, like Colin, may have become used to this half-life. Maybe these lies have been attached to you for so long that flesh has grown around them, and they have to be ripped out.

Facing up to the lies, and accepting the truth can be a painful process. And, like Colin learning to walk, it may take time. But when you have been set free you will experience more life than you could have ever imagined possible.

1To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8: 31-32)

Unsettled Down

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In my early twenties my aim in life was to settle down: get a good job; a nice house and become financially secure. I had spent so many years moving house from town to town, that I just wanted to stay in one place for a while, find a home and become rooted. I wanted a decent job so that I could afford to buy nice clothes and have a nice life. I wanted to look like I was successful.

For me the last year has been an incredibly difficult one. I now have none of those things, and at times I have felt like an utter failure.

I had forgoten that these things are not our measure of success.

I had forgotten that in Christ I am rooted; that he is my home; and that when I bank on him, I will always be financially secure.

God has pushed me out of my comfort zone; to the point where the only thing I can lean on is him.

We need to remember that a life following Jesus is not going to be a settled one. Bad things will happen, and some times we will go through years of trials; at times our lives might feel unsettled, but in him we will never be insecure or unstable.

Sometimes, although we’re not facing trials, God may still be pushing us beyond our boundaries.

There are so many things I said I would never do, that God has literally laughed at, because his plans for me are so much different and so much bigger. I always said I would never work with teenagers, or in the church of England: I have done both. I said I would never live up North, and once again, I find myself there. And finally, I always said I would never start a blog!

When you put your trust in God, he will push you further than you could have imagined. But he will also love you more than you could have dreamed; hold you tighter than you could have hoped; and lead you on a bigger adventure than you could have reached alone.

 

 

 

Sounds of Freedom Week 4

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This week’s Sounds of Freedom comes from Lydia. She opens up her heart to share her feelings on worship music today.


Confession: I love worshipping. I don’t always love worship music.

After much discussion and debate with friends, worship leaders and pastors, I’ve concluded that I am not a lone wolf and that, in fact, there is a chronic affliction amongst this pack of the musically-minded in our inability to connect in worship.

Having grown up in a Vineyard church in the midlands, the core Vineyard value of worship and the emphasis on creativity within our movement runs through my veins. I’ve been blessed over many years with wonderful worship leaders, worshipful friends and different expressions and experiences of worship wherever I have visited or lived. I’m a passionate pursuer of Jesus and a bit of a music fiend, so I find it extremely irritating when I arrive at church to worship and find myself unable to concentrate, distracted not only by the thoughts of the week but by the musicality of it all: by bands lacking direction from their leaders, by arrangements that don’t quite work and by my frustration with myself for not seizing the opportunity to worship.

I often listen to secular music and find many of the lyrics and melodies easy to worship God with, so why is it that I sometimes find it easier to worship God in a basement full of sweaty twenty-somethings who are there to worship the band? I believe it is because God has made me for worship. If He has inspired creativity in me then no wonder I am drawn to places where heaven-given melodies flow and lyrics written by troubled souls unknowingly sing of His goodness. Of course I was also made for corporate worship, to come together with the body of Christ but I must remember I was made for worship in the everyday and not feel guilty for my current struggle to connect during a church service.

Through live albums, where the passion for Jesus is contagious, I am re-learning to worship without distraction.

When asked for secular album recommendations, it can take me days to consider a piece that has had an impact on my life and that might be appropriate for that particular friend at that particular moment in life. I do not want to give glib advice when my passion for music is so key to how I live! When I apply my rule of thumb to recommending Christian music, I struggle. I draw a blank because if I couldn’t recommend a piece of Christian music to my non-Christian friends then I often wouldn’t listen to it myself. Cheesy, poorly-produced, repetitive and boring are words that typically come to mind when thinking about such albums. There are, of course, many exceptions to my general dislike of Christian music that would make my friends cringe, and these have been reshaping my understanding of the sound of Christianity!

As Dave mentioned in a previous post, Elevation Worship have been turning out some beautiful things, Bethel and the new Hillsong albums have been inspiring in my worship times at home – usually in the shower where I can get away with singing as loudly as I like! Special mention should go to Dave Miller at Trent Vineyard for his role in the amazing live album ‘Rooftops’ from the national Vineyard youth conference ‘Dreaming The Impossible’ and to the Hillsong We Are Young & Free album from 2013, which reimagined and inspired youth worship in many churches across the globe.

If one thing pulls me out of this struggle to connect, it is the reminder of my God-given purpose. I was put here to bring Him glory and I will therefore continue to learn to engage in worship. The power of God’s presence as we worship together and in the quiet of our hearts will never cease to amaze me.

Through the trials of life I’m sometimes asked why I worship and in my response I am reminded of a quote I once heard: ‘Sometimes you worship because you believe it and sometimes you worship until you do.’ In my journey to reconnecting with worship music, I will continue pressing into God’s love, hungry for more of His presence, worshipping in spite of and also because of this life.

I will worship because God is ALWAYS good and that is reason enough to teach my broken human heart to worship Him.



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Lydia Johnston is 22 years old and studying Biomedical Science at York Uni. Her favourite worship song is Do it Again by Elevation Worship


Are You Fearful of Success

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Why is it that Christians are so quick to judge the successful? What, exactly, is it that they’re afraid of?

I first noticed this as a teenager. Why was it that the smaller churches were often openly critical about larger ones? They would accuse them of attracting large numbers because they were only saying what people wanted to hear, that they weren’t preaching the gospel, and at times, that the leadership weren’t even Christians.

And yet, when you questioned anyone about this, they would never have any evidence to back up their claims. Instead of being thankful that churches were growing; instead of being encouraged; instead of assuming this was happening because people were actually going out and telling other people about Jesus, they just had to believe it was something far more sinister. Because, after all, if they weren’t experiencing success, what right did anyone else have to it!

Unfortunately this idea isn’t just limited to church growth. When people are doing well, others are quick to criticise.

And I’ll admit it: I’ve joined in with this thinking as well. After all isn’t the Christian life supposed to be the hard option? The heavy cross and the narrow road?

How can these concepts that are drummed into our heads right from our Sunday School days ever fit with the idea of being successful? How can we remain humble and yet experience success?

For so many years I had failed to grasp that God actually wants us to do well. He commands us to try our hardest, and he even rejoices with us in our successes.

I was like that man in the parable of the talents. The one who, when his master left him with money, buried it. Too afraid to use it. Too afraid to invest, and when his master returned, had to explain why he hadn’t done the best with what he had been given.

And still I tell myself that not trying is the best option, that hiding is the best option. That it’s the most humble option. But It’s not. It’s false humility. And false humility is really just fear in disguise.

God  gave us our gifts and talents so that we could use them, not bury them. And if has given us what it takes to become successful, he will give us everything we need to handle that success. And if we don’t succeed, he will give us everything we need to handle that as well.

Are you afraid of success? Why?

Is there something that you are too afraid to try your hardest at?

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corninthians 9: 24-25)

Sounds of Freedom Week 3

In Christ alone my hope is found

This week Margaret shares her favourite worship song, and how it has encouraged her through hard times.


It wasn’t hard for her to decide. When I asked if she wanted to share, she responded within seconds.

My Favourite worship song is In Christ Alone. For me it says everything about what God means to me: he is my rock and my comforter in times of trouble. That sums him up for me.

He is my strong anchor when things are going rough, I can depend on him to protect me, he will keep me strong in times of trouble ….I stand complete in him!

What a powerful answer! I followed up by asking if there was a time when this song was especially important to her. I guess you would think that someone with such an obviously strong faith might have had an easy life.

We have been through years of illness with my husband Peter, looking back I can see a pattern of God’s grace to us, supplying our needs in all sorts of ways. When I sing this song it has great meaning, only through him can I be strong, his love has always been there for us. And it always will be.

Isn’t that a fabulous reminder that even in the toughest of times, we can put our trust in God and that through him we can be strong.



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Margaret was born and bred in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, and is fond of this little place. She is part of the Worksop Gospel Community Choir and loves music with a passion. She also enjoys worshipping at her local church, St Johns in Worksop.