Missing the Point

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I am worried that I have completely missed the point.

Being more worried about how many people are following me… than the one I am called to follow.

Being more concerned with looking good… than doing good, than actually being good.

Putting more effort into the contents of my bank account… than the contents of my heart.

More interested in making people like me… than making disciples.

And, frankly, I am sick of it. I am sick of being so selfish. And what’s even more disturbing that I don’t seem to be alone. This idea of success has seeped into the whole culture of the church.

And no where is this more obvious than in the bizarre world of blogging.

A world of perfect hair and perfect teeth and selling your soul for an extra like; spending our days sat in comfortable homes writing words of “encouragement” instead of getting out there and helping the poor and needy.

Blogging is a nice thing, but maybe, for some of us, it’s the easy option. The safest option, that avoids any real connection, or any real risk.

Blogging is a good thing. It helps me organise my thoughts, and I know it helps other people on some level. But lets not let this, or anything else get in the way of the real Christian work.

The Christian life involves actually getting out there and getting your hands dirty and helping people in the worst kind of need. It involves real community and a shed load of the hard kind of love. It means you will often get hurt. It is not the easy road. But it is the road that we need to take.

When we take this steep and stony road, which probably involves a few dark valleys or, even worse, rickety rope bridges across those dark valleys; a lot of mud and dirt and hurt, but the road that has the most beautiful views. This is the place where we meet Jesus. This is the place where we find adventure.

For many people reading this there might be other good things getting in the way of great things. Maybe the pursuit of education and knowledge; a good career; the idea of the perfect family or the perfect marriage, no matter what the cost.

While, like blogging, these can all be great things, they can become a hinderance if we do not keep them in check. If we do not look beyond our own lives and towards the rugged cross. After all, Jesus didn’t die so we could have a nice comfortable life, he died so that we could have a relationship with him. He calls us to a life of risk and discomfort, but the only kind of life that is really worth living.

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Before I Go Home, I’m Going to Give Him Everything

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I am excited to share this guest post from my sister-in-law Cassie Stanford with you all today.

Before I go home, I’m going to give Him everything.

I find that when I’m going to talk about a topic, I try to give an analogy. For some people, this analogy may bore them senseless, but please bear with me.

I run for fun. I also run because it is challenging, it pushes me physically and mentally. It is suggested that you find some sort of phrase, or saying to get you through those tough, gruelling miles, where it seems like you just can’t go on. My phrase is: Before I go home, I’m going to give Him everything.

I realised during one of my runs, that my phrase could also be applied to every day life. Before I go home, I’m going to give Him everything. Home being heaven. Before I stand face to face with God, I want to give him everything.

Sounds easy in words. Difficult in practice. Let me reassure you that it can be done.

We have a God that is so loving and forgiving, A God that gives us a gift of a fresh new day. He knows our days before we wake, and he knows our hearts before we pray. He knows our struggles.

Within the book of Hebrews it says “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”. Just prior to this verse we have the cloud of witnesses, those who had hardships but still put their faith in God, they have run their own races.

Maybe you are in a position where you have started your day so badly. Everything is going wrong and you are down about things. God accepts the negative things, and the hard things too. You can start to give him anything from any point in the day and he will be grateful to you.

Maybe you are in so much pain and bed ridden, you won’t be doing much at all in your day, but you can still give what little you have to Him, and He will be grateful.

Maybe your day is going great and you are over flowing with blessings and happiness, He will be grateful for everything you give Him in your good days too.

I try to remind myself to give God everything every single day even when things are hard and I feel like tearing my hair out. I stop. Breathe. And say: Before I go home, I am going to give Him everything.


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Cassie Stanford lives in Worksop with her husband Ed and son Isaac. She likes to run, Mostly after Isaac.

What if Twenty Seventeen wasn’t Your Year?

These last couple of days I have noticed a lot of my Facebook friends have been sharing all the good things that have happened for them over the last year. All the things they have achieved, all the hopes fulfilled and new adventures. The kind of posts that social media was made for. The kind of posts that make you ninety percent happy and ten percent jealous. (Or was it the other way round?)

Maybe you are of the generation that still sends and receives Christmas letters full of tales of A-grades and picture perfect children. How can their lives just keep on getting better and better every year, without even the smallest trouble?

What if your twenty seventeen was nothing like that? What if your twenty seventeen was was just average, or a whole lot worse? What if you’re leaving twenty seventeen just as confused as you entered it?

Maybe you are scared to hope that this year will even be just okay.

What I am not going to say right now is that this is a new year, and it will be better. Because it might not be.

I’m not going to tell you that if you have the right attitude, eat the right food and wake up two hours earlier you will achieve everything you wanted to. Because even if this was true, I know it won’t last beyond the first page of a new calendar.

What I am going to tell you is that I am slowly starting to realise that this life is less and less about what we do, what we believe and more and more about be still and Knowing God.

Not just knowing about God, but actually truly knowing him. Life is about running into his arms and bowing at his feet and just being in his presence. And everything else flows from that.

Being a Christian doesn’t safeguard us from trials, it actually guarantees them. But when you Know God, you can find a way through even the hardest times, without becoming hard. You can face hopeless situations with out losing hope. You can be crushed by the pressures of this world but never break. You can be persecuted and abused, but you never forsaken. You can be struck down but never destroyed.

I am sure to a lot of outsiders it looks like I am entering into 2018 in much the same way as I entered 2017. That maybe it is taking me too long to move on from a painful marriage and out of my parents home. I know that some people will be confused by the decisions that I have made, but I can honestly say, for the first time in my adult life, that I know I am right where God wants me to be. My life may not be what I imagined it would be, but that doesn’t matter.

This kind of knowledge doesn’t come from anything other than learning to slow down and dwell in God’s presence.

A Place to Belong

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“Where are you from?” A question that should be easy to answer. But it isn’t always is it? Do you reply with the place where you live; the place you were born or the place you lived for the longest?

When I walked out of an abusive marriage, I had to move back in with my parents. To a place I had never lived and knew no one. I felt that I really didn’t belong. I had just left my marriage, the one relationship that is supposed to last a lifetime, on top of that, I had to start all over again. Yet again.

I think that many people experience this kind of confusion, whether they have lived in dozens of places, or in the same house their whole life. We are all searching for a sense of belonging, and often struggle to find it.

I think that this is a longing God has put into all of us. And when God puts a longing in our hearts; he loves to fulfil it.

For years I have known that my home is heaven. That one day I will live there, and find my home the in place where I will belong forever. This is a great hope for the future, but what about now? I have (hopefully) many years between now and the day I find myself in heaven.

The great news is, this home isn’t just a promise for the future. It is a promise for right now as well.

I love that throughout the book of Psalms, David refers to God as his home. No matter what troubles he is facing, who is hunting him down, he is able to God his refuge in time of need. He is that same thing for us. You hear soppy couple’s tell each other that their home is where ever the other one is. Well that is true of God as well, and since he is everyone, you cannot escape your home. No matter how far you travel, God is always your home.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Phillipians 3:20)

Notice that this passage doesn’t say that our citizenship will be in heaven, but that is is on heaven. Right now.

You are already a citizen of heaven. You might not live there, yet. But you already have the passport.

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We already have all the rights that come along with being a citizen of heaven, and all the protection as well. We find our identity in this citizenship. We already belong.

No matter how unsettled or lonely you feel you have a home and an identity; you belong.

How to Overcome Bible Reading Guilt

How to overcome bible reading guilt

Bible Reading Guilt is a real thing. I know it is because I feel it everytime I hear someone tell me all about how they’re reading  through the bible in one year, or having these amazing quiet times. All. The. Time.

Why can’t I be more like them? Why can’t I read the bible just like them? Seriously, it’s like some kind of mental block has occured, and in that moment, I hate myself for it.

Have you ever been there? Are you feeling it right now. Because I know I am.

But there is good news for all of us people facing Bible Reading Guilt.

We do not need to struggle, It is possible to find freedom from it.

The Two Reasons for Bible Reading Guilt

But before I go any further, I want to explain what I think are the two main reasons for bible reading guilt.how to overcome bible reading guilt

The shame of comparison: We need to slow down

We compare ourselves to the people we think are doing better than our selves. Guilt creeps in as we continue down this path, and at some point along it we forget that we are not them. Maybe we simply do not have as much time to read the bible as them, perhaps because of work or family commitments. Or maybe our emotions are in turmoil and we do not have the head space to intensively study the bible at this point in time. God understands this. He is our friend, and real friends understand when we do not have as much time to give to a relationship as we would like. In this situation we need to slow down.

We are genuinely being convicted: We need to knuckle down.

We do actually have the time and the space to read the bible, but for whatever reason we just not doing it. Maybe it seems like a steep mountain to climb; maybe reading the bible terrifies us; or we just don’t know where to begin. Whatever reason it is, we can overcome it. God has forgiven you for when you haven’t given him as much time as you should. But, in this situation we may need to knuckle down.

For the times you need to slow down

Take small steps. Don’t bite of more than you can chew. Focus on qualtily not quanitity. You probably could race through a couple of champters. But would you remember any of it? Might it be better to just slow down.

Try reading just one verse, try writing it out or sticking it somewhere that you will see it regularly.

Try listening to good Christian music. Lots of these songs are filled bible verses and words of encouragement. Listening to these songs is a great way of getting God’s word deep into you. Spotify is a great place to start, or listening to a Christian radio station such as UCB.

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Get into a habit of talking to God throughout the day. Tell him about the little things you are going through, Keep him at the centre of everything that is happening.

Tell him about your struggle. Tell him about why you are struggling. True friends understand when you are unable to give as much as you would like in a relationship for whatever reason. God understands as well.

Just be still and know that he is God. I know this is an easy thing to say, but when I was going through a tough time I would just picture myself in the arms of Jesus. I think that was all my mind could cope with at that time, but in doing that I found peace.

For the times you need to knuckle down.

 

Be encouraged rather than guilt tripped by other people’s success. They are only human beings too. If they can do it then so can you!

Try reading a Christian biography. Reading about someone who’s life has been transformed by the bible, is a great way to be spurred on to read yourself.

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Invest in a bible with wide margins, so you have space to write or draw.

Use a bible reading plan, or don’t. Whatever you prefer. There are no rules when it comes to reading the bible. But having a plan can be useful for a lot of people.

Join a church home group (or cell group, or small group, or life group, or connect group or whatever other crazy name your church gives for groups of people who get together in each others homes to read the bible and pray together.) This is a safe space where you are able to talk about the bits of the bible you find hard to understand. Other people can encourage you, and even better… You get to be an encouragement to them as well.

Just do it. Every single day. Whether that means setting your alarm a bit earlier, or carving out some other time in the day. Make time for reading the bible, and commit to it. And when you don’t manage to, don’t feel guilty about it. Each day is a new one.

Try starting a blog. I know this sounds a bit of a weird one, but I couldn’t not share it. Blogging has really helped me crystalize my thinking in a lot of areas, because I can’t share something, unless I am sure it is what I really believe. And I often can’t know that, without going back to the bible.

And Finally…

It doesn’t matter if you continue to struggle in this area for the rest of your life. In Christ you are a new creation, there is no shame or condemnation. You do not need to feel guilty, no matter  how many times you mess up, as long as you are actively seeking him.

One Step at a Time, at Just the Right Time

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This is my testimony of God’s provision over the last year. I haven’t shared much detail of this with many people apart from close friends and family, but I feel that now is the right time to start to share my story.

Almost a year ago ten months ago I walked out of a marriage which was both controlling and verbally and physically abusive. I spent a lot of time feeling lonely and afraid in those years.

Of course, I felt a great relief walking away from all of that pain. But part of me felt a deep shame. I was the good Christian girl, the one who always went to youth group and read her bible every single night. I had gone to bible college and even worked for a church for a good number of years. I should not be the kind of person to find herself in this kind of situation. Broken, sitting in a solicitors office, trying to work out how exactly to get a divorce, whilst still in her twenties.

How could I possibly bounce back from that one?

But somehow God has bought me through. Through many, many boxes of tissues, he has blessed me abundantly, and continued to surprise me with his provision.

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One step at a time… At just the right time.

When I first left my marriage I felt God telling me that

A few weeks after moving in with my parents I got offered a temporary part time position working for Card Factory. I got a phone call from them, before I even reached home after handing in an application, and less than an hour later I was offered a job. To start a week and a half later, which conveniently gave me enough time to go and visit some friends and family down south. The only problem was that it was as many hours as I would have hoped for.

I needn’t have worried about that though, as one of the other temporary staff never showed up, which meant I got a lot of her hours. That combined with a lot of other unreliable staff, meant I was working full time.

After Christmas I put a down payment on a car. That very afternoon I got a phone call from an agency I had registered with, telling me there was a job working as a teaching assistant in Doncaster… if I had the transport to get there. Of course this was just a temporary role, but it was followed up by many more temporary roles. One step at a time at just the right time, of course.

 

All of these roles gave me all the work I needed, and enough time off to visit friends and family all over the country, and even in Germany. And to do something I had wanted to do for many years, take a Teaching English as a Foreign Language course.

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I could go on to tell you about the time a couple of months ago, when I was tidying up, and found an tax letter. (A P-whatever-it-is, the one you get at the end of the tax year.) Only to discover I had paid several hundred pounds too much tax, two years ago.

I could tell you about taking a care work job, to keep me going over the summer holidays. This was a job I enjoyed, but the company was so disorganised I felt I had no other choice but to quit. The next day I stumbled upon an opportunity to teach English to international volunteers. Something I really felt God wanted me to persue. Two days later I was in Essex, teaching English to the best group of volunteers. Something I would never have imagined happening ten months ago.

This whole journey has been one step at a time, at just the right time. In a lot of ways it has been terrifying, but God has taught me to rely on him whole heartedly, and he has blessed me so much through all of this. Even though ten months ago I felt so unworthy of his love, he has proven that it is so much bigger than I could have imagined.

Even though you, like me, may only have vague ideas about the future, God has great plans for you, if you trust him, one step at a time, at just the right time.

How to be #Blessed


When, exactly, did the word blessed start appearing all the time? It used to be the kind of word that was the preserve of grannies and rural vicars. Now it seems to be just about everywhere. It’s as if everyone is, or wants to be #blessed. But what exactly does it mean?

As I was thinking about this the other day, I decided to have a little search on Instagram to see what it was people were hashtagging as blessed. And I have to admit, I was kind of surprised by what I found.

It seemed like that particular hashtag was most associated with women with rather large breasts. Probably not what the grannies or rural vicars were referring to. And, unfortunately, leaving me feeling resigned that I most definitely am not blessed!

Of course there were a load of selfies (including a couple of fit men) some pictures of babies and plates full of food, and a whole lot of some what inspiring quotes.

Not exactly what the word blessed brings to mind.

Not exactly what Jesus meant when he said blessed are the poor in spirit in that sermon on the mount.

How have we managed to misunderstand this word so much, that big boobs and hot bodies have become synonymous with the word blessed?

How has this holy, bible word become so distorted.

Blessed is about none of this. Not at all.

How can it be about expensive jewelery when Jesus says that we are blessed when we are poor in spirit, because this is when we realise how much we need him.

How can it be about cute kittens when Jesus says we are blessed when we grieve, because that is when we find comfort.

How can it be abouut posed and edited photos when Jesus says blessed are the humble. He even says that the whole earth will be theirs.

How can it be about plates full of food when Jesus says we are blessed when we hunger and thirst for justice, when we want to do the right thing for people. That is when we will be satisfied.

How can it be about pictures of our latest purchases when Jesus says we are blessed when we are kind, when we show mercy to others, because he will show mercy to us.

How can it be about half-naked bodies when Jesus says we are blessed when we think pure thoughts, because that s when we will see him.

How can it be about clothes which have been made in sweatshops when Jesus says we are blessed when we seek peace, because then we will be called his children.

How can it be about semi-inspirational quotes when Jesus says we are blessed are those who are persecuted for doing the right thing, he even says that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

How can it be about seeking likes when Jesus says that people will insult us, that they will say evil and hurtful things about us, but even then we are blessed. We can even rejoice in this pain, because the rewards will be waiting for us in heaven.

Being blessed, and getting blessed, has nothing to do with stuff, or hot bodies. In fact, what Jesus tell us is the exact opposite. He tells us we are blessed through what many would consider hardship, because that’s what brings us closer to him.

None of these #blessings are true Blessings, they do not bring us closer to God, they actually turn our eyes away from him they are like a barrier between us and him.

Today I am thankful that I am not #blessed, with a fit body; that would only distract me from what God has planned for me, but that I am truly Blessed by my heavenly father.