Tag Archives: church

2012/2013 Looking Back/Looking Forward

This is my first blog post of 2013, I had originally intended it to be my last blog post of 2012 but it doesn’t really matter either way!

 I am looking back with thankfulness for the year just past, and am looking forward with expectancy to what the future holds, and in both case I am looking to God and what he has done, what he will do in the next year and beyond.

 2012 was for me primarily a year of envisioning, but it has also been a year of prophetic declaration as I have started to share the vision that God has given me.  2013 is going to be a year to start moving out and doing what as yet I have mainly talked about.  And 2014 and beyond, well that is in God’s hands.  The examples I am giving are but a few examples of what God is doing, it is by no means an exhaustive list.

 2012 has been a year when things have shifted, when we have really seen the spiritual tide noticeably beginning to turn, in such a way that even those in the secular world are tapping into it.

  • Nationally we not only managed to pull off The Olympics, but did it with style!  Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony was spot on, his inspiration was definitely divine!
  • Locally Staines changed its name to Staines-upon-Thames.  This may seem insignificant, but is far from it.  Around here a great problem for a long time has been apathy, in the secular world to some degree but especially in the churches.  This change instigated by secular people, but it is a sign that God is working to change this in his church in this area as well.
  • There was the National Day of Prayer at Wembley, which was awesome.  This is a definite turning point in the spiritual life of this nation, but we must not see it in isolation, as this year was also a full year of constant prayer across many churches with the Kingdom Come 2012 initiative from 24-7 Prayer.

2013 will be a year to build on what has been done, God is on the move, we need to keep our eyes firmly on him.

  • In London and the Home Counties we have the Crossing London 2013 initiative, this is the first large-scale evangelism for generation, and will be part of seeing the church regain its confidence in God, and in the power of Jesus to save sinners and see many start a new life in him, this is exciting.
  • I am going to be looking to set up the first Kingdom Prayer Leaders Network in West London and/or Surrey, the geographical area covered is yet to be decided on.  I will also be seeking greater involvement with the church we moved to last year, Maswell Park Church in Hounslow.  Although I know now God is calling me beyond working in one local church, I also know that local church is central to God’s plan and I want to use my gifts, talents and calling to grow the church of which we will be members.
  • The National Day of Prayer is going on the road this year with a Roadshow, again this is really exciting.  The baton for praying continually is being passed from Kingdom Come 2012 to young people with United.

 2014 and beyond…

  • Groundbreakers have a vision for both large-scale evangelism in 2014, and an ongoing vision for building and empowering local churches to reach their local areas. They are working with God to see 100,000 saved by the end of 2014.
  • For me God has said that the first phase of my working with him will be for 18 months, beyond that God knows and I look forward to seeing how things progress when the time comes!
  • The National Day of Prayer will return to Wembley, and will fill the stadium completely having built on the vision being shared through the Roadshow.

 Let’s look forward with expectancy and faith, and in prayer seek God’s face and his hand.  Let’s seek to deepen our relationship with him, and in humility seek revival in the UK once again, as ultimately that is the only thing that will turn this nation around.

‘Amen. Come Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.’ (Revelation 22:20b-21)

Revelation 8:3-4 – Incense, Prayer & Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

In Revelation 8 we have a lovely picture of incense and prayers rising before God,

‘Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne.  And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.’ (Revelation 8:3-4 NRSV)

This is such an amazing picture of prayer, and more than that, of our prayers coming before God.

There are two other verses which refer to incense and prayer, one more from the New Testament and one from the Old Testament:

‘When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.’ (Revelation 5:8 NRSV)
 
‘Let my prayer be counted as incense before you’ (Psalms 141:2 NRSV)

Prayer is incense, is like incense and is offered with incense!

This says a great deal about how important prayer is to God.  The incense that was used in Tabernacle and later Temple worship was not cheap!  It was made from costly ingredients, some of which came from long distances away.  It was also to be made to a specific recipe that was to be used only for worshipping God (see Exodus 30:34-38).

Prayer that God listens to costs!  Now there are times when we pray and it costs us nothing, God still hears those prayers, but they do not really grab his attention.  Jesus’ prayers were answered by his Heavenly Father because he put all of himself into them.  This is also something we see in great hero’s of faith, they know that they have to put themselves on the line when it comes to prayer.  It can be very hard to say, ‘yet, not my will but yours be done.’ (Luke 22:42 NRSV) as Jesus does in the garden of Gethsemane, but this is what the hero’s of the faith have done, and it is also what we can do too!  This is where we get our depth in prayer.

Prayer is made up of different ingredients!  This may surprise you, but this is one reason why breadth of prayer is so important.  In the incense recipe different things were to be mixed together in equal quantities, this would have balanced the scent, and made the incense more beautiful to smell!  It is no wonder that the incense was to be burnt before God alone.  What do you mix in your prayer?  There should be worship, petition, intercession, listening, praise and thanksgiving to name but a few things.  We should also pray in different ways, both individually and especially corporately.  This is why we need breadth of prayer.

In this association  between incense and prayer we also see something else.  They seem to be especially closely linked when prayer is being answered by God.

As I said in my post 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 – The Fragrance of Jesus that last week I smelled incense in the service at Maswell last week.  This was during the worship and God’s presence was really there.  One thing that I did not share though was that during the service we had prayed for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani to be released, and I did feel that God was really happy with that.

Today, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani had been released and acquitted, that is God!  He is now back with his family, and with the other members of his church.  I praise God for his faithfulness, a reflection of God’s faithfulness to him!

Now I know that incense had two meanings, although I only at first recognised one fo them.  That Jesus was there among his people, and that all the prayers of all the church (including Maswell) for Pastor Youcef had come before God, and that the answer would soon be revealed!

WOW!!! WHAT A GOD!!! HE IS SO AMAZING!!!

Heavenly Father, help us to realise how highly you value prayer, and how it should be made up of different ingredients.  Help us to be prepared to give all we have in prayer as Jesus did, and help us to have balanced prayer lives.  And thank you that you do answer prayer, help us to be expectant to see your answers, praying in faith to see you act.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16 – The Fragrance of Jesus

‘But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.  For we are the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.  Who is sufficient for these things?  For we are not peddlers of God’s word life so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.’ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 NRSV)

All our senses are very informative, but also very subjective.  But more than that at times what we perceive is related to what God is revealing to us.  We see it in this Scripture, and I have seen this in action in the lives of two other people, and also this Sunday at church.  I shall explain.

On two occasions when I was working in Canaan Bookshop in Staines.  I was there with Andy Gilmour the manager when we had two alcoholics come into the shop, both had had some drink, but neither were too drunk that what they said would come from their imagination.  The first was an old gentleman and the second was a middle-aged lady, they came in at different times, and the incidents were separated by quite a months.

The old gentleman came in and said something like this, ‘Wow, its amazing! Can you smell it?’, ‘Smell what?’ me.  ‘Incense, beautiful incense!’ gentleman, and so the conversation went on for a few minutes, and he walked out if anything slightly happier than when he came in as God had touched him in some way, which was nothing to do with us!

On the second occasion, the lady came in, her manner and comments were the complete opposite to his.  ‘It smells horrible in here!’ lady.  Blank looks on our faces,  ‘Can you smell it?’ lady. ‘Smell what?’ one of us. ‘Its horrible, like death …’ lady.  Again this is not exactly what was said, but it gets over the gist of the conversation.

In both cases neither Andy nor I smelled a thing, but both the people smelled something and reacted to that smell.  The Scripture quoted above explains it, the man smelled life and he will give his life to Jesus at some point.  But the lady will not, she smelled death which mirrors the fact she is perishing, even to this day this saddens me, but I know that God is just and only he can see the end from the beginning.

On Sunday during the worship time at Maswell Park Church I smelled incense, for a while it was a very strong scent, then I kept getting whiffs of it.  It was like the finest incense I have ever had the pleasure to smell, but without the smoke!  I did not share it during the service, but afterwards I shared it with Daniel, the very gifted young man who had been leading worship, which I think encouraged him!

I shared it on Facebook on Sunday evening and an old friend of mine Mike, who also used to go to Maswell, shared that he had also experienced it once, and that was at Maswell too!  This encouraged me, as when I had mentioned it to my husband on the way home about it he said that he could not smell anything!  He did however comment on how good the worship was, and how he could happily have spent a longer in worship.

Lord Jesus, help us to be people of your presence.  To be so close to you that we both sense your fragrance and carry it with us wherever we go.  That your glory may be revealed, in your name we pray, Amen.

 

Prayer is … #1 Adventure

Here goes our adventure into prayer.  So what is more natural than to start by saying that prayer is an adventure.  It is not just any adventure, but one into more of God.

For everyone prayer is a journey.  I shall share some of my prayer journey, my prayer adventure, in this post.  Why because you may be able to connect with my story in this post, and it will help you all to get to know me a bit better.

My prayer adventure started as a child, like most children I was taught to pray with hands together and eyes closed, prayer was a formality there was nothing real about it.  Now here’s a thought, to pray with hands together and eyes closed is not in the Bible at all, so should we pray like that or teach our children to pray like that?  I’ll look at that more in another post sometime!

When I was at university, I started being interested in the things of God, I thought I was a Christian because I had nominally been brought up that way, but in fact I wasn’t.  Prayer was interesting, I prayed formally in chapel and less formally in the Anglican Christian Union, then I started going along to NCCF (New College Christian Fellowship) and here I experienced prayer that really connected with God for the first time, this had me extremely interested!

When one of my friends asked me if I would like to go to a half-night of prayer they were having, I jumped at it!  Here there was prayer, worship and some teaching all combined.  People prayed in different ways for different things, including praying out loud together (all at the same time) in tongues or English.  This spoke to me, I knew that their unknown languages were from God, and that their prayer in general that evening was somehow connecting with God in a big way.

I became a Christian when I was baptised in the Holy Spirit like Cornelius in Acts 10, now prayer became real to me, as it was based in a relationship with God.  I got things wrong at times, but I also saw prayer answered as we prayed together for people to be healed of things, and they were healed.

I soon got involved in a church prayer meetings, prayer meetings with para-church organisations, and spent time praying alone with God.  I read books on prayer which I brought from Canaan bookshop where I was working on Saturdays.

Some of the books I read included,

  • Rees Howells, Intercessor, Norman Grubb;
  • Learning the Joy of Prayer, Larry Lee;
  • Prayer the Key to Revival, Paul Yonggi Cho.

I went to a prayer conference in 1991 (I think) praying for London as a financial centre for it to be shaken which it has been substantially since then.  On the second day we prayer walked, the group I was in for the Bank of England, and we prayed for finance to be released for the Kingdom of God, and God gave a sign to us (a 5p piece) that he would.

After university, I got married and life and prayer continued, sometimes prayer was easy and sometimes it was hard.  But about 2001 I fell in and for quite some time all my prayer were tears and asking the question ‘Why?’, which I never got an answer for, but despite that I held onto one thing.  That God would never abandon mr like the Father had to abandon Jesus on the cross and turn his face away because of my sin.  God healed me over about 1 1/2 years after I was given a prophetic word that he would heal me.

Since then God has grown me a great deal, to where I am now.  I fought with him in prayer like Jacob at the ford of the Jabbok (see Day 4. Practice – Wrestling With God – When Intimacy Gets Personal).

Where am I now?  God is calling me to lead prayer, and to grow churches in prayer, both in its depth and breadth, and helping to restore prayer to the place it should have in this land.  Why?  To see revival and this nation restored to God!  To God alone be the glory! Amen!

What is your prayer journey like?  Do you see it as an adventure?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Olympic Games #2 – The Men’s Road Race

The Men’s Road Race for cycling was run on the Day One of the Games.

The British cyclist Mark Cavendish was expecting to get a gold. The whole British cycling team was determined to get him into a good position so he could win with a sprint finish.  But it just wasn’t to be!

After an early breakaway the British team were left in the front of the peloton, along with other good teams with other good sprint finishers (Australia and Germany).  They were behind the leaders, but the whole group could have caught up if they had all worked together, and taken a share of leading that group.

But the rest of the teams decided to leave all the work to the Brits, and it was too much work for four men to do!  Because the rest of the best teams in the peloton were not prepared to do their share of the work and risk Cavendish winning, they also sacrificed their own medal hopes.  The final winner, Vinokourov of Kazakstan, deserved it, he took a risk and pushed ahead and the glory went to him.

David Millar, one of the British team summed it up quite well, ‘We lost out, but a lot of teams lost out by planning against us.  We can’t complain because everyone knew what we were going to do, so it was their job to derail us.  Which they did.’

What is God saying through this to his church?

We are all individuals, and part of different churches, but we also are all part of God’s universal church.

Now, here’s the challenge.  Do you seek solely your own personal growth and advancement?  Or your church’s?  Or do you seek growth and advancement for the whole of God’s universal church?  Or are you prepared to let others do the work which will in fact mean that everyone loses out in the end?

The Apostle Paul says ‘Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win it.’ (1 Corinthians 9:24 NRSV).  Let’s support each other and run to win, that we may each get the prize that God has for us.

What does this mean in reality, go after the vision God has given you and do everything you can to support those with a greater vision than yours!  In the case of churches let us spur each other on and seek to learn and grow from each other.  If we are petty or insecure and don’t support each other, then we will all lose out in the end.

Lord Jesus, help us to run to win, and to help others too, both individually and as your church.  So that you may be glorified in all we do, in your name, Amen.

Ezekiel 2:1-2 – Holy Spirit Enabled.

‘He said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you.  And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me.’  (Ezekiel 2:1-2. NRSV)

Ezekiel is unique in the Old Testament in saying that the Holy Spirit ‘entered into’ him.  Elsewhere we read of the Spirit being upon people, but not entering into them.

We do, however, read of one other person in the Old Testament who was ‘filled … with the divine spirit’ (see Exodus 31:2-5), and he was filled with the Spirit to design and create everything for the tabernacle, God’s dwelling place on earth which was based on the heavenly pattern. God filled Bezalel with the Spirit to build his tabernacle, and we are filled with the Spirit to build his church!

I came to know Jesus by asking God to baptize me in the Holy Spirit, which he did.  I know nothing except a Spirit-filled Christian life.  What some people consider not necessary is normality for me, and always has been!

God shared a great vision with Ezekiel, but it overwhelmed him.  It was only when the Spirit then entered into him that he was able to respond God and listen to him, and go on from there to prophesy to the Jews in Exile as God asked him to.  Like him we need the Spirit in us to enable us to do the work God has called us to do!

Heavenly Father, fill me afresh with your Holy Spirit.  So that when you speak I am able to hear and receive what you say, and then to go out and speak and do it. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Changing times for churches…

In the church in the United Kingdom we are living in a time of great change.

God is on the move in a way that he hasn’t been for a long time, the generations are changing and we are moving ahead into the future God had for us, rather than looking back to a past we see with spectacles that are far too rose-tinted.

We are also living in an age where time constraints on people are changing too.  All children now have free nursery places, others have jobs with variable hours (like my husband) and many have no certain hours especially if they are ‘bank’ staff who are on call if needed to cover other employees.

We live in the 21st century, with all that entails, yet when it comes to most churches calendars they are still firmly in the 20th century!

What do I mean?  Here are a few examples:

  • Ladies meetings that women with children at nursery can’t get to because the time clashes with them dropping off or picking up their preschoolers.
  • Small groups that only meet midweek in the evening that people can’t get to if a member of the family works irregular hours, or shifts.
  • Holding only a limited number of meetings and if people can’t get to them assuming they aren’t committed, or preventing them from serving God because they can’t fit into our time straight-jacket.
  • Not effectively reaching non-Christians because the schedule they keep does not fit into our church’s program.

More so than ever we live in a 24-7 society.  With employers putting ever great time pressure demands on their workforces as the recession bites ever deeper.  They know that their workers would rather keep their jobs and be pushed on hours than lose the job and try for a new one in the open market.

If churches want to reach their own members and grow them in all areas, let alone reach the un-churched, they must change when they are doing activities and having meeting!

If our churches want to be 21st century churches, meeting people where they are, then they must also meet them WHEN they are available!  Some churches do this fantastically, other are trying and still other churches haven’t even realised that this is an issue.

We should not be afraid to have the same type of meeting at different times in the week, even if it means more work for those in leadership (if your church has a healthy leadership structure then it will be easy to spread the load).  We should get away from expecting everyone to come to a few meetings but have more meetings so everyone can come to them, even if only two or three come Jesus will still be there!

What about you?  How does your church deal with living in a 24-7 society?  Do you work difficult hours?  What are your insights, I’d love to hear them!