Category Archives: Uncategorized

Victim or Rebel?

The bondage of blame shifting

We must all decide if our fundamental problem is that we are a victim or a rebel. All of us have been wronged, some of us in profound and horrendous ways. This is tragic, so I really do not want to play down the great evil & suffering that people have, are or will go through. However, our own offense is far worse than anything done against us. Our offense is against the almighty, eternal God and so an almighty, eternal crime. Therefore my essential problem is not that I have been wronged but that I have wronged, not that I am a victim but that I am a rebel; a perpetrator.

For a number of reasons this realisation is so important. One of which is that identifying as a victim or primarily focussing on the wrong done or said to us actually opens us up to emotional harm rather than dealing with it.

 As a born again person we can only be damaged in our inner life if we allow ourselves to be so. Please do not misunderstand me; I am not saying that tragedy, hardship & suffering are not very real, and that deep grief, sorrow & even anger are not the appropriate response to such things. But I am saying in Christ and Christ in us we have the power to resist these turning into emotional hurt. Our new nature is ‘imperishable’ 1 Peter 1v23ESV. If we choose to connect to and live from this nature via our thoughts, our emotions will be primarily influenced by it and not the attacks and turmoil of the outside life.

One who has put their trust in the death of Jesus is a child of God (John 1v12), loved by the Almighty, a co-heir with Christ (Romans 8v17). We are not a victim but a conqueror (Romans 8v37).  Our rebellion is no longer recognised because the very righteousness of Jesus has replaced it (Jeremiah 23v6), our standing and identity is no longer sinner but saint (1 Corinthians 1v2). The circumstances and horrors of life do not reign over us but we reign over them (Romans 5v17)!

We must all make a decision, either that someone & something else is our biggest problem in life or that ‘I’ am! If it is someone or something else, then we are at the mercy of this person, thing or situation, with the power of true change, life and joy being beyond us, out of our control.  If ‘I’ am my biggest problem then in Christ and Christ in me I am able to sort it out and take the steps forward required for true change, life and joy!

Let’s humbly take responsibility for our own life; own it and everything that comes with it. Through Jesus we have all that we need His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness’ 2Peter 2v3 ESV. This is either true or it is not! To grasp truth is to start to take control of our life and the rest will follow!  

Express or Invert

Flourish or Perish

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 2v10 ESV

Part of repentance is to express what we feel to God & others. Which requires admitting to ourselves what we really think & feel. Even healthy, godly grief unexpressed can turn into unhealthy worldly grief with regret. However, this is not just true of grief but of all emotions. For godly emotions to remain so they need to be expressed and for worldly emotions to be processed & dealt with they too must be expressed as part of turning to God (repentance).

By definition emotions or feelings must be expressed in some form or way. An unexpressed emotion is a suppressed & therefore incomplete emotion. The only alternative to emotions being expressed is for them to be inverted in on our-self. That is for them to become focussed on & centred upon self rather than God and others. This is the exact opposite of what emotions are for. They are for us to feel internally what is going on externally. Not to obsess with ourselves, but to delight in God and care for others. This is the difference between godly grief and worldly grief; godly emotions and worldly emotions.

Sometimes we use the phrase ‘my feelings are hurt’. I would like to suggest that sometimes, if not often when we say this or something similar it is actually our pride that is hurt. It is our concept or perception of self that has been wounded. The glory & identity I attribute to myself has been challenged and it is this that I feel.

So it is best to be as specific as we can when we express our emotions both positive & negative. So we can see what we feel and why we feel it, what is healthy & godly and what is unhealthy & worldly; what is appropriate & fair to feel and what is inappropriate & unfair to feel.

Phrases like ‘I feel sad that…’ ‘I feel happy about…’ ‘I love that…’ I feel bitter about…’ are far more specific and helpful than ‘you hurt my feelings’ or ‘I’m upset’. Let’s find helpful ways to express our negative & positive godly and worldly emotions, and live without regret as we more fully turn to God in Christ. Pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62v8 ESV.

Think – Feel – Do

The pathway of change

Change starts with our thinking, the Bible makes this very clear;

do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind Romans 12v2 (ESV)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians10v5 (NIV)

Many would agree with this but still see little deep and lasting change in their lives. Ironically often the problem is that we are unaware of our misconceptions, our unhelpful thoughts, our misunderstanding of truth and lack of grasp of the gospel. We ‘think’ we believe it all but an inner emptiness and dissatisfaction can suggest otherwise.

Often ‘pretension’ or as the ESV puts it ‘lofty opinion’ is lurking more than we are aware of or would like to admit. If we are (I am) honest so much of our lives is not the real thing but as shell, a shadow, pride, a performance based not on Christ but on self.

It is fairly easy to hide what we really think and how we are really doing behind either our intellect or our behaviour. However, it is much harder to hide behind our emotions.  We may be able to explain great doctrine but if this leaves us unmoved emotionally we can’t have really understood it, or at least how it applies to ourselves. We may perform all sorts of good activities but if we do not feel anything towards God and those the activity is supposedly for, then a performance is exactly all that it is.

It is surely our feelings and desires, or lack of, which reveal what we really think as they flow from our deepest thoughts, perceptions & understanding. And they speak of the authenticity of our behaviour as they are the motive & force behind it. Therefore, the appropriateness of what we feel is a thermometer of how we are spiritually, a gauge of our engagement with reality, an indicator of our grasp of truth, a measure of our appreciation of beauty.

Feelings and thoughts are coupled together so closely they cannot be separated. Wherever there is a feeling there is a thought or perception behind it that has produced it. So the only real way to change how we feel is to change how we think, and then in turn our new feelings empower a change in our behaviour. But it is our feelings, our emotions and desires which highlight our true thinking and understanding, showing us where our mind needs renewing and which thoughts need taking captive.

If we are prepared to be honest with ourselves and God (and each other) about how we feel and the roots of these feelings then we are in a place to start real deep change in our lives. Our thinking flows into our feelings which flow into our doing, so new thinking can transform our lives. However, to accurately and deeply change our thinking or renew our mind we need to be honest about our current feelings, so that our real thoughts, understanding and perceptions can be laid bare. 

Please(d)

The pleasure of salvation

We are called to ‘please God’ (1 Thessalonians 4v1esv) but how are we meant to do this? What is it that God finds pleasing?

Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22v37esv). Loving God with our all, above anything else declares him to be of supreme satisfaction and worth. Loving or cherishing, taking delight, joy & pleasure in God recognises him for whom he is and relates to him as he is. In other words we please God by taking pleasure in him.

Unfortunately this is the very thing we don’t do. The essence of our sin is that we prefer to take pleasure in almost anything above God. In so doing declaring it to be of more value and interest than the Almighty and so turning our backs on him.

The good news is that this is why Jesus came. He lived, died & rose again so that through faith in him we can be forgiven of all our sinful displeasure & dishonouring lack of joy in God, and be given Jesus’ righteousness as our own. ‘not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God’ (Philippians 3v9esv).

To be given Jesus’ righteousness, is to be given his record of rightly relating to or correctly valuing God. That is, we are given Jesus’ perfect record of total pleasure in God, and so declared 100% pleasing to God 100% of the time, just as Jesus himself is!  Therefore we are brought back to God, enabled to come into his presence and to take pleasure in him, to the honour of his name and delight of his heart. 

This is wonderful news; you will not hear better. But at this point confusion can set in. We can think ‘how do I please him who is already totally pleased with me?’ And in our attempts to do so, fall back into trying to make God pleased with us; trying to win his approval. 

The problem is that often we can confuse ‘God being pleased with us’ and ‘us pleasing God’. They are not the same thing. The first is justification (how God feels towards us), the second is sanctification (how we feel towards God).

Once we put our trust in Jesus we are pleasing to God, how he thinks and feels towards us does not and cannot change, as it is set in Jesus Christ (justification).

Once this is the case we can please God day by day, moment by moment, because he is already pleased with us. We please him by giving to him what he finds pleasing, namely ourselves in Christ & Christ in us. That is, we please God and turn to him by enjoying the fact that he is pleased with us in Christ. Ultimately pleasing him and being with him, by delighting in him (sanctification).

This is just another way of saying we glorify God by knowing him. Through faith in Jesus, God is pleased with us, so we can please him, by taking pleasure in Him! So salvation is a pleasure for all involved; God and the believer.

It’s that time again…

Alpha time!

We only do one Alpha a year but it seems to come around so quick, and that time have come around again. Alpha kicks off @ 8pm on Wednesday 24th Jan at the Black Horse (Northfield) side bar. This is the ‘Alpha Taster’ which is an introductory session so you can see if you like the taste of Alpha and if you want to come back for more or not. The evening includes a short talk and a free curry so that it is not just concepts you are tasting but food as well.

If you have never done Alpha why not this year, why not this month, why not on the 24th Jan at the Black Horse? What’s the worst that could happen?!

What’s happened and what’s ahead

Once again I have not blogged for an age.  Lots has been going on in the life of Redeemer. Since February we have been meeting on Sundays at Oddingley Hall next to West Heath Park. This has been a really helpful move to what we hope will be a long term venue for us. It was great to kick off our time here with a baptism on the first Sunday for which we crammed about 40 people into a changing room with a paddling pool in the shower area.

After settling in, at the beginning of May we officially celebrated our new home by having a House Warming Weekend which we invited all our new neighbours along to. Good fun was had on the Saturday with bouncy castles and candy floss and on the Sunday with a buffet lunch together.

At the end of May with the Catalyst Festival having a break year we held our first Church Weekend Away. This felt like a significant time of deepening friendship with each other and God. As well as having time to have fun together (including a talent and quiz evening) we spent two sessions seeing what the Bible has to say about our emotional health and starting to apply this to our lives.

July kicked off with our annual Hope & Healing Weekend, this was as nerve racking as ever but God once again showed up!  Many people came for prayer with some returning from previous years. Numerous people took follow up packs and said they felt peace or/and the presence of God and several testified to physical healing. The Sunday was also a great time with 2 people expressing commitment to Jesus.

In July just before we went into our Summer Programme we had another baptism, which was the first baptism I have done which was too hot. We had to empty several buckets of cold water into the pool just before to cool it down. The pool was also being held together by sellotape as I discovered just beforehand it had a puncher but it did the job.

In August it was great to connect more deeply with the local community through a ParkLives event which we provided inflatables for.  It was a lovely sunny day and it was a joy to work with other groups to put the event on.

So much has been happening which we are so grateful to God for but He also has so much more for us as we head into the Autumn term and the build up to Christmas! On Sunday the 10th September we kick off a three part mini series from Luke 13 within our wider series on the Gospel of Luke. This series is called Repentance, Healing and Wholeness and is intended to help us process the issues that we started to raise and dig into on our weekend away when looking into emotional health. Several people have said that they found the weekend away helpful but what do they do now. This series (as well as giving space in Community Groups) should help us to increasingly live a life of repentance, healing and wholeness.

The last of these three sessions is also going to kick off another new phase for Redeemer as we start Lord’s Supper Sundays. Up to this point as a church we have been celebrating the Lord’s Supper together in our monthly Community Prayer meeting. Now as well as this we plan to celebrate the Lord’s Supper once a term on a Sunday. The thinking is that this will give us a focus point for repentance & forgiveness but also space and time for us individually and collectively to genuinely work this out.

Still to come we have a Baby Thanksgiving, Light Party, Christmas events and then in the new year Alpha. This is not to mentioned the bread and butter of our normal gathering and dispersing. God continues to work in and through us as we by His grace increasingly love deeply and share widely the goodness of God in Christ together. What a joy!

Got questions about life?

I don’t think anybody has made bigger and better claims about life than Jesus!  He certainly gives us all something to think about and that is why we run ‘Alpha’.  It gives people the chance to think through what Jesus said in a relaxed, enjoyable environment.  Our next one kicks off on Thursday 12th January with the Alpha Taster.

The Alpha Taster is an introductory session so people can decide whether Alpha is something they want to come on.  It’s a free, fun, fairly short evening but involves enough bite to get you chewing over more than just the free curry!

It starts at 7:45pm at The Black Horse Pub side bar, Northfield, B31 2QT and will be finished by about 9:00pm.  Why not come along? At worst you get a free curry but it could be the start of your greatest adventure!

alpha bear 2

Hope & Healing 2016 Feedback

Our Hope & Healing weekend was a few weeks ago now and we had a great time. I wanted to give a bit of feedback.  It is a bit difficult to do this in writing, and not appropriate to share everything, so I will give a few stories.

First of all God really encouraged us by kicking things off on the Friday before we had ‘officially’ even started.  I met a young man who after a biking accident was unable to lift his arm more than 45 degrees from his side.  After prayer he could lift it 90 degrees and after praying again, to his amazement, full movement was restored.  He then made a commitment to Jesus.

On the Saturday, from our Hope & Healing plot at the Northfield Carnival, a guy who had a bad back for a number of years felt heat going through his back from top to bottom, leading him to exclaim “that’s f…ing mad”.  Another guy who suffered chest pain, which made breathing more difficult, to the quiet surprise of his partner declared that it had totally gone.  A young woman who received prayer last year for situations in her life deliberately came to the Carnival in order to receive more prayer.

People received prayer for all sorts of conditions and situations in their lives, with many expressing awareness of the presence or power of God.  At a couple of points we even had people having to come back later in order to find space to be prayed for.  Many conversations where had and a number of gospels were given out.

Not everybody was healed but the day seemed like another step forward for Redeemer in seeing God work in supernatural ways.  Even those who did not seem to experience anything often appreciated being prayed for.  I prayed for one man who had pain and restricted movement in one arm and I expected he would be healed as God had already been healing by this point, but no improvement occurred. However, he was really grateful for me praying and I was able to give him some information and a gospel.

Then on the Sunday we had Noel and Coral Fellowes with us, sharing something of their amazing story.  This had a real impact on several people, helping to bring hope & healing into their lives.  So we had a great weekend but we don’t want it to end there! We want to increasingly learn to live lives that help bring hope & healing to others as we keep in step with Jesus and the hope & healing he brings everyday.

 

Hope & Healing!

This year at our Hope & Healing Sunday on the 3rd July we have Noel Fellowes the author of ‘Killing Time’ coming to speak.  It will be great to have him with us and hear something of his story.

At the age of 22 Noel was arrested, charged and convicted of the killing of a man he had never met. He spent nearly five years in prison, where, as an ex-policeman, he suffered years of intimidation and violence. Upon release, he entered a life of substance abuse hoping to escape the years of pain, bitterness and hatred resulting from his sense of injustice.  Ten years after his release from prison, new evidence came to light and he was completely vindicated of the murder for which he had been wrongly convicted. Following his vindication, Noel wrote his best-selling autobiography ‘Killing Time’,

Noel found hope and healing in the good news of Jesus, come along to hear about this hope & healing for yourselves.

2016!

Wow! We are over half way through January, kids back in school, life back into motion and Christmas feels like an age ago.  It’s been even longer since I last posted anything, in-fact not since our Hope and Healing events in the Summer.

Lots has happened in the life of Redeemer since then.  In October we had our launch events starting with our bouncy fun day in Northfield High Street, at which much fun seem to be had by all. This was followed the week after by our Launch Sunday. It was great to have a number of guests with us as we officially launched the church plant.

In November we had our Family Fireworks evening once again at Happyfields Animal Sanctuary, which although was not without it stresses (including the coffee van getting stuck in the mud and sheep getting where they shouldn’t have), again seemed to be a real hit.  Then in December we held our own Christmas Carol Service as well as having the pleasure of helping out with the Northfield YMCA Carol Service.

2016 has a number of new adventures waiting for us and a couple of changes.  The first of these changes is due to take place very soon as we switch from an afternoon meeting to a morning one. Starting on Sunday 31st January we will be meeting at 10:30am, which will mean getting up a bit earlier but also the chance of an afternoon nap!

Our first big event of 2016 kicks off next week as our ‘Alpha’ starts with the Alpha Taster (introductory session) on Wednesday 27th January at the Black Horse side bar starting at 7:30pm. This includes a free curry and a short talk looking at some of life’s big questions!  All are welcome.

So we are hitting 2016 running, here we go!