I Give You My 5 Loaves

I have been journaling since I was 15; a long time ago now!  But this is the first time I have gone public on a blog (so I’m a bit nervous!!)

I often write ‘poems’ (sounds a bit grand) where I let my honest feelings pour out.  Then I make room in my heart for God to have His say as well.  I love looking back and seeing how God has moved me on and helped me through painful times.  Sometimes I don’t feel I have moved on very far and sometimes I even feel that I am going backwards!

This particular journal entry (written in response to one of Tony’s talks in December 2013) is still so helpful to me when I feel I have little to offer God and the world.  The miracle of the loaves and the fish (Luke 9 v 10-17) gives me faith that God can do in me what he did for that packed lunch, and that in Him, I am enough!  I hope it blesses you too.

Catherine Phinn, a member of Hope Church

 

Lord God,

I give you my five loaves and two fish,

For they are yours already.

I give you what good I do have

As well as what I lack;

For You are a miracle worker,

Doing wonders with the little I can offer.

 

I give You my errors,

I give You my feet in my mouth,

I give You my rude grumpy reactions,

I give You my prejudices,

I give You the cruelty I bestow on myself and others,

I give you my impatience and my misguided logic.

I give You my failures,

My hurting of others, my hurting of You.

I give You the disappointments I may have been to my parents.

 

I give You all this,

All of myself,

Each breath;

And some may say ‘It is not enough for a King!’

 

I say:

‘Bring life to these bones!

Breathe Your Spirit and Your creative essence into my flesh.’

 

I say:

‘Let there be light in my eyes and bounce in my walk

And joy in my dance and song for You.’

 

For Your glory, my King,

Return me to life,

Revive me,

As I offer each breath,

Each hurt,

Each memory and thought,

Each question,

Up to You.

 

Where I lack,

May You take my little,

Take my faith seed

And multiply Your blessing over me.

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I’M RIGHT, YOU’RE WRONG ! Part 2

In my previous blog we looked at the role of the Bible and the role of the law in helping us determine what we feel is right and wrong in life. For Christians, those are the 2 driving determinants of our behaviour as modelled by Jesus himself.

 

But we did also see areas of difficulty and debate. There are plenty of things which the Bible states resolutely where we might think that society has moved on (e.g. slavery, women in leadership etc,)  And there are many other areas which plain ‘n’ simple aren’t covered (would Jesus have used the word ‘fart’ or other slang words.)

 

I hope from the first Blog we found common ground in agreeing that we need to exercise care and discernment in reaching our views, and in how we manage situations where others disagree (more on that later on.)  Let’s move on and look at our third area now – issues of conscience.

 

 

 

ISSUES OF CONSCIENCE

Beyond what the bible says, and beyond what the law says, we have issues of conscience.  You may recall that I introduced 6 such areas in my previous blog, and while many people may say that they have the definitive right / wrong judgement, my personal view is that all of them sit here in this category … unanswered.

 

  1. Do you think speeding is wrong?
  2. Do you think smoking is wrong?
  3. When does several large glasses of wine become dishonouring to God?
  4. There’s a really good drama series on TV …. but it contains quite a lot of sex
  5. When I write god should I write God instead?
  6. Do you turn up on time for meetings!?

 

 

Our conscience is impacted by our education, upbringing, our culture and what God may have said to us on this subject.  E.g in parts of Eastern Europe its normal for people to smoke, and church leaders may smoke too.  E.g in Africa, time is often viewed as a guide, and so people will arrive ‘about that time’ which could mean very late from a western European point of view.  E.g in some cultures I should wear my ‘Sunday best’ to honour God, in others that is not necessary.

 

I see these areas as conscience issues.  Assuming we aren’t deliberately trying to rebel against God or wind others up, then all of these areas are down to the individual conscience as they aren’t illegal and God hasn’t given an outright ban in his word. Making good choices in these areas is important, that’s why we have specific ‘wisdom’ books in the Bible, and that’s why wisdom is seen as such an important trait.  ‘Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.’  We all need wisdom and we all have to exercise judgment (small j.)

 

 

 

CONCLUSION

Despite all my words of caution I love having opinions!!!  Opinions are important, they are great fun and what makes us unique!  That’s why I have so many !!!

 

But more important than our opinions on debatable areas, is being a person who loves and accepts as Jesus loved and accepted.  Our culture should primarily be (1) non-judgmental and (2) full of grace, exactly so that we can have opinions / debate whilst maintaining a healthy relationship with each other. In fact when you look at areas of the Bible where apostles were dealing with different opinions, their primary focus was maintaining relationships and the need for gracious attitudes, rather than defining who was right or wrong:

 

  • (Romans 14:1-8) We should support others who have different views and be ‘for’ them not in Judgement of them
  • (1 Corinthians 8) Don’t let your freedom become a stumbling block to other Christians
  • (1Corinthians 14:26-33, 39-40.) In a group context we need to be considerate not just of what works for us personally, but also what will work best for the group we’re in. For groups to work, everything should be done in a ‘fitting and orderly way.’

 

Let’s keep discerning what we believe is right, and what we believe is wrong. Let’s exchange views and have heated debates, even arguments.  But where it’s not a direct instruction of the Bible, or a direct law of the land, let’s tread carefully and be generous in accepting and loving others.  Loving acceptance first, opinions second.

 

Jonathan ‘78mph, sometimes late, several pints’ Adams

 

Photo Adams Jon (1)
Jon Adams, part of the Hope Church Luton Family

 

I’M RIGHT, YOU’RE WRONG ! Part 1

Some of you may have seen a recent Facebook post from our leader Tony Thompson.  He commented that people often don’t turn up on time for meetings anymore, which resulted in a barrage of comments with people’s own views on this phenomenon. Watching the strong views and opinions come flying in I was struck by how people have private but very strong opinions, and sometimes they go that extra step and declare it ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’

 

It reminded me of a conversation I had once, over whether the grants from National Heritage Funding (Lottery money) should be accepted to help build a church building. It’s very easy to reach a quick decision – perhaps you already have- but this isn’t directly covered in the Bible, and has to be interpreted based on other views you hold.  Likewise there are other areas in life where opinions will differ and the temptation to be judgmental can arise:

 

  1. Do you think speeding is wrong?
  2. Do you think smoking is wrong?
  3. When does several large glasses of wine become dishonouring to God?
  4. There’s a really good drama series on TV …. but it contains quite a lot of sex
  5. When I write god should I write God instead?
  6. Do you turn up on time for meetings!?

 

In this 2-part blog, I will be looking at 3 areas which play a key role in that decision making process (1) what the bible says, (2) what the law says,  and (3) ‘issues of conscience.’ Issues of conscience is defined as outside the first 2 categories, so areas where outcomes are a little more up for discussion and debate!

 

 

1. THE BIBLE

Some things clearly in the bible as right and wrong, perhaps most famously the 10 commandments. It would be easy to say that we must never go against scripture etc. But it’s not all plain sailing:

 

a) The Bible says that women should wear head coverings when praying to God? And it stops short of saying slavery is wrong. It also seems to say that women shouldn’t be in church leadership.  Which of these statements are absolute statements and which statements are based more on the culture of the time?

 

b) With the Bible there’s a whole host of things it doesn’t cover. How to balance work, home, job responsibilities. Whether or not Christians should spend money on expensive phones. Whether Jesus would buy a ticket for the euromillions lottery (£105 million jackpot) and how much he would give away if he won!

 

We have to read the bible believing that it’s true, but also carefully applying what is relevant in the immediate decision we are making and be careful not to extend principles beyond what they were written for.  No one wants to be overly strict and particular, but neither do we want to be all-accepting without any clear and distinctive views of what is right or wrong.   Applying the bible becomes a careful part of our walk of faith.

 

 

 

 

 

2.THE LAW OF SOCIETY

The Bible says that we should respect the laws of our land. (Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1, James 4:17.) But it also contains examples of people that broke the laws of the land or the laws of that culture.  For example Daniel not worshipping the King, and Jesus breaking of Jewish traditions.

 

My personal opinion in this area, is that overall the law must be followed – the only exception being where the honour of God is directly at stake (Acts 5:29)    The problem is that even that principle can be abused, and used as the excuse for all types of terrible wars, crimes and attitudes.

 

In my opinion driving everywhere at 85 mph is NOT respecting the law, neither is downloading films from the internet, or not declaring your income to the taxman.   I don’t think Jesus will always go mad about these things – actually I think he may occasionally have driven at 80mph himself (!!!) but I do think he has an opinion,  and I do think he’s got a concern for the attitudes in our hearts.   Also we have to take personal responsibility and legal consequences to our actions if / when we get find out.

 

So when looking at these first two guiding principles – what the Bible says and what the law says, we still have to exercise care and discretion. And in certain areas where the Bible or the law seems less certain, we need to be careful on reaching decisions, and even more careful on how we communicate / debate who have a valid but different opinion.

 

In part 2 of this blog we’ll look more in depth at ‘issues of conscience’ and also draw a surprising conclusion …

 

 

Photo Adams Jon (1)
Jon Adams, part of the Hope Church Luton Family

 

Commitments and Purpose

Very rarely are wonderful things achieved or obtained without some type of work. Those things which are worthwhile require some type of cost or commitment. Consider the following examples:

  • Building friendships or relationship should be fun and natural, but often requires thought, time and commitment to take to the next level

 

  • Meeting some financial goal often involves a cost

 

  • Learning a new skill e.g. music, painting, languages, takes time

 

  • Achieving some sort of physical goal takes time and effort.

A catalyst for making any commitments, and hopefully good commitments, is being a person of PURPOSE.  For example the athlete who is focussed on Olympic Gold will put up with years of careful meal plans, technical coaching, daily physical training, and the general avoidance of carbs, alcohol, late nights etc. Their commitment is all encompassing. The average person on the streets however would probably see no point in all those disciplines, because they don’t have a higher purpose to help motivate them and justify those actions.   The fact that God is a God of purpose struck me afresh the other day during a worship time we were sharing at our mission group meeting. In particular it struck me again how God is someone who has accomplished his purposes, and is accomplishing His purposes, in a dynamic way:

  • God the father – head of all things, faithful, true, holy, His plan will prevail.
  • Jesus the son has accomplished what he set out to do – he became human, lived perfectly, died, and was resurrected. Other passages also show His purpose – Isaiah 63:1, Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 2: 1-13 etc.
  • The Holy Spirit will accomplish what he sets out to do ( Philippians 1:3-6)
  • Even God’s word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12.)

Sure we must get the basics right i.e. we must remember the truth and the wonder that God enjoys us, loves us, and is faithful to us. Sure we must remember that Gods goodness and grace are what provides us with security, joy and peace. Of course, we cannot earn His approval by doing stuff.  Having said that, it’s important to stay mindful of Gods purposefulness, to prevent us from settling into a life that is dictated purely by routines, and the practical day to day issues which surround us. So in love I’ve jotted down some thoughts and provocative questions just to stir you up and get you thinking.

  1. Good commitments will come from a place where we are already free i.e. we are not trying to gain approval. Do you really believe that God accepts you as you are? And that God is happy with you ?

 

  1. Jesus said he will build His church. Aside from attending Sundays and small groups, what rota’s are you on to try and help build the church with Him?

 

  1. Jesus loved being out in the world as part of His mission. Aside from work or study, what ‘secular’ commitments have you made in the world?

 

  1. How do your non-Christian friends know that you are committed to them? Do you need to be more purposeful here?

 

  1. Aside from church giving, how have you planned to bless someone else with your money on a regular basis?

 

  1. What other gifts and skills have you got? How are you practising and improving these on a regular basis to make the most of what God has given you?

I hope this has provoked you to think about rising above the wonderful activity of everyday life, to be inspired by Gods purposefulness, and to be willing to make good commitments. I know that time and money are not infinite, but likewise let’s not let that be an excuse for doing nothing. Get out there and get stuck in, that what God does everyday !!!!

Photo Adams Jon (1)
Jon Adams, part of the Hope Church Luton Family