Helping people discover the truth about Jesus – Part 1

Introduction

I don’t come from a church going family and in growing up had little to do with the church and very little understanding regarding what Christians believed (although I thought I knew!).

Whilst at University I started arguing with Christians to show them the error of their ways, to my total surprise I came to the conclusion that they were right and I was wrong. I had discovered the truth about Jesus. As all this was going on, my contact with the church was minimal.  It was a great surprise to be told that part of the Jesus package was church. I played rugby on Sundays, why would I want to swap that for going to a church service?

My experience of the love of God led me to make the sacrifice and I began to worship Him with other believers on a Sunday. I quickly realised that there was a big gulf between church people, most of whom had been brought up in a church environment and myself, for whom it was all so new.

Many years later, when I felt called by God to lead a church I was reminded of those early experiences. I recognised that part of my calling was to equip the church to help those who have not been brought up within a church community to discover the truth about Jesus and to become part of such a community.

This series of blogs is my way of communicating lessons that I have learnt over the last 20 years of leading churches and seeking to do this.

 

Tony

Written By Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

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Overcoming The Valleys Of Life

“The Arameans think that the Lord is a God of the hills and not of the valleys”

1 Kings 20:23

 

After finishing university, I travelled the USA with a friend. The trip included a trek down the Grand Canyon. At the top of the Canyon, you could see people in restaurants, eating ice-cream, drinking coffee and feeling at ease, feet up, gazing at the view. Walking down the canyon you were aware of being away from everything except a few lizards. We desired our ice-creams the further we walked.

 

Life is a mixture of seasons and experiences. Sometimes we are enjoying the ice-cream of life “on the hills” and sometimes we are facing tougher times “in the valleys”

 

In the text, the Arameans had believed that the reason they lost a recent battle was because of its physical location. That battle was fought on a hill. They therefore lured Israel into a deeper valley believing they would win the next battle there.

 

The Arameans believed God’s protective reach over his people Israel was limited by physical demographics. They believed there were limits to the  God of Israel. They were mistaken. In the valley, Israel won again. 2-0.

 

For Christians, we need to trust and know that God is near his people wherever they are.

 

Now the challenge is this. It’s easy to believe that when life is in “ice-cream” mode, much harder when life becomes very challenging.

 

As Christians, we are not immune from problems. Jesus actually promised that “in this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33) – my friends and I are currently facing challenges such as divorce, children will difficulties, unemployment, illness, significant disappointments, loneliness and …the list goes on.

 

These are the valley experiences. There is warfare for the Christian, but usually not against a physical army as faced by Israel. Rather an invisible enemy, Satan.

 

Satan has a perverse form of patience. He is more likely to whisper at an opportune time “God cannot help you here” when your down in the valley rather than eating ice-creams on the hills with friends. Our own flesh and the world can come into an unconscious agreement with Satan. Before we know it, we have lost touch with the God who is the Lord of everywhere.

 

Are you and I walking through valley experiences at the moment ? Have we lost heart ?

 

We need to acknowledge that our pain is real and then hold it up to the God who knows, loves and cares for us.  We can also recall the good things God is doing in our lives during tough times.

 

And the final word of encouragement to the Christian facing valley warfare is “And the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

 

Jon

Jon Gledhill is a member of Hope Church Luton
Jon Gledhill is a member of Hope Church Luton

 

 

Prayer – The Hardest Prayer To Pray?

There are many different prayers that we pray over the years, there are many prayers recorded in the Bible. Have you ever considered what the hardest prayer to pray is?

My suggestion would be the prayer that Jesus prays on the cross as recorded in Luke 23v34 “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

We all have experiences of having to forgive people (and to be forgiven for that matter). However mostly this is for relatively minor issues. We all have to get over small bumps in the road, forgiving minor issues really shouldn’t be too difficult. Your wife says they will be home before 10, but in fact gets in at 10.30. Yes an issue, but not that big a deal. Forgive them and move on. Your husband says he is bringing 3 or 4 friends back to watch the football match, could you get some beer and snacks in for them. He turns up with 6 and you feel embarrassed not having enough food for them. Forgive him, it doesn’t really matter in the bigger picture.

Every day we will encounter these small issues, which we shouldn’t allow to become big issues. Forgiveness stops that.

Then sometimes we encounter a bigger issue. We share something very sensitive with a friend, in confidence. You then find out they have shared it with someone else, who shared it with another person. Soon lots of people know your secrets. You feel let down, violated. You know you have to forgive, but you also know you have to confront the person about what they have done. You also know it will take some time for trust to be built up again.

These are harder, but if managed well we can deal with them.

Then very occasionally something horrendous happens.

Marie Wilson, a nurse in Northern Ireland, was killed by an IRA bomb as she and others were attending a Remembrance Day ceremony. Her father Gordon gave an interview with the BBC a few hours after his daughter’s death describing their last conversation as she lay dying in the rubble. His response to the bombing was “I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge.” His public forgiveness of his daughter’s murderers had a lasting impact and has been described as the turning point in the troubles. Wilson said he would pray for his daughter’s killers.

I know other people who have forgiven drunk drivers forgiven for killing family members, abused children who have forgiven their abusers.

They have prayed, as Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

I think this is the most “Christian” of all prayers, but also the most difficult. We can handle the small slights that life throws at us, even if sometimes we struggle to even do that. When we face real life changing adversity we need to find strength from God to pray this very difficult prayer.

Tony

 

Written By Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

Looking At Paul’s Prayers

Prayer – Part 6

I few years ago I spent an ideal few hours looking at Paul’s prayers as recorded in his letters. By prayers I mean these 4 things.

  1. Prayers – where Paul appears to be praying as he writes
  2. Prayer reports – where Paul tells his readers about what he has prayed
  3. Prayer wishes – e.g. May the God of all peace do such and such
  4. Exhortations to prayer.

 

I found 42 examples, which I then classified into types of prayer, as shown below, with the number of times they occurred. Obviously some of the prayers contained more than one type of prayer.

 

  1. Intercession 26
  2. Thanksgiving = 17
  3. Petition 7
  4. Praise 6
  5. Exhortation 4
  6. Listening 1

 

The fact that intercession was the most common type of prayer wasn’t a surprise. However the prominence of thanksgiving in Paul’s prayer life wasn’t something I had fully recognised. It was also very challenging to me, as my prayers didn’t have the same emphasis on thanksgiving and gratitude.

I recognised that I was in danger of focusing too much on what I wanted God to do, not appreciating what he had already done. Any child who is always wanting more, but doesn’t say thank you for what he has received is lacking something. I realised I was lacking something!

Since that time I have tried to model’s Paul’s example of gratitude, appreciating all that God has given rather than just focusing on what is needed. As Paul himself says in Philippians 4v6 I have tried to present my requests to God with thanksgiving.

I would encourage you to do the same.

 

Tony

Written By Tony Thompson

tonyt

Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.