Know Whose You Are!

At the very beginning of creation, the bible tells us that God made man in His image and likeness. Later on in the bible we learn that because God so loved the world, you, me, trees,  flowers and oh ok animals to, He sent His son to die in our place, as sin had entered the world He created and nothing could make up for this but Jesus’s death.  If you are reading this I will assume that you know God or at least have heard of him; even if you haven’t or perhaps you have arguments against God, I’ll say just give me your ear or actually eyes since you’ll be reading this and perhaps I can present my case for God in another post.

 

The God I know and have experienced personally is kind, powerful, loving, creative, faithful, strong I could go on! Out of His love, He created mini me (us) with the sole purpose of us being the object of His affection.

 

The characteristics that I have listed above are all good; what is even more fascinating is the fact that He loved us so much, He was not willing to scrap the plan when it all went wrong and start all over again, rather He chose to give up his son Jesus, to bring about redemption and get us back on track. Given all of this, why is it that if we are being brutally honest, when we think about ourselves, a high percentage of us especially Christians who should know and believe these truth, do not?

 

I’ve come to realise that a distorted view of ones identity can cloud how you view and receive God’s love. We firstly identify who a person is from their name. I’ve always been fascinated with names and the meanings behind it; I  wonder why parent choose the names they do and how the meaning of a name can reflect the personality of the person to which it is attached.

 

It is not everyday that we acknowledge the significance of the meaning of a name, as we go about our daily lives. Once you get to know a person better or on those rare occasions where our hearts/brain connect with the meaning behind a name, you get those aha moments where you think that makes sense about you or perhaps if only he/she could be like their name.

 

Whenever I come across a good name with a good meaning behind it, I am blown away that parents see their child as such and declared this over their life right from birth, whether they are aware of this or not.

 

If this is the heart of earthly parents who despite their best intentions, still have shortcomings, how about God who wanted us humans in the first place and then proceeded to breathe life into clay? We are a direct reflection of who He is given that we were made in His image and what He calls us, LOVED, CHOSEN, QUEENS, KINGS AND WARRIOR etc should be second nature to us right and we should see and carry ourselves as all of the above. If only it was that easy, but why isn’t that the case?

 

There are various factors that one could attribute this to, difficult upbringing, opinions of men, broken world, demonic, the list goes on unfortunately. All of which means that we do not identify ourselves with how He defines us.

 

I was lucky to grow up in a good household where I was adored and showered with love and had the freedom to be myself, but of course the day comes when you have to step out into the big ‘bad’ world and some of what I’ve listed above comes into play as you do life. Which often lead to a journey of believing and living lies that becomes so familiar they build a comfortable nest in your heart and disguise themselves as truths. Lies that kills, steals and destroy, nothing positive about it.

 

How do we combat this then?

 

I have found that going back to the start, my ‘place of birth’, where God created me in His image and likeness, that place we must always go back to, that foundation which we should not only build from but return to often, in fact daily, is the key to breaking the lies that yearns to snuff the life out of you.  The foundation that proclaims that I am KNOWN, I BELONG AND I AM LOVED by God who happens to be the King of Kings and whose opinion should frankly be the only one that matters

 

 

I am learning to listen to God’s voice first, about who I am no matter what state i find myself.  And I find that as I connect with my hero Jesus deeper and draw nearer to the Father, and befriend the Holy Spirit who is a great companion, i experience love that uplifts, calm, enlighten and motivates me to keep going. God reminds me of His truth which is that  I am accepted, honoured and celebrated for who He has made me to be. Often at times this also mean giving it away because once you’ve experienced His love you want to everyone else too.

 

So that is that, now go on try it for yourself!

Blessing

Blessing Enejo is part of the Hope Church Luton family.
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The Benefits & Costs Of Trying To Be Truly Generous

 

Hope Church Centre

A ‘Hotspot’ on the Hope Church Centre

In the few years since the Hope Church Centre opened it has become as much a local community centre as a church building.  In addition to the usual church meetings about 20 groups use the centre throughout the week – many of them secular organisations – from dementia and mental health support groups to language schools and board gaming clubs, run by a wide range of people from groups of volunteers, to national charities, local churches or national organisations. Nearly 200 local people per week from outside the church access the services these groups provide.  Most of these groups pay us to hire the building, which is handy, but there is a bigger picture that I want to share with you.

 

Three things have struck me from welcoming in groups from outside the church into our church building:

1

We would never have been able to play our part in serving the local community to the degree we do, if we hadn’t been willing to let the various local secular organisations use our building.  One relatively small church of over a hundred people would, on its own find it hard to find enough skilled people, such as those experienced in mental health issues, let alone provide enough volunteers to run all the different groups, and it would be next to impossible to connect with people in the local Asian community.

 

2

How many people have commented on the atmosphere in the centre, observed that there is a sense of peace in the place, a kind of presence, or that they feel treated differently by the people they meet in the centre from what they were expecting.

 

3

Some are beginning to move from the community of people outside the church who use the building during the week, to the ‘crowd’ that turns up on a Sunday morning or church event – seemingly on their own initiative, joining in enthusiastically with events, and helping to serve.

 

Three things I have learnt from this are:

1

Have a positive attitude to sharing your resources, be it your church building, your pastors, or your church equipment, let alone your own time. This is easier to say than do,  as being truly generous tends to involve sharing something in a way that costs – we have had to decide to take risks to trust relative strangers from outside the church with our building and the keys, trust them that they will use the photocopier wisely, and be content to accept that things will go wrong! When people ask if they can use things like the photocopier I tend to answer, ‘Why are you asking? – this is your home!’  We have chosen to put the cultural and religious preferences of others before our own in accepting some groups that sit men and women separately or by welcoming a board gaming club that play games counter to some traditional church cultures. Church members have had to sacrifice their preferences for room bookings and storage so we can accommodate the needs of other building users.

 

2

To expect non-Christians using the building to feel the presence of God outside of church meetings, and be ready to act on it rather than surprised when it happens, to be ready to answer questions about God from people of other faiths,  to offer to pray with those who are sick, to explain that the presence they are feeling is the presence of God – rather than follow my default politically correct mindset which insists all such talk is taboo – even when it’s the other person doing the asking!

 

3

To give people time, to be willing to make friends with people who visit the building.

I started to make time to stop and listen to people in the groups that use the building – some of them have become my friends.  Unexpectedly, talking to my new friends in the so called ‘mental health’ groups has done me the most good and been the most enjoyable. Even more surprisingly some of them even seem to like me!

 

Three Things You Could Do:

1

Examine your heart. Is there anything in your church or home life that you are holding onto too tightly? What could you share more generously and sacrificially with people outside of your church or family?

 

2

When someone asks you why the atmosphere in your church or with your friends is so different – tell them!

 

3

Give someone outside of your church or family 5 minutes of your time today.

 

 

yours

Dean

 

Dean is Office Manager at Hope Church Luton, married with two children.
Dean Fryer-Saxby is Office Manager at Hope Church Luton, married with two children.

 

 

 

 

Preparing For The Coming Of The Lord – part 2

Luke 1 v10-14

Last week I looked at the importance of preparation for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. This week I want to ask the question that the crowds asked, how do we prepare?

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

We prepare for his arrival by doing the things that God cares for.

God cares for the poor, if we are to really prepare, so should we. We seek to be generous as a church, to care for the poor. This is shown in who we let use the building and in activities we run ourselves. We support house building in Sierra Leone, church building in Spain, refugee support in Luton.

We can do these things as a church but what about you as an individual? What is your heart? Resentment or compassion for the poor? On the whole there is a lack of compassion in society, does this influence you at all? Prepare for his arrival, share his care for the poor.

Tax collectors overcharged, that is how they got wealthy. They were told not to collect more than you should, God is king of integrity. How are you at work? Are you honest, or are you crossing a line? Deceitful? If you are, fix it. Don’t compartmentalise your life. Do you need to take a stand, get on God’s page? Feel clean, be prepared for coming of Christ.

Soldiers were bullies, they were told not to extort money from people. The King is King of love – stop unloving things in your life. Especially how you treat people.

Some very practical suggestions of my own to help you prepare:

  1. Identify a devotional book and read a section a day. We need new thoughts about God. Find something fresh.
  2. Fill your car or office with Christmas worship music.
  3. Think of someone always overlooked – e.g. work environment – bless them in an anonymous way. Give a gift, in the name of Jesus

Tony

 

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.

Preparing For The Coming Of The Lord – part 1

Luke 3 v4-9

There is a long tradition in the church of preparing for the coming of Christ at Christmas, it is called advent which literally means coming or arrival. With so many pressures on us today I have become convinced of the need for us to properly prepare for Christmas, otherwise we will get caught up in the busyness of it and miss what is so special about it.

John the Baptist was given the tough assignment of announcing the coming of the Messiah. Who is going to believe him? People had been waiting for hundreds of years for the Messiah, why would they believe John?  Like those who predict the end of the world today, we know it will happen sometime but do we believe people when they confidently tell us it is about to happen?

John accepts the assignment and uses a well-known passage from Isaiah to explain it.

. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

That prediction is going to come true soon. Isaiah / John use a road building metaphor, when a King is due to arrive in a village the villagers will fix the road, make everything special for when the King arrives. John is saying the one coming is worthy of cosmic road repair. We need to make the road perfect, valleys need to be filled in, mountains levelled out.

John is saying we need to prepare for the arrival of Christ.

If Messiah was going to come to your house in 3 weeks would you make any preparations? Clean anything, mend anything?

Advent, the king is coming, it is not about fixing up our houses, it is about fixing up our hearts. Repair, clean, mend, sweep. Deal with the things we know need to be dealt with but we are not getting round to. Prepare for coming of the king.

Dealing With Excuses

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

John is not worried about being popular, he is worried that people are playing games.

Game 1. I am a card carrying member of God’s people – Abraham is my Father, I don’t need to do anything, I don’t need to prepare. The equivalent for us would be I come from a Christian country or a Christian family, I am a member of a church, I attend a church. That doesn’t excuse you from preparing says John.

Game 2. Go through motions of preparing – dress up, pretend, put on good show – look good on the outside, but rotten inside. John says no, produce fruit in keeping of repentance, it has to be more than just talk. So easy to look good and hide, for a while.

God sees, knows what is happening. He knows if we are more worried about our Christmas parties than our relationship with him; knows if we are just focused on presenting a good front rather than being changed inside; knows if we are covering things up.

So easy to ignore God at Christmas. To avoid preparing for his coming.

 What should we do? How do we prepare?

A good question – the very question the crowds asked. I’ll explain that next week!

Tony

 

tonyt

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

From The Community To The Crowd

Current Priorities for Hope Church

– based on Tony’s sermon from 22nd November

 

Rick Warren in his book The Purpose Driven Church identifies the journey people go on towards greater commitment to Christ and His church.

The journey starts as part of a community, those who have links with the church but are not part of the worshipping community. This is a very large group for us and would include regular users of the building, people involved in our various community groups, those involved in our mission groups and those who are friends of members of the church.

The next stage on the journey is to be part of the crowd that shows up on Sundays for our worship services, our regular attenders. The crowd is made up of people at various stages of commitment and belief.

From being part of the crowd people journey towards being part of the congregation, the baptised members of the church. These people both believe and belong.

The next station on the journey is the committed, godly growing people who are serious about their faith but not currently serving in the church.

The final stage of the journey are the core, the dedicated minority of workers and leaders who are committed to ministering to others. These people are the heart of the church.

As leaders we believe our current priority is to help move people from the community to the crowd. To encourage in any and every way we can those who are part of the general community of Hope Church to join us on a Sunday morning as part of the worshipping crowd.

There are 2 elements of this strategy.

  • Ongoing opportunities where those who are part of the community can meet and spend time with the worshipping members of the church. Over Christmas we have a number of such opportunities, including the Christmas Party on Friday 18 December. There will be other regular opportunities in 2016. These events allow those already in contact with smaller groups or maybe just individuals to get to know a larger group of people. Do come along to these events yourself and invite your friends.
  • We are also wanting to make specific invitations for the community to joining us as part of the worshipping community, the crowd. Obviously there is a general invite to any of our Sundays, but we recognise the unique power of a specific invite. There are a number of opportunities for us to do this over Christmas, the Family Carol Service on Sunday 20 December, the Christmas Eve service, New Year’s Eve in His Presence. During 2016 we will also me focusing on “Special Sundays” where we will be making a special effort to invite and welcome guests to join us on a Sunday to worship God. The first such Sunday will be February 7.

 

This is our current priority. After Easter we will turn our attention to moving the crowd to congregation and then to the committed.

 

Tony

Click to buy Rick Warren’s ‘The Purpose Driven Church’ on Amazon from £3 

tonyt

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