Reflecting on Thy Kingdom Come

June 5, 2017

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So Thy Kingdom Come has finished (although please don’t forget to collect outstanding prayer boxes!). What have we learnt from these past ten days? Here are some initial reflections:

  • There is a great spiritual hunger out there. While some days we only had one or two conversations, each conversation was significant, and we have seen the power of prayer.
  • There is also a lot of spiritual confusion. The name “Thy Kingdom Come” led some to assume we were Jehovah’s Witnesses. We cannot assume people can recognise the genuine article any more, or understand what Christians believe.
  • Every church member has grown through stepping out in faith. Some of us were nervous or uncertain as to what was going to happen, but with every God-encounter, our faith has been strengthened and renewed.
  • We have also grown closer to one another and discovered each other’s gifts and ministries in a new way.
  • Our eyes have also been opened once again to the depth of need in the area on every level. We have been reminded once again that The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Luke 10:2).
  • The ten days, however, only permitted us to go and plant a few seeds. If TKC is to have a long-term benefit, we need to pray and plan for follow-up in the weeks and months ahead. There are particular areas in our parish we need to revisit, and it would be good to make prayer-walking a regular feature of our churches’ lives.
  • The prayer meeting on the Thursday evening became an awesome encounter with God, probably because we didn’t follow our original plan! How would it be if similar numbers could meet regularly, say, once a month, over a meal and then move into a time of worship? That was how the early church operates – it seems a good model to follow.
  • The practical clear up at St Barnabas provided fellowship with other Christians and again was a great time of working together. Thank you to everyone for all their hard work!

Altogether, there has been so much to give thanks for, and so much more to consider. I am convinced that TKC is meant to be only the start. Our verse for the year comes from Philippians 1:6: … being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. So what Lord is your work? And what is the next stage you have in store for us? Let’s carry on in prayer together seeking answer to those questions, not only for our sake but for the many in Devonport and in Stoke yet to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.


How do I prayer walk?

May 25, 2017

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There’s an episode in 2 Kings chapter 6 which has always struck me. Elijah and his servant are trapped in the city of Dothan. The Aramean armies have come to arrest the prophet and no doubt kill him. Understandably Elijah’s servant is alarmed by the prospect of so many soldiers about to pay a house visit. But what Elijah says next is truly remarkable:

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all round Elisha.
(2 Kings 6:16-17).

We are constantly surrounded by unseen spiritual forces, and indeed we are told in Ephesians 6 that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers of this dark world. Sometimes in the face of so much opposition it can seem all too hard to reach out with the good news and be confident of the Lord’s victory. But in Jesus we are already on the winning side, and through prayer walking we are aiming to see the people and the places we serve from the Lord’s perspective.

We may not see hills full of horses and chariots of fire (although wouldn’t it be great if we did?), but we will see a place with new eyes. Some detail about a house or a sticker or car will catch our eye and lead us to pray in a particular way. Or we may sense that the Holy Spirit is leading us to pray for a specific location in a certain way. Or we may find that the Lord leads us to an encounter with a person who just “happens” to be walking towards us as we are praying.

Prayer walking is about going out in twos and threes, in obedience to the Lord’s command (Luke 10:1), seeking His vision for our local area. It involves sometimes walking in silence, trying to listen to what he is saying. It should certainly involve moments when we reflect on Scriptures that the Lord brings to mind. It is not so much about the words we use as the attitude of our heart as we constantly ask the Lord, “What does it mean for your kingdom to come and your will be done right here at this time?”

If you have never tried prayer walking, join with me. Meet at St Michael from 9am tomorrow. And as we go out, let’s claim the promise that those who are with the Lord are more than those against us, as we pray in the powerful name of Jesus.

 


How do I pray for Thy Kingdom Come?

May 18, 2017

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As I said in my last post, we need folk who will cover every activity of Thy Kingdom Come in Prayer. So how do we do this? Here are some practical suggestions:

First of all, begin with thanks. Whatever happens, God reigns over Stoke and Devonport. The Psalmist tells us (Psalm 24:1) that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. That includes our streets, our homes, our shops, our local businesses. God is in control because every square inch of every place belongs to Him. It is just that many people have not recognised this fact.

Thank God also for the amazing privilege of prayer. Jesus tells us in John 14:14: You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. This God who reigns over all is not distant, not impersonal. He is longing and waiting to hear our prayers. How do we know this? Because Jesus died for us and so opened up for us once for all a new and living in the presence of God. Yet how often do we fail to thank God for the wonderful gift of prayer!

And also thank God for the gift of His Holy Spirit. Jesus goes on in John 14 to make this promise in verse 23: If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. The God of heaven and earth comes and dwells in the hearts of all who love Him and seek to do His will. So we are not left to work out how to serve Him in our own strength, or to do our best with our own resources. We have the Holy Spirit living within us to guide, comfort and sustain us hour by hour, minute by minute.

So as you reflect on who God is – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – it becomes natural, then, to turn thanks into prayer.

Pray that in all our events men and women, young and old, will come to realise that God is control and that Jesus is Lord. When the risen Lord Jesus appeared to Thomas in the Upper Room (John 20:26-28), Thomas could only cry out My Lord and my God. Ask that the Lord would be gracious and reveal Himself to many at this time.

Pray that as we ask people if there is anything they would like us to bring to the Lord, hearts would be opened to the wonder of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The blind man whom Jesus healed said “Lord, I believe” and he worshipped Him (John 9:38). Pray that people would understand and rejoice in the power of prayer offered in Jesus’ name.

Pray also for the Holy Spirit to guide, comfort and sustain all who are involved in each day’s activities. Use the timetable for TKC as a practical guide. Think about those who are engaged in conversations, or who are setting up, or who are running an activity. We do not know what situations we will encounter. We will face spiritual opposition. The enemy may try to discourage or disappoint us. Pray that each and every person will be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Eph 6:10).

And as you pray, use the Lord’s prayer to close as we all seek God’s kingdom come and His will to be done in Stoke and Devonport as it is in heaven. Amen!!

 

 


Why Thy Kingdom Come?

May 16, 2017

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I hope by now you will have seen the publicity on the main page about Thy Kingdom Come and if you are a church member, I also hope that you have signed up or are about to sign up for the events that are about to take place.

But why are we doing this event in the first place? Is it because the Archbishops have asked us to hold an event? Is it because we want to raise the profile of the church?

No, the simple answer is that we are surrounded by many, many people who need prayer. Living on our streets, going to our schools, working in our shops and in our care homes, there are folk with deep, deep spiritual needs. They may not be aware that prayer is what they need, but they are looking for some kind of guidance and help. However they will not necessarily come into our church buildings. We discovered last year that our most successful TKC events took place outside the church, and we must not expect that simply by opening the church we will draw people in (although by God’s grace some will come).

So behind all the events is one simple idea, based on the example of Jesus Himself. Jesus didn’t build a church and wait for folk to drop in. He went out and touched the lives of those He met. He also taught His disciples to follow Him, and as becomes clear in the gospels, following Jesus means doing the things Jesus Himself did.

That’s why during TKC we are going out in the name of Jesus. We may be rather nervous offering prayer to people we have never met, but if we are going out intent on obeying Jesus, then we can be sure that Jesus will have already prepared the encounter. We may be unsure of what to say, but Jesus is already at work by His Holy Spirit and will give us the words. I myself used to be very nervous about praying with new people in new situations, but only twice in eighteen years of ministry has anyone ever refused the opportunity to be prayed for.

And even if you yourself are not in position to come out and join us in prayer walking or at the prayer stations, there are still plenty of ways you can get involved. Can you spare some time at 9am or 3pm during the day to join us to pray at St Michael’s or St Barnabas? What about the coffee morning on Saturday 27th May or the evening prayer party on Thursday 1st June at St Michael’s, for example?

Even if you can’t get involved in any of these events, there is still a vital part you can play – because behind all the activities we need an army of folk who are simply praying for those who are going out, and covering every activity of this event in prayer. The most effective witness of the church, as I said on Sunday, is when everyone is united and has a shared vision. TKC isn’t about one small group at St Michael’s and St Barnabas doing mission on behalf of the church. It’s about the whole church of Christ declaring that Christ is Lord and sharing His love through compassionate, sensitive prayer, whether directly on the frontline or indirectly back at home.

So what part are you going to play in TKC?

There’s a story in the Bible, in Exodus 17: Joshua is down in the valley fighting the Amalekites. At this time Moses is leading God’s people, and you might have thought he was involved in the battle. But no, he is far away from the scene of the action. Why? Let’s read on to verses 10-13:

So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

For TKC to be truly effective, we need some engaged directly in the spiritual battle, and others who are providing unseen but vital prayer support. So please, make sure you know what is going on, and cover every event in prayer, whether or not you are going to be involved. Because the needs of those around us are great, and all of us are called to follow Jesus, to the glory of His name.

 

 

 

 

 


Small group update

January 21, 2017

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Here is a quick update on our small groups:

Our Monday evening group called Grow the Word for the young at heart and young in faith may be small but they are having a great time! We are looking at the stories from 1 Samuel and seeing how these stories connect with real life today. Looking at issues such as prayer, friendship and jealousy, we are learning so much about our faith and how it impacts on our everyday life.

Our Wednesday evening group called Live the Word group takes the theme of the Sunday sermon and asks the question, “OK, we’ve heard the words – now what?” Taking seriously Jesus’ call to make Him Lord over every part of our life this group is seeking direct, practical application of Scriptural truths to the issues that confront us daily.

Our Thursday afternoon group known as a GIFT Group (Growing in Faith Together) is at the moment tackling that most important of subjects – prayer. The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” and this group is seeking to learn the lessons Jesus taught them.

Our Thursday evening group called Know the Word recently finished Luke’s gospel after two years! We learnt so much along the way, we have decided to plunge into the sequel, otherwise known as the Acts of the Apostles. We have grown so much by studying the word of God and we have seen so many answers to prayer. It is thrilling to see confirmation of the Scriptural truth that the word of God is alive and active.

Once a month (except this February) the groups get together for the Big Picture. The aim is to look not so much at a small chunk of Scripture but get an overview of the whole story of the Bible and see our part in it. We’ve looked so far at creation, at human sexuality and at sin. Plus we’re trying to learn the books of the Bible in order – who knew clothes pegs could be so useful?

Whether you are used to a small group or not, there must be something here for you. To find out more, just ask, and don’t be afraid to show up! Our small groups are there for you, to help you discover more about the life Jesus offers you, and to provide the support we all need week by week.

And if you don’t feel you are ready for a small group yet we also offer Christianity Explored for those who just beginning to look at the Christian faith.

Why not join us?

 


Remember, remember 5th November!

October 15, 2016

I don’t usually come away from Diocesan Synod feeling particularly inspired, although we nearly always do some form of useful and important business. But today was rather different. We had the testimony of three very different church projects around the diocese, each in their own way telling a tale of growth and community outreach.

The vicar of Salcombe talked about how his mission community had recently launched a new monastic community for the 21st century, using a redundant vicarage as its base, with three young people working and praying in the local area.

From deep in rural North Devon came news of Saturday church, a specific  outreach to children in a church which 9 years ago had no children. The lady who shared the story pulled no punches about some of the struggles along the way, including opposition from those within the church who resisted the changes. But now there is a viable and established work in the village hall, which is also drawing in the elderly and the adults.

Then the vicar of St Mary’s Magdalene, right in the heart of Torquay, talked about the Living Rooms project started in 2011 to offer hospitality to the many in the town who are living on the edges of society, suffering from addiction, homelessness etc. Through this work 31 people have been baptised and the church has more than doubled in size.

All the speakers stressed the importance of prayer, and made it clear that their work was not necessarily a model for others to follow.

But as they spoke, I could not help being reminded of something that’s been on my heart for some time. What is God’s vision for our work here at St Michael’s and St Barnabas?

That’s why over the coming few weeks I am going to encourage every church member to come to our Church Away Day at Marjons on Saturday 5th November where Barry Dugmore, the Diocesan Mission Enabler, will be helping us to see the big picture of what God wants to do in and through us as a church.

Please be there – and let’s be eager and ready to do serious business with the Lord as we listen to what He says.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
(1 Peter 2:9)


Discerning the way ahead

May 21, 2016

It would good to think that as Christians we would always know what to do, that prayer would simply be like tapping into a hotline to God and receiving an instant answer. But that’s not how our relationship with the Lord works. I’ve kept coming back over the past few weeks to Jesus’ parable about the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. Jesus is teaching His disciples here that sometimes God does not instantly answer our prayers because He wants to test and refine our faith. Are we really seeking after the Father heart of God or are we looking for an easy solution?

Later on in the year we will be starting a sermon series looking at lessons we can learn about prayer in the Psalms. So many of the Psalms wrestle precisely with the question of what happens when it seems God has not heard our prayers, even when we have put our faith on the line. For example, in Psalm 24:2: O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer. I guess most of us can identify with that cry. We have been praying patiently, faithfully, but what has been the result?

Yet even though we may struggle with the whole issue of prayer, one thing should strengthen and comfort us. And that is the astonishing fact that we can know the will of God. I’ve heard a few people say to me recently that we cannot know with certainty what God wants, but that’s not what Scripture tells us. For example, Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect. Or again in 1 Corinthians 2:16: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

So, yes, sometimes we can find it difficult to see the way ahead, and we may not see instant answers to our prayers. Yet we are promised that when we offer ourselves fully to our Lord, He will reveal His will according to His timing and His purposes. We need simply to be listening out for that answer, and ready to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit – together.

Last Wednesday we had a meeting about the future of the building at St Barnabas. Many of us have been praying faithfully for the work of that church over the past 14 years, and we may wonder why we are in our present position. But the Lord has not abandoned us, and we do not know what has been the fruit of our prayers. What we do know, however, is that the Lord has a specific way forward for that building and will show us what we should do with it.

But maybe, just maybe, the Lord is asking us at this time how much we are intent on seeking after His heart together. Faced with a complex issue with many factors to consider, will we be found praying as one for the Lord to reveal His will? Perhaps there is something to learn from the fact this meeting took place just after the week of prayer when so many of us spent so much time praying together. Isn’t it just possible the Lord is asking us to carry on meeting so that we learn of His ways and ultimately make a decision which honours him?

That’s why I would ask all of us to put Saturday 11th June in our diaries. Because this is a time when together we will be meeting on St Barnabas Day in St Barnabas church to seek the Lord’s will and to listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. So please make every effort to be there, whether you consider yourself a member of St Barnabas or St Michael’s, in order that we too can discern the mind of Christ.