A Culture of Honour

Thursday 16 July

Priscilla Reid from CFC in Belfast gave an interactive seminar exploring "A Culture of Honour" at New Wine Ireland's summer conference - Sligo15.  Here VOX Editor Ruth Garvey-Williams brings you a summary.

It is interesting that outside of Christian circles "honour" has very different connotations.  In other societies a culture of honour is about defending your honour, usually with violence and usually because of perceived wrong. I have enjoyed looking at the subject in the Christian context.  

We mustn’t underestimate the importance of culture in our churches.  Visitors are looking around to see: what sort of people are they and could I fit in here?  If we have never thought about it, it is good to start thinking about it.  It is good to be intentional.  What kind of atmosphere do we want to create?  We all have blind spots when it comes to the culture of our churches. 

WE create the culture within our own church.  If there is a lack in our churches, we need to take responsibility for it.  We can’t point the figure at other people!

It is interesting how Jesus talked about being limited in His home town because the culture of unbelief.  The culture we create can facilitate the Holy Spirit… or not!  It is exciting that we get to play a part in facilitating what the Holy Spirit is doing in our church family. 

We need to be counter-cultural in terms of our attitudes between genders, races, across-generations… we need to be those who say, “This is what the family of God looks like.”  In our culture, there is often a culture of suspicion and dishonour.

What things come to mind when you think of your church culture?

We need to be able to honour the younger generation.  We can’t always be saying, “That will never work.”  We need to allow the younger generation to try new things and to allow them to make their own mistakes.

There is a danger of self-sufficiency within your own denomination.  Not being willing to bless other churches.  And yet ou can go into a very small church and learn profound lessons. 

Churches believe they are welcoming to it is easy to only express welcome to those who are already members (the "in crowd").  A pastor in the States invited five people from the community to come in and tell him honestly what they thought of his church.  Sometimes we have a perception and we need to be honest with ourselves and maybe ask an unbiased opinion.

I was praying for years for our daughter to come back to church and when she went to church, no one spoke to her!  When you experience it, you understand how important it is.

What is a culture of honour?

The Bible has a lot to say about honour.  The first person we are told to honour is God.  If we truly have a sense of honouring God in our lives and in our corporate lives together, the rest of the honouring should flow naturally from that.  We honour others because we first honour Him.  (Love God, Love your Neighbour). 

The Bible talks about honouring our parents, about honouring marriage, about honouring  the government and about honouring the more “humble” parts of the body of Christ.  We should not be giving more honour to the more visible members of the body.   Sadly, so many people question their sense of worth and value because they can’t do certain things.  We need to be counter cultural - ensuring that every single person in the church is honoured and valued.

The Bible talks about honouring elders and widows and about honour in relationships before people get married - putting it bluntly, that means not having sex!

1 Samuel 2:30 "Those who honour me, I will honour.

The Lord also says that He will give the poor and needy a throne of honour.  Honouring in our churches has got to go beyond our borders.  We need to learn to honour those who God honours.  One of the ways we do that is to be servants of the poor.

Romans 12:10 "Honour one another above yourselves."  Out do one another in showing honour. 

To honour is to show great respect, to recognise, give credit to, pay tribute to, show appreciation of, sing the praises of and so on... when I read that list, I think this is hugely counter-cultural in Ireland.  Both north and south, we find it really difficult. We are embarrassed to sing someone’s praises. 

We don’t do it easily and we don’t do it well.  We given Americans a hard time but  they do this well.  We can think it is cheesy but I’ve heard American pastors expressing affection and love for people who are serving.  It challenged us and taught us that there is something about expressing honour that is important. Too often we are thinking, “Don’t give them a big head.”

Most occurances of the word honour in the Old Testament is Kabod meaning heavy or weighty (to give weight to someone).   One word that reflects what we are talking about is “value”.  A culture of honour is when we value one another.  

God honoured humanity at the cross.  He valued us enough that He would give His Son to die for us. That was honour where it was not due.  We can think we should only honour someone who “earns” it.  We need to value people and honour them even when they don’t deserve it.  When we get how much we matter to God, we start to look at other people with different eyes.  Even in our day with everything that is happening in our world, it can be more heartbreaking to see the reaction of Christians!  Even the worst of humanity that we see in the world, God is saying, “I died for that person.” 

We need to create a culture within our churches in which every single person is treated with value and respect.  Too often, we all indulge in wading in and cutting the feet from under someone. 

What does a culture of honour look like? 

If we honour one another and value each person, what does it look like in our churches?

A culture of prayer - we play lip service to it but we don’t always do it.  The way you can show value to people is to pray for them.  We value our community by setting aside time to pray for them.  That is the joy of praying for people who are not Christians - they are so overwhelmed that someone cares enough to pray for them.

A culture of thanksgiving

A culture of honour between leadership and congregation and vice versa (a two-way street).  We need to speak well of and believe the best of those who lead us but it is also great when leaders honour those in their congregation. 

NB: We dishonour people by not accepting honour - being able to say, “Thank you.”  We are so good at saying, “it was nothing.” When someone gives you a compliment in Ireland we say, “Oh this old thing… I picked it up in a charity shop!”

We need to learn to fail well - when I screw up, I need to apologise.  We expect other people to acknowledge wrong but we often try to pretend it doesn’t happen. There is something powerful about being willing to humble ourselves and say, "Sorry."

No favouritism.  Giving as warm a welcome to a homeless or smelly person as to a friend.  Not overwhelming people but embracing everybody with the same kind of warmth and respect and value.

Be careful about the assumptions you make.  I don’t want to become politically correct but when we think about our communication and valuing all people.

Showing kindness, gentleness and respect

Choosing to listen.  It should be natural to us but it is not.  If you are not prepared to have the conversation, don’t ask.  Be real and authentic. 

Acts of service - don’t just pray for something, do it.  We can be even more creative.

Protecting people from themselves.  Really valuing everything people contribute to the life of the church.  If we honour what peole are doing and show that we value it.  Saying “thank you”.  Making sure people are not taken for granted. If I’m cleaning the toilets and you are preaching the sermon, we are both serving the Kingdom of God. 

Preferring people - putting their ideas first.  Having a generosity of heart. We have all got our own passions.  A culture of honour understanding that your passion is equally valid to mine.  Even coming down to practical things like budget.  Would I be willing to pull back a bit on my passion to allow the money to go towards someone else’s passion?

Leadership succession:  When you are getting older, to pass on leadership. Many young people are lost because there is no succession.  There must be honour across the generations.  We need to train, mentor and then release the younger generation.  Also honouring the older generations, especially when they feel they can’t do as much.  It is important for the younger generation honours the older generation, what they have invested and how they served - recognising that we are living in the good of that! You might hand on a baton of responsibility but you get a new one.  Whatever age you are, you are still running the race!

Learning how to deal with conflict and confrontation - how to disagree agreeably.  Forgiveness is an important part of honouring

Encouragement is vital.

Looking back at Sligo'14

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VOX Magazine’s editor Ruth Garvey-Williams had the privilege to attend New Wine Ireland’s Sligo Summer Conference from 6 - 11 July 2014 to take notes of the morning Bible teaching, evening celebrations and some key seminars.  Click on the title of the session to read a summary of that session.

Morning Bible Teaching with David Parker

Enlarge the place of your tent

Evening Celebration on Friday 11 July based on Isaiah 54 with David McClay one of the leaders of New Wine Ireland.

Passing the baton

Seminar looking at how the church needs to respond to the “missing generation” of 18 - 30s with Steve Morris.

Love the Lord your God & serve only Him!

Evening Celebration on Thursday 10 July with Steve Morris exploring the idols that keep us from serving God wholeheartedly.

Violence and Poverty

Ruth Cooke and Mary Good share the work of International Justice Mission to tackle issues of violence, poverty and injustice around the world.

Holding on to hope

Evening Celebration on Wednesday 9 July. Notes from Alain Emerson’s powerful and moving story of hope in the midst of overwhelming pain.

Setting captives free

Seminar with Ken Clarke exploring how we can influence our communities and our nations for God.

No regrets!

Evening Celebration on Monday 7 July with Mark Bailey exploring how we can live without regret and seize every opportunity…praying “sun-stand-still” prayers!

Living Generously

Seminar with Steve Morris challenging new attitudes to giving.

What is God saying to us?

Evening Celebration on Sunday 6 July starting the week with a look at what God is saying to our island with Beth Tays, Craig Cooney and Hilary McClay.

Enlarge the place of your tent

David McClay spoke at the final evening celebration of the New Wine Ireland Sligo Summer Conference 2014.  Here is a summary of his message:

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Isaiah 54: 2 - 3 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.  For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities."

This is the first evening of something new. The role of the church is to birth new Christians and new ministries.  This evening should be all about beginning.

On St Patrick’s Day morning, I was looking forward to celebrating communion.  At the beginning of the service, a lady  read from Isaiah 54. and God began to speak to me . 

At first I thought it was a personal word for my life f.  But as the weeks gone by,  I’ve concluded that this is a word for our whole island - north, south, east and west.

In all my years, I don’t remember a season when I’ve heard so many stories of people coming to faith in Christ. 

“The children of the desolate one will be more than the children of the one who is married.”

Let’s stop putting Ireland down.  Let’s stop thinking that significant things for the kingdom cannot happen here.  Let’s have hearts that are searching and seeking for a move of God’s spirit.  We want to see new people coming into the kingdom and new churches being birthed.

When children are born into a home, things change forever.  We talk in romantic terms about our nation and our communities being changed.  That will happen as new believers come into the kingdom of God and these new disciples will give their lives for God.  We need to be seeking after that day.

If we want to see our nation change, we need to see babies being born, to see people becoming followers of Jesus who will give their lives for the transformation of this nation, so that generation after generation will be won for Christ.

We need to position ourselves and our churches for babies to be born.  If you want to sell more beer, then open more pubs! Where are the unreached places in your community and your city? 

Let's be bold, courageous and faith-filled.  Let's position ourselves for growth and begin to believe for the bigger things.  In every corner of Ireland, Let's work towards transformation.

We need to do away with boundaries and borders.  There is no shortage of God’s love and His ability to reach Ireland.  He is not lacking in any way.  

Young and old, unionist and nationalist, north and south. Let us tear down the restrictions we have put on ourselves. We need to tear down the walls.  We are often limited by prejudice and fear.  Wrongs do not go unpunished but Christ took the punishment on the cross. He has already born the sins of the nation of Ireland.  He has already born my sin and yours.

Let's be confident in the cross and its power. We need to realize that Christ on the cross dealt with and redeemed our history. He gave his life for Ireland.  Christ died on the cross to bear the shame and sin that separates every person in Ireland from God.  He will save anyone in Ireland who calls on His name.  God gave His son to die a cruel death on the cross, the Righteous One for the unrighteous to bring us to God.  If we want to see babies birthed, we need to tell the story of the cross, and the empty tomb and the risen Christ.

Our God is reaching towards us.  He makes broken lives whole.  He sets people free from addiction.  He heals marriages. He saves lives and He transforms whole communities. That is who He is and that is what He does.

We need to enlarge our understanding of who God is.

Let's rediscover our confidence in the presence and power of God.  We can step into all sorts of situations and change the atmosphere because the spirit of God lives in us.

We need to see sectarianism dealt with as we cross boundaries and walls and fences.  We need to see abuse and fear and threat replaced with the presence of God and the power of the Gospel.

Let’s do the stuff of the kingdom.  We go with the message of the cross on our lips and in the strength and power of Spirit.  But we don’t have to think about reaching a nation before we reach our neighbour.

To do list:

  • Decide who you are going to reach
  • Decide who you are going to pray for every week to come to Christ and start to pray 
  • Don’t let a week pass without praying for someone for blessing or healing.
  • Decide that you will speak the name of Jesus every day and share God’s love every day!

Billy Graham wants to end his life telling people about Jesus.  Do it and you will see heaven open.  Enlarge the place of our tent. Lay hands on the sick.  Look for opportunities to lead people to Christ. 

Passing the baton

At New Wine Ireland's Sligo Summer Conference, Steve Morris tackled the issue of a missing generation within our churches.  How do we reengage with the 18- 30s who are walking away?  Why have we failed to keep them in our churches?

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I’ve been a youth worker for 10 years and I’m now at the stage where people who I was working with at 12 are now in their 20s.  This comes from the pain of seeing people falling away.  There is an aching in my heart over those who are dropping out.  

The missing generation

Those in their 18 -30s are the lowest in attendance in church. We've had great investment in youth workers, conferences, etc. and yet we are still struggling to engage young adults to stay in church.  We have a huge gap in our churches! 

People in the UK and Ireland often still identify with Christianity or a particular denomination.  But more and more people are saying they have no religious affiliation.

In the past we had the big rallies of Billy Graham. It worked because people knew the backstory of the Bible.  They understood the church and it was a call back to Christ, to accept and walk in what they already knew.People re-engaged with CHRIST and then they reengaged with the church and found their calling within the church.  

We then had a move around Willow Creek towards Seeker Services.  People had become disillusioned.  They still had a good body of biblical understanding but they were unhappy with church.  It was wholly appropriate mission for the time.  The first point of re-engagement was with COMMUNITY.  You can belong before you believe.

There has been another shift in recent years.  People have no idea of the biblical story. Their actual understanding of the big picture is very limited.  If you begin with Christ, it does not make much sense because they don’t have the same foundation.  People may pray a prayer but they do not understand or know what they have said yes to… 

 People in the current generation connect with a CAUSE and through that they connect with CHRIST.

Talk to them about injustice, homelessness, trafficking… young people care about these things.  They are passionate about that.  The gospel has this great cause… therein lies our strength when we reach that generation.  We are going to have to be prepared to take people along to serve and to address the cause before they have even met Christ. 

Being brave and bold in mission

Brick Lane is one of the most culturally diverse streets in London.  On a Sunday, 20,000 visitors come to Brick Lane.  A friend noticed that all other faiths were out witnessing to the crowds but all the Christians were in church!  The friend chose to start a coffee shop, to run a business and establish a church on Brick Lane.

They had a dream to be the best coffee house in London.  The church does a big bring-and-share meal on a Sunday.  On a Wednesday night they have a worship service.  The business is making money and making a profit.  Now, they have employed a worker to work in a prison using the profits from the shop.   Every Friday night, the coffee shop manager does ministry among prostitutes along Brick Lane.  They are in the process of buying a house to help woman who are being freed from trafficking to have a safe place to live.  

People connect with the cause.  They connect with the community and then we can introduce them to Christ.  We are not avoiding the Gospel.  

When you love God, you will love people.  Don’t be scared of working with people who believe different things.  You are going to need to take some risks and partner with people who are not yet Christians as you engage with a cause.

Many of the people who have re-engaged were disillusioned and disappointed with church.   People don't believe that our religious leaders and our institutions can be trusted anymore. There has been a lack of integrity.  Young people respond when we are willing to apologise for the ways in which the church has got it wrong and put things right.

Don't preach your denomination - preach Christ!

Young people don’t want to opt for a denomination… they may call themselves a “follower of Jesus” rather than an anglican, a baptist, a presbyterian, etc…  We cannot speak down to them.   We can’t demand that they affiliate with denominational structures when they have seen the hypocrisy and the lack of integrity within those structures.  They want to cross the divides.  There is a natural suspicion and cynicism against your church.  They are not starting from zero, they are starting from minus 10. 

Release people early

Encourage younger people to take the lead - give them your full support to fulfill their dreams for your community or for their cause!  Hand over the baton and allow someone to run with it.  Allow them to make mistakes.  Don’t grab the credit for their story.  Have the courage to sit in the background and propel them on.  There is a disappointment and a disillusionment. 

There is a cry for authentic community

Jesus only had three years to do his ministry but he still found time for picnics and parties,  Sometimes in church we need to rediscover the ability to smile and have fun.  Why not cancel your service and have a bbq?  If you would love that, why not do it?

I’m serious about the things of God but at the heart of it is authentic community.  Eating together.  Celebrating together.  Having fun together.  Crying together.  Worshipping together.  Talking until late in the night. Playing music.  We need to get away from church being an event we attend and back to a community we belong to.

Most people are disappointed with church because of hypocrisy.  We are never going to be perfect but we cannot allow our reaction to the things we don’t like about our church make us cynical about the church.  I love the church.

Wrestle with tough questions

We have to do the hard work intellectually with our young people.  From 11 years old, children are wrestling with issues like evolution and science, sex and sexuality, etc. at school. Yet in Sunday school, we treat them like five years olds!

Don’t be afraid to tell children and young people the various options and opinions on controversial issues including those with which you disagree.  Allow them to wrestle with these things and come to their own conclusions.  Don’t dictate.  For a strong faith that will survive we need to wrestle with the tough questions. 

Understand the backstory. 

People have grown up during recession. Young people are scared to make decisions and long-term commitments because of the uncertainty over jobs and education, There is rampant materialism, a technological revolution and an over sexualisation.  Pornography is widespread and easily accessible, even for children.

We need to have an intentional investment in this generation. 

Being serious about young people will impact the budget.  You’ve got to back it with your prayer, your pounds and your passion.

Only fight for essentials.

Don’t be afraid to let old traditions die.  On the essentials of the gospel hold firm but on everything else… let it go.  Everything else should be up for change. The pews, the colour scheme, the style of service.  Allow the younger generation to make their own traditions.

There is so much in the Gospel for this generation. 

  • For those who have a distrust of leaders… introduce them to Jesus who is full of integrity.
  • For those who think religion is miserable…  introduce them to Jesus who held a bbq on a beach for his friends.

Leaders of key ministry need to be committed to Christ, committed to church and committed to community. Older leaders should be willing to stand up in leadership meetings and take the flak for younger leaders.. If they have made a mistake, support them and help them through.

The church can offer a model of inter-generational ministry. It is key to have an inter-generational leadership team before you can see a fully inter-generational ministry.  There will always be time when people want to be with their own generation but there needs to be a movement from both sides.

 

 

 

Love the Lord your God & serve only Him!

Tonight at the New Wine Ireland Summer Conference in Sligo, Steve Morris encouraged people to serve God whole-heartedly and lay down any idols that stand in the way of that.  Here's a summary of his message brought to you by VOX magazine.

I’m going to talk about the story of God’s people and then I’m going to talk about my story and then about your story!

I came across a prayer and I pray it every Monday morning.  The prayer captured me:  It was a note found written in the office of a pastor in Zimbabwe.  He wrote this prayer the day before he knew he was likely to be martyred.  He pinned it to the wall of his office.  Read it here.

Constantly in the story of God, the people got caught up with idols.  The second commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before me…”

Why would we have the arrogance to think that we would not get caught up in idol worship when down through the ages, God’s people have worshipped idols.

The root of all sin is the belief that God is not good so we rely on other things.  The essence of sin is disordered love.  Our hearts only have room for one devotion, we can only cleave to one Lord.We are told time and time again to flee from idolatry. 

We were made to worship and if we do not worship God, we will find something else to worship.

Solomon had everything… money, sex and power.  He had them all in abundance but the result was that his heart turned away from God.  If you don’t believe me, believe the richest man in history… going after money is like “chasing the wind” - it is all meaningless. 

Look at the people who have money, sex and power and ask how happy they actually are.  Those who seemingly have everything are miserable. 

What is turning your heart away from God?  What runs the risk of appearing better than God?  What pulls you away? 

My idol became a three-bedroomed house - it wasn't bad in itself.  But there is only one “o” between good and god.  Some things are good but too easily they can become “god”. 

In South Africa, I was confronted by a young 14 year old girl who had been sold my her auntie into sex slavery.  She had been sold to man after man for two years.  I heard her story and I can see her face.  She sat in a meeting and said, “I never knew the love of God until you told me about Jesus Christ.” 

I told my wife, “We need to something about these children.  It is not okay that kids are been taken into slavery.  It is not okay that they don’t get a good education.  It is not okay that they don’t have clean water.”

I heard that £40,000 would pay for a new secondary school for the township.  And I said, “somebody” needs to do something about this. I thought God would cause some "rich" person to give the money.  Then as I was walking home one day God asked, “Is your bank account in?” I had to tell my wife, I had committed all our savings to this project.  We drew a line under the balance and said, “That money is committed to the poor.”

Later I had to preach (unexpectedly) at New Wine in the UK and people started putting money on the stage.  Come lunchtime there was £30,400.  That day a businessman committed £5,000. 

I phoned South Africa to tell them and they cried their eyes out.  Someone had prophesied the day before that all the money would be raised!  They realised we were nearly there!

The way to defeat the idol of money is to be generous.

Don't play around with numbers and percentages.  Say to God 100% of this is yours and ask Him to tell you what to spend. We don’t get legalistic about it but we give with joy.  Give your money away and you’ll be glad.

We’re moving to South Africa to live by faith and work in the townships because we are believing in God to transform that place.  We must not give in to bowing down to idols.  As to me and my wife, we will serve the Lord.  

He deserves our worship, our adoration and praise, 100%.  He deserves everything you’ve got our bank account.  Can we not give ourselves to Jesus and see Him transform this nation?  Why should we just see worship here?  Is God not big enough to do that in every town and city of Ireland?  Of course He can transform this nation but what it will take is for us to be wholly and completely focused on Him.

I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed!  The best way to defeat these idols is to worship Jesus and put Him back on the throne!

Violence and Poverty

With Ruth Cooke and Mary Good from International Justice Mission (UK & Ireland)

Injustice is the norm in a lot of places around the world.  The UN estimated that 4 billion people in the world are outside the protection of a justice system.  We take justice for granted.  It is only when something goes wrong that we think about the system of justice in our nations.

A study called “Voices of the Poor” asked people, “What is it that you are most concerned about?”  The majority answer was personal safety and security. 

People are not protected because of corruption.  In Cambodia, minors are being used for exploitation in brothels.  We would take the evidence to the local police and arrange for a rescue operation but when we turned up there would be nobody there because someone had tipped off the brothel owners. 

One of the biggest issues is the lack of resources - there is such a backlog of cases.

The over arching problem is violence.  We need to tackle violence to make communities safer.

If you provide a water well in a village in Africa but what if girls are getting raped on the way to the well?  We need to tackle that as well. If you set up a school somewhere but studies show that going to school is a dangerous thing for girls in the developing world either there or on the way there.

What does this look like for individuals?

Business owners in India running a rice mill: They had 20 people who worked for them but those people were exploited as slaves.  In India, it is estimated that there are 14 million slaves in bonded labour. 

People like these business owners, lend people money for urgent needs.  When the person cannot pay it back, they offer work as a way to repay the debt.  It seems a win/ win but it actual fact it is a trap because the people cannot pay back the debt.

That is an illegal practice but it is common that business owners create the threat of violence so their workers will not run away.  They operate with scare tactics to stop people speaking out.  So often, there is another layer of violence and fear that goes along with bonded labour.

Ruth, in Zambia, is 47 with seven children.  Her husband died eight years ago.  Rather than being allowed to grieve, his parents came along and made her leave the house that her husband left her claiming that it belonged to them. 

Most of the work in Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines deals with child trafficking.  In Africa, it mainly deals with land grabbing and in India with bonded labour.

We looked at child trafficking in the Philippines. Child sexual exploitation is huge.  It used to be so easy to get a child to exploit sexually.  Because of the work of IJM, traffickers know that they will be caught.

We met a girl.  Her family was poor and so she went to the city to try and send money back to her family.  She was working long hours for little pay.  She heard of a good job in a massage parlour.  Naïve girl who did not realise what she was getting into.  Soon she was trapped in a brothel and she was held in the grip of fear.  The threat of violence was so strong. IJM rescued her, put her into after care… they work with partner agencies to provide after care for as long as it is needed.  It took a long time for her to get over what had happened but now she is a mentor for other girls who are rescued.  She now works in a hotel as a receptionist and she is safe.  She can always have access to her IJM social workers to give her support and care.

In Delhi, rescuers, investigators and advocates are seeking to implement the law against bonded labour.  The Indian government was denying the presence of slaves (14 million).  One of the main jobs is the advocate with the government to simplify the laws and to establish community advocates who are addressing local situations of slavery. 

Two of the investigators go in undercover to gather evidence, work with the police and then bring out people.  They are young men who put their lives in danger.  Violence not only affects the victims but also the investigators and rescuers. 

They were investigating a rice mill.  It had been raided several times but each time they bribed the police.  They were convinced that they would be caught.  You are more likely to be struck by lightning in India than to be convicted of owning slaves.  The investigators were beaten up but eventually the owner of the rice mill was convicted. In the last year alone, IJM have rescued hundreds of slaves.

Injustice is when power is abused to take from someone the good things God intends for them.

Common elements of exploitation:

  • Poverty
  • Vulnerability
  • Trigger events (such as abuse, death of a family member, etc.)
  • Abuse of power

Ruth chapter 2 - Ruth gathered enough food for five days.  God provided for them when there was no hope.  Ruth worked hard but the abundant provision was through Boaz’s generosity.  Boaz was acting according to God’s law, that ensured the poor were protecting and provided for.

God's law safeguards both the needs and dignity of the poor but the story shows that not everybody was like Boaz.  Naomi had to warn Ruth not to go to other fields where she might be mistreated.

In Good news to the Poor by Tim Chester says, “God’s ‘bias’ towards the poor is a phrase that is open to misunderstanding.  It is not because He is prejudiced but rather because he is a God of justice.  He opposes injustice and sides with the oppressed. “

IJM focuses on working in communities where justice systems are broken and in fact perpetuate the problem.  

The office in India is manned by Indians who are able to speak directly to the government.  One of the problems there is the culture, which says, “These people were born to be that way.  For a westerner to speak into that issue doesn’t make sense.  For an Indian to speak into that gives credibility.”

Every country has their “lowest of the low” - in Ireland, those would be travellers.  In India, it is the Dalit people.  We are all in positions of power.  

Where possible IJM works to implement existing laws within the various countries.  While corruption has been a big part of allowing these systems to break down, we come across a lot of people who want to do their jobs but struggle with a lack of resources.  It involves identifying and empowering people within the system to do their job well.

Recommending The Locust Effect (why the end of poverty requires and end of violence). 

Holding on to hope

Alain Emerson spoke at the Sligo Summer Conference on Wednesday evening to share his story of pain and hope!  Here VOX magazine summarizes some of the main points of what he said…  A full podcast will be available later from www.newwineireland.org.

My story is a story of hope but I want to be honest tonight about the pain!

Proverb 13:12 says, Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

In the kingdom of God, every single story finds meaning.  If I say everybody gets healed, then the reality doesn’t match up.  But if I say nobody gets healed, then the reality doesn’t match that either.

When I was 22, I was young and idealistic, thinking I was going to conquer the world.  I met a girl called Lindsay and she got into my head.  I started to praying about it and met with her and we started to date, fell in love and we got married when I was 25 and she was 21.

The year after we got married we decided to take a team to Uganda and went to a Fields of Life project.  We had 40 people in that team.  We built accommodation for teachers and our hearts entwined with the project.

When we got back from Uganda, Lindsay started to get a sore head.  Doctors couldn’t get to the bottom of it.  They did a scan and we were called upstairs and we sat in front of a consultant.  He said, “There’s a growth here and we are going to have to operate.”  We later found out that the “growth” was a brain tumour.

I watched Lindsay wheeled away to have brain surgery.  She recovered pretty well but they only got 95%. We were told, " Go and have kids, fulfill your dreams."

But coming up to Christmas she began to deteriorate.  She had two seizures.  The tumour had grown again.  She had more surgery and she started six weeks of chemo and six weeks of radiotherapy.

At 26, I found myself caring for a bedridden wife who was 22 and she couldn’t do anything, I had to wash her and care for her in every way.  All her hair fell out and yet I found myself loving her more than I had ever loved her.

In this time, I felt that God was speaking to me about Ireland.  In places of desperation, the voice of the Lord is so clear.

I continued to pray for her and read her Psalms.  I was crying out to God to heal her. I was saying, “God, all it takes is a breath.”  But after days of praying and fasting and weeping then one day I said, “I have nothing more to give.  Everything I do doesn’t seem to be working.  All I’ve got left is to give her into your hands but I’m still fighting for her.”  It was the tension of Gethsemane… I want your will but I don’t want your will.

A week later at 6.30am on a Sunday morning I watched Lindsay take her last breath and I could not believe it.  I was thrust into the most intense pain you could ever imagine.  I thought I was going to die.  It tore me up inside.

It was a season of “tears in your ears”… lying in bed at night with tears running down my face and into my ears.  The ache was so deep. I didn’t want this to be my story. I was 27 and a widower.

What do you need in the dark night of your soul?

The permission to be honest

Things of this magnitude cannot be pushed down.  Pain that is not transformed will be transmitted.  It starts with the permission to be honest.  I knew if I wasn’t honest, I was going to grow old and cynical. The only way to deal with our darkness is to face it and to walk right through it.

I felt such anger and a sense of injustice.  It was difficult to tell God how I felt.  I found comfort in the Psalms when I started to be honest. Suffering is the sign that your heart is still beating… you are still alive.

Allow the honesty to be a prayer

My prayer life became very different.  Eugene Peterson says, “It is better to pray badly than not at all.”  I found help in some of the contemplative traditions of the church and allowed their words to be my prayer.  Sometimes in the dark, when I felt so lonely, I would just lie and pray in tongues because I did not know what else to pray.

God was present in my suffering

Nobody really understands but God does and God can because He is present in our suffering.  One of the most frustrating things in the world is talking to someone and knowing that they are not present (e.g. checking their phone or eyes wandering to something else).  When somebody is fully focused and present with you it is an incredible gift.  God suffers with us. He is not abstract in our pain.  He walks with us in it. Jesus bore our grief and carried our sorrows.  He knows what it is like to feel the pain and suffering that we feel.  

Often in our pain we revert to masochistic views of God, which reinforce His sovereignty but never in a way that connects with the fragile nature in our hearts.

The Bible tells me that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.  While Jesus experienced an extreme form of isolation and forsakenness on the cross, if we think the Father was not present at the cross, then we are mistaken.  The Father’s heart was never more broken.

To our wounds, only God’s wounds can speak.  When we look at Jesus, the Lamb of God, in heaven, we are going to see a man in all His glory but we’re also going to see the nail marks in His hands and feet.  He is the wounded healer.  He walks with us in our pain.

We talk about Good Friday and Easter Sunday… We can rush the resurrection but some of us are living in “Saturday”.

Sometimes you just have to choose to believe, when you don’t feel like it. 

It is called faith.  Raw faith has to kick in.  Psalm 73: 25 - 26, “Whom have I in heaven but you?" You need to choose to believe. 

Believe in the character of God and seek to recognise it

This happened to me after days and months of journeying through it.  Even though I still had questions, I said, “Help me to see you in this.”  Slowly, I began to see things from a grace perspective.  All my feelings of disappointment and anger began to change.  My life was woven into the life of a girl who died at 22… and I loved her… and cared for her… and she knew she was not alone through all of that.  God had given me the incredible privilege of knowing Him in the fellowship of His sufferings.

I learnt to embrace the mystery

I still had questions.  I still don’t know why it was better for Lindsey to go.  Let your heart be the primary place of connection with God, not your head.  Embrace the mystery. 

The resurrection means that the worse thing is never the last thing!

Hang on and embrace the mystery of God. Remember that through all of this, the rest of your life does not have to be second best.  God is well able to transform what is going on inside you and fulfil his plans through you.  He takes our pain and He makes something beautiful out of it.  Suffering transforms us into the people God intends us to be.

I don’t like to think that God plans these things but He does allow them.  In this world, you will have troubles.  We don’t seek suffering but it will come.

A light to the nations

When Lindsay was sick, my mum had a verse for her.  The verse where the children of Israel would be a “light to the nations”. We were praying that her healing would be a light to the nations and when she died, we thought we’d got it wrong.

Then some friends decided to build a school in Uganda in Lindsay’s memory.  I went out that Christmas and I stood on a hill in Uganda and looked over the beautiful countryside and imagined a secondary school for those children.  I thought, "Lindsay will be a light for the nations".  Over the last four or five years we’ve raised 250,000 and now around 200 kids are going to the school.

Wrestling with God

One of my favourite things as a child was wrestling with my Dad.  It was a weird, different kind of intimacy but it was close. After we had fought and wrestled, we would lie in each others arms for a while. 

When we give God the deepest pain of our lives, He takes it and does something beautiful with it.  For some of us, we are wrestling with God like Jacob.  Don't let go.  It is going to be sore but don't let go until you receive a blessing.

 God wants to meet you in the darkness. When God touched Jacob’s hip, he walked with a limp. His sons would have looked at Him and said, “That was the night that Dad met face to face with God.”

Jacob called the place Peniel, which means face of God.  God wants to transform your pain.

Restorer of Hope

The God of all comforts us in our pain so that we can comfort others.  I remember the day that hit me.  I realised that this experience allowed me to experience God’s love and mercy in a way that I would not otherwise have known.

God is the restorer of hope.  I have a wife called Rachel… I met her about five years after Lindsay died.  We have two children.  And God is making all things beautiful in His time. 

 

Setting captives free

Ken Clarke

Who are the most important people in any nation? Some might say the politicians, the bankers, the Prime Minister or Taoiseach.  The Bible makes it clear that God's people. Reading from 2 Chronicles 7: 11 - 14.

Many years ago there was a Christian musical called, “Come Together”  by Jimmie and Carol Owens about God’s people from different backgrounds coming together and meeting God. 

A few years later they released a second musical called, “If my people…” - a call for people to implement and practice 1 Chronicles 7 (to humble themselves, to seek God’s face and to repent…).  King David was a believer in God but when he committee adultery, he had to repent.  Psalm 51 is the cry of a broken man but God is a God of grace who offers a fresh start and a new beginning.

Human beings suffer from BSE - blame somebody else.  So often we blame the politicians, the media, the industrialists, etc. (anybody but ourselves).

Jimmie and Carol Owens said, “It is so easy to fix the blame… on “them”… Amazingly, according to the Bible, God doesn’t seem to be nearly as concerned with straightening “them” out as He is concerned with straightening us out!  He begins the healing process with his own people.”

God has called His people to be a reflection of perfection. We are to be people who invade our culture, our community, our country. But the history of the church is littered with people who think they are to be exclusive. 

We are not to be “of” the world but the other part of that teaching is that we are to be “in” the world.  We are to be salt and light - people who make a difference. 

We are called to be lights of the world, reflecting the Light of the World.  God has called us to be people who are transforming culture.  We can make a difference in our nation. 

Joseph became a Prime Minister of Egypt who was making incredibly important decisions.  We need to have a vision of Christians becoming “decision-makers”.  Sometimes being part of the decision making process can be strategically important.  One vote can make all the difference.

Why is it that Christians want to hold back from involvement and participation?  Sometimes it is sheer laziness. If we are passionate about the kingdom of God, then we have to get our hands dirty.  We have to be willing to sit on that tedious committee in order to make a difference.

When you become a follower of Jesus Christ a bulls eye is painted on your back. Some of us are not willing to pay the price.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble but I have overcome the world.” There will be opposition, struggle, difficulty, darkness… that is normal Christian life but we also know who has won the war.  If we are willing to be involved in political life… we are going to be targets.

God says, “If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves...”  For the whole of our Christian lives, we wear L-plates.  The word disciple means learner.  There is no place for pride.

Our faith is not a hobby - it is the passion of our life.

Joseph, Daniel, Esther, Hannah… these were all people who changed nations.

Investing in family can help change a nation.  There are two great institutions: one is family and one is the state.  When families are dysfunctional, all kinds of things start to happen.  When families are working well, we can impact the nation.  Parents are huge influencers.

Reading from 1 Timothy 2: 1- 4  and 1 Peter 2: 13 - 14.

Governments exist to preserve law and order.  We need to pray that our Government will facilitate peace because that provides an opportunity for the Gospel.

Prayer is one of the primary ways in which we can influence nations.  Derek Prince wrote a book called, “Shaping History through Prayer and Fasting.”  He gave six reasons as to why we should pray:

  1. The first ministry and outreach of believers meeting together is prayer - are your church meetings marked by prayer? Do the believers believe?
  2. The first specific topic for prayer is the government.
  3. We are to pray for good government
  4. God desires all men to have the truth of the Gospel preached to them - law and order facilitates the spread of the Gospel!
  5. Bad governments hinders the preaching of the Gospel.
  6. Good government is the will of God - this is what He wants for our nations.

Question: How do we approach a situation where politicians who are “avowedly Christian” endorse un-Christian attitudes?

Answer:  I would want to write to them or go to their clinic.  In general, politicians appreciate feedback and comment from their constituents.  Many are genuine hardworking people who do want to make a difference.

Comment:  It is important to communicate graciously.  If you want to make a difference, our attitude should not be aggressive.

Question: How can we be accepted in our community and not alienated…

One of my heroes is a man called Charles Simeon who has had a huge influence on generations of people.  For his first 30 years in Cambridge, he was misunderstood.  He stuck it out.  We want everything to be fast.  If we have opposition, we leave.  When he died, not only were the lectures cancelled in the university but the shops in Cambridge closed as a mark of respect.  It took years for his credibility to be established.

When you go to a new place there are two things that are top priority:

  1. Establish credibility
  2. Demonstrate consistency

Whatever else they know, make sure they know you love them!  There will be misunderstandings.  God calls us to keep loving, showing acts of kindness, showing that we are in this for the long haul.

Great initiatives of God come about through brokenness  

Another part of changing a nation is illustrated by Nehemiah. One of the shortest verses in the bible is, “Jesus wept.”  Nations are changed when churches catch the bigger picture.  All of us have shed tears but I wonder how many of us have wept for the Kingdom’s sake. 

Nehemiah mourned and fasted for a long time.  After four months, the burden was so great that he had to do something about it.  When God moves in people’s lives and hearts, we cannot be apathetic.

It starts with a broken heart, with tears, with prayer and intercession…  God stirs something in our hearts. 

At New Wine, is the Lord igniting sparks of compassion and concern for our nations?  I don’t want my life just to be a plaything.  I want to make a difference for you God and I’m willing to pay the price.  Out of that, blessing comes.

Grace, truth and forgiveness can change a nation.  Somebody prayed, “Father, forgive them” from the cross!  The way nations will change if you and I are willing to walk the way of the cross.  This is the Jesus-way.

Changing a nation is a cross-shaped process. It will take courage, compassion, vision, heartbreak and prayer. 

There are stories of people walking together the path of peace. When you see people who have been sworn enemies, embracing one another because of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ… That is the kingdom of God at work.

Is everyone willing to give something valuable so everyone can gain something invaluable?

No regrets!

Mark Bailey shares at the Monday evening celebration on seizing opportunities and praying BIG prayers!

Mark Bailey from Cheltenham in England was the speaker at Monday evening's celebration.  Here is a summary of his message:

The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized in the lifetime of an opportunity.

Twenty-two days after you conceive there is a tiny electrode which stimulates your heartbeat. It is so small, it cannot be detected by medical instruments, but it is the very first beat of your heart!  We have been created for more.  No-one goes into life desiring mediocrity.  We are talking about the opportunities God gives us in our lives. 

Regret has a unique sting.  You don’t only feel the pain but you know you had the power to do something and yet you didn’t.  The Bible is full of regrets.

There are only two types of people in this world: people who are moving towards God and people who are moving away from Him.

I want us as a local church to accomplish ridiculously amazing things for God.  We want to impact our community, our region and the nation.

Lessons from Joshua

Joshua has unbelievable faith. He is an Israelite who was born into captivity.  He got to experience their deliverance from Egypt.  When the people came to the promised land, Joshua urged confidence but the people retreated in fear.

Every time we come to a faith-filled moment, when God is requiring us to do more, so often we all retreat to certain hiding places.  One of the most common is the hiding place of insecurity - you start thinking, “I don’t have the talent, resources, ability to do this…” It is all about fear.  We are afraid of making mistakes. 

 The cost of missing out can be worse than the cost of messing up.

When you shrink back, you not only impact your own life but also the lives of others around you.

Joshua leds the people to cross the Jordan River.  They had to put their feet in the water FIRST and then the water parted.  They had to take a step of faith. When they reached Jericho, they had to march around the city for seven days before the walls came down.  They had to take steps of faith.

The big moves of God are always preceded by obedience to God in small things. 

In Joshua 10:12, the people are in the midst of battle and Joshua prays for the sun to stand still!  Most of us can barely rustle up a prayer for a parking space on a Sunday morning!  Joshua prays for the sun to stand still!! 

What is your sun-stand-still prayer?  What do you so desperately and long to happen that you need an act of God?

We held a Pentecost celebration - to mark the birth of the church - and invited all of the body of Christ in our area to attend.  I can be a little bit cynical so when I heard about a girl in a wheelchair who had suddenly stood up, I wanted proof. 

That morning, her father (a GP) had been pushing the girl around their village and had cried out to God.  I’m not sure who was crying the most - the girl, her father or me!  What appears to be impossible for us is not remotely difficult for God. 

Does that mean that every time we pray a sun-stand-still prayer that God answers? No!  And I don’t understand why. 

A doctor in our church became ill and was diagnosed with a brain tumour. I asked to pray for him.  He said, “Yes, but I would prefer you to pray that all my children come to know Jesus before I die”. 

The church prayed for his healing but he died.  Our prayers for healing were not answered but his children did come to know the Lord and his son preached at his funeral. 

I have never regretted praying those types of bold prayers, even when they are not answered.  You may be saying, “I’m not a Joshua.”  So how do you get to that point? 

In Exodus 33 we read about the Ten of Meeting where Moses met with God.   In Exodus 33:11 we read that Joshua stayed behind in the Tent of Meeting and spent time with God after Moses left.  He pursued the presence of God.

Contact with the creator is essential if we want to live faith-filled lives.  

We need to be disciplined to spend time with him in prayer and worship. We need to meet with God, to be renewed by God, to be filled with His spirit again and again so we can live the faith-filled lives, He calls us to live.

Living Generously

Monday 7 July: Steve Morris led a seminar at the New Wine Ireland Sligo Summer Conference 2014.  Here's a summary of what he had to say (avoiding spoilers for his message later in the week!).

What is your story? 

One day you will hear a story that will fundamentally change the direction of your life. What do you really care about?  The beginning of leadership is a complaint.  .  What area of injustice, or poverty, or the church gives you cause for complaint?

Model what you want to see. 

When we go "all in, things start to happen.  But it all starts with us!  Too often we wait for other people ("rich" people) to empty their bank accounts.  Are we willing to start with our own?

We have been lavishly and generously saved.

Grace is so rich and lavish.  We have to start with the Gospel.  We have to begin here because that is the foundation of this.  You are phenomenally and lavishly saved. 

Jesus through whom and for whom the world was created, who flung stars into space, who orchestrated every single created thing we see around us, that same God came down from heaven to earth and died on a cross and rose again.  That is lavish, generous and abundant, beyond what we can imagine!  We have a foundation of grace because everything we do comes from a response to that!

Living generously flows from God's grace - once you love God, you will love others.  Loving others results in generosity in time, money and attention. Living generously doesn’t earn the love of God… it is an outworking of the love of God that is already poured out in our lives.

It is not just money!

People give their hearts, their expertise, their time, their prayer and their money.  We can pray about the money! Generosity starts with inclining our hearts towards a need. 

How can you generously bless your community? 

Too often the church is known for asking but not for giving!  Why not help out someone who can't pay their mortgage because they have lost their job?  

Imagine how much we will make people smile.  Let us be generous towards our community.   Think creatively and try to bless them.  

In East London, we love fried chicken.  One Christmas we decided we wanted to bless the teens in our youth club (members of street gangs). We decided to do a mass order of chicken and chips… 150 portions!!  Blow the budget.  There was an abundance of chips and abundance of chicken…The boys were not used to this.  It was a feast and we laughed!  There was nothing to fight about because everyone had enough.  

That is where the kingdom of God breaks out.  I would rather be a church known for an abundance of chicken and chips than as a church that is always asking for money.  

Am I generous? 

It will take time, money and passion.  Think of areas where you can be off-the-wall generous.

When you borrow somebody’s car, fill it right up with petrol.  Just bless them because it is fun.  It will prove to you that money isn’t an idol in your life.  There is something more important.  When people come to your house, give generous hospitality.

Let us be known as those who go the extra mile.  Let us model generosity. I’d rather make mistakes trying than never ever try. When we don’t have reserves is when we need to give more!  It will force us onto our knees.

What does the money say about money?

We need to have a good theology about money. 

  • When Jesus says, “the poor will always be with you,” he was talking to Judas who was stealing from the communal purse!   
  • You cannot serve both God and money.
  • Money can be an idol - we think that money will provide us with security and happiness.  In those cases, our faith is not in God.  Concern about providing for our families is a good thing but it is not a God thing.
  • The parable of the rich fool - People are living with a retirement mentality.  They are working hard in order to reach a future goal but in order to reach that goal, they often destroy everything in their lives that would make that future happy!
  • Money is not evil but the love of money is!

 Travel light and keep it simple. 

This is not your home.  God gives us extravagant gifts but we need to keep it simple… get back to basics… and live a life that responds to God by using what we have.  We are entrenched in materialism .

In Acts 2 they sold their possessions and belongings and gave to those in needs and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved!  People need to see that we believe God by the way we behave. 

What is God saying to us?

Evening Celebration - Day One

Beth Tays from New Wine Ireland:

Beth Tays, New Wine Ireland

Beth Tays, New Wine Ireland

“We have such expectation this week.  Tonight is going to be a bit different so to kick off the week, we want to share what God has been doing this year.  We believe God wants to take us somewhere new this week.  There is something special as the body of Christ comes together. God is on the move in Ireland."

“We have worked a lot with 24/7 Prayer Ireland.  There is a picture of Ireland as a circuit board… as God joins us together then Ireland is lighting up. People have been praying for decades.  Some are facing a giant brick wall.  God is moving us into a season where those walls are coming down.  He is calling us to stick it out, to stick our heels in and believe Him.”

Smith Wigglesworth said “Believing God for one minute does us far greater good than crying out to him for an entire night.”

Rev Craig Cooney from St Catherine’s Church in Dublin.

What is God saying to the church?  As I travel around and talk to church leaders, everywhere I go there is a sense that something is changing.  Things that used to be so difficult are becoming easier.

Six points from Joshua chapter one:

1) Moses is dead - it is time to leave the past behind. 

This is a new start, a new season but to enter that new season, you have to leave the past behind.  We will need to let go of old things, things that are precious to us.  The glory of the latter house will be greater than that of the former. “I’m not trying to resurrect something that is dead, I’m trying to birth something new.”  We need a church centred on Jesus Christ and not on religious tradition.

2) The river is here, step into it. 

They have waited for 40 years, wanting to cross the river but now they actually have the chance to do it.  Put your foot into the water and the river will stop - you act and God will move.  We want it to be the other way around. 

If you are going to expect people to respond to Christ, give them a chance to respond!  Don’t expect the fish to jump into the net - fish for them! 

3) Be bold - in action and prayer! 

Not arrogance, presumption but faith.  For too long, we’ve prayed small prayers and we’ve had small vision.  God is so much bigger and He is capable of so much more.  So don’t settle for where you are. Pray prayers as good as God is. Some folks asked, “What do you need.”  I replied without thinking, “A grand a month would help…”  Boldness got me what politeness didn’t.  A few weeks later we received a gift of $15,000. Expect big things, pray big prayers because He is a big God

4) Expect opposition - it is a sign that you are advancing. 

Pray for your pastors.  They won’t ask for prayer.  They are no more special than you but if he strikes the shepherd the sheep will scatter.  Please pray for your leaders.  When opposition arises, we think we have done something wrong.  Opposition is a sign that you are about to see great things.  Goliath was the best thing that ever happened to David. 

5) Different tribes are coming together - centred on mission. 

The 12 tribes of Israel united to cross the Jordan river.  We are putting our differences aside and we are uniting around the Gospel.  We are building networks and relationships. God is bringing people together.  What unites us is Jesus Christ, His Gospel and His mission to reach lost people. 

6) Get ready - there is going to be an acceleration.  

40 years of wandering and now it happens in 3 days. The winter is over.  Remember snakes and ladders.  For some of you it has just been snakes.  We are about to hit a ladder… to advance beyond where we thought we were!  Pack your bags… prepare to move forward.  Stop wearing your winter clothes because winter is over!

Hilary McClay - Willowfield Parish Church, Belfast

God is speaking to different people in different ways and yet He is saying the same things in Dublin and Belfast... 

God’s passion for us is that we will be fruitful. God wants our lives to be so fruitful that the world will see His glory.  There is plenty for everybody.  He has more than enough to bless every single one of us. 

We need to prepare the land - Joshua 3:5.  The children of Israel were finally ready to cross over but God called them to consecrate themselves.   We need to put right anything that will get in the way of what God wants to do in and through us.

We have a walled garden in the  middle of the city.  It is amazing what rubbish is thrown over the wall!  This week, God wants to prepare the way by clearing away the rubbish that has been thrown at you. 

The fruit that God wants to build in our lives can get chocked by weeds. He also wants to pull up the weeds, those things that we have allowed to take root. We need to ask the Lord to pull up the weeds of bitterness, disappointment, anger, frustration… Don’t go home without having asked God to pull up the weeds by the root so there is nothing left.

Quoting Beth Moore - “Just when we decide our lives are all about figs, God starts mixing up the soil underneath our feet to bring forth some pomegranates.”

We believe in God but we struggle to believe God.  God is interested in every single one. 

To be ready for fruit, you have to plant the seeds!  Sometimes God entrusts us with incredible, beautiful truths.  Many years ago in Japan, a young girl planted seeds to grow pink flowers.  She could not imagine what would happen...

Are we ready to let God prepare the ground and plant the seeds in our lives so we can be part of brining about His plans and purposes for this island?