Envy

This is an excellent post by Manu and if you missed it the first time around then I recommend a read. It is about Moses, Miriam and Aaron and the effect of sibling rivalry, envy and unhealthy comparisons. God takes action. As members of one body and brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus we need to avoid these destructive forces and their sinful trap. God is not pleased when we act in such ways.

faithfood.blog/2022/10/21/the-book-of-numbers-when-envy-fills-your-heart/

Being a team member (Part 1)

You may recall me mentioning recently that I learnt a lot from my time as a volunteer team member at the Commonwealth Games in The Final Whistle. In particular, it was these bible verses (repeated below from Corinthians 12) about being members of the body of Christ that really came alive to me and taught me much especially about how our natural person(s) or our flesh wants to strive for recognition – its a worldly mindset-and how easily we fall into the trap of categorising jobs and roles (the important/not important) and then likewise judge the people who do them.

I met some of the most beautiful people who were fun, hard working, generous, helpful and humble but I also met people who came over as being lazy, full of their own importance, know it alls, bossy and difficult to work with. Mmmmmmm….which one was I? I experienced good team leaders and those who were not so good. There was so much variety of human life demonstrated in that short period of time that it was almost overwhelming but what a blessing it was to me. Over the next few posts I’ll share the background to this journey, the stories (names will be changed) and what I learnt about myself and my role as a member of the Body of Christ and an ambassador for Jesus.

The Background – All the volunteers were called the “Commonwealth Collective” and there were many different teams with a variety of functions ranging from administration tasks, logistics, hospitality, welcome, medical, family services etc. Some were front of house roles which they called being on the “field of play” and highly visible to the public and some were behind the scenes roles – hidden but vital for the other roles to function e.g accreditation. I soon learnt that there were “serial volunteers” who really knew the inside track from having volunteered at many sporting events worldwide. Me, I was a complete novice at this.

We were all strangers from different parts of the UK and some people from overseas who were brought together with our different personalities and skills to carry out a specific function assigned to us. Those roles had been assigned based on our application forms and interviews. The application process had opened about 18 months prior to the start of the Games with interviews carried out over a period of months. There were about 24,000 interviews carried out for 13,000 roles. I was selected to be part of the interviewing panel which I really enjoyed. In my family, my husband, daughter and myself all volunteered and we were all given different roles in different places. Each of us had a very different games’ experience.

The key though was that whatever role we had been assigned and wherever we were deployed, as there were many locations and venues…we were all part of the Commonwealth Collective and identifiable to each other by the uniform we wore and our accreditation badge. There were about 13,000 volunteers who were all members of the Collective. I didn’t meet the vast majority of these people but for that time, I was a team member with them and they were also team members with me. It didn’t matter that we didn’t meet, know each other..we were still part of the same team with a common objective.

How I carried out my role and what I did or failed to do would impact on the other volunteers, some more so than others depending on our proximity and reliance on each other, and vice versa. I didn’t want to let them down. There was specific training given for our assigned roles so that we all knew what was required of us. We were expected to learn and engage with that process. If you didn’t turn up for the training then you couldn’t take part. Training was a compulsory requirement.

There was also a code of conduct for volunteers setting out the standards of behaviour expected of a volunteer. It set out what was expected and what behaviours would not be tolerated. The key requirement was to treat each other with respect. One of the elements that was stressed was to LISTEN. Good volunteers listened and so listening skills were emphasised.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

And so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.

But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

To be continued…..

Refreshing Company

I’m fortunate still to be away this week having a refreshing break in the beautiful hills and valleys of Wales. Truly beautiful part of this world and our Father’s creation.

I’ve been able to keep up with my reading and enjoyed Alan’s post on refreshment which comes from reading our precious bibles. Praise God.

It inspired me to share a post from last year on refreshing company. I don’t know about you but I know some people who are “drainers”. I come away from time with them feeling emotionally drained. They’ve sucked everything out of me.

Paul talked about another type of people “Refreshers”. I hope you have plenty of those in your life too. Perhaps you are one of them 😀.

“I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition”.
1 Corinthians 16:17-18

These bible verses really inspired me today. Oh how blessed we are to have people like a Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus in our lives and in the body of Christ. People who refresh us.

These type of Christian believers are commended by Paul. They must have been a great source of encouragement and Godly wisdom to the early church.

We all need times of refreshing. One of those ways of refreshing is also through other believers, just as Paul and the Corinthians were refreshed by the visit of these 3 men.

As Paul says, such people deserve recognition.

Can I encourage us all to take some time to think about the people who are the refreshing company in our lives. They make us happy when we see them. They give and impart good things. Positive people.

Let’s thank God for them. They are a blessing.

Let’s also make a point of thanking them. It’s good to let such people know that we value them.

Finally, let’s all try to be the “refreshing” company we enjoy so people are happy to see and hear from us. We can be that source of refreshment to others.

Let’s be “Refreshers”.

Have a blessed day friends.

By Invitation Only

My dear children – you are all children in my sight, dear and beloved to me.

How my heart aches for you. How my heart longs to take you in my arms and remove the burdens you are carrying.  

I am here – just waiting for you.

Waiting to lift you up in my arms and carry you through the night.

Do you hear me calling to you?  Do you hear my still small voice crying out to you?  

Do not try and block out my voice.   Do not fill your hearts and lives with worldly things which would stifle my still small voice.  

Make room in your hearts for me.   Make room.

Some of you need to clean out the house, to make room so that I can come in and sup with you and talk to you and make you mine.

Some of you have squeezed me into the smallest room of your heart and tried to close the door and keep me in that small space. You will not allow me to have access to the parts which I need to access – the parts which need healing, cleansing and release.

Some of you have opened up a parlour, the best room, where I am invited to sit.  

Where everything to outward appearances is swept clean and tidy – all rubbish hidden out of view – a room where a fire burns and which seems welcoming and inviting and where everything appears to be alright – but you are not comfortable with me.  

You are not comfortable in my presence and you do not know how to be comfortable with me.

You are not really comfortable with my presence because you are fearful that I will want to go into the other rooms and all the other rooms are barred to me.

You are ashamed of them.

You feel that they are not good enough for me.

You feel that I would not want to really see inside those rooms – rooms which are dirty, unclean, cluttered, and full of things which you are ashamed of –

those are the very rooms I need to go into with you and help you clean. Help you bring warmth and light into those rooms.

Those areas of your life which you are ashamed of – those areas of your life which you try and keep me out of and pretend do not exist.

I am not fooled.  

I want to come into all areas. I want to be able to access all areas of your life and your hearts.

Do not be afraid my children. Do not be afraid.

If you will open the door then I will come in and we will eat together. We will talk together, we will commune together. I made you, created you, I know you better than you know yourselves.   I will not be shocked or outraged by anything in your life or in your heart. If you are willing to submit to me completely then I will come in and do a work in you. I will restore you and refresh you.

Some of you ran well once. Who interrupted your race? Who hardened your heart against me? Who deafened your ears and muffled my voice? Who stole away your desire to be with me and the intimacy that we once enjoyed? Who stole your first love?

I am the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I sit at the right hand of my father in heaven. I am not a thief or a trespasser. I do not enter in where I am not invited.

Do not keep me out of my rightful place in your heart and in your life. I want to take up my rightful place in your heart and in your life.   Let me take up my rightful place.  

Come to me and submit yourself to me. Open the door and let me into my rightful place.   Open the door and let me into the closed places.  

I am King and Lord of all and there is no other but me. Let me come in.     Do not leave it any longer.   The time has come to let me be King and Lord in my rightful place.  

For the time will come when I will no longer be stood here knocking.  

Let me in to that locked and darkened room in your heart so that I may bring my light and my healing touch.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

Revelation 3:19-20

Joseph Hero of the Faith (3)

This week we are looking at the story of Joseph and from the comments, Joseph is one of our favourite bible characters. His story inspires many of us on so many levels and gives us hope.

Today the question is- Why did God choose Joseph to fulfil His plans out of all the sons of Jacob.

There were 12 sons of Jacob after all to choose from. Plenty of choice. Joseph wouldn’t have been the natural choice in the culture of the day. He was the 11th in line, one of the youngest sons. In the natural pecking order you would generally start with the eldest male child. Any position of blessing, responsibility or favour would usually be assumed by the eldest son as the heir apparent.

However, God’s ways are not our ways. We see through the bible that God calls unlikely people to be heroes or heroines of faith because God always looks at people’s hearts and their character. God demonstrated this when it came to choosing a King for Israel.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Don’t discount yourself from being used by God because you might think there are more qualified people around. It could be you God is looking for. Are you willing to answer the call? To say like Isaiah – Here I am send me.

Let’s look at the other candidates alongside Joseph. God knew what manner of men they were and would become.

There were Leah’s 6 sons – Reuben was Jacob’s eldest son. The heir apparent. He had not shown good character. Reuben slept with his father’s wife. This was wicked in God’s sight and extremely disrespectful and dishonouring to his father, Jacob. Reuben gave in to lust. By his actions Reuben lost his father’s blessing. Reuben appears to be someone who wanted immediate satisfaction. Jacob said Reuben was as “unstable as water”. A double minded man is not reliable. However, Reuben was the one who stopped Joseph being killed. He persuaded his other brothers to put Joseph in the pit with a view to rescuing him later.

Next in line were Simeon and Levi. These two men showed themselves to be violent, cruel vengeful men who also exhibited the deceitful characteristic sometimes seen in the family. We know that Jacob had deceived his father Isaac, encouraged by his mother Rebecca, by pretending to be Esau to receive the blessing of the eldest son. Laban who was Rebecca’s brother then in turn deceived Jacob into marrying Leah. Rachel then deceived her father, Laban over the stolen idols. Later we see Jacob being deceived by his sons into thinking Joseph is dead.

Simeon & Levi deceived Shechem (the man who had disgraced their sister Dinah) and the men of the city into being circumcised. They pretended to make a covenant of peace with them. They then killed the men whilst they were recovering and could not fight back. Jacob was angry at their actions because he feared reprisals. They both lost their father’s blessing as well.

Next we have Judah – who failed to honour the promise which he had made to his son’s widow, Tamar. He did not keep his word. Judah was supposed, according to custom, to provide another of his sons as a husband to her. Both of her previous husbands had died but through no fault of Tamar. When she realised that Judah did not intend to keep his vow she tricked him into sleeping with her. Judah thought she was a harlot but left two tokens with her. When Judah heard that Tamar was pregnant he ordered her to be burnt because of her sins. However, Tamar revealed to him by the tokens that the baby was Judah’s and exposed his hypocrisy.

The bible doesn’t tell us much about Leah’s other sons Issachar and Zebulun so it’s not clear why they didn’t find favour in God’s eyes at this time.

Next we have Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher who were the sons of Bilhah (Rachel’s maid) and Zilpah (Leah’s maid). We are not told much about these sons either but there is one telling verse in the bible which tells us that Joseph “brought a bad report of them to his father”.

We are not told what they did to deserve a bad report but Joseph must have believed that Jacob needed to know what they were doing behind his back. Joseph demonstrates a moral code and a sense of right and wrong. He was not afraid to confront bad behaviour and expose it when necessary. That takes courage. Joseph was not someone who would look the other way whilst others did wrong.

In the body of Christ we are not to sweep habitual sins and wrongdoing by each other under the carpet either. To pretend it’s not happening. The bible teaches us how to deal with sin and wrongdoing amongst believers in a Godly way. How to confront the sinful behaviour in the right way, in love and in order to restore. If someone chooses to keep on wilfully sinning though without wanting or desiring to change that is wrong. If we allow that sinful behaviour to continue unchecked then it will become a shame and a snare to us.

The youngest son was Benjamin – Joseph’s brother by Jacob and Rachel. Joseph loved Benjamin but God didn’t choose Benjamin either. He may have had all the qualities of his brother Joseph but it wasn’t his time or his place in the story.

God saw something different in Joseph. God looks at the heart as we know and Joseph’s character and heart must have pleased him.

Brewing in the brothers’ hearts already was envy, jealousy & hatred towards Joseph caused by his being their father’s favourite. This was exposed even more when Joseph told them his dreams which inferred that one day he would be over them and they would all bow down to him. This enraged them and incited them into a plan to kill him, their own flesh & blood.

As believers in Christ we are one family. We must not fall into the trap of envy and jealousy (see my previous post Beware of Jealousy). The bible teaches us that all manner of evil dwells with envy and jealousy. There is no place for envy or jealousy amongst us.

If someone tells us their vision, their testimony, or are being used of God, being blessed, their ministry is growing, developing their giftings – what does it provoke in us. Joy for them and thanks to God or feelings of envy, jealousy, bitterness, resentment, inadequacy, life is unfair etc. We must be honest with ourselves and God- it’s a necessary place of healing and restoration to acknowledge those feelings so we can bring them into God’s light. Repenting of them and asking God through His grace to develop in us the fruit of the Holy Spirit instead. God wants to refine us so that we can truly be “in unity” with one another and with Him.

The wonderful news for us is that God’s mercies are new every morning. Through faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, none of us are disqualified because of our sins and wrong choices from service to God. We are all uniquely qualified through God’s grace for God’s work through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s get to it.

Don’t discount yourself from being the person God is calling.

Family Time

Morning friends and welcome to the weekend. I had a different post for this morning but I think the Lord had other ideas so I have put it back into drafts for another day. This week for me has been a hard one at work with lots of challenges and I’m sure there are some other readers out there who may be thinking the same. I’m really glad to have this weekend to rest and recharge my batteries. The Lord certainly knows that we need to have time to come away and rest.

The weekend for me is a break from the demands of work, it’s precious family time and I also look forward to fellowshipping with my church family on Sunday.

“I rejoiced with those who said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Psalm 122: 1

These bible verses came to me this morning as I was meditating and spending time with the Lord. I thought yes, that is how I feel when I go to join my church family. I’m joyful. I’m excited and expectant. I’m really happy to be with them for lots of reasons. Not only because they love, encourage, bless me and strengthen me but I am blessed by our times of corporate praise & worship and prayer. I not only receive but I also have the opportunity to serve. Giving and Receiving.

The preaching is also excellent – Our pastor has started a new series on Romans and the teaching is edifying and it is Christ Centred with a focus on Discovery, Discipleship and Declare. We are on a journey together to discover God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and our story in His story (the Bible), to be discipled and grow in the Word, firmly rooted in sound Christian doctrine and then to declare – share our testimony and faith with others.

Now you may be reading this and thinking that is not what I feel about Church family. I can understand that because at one stage in my life I felt like that too. I was so badly hurt by “Church” that I vowed that I would never step foot in a church again. I never lost my faith in God but I spent 12 years in a wilderness until the Lord drew me back to a loving church family. I repented and broke that vow off my life because I realised that I had been deceived and robbed of such a beautiful gift of fellowship.

Now I could have justified my behaviour and stayed in that wilderness. No doubt I could also have found people with the same or worst experiences and we would have reinforced in each other that justification for never going to Church again. The Lord knew my experiences and how I had been hurt. However, God also knew the plans He had for me and it wasn’t to leave me in that wilderness. God loved me too much for that and He loves you as well. God healed my hurts and led me to the right fellowship of believers.

The Lord knows today how you have been hurt too. He healed me and He can heal you too. I pray today that the Lord will speak into your heart, bring release and healing to the pain so that you can once again find believers who will help you start on a journey of fellowship again.

If this speaks to you then take it slowly is my advice. One step at a time. It doesn’t have to be anything big or overwhelming to start the journey back. It could be a small step to connect with a fellow believer – the Lord puts us in families for our benefit. I believe the Lord has the right family for you and I pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you and bring you into that family. I just really believe it’s time to move from that place of wilderness to a place of family. Making the heart decision to ask the Lord to lead you to the right family for you will be the start that is needed.

Bless you today my friends.

We all need a helping hand

.

Pure Whites

Pure whites

After a recent time of fellowship and ministry during which we took communion, my friend had a picture of pure white washing pegged out on a clothes line.

It’s a simple picture really but it spoke deeply to me about who I am now in Christ. I’m as clean as that white washing.

In order to be truly cleansed from sin and it’s effects it can only be through faith in what Jesus has done for me through his death and resurrection. I believe as a Christian that we receive forgiveness for our sins through confessing our sins, repenting of them and believing Jesus has paid the price for our wrongdoing. As a follower of Jesus, I believe that it is Jesus’ sacrifice and his blood alone which has cleansed me from sin.

You might not feel clean like that or might feel you still have some dirty linen but there is no stain or dirt that can’t be made clean, pure and washed as white as the washing in this picture. Just like new. No stains, no grey, no streaks, no spots no matter how filthy. How do I know this? The bible tells me and I believe it.

Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.
Isaiah 1:18

When we as followers of Jesus take Communion and we break bread together and drink the wine, we remember the Lord’s death until He comes again. We remember with thanksgiving all Jesus has done for us. We have opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to convict us if there is anything we need to confess or put right before we take Communion.

When we were in lockdown many did not have the opportunity to take Communion together. As I joined with my brothers and sisters in Christ this week I was reminded how powerful it is when we recall and thank God for what Jesus did for us all through His being broken for us and being poured out for us. How powerful it is to confess and release sin in my life and receive cleansing.

He (Jesus) took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
Matthew 26:27-28

Jesus shed His own precious blood so that we can be cleansed from sin. A free gift of grace that is available to everyone no matter who we are. The bible tells us that all have sinned so all need to take this cup of forgiveness. Have you my dear friend? It’s freely available to you. If you want to be truly clean then I believe there is no other way.

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
Acts 2:38-39

Do you hear the Lord calling you to repentance? I pray that you will hear and respond to God’s grace and mercy today and be ever thankful to God who through His great love has reached down from heaven and rescued us from sin and death. Praise God.

Don’t miss out!

My dear friends, I want to encourage you today with these words that I heard the Lord speak to me this morning in our church service:

Don’t miss out!!

Yesterday morning, I had the urge to contact my fellowship group to encourage them to attend the church service this morning or to watch the live stream on line. It was a definite “unction” from the Lord which I didn’t realise the significance of until today.

The presence of the Lord was so powerful amongst us today as we worshipped and the Holy Spirit ministered.

If you as a believer have withdrawn from the Lord (or you know someone who has withdrawn) in some way from Jesus or from fellowship with fellow believers in any way at all and for whatever reasons (the Lord knows all circumstances) then I encourage you and them to reconnect with the living Word, the Lord Jesus, our Father God and the Holy Spirit in worship. To connect with fellow believers who can encourage, support, disciple. We serve an awesome God.

The Lord wants to take off that spirit of heaviness or apathy from those who feel burdened and pour out the Oil of His joy. He wants to refresh you and take off those burdens. He wants to stir up the hunger and passion for Him. He is ready to pour out that living water on you.

God is saying to his children “DO NOT MISS OUT”.

Position yourself ready to receive and run with what God is going to pour out upon you. You are going to be the ministers of His Glory and His Goodness in the days ahead for the benefit of those around you-your family, your friends, your workplace, those on the street, those in need. You are going to have the provision and goodness of God to distribute.

This is the time to get into position ready to receive. May the Lord lead you my dear brothers and sisters to the place He wants to meet with you, fellowship with you and pour a fresh anointing of His Holy Spirit upon you. It’s time for the sons and daughters to be revealed for His glory and His good pleasure. Let fear, apathy, sluggishness, bitterness, division be cast aside as we rise rejuvenated and refreshed in Christ Jesus Our Lord.

This is the bible reading the Lord gave me this morning which is for each one of us: As my friend said it is a reminder of who we are in Christ and the calling on all our lives to be the ushers of change.

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace— a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies— and to comfort all who mourn, To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, Messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit. Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness” planted by God to display his glory. They’ll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage. They’ll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new. You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks and foreigners to work your fields, But you’ll have the title “Priests of God ,” honored as ministers of our God. You’ll feast on the bounty of nations, you’ll bask in their glory. Because you got a double dose of trouble and more than your share of contempt, Your inheritance in the land will be doubled and your joy go on forever.
Isaiah 61:

Bless you my dear friends and may God use you for His glory. May His Kingdom come and His will be done. Amen 🙏

Refreshing Company 2

So a couple of weeks ago I posted Refreshing Company about 3 believers named Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, who the Apostle Paul commended for being people who had by their visit refreshed him and the other believers in Corinth.

Paul encouraged recognising such people, so today I want to give a quick shout out and thank you to some “Refreshers” that I know.

First off my fellowship friends who have journeyed with me for 22 years now. We have met regularly on Wednesday evenings and when Covid kept us apart we discovered Zoom and WhatsApp video. So to Mary, Geoff, Karen, Deb, Terry, and Heather thanks for refreshing me through your prayers, reading the bible together and your giftings in the Holy Spirit. You’re awesome and I thank God for each one of you x

Next my work buddy Rachel who just by her bubbly and caring nature is such a blessing to me at work. She picks me up when I’m feeling low but is also great at challenging me when I’m wallowing in a bit of self pity because work is hard and I just need to get over myself. I remember asking God to send me some Christian friends at work and he answered my prayer by blessing me with Rachel. She is a joy.

Lastly, but not least in any way are the lovely bloggers that I follow on here. There are so many of you that regularly pour out refreshment for us readers through your writings. There is such a variety of great writing on here and I always find something that makes me smile and encourages me. You know who you are and you’re great. Bless you all.

Taking Stock

Today, I attended for the first time a breakfast meeting with Christians from all over our region of the Black Country in the West Midlands organised by “Love Black Country”. For those who may not be familiar with the Black Country it is an area outside of Birmingham which takes in the four boroughs of Sandwell, Dudley, Wolverhampton & Walsall. I myself live and work in the Dudley borough in the town of Stourbridge.

It is an area with a great industrial heritage, rich in coal, iron and other minerals and many specialisms developed in local industries of glass making, iron & steel works, chain making, leather working etc. A little known fact but the chain for the ship Titanic was made in the Black Country in Netherton and the first steam locomotive to run in America was built right here – it was called the “Stourbridge Lion”.

The area has, like other industrial areas, suffered over the years through various recessions and loss of manufacturing jobs etc. and areas within the boroughs have been and are still classed as deprived. However, as Christians we believe in a God who can bring about transformation. The churches in the boroughs have joined together as a network with a vision for transformation of the area through:

Listening to God. Working Together. Pursuing Transformation.”

Their logo is below and you can access their site here to find out more about them and the vision at https://loveblackcountry.org.uk

The Big Breakfast today was the first opportunity for, what I understand was a smaller than usual group, to meet together since the Covid restrictions were implemented and certainly for me was the largest group of people that I have met with for the last 15 months. It was a great time and I’m glad that my friend encouraged me to go – it was a very early start!! There were Christians from all denominations and sizes of churches represented. A great opportunity to meet other believers – we may have some differences in how we do things but we can still come together in unity with a common purpose to see our borough changed by the love of Jesus.

It was a time to remind ourselves how much has changed for Christian fellowships and believers during this time of Covid. A time to take stock. There has been, because of the enforced changes, great innovations and flexibility in delivering church meetings and fellowship online and the opportunities to use new technologies. We were certainly moved out of our comfort zones big time and for many it was a scary time, unsettling and difficult but there were great things achieved for God’s Kingdom. Today was a chance to hear about the experiences of others and reflect on what has happened during this period and thank God for the good things that the Churches were able to do to show God’s love and help their local communities. When people were looking for help they turned to the churches because there already existed a network of volunteers and programmes in place. Many churches were prepared and could connect with other local organisations to facilitate and provide help where it was needed. On line church services became more accessible to those who would not usually have entered a church building.

It was also a time of reflecting on the sad things which have happened – the losses, deaths, times of grief, isolation and difficulties which people have encountered. The speaker talked about us moving into a season of rebuilding and restoration but just as in the time of Nehemiah, it was important to go out and survey and ascertain the true state of the Church. Take stock of the damage. Nehemiah did exactly this. He went out before he did any rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem to inspect and review their actual condition which had been reported to him but he needed to see it for himself. He also wept over their condition. I thought that was a very wise and thought provoking statement. Before going forward it is important to look and assess our true condition and any damage or hurts sustained in this period which sometimes unless it is obvious to us can only truly be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. The hidden cracks in the foundations. It is good to have a time of reflection and assessment of the true state of where we are in God whether that is in the corporate sense or individually.

For some years previously, I had received a number of words and encouragements when praying about being in a season where God was wanting us to move out of our comfort zones.  I know that this resonated with a number of people that I regularly pray and fellowship with. There was a sense that as Christians we had become too comfortable whether that was in our fellowships, in our buildings, in our traditions and programmes. God wanted to shake us out of our comfort zones.  Like the mother bird stirring up her nest and pushing her young out – she does it for their own good – they have to learn to fly and leave the nest. As Christians, God is encouraging us to leave our comfort zones – move out of nests- the place we may have made our security and put our trust Him. He truly knows what is best for us and what will enable us to grow and develop in Him and to reach those who need to encounter Him. Covid has brought about an enforced period of change and this is an opportunity which many people have taken hold of to do just that – they have tried new things, new experiences and taken new risks. They have moved and I believe God wants you to keep moving forward, trying new things in Him and not going back to the familiar ways of doing things. It is certainly a time of change which isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Change will bring about transformation.

Have a blessed day in the Lord. Perhaps a day to take stock and reflect.