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.

Power in the Presence

This is a beautiful inspiring poem written by a lovely lady called Bee from our church fellowship. She has allowed me the privilege of sharing it on my blog. It really touched my heart and I hope you enjoy it and it inspires you too x

They prayed & laid on hands in love
But the one who held the key
Was the one who came in silence
And sat and cried with me.

He didn’t seek for understanding
He didn’t offer prayer
He just came down into my valley
And waited with me there

No aid was offered nor accepted
To relieve me of my pain
But there was power in his presence
With no judgement, fear or shame.

You say ‘he must have been an angel,
Or even Christ the Lord!’ Believe me –
He was just a man.
Human. Christian. Flawed.

But when he sat beside me
I knew the presence of the Son
For the Spirit dwelt within him
And he let God’s glory come.

I didn’t leave the valley
When he left me for the light
But my faith and hope
Did flicker in the darkness of my night.

I ask God to pull me from the valley
But so far, he has said no.
So I need friends to walk with me
To go where I must go

One day the King will come
Glorious light to end all pain
But still there’s power in the presence
Of the ones who love His Name

B.H.
Jan 2021
Mark 9:24

A Covering of Love

When Adam and Eve sinned and stepped outside of God’s glory, God made a covering of animal skins for them because their nakedness made them vulnerable to their changed environment. They had tried to cover themselves with fig leaves but God knew that fig leaves alone would not give them enough covering for warmth and protection.

The ground itself was now cursed because of their sin and disobedience and would bring forth thorns. God gave them a covering to protect them when they left the Garden of Eden and went into that new hostile environment. God knew that Adam and Eve would still need His continued protection. He covered them with His love.

God does the same for us. He covers us with His love. He covers our shame and our sins are covered and washed away forever by the blood of Jesus. An animal had to first die to provide the skins to cover Adam and Eve. Jesus also had to die on the cross as a sacrifice for us to cover our sins. He was the lamb of God who was sacrificed for us. His blood covers us.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”John 1:29

“For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” Isaiah 53:12

Through prayer & love in action we too can also be a covering of love and support for each other. In the body of believers, our pastors and shepherds are a covering for us. We are so blessed to have good shepherds over us. They are responsible for teaching, discipling, supporting and leading us and accountable to God for us. What a responsibility they have. Let us pray for God’s protection, strength, wisdom and grace to cover them.

Families also cover each other. A husband covers his wife. He is to cover her with the same love which Christ has for His church. This is why God’s heart is for widows who have no husband’s covering and He becomes their covering instead. He becomes a husband to them.

For your Maker is your husband — the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. Isaiah 54:5

Parents cover their children with love until it is time for them to step out from under that covering and mature and grow. This is why Gods heart is also for orphans who have no one to parent them. He calls to others to adopt them into their families as God has adopted us as sons and daughters into His family. His love is over them.

We can consider who we are covering today and who is covering us. We cover in love those who God has given and entrusted to us. We cover our brothers and sisters in Christ. When one part of the body suffers the rest suffers with it. We should not expose or cause pain to anyone but love one another in accordance with Gods teaching. We must not be triumphant over those who have erred or wandered from the truth but in a spirit of gentleness seek to restore them. Pull them back from the fire. Let us cover each other with love. Not a love that excuses or hides bad behaviour or sin but a love that also disciplines and corrects. We do not cover sin but we rather expose the works of darkness in the right and Godly way. Speaking the truth in love.

Jesus took our shame and nailed it to His cross. We are all saved by His grace lest any of us should boast. Our hope and assurance is in Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith. Praise God. Let us be holy in all our conduct as He is Holy.

Blessing to you this day in Jesus precious name.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” Genesis 3:7

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Romans 4:7-8

My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; you will cover over my sin.
Job 14:17

My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Gardens…

Meet Me in the garden…Those were the words I heard in my spirit as I was waking one morning. I initially turned over and tried to go back to sleep but I heard them again – “Meet Me in the garden”.    I knew it was the Lord Jesus speaking to me and inviting me to spend time with him – not in my actual garden – but in that secret place where I go to pray and talk to Him.    It was early morning so I got up as quietly as I could, so not to disturb my family, and went downstairs to a place I could be alone and meet with the Lord.

It was a really blessed time in His presence.   I started to think more about why the Lord has said to “Meet Him in the garden” and what is so special about a garden.   

During lockdown because of Coronavirus,  many people have spent more time in their gardens or local parks.   It is a blessing to have a garden – a place which is yours, a sanctuary to enjoy and take pleasure from.    A place to reflect, enjoy the beauty of nature and time to relax.    Gardens draw us in and make us feel better – they are food indeed for the soul.   There is something in our DNA which draws us to a garden – even if we are not green fingered ourselves – we can appreciate the beauty. This is me with my dog peeking through a floral display in the park.

I started to think more about gardens in the bible.

God was the first Gardener – It says in Genesis 2 v 8  that “the Lord God planted a garden”  – the Garden of Eden.    How amazing & beautiful that first garden must have been – planted & designed by God’s own hand.   It says that every tree planted was “pleasant for the sight” and “good for food”.       God made that garden especially for Adam.   He took the time to create a special place for Adam.   A place of nourishment & also a place to meet.    God would walk in the garden in the cool of the day and meet with Adam & Eve – a time of relationship.   There is also a special place for each one of us – a place where we can go and meet with God – a place to be in His presence.

Life was in that very first Garden – it was formed there – God created Eve from Adam’s side and the Tree of Life was in it’s midst.    Jesus came to give us life in all its fullness and I believe that we find life – true life – in our relationship with Him.    When we come and meet with Him we meet Life – Jesus said “I am the way, the truth & the life -No-one comes to the father except through Me”.      We won’t find true life or relationship with God any other way – After Adam & Eve had eaten of the tree of knowledge of good & evil they were put out of the garden in case they ate of the tree of life and lived forever in sin.     Jesus through his death and resurrection has cleansed us from sin, there is a way back into the garden of fellowship with God for us and we are now partakers of eternal life.

Death was also in that Garden – When Adam & Eve ate of the tree of knowledge death came.   God made tunics of skin to cover them – an animal had to die to provide clothing for Adam & Eve.  Death had entered into creation.   Death was also drawing near in the Garden of Gethsemane.    Jesus met with his Father in prayer in the Garden on that night.    It says in the gospels that Jesus often went with his disciples there and that is why Judas knew where to find him.    On that night – it was a place of betrayal, pain & suffering for Jesus.   He was in great sorrow and in deep distress.   He had been betrayed, let down by His disciples and was facing death & torture.     The garden is a place that God wants us to come when we are in such times of sorrow – times of anxiety & fear.  Times when we feel overwhelmed and think that we can’t continue – when it all seems too much.    Times when people close to us have betrayed us or let us down.God will draw us to Him, will comfort us & strengthen us in such times so that we can continue.

Beware of the enemy in the Garden. Satan entered the garden of Eden and deceived Eve. Watch out for the lies of the enemy. Don’t let him lead you astray. The garden can provoke others to jealousy. Jezebel schemed and plotted to have Naboth killed because her husband Ahab desired the vineyard garden that belonged to Naboth. The king wanted it for a vegetable garden but Naboth refused to sell. It was his inheritance and not for sale. The enemy always wants to steal your inheritance in Christ. The enemy is jealous of your position in Christ and he will do what he can to steal from you. Guard yourself and trust in God. The enemy will try and stop you enjoying relationship with God. He will tell you that you are not good enough and all sorts of lies to interfere in your relationship with God.

New Life & hope was in the Garden – When Jesus conquered the grave and rose from the dead and appeared to Mary ,she thought at first that he was a Gardener.   I had never really thought about that before but my friend mentioned it to me the other day.     Why would Mary have mistaken Jesus for a Gardener unless he was in a garden and it was a reasonable assumption to make.   From a place of sorrow and grief the garden became one of hope for Mary. There is hope in the garden – Jesus was dead but now He is alive.   It is a place of hope. It’s a place of victory. It’s a place of new beginnings.

Nourishment in the Garden – The plants which were in the Garden of Eden were good for food and there was a river which flowed from there to water the garden.    We all need food & water to survive and flourish.   Jesus said “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”  – “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”.  There is spiritual nourishment in spending time with God in His presence and hearing what He has to say to us in those quiet times and as we spend time in His word – the bible.   Jesus is the true bread of life and out of Him spring rivers of living water.     I am becoming more aware of my need to spend more time in His presence, in His word than doing things for God.  I am blessed by the giftings which God has given me but being in relationship with Him is the most important thing – Reminding me of my first love.

Love is in the Garden – unconditional love waits in the garden. God loves us no matter what we have done or what we do.

You will hear God’s voice in the garden. As He spoke to Adam you will hear His still small voice speak to you saying I love you.

God is love. If you seek Him you will find Him. If you are looking for love you will find it in God the father and Jesus the son. Blessings to you.

 

Pioneers

I felt that God spoke to me recently about the fellowship that I am attending currently, that it has a pioneering spirit.   I believe that they have been gifted in God to be pioneers in their community and to bless the local community in this way.   I have been encouraged to hear how God has already used them in this way and I believe will continue to use them in this way in the future.    I have heard about their work in pioneering street pastors, the food bank, the life centre, the bereavement group, prayer on the streets etc.. and I am sure that there is more that they have pioneered which I don’t know about.   As we were in worship a few weeks ago, I saw a picture of their fellowship on fire for the Lord – it was as if I saw a picture of a map of the local area and the church was on fire.  It was burning brightly.    As I looked the fire also started to take hold in other fellowships in the area and they started to be on fire too.    Perhaps this fellowship will be a catalyst for something God is going to do in this area and which will then spread.