Walk it out

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Faith is a journey to be walked through and out. It is exciting and scary all at the same time. Being transformed is not automatic when you bump into God. I have concluded that there is a process of transformation we will all go through as we walk through life with God. If our change was automatic then we would miss out on getting to know God in a personal way and it would be more like a magic show. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17. Gods voice to us is for our benefit and to be life giving and growing. Transformation comes by hearing God and then doing what He says.

I was recently in a situation that I felt I couldn’t go through and didn’t know if I had the ability to cope in myself. As I lay in my bed in the middle of the night praying (asking God what to do) a small quiet inner voice said “you can if you let me lead you through.” I said thanks went to sleep peacefully and I am now working with God each to let him lead me. Every other voice or opinion is not important as I am walking it out with God now. It is a much easier ride.

Often trying to avoid discomfort at all costs we step away from painful or difficult situations in life. We avoid difficult people, places, memories that are going to push the buttons of discomfort. What we can learn from the life of first century Christians is that they embraced hardship and went about facing difficulties with a frame of mind “Being strong in Christ” and having a solider like way of being 1 Timothy 2.

It would be true to say that we don’t know what’s on the inside of us until we are challenged. There have been times when under pressure a darker side of my will pop up which never ceases to amaze me. I then take that darker unhelpful side of me to the cross and lay it down at Jesus feet in doing so I am discovering the next layer of transformation and humility.  As I surrender God can come and do His work in my body, mind and spirit. In that way God uses our life journey to bring transformation. We are people of many layers so it takes time and patience with ourselves. Difficult life situations can be turned around for good as God uses them as a pathway to heal and restore us into Christlikeness. Transformation is not automatic it requires us to walk it out and win the battle.

 

 

Hope is Everywhere

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If there is one message I bang on about when I am speaking it is the power of hope. It is a guarantee in life that nothing will remain the same. Change will happen therefore hope plays a big role in how we perceive the change.

I can clearly remember moments in time where I thought I wish I could stop the clock and stand still in this very moment with these very people because I am loving what I am doing right now. 

Times I have travelled on teams and loved it, the day I got married, buying our first home together, my three years training for ministry at college and living in community (although some days that did grate), moments spent with my parents, doing crazy things with close friends. We all want to stay in the moment but those moments will change and we can’t recapture them as they are unique times and seasons. 

I remember one early morning in a Ugandan village sat on the veranda reading my Bible and watching the world go by as people collected water before the hot sun. I still sense the memory of that moment thinking to myself this is amazing and I love it. I went back to that place a couple of years ago and it didn’t produce the same feeling as the people I shared the experience with were not with me. In fact I now felt sadness at the loss of that time and place. Change had happened and I was in a new season that was still amazing just different. 

I was now with different people doing different things. Life is not supposed to be lived on repeat or hope would have no purpose. We can not recapture the past but only hope for the new. If we lived life on repeat it could be seen as strange behaviour because God has so much more for us to see and be part of. He is very much into our personal development. 

The old ways and things we do will become worn out and we will need operate in hope to bring the different into being. Scripture communicates that these three remain in life “faith, hope and love.” Hope brings faith to the heart of those who desperately need change from a difficult situation. I have sat on the streets with women in addiction and heard hope in their heart for a different way of life only to sit with them years later in cafe and see that hope had worked it’s wonder and change had come. Such a privilege to watch that happen. God is often active and we don’t even know it. 

So hope really is everywhere. I hope I do not stay the same, doing the same things with the same people. Change will come it is inevitable so have hope and walk it out in faith with love as you go. Wisdom states “to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven” Ecclesiastes 3:1

The Gift of Friendship

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I write this whilst I am sat in Rwanda preparing to leave after another tough but wonderful trip. I was asked if I miss home whilst I am away? My response was I miss people. With modern communication and social media I can keep in touch with my family.

However I miss those I have interactions with more often such as my friends who I hang out with and my work colleagues and my Church family. It is only when you are absent that you miss people and value their presence in your life.

I have been coming to Rwanda for many years now and have developed friendships and a sense of community here too. Over the years we have many genuine friendships that have grown. It is a joy to have two worlds where I can be part of communities and be accepted.

God brings people into our lives so we can have a sense of belonging and not feel isolated in the world. We pass through difficulties together and celebrate successes too. It is a place to listen, grow and share. We encourage and find a synergy to keep moving when we are together. Positive friendships build our lives and negative ones take until you have nothing left to give. Their work is done as you are destroyed.

Jesus drew a bunch of people together. They became friends and journeyed together. They had disagreements like anyone else. There were fights about who was the greatest friend to Jesus. My point is friendships are tested and we will need to be gracious and forgive. When we do we have growth. It takes the friendships to another level of trust.

Take a moment to observe those God has brought into your life. Take time to be with those that God has placed us with. Our lives are made stronger and wider by those we hang out with.

God and the poor

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The gospel of Luke focuses on the ministry of Jesus amongst the poor and social justice. Luke 10 we read about the good Samaritan who picks up the beaten man and pays his bills.  The lost son in Luke 15 who found himself in extreme poverty and the father who longed for him to come home. Hebrews 13:16 “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” God likes it when we share what we have. He has given us so much through Jesus it’s not much to ask that we now share our lives too. 
The book of Luke is full of such stories. I am sure we could recount stories where we have noticed the poor in our world and done a random act of kindness toward someone. I try to practise this as a way of life. Not that I feel the need to be a do gooder. It’s that I can’t turn my back on social injustice as God asks us to bring reform and be the change thats needed.
When we look around societies around the world we don’t have to look far to see the resident poor. Whenever I travel to Europe, Africa, US and around the UKI notice the poor have a presence. We don’t have to look far to see them if we open our eyes and heart to engage.
I once sat and watched a woman who was mentally unwell be avoided in a cafe in the UK because she was different. I brought her a coffee and breakfast ( the staff could handle it ). That day she knew someone had noticed her. Be the change that is needed.
Another time I was with a friend and we took a woman who had severe mental health issues to lunch with us on a conference day. Six months later I saw her carrying her belongings in a trolley in Liverpool Street Station talking to herself and people avoiding her. That lunch day was a precious day that I often reflect on.
As I walked around a city in Africa. I noticed a group of women fighting in ripped clothes and high on drugs. One woman was beaten badly I knew I had to respond to what I was seeing. Hence we now have a transformational ministry that reaches out to poor women who have to sell themselves to feed their children and pay the rent. Become the change that is needed.
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I noticed a bunch of young people in Uganda sitting under a tree playing instruments. They were school dropouts so we helped a friend get a farm up and running so the young people could learn some skills and eventually earn some money fro the project. It is a growing farm and young people are given value and self respect through it. We all have something in our back pocket to use, time, energy and finance to help someone else it is only a matter of our choices.
What I notice is this. As we notice the poor and respond in various ways. Our hearts are made healthier as we are look away from ourselves and our own self obsessed behaviours to become more like God the father who is love. It’s a spiritual practise.

Chapters in Life – Pages in a book

 

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Around every corner is a new horizon an opportunity or a choice to move in a new direction. It strikes me that in our lifespan we can have many chapters and those chapters are written from the story of you and I. Our ups and downs, people we encounter, places we travel too, family we have, locations we live in. Each twist and turn we make expands our life story.

In the book of Psalms 139:16 it is reflected that all our days are written out in Gods book.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” 

What amazes me about this is that God has a book and our days are noted in that book – how cool is that. That’s how much we are cared and loved by Him. However if there is a book it may have chapters. Those chapters may have sub chapters with interesting avenues to walk down in the ever-expanding story of our lives.

I think our stories are meant to expand and grow. The story of God in the Bible is one of growth and development with His love being shown to many generations. So as followers of such a person with an amazing story our lives are surely not meant to be narrow but rather be a reflection.

Each week we could look at our week as a fresh page in this exciting book being written. This grants us permission to turn the page of last week or begin a new chapter and close the last one. Even if we have had successes in the last chapter we may not want to bring those into the next. Growth, impact and creativity are the kind of words that conjure up possibilities to write a fun and inspiring life story.

So full steam ahead this week fill some fresh pages or start a new chapter. Embracing a change in our world enables others to get on the journey of change and transformation. Even Jesus spoke about the opportunities of change to His followers as He prepared them for His leaving

John 16:7 “but very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

 

 

 

Shaking the Tree

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When God starts doing a deeper work on the inside it can feel like being on roller coaster ride. You are thrown around different corners of faith facing difficult situations with no answers. What we knew to be true the day before is now in question. That’s when our faith feels like it is being shaken although right now I perceive humility is growing and a deep inner work only God can line up being achieved.

Rather than trying to get off the roller coaster I am choosing to go through the process, the Bible reminded me this week we are in actually in Gods hands being transformed For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:10, we only need to go with it.

Maybe it is only when the tree get shaken that we truly die to self to become selfless servants willing to go where God leads and function in what He appoints for us then we are being followers of Christ. Humility comes when we “place ourselves under Gods mighty hand then He can lift us up when ready” 1 Peter 5:6.

Can we turn a corner in our perceptions, find our feet again and somehow find God in the hidden shadows when the tree of faith gets shaken? I feel we can if we are prepared to wrestle with the reality and pain of what shakes the tree and return to the Bible to seek the answers. Times of hardship/ struggle /wrestle can shape our future and sometimes be the catalyst to open a brand new page in the story of our life.

God spoke to the people of Israel a long time ago when their tree had been shaken He said “you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart, I will be found by you then I will bring restoration” Jeremiah 29:13 -14.

As we keep humility in focus and walk that path seeking God knowing we find him during the shaking of the tree of faith. Gods transforming work in us is for his handiwork to be seen by all. Then God is glorified and not us; humility at its best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s New

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What’s going to be new for you this coming year? I have a few loose ideas bubbling away but I wouldn’t call them resolutions. I do know what I don’t want to do anymore so you could say I am working to bring change in that way. A different life is often the focus of a New Year approaching. Many wish upon a star for something to change but by the time we get to the end of that year we look back and find we have lived life on repeat.

I am not so sure that New Years resolutions work unless you are a very strong goal orientated person; then you may be able to stick to it. Once you have achieved your new goal you will find you are still the same person – you have not changed at all. Trust me I was that person for many years. I did read a great quote this week that I loved and thought yes I can get my head around that “Be thankful for the gift of another year” by @womaninlondon.

I am currently trying to reframe my own perspective on situations I may find myself in. We normally desire change when we are not happy or think that happiness is something we have a right to everyday. The reality is maybe that we are not too sure what happiness is or what we even desire. We only know that what we have at the moment is not working for us hence we desire change and believe that a New Year has the power to bring that change about. Rather strange.

Rather than always be waiting for the future it maybe helpful to reframe the life we are living now. My faith is based in following the teachings of the Bible facilitates the concept of change as transformation of the person through a relationship with Christ. As a person is transformed fresh perspectives come into sight and we see situations change, fresh opportunities open up and so on held in the framework of eternal security through the relationship.

Primarily we change on the inside through the creative power of the Holy Spirit Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20

I have come to the conclusion that life is not so much a box of chocolates but a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces full characters we encounter, places we will travel, situations we will face all of which make an interesting jigsaw picture of our life. Only when the final piece is fitted into place can you see the richness of your personal jigsaw.

Jesus beckoned men and women to follow him and so he could teach them his ways and thinking. He reframed their world and he is still beckoning people to himself today through His Holy Sprit wanting to enable people to live courageously. I would encourage you to let Him bring transformation to you though a powerful relationship rather than a powerless New Year. Don’t walk alone through life walk with God.

Finding Jesus in the Rubble

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Life is difficult and we can all get lost, feel crushed through whatever situation has has come to visit. Jesus warned his followers “in this world we will have trouble but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world” John 16:33. So if Jesus knows the path of overcoming then we may want to walk that path out with Him. Jesus mentioned that he would never leave or forsake us but be with until the end of the age so we can reflect on that promise until it becomes a reality.

We can look around at people and presume that we are the only one struggling. It takes vulnerability to speak honestly about what’s going on. Social media seems to be the tool many choose to judge themselves against the latest perfect day, event, photo that virtual friends are uploading. A photo may tell us a great story but it can also mask the inner story /wrestle/struggle – it reveals what we want to. So it’s best not to judge the success of life through that lens. Look for a deeper authentic reality.

I have been looking searching for Jesus lately in various places, books, meetings, people, and have failed to find Him there. I have however noticed Him to be amongst the rubble of my life and there He sits with me speaking wisdom, compassion, healing, restoring words and ways. I have written this for those of you who feel your life has crashed in around you and you are surrounded by nothing but rubble.

Following Jesus is not about being successful it is about building a friendship with Him and listening to what He speaks and doing what you see Him doing. If we can do that a little each day from the platform of rubble rather than what the world deems as success then we can start to find Him and Know Him.

“Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10

 

 

Relationships and ministry

I have been thinking through what it’s like to be in a relationship and share life with someone who is committed to the call of God on his or her life. So I thought I would start with my own husband’s perspective. Enjoy reading his thoughts.

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Six months after being baptised in the Holy Spirit in April 1995 God called me to help start a church. That was 20 years ago and since then the church has been established and gone on to have a strong presence locally and internationally known as New Life Family Church Suffolk. Before all this in the early nineties a local evangelist prophesied “one day I would be married.”

I simply believed it especially after an experience in 1995 of a man and wife coming over to me in Church of England service saying God has revealed to us that your name is Richard (no one knew me there) and that every thing is going to be ok. They then prayed for me to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which I did with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. Things were moving so quickly now I expected to be married soon. However everything went quiet for fourteen years not even a hint of Gods word coming to pass so I would continue praying strongly what God had said. I would be praying on the farm and people would think I was ploughing. You can be in an open place yet pray in secret.

In September 2003 I was praying and God spoke in my innermost being “soon she will come to you.” I wrote it down and two weeks later Alison an evangelist come my house saying “I have two suit cases with all my belongings could you keep them for me as there is not room for them where I am staying.” The rest is history we went on to get married in Kigali Rwanda in February 2005. The suitcases became symbolic of a much more transient life that I would become used too. Planting natural seeds on the farm and spiritual seeds in the church has now become a firm foundation for us to launch out into the deep with the practical and spiritual support of both RSVP trust and the Church.

Whilst we maintain routine where possible and appropriate much of life has become spontaneous within the routine in order to engage and have time to reach out to many people. I guess now I routinely get things done quicker in order to have more time to be spontaneous. Where there is vision there is always Gods provision. The ministry to many women in Suffolk has been replicated in Rwanda and many of these people have become friends and not a project.

Before we married God spoke to us that “Richard and Alison are a vision joined together.” This I find a great help especially when Alison is on the road or travelling without me because in the spirit we are joined in that piece of mission especially when we pray. At other times we are together on the street, in the homes of vulnerable people, helping people to recover from addiction, in Africa praying for the sick, feeding the poor, training leaders wondering if it’s all worth it. Then hearing and seeing about how people touched by God ten years ago have been greatly restored.

Together we do lots of normal things. Going for a bike ride, learning to swim, running, shopping, watching films and going on holiday, having a tractor ride, hosting missionary friends, encouraging pastors home and abroad on sight and through social media, moving furniture, sharing our faith, redesigning the house to sharpen creativity skills, helping with conferences, picking blackberries. Whatever we do and wherever we are TOGETHERNESS is the key when married to an evangelist.

By Richard Fenning

 

The cycle of mission and evangelism

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I never dreamed that God would take my life and use it do something incredibly good. However, as I read the Bible, I realised that God takes the most unexpected people and does amazing exploits. You don’t have to be the loudest one in the room to be an evangelist or preacher; you just need to see God’s lead and follow it.

I’m often asked, ‘How do we keep going in mission and evangelism?’ I have been-full on in frontline ministry for the last twelve years. There are amazing days and not-so-great days, as I’m sure everyone experiences. It’s really good and helpful, though, that we have a clear foundation for why we do what we do—especially on the less remarkable days.

There are seasons when we hear God’s calling coming to us. I was first awakened to this when I was eight years old, reading comics about missionaries preaching the gospel in distant countries. I remember thinking, ‘That’s what I want to do’. At 18, I was interviewed at a Bible college and was excited to start—but they said, ‘No’! You are not called, nor are you clever enough’.

The shock was immense, and I turned away from God and the church. I was angry and confused for ten years, as I was sure I’d heard God calling me. Ten years later, I recognized Him calling me again. I met a man who took me with a team to Africa and felt like I’d come home. In fact, on that trip, I preached for the first time and remembered those pictures from my comic. I’d started walking in my calling. I loved it. From this experience, I learned that when man shouts ‘no’, God maybe saying ‘yes’.

I eventually found a college that would accept me. Not that everyone needs to go, but I always felt led to study and participate in the community. During that time, I again felt God impress the nations on my heart.

The foundation that keeps me going in mission and evangelism every week is the ‘Go’.  Two scriptures keep me focused on what to do and what to avoid:

Matthew 28:19 – ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’.

Acts 26:18 – ‘…to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me’.

God’s word enables me to keep going on the challenging days. I’m reminded that I have a vision and purpose in this world and to stay on track. This is why I was born.

Your calling may be different than mine, but the principle is the same: hear God and explore what he says through scripture. Then do it. Callings rise up and come out as passion toward people and nations. If you sense God’s passion stirring, why not explore it? Hang out with the group you’re passionate about, visit the people you’re drawn toward, do some evangelism and see what God says while you’re there. Don’t sit on opportunities; be active, and watch things open up.

When you hear God calling you, explore what that looks like and how it will emerge. That’s the mission and evangelism cycle.