Baby Steps

Every so often I find that a word or phrase will jump out at me. It’s often a phrase that I have used. When it starts to resonate and even shout at me from someone else’s lips, a podcast or download then I find it’s best to take notice and find out what God is trying to say. This week it was the phrase “baby steps”.

‘So what is wrong with “baby steps”?’ I asked as the phrase began to hit a sour note. It’s good to make changes slowly and it’s a phrase that denotes growth. It is wise to walk slowly at times and not rush into things. When things are new we don’t want to go too far or commit too much and get hurt, hurting others in the process. There is wisdom in “baby steps”.

BUT, and it is a big but, be careful, I have realised that this phrase can be used as an excuse. If God is asking you to walk away from sin then do not use “baby steps” as an excuse.  ‘leave your life of sin’ Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery (John 8) . Preachers please think before you use “baby steps” to make a hard message more palatable (yes that was the final clashing note that got my attention).

We lie to ourselves and to others if we think “baby steps” will help when a decisive decision and change is required. Perhaps we don’t like what our boss is suggesting; what a health professional is recommending or our Father in heaven is talking to us about. Perhaps it seems radical and hard. Granted there are situations where “small steps would be wise” but we are not babies learning to walk again. When our Lord and Saviour convicts us of sin, recommends a course of action or gives us a direction we need to learn to turn with total conviction and walk away onto the recommended path. Joseph fled from Pharaohs wife, he didn’t walk. This was a new situation for him. He didn’t consider trying to argue with her or hanging around to see what happened. He turned round and removed himself as fast as he could. He followed God’s instructions, trusting in the wisdom of His word. Baby steps would just not have had the same outcome.

What are we really talking about? Submission is the word that comes to mind. When we submit to the will of God, when we acknowledge the wisdom of health professionals or the authority of those we work for,  we are submitting: laying down our ideas and our right to run our lives our way.

Being disciples of Jesus we are uniquely positioned, poised in submission; ready to take on all that Jesus has for us. Let us remain ready to step decisively in a different direction or take on new instructions when correctly asked of us. Let us not hesitate or hold back just because something is new or uncomfortable. Let us be honest with ourselves and others, and may “baby steps” not be an excuse to linger from change.

 

Written by Jane Reynolds

Jane

Prophetic words about increased growth and influence

I mentioned in my letter to the church we have recently received a number of prophetic words about increased growth and influence, which we consider as leaders to be significant. As a church we believe that God speaks today and that when we suspect he is speaking we have to consider carefully what He might be saying. Is it from God? What is He saying? What should we do about out it?

To enable wider weighing I list below some of the relevant words we have received, recently and in the past. In going through them I have been very encouraged, I hope you will be too.

  1. From Adrian Horner in June 2016 via email. Adrian leads a church in Kettering and regularly hears from God.

I was praying for Hope Church and had the following thoughts…


The church was on the right track! God was blessing and growing you, giving fruitfulness in social connections and God was increasingly giving you grace to be social glue. Something that would be part of the healing for the Luton community.


I sensed his delight in you but also a sense of invitation to adventure in God’s heart.


I saw the church on a road with a yellow line down the side, the yellow line that means you can pull in but not park. I felt like God was saying that he had something more for Hope Church to push onto and into. But with this bigger call it was possible that the church would be wondering if they had come far enough and prefer to pull in, to wait a while. I felt God saying that if Hope Church rested here he would still love you and has grace for that. But his invitation was to keep going for the bigger prize! I saw the road ahead was clear and you had all you needed. It wouldn’t be a difficult journey.

A coming of age, no longer a teenager but having greater destiny as an adult, you will be bigger, but there is a cost.

I can also see changes in your team shape. A restructuring for momentum. I felt God was inviting you to open the door for some new look leadership, even though it might be risky it was ultimately a fruitful route

2.  Word given on a Sunday morning in September by Nigel Taylor the leader of Hope Church, South Beds, another person who has a history of hearing from God. Click here to listen.

Basic picture is of Hope Church being a diamond that receives and reflects light.

 

Light drawn to the diamond (church) via Acts 2 v 42-47 actions They devoted themselves to…… These believers doing these activities were sent into different communities. This is the light then being reflected. We are already doing it.

 

People in other (non-church) communities want to do what they see we are doing. As it is all based on Jesus, it creates a hunger for Jesus in these communities.

 

We are a diamond rather than a prism; a prism is man-made.  People may take offence that everything is not perfect as would be the case if it was man-made.

 

Eventually we will impact the nation, with the model of what we are doing.

 

Everything will take off very quickly. We should expect to have a “speed wobble” for going too fast. When it happens our legs have to go loose, become flexible, give slack. Leaders need stronger legs.

New recipe to be given, water boiled ready for the tea.

 

3.  Other words received previously from people with a recognised prophetic gift.

 

2006 – Keith Hazel who had a worldwide ministry

God is trying to build a strong church in your community…. There’s a stirring, there’s a time of increase coming in the church. The church is called forth by God, it will be a place of influence.

2010 – Julian Adams who was based in Bedford with a world-wide prophetic ministry.

The Lord wants to say to you, I am about to move you through the 150, the 200 markers in this season. I am wanting to give you increase both locally and in your own heart……… Your structures even in your church need to get ready to hold that which I am going to give you.

2014 – Phil Wilthew, another prophetic leader from Bedford.

God is coming to the house again, he will reshape the leadership, our roles and responsibilities. There will be shifting responsibilities in our team. God is refitting the boat for the next stage of the journey. We therefore do not need to be afraid of giving away our best. God will add to us 10 fold, 20 fold, 100 fold.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson

Nature of Christian discipleship and Singleness

There is much misunderstanding about the very nature of what it means to be a Christian. My conclusion is these misunderstandings cause much confusion when we consider singleness.

The Christian life involves sacrifice and suffering, not just happiness. Every Christian is called to costly sacrifice. Denying yourself does not mean tweaking your behaviour here and there. If someone thinks the gospel has somehow slotted into their life quite easily, without causing any major adjustments to their lifestyle or aspirations, it is likely that they have not really started following Jesus at all.

However, this is not the whole story. Life with Christ does involve sacrifice, as in all relationships, but it is defined ultimately not by what is denied, but by what or, better, who, is embraced. From the world’s perspective, Christ’s call to a wholehearted, sacrificial discipleship seems implausibly unattractive for anyone, regardless of their particular circumstances. If we are to persevere in the life of discipleship ourselves and persuade anyone else to join us, we must somehow communicate that what is offered is not a set of rules, but a dynamic relationship with the living God.

Let us be clear, what the Bible clearly teaches sounds so unreasonable to so many of us today. Suggesting a single person is celibate is an obvious example of unreasonableness, but not the only one.

All of us have desires that are warped as a result of our fallen nature. Desires for things God has forbidden are a reflection of how sin has distorted me, not how God has made me. Single people will have desires, but that doesn’t define who they are. All Christians, married or single, are called to deny themselves desires that God has forbidden. However, Western Christians have, by and large, stopped denying ourselves – we now talk more about our right to be ourselves.

It’s this new suffering-averse brand of Christianity that explains why few Christians in the West today are willing to face the grief that active evangelism brings, let alone to follow their forebears on to the mission field, persist in difficult marriages, give lifestyle-changing amounts of money away or say no to sex outside of marriage (as biblically defined).

We need to be careful not to narrow everything down to sex. Most people struggle with greed much more than they do with sexual temptation. However, sexual temptation can be a big issue that single and married people have to face.

We are simply not designed for multiple sexual relationships. Sex becomes less relational, more functional and less satisfying as a result.

Celibacy for the kingdom is not a declaration that sex is ‘bad.’ It’s a declaration that while sex can be awesome, there’s something even better – infinitely better! Christian celibacy is a bold declaration that heaven is real, and it is worth selling everything to possess.

I hope these reflections on singleness have been helpful for those who are married as well as those who are single. All I have said needs to be understood in the light that churches should feel more like the waiting room for a doctor and less like a waiting room for a job interview. In the latter we all try to look as competent and impressive as we can. Weaknesses are buried and hidden. But in a doctor’s waiting room we assume that everyone there is sick and needs help. This analogy comes from Timothy Keller, and I believe is key as we work together to bring in the kingdom of God. Let us be honest with each other and ourselves about the struggles we face.

Written by Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson

Singles and the Church Family

In my previous blog I made the point that singleness is not just the absence of marriage, but is a good and blessed thing in and of itself. I also began to look at some ways that our actions say something different. This blog looks at another way our actions declare something different, I want to look at the importance of church being a family and its implications for singleness.

Jesus defines his family as those who follow him rather than those who are related to him. E.g. Mark 3v31-34.

However, the impression that we can unintentionally give is that the church is made up of biological families, and that unless you are part of one of these conveniently shaped building blocks, you won’t ever fit in.

When church feels like a family, single people say they can cope with not having their own partner and children. When church hasn’t worked in this way they struggle.

In denying someone a sexual partner, God is not denying them intimate relationships – he provides them in countless other ways. However, if the church discourages non-sexual intimacy it gets in the way of what God intends. Too often our response to the sexual revolution going on outside our doors has sadly just been to promote sexual intimacy in the context of Christian marriage. And to encourage people to keep it there by promising this will then deliver all the intimacy they’ve ever wanted. We need to do more, we need to encourage and promote non-sexual intimacy. We need to put as much time and energy into promoting good friendships as we do good marriages.

All this is the responsibility of us all, married people and single people, leaders and those they serve. We all need to work together to ensure that the church is full of the types of relationships God intends.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson

Singleness – A subject for married and single people

Before I get into this blog I want to make a large disclaimer. I know that in so many ways I am unqualified to write it! I was married very young and have been married for a long time. I don’t have experience of being single.

However, as a Christian leader I feel that I should reflect on a Christian perspective on singleness, because it is such an important subject and I have concluded there is much unhelpful thinking about the subject out there that needs to be addressed. I think it is a subject that both married and single people need to think about.

It is a subject I have been reflecting and thinking about for a while now, as a married man. I feel it is my responsibility to say something as a married Christian leader. Which is what I intend to do in this series of blogs.

Please see beyond my personal circumstances and see what I have to say. Whether you are married or single!

The first and most important thing I want to say is that singleness is not just the absence of marriage, but is a good and blessed thing in and of itself.

The Bible is very positive about singleness. Jesus himself was single, and this is very significant. He was the most fully human and complete person who ever lived. His singleness in no way diminished his humanity. He was not less of a person for it. No one is. Marriage, for all its blessings, is not intrinsic to being whole and fully realised as a person. Jesus himself stated very clearly that in the new heavens and new earth we will not be married. Marriage is only temporary, singleness is eternal! E.g. Matthew 22v30.

No-one needs to be married to be a complete human. However, the assumption that too many make is that you do. Parents make that assumption, looking forward to their offspring getting married, putting pressure on their children to marry. Friends make the assumption when they see couples getting together. I have realised that I have subtly fallen into this wrong thinking myself and have put unhealthy pressure on single people, I will do all I can to not do it again. I ask you to do the same.

We need to be very clear on the subject. Each state (married and single) has its own ups and downs, opportunities and challenges, grief and joys. One is not superior to the other.

You can often tell what an organization values by what (or who) they celebrate – we need to be better at celebrating all of the Christ-like single men and women (for whatever reason) in our midst. They have been given a precious gift that deserves a party or two as much as any marriage does.

There are many advantages to being single. Single people often have a greater capacity for friendship, greater flexibility of lifestyle, and are free to serve in a greater range of ministries than might be the case with their married friends. Pastorally, I’ve actually discovered more loneliness in marriages than among single people, because marriage can isolate people from their friends; it’s always worse in a context where no-one expects it.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Tony Thompson

To Weaken Pride and Cultivate Humility

as suggested by C. J. Mahenny

  1. Reflect on the wonder of the cross of Christ.
  2. Begin your day by acknowledging your dependence upon God and your need for God.
  3. Begin your day expressing gratefulness to God.
  4. Practice the spiritual disciplines—prayer, study of God’s Word, worship. Do this consistently each day and at the day’s outset, if possible.
  5. Seize your commute time to memorize and meditate on Scripture.
  6. Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.
  7. At the end of the day, transfer the glory to God.
  8. Before going to sleep, receive this gift of sleep from God and acknowledge His purpose for sleep.
  9. Study the attributes of God.
  10. Study the doctrines of grace.
  11. Study the doctrine of sin.
  12. Play golf as much as possible.
  13. Laugh often, and laugh often at yourself.
  14. Identify evidences of grace in others.
  15. Encourage and serve others each and every day.
  16. Invite and pursue correction.
  17. Respond humbly to trials.

humiltycjmah

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