I have a dream!

I am sure that most, if not all of you reading these words will recognise them as being the key phrase from Martin Luther King’s most famous speech. He had a dream, a vision of a better America where all men and women were treated equally regardless of their skin colour; where everyone could aspire to fulfil their potential. I wonder do you have a dream?

If you are a young person your dream may seem very fresh and bright and you may feel full of hope that you will be able to see the dream realised. If you are middle aged you may be going through a season where you still cling to the dream but the present circumstances are strangling it and you fear that you may have to let your dream go. Or perhaps you are older, in the twilight years of your life, time is short and talk of dreams somehow seems no longer relevant.

During July and August we shall be looking at the life of Joseph, the dreamer. We shall be considering the dreams that he had but more importantly the purposes that God had for his life. We shall discover how he was able to remain faithful to God through the peaks and troughs of his life journey. Whatever stage of life you are currently in I believe that in Joseph you will find an example that will help you to remain faithful to God’s dream for the whole of your life. If you are young, there are principles to adopt that will keep you on track as you look forward into your future. If you are in seasons of frustration there is hope that God is still with you. If you are older there is the assurance that God uses all of your past for his ultimate glory.

This series is being shared by a wider team than usual. This has two purposes. Firstly it is part of a desire to train and equip younger men and develop their gifting. Secondly it will help us to see the events of Joseph’s life through the eyes of different people with all the benefits that brings. Please pray for our preachers to hear what God would say to us as a church. Please pray that each of us will have ears to listen.

This blog post featured in the July/August 2013 edition of Lifelines

The Incredible Power of Faith in Suffering

Spoiler alert – this video will affect you emotionally. Make sure you have a box of tissues handy!

Rebecca and Joanna Barnard were born by emergency caesarean section at 28 weeks. Doctors predicted that Joanna would not survive outside the womb due to her underdevelopment. Their parents, Brandon and Jessica, along with their family and friends, prayed that God would miraculously heal their baby daughters. This brief documentary records their journey of faith and their resolute confidence in God.

Source: www.vimeo.com

Is the 40-Minute Sermon Passé?

We live in a highly visual, interactive environment in the 21st Century. This has led to significant changes in the means of communication and of concentration spans. Some have argued that the church should respond to this and abandon the ‘traditional’ 40 minute sermon. John Piper argues strongly in this 6 minute podcast that the sermon is a unique genre of it’s own and that it is a vital component of a local church’s corporate worship. You can listen to what he says here: Is the 40 minute sermon passé?

An evening with Justin and Caroline Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury)

I stumbled across this video recorded at the 2013 National Leaders Conference for Vineyard Churches. In it John Mumford interviews Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, and his wife, Caroline. It provides a fascinating insight into the spiritual journey of the man charged with leading the Anglican church; a perspective that rarely gets reported in the press. I pray that this godly man will have the courage and freedom to lead the eclectic mishmash that is the Church of England into biblical faith and an experience of the Holy Spirit for the glory of Jesus.

Originally posted at An evening with Justin and Caroline Welby

To Catch a Thief – by Richard Taylor

ToCatchAThief Richard Taylor was born in Llanelli, Wales; the eldest of four boys he was largely raised by his mother on her own, his father having left them when he was still quite a small boy. Richard grew up on a tough estate and quickly became established as a petty thief in order to fund his drug addiction. During his early teenage years he introduced numerous friends to drugs and crime but escaped prison due to his age. However as he grew older he eventually ended up doing time in prison.

His life finally reached a crisis when he turned 18. Senses dulled by drugs he and a mate burgled a house that wasn’t empty and he was recognised and caught and placed on remand for 6 months. During the remand period he was befriended by a prison chaplain and began to experience something of God’s peace in his life. This led to his referral to Victory Outreach and a woman called Dinah Sansome. She saw that God had his hand upon Richard and intervened on his behalf so that, instead of receiving a custodial sentence, he was bailed to Victory Outreach. Within a few days of starting to live at this centre he had an extraordinary encounter with God that led to him becoming a follower of Jesus and also instantly and miraculously being set free from drug and alcohol addiction.

Written in a pacy style this book details Richard’s criminal past and recounts his encounter with Christ. Not covered in the book he is now the Director of Victory Outreach and is founding Pastor of multiple site Victory Church. Victory Church in Cwmbran has recently become well known as the focus of a move of God’s Spirit known as Welsh Outpouring. Richard has also been a presenter on the 2002 TV series ‘To catch a thief’

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The Welsh Outpouring – Victory Church Cwmbran

Victory Church Centre On Tuesday evening 5 of us from Life Church Hook headed off to Wales, to visit Victory Church, Cwmbran which has become renowned as the centre of what is being called the Welsh Outpouring. Having looked at their website and watched a few of their videos I had some idea of what to expect.

We had been warned that the venue fills up quickly once the doors open at 7:00pm and it was best to arrive early to ensure a seat in the main auditorium, a converted warehouse. The meeting began with worship which was Christ centred and God exalting. After about 20 minutes Kenny Brandie, Lead Pastor for the Cwmbran Campus, invited those who would like prayer for healing and deliverance from addiction to come to the front where the ministry team prayed for them. Over 100 people were prayed for, the vast majority ending up flat on their backs on the floor. I was impressed by the care and sensitivity being shown by the ministry team to the people they prayed for.

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After a further worship time Pastor Kenny preached a message about experiencing the presence of God. And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. Exodus 33:15 English Standard Version (ESV) Kenny showed us how fire was a symbol of God’s presence: with Moses at the burning bush, in the pillar of fire that guided the Israelites through the wilderness and on the disciples at the day pf pentecost. He encouraged us to seek and expect the presence of God; not just for a moment but to take with us into our lives. This led to a further ministry time when about a dozen people became followers of Jesus and the vast majority of those present were prayed for to receive fresh impartation of the Holy Spirit.

People have asked me since if this is a genuine revival; I think I would have to say it is. I felt extremely comfortable and the whole focus of the meeting was Jesus centred and the gospel of Jesus was proclaimed. The leaders we self effacing and at pains not to draw attention to themselves. This was night 64 of these meetings and during that time they have recorded 650 new believers and thousands of people being healed and touched by the presence of God.

I went hoping, that like Jesus disciples in the gospels, I would see Jesus at work – healing the sick and declaring the kingdom. I long to see more of his happening in our ministry here in Hook so plan to visit Cwmbran again and take more of our people with us. Contact office@lifechurchhook.org if you would like to come along with us.

Watch this video for an invitation Pastor Richard Taylor:

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – by Timothy Keller 

TheFreedomOfSelfForgetfulness What are the marks of a heart that has been radically changed by the grace of God? If we trust in Christ, what should our hearts be like? It is not simply a matter of morally virtuous behaviour. It is quite possible to do all sorts of morally virtuous things when our hearts are filled with fear, with pride or with a desire for power. We are talking about hearts that have been changed, at root by the grace of God – and what that looks like in real life. So opens this brief 45 page book written by Tim Keller.

Expounding Paul’s discourse in 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7, Keller addresses the modern preoccupation with self-esteem. He analyses the way that both low self-esteem and high self-esteem have their roots in seeking the approval of man. Keller argues that true self identity is found from understanding that the only opinion that matters is Christ’s. The crucial difference being that in Christ the verdict is given before the performance! Paul is saying that in Christianity, the verdict leads to performance. It is not the performance that leads to the verdict.

Living in the security of this truth, Keller states, is the key to true humility:A truly gospel-humble person is not a self-hating or a self-loving person, but a gospel-humble person. The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes. It just works. The toes just work;the ego just works. Neither draws attention to itself.
Perfect freedom is found only when our sole concern is what Jesus thinks of us and that is grounded in the truth that ‘there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’

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Red Moon Rising – by Pete Grieg & Dave Roberts 

RedMoonRising A movement began in 1999 that has affected more than 50 nations of the world. Starting with a group of young people in the ancient West Sussex city of Chichester, a chain of 24-7 prayer has spread from North to South and East to West. Not just in the UK or even Europe, but from Communist China to Washington DC. Prayer rooms have been established across the globe gathering people from different expressions of Christianity to pray round the clock. Meeting in places as diverse as caravans and nightclubs the prayer rooms, known as ‘Boiler Rooms’, have experienced the power of God in remarkable ways.

As is so often the case with a move of God, this movement started by accident and has been led by self-effacing people who are as surprised as anyone at what they have seen happen. This book recounts the story and shows how God has connected people together from different corners of the earth with a common passion to seek God in prayer. People who have attended these Boiler Rooms have sometimes come intending to spend only a few minutes in prayer and ended up staying for several hours. Others have walked in off the street to seek sanctuary, whilst yet others have come declaring a desire to become followers of Jesus. The common thread has been a willingness to persevere as this quote highlights:

 PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens) Perseverance has been a key theme for 24-7. In many ways continual prayer is exactly that – a refusal to quit! With all the encouragements and even miracles of the first few years of this crazy movement it would be easy to make it sound as if everything is easy or automatic, when he reality is that we all live with far more frustrations in prayer than breakthroughs. We are called to persevere as we seek to love God, love one another and love the lost. (p239)

The authors identify three characteristics of prayer that is central to the ethos of the Boiler Rooms:

Intimacy: 24-7 prayer is not simply about functionality – adding effectiveness to the things we do. First and foremost a Boiler Room is about friendship with God and, as in any relationship, intimacy grows from time spent with the one we love.

Infection: And the thing about hanging out in God’s presence is that it is contagious. When an individual develops intimacy with God they inevitably become infected with his life and love. Just as infections spread when one person breathes on another, so God’s breath conveys the same life-giving power today that it did on the day he created Adam from the dust. It is through intimacy with God that we become infectious carriers of his life-breath. And a contagious Christian is an effective one.

Effectiveness: A Boiler Room is a centre for transformation, but before we see the changes reported in the newspapers, we will experience them in our lives. You don’t need 24-7 or a Boiler Room to discover intimacy with God, but maybe it can help! (p274)

Interwoven amongst the details of this present move of God are snippets from the history of earlier prayer movements, most notably Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians whose 24 hour prayer meeting lasted 100 years. As you read this book, allow yourself to be provoked and encouraged. I expected to find the story of persevering prayer to leave me feeling guilty and inadequate. Instead I find myself stirred inside; praying ‘God, could it happen here? God, let it happen here!’

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