The Fruit of the Spirit - FORBEARANCE

By Beatrice Smith

Love, Joy, Peace; these first three on Paul’s list on the Fruit of the Holy Spirit sound very Spiritual! They are just the kind of things that good Christians ought to have and to show. But when it comes to forbearance, that is, in other words, patience, we’re coming to something, which is more to do with that area of life between Monday and Saturday, and what we’re like to live with in our places of work or in our homes or indeed in places where we take our leisure and play.

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Patience, as a fruit if the Spirt means, on the one hand, the ability to endure for a long time the kind of suffering and opposition that may come our way, and on the other hand, the ability to put up with the weaknesses and foibles of others, including other believers.

But before we go on thinking about patience as a quality that we should show, let’s first of all think about patience, or forbearance as a quality of God. Now, maybe we wouldn’t immediately think of the patience of God as a feature of the Old Testament; usually this God of the Old Testament is often understood to be an angry and distant God; but the very first description that God gives himself in Exodus 34 verse 6 is when he says to Moses that His name is “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love..”.

Slow to anger is of the character of God!  And when you look at history of the Old Testament, and indeed the whole of scripture, the Bible is a long story of God’s patience over many centuries and generations with, first, the Israelites and then with us and the world He has made.

The Prophet Isaiah (53:12) told the Israelites how God had “borne their sins” like a burden that he had to carry, in fact, he says, he had carried Israel himself from cradle to the grave. And actually the word in the Old Testament which loosely translates as to “forgive” is the word “to bear” or “to carry”. That’s to say, when God forgives, it’s because he chooses to bear our sins himself, which, of course, is exactly what Jesus did on the Cross.

So the Old Testament, then, shows God’s incredible patience and when the New Testament goes on to speak about the patience of Jesus, as he bore the injustice of the Cross, it shows us through Jesus practically, how we can exercise patience. Here’s what Peter says about the suffering and patience of Jesus in 1 Peter 2 verses 21-24:

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”  

When thinking about patience, we can think about it in two ways:

Firstly, the patience of endurance of suffering;  It’s very clear in the Bible, that God’s people will suffer. Even now, millions of Christians around the world are suffering hatred, discrimination, imprisonment and often martyrdom because of their faith in Jesus.  We need to pray for them daily as they go through this. We may know several people in our lives who are also enduring hardship and this can be hard.

Secondly, we also need to remember that patience means forbearance with others. That is when we choose to bear with other people, rather than cutting them off when they annoy us or even worse. It is a choice to forgive someone rather than hold a grudge. It means choosing to overlook something that was hurtful or unkind rather than picking a fight and getting even. And that kind of patience is often hardest for us in our everyday lives.

To quote a famous poem:

“"To dwell above with saints we love, Oh, that will be glory. To dwell below with saints we know, well, that's a different story!”

It can be difficult to have the patience to put up with others , not to mention, sometimes the patience they may need to put up with us! But that’s what the Bible asks of us, and it is what we are called for even when we’re misunderstood, misinterpreted and when we’re treated unfairly. That’s really when patience is tested, and that’s when it really counts.  The Apostle Paul knew a thing or two about being misunderstood and mistreated. Yet in his struggle he said in Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”.

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When it comes to patience, I will be the first to admit my personal struggle, partly because I still haven’t fully figured out what is more challenging; patience with other people or patience with God. But patience in both can be hard to navigate. And this is partly because to be patient with others requires choosing to think about how others feel and this, psychologists have suggested, doesn’t come naturally to us as human beings. We naturally have a tendency to think about us and how we are affected by a situation rather than automatically about others; we have to work harder to think of the other.

To be patient with God means to see things from God’s perspective, which, again, isn’t always natural to us as human beings. Sometimes it’s not even clear whether it is God we’re waiting on. The unemployed person may wonder “is there something else I should be doing to speed up the process?” The single person may ask: “have I done enough to ensure I am sociable enough to meet someone?” Sometimes it is simply unclear which road we should be taking and whether God wants us waiting or doing something else especially when we might feel that there’s no guarantee that God will meet our desires or our needs in the way that we want him to. No matter where you find yourself on the journey in patience, know this:  that even in hard things, God is at work on your behalf and for your good.

To be patient means to choose to stand with God where he is and not in the circumstances where we are. Thankfully through prayer, we are able to access that space with ease by simply asking God to hold our hand and illuminate our paths. And as we do that, our hearts are being transformed, from glory to glory.

Jesus, you are the example of patience. You endured so much for us on the Cross, thank you for all that you gave. We want to learn from you; help us to see as you see, to stand where you are, no matter what our circumstances are, today. We pray especially for those suffering persecution and hardship for their faith; help them persevere. And teach us to do the same in our daily lives. To depend on you and to look to you when it is hard.  Thank you that in you, all things are possible. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Beatrice Smith

Beatrice was born in Rwanda where she lived with her mum, dad and five brothers and sisters until 1994. At just ten years of age, a brutal genocide tore her country apart, resulting in her having to flee from her home at an early age. They travelled from country to country searching for a safe home, finally settling in the UK, where they have lived for the past seventeen years.

Beatrice is a wife & mother and author of The Search for Home, which chronicles hers and her family’s journey as refugees from the Rwandan genocide.  She is passionate about Jesus and about people and loves meeting new people and talking, a lot. She loves coffee and laughter and cake and doing life with people, mostly across the dining table.

The Fruit of the Spirit - JOY

By Natalie Seale

 

“These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you,

and that your joy may be made full.”

– John 15:11

 

If we consider how many times the words “joy,” “joyful” and “rejoicing” appear on the pages of our Bibles – and I can tell you, it’s far too many to count! –we can start to understand just how important this second, sweet fruit of the Spirit really is.

 

It’s really easy to get caught up in finding the powerful, serious message of Christ’s lessons during his earthly ministry, and even easier to get sucked in to thinking that the story of His resurrection is as much about the sorrow of Good Friday as it is about the unadulterated joy of Easter Sunday.  We are conditioned to focus on the negative and view these lessons from the perspective of failure and sin – i.e that we can’t live up to the example He has laid out for us. But this isn’t His heart for us at all. Time and again, God uses His Word to encourage us to rejoice. He wants us to live a life full of joy and promise.

 

The Gospel begins with the promise of joy.  On the night Jesus was born, the angels appeared to the shepherds in the field and announced “good tidings of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)  No one was to be excluded from sharing in the good news that a newborn king, our Saviour, had been born in Bethlehem.  Even those who were shunned everywhere else – for shepherds, who travelled around, handling and sleeping outside with their sheep – were invited to kneel before him.

 

This is the first, important lesson about the joy that comes from God: it encompasses all. Where Jesus is concerned, everyone is invited to share in the good news, in the feasting, and the celebrations – from the least to the greatest (Hebrews 8:11; Jeremiah 31:34). 

 

Wherever and whoever you are, His joy is for you.

 

In Greek, the word for JOY is chara.  This noun describes a feeling of innergladness, delight, or rejoicing.  It is a depth of assurance and confidence that ignites a cheerful heart – and in turn, that cheerful heart leads to cheerful behaviour.

 

The fruit of the Spirit, as we now know, is what happens when the Holy Spirit dwells in a believer – that is, you or me.  To have the Holy Spirit within us is to be “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). The Scriptures are a testament to the generations of God’s people who have been commanded by the Lord to “rejoice” – even long before Jesus walked the earth.

 

Nehemiah was a man of God.  He was a normal, humble guy who was picked up, shaken off, and used by the Lord for an amazing mission – the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the reuniting of the exiles. Nehemiah and the band of Israelites rebuilding the city’s walls faced opposition, yes, because outsiders feared that they were trying to take over.  But they weren’t trying to take over – they were trying to take back their rightful inheritance from the Lord.  Faced with opposition, frightened about what might happen, Nehemiah told the Israelites that the JOY of the Lord would be their strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

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And here is another lesson about the second fruit of the Spirit: we can find joy in adversity. This can be a difficult concept to grasp, because joy might be the last thing we are feeling when we are facing struggles of our own.  But our God knows, sees, and understands everything we are facing.  He knows sorrow, heartache, sadness, and grief, and He calls us to rejoice anywayGod tells us that there is a time for every emotion (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). 

 

During His earthly ministry, Jesus exemplified joy. He faced opposition from his enemies, and hey, even disbelief from his friends!  He certainly had his fair share of adversity, and yet Jesus’ enemies actually accused him of being too joyful:


“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him!

A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

– Luke 7:34

 

Jesus’s enemies said that He spent too much time hanging around with disreputable people – prostitutes, tax collectors, and drunks – to be who he said he was. They had a preconceived idea about how they thought the Son of God would and should behave, and this Nazarene just didn’t fit. Yet, Jesus himself compared his time on earth to a bridegroom attending the wedding feast (Mark 2:18-20) – a time for joy and celebration that must, ultimately, come to a conclusion.

 

In the three parables of Luke 15 – the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son – joy and celebration is at the forefront of Jesus’ lessons.  For each protagonist in turn, rejoicing is the automatic reaction when they are faced with the return of something that is of great value to them: a sheep, a coin, or even a son.

 

“Let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he is lost, and is found.”

- Luke 15:23-24

 

The joy at the return of the Prodigal Son certainly foreshadows the even greater joy at the resurrection of Christ – the Son of God, who was dead and rose again.

 

The lessons taught by Jesus on earth laid the foundations for the Early Church, which was characterised by gladness and the joy of the Lord (Acts 2:46; 13:52).  In his letters to the various churches established after the death of Christ, Paul reminds the Philippi and the Thessalonians to “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)  Paul certainly knew adversity – many of his letters were written from the deep darkness of a jail cell.  However, his letters also serve to remind us that adversity, far from hindering our faith, can actually enhance our joy when we make it out of the other side.

 

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Going back to the idea of joy as chara, we find another very closely associated Greek word – charis, which means “grace” or “a gift.”  The two are linked because chara is the natural response to charis – in other words, we have joy because of God’s grace. We are choosing to live a life filled with the joy God promises when we choose to value His presence, promises, and plan for our lives. 

 

Joy is important – second only to love among the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.  When the Holy Spirit dwells in a believer (that is, you and me!) these fruits – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control –create character in the heart. The more we let the Holy Spirit into our lives and our hearts, the closer we draw to God – and that in itself gives us great joy.

 

God is love, and God is joy, too. The Bible tells us that the Kingdom of God is founded on peace, righteousness and joy in the Spirit (Romans 14:17). So let us REJOICE as we know and remember the promises He has for us – now and forever. 

 

Heavenly Father,

Let us seek out the joy you have promised us in each and every day,whether our rejoicing be over something big or something small.  Help us to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit you have given usthrough your son Jesus Christ, remembering that all our joy comes from you. Amen

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Natalie Seale 

Natalie is a Yorkshire lass who recently moved all the way to San Antonio, Texas, to live with her husband Quincy. She has a PhD in Renaissance history and until recently taught undergrads and post-grads at the University of Edinburgh. Her passion is for teaching, but in the process of applying for a visa she discovered a new love for writing devotionals and lettering by hand. Good coffee, old books, family time, warm jumpers and Texas sunsets are some of her favourite things. Her heart is to live a life full of the love and joy of God, and in doing so help others to achieve their potential. 

The Fruit of the Spirit - LOVE

By Gemma Tuson

Over the coming months, on the Be Loved blog, we will be looking at the individual fruit of the Spirit talked about in Galatians 5, and learn how we can help them to flourish.

 

 So what are the Fruit of the Spirit?

 

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But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5 22-23 NIV

 

 

 

The word ‘fruit’ in this passage refers to a living element. It is singular, not plural, because all these attributes are simultaneously grown through living and walking with Jesus. They are a collection of characteristics that manifest as we seek Him, and cannot grow on their own.

 

Just like real fruit, they do not ripen over night. We have to ‘water’ them and wait for them to grow. Remembering to always come back to Jesus to ask for forgiveness when we have messed up, and asking Him to help us in the future.

 

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In Greek language the word ‘Love’ has 4 different ways it can be used. In English we only have one way to say it, so sometimes it can be confusing.

 

We ‘love’ a photo on instagram, love pizza, love a new top we just bought and also love our friends and family.

There is no distinction here between the different uses of the word love, although common sense tells us that someone probably doesn’t love pizza in the same way that they love their family!

 

In the Greek there are 4 distinct ways:

 

Agape – the love between God and man and visa versa.

Eros – intimate love between 2 people.

Philia – affectionate love between friends, family and community.

Storge – the love of a child by a parent.

 

When God speaks of love in the Bible he is referring to Agape love.

 

In Mark 12:30-31 Jesus says ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

 

This sort of love is sacrificial love, before anything or anyone else.

 

And then he goes on to say ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no command greater than these.’

 

He wants us to love ourselves and other people in the same way we love Him.

With ‘agape’ love.

 

So what does loving each other in this way look like?

 

Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-7

 

 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

 

This well known verse is used time and time again at weddings to explain what love should really look like, I even had it as a reading at my own wedding. But if Paul had intended it to be only for weddings then this love that he is talking about would be ‘Eros’ love.

The reality is Paul did not write it for a wedding.  He did in fact write it to a church that was mistreating and disrespecting one another. They were doing all the things that people who went to church should do, but they weren’t behaving themselves when it came to loving one another.

Paul wrote to them to explain exactly how they should be treating each other… with ‘agape’ love.

 

Now you know this, have a read through the passage again.

 

Paul starts off by telling them that although they are ‘acting’ like Christians, without love, it is a complete waste of time.

 

He then goes on to list two things that love is…

 

Patient & kind.

 

Paul is saying to the church, IF you are loving one another correctly, you should be acting with patience and kindness.

 

He then goes on to list what love is not...

Firstly, it does not dishonour others.

To dishonour someone means to bring disgrace or shame onto them. Paul must have known that this sort behaviour was happening within the church to mention it.

 

Secondly, it is not self-seeking.

This means not putting yourself and your own welfare before that of other people.

 

Thirdly, it is not easily angered.

How quickly can we sometimes get angry.

 

Fourthly, it keeps no record of wrongs.

When we say we’ve forgiven someone, have we really forgiven them?

 

Fifthly, Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.

Okay so we probably don’t delight when something horrible has happened, but if something bad happens to someone, are we ever slightly happy inside that it hadn’t happened to us?

 

He then finishes off by highlighting what love is again…

It always protects – to keep safe from harm or injury.

Always trusts – reliance on the integrity, strength and ability of a person.

Always hopes – the feeling of that what is wanted can be had, or things will turn out for the best.

Always persevere – To persist even when things are difficult.

 

 

Did you notice how I started to apply that to you and I as we went on?

 

That’s because even though Paul was writing to a church around 1600 years ago, it is all still very relevant to us today.

 

If on a daily basis we seek to put others needs before our own and act in these ways highlighted by Paul, then we are ‘watering’ love in our lives which will lead to it flourishing and growing within us.

 

I invite you to join we me this month to endeavor to cultivate ‘agape’ love, because, as Paul notes, love never fails.

 

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Love and be loved,

 

Gemma x

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Gemma Tuson

Gemma is the creator of the Be Loved resource. She has worked with young people for over 10 years doing various creative workshops all over the UK. For the past 3 years she has also been working in schools as a mentor, allowing young people the space to chat through issues one on one. She loves drinking tea, cooking and all things craft related. Her heart is to see young people reach their full potential and be set free from any issues, or circumstances, that can hold them back. 

Gemma has been married to Mark for 13 years and they have two gorgeous children together. 

A Beloved Easter - Easter Sunday

By Natalie Seale

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Before I relocated to America to live with my husband, one of my favourite Easter traditions was to attend the dawn service at my church.  It’s a small church, with seating for about 50 people at most; and it’s very old, and probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever known.  The dawn service was slightly different to regular services, though, because we’d meet near the church hall and wander around the church as we acted out the scenes that occurred on that special Sunday morning so long ago. 

 

We’d be there before 6am, only a small crowd of us, maybe 7 or 8.  We’d greet one another in the semi-darkness and then walk down the path to a specially built and very beautiful little garden with a small tomb.  The stone rolled away, a little light inside, we would read from the Gospel together about how Mary and a few friends set out to Jesus’ grave to lovingly anoint the body of their friend.  They didn’t find anything as they expected to find it! Instead, there was an earthquake, followed by an angel who “appeared like lightning” and the news that Jesus was not there.  He had risen! (Matthew 28: 6)

 

If we flick to the Gospel of John at this point, which is what we always do at the dawn service, we encounter a very upset and slightly frantic Mary Magdalene.  She is crying.  She is devastated at the thought that someone could have taken the body of her friend away.  A man she assumes is the gardener approaches her and asks her why she is crying.  Her only thought is to find Jesus’ body, but he is standing right in front of her in living and breathing flesh! The veil is lifted when Jesus says her name – Mary – and she realises the good news.  She runs off to tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord so that they, too, can share in the excitement of the resurrection. 

 

In the scripture and at Easter Sunday services like mine, the excitement builds as the news of the Risen Christ spreads.  Simon Peter and another disciple, known only as “the beloved,” rush to the tomb to investigate after they encounter the women.  Yet where the former sees only loss – the lack of a body – the beloved disciple sees a void filled with the presence of the Risen Christ.  He sees the empty tomb and believes.  He recalls the teaching of the scripture, of the words of the living Son of God, and everything clicks into place.

 

We get to be beloved disciples this (and every) Easter Sunday.  And the good news is that the Easter story is always fresh, always new, always exciting.  It never gets old – because the tomb is always empty.

 

When we run to the empty tomb, we always find the same thing – a Risen Christ who turns despair into hope, and sadness into joy. 

 

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”
Luke 24:5-6

 

The Risen Christ

 

In celebration of Passover, Jews were expected to throw out all of the old, leavened bread (i.e. bread that has been made with yeast) and prepare new, unleavened bread.  This stems from the fact that the yeast was seen as a kind of corruption because of the effect that it had on the dough – Jesus actually told a parable about the potential for a small amount of ‘leaven’ to penetrate a whole batch of dough (read it in Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:20-21). 

 

Passover was, therefore, to be celebrated and honoured with pure, new bread.  Paul draws a parallel between Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the practice of throwing away the leavened bread and baking new for Passover.  He writes:

 

“Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. Let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, [and] having only the unleavened bread of integrity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5: 6-8)

 

The association of Easter with renewal and rebirth is long established: it’s why we see eggs and bunnies, chicks and spring flowers everywhere at this time of year. It’s hard not to get excited about warmer spring days, bright daffodils, and new Easter outfits, but these are temporary pleasures that don’t last very long.  What really does last, though, is the good news of the Gospel: the news of the Risen Christ, who laid down his life so that we might live. 

 

So this weekend, let us celebrate the resurrection and marvel at the wonder of the empty tomb.

 

But let us also carry the fresh joy and hope that surrounds us this Eastertime, and channel it towards a deeper, more lasting kind of renewal – a renewal of our faith in Christ; of our commitment to living our lives by his example; and our status as much beloved daughters of the King.

 

Because we are, without a doubt, an Easter people – and Alleluia is our song.   

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Natalie Seale

Natalie is a Yorkshire lass who recently moved all the way to San Antonio, Texas, to live with her husband Quincy. She has a PhD in Renaissance history and until recently taught undergrads and post-grads at the University of Edinburgh. Her passion is for teaching, but in the process of applying for a visa she discovered a new love for writing devotionals and lettering by hand. Good coffee, old books, family time, warm jumpers and Texas sunsets are some of her favourite things. Her heart is to live a life full of the love and joy of God, and in doing so help others to achieve their potential. 

A Beloved Easter - Holy Saturday

By Natalie Seale

 

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Holy Saturday is a strange one, isn’t it? 

In our eagerness to celebrate the empty tomb, we have a tendency to overlook this most unique of days.

For this is the day between the death and resurrection: the only day when Jesus’ body lay dead and buried in a grave, wrapped in cloths and protected by the weighty stone that had closed the tomb.

 

In contrast to Good Friday, when scripture gives us a blow-by-blow account of the events of every hour, there is almost nothing to tell us about what was going on on Holy Saturday.  Perhaps Jesus’ family and friends had met together to cry and talk about what had happened.  Perhaps they stayed at home out of fear that they, too, might meet the same fate through association.  What we do know about this day is that the memories of what Jesus had said when He was alive had descended on those who were responsible for his death.      

 

Jesus had declared on several occasions that he would die in Jerusalem at the hands of the Sanhedrin, but that he was also going to rise again.  Matthew’s Gospel tells us that whilst the Chief Priests had dismissed this kind of talk when Jesus was still alive, the fact that he had know what they would do before it had even happened unnerved them (Matthew 27: 62-66).  After all, they had fulfilled the first part of his prediction by crucifying him.  Now he was dead, they were plagued by thoughts that maybe he might have been right.  Coupled with the unnatural black darkness that had fallen over Jerusalem when Jesus had died, they were starting to get pretty worried. 

 

Unable to shake their concerns, a few of the Chief Priests went to meet with Pontius Pilate.  They explained that although they still believed that Jesus couldn’t possibly be who he said he was – that is, the Son of God – they were concerned that His disciples might try to steal the body and make a scene.  Pilate listened to them, and offered them some reassurance in the form of a small group of soldiers who would be stationed outside the tomb. 

 

Holy Saturday is the quiet day, the day for watching and waiting.  We are blessed with the knowledge that joy will come in the morning, but we still have to mark the only day when Jesus was dead and buried.  That can feel heavy and strange.  It isn’t time to celebrate – yet – but a time to reflect on the power of the Cross and enormity of the sacrifice of Father and Son.

 

“He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all –how will
he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Romans 8:32

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Natalie Seale

Natalie is a Yorkshire lass who recently moved all the way to San Antonio, Texas, to live with her husband Quincy. She has a PhD in Renaissance history and until recently taught undergrads and post-grads at the University of Edinburgh. Her passion is for teaching, but in the process of applying for a visa she discovered a new love for writing devotionals and lettering by hand. Good coffee, old books, family time, warm jumpers and Texas sunsets are some of her favourite things. Her heart is to live a life full of the love and joy of God, and in doing so help others to achieve their potential. 

A Beloved Easter - Good Friday

By Natalie Seale

 

Easter is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite time of year – my favourite holiday, and my favourite season in the church calendar.  As Lent gives way to Easter, it seems that everywhere we look darkness is giving way to light.  Spring is coming, bringing with it new life and a fresh start after a very long, very dark winter.      

 

And yet, this season is as much about darkness as it is about light.  As you read this on Good Friday – the darkest day in the Christian calendar – I pray that you will take this opportunity to remember what a blessing it is to share in the knowledge that we are on the cusp of great joy.  We aren’t quite there yet – but we sit at the edge of triumph, hurtling towards the most exciting and awe-inspiring and wonderful part of our whole, remarkable story: the resurrection.

 

But I don’t want you to hurry your way to Easter Sunday and the joy that it promises to bring, because there is so much to learn and appreciate in the meantime.  The light, after all, seems much brighter in relation to darkness.  When I was asked to write this blog post, I wanted to make it clear that this season is about so much more than Easter Sunday.  The six weeks that have taken us from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday are about much more than simply giving up something we enjoy as a penance.  It is a journey that we take each year to reaffirm and renew our faith, preparing our hearts for the joy that will come as surely as the springtime.

 

Whether the Lenten season has been a part of your story or not this year, the Easter weekend is a wonderful opportunity to take a step back and re-engage with your faith.  It is a time to reflect not just on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but on the importance of His earthly ministry and the consequences of the Cross.  

 

“Lent is a call for renewing a commitment grown dull – perhaps
by a life more marked by routine than reflection.”
Joan Chittister

 

 

A Moveable Feast

 

I want to start with grappling the basics about Easter – the whys, the whens, and the hows – because these are questions we don’t necessarily ask, even when we celebrate Easter each year.

 

Easter is a moveable feast, with Easter Sunday falling any time between March 22nd and April 25th depending on the year.  This can make things complicated, but it is done this way for several reasons.  The first is that Jesus’ disciples never recorded the exact date of Jesus’ resurrection.  This isn’t that surprising really, given everything that was happening.  Yet, their failure to do so led to a lot of necessary guesswork when it came to celebrating the resurrection in the decades and centuries that followed. 

 

In the very early days of the Church, believers linked their observance of Easter with Jewish Passover.  The Gospel records the fact that the death, burial and resurrection of Christ happened after Passover in some detail.  The Jewish holiday calendar has always been based on solar and lunar cycles, so feast days do not fall on the same day each year.  Linking the two together meant that Easter, too, became a moveable feast that was dependent on the date of Passover.

 

However, at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the Western Church decided to establish a more standardised system for determining the date of Easter that still stands today.  Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the Paschal Full Moon.  The Paschal moon can occur up to two days after the “actual” full moon, which has given us the span of dates from late March to late April.    

 

The date of Easter Sunday also informs the other dates that mark the lead up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, with Holy Week itself beginning with Palm Sunday.  Many of us commit to a fast of some kind to replicate the sacrifice of Christ’s journey into the desert, where He – like Moses before Him – stayed for 40 days and 40 nights.  Different churches mark the days of Holy Week – Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday – in different ways.  It is a time of quiet waiting and reflection before the joy and exuberance of Easter Sunday. 

 

Easter Weekend in Real Time

 

As you’re reading this, most of the days I’ve just mentioned in Holy Week have already passed.  But what I’d like you to do from now is to slow things right down.  The best is still yet to come.

 

We all know that Advent is a wonderful time of joyful anticipation, but the coming of a baby, born to be our Saviour, happens as quick as a flash! Perhaps this is why I love Easter so much more… because of its conscious, heartfelt invitation to slow down, be still, and let the events unfold. 

 

So this is my conscious and heartfelt invitation to you to slow down and witness the events of this Easter weekend.  I know you might have a lot going on, but I’d like to experience this special, holy weekend with you in real time.  Let’s take that invitation to slow down and really act on it, savouring each part of this crucial story as we go. 

 

My heart for you is that you will be inspired by what you read here today, and that you’ll keep joining me as this special weekend unfolds. Let’s sink deep in the events of the next few days together, and enjoy them right here, in real time.

 

Good Friday

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So let’s start by talking about what is happening today, Good Friday.   Last night in Gethsemane, Jesus was arrested – betrayed by one of His disciples and abandoned by the rest of His friends.  Overnight, the Chief Priests of the Sanhedrin (that is, the Jewish court system at this time) held secret trials and decided that Jesus should be crucified.  Though Pontius Pilate could have put a stop to it, he reluctantly agreed to a crucifixion that Friday morning, and effectively washed his hands of the whole thing.

 

Jesus was beaten very severely before being nailed to a cross, where He would remain for six heart-wrenching hours until He died at about 3pm in the afternoon (Matthew 27:27-44). 

 

To me, the worst thing about reading the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion is the taunting.  Hanging there between two thieves – weak, covered in blood, and completely exposed – crowds of people had gathered to mock the Son of God.  They told Him that if He really was the Son of God, he would surely be able to save himself.  One of the thieves echoed their jeers as he hung on a cross, shouting to Jesus: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself. Save us!”

 

But in amongst the pain and anguish of Jesus’ suffering; amongst all the misguided comments coming from the crowd, we can still find hope and forgiveness.  We find the other thief acknowledging that whilst he had done wrong, the Son of God has done nothing to warrant this painful and humiliating death.  Heartbreakingly, he turns to Jesus and says: “remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  With grace and mercy, Jesus tells the thief that, on that very day, they will be together in paradise. (Luke 23:43) 

 

However many times I read these crucial verses of the Gospel, it never gets any easier.  Real despair. Real sadness. Sometimes, even real tears.  I feel like I carry the weight of the events of that crucifixion day around with me all day on Good Friday, just as heavily as the darkness that fell when Jesus finally gave up His spirit (Matthew 27:45).  I despair with Jesus’ mother Mary and his friends who had to witness the torture and death of their friend and teacher.  And this empathy isn’t a bad thing – because if we want to rejoice in the wonder of the Risen Christ, we have to appreciate the bigger picture of His sacrifice.    

 

While the crowds at Golgotha missed the point, we don’t have to.  The cross was the very reason that the Son of God had come, so it is important that we don’t skip over the heartbreaking parts of Good Friday in our race to commemorate the resurrection on Easter Sunday.  When Jesus uttered the words “it is finished” (John 19:30) He really meant it.  As the one, true sacrificial lamb, it was His very presence on the cross – and not whether He had the power to come down from it or not – that really mattered.

 

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds
we are healed.”
Isaiah 53:5

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Natalie Seale

Natalie is a Yorkshire lass who recently moved all the way to San Antonio, Texas, to live with her husband Quincy. She has a PhD in Renaissance history and until recently taught undergrads and post-grads at the University of Edinburgh. Her passion is for teaching, but in the process of applying for a visa she discovered a new love for writing devotionals and lettering by hand. Good coffee, old books, family time, warm jumpers and Texas sunsets are some of her favourite things. Her heart is to live a life full of the love and joy of God, and in doing so help others to achieve their potential. 

Be Bold

By Natalie Seale

 

“The wicked flee when no one pursues,but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”

 

Proverbs 28:1

 

There are many ways to define the characteristics that make us bold – a willingness to take risks and act innovatively; to have confidence or courage; to get things done in the face of risk, rejection, or shame – but I’ve always found this one the best:

 

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Boldness is the opposite of fearfulness.

 

Perhaps you’ve opened your Bible to a passage and found God’s people acting out of fear. Let’s be honest, though, those Old Testament times weren’t exactly free and easy. Even their status as His chosen people didn’t protect Israel from floods, famine, slavery, death, exile and injustice. The world was a frightening place! But even more than that, the Israelites proved time and time again that they were unable to keep to the laws and codes outlined for them in the Covenant. They had been given a set of instructions, but they persisted in creating false idols, in wanting more than was provided, and in letting their lack of trust get in the way.

 

In short, their fearfulness wasn’t the right kind of fearfulness. The Bible uses the word fear at least 300 times when referring to God, and many of these have positive connotations rather than negative ones. In Genesis 42:18, Joseph wins the trust of his brothers when he declares himself as a “God-fearing man”; while in Exodus 18:21 Moses chose leaders to help on the basis that they both feared God and would not accept bribes. Fearing God is, therefore, a good thing – it demonstrates our integrity as Christians, our trustworthiness and our willingness to treat others with love and kindness. In the crucial passage from Romans about sin, we read that the chief sin of humanity is to “have no fear of God at all.” (Romans 3:18).

 

So if we’ve worked out that fearing God is so important, where does that leave us with boldness? How do we strike the balance between fearfulness and fearlessness?

 

Though we have a tendency to use “proverbs” as a catchall term for short pieces of wisdom, this is actually one of the most complex books of the Bible. The word translates from the Hebrew word mashal, but the latter has a much more varied meaning than its English equivalent. In addition to the kind of short sayings of popular wisdom that we might expect, theBook of Proverbs also includes longer, instructive poems of advice intended to be passed down from teacher to student, or parent to child;and dramatic personifications of the wise man and the fool (or the righteous and the wicked). As well as the complexity of its subject matter, the Book of Proverbs also raises questions about its authorship and dating. Traditionally referred to as the “Proverbs of Solomon,” it is clear that other writers had a role in collecting together the sayings, poems and instructions that make up the book – among them Hezekiah, king of Judah, and Lemuel, whose mother is attributed with the writing of one of the most well-known and loved of all the proverbs: Proverbs 31.

 

The draw of the guide for being a virtuous woman is strong, but Proverbs 28:1 probably tops the list as my favouriteBiblical proverb.This is because of the way that it relates so beautifully to the gospel.In his letter to the Philippians, Paul expressed his wish that they live fearlessly – more specifically, that they live a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit… not frightened in anything by your opponents.” (Philippians 1:27-28).Paul confirms the truth established in Proverbs 28:1 in a really powerful and meaningful way here. When he tells the Philippi to live a life worthy of the gospel, he is reminding them that righteousness and courage go hand in hand, and that together they can defeat wickedness and fear.

 

So what is it that makes the wicked flee, and what makes the righteous bold? And what does it mean for us?

 

If the second half of Proverbs 28:1 is encouraging, the first is pretty baffling. Do the wicked flee because they don’t fear God, or do they fear God in the wrong way? Do they even know they are wicked? And do they care? The Bible provides us with a roundabout kind of answer in Genesis. After Adam and Eve have eaten the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge “…they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8). We know how this story plays out: Adam tells God that they were hiding because they were naked and afraid; and God wants to know how they knew they were naked. After all, He wasn’t doing anything threatening, merely walking through the Garden of Eden as He had done on many days before. The difference was that Adam, with the guilty conscience acquired from defying God, felt threatened enough to flee – even when no one was pursuing him.

 

Adam defied our kind and just God, and was cast out of the garden as punishment. It would take many generations for the relationship between the Lord and His people – that’s us – to be repaired through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Though The Word reminds us time and again that it is human to sin,it also permits us to rejoice that, where our sin is concerned, we have been washed whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7). The blood of the Son was enough to wash us all clean of sin, forever. In Psalm 32:1 King David tells us: “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!” – and indeed, because of Jesus we need not struggle with a guilty conscience, fear Him, or flee from Him. The second Adam has triumphed over the first: the grace of God abounds, always.

 

Cleansed of our wickedness, we must focus on boldness, which we read is earned through righteousness. If we go back to the same Psalm again,a few verses later David writes: “He who trusts in the Lord, loving kindness shall surround him. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice you righteous ones, and shout for joy all you upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:10-11). What makes us righteous? The answer here is simple: trusting in the Lord.When we place our faith in God and the plans He has laid out for us, we demonstrate just how much we trust in His mercy and wisdom. We become righteous not because of anything we do – in fact, it is important to remember that where righteousness is concerned, there is nothing we can do – but because we are imputed with the righteousness of God. By Him and through Him we are granted the boldness of the lion – the king of the jungle, the strongest of all.

 

Far from making us feel helpless, knowing that we can’t achieve righteousness on our own should give us confidence and courage. Though we’ve picked it apart pretty thoroughly here, Proverb 28:1 actually boils down to a single, beautiful truth:

 

We become bold only when we draw near to God.

 

The good news of the gospel is that the wicked rebellion against the Lord that started with Adam passed long ago – we have nothing to fear!We need not worry about guilty consciences or the price of our sin, because Jesus has settled every score on our behalf with our Father in Heaven.

 

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Yet, we are still called to be bold.

 

Bold in our promises.

 

Bold in our conviction.

 

Bold in our faith.

 

Bold in ourselves and in the face of anyone who tries to make us feel afraid; like we aren’t enough; or that our faith doesn’t matter.

 

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:7

 

You are a dearly loved daughter of the King, with all the strength and confidence of the lion. Draw near to Him. Put your trust in Him. He will show you the way to roar!

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Natalie Seale

Natalie is a Yorkshire lass who recently moved all the way to San Antonio, Texas, to live with her husband Quincy. She has a PhD in Renaissance history and until recently taught undergrads and post-grads at the University of Edinburgh. Her passion is for teaching, but in the process of applying for a visa she discovered a new love for writing devotionals and lettering by hand. Good coffee, old books, family time, warm jumpers and Texas sunsets are some of her favourite things. Her heart is to live a life full of the love and joy of God, and in doing so help others to achieve their potential. 

Be Creative

By April Gilbert

'Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.'

Galatians 6;4-5 (MSG)

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Imagine a blueprint rolled out before you; a blueprint is intrinsic and exclusive to the exact build it is designed for, it's not replicated. Did you know that's how God created you? You have a blueprint all of your own. You were made wonderfully and fearfully (Psalm 139:14), no holding back on the design of you! And included in that design, are gifts and talents that are not just for the world to see, or to be used in a future career, they are talents and gifts to be used for God and His Kingdom.

 

But in a world that is so used to comparison, it's hard to discover your gifts and strengths and feel empowered to use them. We live in a world where some talents are deemed more “desirable or important” than others. Think about going to a concert; mainly the reason why people go is to see the artist or group perform. However, without the sound technicians, stage engineers, security, tour managers etc. that show would probably just be the artist on a blank stage with no sound or lights. It goes to show that everyone has a part to play; in our churches, families, schools and beyond. If you feel your talent is on or off a stage, big or small, they are all worthy in God's eyes and worthy to be used for Him.

 

When you know what your talent or strength is, now what? Well, it's time to start honing it and using it- don't wait! “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:15) God has given you these specific things, it's your responsibility to use them and to use them well. Galatians 6:5 says that we can “take pride in ourselves alone, without comparing ourselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”

 

I hope and pray that this blog post encourages you to discover some of the great things, ideas, qualities and talents God has put inside of you, which can change not only your life but lives around you and in this world. Take care of the gifts and talents God has placed inside of you!

 

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1.    Take some time to ask God what gifts or talents He has given you. You may already know what they are or He might just surprise you with something you never realised about yourself before!

2.    Read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 to remind yourself of the responsibility God has put on us to use what He has given to us.

3.    Pray and ask God for specific ideas or people He wants you to use your talents and gifts upon. Be creative in your thinking about how to use them!

4.     And in a world full of comparison, from worldly views to social media, it can be hard to be proud of our gifts and talents. Allow God to show you the magnitude of what He has placed inside of you and to let no one steal that from you.

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April Gilbert.

April is a young adult, born and living in Bristol. She enjoys music, food, travelling, being creative & the odd reality TV show! For years she has worked with young people & students in and outside of church, supporting them through the teenage years & encouraging young Christians' walk with God. Her passion is to see young people live the life described in John 10:10- an abundant one! 

Be Focused

By Natalie Seale

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV)

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If the apostle Paul’s life was made into a blockbuster movie, it would certainly be an emotional rollercoaster to watch.  His story has it all: an identity crisis, conversion, visions, blindness, miracles, travel, imprisonment, and suffering… and if all that wasn’t enough – there isn’t even a happy ending!  Paul’s story is one of the great and enduring dramas of the Gospel, but the drama that unfolded in his own life never, ever prevented him from his mission of spreading the Good News to strangers. 

 

As we read about his life and work, it becomes clear that this kind of single-minded focus was an integral part of Paul’s personality.  This trait comes out especially forcefully in the second letter he wrote to the Corinthians.  Unlike the other communities Paul wrote epistles to (like the Galatians and the Philippians) the people at Corinth really weren’t convinced by him – they challenged his authority as an apostle.  Rather than embracing him as a follower of Jesus, they criticized him for the ways he spoke and wrote, and forced him to defend both himself and his teachings.  In his letter to them, Paul is essentially replying to the Corinthians’ bad treatment of him by reminding them of the importance of forgiving others, giving generously to others, and living in a compassionate and Christ-like way.

 

Wouldn’t it be great if we could respond to people who treat us badly like Paul does?

 

Well, yes and no.  Paul himself wasn’t perfect, and he was the first to admit it.  He isn’t telling us to feel bad that we can’t always see passed our own hurt to preach forgiveness to others, but he is reminding us that there is a bigger picture to focus on.

 

Fix your eyes

 

Have you noticed that when you focus on something really closely, it’s easy to lose sight of everything else?  It’s a little like when we visit the optician for an eye test: as we go through the process, it becomes more and more difficult to imagine that there is anything else in the dark room than that small bright box of letters. 

 

When Paul tells us to “fix our eyes” – or, in other translations, to “be focused” – he is telling us to look passed all of the distractions of our daily routines, passed the naysayers who treat us badly, and passed all the potential worries and anxieties we might be carrying.  Though all these things are competing for our attention, there is only one thing we should be focusing our energies – and our eyes – on: our God.  Paul knew better than anyone that focusing on God could be difficult, but he also bore witness to the power and presence of God at first hand.

 

When we fix our eyes on God, we begin to lose sight of the other things that have been demanding our attention: the trivial, the unimportant, and the hurtful.  We realise the potential they have to distract us from the talents and skills we have been given, and that realisation puts us in a better position to follow the life advice Paul gave to the Corinthians: to practice forgiveness, generosity, compassion, and faith.  By focusing on these things, we allow ourselves to fulfill the potential that God, with all His loving Grace, has instilled in us.

 

The Seen and The Unseen

 

There’s a great quote that I absolutely love from C.S. Lewis, one of the great Christian writers of the twentieth century.  It goes like this:

 

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

 

His words illustrate the dichotomy between the seen and the unseen that Paul speaks of in his Epistle especially well.  The Bible is a testimony of the human capacity for faith to falter when we lose sight of God.  For the people of the Old Testament, it was easy to believe when they could see the hand of God at work in their lives.  For the apostles, it was easy to follow Jesus and believe that He was the Son of God when He walked among them and performed miracles.  Yet, that could never be enough.  Like Thomas, who needed to put his hand into the wound where Christ had been pierced on the cross, belief alone was not enough.  Proof was needed.

 

Paul is challenging the Corinthians – and us – to look beyond our human need for proof, evidence and justification, and to focus our eyes on God.  He is asking us to place our faith in a God who is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipresent (everywhere at the same time) even though we are unable to see Him. 

 

As Christians today, we aren’t so different from the people in Biblical times.  We find this tricky, especially when we’re faced with difficulty, hardship, and sadness.  This is where C.S. Lewis’ words are helpful, though, because although we might not be able to see God, we can see Him working in the world around us.  Just as the sunrise brings light and warmth to everything it touches, His grace and love can be seen in everything that surrounds us, from the beauty of the natural world to the kindness of strangers.

 

The Temporary and The Eternal

 

If the apostle Paul is talking in opposites in this passage, this is nothing unusual.  The Gospel is full of dichotomies, and by using this technique in his writing Paul shows just how much he has learned – not just from Jesus, but from the prophets of the Old Testament, too. 

 

In The Sermon on The Mount (Matthew 5-7) we find some of the most important statements made by Jesus during his earthly ministry, and many of them are concerned with opposites. He speaks of two kinds of treasure – the earthly kind and the heavenly kind – only one of which cannot be destroyed or stolen; of healthy and unhealthy eyes; of light and darkness; and of the impossibility of serving two masters (Matthew 6:19-24).  All of these comparisons lead to one, greater dichotomy between God’s way and the way of the world

 

Here, we can see God’s way as the eternity that Paul is speaking of, and the way of world – that is, our way – as temporary.  The apostle is looking to remind the Corinthians (and all of the people that were and have still to come after them) that while the world will one day pass away, the Kingdom of God will remain forever (1 John 2:17).

 

However wonderful this promise is, such a huge truth can make everything else – both the difficulties we encounter, and the joys we celebrate – seem small and insignificant in comparison.  But we can gain some perspective by acknowledging that our God today is the same God who – many, many years ago – comforted His people on their journey to the Promised Land; and who sacrificed His only Son so that we might be reconciled to Him for eternity.    

 

It can be slightly overwhelming – not to mention quite alarming – to think of our lives here on Earth as nothing more than temporary, but that isn’t the whole story.  Paul isn’t telling us to fix our eyes on eternity because our lives are short, or because they don’t matter to God at all – the opposite is true!  He is simply telling us to place our trust in the hands of an unseen God who promised us His love and an eternal life with Him before we were even born (John 10:28). 

 

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“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Corrie Ten Boom

If you now go back to the verse where we started and read it through again, I suspect you’re probably thinking a couple of things:

 

Firstly, that some of that was really heavy – and it was, because it was important.  When we open up to the heavy truth behind some of the scriptures that we might previously have simply read and taken for granted, we sink deeper into our relationship with God.  We get to know Him better, and we realise just how many different facets there are to His love for us.

 

And secondly, how can this verse and my knowledge of it help me to be focused?  Jesus is calling you to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  If we go back to my little optician analogy at the beginning, we see that where our faith is concerned, it really doesn’t matter if we can see the whole room or just the box of letters.  It is the changing lens – our God – that will ultimately determine our prescription, and whether our vision is perfect, we wear glasses, contact lenses, or we can’t see at all – it doesn’t matter to Him.  His grace covers all. 

 

Our Heavenly Father knows how hard it is for us to stay focused on something that we can’t see – after all, He has guided generations of people who have struggled to put their faith in an unseen God. You may encounter Him in the beauty that surrounds you, or feel His absence particularly painfully in a time of difficulty – but look beyond those things.  Really fix your eyes on Him. 

 

Be focused in your pursuit of God, because you don’t need to see Him to know Him – and all the wondrous plans He has for you.

 

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Natalie Seale

Natalie is a Yorkshire lass who recently moved all the way to San Antonio, Texas, to live with her husband Quincy. She has a PhD in Renaissance history and until recently taught undergrads and post-grads at the University of Edinburgh. Her passion is for teaching, but in the process of applying for a visa she discovered a new love for writing devotionals and lettering by hand. Good coffee, old books, family time, warm jumpers and Texas sunsets are some of her favourite things. Her heart is to live a life full of the love and joy of God, and in doing so help others to achieve their potential. 

Our 25 year journey with The Message

Last weekend I was privileged to attend The Message Conference & 25th anniversary celebrations, and was excited to have a stand for Be Loved in their exhibition area.  

If you don’t know about The Message then where on earth have you been?! You can find out all about them here.

 

During the two days I was able to share with some of the people I met about my journey with The Message, and it has lead me to want to write it down, as I feel that it is so evident that God was weaving a beautiful story between my husband and I, and The Message, right from when we were young.

 

My story started when I was 14 years old and The World Wide Message Tribe came to our school. Back then the original members were Mark Pennells and Andy Hawthorne, who is still the CEO of The Message today.

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Mark, Zarc & Andy

 

TWWMT would visit high schools and youth groups all over Manchester and sing, rap and dance (in ridiculous costumes) and then share about God’s love for us all.

 

After hearing them a handful of times I soon decided that I wanted to become a Christian too.

 

Unknown to me, at around that same time, my husband Mark had been taken under the wing of Mark Pennells, and would tour around the various Manchester youth clubs with them. They had found that mischievous young people would frequently unplug them mid-song so, at the age of 13 & 14, Mark’s job was to man the plug that connected the sound to the speakers!

 

Who knows if at a young age our paths crossed, but I would like to think they did.

 

After college I decided to take a year out before I went to University, and again, unknown to me so did Mark.

 

After the year out I went to Salford University and applied to do Eden through The Message. For weeks I waited for a response, but soon decided that it probably wasn’t right for me, so made the decision to commute from my home in South Manchester to Salford every day.

 

I studied Fashion Design and our campus was full of creatives from all different streams. In my second year I was conscious of a guy, who I would regularly see, around the building. At 6ft 2 he wasn’t hard to miss, especially as he wore extremely baggy jeans. I often wondered where he bought them from, but never plucked up the courage to ask!

 

During my degree I had done several weeks work experience at a popular teenage magazine in London, and was interested in pursuing something similar once I had graduated.

 

In 2001 I graduated from University and although London was the best place to be with a fashion degree, I felt the right place for me was to stay in Manchester.  I had no idea what to do, so I decided to start up a teenage magazine that had some Christian content.

 

At the age of 22 a friend and I started publishing a magazine – Jam magazine. We somehow made contact with Mark Pennells, who by then was CEO of Innervation Trust, and we were invited along to a band launch.

 

We weren’t there long before I spotted baggy jeans guy from University! After the gig I went over to him and asked him if he’d recently graduated from Salford Uni. He had indeed and we started chatting. He told me his name was Mark (they all called him Sparky) and that he did Media Technology at Uni, and was the sound engineer for The Tribe (formerly known as The World Wide Message Tribe.) He also told me that he had lived on Eden Salford for the past two years!

 

Over the coming months we would frequently see each other at various Christian Events, the main one being Planet Life, run by The Message, at the Apollo theatre in Manchester.

 

Mark was good friends with the The Tribe and the rest of The Message crew, and we would often go out for food after Planet Life. We were soon regularly socialising together and after a couple of months started dating.

 

The Message had just moved to a new location in Sharston and they had a lovely new building. I had been invited along, with Mark, to the opening of the building and during the tour had cheekily asked Andy Hawthorne if there was room for Jam magazine. To my surprise he agreed, and weeks later we had moved into an office with various Message mission people. It was an incredible time for us and we felt so privileged to be there amongst amazing people and invited to join in with the morning Message prayer times. We felt part of the family and saw huge prayers answered along the way.

 

18 months after Mark and I got together The Message held a week of mission around Manchester, which ended with a concert in Heaton Park called Festival Manchester. I had been away on holiday, but had returned home in time for the festival.

 

The morning I was about to leave for Heaton Park I had received a phone call from Andy Hawthorne asking me if I wanted to promote Jam Magazine up on stage. I was excited about the offer and said yes straight away.

There were around 30,000 people there that day and Mark had spent most of his time in the sound desk tent, with the rest of the techie guys. When it was my time to go on stage he had come out of the sound tent and was backstage with me, telling me he was there for moral support.

 A bit of a blur, but you get the picture!

A bit of a blur, but you get the picture!

 

It wasn’t long before I had to go up on stage and Andy introduced me to the crowd.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mark coming on to the stage behind me. I was stunned and wondered what on earth he was doing, I was also conscious of Andy saying something about him being a committed member of The Message staff and he didn’t let just anyone do this. The next thing Mark got down on one knee, in front of the massive crowd, and proposed…. I of course said yes!

 

18 months later and we got married. We thought it would be lovely for Andy to preach at our wedding, so had invited him to do so and he happily agreed.

I can’t remember much from the message he preached, apart from advising us to not go to bed on an argument, and that he hoped our mattress squeaked from too much laughing!

In true Andy Hawthorne style he must have shared the gospel, as that day my best friend’s husband became a Christian. We’d been praying for him for many years.

 

Our love and support for The Message didn’t stop there and we have been journeying with them ever since.

 

I am not sharing this to tell you about our love story, or to tell you about our friendship with Andy Hawthorne and The Message, but hopefully to show how God knows our beginning from our end. How he weaves people in and out of our lives, and how things that don’t seem important at the time can be an integral part of someone’s story.

 

I am also sharing this to show how a simple act of investing in a young person’s life can have a huge impact on them. If Mark and Andy hadn’t taken my Mark, at the age of 13, under their wing and invested in him, then this story could have been completely different. If they hadn’t donned their crazy clothes and come into my high school, then my story may have been very different too. Looking back over the 25 years I can see how God has orchestrated our lives so that there were different points where we could have met, yet the time wasn’t right until the day we did.

 

There’s probably hundreds of stories that people can share about their journey with The Message, and this is just one of them. It makes me hopeful for the seeds I’m helping plant through Be Loved, and makes me realise that being willing to invest in young people, however small, can lead to something beautiful growing between them and God.

 

So there we were this weekend, at the 25th anniversary, with our two children, celebrating what God has done in and through The Message over all these years. And I can’t contain my excitement, and anticipation, over seeing my 10 year olds reaction to hearing the gospel explained by Danielle Strickland, in such a beautiful way, and seeing her love for Jesus instantly grow. It gives me so much hope for her future, just like it says in Jeremiah 29:11;

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

Here’s to the next 25 years.

With love,

Gemma 

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Gemma Tuson

Gemma is the creator of the Be Loved resource. She has worked with young people for over 10 years doing various creative workshops all over the UK. For the past 2 years she has also been working in schools as a mentor, allowing young people the space to chat through issues one on one. She loves drinking tea, cooking and all things craft related. Her heart is to see young people reach their full potential and be set free from any issues, or circumstances, that can hold them back. 

Gemma has been married to Mark for 13 years and they have two gorgeous children. 

Be Loved

By April Gilbert

This month we are looking at the first session of the mentoring course which is also titled 'Be Loved'.

We think that working through how we feel loved, how others around us feel loved and ultimately how our Father God loves us, is a great place to start. April explains more....

 

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“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

(Bill, English teacher in “Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chobsky)

 

Charlie is talking with his English teacher after class. He can't quite understand why his sister is in a relationship with a guy who treats her so bad, after witnessing his violence towards her. Bill delivers one of the most memorable quotes in the book to Charlie, which has always stuck with me.

 

What kind of love do we deserve? If we know our self-worth and value, then that should give us some idea that we deserve love from friends, family, relationships that offers respect, forgiveness, kindness and support.

 

What about when it comes to God? Truly speaking, we don't deserve God's unconditional love. It's hard to come to terms with, I know. But as we are sinners, we couldn't receive God's love. But thank God for Jesus! Thank God for His sacrifice on the cross, where the veil in the temple between the Holy temple and the Holy of the Holiest was torn, and a way was made for us to come to the Father's love. Thank Jesus that he took away our sins, past, present and future so that we could be with God.

 

As we've come from a place of receiving love that we don't deserve, how can we be like God in our everyday interactions and relationships? Are there people in your lives that you feel like shouldn't receive your kindness or love because they've been rude or mean, or tend to push you away? Or people in society who are ignored or treated badly? Could it be that, as we know what it's like to receive love, even when we didn't deserve it, we could do the same for people in our towns, schools, streets& homes?

 

“We love because he first loved us.”

1 John 4:19

 

Our calling is to love others, because we know first what it's like to be loved by a forgiving, unconditional love. And loved when we didn't deserve it, but because of God's son, we can now receive it. Imagine giving that sort of love to someone, to a bully, a person in school who normally is left out, an elderly person on your road who seems grumpy but actually is very lonely. You could change someone' s life!

 

“Freely you have received; freely give”

Matthew 10:8

 

1.   Spend some time praising and thanking Jesus for the love you can now receive from His Father, because of His death on the cross.

2.   Reflect on what does God's love mean to you. What does it feel like to be loved unconditionally and wholeheartedly?

3.   What love do you think you deserve from others? Why do you think that? Do you need to be reminded of what God thinks of you, so you can know your worth and value?

4.   Pray and ask for God to show you several people that you can show unswerving love to, even if it feels like they don't deserve it. What can you do to show them this love?

 

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April Gilbert

April is a young adult, born and living in Bristol. She enjoys music, food, travelling, being creative & the odd reality TV show! For years she has worked with young people & students in and outside of church, supporting them through the teenage years & encouraging young Christians' walk with God. Her passion is to see young people live the life described in John 10:10- an abundant one! 

BE YOU!

Each month a newly formed team of brilliant bloggers will be blogging on the themes we cover in the Be Loved course, and this month is all about being YOU.*

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By Gemma Tuson

You may have started a new school, college, university or work place in the last couple of weeks, which for the majority of us can always be a nerve-wracking experience.... I have massive respect for those of you who happily embrace change!

Sometimes it is tempting in new situations to be less 'us' and become more like other people to try and fit in. But why is it we don't like being true to ourselves?

In a lot of cases we listen to those negative words that we speak over ourselves, or that someone else has spoken over us, and we believe that those words are true.

We start to focus more on those words over any positive words, completely ignoring the truth.

Did you know that it takes 5 positive words to counteract one negative one? So if we're constantly listening to the negatives, no wonder we don't believe, or receive, a positive one.

How many times has someone complimented you on something and instead of accepting it, and replying 'thank you', you've responded with a criticism about yourself? Let's be honest here, I often find myself doing it too.

Positive self talk takes time and a lot of practise, but it's so important that we are kind to ourselves.

Check this out;

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

Psalm 139:13-16 MSG

Wow, now that's positive self talk for you! And how true too. We are created by God, every last little intricate detail, so when we speak negatively about ourselves, we're speaking negatively about our creator too.

God does not say anything negative about us, only wonderfully positive things. So we really should listen to Him, above anyone else.

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He says we are accepted...

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

1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”

Romans 5:1-2 NIV

“How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.”

Ephesians 1:3-10 MSG

He says that we are secure....

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

Romans 8:1-2 NIV

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:6 NIV

And He says that we are significant...

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”

1 Corinthians 3:16 NIV

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”

John 15:16 NIV

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When we focus more on what God says about us than what we, or other people, say about us then it should help us to remember who we are, and why we were created. God calls us his beloved, which simply means 'greatly loved'. Once we grasp how much we are adored by the creator of the world we should hopefully not be afraid to be true to ourselves and be the amazing person we were created to be.

 

Beloved, you are unique and that's something to be celebrated!

 

*The 'Be You' session of the Be Loved course came out as the no. 1 session for the young women taking part, time and time again. This session really helps them hear what God has to say about them, whilst also hearing positive words from their fellow group members, which ultimately helps them accept themselves and boosts their self-esteem.

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Gemma Tuson

Gemma is the creator of the Be Loved resource. She has worked with young people for over 10 years doing various creative workshops all over the UK. For the past 2 years she has also been working in schools as a mentor, allowing young people the space to chat through issues one on one. She loves drinking tea, cooking and all things craft related. Her heart is to see young people reach their full potential and be set free from any issues, or circumstances, that can hold them back. 

Gemma has been married to Mark for 13 years and they have two gorgeous children. 

International Women's Day

Today is International Women’s day, a day to celebrate the wonderful women in our lives, and around the world, who support and inspire us. A day to remember the changes that powerful women have made across history, and appreciate all that has been achieved economically, politically and socially.

In today’s western society women are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with. We are standing up for our rights, and for those that have no voice. We are becoming expert jugglers within the home and work environment. We are pioneering new and innovative ideas. We are nurturing and empowering the people around us. We are championing causes and breaking new ground. We are powerful on our own and even more so as a collective. We have passion, boldness, dignity and grace, and are a perfect compliment, as well as being equal to, our male equivalent.

But things have not always been like this for women, and there are still many, many women suffering in parts of the world even today.

For these precious women I believe that it is our duty to stand up and speak out for them. To try our best to make the relevant changes that will give them the rights they desperately deserve, and to help bring them into a place of safety and freedom.

I have recently finished reading a book by the incredible Danielle Strickland called ‘The Liberating Truth.’ 

 

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In the first half of the book Danielle highlights gender-based violence and prejudices that have gone on for centuries, and continue to do so today. She goes on to explain the history behind cultural behavior, and unpicks scripture to shine a light on misinterpreted bible verses. She introduces us to Jesus ‘The Feminist’ and shows us how He brought powerful change that empowered the women He encountered, which in effect impacts our lives today.

So how did God intend women to be viewed?

Back in Genesis, at the beginning of time, God created man, in His image, and He saw that it was not good that the man should be alone. It says that He created woman to become a ‘helper’ for Adam and to solve this problem. Eve was the answer to the problem.

Today, we may interpret ‘helper’ as someone who ‘serves’ or is ‘less than’ but in The Bible this is not so. The Hebrew word for ‘helper’ is ‘ezer’ which is a word that is sometimes even used for God, noting that He is our Helper. We would certainly not view God as inferior to humans, so therefore we can conclude that the word used in Genesis has the same meaning. The correct interpretation of the word ‘helper’ would be ‘ideal partner.’

God intended us to be ‘the ideal partner’ to compliment and be equal to men, but not long after the fall things changed drastically for women. We can see time and time again throughout the whole of The Old Testament that women were treated as second classed citizens and were seen no where near as equal to men. There are many devastating accounts in The Old Testament of oppression, abuse, rape and murder that left a distinct mark on womankind.

Along came Jesus!

When Jesus came along He challenged those mental and cultural, behaviours and patterns and instead treated women with dignity and respect. This was very different to how they had been treated in the past, within their male-dominated society.

We can see in the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10; 38-42) that Martha was busy with the typical role of a woman, ‘Martha was distracted with much serving’ (EVS) and was too involved with what she thought she needed to do to sit and have time with Jesus.

Mary, however, decided to adopt the supposed male role, and sit at Jesus’ feet. ‘She sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching’ (EVS)

Martha asked Jesus if He thought it was fair that Mary had left her to do all the work by herself, and she even asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her.

Jesus gently responded that He could see Martha was upset about the amount of things she needed to do, but that there was only really one thing needed, and Mary had ‘chosen the better thing’. Mary had made that decision for herself and Jesus had applauded her for liberating herself from her expected duties.

We also know that amongst Jesus’ disciples were a number of women, married and unmarried. The Bible names some of them: 

Luke 8: 1-3 – Mary, Joanna and Susanna who helped to provide for them with their own resources.

Mark 15: 40-41 Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome who were followers of Jesus and had cared for his needs in Galilee.

In a culture where women were not allowed to leave their household, and men were thankful for not being born a woman, it is incredible to learn that Jesus welcomed them into His inner circle.

There are many other stories of Jesus’ encounters with women, including The Samaritan woman at the well, where Jesus liberated her from her past, causing her to tell her whole village about Him (what an evangelist!). Not forgetting the courageous woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe and was instantly healed from a disorder that caused her tremendous grief and made her an outcast.

Finally, after the crucifixion, Jesus rose again and reveled himself for the first time to Mary Magdalene, before He went to the rest of the disciples (John 20: 1-18). This was not an accident, but an intentional decision to not only talk about the importance of women but to show it too.

Jesus came to liberate women the world over and as a follower of His, I want to carry on His legacy and help set the captives free, are you with me?

One way you could help is by coming along to an event I am involved with at the end of April called Press Red. Through this conference we hope to raise awareness for gender-based violence and highlight the organizations that are working to help put a stop to it. For more information please go to www.pressred.org.uk

 

The Power of Love

 

I used to think that the bible was full of rules that you had to stick to, and if you didn't you would feel the wrath of The Almighty. But after years of reading, and rereading the pages, I've realised that the bible is a manual with lovingly written advice on how to get the best out of life. You have to know the heart behind the words to understand the tone, and sentiment, and how it's intended to be received.

 

I've known the feeling of hurt, guilt, and shame from not heeding those life-giving nuggets of wisdom, and I've also know the freedom from taking them to heart and putting them into practise.

 

You see, God isn't a dictator, He's a loving Father. He wants the very best for you and I, so He's given us some amazing guidelines on how to try and achieve that.

 

God is love. That's His DNA. Every decision He makes is in the name of love, and because we are His beloved children He wants us to feel loved, know his love, and to pass it on to those around us.

 

'To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides' ~ David Viscott

 

So what is love?

 

1 Corinthians 13 v 1-8

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

 

From this passage in Corinthians we can see that love is not just a feeling. Love is a choice. We have to choose to be patient, we have to choose to not keep any records of wrong. We have to choose to always protect, always trust, always hope and always persevere. Sometimes we won't feel the love, and sometimes we won't feel like choosing to do these things, and these are the time when we have to make that decision to do them anyway.

 Love Does.

I've just finished reading a wonderful book by Bob Goff called 'Love Does.'

I had the privilege of hearing Bob talk early last year, and I immediately fell for his charisma and zest for life. Everything Bob does is in the name of love. That's his driving force. It's hard not to be inspired by him, and to be in total awe of him, whilst listening to him share his stories of lavishing love on people. Like the time he instantly forgave the old lady who crashed into his car, and still to this day sends her flowers to help her get over it. Or the time he redirected his town's parade so that his dying neighbour could watch it from her living room window.

Bob's love is not fake, and it's not forced. It makes me wonder if, after choosing love time and time, and time, again, it just becomes part of your DNA. It just becomes who you are.

Bob could be an exception to the rule, but I think he's definitely an example of what can happen when love doesn't just stop at a feeling and is put into action.

 

So, in this month of 'Love', let's not just think about the feelings we get when we think of that special someone, but rather, let's make choices to pursue those things in 1 Corinthians, and lavish love on the people around us.

 

 

Let's spread some love.

 

 

 Oh Hello Beau   

Oh Hello Beau

 

 

In these next two weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, please join me in posting photos on Instagram of our 'lavishing love' moments, using the caption 'Love is....'

Let's have some fun, thinking outside of the box, and be as creative as possible.

 

On Valentine's Day I will pick my favourite, who will win one of these gorgeous block hearts (pictured above) from our friends at Oh Hello Beau. Remember to tag @be_lovedbeloved in your posts so that I can see them, and I'll even re-share some of my favourites along the way.

 

And as the famous 'Frankie goes to Hollywood' song says....

 

"The power of love

A force from above

Cleaning my soul

 

Make love your goal."

 

As always,

Love and be loved,

 

Gemma x 

My 2016 book list.

 

Every year, a few days before New Year's Eve, I like to take some time out to reflect back on the year I have just had, and set myself some challenging, yet attainable, goals for the year ahead of me. I usually set the goals with a group of close friends, and we keep each other accountable throughout the year. I find that having my friends involved means that I try harder to accomplish what I set out to do.

My goals usually comprise of 4 different areas; Spiritual, Family & Friends, Work, Health & Lifestyle.

Last year, amongst my list of goals, I set myself a target of reading at least 6 books that would either help me, or encourage me, spiritually.

I'm happy to say that I managed to read 12 books last year, which did actually surprise me a little!

The majority of the books were extremely encouraging and definitely had an impact on me in one way or another, and so I have decided to share 10 of them with you, in the hope that you may be encouraged too.

Amazingly 4 out of the 10 books were written by people within my church family, which I think is pretty awesome!

 

These are not in rating order, but in the order I read them;

 

Jesus the one and only - Beth Moore

 

Summary;

An in-depth study of the life and ministry of Jesus. In Jesus the One and Only, Beth Moore introduces readers to an intimate Saviour as they get a close-up and personal portrait of the life of Jesus the Messiah. This is far more than just a work on the life of Christ. As He has done in the past, God uses Beth's words to woo the reader into a romance with the One and Only. The reader comes to know Christ personally, watching and listening as He breaks up a funeral by raising the dead, confronts conniving religious leaders of His day, teaches on a Galilean hillside or walks on the waves and calms the storm.

My thoughts;

This book was a perfect start to 2016 for me, as it helped me understand Jesus in a much deeper way. Beth's angle, and the way she presents Jesus to the reader, helped me with areas where I'd struggled to see compassion. This book helped shape the rest of my year especially with reading the bible.

 

In Security - Ems Hancock

 

Summary;

Insecurity is based on doubt. It asks deep questions like “Do I matter? Am I important? Am I loved?” It also asks shallower questions like, “Do I suit this skirt? Can I get away with this haircut?”

Whoever you are and whatever you do, you will have times when you feel insecure.

This book offers practical, simple ways to apply biblical truth when insecurity strikes.

My thoughts;

In Security highlighted areas in my life that I needed to work on and helped me to work those out with the help of scripture. Ems is a brilliant writer and manages to weave her infectious humour with her knowledge and wisdom. I'd definitely recommend this book for anyone struggling with niggling insecurities.

 

Facing my past, unlocking the future - Christie Spurling

 

Summary;

In Facing My Past; Unlocking the Future Christie recounts how he was given up at birth and placed in a children’s home before being adopted into a loving family.  He shares his journey from being an angry, hurting child to the steps God led him on to becoming the founder and CEO of an award-winning youth charity, N-Gage.

This book is a challenging, honest and true story of healing and restoration; of coming to understand the love of a Heavenly Father and the support of a faithful family.

My thoughts;

I have always known parts of Christie's story, but through reading his book, it helped me to see the full extend of the journey he has been on and how God's hand has been on him right from day one. N-Gage is a charity I freelance for and support wholeheartedly.

 

Life begins when you choose - Joyce Gbeleyi

 

Summary;

These true stories of women in Manchester, each from a very different background, reveal lives transformed as they encountered Jesus through their church communities.

The stories are easy-to-read but many are hard-hitting; they tell of how much we need God in our lives to bring us from hopelessness

My thoughts;

It was an absolute pleasure to share my story in this book, and to read the incredible stories from other women within my church community. I'm sure they have had a huge impact on the people who have read them.

 

Born to create - Theresa Dedmon

 

Summary;

Offering a launching pad for you to burst into the realm of creative expression—that fun, fantasy world where the Creator is waiting to welcome you. There is a connection between creativity, your identity, the Church, and the world—and it is an important connection. Creativity is tied to all believers’ identity, all who are made in the image of the Creator, all who are born to create! Overflowing with many thrilling, modern-day testimonies, Born to Create emphasises the magnitude of both craft—practice and excellence—as well as anointing. Many who have been freed to embrace their creative ideas and passions, whether in the art fields, business, or education, share their amazing stories with you. Their freedom allowed them to powerfully release healing, the prophetic, and the knowledge of God’s love into the marketplace. Live creatively, friends.

My thoughts;

This book opened my eyes to how much God wants us to use creativity everyday and challenged and inspired me to use my creative gifting differently, especially within worship and prophecy.

 

Beloved - Rachel Gardner

 

Summary;

I hope that reading this book will help you to wake up to God's love in fresh, even unexpected, ways. This is your one, wild life. The only way to live it well is to live well in love. The only way to live well in love is to let God love you, and others through you.

This will change everything.

Don't settle for being defined by glamour, social media status or anything else. You are worth so, so, so much more.

My thoughts;

Beloved has exactly the same heartbeat as the Be Loved course. If you want to know what Be Loved is all about before you invest in the course, then read this book!  It blew me away that God whispered such a similar message to both Rachel and I, at similar times, without us knowing each other.

 

The Sisterhood - Bobby Houston

 

Summary;

The Sisterhood explores God's vision for women: what they should believe about God, themselves, and their ability to make the world a better place. Bobbie shows readers how to embrace and implement that vision in every aspect of their lives, helping them to discover their gifts and talents, and includes personal stories from women around the world. The book concludes with a challenge to join the worldwide 'Sisterhood' movement, motivated by the belief that if one woman can change the lives around her, then a united group of women can change the world.

My thoughts;

The Sisterhood is an inspiring journey of how something can grow from a seed to a huge oak tree. Bobby's story tells us how she listened to God's direction, and acted in obedience, which has resulted in her growing an incredible ministry, that impacts the lives of so many women all around the globe.

 

The search for home - Beatrice Smith

 

Summary;

In April 1994, ten-year-old Beatrice came face to face with the Rwandan genocide when machete wielding killers burst into her family’s home, seeking their lives. Forced to flee, Beatrice and her family found themselves moving from one country to another in search of safety and rest. Destitute refugees, they faced innumerable challenges along the way, but also experienced God’s provision and miraculous rescue. Now settled in the UK, Beatrice reflects on the tumultuous journey that brought her here and how God worked healing and restoration. Told through the eyes of a child, The Search for Home is an inspirational story that gives insight into the plight of millions of refugees today.

My thoughts;

Beatrice's story hit me hard when she shared parts of it with me personally over coffee one day. You will not believe what you are reading at times, and how God spared the lives of not just her, but her whole family, during such an awful and devastating time. This story is full of hope, bravery and miracles.

 

Love does - Bob Goff

 

As a college student he spent 16 days in the Pacific Ocean with five guys and a crate of canned meat. As a father he took his kids on a world tour to eat ice cream with heads of state. He made friends in Uganda, and they liked him so much he became the Ugandan consul. He pursued his wife for three years before she agreed to date him. His grades weren't good enough to get into law school, so he sat on a bench outside the Dean's office for seven days until they finally let him enroll.

Bob Goff has become something of a legend, and his friends consider him the world's best-kept secret. Those same friends have long insisted he write a book. What follows are paradigm shifts, musings, and stories from one of the world's most delightfully engaging and winsome people. What fuels his impact? Love. But it's not the kind of love that stops at thoughts and feelings. Bob's love takes action. Bob believes Love Does.

When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don't want to miss.

Light and fun, unique and profound, the lessons drawn from Bob's life and attitude just might inspire you to be incredible too.

My thoughts;

I fell in love with Bob's enthusiasm, love for life, and the people he meets, when I first heard him talk early last year. I wanted to get my hands on his book ever since then, but didn't actually get it until this Christmas. When I finally had it in my hands, it only took me two days to read it! Bob shows that love isn't a feeling, it's an action, and when we show people incredible love, incredible things happen.

 

Scars accross humanity - Elaine Storkey

 

Every three seconds, a girl under the age of 18 is married somewhere across the world usually without her consent and sometimes to a much older man. Combining rigorous research and compelling personal testimonies, Elaine Storkey investigates the different forms of violence experienced by women across the globe today. From female infanticide and child brides to domestic abuse, prostitution, rape and honour killings, violence against women occurs at all stages of life, and in all cultures and societies. How and why has this violence become so prevalent? Storkey examines the answers that are commonly offered, including theories based on evolutionary psychology and the rise of patriarchal power structures. She also considers the role that religion can play for good or ill in the struggle against this universal injustice.

My thoughts;

To be completely honest, this has been quite a tough read so I haven't finished it yet, but I felt it was really important to include in this list. I think in the past I've made the decision to turn a blind eye to what goes on in the world, but reading this has made me more determined to stand up for those without a voice, and shout against injustice. If you're up for the challenge then I'd recommend you read this book too.

 

So that's my top 10 for 2016. I'm currently reading 'Reasons to stay alive' by Matt Haig and next on my list is 'Dirty Glory' by Pete Greig. If you have any book suggestions for me for this year then I'd love to hear them.

 

Also, if you read any books from my list please let me know what you thought of them.

 

Wishing a happy and healthy new year to you all!

 

Love and be loved,

 

Gemma x