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Happy Birthday!

What do you do on your birthday? I like spending time with those closest to me (family, close friends and God), with good food, wine or beer. I’m celebrating today. Today is my birthday – it’s the birthday of everyone who is part of the Church, part of Christ.

Today I celebrate our birthday as a Church. I celebrate the day when the Holy Spirit was given to Christ’s followers. But the Spirit came in power 2,000 years ago and we are still too like those disciples hiding in a locked room. We keep our faith in Jesus to ourselves, locked up inside us for fear, for fear of ridicule or of simply being thought of as a bit odd. But we’re English and for us religion is a private matter. Religion has caused too many divisions and wars in our country for us to want to make it anything other than a private matter. Put like this, even asking the question, “How do we bring ourselves to leave our locked room?” or “How do we manage to share our faith?” feels threatening, it makes most of us uncomfortable. It’s as though the Church has received an amazing birthday present but has decided to put it back in the box!

That is why our churches are so empty and the mosques are full. We don’t feel confident in our faith. We have received the Holy Spirit but some how we still don’t feel that we can really live for Christ. The Church doesn’t want to offend anyone – so we say nothing. We say nothing offensive. We say nothing of any great note. Nothing exciting. Nothing life changing. Nothing challenging. People say, “Good old Church of England”, they perhaps feel a warm sense of national nostalgia but that is all.

When the Holy Spirit first touched and filled me with power, it was like all the lights went on at once. The world was suddenly a different place. It was a little like that first Pentecost. Christianity may have been many things to me then but it certainly wasn’t warm and cosy! I suddenly realised that I was indeed worshipping the God who created heaven and earth. I felt alive with that divine power. I was filled with the one who gives life or death – The source of love, joy, peace, kindness, self-control and so much more – The one who made sense of my pretty mixed up life.

In that moment I realised that Christianity is not a faith of half measures. Christ demands everything and in a miracle gives even more back.

I know that people often need time and space to explore what God is doing in them – Time to come to their own conclusions about who Jesus is. That is people coming to faith, not me, nor anyone who professes to be a Christian. We have no such luxury. We have signed up to Christ’s army and need to be ready for duty. We are called to march and learn all that we need on the way.

I’ll stop saying ‘we’ and speak for myself.

I know that I don’t have the luxury of pretending that Jesus isn’t lord of my life. Jesus is lord, so I need to follow where he commands or stop calling him lord. I must trust everything to him and obey. Or at least I try to. The amazing thing is that even when I fail, I’m not court-martialled as I deserve. When I fall my lord becomes my loving brother, he helps me up and cares for me. Each time I fall I learn again that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

The problem is that I am too often ready to fall when the Spirit has given me the strength to stand. I trust the loving safety net when I should be bold. I’m learning now to strive more for Jesus and use that safety net as it was meant to be – as a last resort.

I am learning that if I am not committed to Christ, how can I expect to invite anyone else to commitment. I have learned too that in trusting the Spirit in me I find meaning and contentment – I find healing and strength – I find love and joy too. In short I am finding the more I give, the more I receive. The more I receive the more I can live a godly life. The more I live a godly life the more I find myself sharing and giving. Then the more I give…

There are plenty of other creeds and faiths shouting to be heard. This Pentecost I need to open my birthday present, not leave it in it’s box. I need to remember the power of God, stand up, be counted and let the love and power of the Spirit flow.

Happy Birthday!

I know I’m not up to it but I know someone who is…

Some years ago I was very active politically. I was a proud member of a political party and active in promoting its message. When I started I wasn’t a Christian but I did still want a better world. I knocked on doors encouraging people to vote for my party. I gave out leaflets. I spoke at meetings. Then I became a Christian and everything changed. Not my political ideals, no now there was even more reason to be involved. Now it wasn’t just my concern, it was God’s concern for a better world that I was fighting for.

Looking back I was a little blinkered. I couldn’t see how any Christian could not be a member of the same political party as me. I was sure that God was!

Now, well I still have the same political convictions, but I have found that there are good people in other  political parties. I have found that no human organisation has all of the answers. Perhaps I’ve learned a little humility. I hope that’s the case. I hope that age hasn’t brought with it apathy! If it has, then Lord wake me up!

I pray that the Spirit will keep me striving to bring something of God’s kingdom into focus for people. I can’t say that it is bringing God’s kingdom to earth, because this is already God’s kingdom, just as much as heaven is. That is clear. Jesus has ascended and is now at the right hand of the Father, reigning over heaven and earth. I want to see real kingdom values here for all people, for no other reason than I know that they are the only values that can bring life, and healing, and contentment. That kingdom values are the only answer to wars and hatred and all evil.

I want to see justice for all, for the rich and powerful as well as for the poor, sick and helpless. I want to see people here with jobs and prosperity. I want to see the young grow up healthy, in body, mind and spirit. I want to see the sick (physical and mental) treated with care and dignity. I want to see a whole and united country. I want to see a country with kingdom values for itself but that also means showing those values in the way that we deal with other countries and peoples.

Then I hear myself and I realise that it all must seem like a utopian fantasy. A nice dream and fairytale. It could seem like that. I am under no illusions that human beings can create a perfect world. I have no illusions that I could run a perfect country, or even a perfect church for that matter. No, I am tainted with the evil corrupting this world, just like everyone else, and everything else.

I am under no illusions that I can make this world good: But I know someone who can. I have no illusions that I can make myself good: But I know someone who can.

I know that there is massive opposition to all that is good and Godly. Honesty and generosity for example seem to challenge the very foundation of a consumer society: A society which only values people for their ability to consume, and then to consume more. I am not a consumer, I am a man created by God, rescued from myself by Jesus, and filled with a love and power that can never be taken away. That is God’s kingdom here and now in me.

Working for The Kingdom is about offering hope to people and organisations and even countries; hope that there is a better way. I have experienced something of that hope and meaning myself, and put simply, I want others to get a share too. I want all people to claim their birthright as children of God. Then with more and more of us filled with the Spirit there will be more and more people who are being transformed into the person they were created to be. People who are more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled (see Galatians 5.22-23).

I keep working to show God’s kingdom by what I do and say but I know it’s not going to be easy. I know there is a real fight to come. So I hold tight to Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, for all Christians and for me:

Make them ready for your service through your truth. Your teaching is truth. I have sent them into the world, just as you sent me into the world. I am making myself completely ready to serve you. I do this for them, so that they also might be fully qualified for your service (John 17.17-19 ERV).

I pray that I will be fully qualified to share love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That is what I long for myself, my family, my town, my country, my world. I know I’m not up to it but I know someone who is…

Lord make it easy – make people loveable!

I remember the first time that I headed off into the wilderness on my own. I was a scout at the time. I remember my leader driving me off into a remote part of the North York Moors. I was dropped off in the middle of the moors and I had two days walking to get back to camp. I had been looking forward to the challenge but once that Landrover drove away it was scary. Suddenly I was really on my own. No adults, no houses just my rucksack, map and compass and a footpath heading off across the moors. It was scary, but it would have been far scarier and riskier if I hadn’t had plenty of time to prepare; to get my mind and my kit ready; not to mention the guidance and advice of my leader.

Reading John 15.9-17 I hear Jesus to helping to prepare his disciples for the time when they will be on their own. He will soon leave them and Jesus wants them to be ready.

Now jumping forward two thousand years again, and I am here without Jesus to sit down with and talk to. I can’t even just phone Him up to ask a question! So, what does Jesus say to get me ready? Well, firstly that I am Jesus’ friends. Yes, he is the almighty Lord, but he has decided to call me his friend. Why? Because I follow his commandments, or at least I am committed to doing all I can to follow his commandments. And what are these commandments, well one commandment really – love. Like all Christians I am to love my neighbour as myself. I are to love God, the Father, I am to love Jesus who brought hope and I am to love the Holy Spirit who links me always to the Holy Trinity.

What could be easier than that, all I have to do is love. All I have to do is love – How I wish that it was that simple!

If Jesus wanted me to love my neighbour so much, why didn’t he ask his Father to make sure that my neighbour was always loveable! Why couldn’t God make it easy, or at least a little easier? But no, He makes my neighbour irritating, or greedy or grumpy or worse. It seems at times that what God really wants is for me to fail. But then I suspect I’m no better as a neighbour. I bet others find me irritating or grumpy, or greedy or worse. If they are Christians, I imagine them turning to God in prayer and asking why him? Couldn’t you give me someone easier to love? Lord make it easy – make people loveable!

The one thing that reassures me is that I may not be very good at loving, but God is. He is love. The Trinity is love in action, Father loving Son loving the Spirit loving… and so on. And that love goes out from God to all creation, to all people, and even to me! I may fail to love God, I may fail to love my neighbour, but God never fails to love me. It’s a very humbling thought, and if you’re like me, a very comforting truth.

But I don’t have to fail all of the time. When Jesus physically left this world, the Father sent the Spirit, to teach his people how to love. The Spirit does far more, but I will have plenty of time to explore that during Pentecost. But, for now at least, I’ll celebrate that fact that Jesus can guide me, and all his friends, in the way of love; just as he guided this friends when he was standing on this earth.

There is so much that is confusing about the life of faith. What should I do about the problems in the world? I don’t know the specifics but I do know that if I try to do the most loving thing possible I can be sure that I’m doing the Godly thing.

Then I come to all the difficult doctrinal matters. Again, we, as brothers and sisters can disagree, we can even argue, but in the end we are to love one another. It is right that we should seek to find the Truth and argue together to find what the Truth may look like today. But I must never think of the other person as my enemy to be defeated. They are my brother or sister, to be listened to, to perhaps disagree with, but always to love and care for.

Disagreement isn’t evil, but hatred and division is. I have seen so much caricaturing of those on both sides of the debate about women priests and women bishops, about abortion and a women’s right to chose, about evangelical and catholic, or …. well the list could go on almost for ever. I have views on all of those things and some of you will agree with me and some of you will not. Some of you I know have strong feelings on those matters, as do I. But if I stop loving all of my brothers and sisters, each and every one of them, I have stopped loving God. How can I say that I love the God that I cannot see when I fail to love my neighbour that I can see, and hurt.

I pray that this simple truth will effect every debate in every synod. Every word and every action of any Christian, anywhere.

I have experienced much love here in this little corner of England. I pray that that love may continue to grow. I pray that here where I live and everywhere, we can love each other through our grumps, our failings, the things that irritate. I join my prayer with that of Jesus: I pray for the Holy Spirit to so fill each of us, that love will grow in our hearts, and that love will flow out naturally to every one that we meet.

Do you hear the laughter?

Reading the story of the gardener and the true vine (John 15.1-8) made me think of pruning I’ve done. I quite like pruning but tend to get carried away and what started out as a light trim quickly becomes major tree surgery. That happened this year with the apple trees at the back of the house – thankfully they seem to be doing fine despite my brutality. It’s become a bit of a joke at home that I’m not allowed to play with the loppers or secateurs unsupervised! I’d really like a chainsaw but I hate to think of the devastation that would follow – I can see it now – the 8” hedge and fences would quickly end up waist height, and the trees stumps.

I may well get carried away but everything does tend to come back strong and healthy afterwards. Even so I’m glad that God is far more careful about his pruning than I am. Unlike me, I’m sure he is a master gardener. He knows just what needs trimming and what should be left to get the very best crop.

Even knowing the skill of God the gardener, the thought of him trimming away branches from the living vine scares me. It always brings me up short. It makes me want to skip on to the next passage, to hear Jesus say, “As the father has loved me, so I love you”. I am so tempted to skip over this and just enjoy the warm glow of being loved. Sometimes I’m tired and drained and that is exactly what I should do. At those times the Spirit can let me skip more challenge (for now at least) so that I can rest and be refreshed by Jesus the loving vine.

That is fine. But the danger comes when I always skip over the challenge. I need to be reminded of where all my strength and courage and sense of purpose come from – living in Jesus. I need to remember that without Jesus, I am nothing, I have nothing of real, eternal value for myself or anyone else. I can feel spiritually healthy and strong. I can start to take it all for granted. Worse still, I can start to act (and think) as though it is down to me, that I’m a bit special and so deserve God’s special treatment. I can get so wrapped up in this fantasy that I don’t even hear the Devil laughing at me shrivelling more and more on the vine that is my only source of spiritual life. Do you hear the laughter. To change the metaphor, he is laughing (and salivating) as a sheep like me wanders dangerously far from the protection of the Shepherd. Do you hear it yet? I do!

I know that nothing can truly separate me from the love of God in Jesus – Paul makes that absolutely clear (Romans 8.38-39). But I can still get cold and frightened or even badly mauled for my stupidity. With that in mind I need to let myself read the challenge of the gardener pruning the vine. If I want to really know the power of His love I need to heed the warning and stay firmly attached. That may well mean that I need pruning to be as fruitful as I can be. I need to trust God to prune me just enough with no snip unneeded. I need to get past my fear to remember all that I know of God: To remember that he loves me more than I love my self.

A Generous Society

I am away today and have not prepared a piece of my own for this blog, but I have been considering what sort of society God wants for my country. With that in mind I share some reflections from the daily study ‘WordLive’ for 22nd April. WordLive is produced daily by Scripture Union.

History shows that a selfish society will usually behave badly towards the poor. This was not God’s vision for the Israelites, about to put down their roots in the Promised Land. As you prepare to read, think about the ways in which your own society matches up (or not) to this blueprint.

The study is called, “A Generous Society” and can be found here: https://www.wordlive.org/Session/Classic/2015-04-22/A-generous-society.

If you want to listen to this study the podcast is available here: http://www.wordlive.org/Uploads/audio/WORDLIVE%2022.4.15.mp3

God bless,

Nigel.

Why does this surprise you?

I’ve just been to the most amazing place. I’ve been to a spring. A pool with water bubbling, and gurgling up at the centre. It was hypnotic watching the silt stir and settle. It felt almost magical to watch (see photo below). Strange really given that I know a little about ground water hydrology. I know about water sinking through permeable rock and being held by clay or impermeable rock until flows out again. I know all that, but it was still a wonderful surprise to see, to really see with my own eyes.

It was very like the first time I inspected my hive and found honey being piled in. I had only been beekeeping for a few months, and I’d had my own bees for less than that. But there it was; beautiful golden amber coloured liquid. I know it seems stupid – that is what bees do – they make honey. But my bees were making honey. Honey that ran onto my fingers and dripped as I inspected the hive. Why was I surprised – I don’t know. Perhaps despite all the obvious evidence to lead me to expect the bees to do what they do, it was still amazing to see it happening for real and to me.

‘Why does this surprise you?’ These were Peter’s words to the puzzled people who had just seen a crippled man healed (Acts 3.12). In the power of Jesus, Peter was able to bring this about. I suspect that there were a few secret smiles among the disciples when they heard Peter speak. It was only a short time since they were surprised themselves (Peter too though I suspect he tried to hide it!) – surprised by the sudden appearance of Jesus in their locked room. They were not just surprised, they were terrified!

What a turn around. They had been hiding and felt utterly defeated. Now here they were walking boldly up to the temple. A crippled man has just been healed and Peter talks to the people as though this was no more amazing than water bubbling up from a spring or bees making honey. Why are you surprised? God has raised Jesus from the dead, so why are you surprised by the mere healing?!

Why am I surprised still when amazing things happen in his name. When I see or hear of people being healed today: Why am I surprised? I shouldn’t be. I have all the evidence of the Bible that God can do amazing things. But that all seems to be for special Christians. Not an ordinary man like me. Why would God do something like that for me or even for me to see? This is even more stupid because I know that the Spirit can act in power, I’ve seen it myself.

So really the question should be, ‘Why wouldn’t he?” Why would the Holy Spirit suddenly stop doing the things he has been getting on with doing for the last 2,000 years? I know God heals. He healed my daughter when she was little. He has done amazing things in my life. He has guided me clearly to where I am now and he continues to guide me. I know his presence in me, working on me, loving me into being a full Spirit filled human being.

I know all of this but still I doubt at times. I listen to the doubters and the mockers and then a cold starts to seep into me like cold water into clothes. They seep in and make me go cold inside. The doubts seep in and I stop seeing and hearing all of the good things that God is doing. To change the metaphor; it is like walking from a sunny day into a cold damp cloud.

Then, thankfully, the Spirit comes to help. The Spirit dries me off; lifts the weight of those doubts and I begin to see properly again. I feel like a soggy dog being blow dried! Or like being led to walk back out of the cloud and into the sunshine once again.

Then I think again, ‘Why was I surprised’? Why was I surprised by God’s actions? I see community being built here where I live and minister. I see love beginning to grow. I see lives being transformed and healed by the presence of the Jesus.

I smile and feel as though the sun is shining brightly on me. Then a cloud comes over again. Some unhealed sickness, or untimely death, or bitterness and harshness between people of God. Then I’m tempted to question God’s power again. Then the Spirit comes down again – The Son comes out.

Why am I surprised? God’s action and healing are as natural as bees making honey:

Why are you downcast , O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God. Psalm 42.5

Why, why indeed? Said now with a smile and a laugh in my voice. Why indeed?20150418_101728

Honest Thomas and the picture

Thinking about Jesus’ appearing to Thomas and showing him the wounds of the cross (John 20.19-31) made me think of a picture that I had at a prayer meeting about 2 years ago. In this picture:

I was nailed to a cross like Jesus and so were lots of others. Then a hand came into view to help me off the cross. I went to take the hand and found that my hand came away from the nails as I did. I was lifted off the cross, well most of me was. All that was good, all that was holy in me, came off the cross; this part of me looked bright and red like living flame in the picture. All the rest looked black and oily, and that stayed nailed down to the cross. All the evil, cruelty and sickness that is in me was firmly nailed to that cross forever.

I really want to claim for myself what the Spirit showed me in that picture. I want to step down from my cross, free of all that is not of God. I want that so much but I know that there is so much of me that is not of Christ. I want to be full to the brim with trusting, loving, forgiving, generosity, but although God has planted these things in me, there is still so much that is wrong. I want to be full to the brim with that bright and living flame, but there is still so much greed and hate and petty anger, and cruelty and other evils lurking inside of me, trying to get out. I don’t want these things to be part of me but they are there. I want to pretend that I’m only full of the fruits of the Spirit but that’s a lie.

I want to lie, but in the end, who would I be trying to fool?

  • Others? How lonely is that? Then the lie will certainly come out in the end. It’s bound to. Until then I’d have to live a lie, always keeping myself apart, fearful that the truth will come out.
  • My self? Then how sad is that? If I try to fool myself then I’m not only living a lie – I believe the lie – I become the lie. And me, the person God made me to be, that person is left out in the darkness.
  • God? How futile is that? God created all things and sustains them moment by moment, including me. So God knows my every thought and emotion, even before I do. It’s not possible to hide anything from him. Believing that I am hiding my corruption from God is the ultimate self-deception.

So again, who am I trying to fool? And Why?

Why indeed? I read about Thomas not believing that Jesus had risen from the dead and I find my hero. Thomas didn’t pretend to believe when he did not. Thomas should be the patron saint of painful honesty – ‘Honest Thomas’. His is the sort of honesty that I beg and pray for. I know that with this honesty I will look stupid at times; I will look faithless at times. But with this honesty I can respond to Jesus’ words to me, and grow. With this honesty I can respond to the Spirit, say sorry, and be transformed. I need the honesty to let myself see the evil in me so that I can be repelled by it.

Without the honesty of Thomas, I will take the hand that lifts me off the cross and look back. I will look back and see, not my evil left nailed there, but my own flesh. Until I allow the Spirit to show me the evil in me, I will be unable to let Jesus’ hand lift me off that cross. I will be unable to leave my evil behind. I will be unable to allow Jesus to set me free. In the end, my lies will be the nails holding me to that cross.

I want to share that picture again:

I was nailed to a cross like Jesus and so were lots of others. Then a hand came into view to help me off the cross. I went to take the hand and found that my hand came away from the nails as I did. I was lifted off the cross, well most of me was. All that was good, all that was holy in me, came off the cross; this part of me looked bright and red like living flame in the picture. All the rest looked black and oily, and that stayed nailed down to the cross. All the evil, cruelty and sickness that is in me was firmly nailed to that cross forever.

Thank you Lord for that picture. Thank you for the wonderful example of ‘Honest Thomas’. Lord give me the courage to face my lies and my evil – let me be able to take your hand – let me be free.

He is risen indeed – Bon voyage!

There is something primeval about watching the sun rise and a new day begin. People throughout the ages have seen sun rise and understood it as a sign of new life beginning after the dark. This idea of new life after the dark is central to our Christian faith. Particularly Easter morning. This Easter morning I will see the sun rise, remember the women going to the tomb of Jesus and give thanks to God. This morning I will set out before the first light to rediscover my hope given to me anew.

But unlike those women, this is not my first time. I have been through the cycle of lent, then holy week then the joy of Easter, year after year. My task is harder than theirs, I have to somehow enter into the wonder of the resurrection once again. My task is to make that resurrection joy as real now as it was the first time I really celebrated Easter.

Now if I were trying to recapture a perfect Easter in the past, my task would perhaps be impossible. But that is not what I’m about. I have changed and grown since I celebrated Easter last year. So Easter needs to bring hope and meaning to the life I live today.

So I bring to mind events of the past year. The new things started. The things now stopped. The friends I have and those I have perhaps lost…… The life events: weddings, births, baptisms, and all the rest……

I bring to mind the things that I have done over the past year, events attended, the things that made me smile and laugh or made me cry…..  All the events, and memories that make me a year older and perhaps, just perhaps, a year wiser…..

Now I go back to our Easter story. I am at that tomb with the women; And Jesus is there too. I fall at Jesus’ feet. I worship him; as if for the first time I see and feel the reality of the resurrection. It is real; death, even death is not the end of hope. This morning the risen Jesus is standing here. He is here to bring hope out of the dark experiences of now and of the past year. The sadness, the fear, the pain can be resurrected into things of life and hope. Maybe here and now: Maybe later, but the risen Jesus is here to bring life, healing and hope.

Jesus stands here and brings meaning to the good times as well as the bad. Good things can be celebrated with a deep pure joy, cleansed from the stains of jealousy, or greed, or pride. The risen Jesus can transform my good times too. So, Jesus is here now. Standing by my side, holding my hand, even holding me tight. He will walk with me through all that the future has in store. Jesus brings resurrection joy and hope for the journey to come. In my mind I look at myself and my fellow travellers in Christ and say…

He is risen! He is risen indeed – Bon voyage!

Will You Hold My Hand?

On Palm Sunday I won’t be preaching. I will be leading a dramatised reading of the passion story, and letting that drama speak for itself. As I look forward to the week ahead, I know that I am in for a roller-coaster ride of emotions as Holy Week unfolds. This week will end with utter despair. With Jesus humiliated, dead and buried, waiting and hoping for the light to shine again. I want to rush past, to skip the pain and jump to the celebration to come. But that is to cheat myself of all that God wants to show me of his love. I must stop, sit and wait. As I wait I know that I need company, someone to hold my hand…

Will You Hold My Hand? ~ a poem for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday – by Vivienne Tuffnell

Will you hold my hand?
Will you hold my hand
As I sit in the darkness?
Will you sit with me,
Make darkness less lonely?
Will you give my hand
A gentle squeeze,
Warm my cold flesh
With warmer skin?
Please do not tell me
About a light I cannot see.
I will not believe you
And the dark will be denser
For the lies I think
You tell me then.
My eyes are wide open
And I am not blind.
Will you hear my words
As we sit the long night out
Without disputing my right
To voice my thoughts?
Will you let me speak
My soul’s story aloud
Without interrupting
With unneeded reassurance?
Just take my hand
Sit with me in silence
Let the darkness be dark
And wait with me.

If I’m mad, then sanity is overrated!

Announcements are so common. At the moment I seem to be bombarded with political announcements – on the tv, the radio, the papers, online, it’s everywhere – “They promise that but we’ll do this!” – “You’d be mad to vote for them!” Lots and lots of hot air. I wonder how many promises there would be if party manifestos were legally binding!? There are so many political announcements that I have already started to filter them out, and the official election campaign hasn’t even started yet.

But some announcements are useful. I find the ones that direct you to a numbered till a little irritating but they are practical. There are announcements at the doctors – announcements at the station, sometimes they are even understandable! I remember having to travel through the Brussels Metro when there was a strike on. 2/3 of trains had been cancelled so it was crucial to listen to the announcements. Unfortunately, these were in French and Dutch not English. My French is poor and my Dutch non-existent, so I had to listen very carefully and be ready to take a risk on what I thought I had heard: Very confusing but I got through in the end.

God makes announcements too. Throughout the ages God has made announcements through the prophets. Occasionally, I read in the Bible of God speaking to kings like king David and less famous kings like Ahaz (Isaiah 7.10-14). But reading through the Bible it is odd to hear of God speaking to a teenage girl, like Mary (Luke 1.26-38). And this was no voice whispered in a dream. When God spoke to Mary he sent a royal messenger too – No ordinary royal messenger either – No God sent the Archangel Gabriel himself to deliver this message!

To think of an angel I need to remind myself to forget about sweet creatures with wings watching over little children. Angels are God’s incredibly powerful warrior messengers. So the arrival of the Archangel Gabriel would have been more like stealth helicopters appearing out of nowhere. Then a top general walking out to give me a message crucial to the future of the world. Waiting there for my answer – would I say ‘yes’, it might cost me my life! Could I say ‘no’, with everyone’s life depending upon it?

That is the position that Mary was in. She said, ‘yes’ and the new course of the world was set. An amazing woman, even as a teenager.

All of those stories were thousands of years ago. But the amazing thing is that because of Mary’s ‘yes’, Jesus came and through Jesus I can have personal access to God, right now; even me. Right now, God can speak to me through the Holy Spirit living in me. I’ve heard his voice so many times:

In big things – “Leave your good job and train to be a minister”, “I know you’re happy here but it’s time to move on to another place to minister”, “you need to sell your motorbike”, “you need to leave full time ministry”, “now give up your good job and come back full time again”…
In little things: “speak to her – she needs a kind word right now”, “help them”, “step back from that – trust me, it will be OK”, “he is in pain, pray with him”…

God speaks to me through his Spirit as I look at the work of the Creator all around me. God speaks to me, all because I belong to Jesus. God speaks to me, and I know that I’m not special and I’m pretty sure I’m not barking mad! Well if I am mad, then sanity is overrated!

What is God announcing to me now? What is He announcing to his people? What is he announcing to my church, my town, my country, this world?

Speak Lord, I pray your servants are listening!

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