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Resurrection

Mark talks about our future resurrection and what our hope look like

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Love one another 

Jesus’ way challenges us still, it’s not an easy well trodden path, following Jesus (which is what a Christian should be) is difficult, we daily have to surrender our own human selfishness and walk his narrow path.

John records in his gospel that Jesus laid down a challenge to his disciples (followers), by giving them a new command to love one another as he had loved them. This was going to be very hard, the disciples were not a naturally huggey feeley group, they were fishermen, ex-terrorists and tax collectors among other things. They argued, they fell out, they undermined each other, they followed Jesus for many reasons, loving each other was not one of them.

Love not Like

Most importantly Jesus had not ask them and doesn’t ask us to like everyone, we don’t have smile and pretend we are best friends, we don’t have hang out with each other. I am not going to get on with every christian, personalities will clash.

What Jesus asks us to do is to love other Christians, in the same way he loves us, so what does this mean?

Jesus’ Love

Most importantly Jesus’ love was not a feeling that went up and down based on his mood, his love was action, it just was.

Costly Love

Jesus laid down his live for us – that was the best demonstration of his love for us, we need to copy him and do the same.

We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers – 1 John 3 v 16-18

Sometimes this means we need to actually trade our lives for others, I imagine that many of our brothers and sisters in countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have had to make this choice.

For most of us it means counting our lives as less important than our Christian brother and sisters.

Caring Love

Jesus cared for his disciples, he was protective of them, he wanted the best for them. Sometimes that meant challenging them, love is not always looking for peace in every situation. To guard each other that may mean snatching some from the fire (as Jude puts it).

We need to do this in love, otherwise we become a hostile critic. Its a bit like caring for a child, if you love them you will stop them doing something that harms them.

Committed Love

Jesus knew his disciples would fail and yet he was committed to them, he didn’t give up on them. He showed his love by restoring Peter who had denied him.

Other Christians will fail us, they are not perfect – Jesus hasn’t finished with them yet, just like he hasn’t finished with you – the love we need to use takes this into account.

Inclusive Love

Jesus loved all regardless of their background. The Church is meant to be diverse, people who shouldn’t get on , should show their love for each other.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, you are all one in Christ Jesus – Galatians 3 v 28

Commanded Love

Jesus commands us to love each other, therefore he will give us the love.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5 v 5

Love is not a feeling, it is an action, commanded love means we love even when we don’t feel like it.

Street By Street

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The Church that I lead is the Woodbank Community Church on Woodhouse Road in Whitehaven. This week we are praying for Greenbank Avenue and Gameriggs Road, part of our ongoing plan to pray for every road in Woodhouse and Greenbank.

What we do

Every couple of months we choose one and drop flyers into every house, telling them that we are going to pray for them.

Then we go to each home and ask those in, what they want us to pray about. A full list of these prayers is given to each of our members, to pray about in the week. To protect people’s identities, we only put the first letter of their Christian names in front of their prayer need. My name being John would be written ‘J’. I’m sure God knows who we are talking about.

It is a real privilege to take people’s requests to the God who answers prayer. Now we are a Church that is used to knocking on doors. For the last three Christmases we have delivered boxes of chocolates to local streets as early Christmas presents. But going to ask people what we can pray for them has been a real pleasure.

The response has been a mixture of bewilderment and thanks with very few refusals. The fact that we also put it on our Facebook page means some are ready for us when we arrive.
But I think it is going to take years to cover the whole area, if we ever do. New homes are being built around us as we look.

So why are we praying for our streets?

Because we believe that God is interested in all of us and the lives we live. He is not some benevolent grandpa in the sky, but the creator God who cares about us, is listening and wants to get involved with everyone. A lot of people ask me to pray for them because they think that as a ‘religious leader’, God will listen to me.

The truth is that God listens to us all; we are all special to him.

So as we are praying for Greenbank Avenue and Gameriggs Road this week, why not talk to God yourself about the needs you have. You could add those of your family, friends and neighbours as well. Let’s get West Cumbrians well known in heaven as those who talk to God about things that are important to us. You never know, the angels may get used to the accent. 

Turning the world around.

At the beginning of the year I started a sermon series called Attractive Christianity. What got me going was reading Acts 5 vs 12-14. It talks about all the believers meeting together, but ‘none of the rest dared join them.’ That’s fine until you look at verse 14,

And more that ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.

What’s going on here?  Something is turning these people around. They want to walk away but find themselves joining in.

The words between these two phrases help us understand what’s going on. We know that God is involved in all this but He has decided to have agents on the ground. Luke tells us that

the people ( the ones that wanted to walk away) held them (the believers) in high esteem

That seems to have had an amazing effect on the population of Jerusalem. In front of their eyes God’s promises were being worked out in ordinary, very visible people. My goodness, how our community needs to see that today. This is not a time for us to hide behind our Church walls but get out and live it with all our might.

 

Fruit among the Pashtun

I was lucky enough this week to hear about the work that the Holy Spirit is doing among the Pashtun people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Those who convert from Islam to Christianity do so in the face of severe persecution.  Labelled apostates by the Taliban their lives are forfeit, and they often have to leave behind family, communities and possessions. Martyrdom is a daily reality, and yet God is moving powerfully among them.

There are 49 million Pashtuns in the world (30 million are in Pakistan), yet they are one of the most unreached people groups for the gospel. In their culture to be Pashtun is to be Muslim, so choosing to accept Jesus means breaking this connection. However over the last decade thousands have been called out of Islam into the truth. Even among the Taliban God has been bringing some into the light.

And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. – Rev 12 v 11

For the moment this all has to be done secretly, becoming a Christian means you are no longer safe where you are. They have to be moved to other parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, or into Iran. Any property they have has to be left, taking what they can carry  they become refugees overnight.

Mountain Spring Ministries is a Pashtun led organisation that is supporting, training and encouraging Christians and seekers among the Pashtun.

Prayer

They have asked for the following to be prayed for

  • Team safety and wisdom
  • Protection for the coordinator as he travels in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran
  • Strength and comfort for the believers
  • What to do about the believer’s children, who will miss out on schooling as they flee.
  • The wives and children of those who have been martyred, and are left destitute.
  • Protection for those Muslims who are seeking the truth, our speaker said they had 700 contacts who are on this journey.

Practical Needs

  •  Mountain Springs run 2 safe houses for Christians and their families who are on the run for their lives
  • They also provide training and communications equipment (mobile phones) for leaders in the area.
  • As illiteracy is high among the Pashtun, one to one and audio materials need to be used to disciple Christians.