I only had a penny to put in the offering

I recently read this story of amazing provision from God. It reminded me of the story of the poor widow used last Sunday.

My family moved to the UK from Zimbabwe when I was 17, and there were limits on how much I could work as I didn’t have indefinite leave to remain. As an international student I didn’t qualify for student loans. My mum gave me enough for my tuition, but after paying that, I didn’t have much left. It was really difficult. I’d cover my rent as a bare minimum but would have to ask my housemates to cover me for bills until I got paid.

One week, I was down to 7p in my bank account. You read the story of the widow’s mite, but I found myself quite literally with a penny to give in the offering. I remember putting it in an envelope because I was so ashamed about putting it in the bucket on its own.

That same day, I’d been waiting for 15 or 20 minutes in prayer. Then I had this picture in my mind’s eye of a NatWest name badge with the word ‘Sarah’ on it. God just said: “Your money is coming tomorrow.” I thought: “What money? What are you talking about?” I heard: “Go in tomorrow afternoon to the bank and collect it. Take half of it and give the rest to Sarah.” I did not know what to think or feel. I was scared stiff, but there was also an element of excitement, to see if this was real.

I went to the bank the next day and was shocked to find £800 had been deposited in my account just before I got there, with no reference of where it came from. I don’t think I’d seen £800 in the three months before that. So at first I felt this real rush of excitement. I realised: “This is actually happening.”

Sarah wasn’t working at the bank that day so I couldn’t give her the £400. The next day, I waited in her queue, got to the front, and said: “Sarah, this is going to sound strange but I need to give this to you.” She said: “Do you want to deposit it?” Then I realised that I was giving her money in a bank, how was I going to explain that?

I just said: “There’s a note inside that explains everything. Just read that, it’s for you. I just want you to know, God loves you, God bless you.” She was shaking her head and her face was in complete disbelief when I left.

That experience made my faith grow. I’m not concerned by hardship. I don’t spend time worrying about what might go wrong, because I’ve seen it and I’ve been there, and I was fine. God was with me. I always draw on that experience in encouragement to step out, to do things out of the norm, that require you to believe that God can do something impossible.

If you wish to read other stories like this you can do so by clicking here.

Pray and Seek My Face

God loves the towns and cities of our nation but he hates the mess that they are in. the impact of poverty, homelessness, run down centres, overcrowding, stressed out health services, tight budgets for our schools.

At times like this, it is easy to find someone or something to blame. However, I believe that God is calling this church not to play the blame game but to co-operate in prayer and action to begin to turn things around for his glory.

The church has always been God’s primary agent for change on earth. John Wesley said, ‘God does nothing except in answer to prayer’. While I might not totally agree with him completely you only have to take a glance to see that where major renewal and revival have taken place began in prayer which led to social reform.

For many years we have talked about a personal faith and personal salvation but this is now been replaced with a more biblical balanced view with an understanding of our broader role in the redemption plan of God. Individual salvation is now understood as part of God’s bigger plan to bring everything to wholeness in Christ. In other words – we are saved to serve.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:15-20

So we have this big task – the redemption of the whole earth. Thankfully we have not been asked to do this on our own. It is not a call given just to us at Broadmead – it is the call for the church, to come together in prayer and action to hear the ancient charge.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chron 7:14

This week we have two opportunities to come together for prayer.

This Friday and the first Friday of each month onwards we have the opportunity to come together for about an hour to pray together as a church.

Last month we focused on prayer as our holy habit. We must keep prayer as a key focus for us as a church. the times of prayer will be focused on prayer for our community, neighbourhood, town and our witness as a church within it. So please do give up an hour to join us – all welcome whatever your age or experience of prayer.

On Sunday we have an opportunity to join together with other churches around Northampton in the market square to pray together. To come humbly before the Lord in prayer as we ask His kingdom to come here in Northampton.

All details can be found here.

Remember when God’s people pray, anything can happen.

The Vision is Jesus

I saw this written by Pete Greig which is very inspiring around the whole issue of prayer. Here goes.

Can I be honest with you? I’m actually not that into prayer, It’s Jesus I’m into, so we talk.

I don’t believe in the power of prayer. I believe in the power of God. So I ask for his help. A lot.

I’m not into evangelism. I hate evangelism. I’m into Jesus. So I talk to people about him.

I’m not into social justice. I’m into Jesus. So I find myself picking fights with his enemies.

I’m not into worship – all those soft rock songs, over and over again – I’m into Jesus. So when I see him I smile. I bow. And yes, OK I admit that I sing quite a bit too.

I’m not into church. Have you seen the state of it? But I’m into Jesus. So I like his people. (they’re a little weird, but hey, so am I…)

THE VISION IS JESUS.

Not Christianity. Not rules and religious observance. Not prayer, mission and justice. Not church planting, miracles or mission. If you love Jesus I guess you’ll do all that stuff: you’ll pray and worship and go to church and preach the gospel, but in doing all those things, in pursuing all those things, too often we lose Jesus. In all the clutter of Christianity we bury Christ.

Some of us need to stop being Christians for a bit – we’re just too good at it. It’s become habitual.

Urgent voices call us to abandon the familiar comforts of Christianity to strike out into the unknown and rediscover Christ. Get back to that place where we are so bewildered and enthralled by his actual presence that we will do anything, go anywhere, say anything he tells us whenever.

We are over familiar with holy things. We talk to God and he talks back, for crying out loud. That means you’re either insane or experiencing an actual living, conversational, interactive relationship with the creator of the cosmos. No middle ground. You’re insane or a saint.

Jesus was so uninterested in starting a religion that he never thought of a name for his way of life, never started a bible school, never wrote a book, avoided the rich and famous, and barely stuck around long enough to secure succession. The way of Jesus is viral not structural, relational not religious, revolutionary not predictable.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”

Hebrews‬ ‭12: 2

“I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

‭‭Phil.‬ ‭3:8‬

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:2‬

Praying Jesus Style

Let’s say you are without work. And imagine you just returned from an interview for a job you really want, and you decide to pray about the job. But as you think about praying, you start to wonder —

• Why pray, when it’s the interviewer who will decide who gets the job?

• Maybe instead of praying that I get the job, I should just tell God that I submit to his will.

• Maybe to have my prayer for the job answered I need to believe without any doubt that God is going to give me the job.

These questions can discourage our prayer. So how can we answer them? Let us turn to Jesus for his wisdom. What helps me with those questions is Jesus’ prayer in Mark 14:36.

It’s late at night. Jesus knows that the next day he faces hours of horrifying suffering as God’s wrath for our sin is poured upon him on the Cross. So he heads to the garden of Gethsemane, and asks Peter, James, and John to pray for him. Then he goes off a little farther away by himself, falls to the ground, and prays —

“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

Each of these lines have helped me answer crucial questions about prayer —

“Father, all things are possible for you.”

Jesus understood that the Father was sovereign over everything, which means it is entirely up to the Father whether Jesus is spared the Cross, or sent to the Cross. That’s true for Jesus as he anticipates the Cross, and it’s true for every situation we face. God can do whatever he chooses to do.

So as you think about how much you want this job, it’s crucial to understand that God is able to give you the job, or to not give you the job. It’s ultimately up to him (Proverbs 21:1).

That doesn’t mean you don’t prepare for the interview. But it does mean that what happens is not ultimately about how well you interviewed, or who happens to do the interview. What happens is ultimately up to God.

That’s why it makes sense to pray for the job, because when you pray you are talking to the One who is in complete control of who gets the job.

“Remove this cup from me.”

Sometimes we think that if we were fully submitted to God, then all we would need to pray is “Do your will.” But that’s not how Jesus prays. There’s mystery here. But it seems clear that part of Jesus’ heart did not want to go to the Cross. So Jesus prays and asks God to keep him from the Cross — “Remove this cup from me.”

This was not all that was in his heart, as we will see in the next request. But it was part of what was in his heart. And that’s how God wants us to pray. God wants us to ask him to fulfill the desires of our hearts, as long as those desires are not against God’s Word.

So even though we don’t know God’s ultimate will, we should ask God for what seems right to us according to his Word. So we should go ahead and pray for jobs, healing, salvation, provision, protection, and so forth.

So don’t just pray “Do your will.” Pray as Jesus prayed — for the specific desires of your heart.

“Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

When you pray to get the job, do you need to believe with absolute certainty that God will give you the job? That’s not how Jesus prays. Jesus prays and asks God: “Remove this cup from me.” But Jesus also understands that what’s most crucial is submitting to God’s will — “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Sometimes God will give us a supernatural, spiritual gift of faith by which we know exactly what God is going to do. In that case we can pray with absolute confidence that God will do precisely as we ask.That is a spiritual gift which God sometimes gives to some of us. But it’s not something God always requires from us.

So apart from a spiritual gift of faith, we should pray as Jesus did in Gethsemane. Express to God the desires of your heart earnestly, persistently, and passionately —

• Please, Father, have the interviewer hire me.

• I plead with you, Father, heal me.

• For the sake of your name, free me from this trial.

This is crucial, because God might have ordained that your earnest pleading be what moves his heart to do exactly what you are asking. But at the same time, because you understand that God knows best, also pray —

Yet not what I want, but what you want.

This is also crucial, because it will remind you that God might have other, even better plans for you. And it will help you keep seeking your joy in God, and not in specific answers to prayer.

Learn how to pray — from Jesus.

A special thanks to Steve Fuller for the inspiration for this blog.

Prayer as Adventure

This month we will be exploring our fourth holy habit – prayer. Prayer is an amazing privilege. The idea that we get to communicate with the creator and sustainer of the whole universe is simply awesome. We have unlimited access and can invite God into our daily, ordinary lives. When we do, we will can have an adventure as Mary will be talking about this Sunday.

Recently, I heard a great story from someone in the church about their grown up son (we will call him Gavin). Gavin is a church warden of a church way up north. They have recently opened a new drop in cafe for anyone in the community. On one such morning he noticed a man standing outside the church looking nervous.

He went over to talk with him to invite him in. The man said he was keen to come in but was very anxious. They continued chatting and after a little while Gavin said to the gentleman. ‘I bet I can tell you whereabouts in the UK you are from?’ ‘OK’, says the stranger. ‘You’re from Northampton!’ ‘Wow’, says the stranger, ‘how did you know that?’

Gavin tells him that he is also from Northampton and that he can recognises the accent anywhere. Then Gavin says, ‘I also know that Mr. Kelly was your teacher at Cedar Road School.’ By this time the stranger was looking somewhat confused. Gavin went on to explain that as they had started to talk he recognised him as someone who had been in his class at school. Well by now they were getting on famously and went into the drop in together. The stranger told Gavin how he was struggling with mental health issues and loneliness. He was so pleased to have made it into the drop in cafe and been welcomed outside in the middle of a northern city by an ex-classmate from a Northampton school.

Isn’t it amazing what can happen when we are open, though prayer, to inviting God into our everyday adventures. You never know who you might meet and how God might use each and everyone of us.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3

Are you serious?

Does the church take itself too seriously? That was the question posed to me the other day. I have found it a really difficult question to answer. As a church, I believe we are dealing with the eternal destiny of every person in our community. That sounds to me like pretty important, serious stuff. However, we are also supposed to be a place where the joy of the Lord is front and centre. One way of expressing joy is to laugh, have fun and share in not taking things too seriously.

I know from personal experience that my desire for humour and fun has got me in trouble in the past. I remember telling a joke at one church about Moses playing golf with God and Jesus. Honestly, it was a very funny joke but after the service, the churchwarden came over to me accusing me of blasphemy by taking the Lord’s name in vain. It ended up with me having to write a letter of apology to the person to try and clear the air. Still, think it was funny though!

The reaction from everyone who attended Broadmead’s Got Talent last Saturday would suggest to me that we are a church that doesn’t take ourselves too seriously but is that joy always there when we gather each Sunday?

Now that can be for several genuine reasons and there is nothing worse than someone trying to make you feel joyful when you have had a really bad week. It leads to falseness and us faking it.

In the Message Translation, Micah 6:8 says‘And don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously.’

I wonder if we did embody that verse whether we would all know more joy in our lives. We can all be guilty of taking ourselves too seriously and the ability to laugh at ourselves is an important gift to have. Those who can do that seem to laugh more, delight in the smallest of things and don’t compare themselves to others. That seems to be a good place to be.

So, let us be a place where we are serious about God, caring deeply for each other but are willing to have a right old laugh together, often at ourselves – to allow joy the run of the house and even smile occasionally.

And finally, as the old saying goes. Do you know how to make God laugh? Tell him about your plans!!

And really finally….

A teacher asked the children in her Sunday School class, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale and gave all my money to the church, would I get into heaven?”

“NO!” the children all answered.

“If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would I get into heaven?”

Again, the answer was “NO!”

“Well,” she continued, “then how can I get to heaven?”

In the back of the room, a five-year-old boy shouted out, “You gotta be dead!

For Sale

I wonder whether a sign went up on the Monday after the first Easter Sunday. A sign simply advertising the availability of a grave. Maybe, something like this.

Tomb For Sale, one previous owner but hardly used, in excellent condition. Available due to previous occupant no longer needing the space. O.n.o. Contact Joseph for more details.

Most graves are only ever used once. People tend to stay dead but not Jesus. Each year I am amazed by the resurrection story and its impact on us today. You see without resurrection we just have a dead teacher, a good one but a dead one never the less. With resurrection we have a Living Lord who is still relevant today. The resurrection changes everything.

At the time of the early church miracles were often assigned to the myths about gods and demi-gods. No-one really believed in them and so a man resurrected was just as hard for people to believe as it is for people now.

The Apostle Paul experienced this when he tried telling the learned in Athens about Jesus and the resurrection. The concept was so alien to them that they thought he was telling them about two gods: Jesus and Anastasia (Greek for ‘Resurrection’). When Paul sought to correct them their reaction was to sneer (Acts 17:18-32). The same thing happened when Paul had a private chat with Festus and King Agrippa. Everything was rocking on until Paul said the Scriptures taught that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and the Gentiles.

Festus simply says to Paul, ‘You are out of your mind, Paul!’ ‘Your great learning is driving you insane’ (Acts 26:24-25)

You see any mention of Jesus’ resurrection was regarded as hilarious or mad.

Even Christians in the early church had problems believing it. 1 Cor 15 shows Paul trying to convince them about the resurrection. If you read between the lines you see a man answering those who say the resurrection is too hard to handle and evangelism would be much easier without it. Paul answers – the heart of the gospel is resurrection.

So, maybe people are no different then as they are now. But at the heart of our faith is an empty tomb which may lead to us, like Paul, being accused of being out of our minds. But as we look at last Sunday at church we need to consider the evidence and embrace the greatest day in history. The tomb is empty and available. All serious offers considered!!