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Church and Faith: Dead or Alive

I understand only too well what faith looks like both dead and alive as I have experienced both.  I have experienced a complete lack of trust in God, I have experienced anger with God, I have ignored God completely and rested on my own strength and I have doubted the very existence of God.  I have fooled myself by believing I was alive in faith when, in reality, my faith was dead.

Recently, thanks be to God, I have discovered what faith looks like when it is alive!!  Lockdown has literally saved my husband and I.  While, before our faith was dead, we are now truly alive in Christ!  We live for Jesus.  Previously, my husband, like many others, whiled away his days staring at his phone, now, he wakes at 5am for prayer and study before work at 9am.  He had intended to sleep until 7 or 8 at the weekend but he has been unable to, he is too excited to spend time with God!  He is reading an impossible number of books in order that he can write a book for new Christians exploring who Jesus is!  I have spent lockdown making lots of new Christian friends, I have undertaken various studies and summits which have inspired me greatly, without them I would not be writing this blog! Our plans are no longer our own and we are happier than we have ever been!  I woke this morning after a very disturbed night’s sleep and I thought I will just have a relaxing day, finish the book I am reading entitled “God’s Smuggler”, catch up on some housework and do some craft.  God had other ideas!  As I began to get ready and look forward to my lazy day, my mind became inundated with thoughts.  This has happened a lot since I became “alive” especially since I started writing my blog!  This told me that God had other plans for my day!  So here I am trying to assemble my racing thoughts into coherent English once again.  You may ask, how do you know this is of God?  The answer is simple, because despite my idea of a relaxing day being turned on its head and my plans being totally disrupted, I am happy, I am excited, I am eager.  At the drop of a hat, my plans changed, and I delighted in it.  I delight in it because I know that this is God’s will, that by writing this I please God and that by writing this I may help even one person who is struggling with their faith. 

Coming to faith or indeed recognizing your faith is dead can be torturous, it can be mentally exhausting, you can be confused about who you are!  For years I was at war with myself, I was a soldier in a silent battle between God’s will and my own.  When I was defeated and accepted God’s victory, I then became swamped with questions, far more than I could find answers to!  By my own selfishness I had kept Jesus at arm’s length and, inevitably, this is why my personal journey was so difficult.  I did not want to let go of “my life”.  I liked my life just the way it was, or at least I thought I did.  It took far too long but, finally, I realised that the very things I thought made me happy were having the opposite effect.  Life will never go the way we want it to all the time and therefore, focussing on oneself is unlikely to lead to happiness.  This is a difficult concept to understand as it contradicts our modern thinking which advises “Be who you want to be!”, “Do what makes you happy!”” etc. etc.  This may work when you are employed, healthy, in love etc.  What happens when you are sick, you lose your job, your partner leaves, how do we just make ourselves happy then?  The reality is true happiness and contentment is found only in Jesus.  The peace and happiness that rests in your heart when you finally ditch your sense of self and accept God’s will in your life is unlike anything else one can experience. 

So how can you achieve this?  Well, for me, it was learning to trust God, to completely trust that everything that is happening in my life right now is God’s will and that it is for the good.  I may not see the good in this lifetime, but I trust at some point, I will!  It is surrounding yourself with faithful believers.  Lockdown has provided so many opportunities for me to join in different church services, bible studies, summits, conferences etc. that I otherwise would have been unable to attend.  This has literally changed my life, from the Cheerfully Given Creative Christianity Summit which turned me from an adamant uncreative whose biggest artistic achievement would be the sun, grass, bird, house picture of a four year old child to a buzzing creative with her own craft trolley, who is so full of ideas that she carries a notebook around with her at all times so that her head does not explode! The Aberdeen Christian Fellowship Big Church Weekend which brought my husband and I into the community of believers in Christ who welcomed us warmly.  The Alpha Course where we met fabulous new friends who we keep in touch with regularly, we chat, we laugh, we pray for each other and, God willing, we will soon meet each other face to face for a time of fellowship.  Watching Angus Buchan’s Mighty Men’s Conferences which due to Covid are broadcast online!  Seeing the faithful heart of Angus Buchan inspires us so much to follow in his footsteps, to live our lives for Christ.  Watching an African Church Service where praise is paramount, little is spoken without “Amen” or “Halleluiah”.  This is the faith I strive for, the faith to praise Jesus without fear or embarrassment.  A “Get Out Of Your Head Bible Study” where as a group of women we come together to discuss our struggles and our faith, we pray for each other and we learn from each other and I see Jesus in each and every one of these woman.  Scripture tells us how important it is to fellowship with one another, Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

I fully understand the fears that you may have as new Christians reaching out to believers.  It can be difficult; I understand that churches can be cliquey, and some church goers may not be approachable.  I want to say to you that this is your time!!  Coronavirus may have been meant for bad, but God is using it for good.  I would not have had the confidence to attend the above in person and though I was still apprehensive, sitting in my own house, in my chilling clothes made things much easier!  I did not have to worry about my appearance, I did not have to worry about whether I could escape if I were uncomfortable and anxious because all I needed to do was press the Leave Meeting button!  Luckily, I have never felt the need to do this!  So, I urge you, give it a go!  Sign up for Alpha, watch a church service, sign up to Bible Studies or small groups.  Just have a peek and see!!    

For the church, this is the time to rise to the challenge.  Statistics show a huge rise in church attendance during this pandemic, people are interested, people want to know more, people need Jesus.  Acts 2:46-47 “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” 1 Corinthians 3:9 “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

Like Martin Luther King Jr I too have a dream and mine is this … that we will see the Church of God come alive.  That the church will unite throughout the world focussing on union and not division.  That this church will exist for the glory of God and that the living Word of God will be preached with joy and love and without errancy.  That this church will welcome each and every soul as their brother or sister, that they will be welcomed with open arms and encouraged each step of their journey and that those who arrive as strangers, leave as family.  I dream that this church will heal the sick and save the lost.  That testimonies will be shared with joy and fervour.  That the praise will be resounding and powerful that those outside of the building may know that God is alive.  That the walls of this church will tremble from the vociferous preaching held in its midst and that this good news will flow to the ends of the earth and not be silenced.  That no brother or sister is left in any need, but is provided for financially, practically, and emotionally and that this church stands together, shoulder to shoulder with each other living out the graceful love of God.

Ephesians 2:19-20 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” 

Romans 12:4-5 “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

1 Corinthians 12:13 “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

Let this season of tragedy emerge a season of triumph!  Let the people come!!

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

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How God Answers The Racism Debate

Recently my husband and I joined a Zoom conference regarding racism.  We are to read two books and discuss them in our small groups online.  When I began reading the first book, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, I found myself at once feeling wrongly slighted.  Yet, I am willing to admit that perhaps this was the shock value I required in order to understand my blissful ignorance to my white privilege and to the size of the role my country played in the slave trade.  I always thought of these horrors as something that happened in America.  Reni astutely presents many shocking facts involving murder, racial segregation, injustice and as I read this I was deeply upset and shocked, shocked that these events occurred within the history of my own country and yet I was completely ignorant of them.  This part of British History seems to have been conveniently “lost in translation!!”  Not all of the events portrayed in this book were even historic but incidents which have occurred in my lifetime.  Reni showed me I need an education and I need it fast; the question is, how will I receive this?   

For example, the study that I am part of is made up of white men and woman and one black man.  I had hoped when I joined the study that many more people of colour would be there to contribute in order that we would have a broad demographic in order to learn and teach one another.  Despite my small groups having consisted entirely of white people like myself (therefore one would imagine that the white woman wouldn’t have to worry about unconsciously upsetting a person of colour) I do not feel able to express myself fully.  I am scared.  I am scared that what I say may come across the wrong way.  I am scared that people will think that I am racist by what I say.  I am simply scared.

I believe political correctness and negative etymology have made us, as a society, unsure which words are appropriate so we skirt around subjects or avoid them altogether so as not to upset anyone or paint ourselves in the wrong colour!!!  How can this lead to unity?  It cannot.  Of course, this is not a problem simply with regard to race, but also disability, sexuality, gender etc. etc.  If we want to unite as one, whilst appreciating and celebrating our differences,  then we must be able to discuss matters without prejudice or reprisal.  Only then is the unity required to manifest change accomplished.  Ultimately, we need action.  While Black Lives Matter has drawn attention to a long-standing issue in our society that desperately needs to be addressed it has so far failed to achieve action that will effect positive changes. 

Another factor in the need for more action, less debate is that whilst we are all focussing on the horrors of the historic slave trade, we are averting our eyes to the slave trade which is operational today.  There are sex slaves in each of our cities, there are house slaves all around the world.  If one would like to deny this is going on in the UK, please read Slave by Mende Nazer.

Let me make it clear that I am in no way minimizing the atrocity of the slave trade or in no way seeking to brush it under the carpet, in fact, I would suggest that every man, woman and child in this God’s earth makes themselves aware of the horrors of this in order that we can ensure this never happens again.  I think another important point is to recognise the effect this still has in society today, black poverty, black prospects etc. etc.  At the same time, I want to recognise that slavery is not extinct but alive today!

For all our worldly problems God has the answer.  The answer is Love…

As I looked through Scripture in order to prepare for my blog today, I was amazed at how often love is mentioned in the Bible!  Why are churches not screaming this from the rooftops?  Why have I not witnessed a sermon where the primary focus is love.  There is so much for us to learn about God’s love….    How do we love?  What is Godly love?  How does this love manifest itself?  How is this love shown to others?  Who is my neighbour that I am to love?  How do I do this?  What can I do to care for others?  The list is endless.  We, as the church of God should be ashamed of ourselves.  We must demonstrate this love more mightily.  People should see God’s love shining from our homes and our churches!!!   

We need love and we need action.  To quote Martin Luther King Junior, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

1 John 3:18 says “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Let us look at what action we could take.  For example, I have recently been made aware that many buildings in the UK have been funded by the slave trade.  Would it be right to take these down?  I would argue that ethically that would be a solution.  That no longer would the riches derived from slavery stand tall within our cities but, this would be a huge waste of resources.  These buildings are likely to have been bought and sold many times over since they were originally erected and therefore it may be problematic changing the use of them but, where possible, could these be used for charity work, for community, for the change we want to see in our world!!  If privately owned could a plaque be erected in memorial to the many men, woman and children who were born and who died without an identity, who suffered for the financial gain of others.  

Instead of stating that 10% of employees must be black etc. why not investigate why this is not happening naturally?  Why are black children less likely to succeed at school?  Why are black people less likely to attend Oxford or Cambridge?  Why are black children more likely to live in a poor household etc. etc.  Why not make changes to our society to correct this imbalance and inequality?

What does God say:-

  1. Love your neighbour, Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” All law depends on these commandments!! If we can love God with all we have and love our neighbour as much as we love ourselves then automatically we will keep the laws. We cannot break them because to break them would be not to love God with all our heart and all our minds and all our soul and not to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. We learn from this that we must care for others as we care for ourselves. We must consider their welfare as we consider our own, value their lives as we value our own, strive for their happiness as we strive for our own, ultimately, put the needs and desires of others above our own.
  2. Forgive, Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” When we do not forgive, we hold bitterness in our hearts. How can we serve God with a bitter heart? The answer is we cannot. How can God forgive us when we are holding something far less important against someone else? He cannot.
  3. We are different because God made us so.  Genesis 11:1-9 “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So, the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore, its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.”  Here we see that when man came together in unity, they felt empowered, so empowered that they believed they could take on God Himself and for this reason, God dispersed man.  Therefore, what is required for perfect Godly unity is humility.

Let us acknowledge that God in all His Glory chose the body of a poor Middle Eastern Man in which to dwell.  Colossians 2:9-10 “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority”.  Let us represent the Bible in truth. 

My preparation for this blog has revealed so many scriptural treasures for me that I hope to write about in the coming days as I explore God’s love, what it looks like and how it manifests itself.

Meantime, I hope that my comments are taken as intended, from the heart of a white woman who understands she is at times ignorant, but longs to learn, who understands she is so far from God yet longs to become closer to Him.  If any of my comments have been insensitive, please let me know so we can discuss this. 

In the meantime, remain in God’s love and I look forward to sharing some beautiful scripture with you soon.

I will leave you with a quote from Martin Luther King “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Love and Blessings

Louise x