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Christianity

The Many Benefits of Testimony

This morning I was thinking about the power of testimony.  The Cambridge Dictionary describes testimony as “(an example of) spoken or written statements that something is true, especially those given in a law court.”  The Collins Dictionary, 1. A declaration of truth or fact. 2. Evidence given by a witness especially orally in court under oath or affirmation.  3. Evidence testifying to something.

In Christian circles, testimony is looked upon as a statement of one’s life experiences in relation to one’s relationship with God.  Usually one will begin with childhood experiences and descriptions, i.e. “raised in a Christian home”, “no knowledge of Christ as a child” etc.  One would usually go on to describe one’s life, being introduced to God, deepening relationship with God, etc. etc.

Testimonies are such a fantastic tool for church services as they provide so much towards teaching, understanding God and they provide food for thought with regard to one’s own journey with Christ.  In this way, everyone’s “testimony” is important, even those out with the Christian faith.  By listening to the views of Christ from the perspective of a non-Christian we can see from a worldview and thus we may be capable of coming alongside others to comfort, to guide them to Christ, ultimately, we may be in a better position to interface whilst seeing things from two viewpoints.  We all have something important to share.  We are all God’s children and as such, we all have a purpose on this planet, each and every one of us.

Testimonies can provide great reassurance.  When we hear or read some testimonies, we can falsely understand salvation to be a “ball of lightening experience”, so it is comforting to realise that this is not always the case.  Salvation is not a one size fits all, we are all in different places and all on different paths and thus our new birth will differ person to person.

Another important aspect of testimony is learning about the character of God.  We will find as we journey through our walk with Christ that we change, our character changes, we become a new self, 2 Corinthians 5.17  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  By studying these new characteristics, we can see the character of Christ as it is through Him that gradually, throughout our lives, we become more and more holy.

So, what can we see of God from a testimony?

  • The power of God – Almost always we can see the power of God.  No-one who has been born again is exactly the same person that they were before.  They have all been changed to some degree or another.  What power this shows of Christ!  That one day we are one person, the next we are a new person!  Day by day our thought patterns change, and we become more and more in the image of God.   
  • Our need for God – Almost always we can see our need for God.  When one is born again, one becomes a new person, but more importantly, one becomes a better person, and this shows our need of God.  We need God to show us love, help us become more patient, help us to be more kind, more caring, more compassionate.  All men are capable of displaying these traits but only with God can we truly understand what it is to love.
  • What God communicates – Through others sharing their journeys we can hear what God has spoken to them.  We learn how God communicates with different people and what he communicates, perhaps He gives direction to one, words of comfort to another, teaching to yet another.  
  • What He does – Through the testimony we see actions of God in the lives of His people, we see His glorious provision in the lives of some, His protection in the lives of another, still we see His rule of yet others.

So, how do we give our testimony?

  • Simply, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”  Paul, the author of Corinthians, was a highly educated man, taught by one of the most supreme Rabbi’s in Jerusalem, yet he chooses to speak simply, so that the people will understand and also, so that God is glorified.
  • By the Holy Spirit, John 15:26  “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.”  We are helped to deliver our testimony by the Holy Spirit who is within us.
  • Joyfully – Isaiah 12:4-6, In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.  Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things, let this be known to all the world.  Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”  A testimony is not to be given with a long face, or a quiet voice but with confidence and joy because in this way, people will see the wonder of God.
  • By our lifestyle – Philippians 1:27-30 “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel”  Words are not always necessary to testify to Jesus, rather one can provide a testimony purely by ones actions.

Why must we give our testimony?

  • To lead others to Christ, 1 John 1:3 “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
  • Because of what God has done for us, Jeremiah 1:2-3 “‘The Lord has vindicated us; come, let us tell in Zion what the Lord our God has done.  We would be very quick to tell everyone about the kindness or generosity of another man towards us but yet we are often less so about sharing God’s goodness with others!
  • So that Jesus will accept you, Luke 12:8-9 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.”
  • To be a witness to Christ, Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
  • Because this was part of God’s plan from the beginning, Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
  • Giving testimony is part of the good fight, 1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
  • We are told to – John 15:27  “And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”
  • It may be your purpose, Mark 5:19 “Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  This passage describes a moment after Jesus had healed a man from possession by demons.  This man wanted to follow Jesus into the boat and sail with him on his travels, however, Jesus does not allow him.  The man’s purpose was to tell others about Jesus. 
  • It can be a sharing of suffering in Christ, 2 Timothy 1:8 “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” Sometimes our testimony will be mocked, sometimes relationships will break down as others do not understand why you have chosen such a path for your life, however, this is just part of the suffering that we must bear for Jesus understanding the suffering He endured on our behalf.

The ultimate tale of salvation must lie in the testimony of Paul the Apostle, Acts 22:1-21“Brothers and fathers, listen to my defence which I now present to you.” When they heard that Paul was addressing them in Aramaic, they became even more quiet. Then he said,“I am a Jewish man, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, trained strictly according to the Torah of our fathers, being zealous for God just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prisonas the kohen gadol and all the council of elders can testify about me. I also received letters from them to the brothers, and I went to Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem even those who were there in chains  to be punished. “But it happened that as I was traveling and drawing near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly flashed all around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ “I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “He said to me, ‘I am Yeshua ha-Natzrati, whom you are persecuting.’“Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. So, I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ “And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up, and go to Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been appointed to do.’“But since I could not see because of the brilliance of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus. Then a certain Ananias a devout man according to the Torah, well-spoken of by all the Jewish people living there came to me. Standing before me, he said to me, ‘Brother Saul, look up!’ In that very moment, I looked and saw him! “And he said, ‘The God of our fathers handpicked you to know His will to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all people of what you have seen and heard. Now why are you waiting? Get up and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling on His Name.’  “It happened that when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the Temple, I fell into a trance; and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Hurry! Get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your witness about Me.’“And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another, I was imprisoning and beating those trusting in You. Even when the blood of Your witness Stephen was spilled, I too was standing by and approving, and guarding the clothing of those who were killing him.’ “And he said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Let us be courageous and honest like Paul and let us testify like the Psalmist in Psalm 71.15-18.

Love and Blessings

Louise x

PS

I shared my testimony early on in my blog, however, I felt it was right to add it again here.  I would love to hear and share your testimonies, so that others can benefit from hearing them.  If you are comfortable with this, please email them to newlivesinjesus@gmail.com.

My Testimony

When I was a child, I went to Sunday school and had some Christian books and as I grew up, I was aware of God as someone who was just there. I never really doubted there was a God, but I was not in a relationship with Him.  After many years away from the church I returned and I felt good after the service, however, my faith practice did not extend past Sunday.  Many years later I began to read the Bible.  I had no need to search for one as a simple stretch of my arm found my dust laden book in pride of place on my bedside table.  How thought provoking to look back and think of all the years my Bible sat there untouched, yet it was never hidden away in a cupboard or given to charity.  Was God begging me to pick it up all those years I struggled without Him?  Letting me know every day that He was there waiting for me?  So, picking up my Bible I begin with Genesis and the next day I read some more and the next then life happens, single mum with 3 little boys who won’t go to sleep and I am lucky to make my bed before sleep is upon me only to be woken through the night by a procession of little feet coming along the hall.  Hanging off the end of my bed or sleeping sideways with a toddler face directly in mine I wake, and another day begins.  Months later I return to my Bible and I have to start at the beginning again and this record plays again and again over the years.  Without God and going through many troubles alone I found myself very lost.  My mental health suffered greatly, and I rooted in a place of darkness and it was there in a pit of utter despair that God found me, and I met God for the first time.  In desperation I cried out to Him to save me from a rut I had found myself in and in all his glory He did.  Now I had no doubt that there was a God.  Surprisingly at this point I still did not seem to understand the need to get to know Him.  And life meandered on.  Then I met my husband Craig, a Christian from childhood, and I developed a thirst to find out more.  I read the Bible in less than 3 months and began finding out more about the Apostle Paul.  He, then as now, fascinated me in his transformation and his ability to suffer so greatly for Christ.  Once I had read books of him and studied his travels I wanted more.  I began summarising the books of the Bible and finding out a little more about them all.  Still I wanted more so I enrolled in an Access to Christian Theology Course with HTC and relished every moment of it.  Understanding Jesus that bit better aided my prayer life and I accepted Jesus into my heart.  Now I have no idea the day, the month, or quite frankly, the year but I would estimate around 3 or 4 years ago.  Previous to this I would have identified as a Christian because I occasionally went to church, took communion once or twice a year and believed there was a God.  I had never been taught the need to invite Jesus into my life, the need to understand basic doctrine or the need for a relationship with God.  I was fooling myself.  I was placing myself as bride of Christ and He did not “know” me.  Now when I gave my heart to Jesus there was no lightning from the sky, there was no audible voice from heaven, the ground did not shake, I did not have heat or tingles pass through my body … nothing happened.  I did not feel the Holy Spirit enter me and to this day I have experienced none of the glorious manifestations of the Spirit that many claim to have experienced.  I will admit I have struggled with this.  I have doubted that I am saved, that I am truly a child of God.  Yet, I am different.  I am not the person I was before.  I have an ability to forgive that surpasses human ability.  I have the capacity to love which surpasses all human ability.  I can withstand all heartache that surpasses human ability.  This is how I know that I am a daughter of Christ and sister to all those in the church of God.  I am now studying a Theology Degree and I could not enjoy it more.  I sign up to Bible Studies and courses that I see, I read mostly Christian material as has been the case for approximately 4 years and I revel in it all.  I hope that my testimony will help others understand that Christianity is not a set of rules and regulations, nor a one size fits all faith.  Each one of us will follow a different path on our journey with Christ and as I journey along mine sometimes at great speed, sometimes sliding backwards, and as I am being completely frank sometimes taking the wrong turn off, sitting in a traffic jam 20 miles long, before meandering along a one way path to nowhere, getting a puncture, no signal on phone, walking to nearest garage 20 miles away before finally returning to the road of righteousness a month later.  As you can see the journey is not an easy one, in fact it is far more difficult than the many other roads one can choose. The road of righteousness is littered with potholes, frequented by floods and narrow are the tunnels, however, this road is the only one on which you have an on board sat nav guiding you every step of the way and this sat nav does not break down or make mistakes, this sat nav knows every roundabout, every turn off, every roadwork and though you in your foolishness will make wrong turn offs this sat nav will always guide you back.

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Christianity faith God Jesus Love racism Religion

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 To Write A Prayer Journal

In an earlier blog I suggested using a prayer journal to help you if you are struggling to pray or if you want to develop your prayer life.  These are available online in journal format or there are single page designs which you can download for free from the internet.  Just type in prayer journal or prayer sheet and then click on images and you will see a large selection that you can print off.

I have designed a simple one based on the “ACTS prayer guide” I spoke about earlier:-

I have attached a PDF link for you to use should you wish to download this.

There is space for the date at the top so that you can fill this in and later go back and check what you have written.  You may wish to do this to see how your prayer life has developed over time or how your focus has changed!

The Adoration Section is where you praise God.  Write down His glorious attributes or simply how much you love Him. 

The Confession Section is where you admit where you have gone wrong.  We know that all the sin we confess will be forgiven so do not let this affect you negatively but simply admit your guilt and let God’s gracious forgiveness be upon you.

The Thanksgiving Section is where you write down all the things you are grateful for.  I find depending on my state of mind, this can be overflowing to the point I struggle to stop, or I can find it hard to think of anything.  When I am feeling negative, I have learnt to think simple, I woke up, so I am alive, I have been granted another day.  I don’t know how many of you watched I Am A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here last year, but I was really inspired by Caitlan Jenner’s attitude.  Every morning on waking she would shout to the rest of the camp “It’s Another Day to Excel!”  What a positive attitude!  I think this sort of enthusiasm is something that we all should strive for!

The Supplication Section is where you write your prayer requests.  These may be for your own needs or the needs of others.

You may need additional space for any one of these sections, so I have created Individual Prayer Sheets for each of these.

Adoration Journal

I have included lines in order to write words of praise to God and then I have left a blank space at the bottom in order that you can get creative should you wish.

Supplication Journal

I have included space for name, prayer request, date of prayer and date of answered prayer. 

Thankfulness Journal   

As with the Adoration Journal I have included lines in order to write all the things you are thankful for and a blank space in order to get creative.

Confession Journal

I have included space for your confession and a space for the date of your confession.

I have been lucky enough recently to be introduced into Creative Christianity and it has changed my life!  I do not think I can quite put it into words….  I just feel like my life with God is fuller in some way, that rather than giving things up for Christ, I have been given so much more.  My life is enhanced by my walk with God.  I would like to devote a blog entirely to this so I can hopefully inspire you to have the courage to get creative, so I will not go on too much here! I will just say that the blank spaces on your prayer sheets could be used for further writings, poetry, lettering, drawing, paints, decorating with stickers etc.  There are so many fabulous ideas in which you can creatively worship God. 

I hope this has been helpful to you. 

Happy Journaling!

Love and Blessings

Louise x

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How are we saved?

I presume if you are reading this that you are a new Christian, considering becoming one or just trying to find out a bit more about Christianity.  If you have been visiting a church or meeting Christians, you may have been asked the following questions:-

“Are you saved?”

“Are you born again?”

“Have you said the sinner’s prayer?”

“Are you baptised?”

I found these types of questions very alarming when I was first asked them.  I had absolutely no clue what they were talking about and I also had no idea whether this was something I wanted to be involved in or not!  Having grown up with the idea that one’s religion was a private matter it was uncomfortable for me to hear people speak like this! 

Now I understand these questions, I can assure you there is nothing to be scared about.  It is just part of being a believer.  Let us look at some Bible verses in order to understand what being “born again” means. 

Paul tells us in Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;”  O.K, so, here we see what we must do in order to be saved, we must confess with our mouths that “Jesus is Lord” and we must genuinely believe that Jesus came back to life and that it was God who raised Him.  Luke further emphasis the need for faith in Acts 16:31 “  “They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  The only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ, as Acts 4:12 tells us “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

You may ask “Do I need to be saved?”  The answer unquestionably is Yes!!  Romans 5:9 states “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”  1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  So, without being saved we face the wrath of God and we will perish, in other words, we will not be accepted into heaven.

You may still ask, “How does being saved work?”  When you realise how holy and perfect God is, it becomes apparent just how sinful and depraved we are and therefore how does this holy God save us?  Our holy God cannot look upon evil yet by His great grace He saves us.  Ephesians 2:8 tells us “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;”  2 Timothy 1:9 “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,”  Here we can clearly see that our being saved has nothing to do with us but God and His grace that He has extended to us.  You will see that this passage also mentions that this grace is granted us in Christ Jesus.  This refers to the crucifixion.  Only through the atonement of Jesus can God look upon us sinners and grant His grace to us in order to provide us with salvation.   

So, how does being saved happen?  Another word for being saved is salvation or being born again.  The Ordo Salutis tries to simplify all these weighty theological doctrines into a chart.  There are different forms of this chart, so I have used a simplified version.

First God must call you to Him.  You may have felt a growing or sudden desire to attend church or perhaps someone spoke to you about Jesus and you felt the need to learn more.  This is effectual calling.  God has called you and you have responded.  Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

Next you are regenerated.  You may have heard this term before on a popular science fiction series!  The difference here is that on the outside nothing has changed, you still look exactly the same but, on the inside,, you are changed, you are born again, John 3:3-8. 

Justification means that you are made right with God.  This is where the sacrifice of Jesus comes in….  Imagine you are in the dock and God is judge and jury, you are convicted of sin and sentenced to death, then Jesus, God’s only Son stands up and demands to take your place so that you may live …  This is the truth of what He has done for you.   You are now justified, and God will not hold your sins against you.  Ephesians 1:13 “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise”

God, accepting this substitution, frees you from the guilt of sin and adopts you into His Family.  You are now a Child of God.

Now the hard work starts!! It is time for you to be transformed into a likeness of Jesus.  This does not happen overnight and, indeed, it will not happen during your lifetime.  Bit by bit, month by month or year by year you will notice that you become more and more aware of your sin, that you strive that bit more to avoid the sins of this world and instead work hard as Jesus’ hands and feet on earth.      

Only at death will we be made holy so as to be acceptable to live with Jesus in heaven.  This is called glorification.

I hope I have managed to explain a little of this vast subject.  A lot of complex doctrine is involved here but the basics of what you need to know are:-

To be a Child of God you must be born again, not as in an infant birth but a birth of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will come to you in order that you can do the work of the Lord and understand Scripture well.  For this to happen you must genuinely believe in the resurrection of Jesus and say the words “Jesus is Lord”.  There is a Sinner’s prayer that is not found within Scripture but may be useful for you to have an idea how you can pray about this.  I have detailed a simple example below:-

All that is important to salvation is that you voice the words “Jesus Is Lord” and that you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, however, an important part of prayer is the confession of sin and the request for forgiveness so if you are comfortable praying the prayer above then Go For It!!   

I understand this is a lot to take in so if you have any questions, please get in touch with me and I would be more than happy to help you.

Do not forget to call on the Lord!  Romans 10:13 “for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Love and Blessings

Louise x

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ΟΚ I Know What To Expect From A Church Service But Which One Should I Go To?

During my life I have visited many churches and received a different experience in each.  It is not my mission to criticise or show favouritism towards any one denomination but rather highlight these experiences in order that you may be helped to identify a church type that would best suit you.  I am aware of the type of church that is more suited to me at this point in my life, but this is not a one size fits all situation.  Taking the above into account, let us look at the different styles.      

There are so many different churches out there that it can be difficult to know which is the right fit for you.  I think I would be accurate to say that the majority of Christians are not perfect and only when we ascend to heaven will we find the one true church of God.

As I only have an understanding of churches in the UK, this is all I can advise on.  Different cultures of course make for different styles of worship.  In the UK, the majority of Christian churches would fall under Church of Scotland, Church of England, Free Church, Baptist, Independent and Catholic. 

Catholic services can be conservative, with traditional hymns and sermon etc.  It is important to note that Catholic doctrine differs from that of the rest of the churches above quite significantly.  This is something I can go into more detail about in another blog.  Cathedrals are often incredibly beautiful buildings which are often open throughout the day for private worship, confession etc.   

The closest service to that of the Catholic service would be the Church of England or Episcopalian Service.  The Church of England was formed when Henry VIII broke away from the catholic church and so many of the features still exist.  The service is again very traditional though it is important to note that styles will differ depending on the minister as some may be more flamboyant and extravert than others!  Again, these churches are often open for private worship.  There is no confession within the Church of England.    

The Church of Scotland again tends to be very conservative, the congregations belonging to the churches I have visited were generally of an older demographic.  The hymns are usually of the traditional variety accompanied by an organ although there may be some variations at times. 

The Church of Scotland and England are held accountable to a national assembly which is positive in that there is a body of accountability in order to protect the Word of God.  If a minister is seen to misrepresent Scripture or abuse his position, he is likely to face the assembly.    

In recent years there has been a huge rise in independent churches.  These may be called Community Churches, Fellowships, Vineyard etc.  These are usually found within halls, schools etc although there are purpose built, modern buildings, housing these churches also.  Here you will tend to find modern worship which may be accompanied by guitar, drums etc.  The congregation will tend to be more visibly involved in praise which to an outsider can seem a little strange until you get used to it and realise that this is likely how worship was undertaken in Biblical times – with hands raised up to God and eyes closed in adoration!  It was within these churches that I first discovered the role of the Holy Spirit.  Again, this is completely Scriptural given that God is both one and three, Father, Son and Spirit (I will leave the Trinity explanation for another blog!).  In my experience the brothers and sisters that belong to this church tend to be more involved with one another, they are commonly divided into small groups who fellowship together and are there to support one another.  They also have frequent events and get togethers.   

I have tried not to sway readers in any direction but instead give a testimony of my experiences so what I would say is read the passages about the church in the New Testament and come to your own conclusion of which church meets these expectations.  There are also other factors to consider.  If you have young children, for example, it is especially important that there is a good Sunday School for the children to grow up in the Lord.  It is important that you connect with people of your own age so that you can support one another through life’s ups and downs.  Worship is a valuable time to connect with your brothers and sisters and if you do not connect with old fashioned hymns or modern worship is too loud for you then this time will be wasted and ineffective.  If you have an insular nature, then perhaps the exuberant and heavily involved modern church may be too much for you and you may be more suited to a quieter church with a more traditional feel. 

Of course,  by necessity I have generalised somewhat, but I hope that I have given an example of what is out there, what to expect and what is important when choosing a church.  The most important aspect is that the Word of God is preached. I would suggest taking your Bible along with you to church and you can always have a look and check the accuracy of the sermon or better still take some notes during the sermon, go home and read along with the passages referred to. 

Every word of Scripture is important and should not be overlooked or added to, 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

If you feel daunted by walking into a church I would suggest you try and get someone to go with you, if this is not possible then why not message the church before you plan to go and I am sure they will get someone to look out for you at the door and show you the ropes.  Another idea is to let the people at the door know that this is your first time and they should make you feel comfortable.     

Finding the right church for you is so important as your place of worship has the capacity to fuel your faith or ultimately extinguish it!  I have experienced both. The profoundly important aspect is your relationship with God so please let this be your true guide.  Happy Worshipping!

Love and Blessings

Louise x       

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What Happens At A Church Service

Going to church for the first time can be a very daunting experience.  You have no idea what will go on there, if people will accept you, if you will do something wrong.  Even moving from one church to another can fill many with fear.  Sadly, this is not what Jesus intended, indeed, it is something that he fought against during his time on earth.  Like a lighthouse bringing her boats into safety, so the church should be a beaming light in the darkness, where anyone can seek refuge.   

Let us have a look at what the Bible tells us about church.  Firstly, who does the Bible say is welcome? The answer is Everyone!

1 Corinthians 12:13 “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free ….”

Jesus tells his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …..”, Matthew 28:19 and this sentiment is reiterated in John 10:16 when he says “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”  Up until this point, God’s sheep were the nation of Israel, here Jesus speaks of the gentiles coming to join Israel as people of God.

These passages make it clear that all are welcome within the church, whatever one’s ethnicity, financial situation, race, sexuality, gender, etc.  No one should be excluded from the house of God.  There are certain exceptions if a person continues in sin and is causing disruption etc. but this would be a blog unto itself!  It is important to understand that every single person in that church building is a sinner, including the preacher, minister or elder.   

When you walk into a church building you should be made to feel welcome.  You should feel comfortable enough to approach anyone and ask any questions you have about the service or the Scriptures.  If you are not received warmly please do not think negatively at all about yourself, I assure you this is a problem with the particular church and not you.  It is quite normal to try out a few churches sometimes even more before you find the one that fits you best so do not be at all discouraged.  Instead just check out some other ones online and try a new one the next week!!  

What should happen at a church service?

1 Corinthians 14:26 is a great description of a church service “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

James 5:14  Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”

The above passages show us that a service should include musical praise which need not necessarily be old fashioned songs.  God wishes his children to worship him and he would be just as happy with praise in any form however modern or noisy!  If one looks at the Old Testament you will find the worship of God was often a noisy affair!  The service should also include teaching and instruction in the Lord and the person undertaking such work must be qualified not necessarily by degree etc. but he must be intimately familiar with the Scriptures.

However, the service is undertaken whether the praise is led by organ or drums, the instruction given by minister, pastor or elder, prayers spoken on bended knee, sitting, or standing, all must be done for the glory of God.  A teacher of the law asked Jesus what the most important commandment was, and Jesus answered “‘…. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31. 

This blog may have confused many of you rather than made things clearer!  You may be wondering why, when the Bible so clearly details what a church service should look like why there are so many differences?  It confuses me too! My next blog will continue this theme and try to help you find a church that is a good fit for you, however, in the meantime, just focus on the important factors above and remember you always have the truth in the palm of your hand when you hold your Bible!!

Love and Blessings

Louise x