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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 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