Have you ever felt you’ve missed out on something? I felt like this after hearing reports from Devoted 2019 (the annual Summer camp that our family of churches hosts). I felt that my phobia of camping (or at least that’s my excuse) led me to miss out on a lot, especially when I saw a video of some of our youth bringing words of wisdom and encouragement to the thousands that had gone.
I also feel the same about the Summer. With (even more) grey clouds and shorter days, I feel like I want to hang on to the Summer and defeat the natural order of seasons by refusing to put on another layer in the evening when it’s a bit chilly. As I was deep in these thoughts, I was reminded of what Raj shared a few weeks ago; “Springtime is here.” The natural order of seasons require there to be Autumn and Winter before the Spring, but the Author of seasons beckons us to live in the current season – the Springtime. Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, knew too well that God was able to cause the sun to rise as he pleased, even in the midst of the night. That’s why he sang:
"Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." 1
Zechariah didn’t get there without much trouble. During the encounter with the angel who gave him the news, he asked for a sign, and a sign was given to him. Gabriel told him because of his disbelief he’d be unable to speak until the day his son was born. A man who had fervently been praying to God for an heir is finding it hard to believe that his prayers have been answered – how ironic, you may think! But just before we judge Zechariah, let’s take a step back and remind ourselves of the last time we prayed for revival. Perhaps you’ve been praying for a friend for years to respond to your invitations to go on Alpha, or you or a loved one have been battling with a long term illness. Let us remember that we have a God who hears our prayers. So, rather than a look of surprise on our face when we have an encounter with Him, let us rejoice knowing that for those who love God all things work together for good.
Just as Raj paraphrases Jesus by saying, “Your wallet reveals where your heart is”, how we live our lives also reveals what our values are. We can see this in Jesus’ life too. He was on a mission, with values that represented a Kingdom greater than any other. It wasn’t every day that people around him happened to see a dead person raised to life (the widow’s son in Luke) 2, a cultural taboo broken publicly (the Samaritan woman) 3, or religious leaders rebuked (Pharisees and Sadducees) just for the fun of it 4. Compassion, love and righteousness were among the values Jesus taught, lived and died for. Jesus is clear on this in his prayer to the Father: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do". 5; What is it that influences the core of your life and the decisions you make every day? How do you bring this to the church family, to contribute to the overall values we hold as a body?
So as you get back into the normal routine of life, remember that this is not the season for us to hibernate, but rather when we expect to see new shoots coming out. As we continue the journey with our community groups, Devoted groups, prepare to host Adrian Holloway, prepare for the prophetic training, pray about who to invite on Alpha, and sign up to Freedom in Christ, look out for signs of the Springtime. Let us share the joy of the Lord, proactively welcome people into the church family, encourage one another and take God’s light into everything we’re involved in. As the river of His mercy flows, it will change the whole landscape. Where is God calling you to shine? Where is the Holy Spirit leading you?
- Luke 1:78-79 (ESVUK)
- Luke 7:11-17
- John 4
- Matthew 23, Luke 11:37ff
- John 17:4 (ESVUK)
Something feels strange to me this year as we head into July. For me, this is usually one of my busiest times of the year, being one of Jubilee’s youth leaders. We are normally getting ready for the Newday Youth event. Preparing for this involves taking my life into my hands by entering the camping cupboard at Melbourne House and spending days sorting through all of the tents which were shoved in there a year ago ‘not to be thought about till next year’! With Newday being cancelled this year it left me thinking about and praying for our young people.
During the current crisis we are facing, fear can seem like a natural response as there is a period of unknown, uncertainty and change. Unsurprisingly, the Bible has a lot to say about the area of fear - a lot of encouraging things.
In an age of Love Island, The Voice, The Greatest Dancer, The X Factor and Strictly, everyone wants to be famous. Everyone wants to be known. Everyone wants stardom. Nonetheless, Jesus pips them all. He is the most famous and influential person in all of history.
It sounds too good to be true, but this has happened throughout history since the first church in Jerusalem was persecuted. Those scattered believers planted new churches in the places where they settled.