Friday, 29 October 2010

Life groups are coming!

Life groups (by Mark Hudson)

The mission of ‘Life Groups’ is to enable discipleship through learning about God’s living word.

Having done a bible study course for two years it has shown me that scripture is multi-layered in the fact that you can never stop learning about God - whether you’ve been a Christian for 100 minutes or 100 years!

Once a fortnight, Life groups made up of 6 – 8 people, will give you an opportunity to learn in an informal environment. In essence the studies will run parallel with the sermon topics, enabling the small group to study in more detail a particular subject, a specific point raised and how it impacts our everyday lives and walk with Jesus.

Apart from a deeper understanding of scripture, time will also be given over for prayer, encouragement and fellowship for each person as they grow in God and his Word.

Mark and Wendy are heading up this initiative - I'm excited by the possibility of people inspiring each other to engage with God's word in order to be changed by God's word so we can reach out to others with God's word.

Life groups are voluntary for anyone who wants to get inspired and be transformed and support each other in our desire to become more like Jesus (Romans 8 v29).
A list will be circulated very soon for anyone who wants to get involved.

Let's do life together

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Be conformed

What does it mean to live like Jesus?
I mean 4 things which I believe are crucial if we are to grow as Christians to 'be conformed to the likeness of his son' (Romans 8 v29)

Jesus has mission at His heart: He came to proclaim the kingdom of God, the love of God and to draw everyone towards salvation found only in Him at the cross. He went anywhere to anyone at anytime to do this.

Jesus lived in faith and obedience. He was not limited by circumstances but in the face of overwhelming opposition and disappointment He carried on.

Jesus was full of the Spirit and was 'led by the Spirit'.

Jesus lived with purpose and got stirred to oppose those things that opposed God's kingdom. The poor, the imprisoned, the blind, the oppressed. He lived with calling and wasn't afraid to follow it.

How about us? What about me? What about you? Do these things describe us? Let us make sure today that they do because I believe they will determine our fruitfulness.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Making Muffins with God

Yesterday it was just me and my 6 year old daughter Grace together, so we made muffins.
It was dead easy - I bought a packet mix from ASDA and followed the instructions (just crack an egg, add milk and mix it all together!)

I loved it.

The reason I mention this is at the end of this blog.

This year there are already many things we are doing and about to do:-

Street pastors - to 'be there' at the messy times for people in a mess: starting in January - apply now if you want to be on the team - see Dave Mutch.

Boiler room (next to the Buck I'Th Vine) - to 'be there' as a place of prayer within the community - from which will flow so much more that will be inspired by God at the right time: Andrew and Adrienne are leading this up with support from others who they will be approaching - watch this space & speak to them about when it will be open.

Cafe church - to 'be there' (at Costa coffee on a Sunday once a month) chatting about Jesus & life. A different theme each month but always coffee! - 26th September is our next one at 4.30

Barnabas club - to 'be there' for each other. Listening to God and sharing what is on His heart for 2 people each month. To encourage and equip; to heal and build up - see Ruth or Karen S about venues and times and who is next!

Life groups - about to be launched at the end of this month (see Mark H if you are interested - there will be sign up lists too) - for Bible study and friendship - to share life and encourage each other: fortnightly.

Animate - a course of teaching and experiencing God in a new and fresh and intimate way. Highly recommended for those who want to re-engage with God - see Karl Williams for details.

Encounter (prayer) events - monthly alternating between worship & intercession in a different venue each month & 6am prayer gatherings (starting 25th September at McDonalds)
RiSE = intercession for the Sunday worship meeting; every Sunday 9.45 to 10.15 in E7

Student liaison - Dave & Jayne are 'there' for all students. To mentor and listen and link with.

Synergy - to reach out in mission together, achieving what we could not achieve alone. To 'go there' - see Dave Smith for more details.

Men's Curry Nights - 1st Monday each month at the Shamrat. See Russell & Mark

Teaching - This year we are exploring 3 key passages:-
October to December: Genesis 12-25 (Abraham - faith & obedience)
January to February: Luke 1-5 (Jesus - our rescuer)
March to May: Acts 1-5 (The Holy Spirit)

Our desire is to Live like Jesus - this must permeate everything we do.
Closer to God, Closer together, Closer to others.

Community Action - to 'be there' for our community. Whether painting a friend's house or joining other churches in a community action weekend in June.

Social connecting events - 1st one is 1st Saturday in October: bowling & pizza. Every month - see Graham or go to OCF events website

Other ministries opportunities are still happening:-
worship team; drama team; book & film club (see Chris M); Compassion (sponsoring a child in a community in India - see Sam Smith for details); short term mission; mentoring; & many more things

So why the muffins?
We can make muffins and produce great muffins (ours were!) but what made it great was making them with Grace.
God loves all that we are doing but more importantly He loves doing it with us. It is about His love and our love for Him above everything else. If all we do is make muffins and not love then we are a clashing cymbal.
I love making muffins not because I love muffins but because I love doing it with God and with you.
Let's live like Jesus who loved even to death, who showed us what love is all about, who was not ashamed to call us friends.

Friday, 10 September 2010

OCF - what are we thinking?

This leader's blog will be much more about what is on the horizon in OCF. Not fully developed yet but where I believe the Spirit is leading us.
Imagine living this year like Jesus! (Romans 8 v29)
Mission was the heart of Jesus ('son of David') and must be at the heart of all we do as a church (individuals together). That is why the synergy vision is still strong. That is why we are continuing with men's curry nights, cafe church, serving the community (painting homes and moving debris!).
That is why we are launching into Street Pastors (anyone interested?) - we walk the streets and claim them for Christ and be there for those who don't yet know Him.
That is why we are renting a prayer centre, a 'boiler room' in the heart of Ormskirk - to be there and not hidden away - next to the pubs.
That is why we will be serving the community with impact weekends.

Faith and obedience was a hallmark of the life of Jesus ('son of Abraham') and we cannot do this without each other. Jesus surrounded Himself with disciples and spent time with Father.
That is why we are continuing with Barnabas, with Animate/Animation.
That is also why I want to encourage 'Life groups' - 6 to 8 people meeting anywhere together fortnightly to talk about how to apply scripture to our lives, to be friends, to encourage, love and inspire one another in this one life we have (anyone interested?)
That is why we who are mature must begin to take responsibility for each other and mentor those whom God has sent our way.

Conceived of the Holy Spirit - Jesus was filled with the Spirit and only ministered with the Spirit. The Spirit that guides us into understanding, the Spirit that comes alongside us when we are struggling, the Spirit that empowers us in our witness, the Spirit who is our friend.
That is why we too must seek to be filled with the Spirit in our quiet times but also at the encounter events we will be having bi-monthly (praise, intercession, and seeking) and at the bi-monthly 6am prayer events (how full is your bucket? - what will you do about it? what can we do together?)

There are so many things that we will be exploring in OCF - who knows what the Spirit will lead us towards and what will happen? - imagine living like Jesus

Friday, 13 August 2010

time out and time in

I've had a bit of time out recently and I've deserved it!

I have to say that because as leaders and Christians so often we feel every second counts for the Kingdom and we have only one life to change the universe and we want to leave a legacy that is eternal and guilt overwhelms us if we dare to sit back and do what the Bible tells us to do and rest!

Time out for rest is good. But there is another kind of 'time out' when we're lost - Peter was doing that in John 21 when his hopes had been dashed, he had denied Jesus and his friend had been crucified.

All he wanted to do was to go back to what was comfortable and what he knew: "I'm going out to fish!".

Even then he wasn't left alone cos the others said "We'll go with you" (did Peter groan?)

verse 4 has really come alive to me in all the recent busy chaos of life and maybe apathy and disappointment and self-doubt: 'Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus'.

He is still there, He will always be there, He has never left there but sometimes we don't realise that in our circumstances He is waiting, waiting for us to realise that He hasn't left.

Now I am putting my nets on the RIGHT side of the boat and I have realised it is Him and I am leaving the boat and I am swimming to shore and I know He has lit a fire and I am excited at the thought of being with Him and the inspiration He is going to bring to feed His sheep.

I am becoming excited once again about what God is wanting to do through us this coming year. Thoughts are coming which are Holy Spirit inspired (believe me I've known the difference!) and my emotions are stirring again to see God's people get provoked (more on that another time!).

My cry is to live like Jesus in the fullness of the Spirit, obedient to the point of sacrifice, loving life and people, finding joy in serving. He is on the shore and I am swimming to Him again.

Let us each be like the disciple that Jesus loved and turn to each other and point to the shore and say 'It is the Lord!' - how much we need each other! How much the enemy wants to isolate us (his main strategy for destroying our faith and the church). How much will He never let us go!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Why bother?

Peter had been fishing hard all night and was now cleaning his nets. Probably wondering where the next meal was coming from or whether his small business could survive another disasterous outing like the one he'd just come back from.

He was tired and fed up and then Jesus comes along and asks him if he would take the boat out again just so Jesus could teach.

When Jesus had finished saying all He had to say He turned to Peter and said 'let's go out into deep water and let your nets down for a catch'.

Peter, the fisherman Peter, the expert, the one who had been fishing hard all net and letting nets down all night and hoping all night and trying again and again and again said to Jesus 'we've already tried that and haven't caught anything'.

What was it that made Peter obey? Desperation? Hunger? Need? Was it to do with the words he had heard as Jesus sat in the boat teaching those on the shore? Was it simply the presence of Jesus Himself?

Whatever it was Peter says 'because you say so, I will let down the nets.'

Judging by Peter's later reaction to what happened I don't think he was hoping for much.

We have prayed and witnessed and tried to overcome and knocked on doors and hoped for breakthrough and imagined a catch that will meet our needs and the needs of others and we have pulled up our nets each time and each time the nets appear empty. So we sail into shore and begin to clean our nets and think about going to bed and wonder why bother any more.
Then Jesus gets into the boat and asks something of us: 'put out a little from the shore' - away from where you are now. Then listen. Then obey. Return to where you have no hope but this time return with Jesus. Then put down your nets - again.

When the messenger came from the house of Jairus to the synagogue ruler and said 'Your daughter is dead...don't bother the teacher any more' Jairus's world was about to collapse and then Jesus speaks - 'just believe' and 'Her spirit returned'.

At each of these points we see desperation and need. At each of these moments we see re-determination and trust. At each of these times we see Jesus.

We must put down our nets again. There are 100s who can tell of times when they had lost all hope and now are testifying to the glory and love and healing and majesty of God who had broken through. A God who made a way where there was no way. A God who has filled nets to overflowing and conquered death.

Lift up your heads o you gates that the king of glory may come in, who is he this king of glory? The Lord strong and mighty!

Monday, 8 March 2010

learning to ride

Grace learnt to ride her bike at the weekend.
It was remarkably easy to be honest - I held her for a while, directed her for a bit, stopped her from falling, gave her some instructions and then, when I felt the time was right, I just shoved her as hard as I could across the soft grass and she did it!

At OCF I want us to be mentoring each other into more of God and a deeper, healthier, more 'abundant' life than before.
We need to hold, direct, give instructions and then, when the time is right, just shove!

I've been shoved many times. My first sermon, my first meeting leadership, my first praying for someone, my first worship leading time, my first job, the first time I witnessed to someone, my first assembly at school etc etc
We all get shoved from time to time and it does us good when it's at the right time.

In OCF I want to encourage shoving (at the right time). On Sunday Kevin spoke of 3 principles:-
  1. Walk in the spirit of trust (1 step at a time)
  2. Praise in the spirit of faith (with internal disciplines)
  3. Step out of your comfort zones and shout (when God tells you to)
'We can't come into our tomorrows until we're out of the shadow of our yesterdays'

If I never let go of Grace then she would never have learnt to ride on her own. Yet now she decides where to go. She can travel a straight line across all kinds of terrain. Best of all is the smile on her face from the feeling of freedom she has found in achieving something wonderful.
Who are you mentoring, holding, directing, instructing, shoving?

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Take a pier walk

I went on a retreat (advance?) recently to Southport.

I was walking along the shore line at 9 a.m. and the sea seemed miles away. Just a line along the horizon. On the beach there was evidence that the tide had once been there with pools and channels and small streams. Things had been left behind by the sea.

Some people can look at the 'tide' of God and live as though He's never returning, like He's a distant line on the horizon. They satisfy themselves with the pools that were left behind by the last outpouring but don't expect more than that.

Others think He will come in and flood us again but not in our life-time. It's so far out and so far away that we don't live as though it's ever going to affect us. And so they build castles on the sand thinking they are safe and their 'buildings' will last forever.

Some however take a walk along the pier.

In this year of seeking God and praying to see Him I want us to take a walk along the pier.
At the end of the pier you can see the sea. You can see what it's doing. You realise that things are moving, that the sea that seemed so far away is actually coming in faster than you first thought. You can see the movement and the direction and the force and the awesomeness of what the sea is doing and about to do.

As we walk along the pier this year and reach out for revelation and a vision of what God is doing then we can return with a better understanding of the urgency of our ministry.

The tide is coming in and the direction it's taking is towards us and those we love.

We have a choice to stay at the end of the pier and just watch, or wait on the shore where the rest of the church is waiting and preparing itself for Jesus, or we can turn towards those who don't yet even know there is a sea or a tide or a return.

When the tide comes in it won't stop at the shore-line or be hindered by the barriers or walls or buildings. The Lancashire flood plain will be exactly that and those who thought there was no sea will be drowned by it unless we prepare them.

It tells us in Matthew 9 v36 that Jesus 'saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harrassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.'

Are we ready for the flood? Are those we love and live near ready? Are we on the shore waiting for our redemption or are we spending our time drawing others to the tide of love that God wants many more to experience?

In Organic Church by Neil Coles he says:-
'It is when we are in deep intercession for freedom of souls that we are closest to the heart of God ... Pray first, pray last, and in between pray hard.'

I don't believe we are anywhere near the level of prayer that God is calling us to as a church but I do see hope rising and a stirring of the Spirit in people that creates faith in me.

Lord we 'beseech' (Luke 10 v2) you to raise up and send out the workers, that You may anoint us again to witness to Your name and Your return.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

stop the bus

I was travelling in to Ormskirk by bus this morning. There was a thick mist on either side of the road.
Now and again I caught glimpses of trees and farm machinery but they soon disappeared again behind the mist.

Many say they don't believe in God because they can't see Him.
Some say they can't see God from where they are and so don't believe in Him.

Did the trees not exist because I couldn't see them? Had the fields and landscape left me becuase my vision of them was hidden by the fog I was travelling through?

I could have walked through the mist and eventually seen what was there but I was on a bus heading in a direction I had paid for along a road where there were no stops.

The truth is that God is with us. We may be travelling through a mist at times and yet God is with us. The bus we are on may be travelling in a direction we've paid for but God is there and it's time to press the bell, shout at the driver 'stop!' , and jump off - to get to God.

Why do we worship? Why do we pray together? Why do we bother meeting? Because we are all travelling together and from time to time someone shows us the way that lifts us again.

We need each other's wisdom and encouragement because these are gifts from God that He has invested in others for the sake of us all.

Thank you to the people of OCF who move in those gifts and who care enough to be there and who are brave enough to ring the bell, shout 'stop' and lead the way back, sometimes through the mist, to see God.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

You shall be rebuilt

Have you read Word for Today today (Thursday 14th Jan)?!
' I have loved you with an everlasting love.. I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt..' Jeremiah 31 v4
'What life has torn down, God can rebuild.'

As I watched the news yesterday morning of the earthquake in Haiti it caused my heart to go out to those people who have lost everything. Here I am bemoaning my fate because it's cold outside and there's snow on the road, whilst people's lives and homes have been destroyed!

Suffering is always comparative yet Jesus said 'Fear not, I have overcome the world.'
Sometimes we look around and we wonder what is happening. Why it is happening. And a frustration grows within us for things to be different - good.

Out of frustration and out of yearning and out of hopelessness God will plant and rebuild.

It was so exciting to hear of baby Daniel Burgess being born yesterday. A new life in the middle of now, a new person here, someone who is unique - in all this there is hope because each of us is called to be rebuilt, to be reborn and though we may be in a time of frustration it is just the birth pangs of new life.

As we continue to pray and seek Father He will, at the right time, respond to our desire and our yearning (get your big boots on and start standing and stomping - the enemy will NOT have his way much longer!)

We have started a new series on the prayers of Jesus and Russell spoke of a God who is accessible, available and loving. Steve Hepden on Wednesday night spoke of the divine favour of God as we speak to the rock (Jesus).

Next month we are calling the church to a night of piercing the darkness when we will intercede throughout the night for God to break in with His light to situations we are yearning to see God move in and seeking God for the things He wants us to move in!

We shall move into a year of healing as we persevere in prayer. God will build us and rebuild us because He loves and He calls us to love Him and share this 'everlasting love' from the overflow.