CONTRACTS SIGNED

granary artist impression 1

Last Friday we signed a contract for the purchase of The Granary, St Martin’s Quarter, Worcester. Yesterday we applied for change of use so we can adapt the building to serve the city – our offer is conditional upon getting that permission.

The link above is to a first artistic impression of additional stairs and lift shaft.

We are able to purchase the building and make a start on converting it. All your support, in whatever form it takes, is very welcome in the coming days… Please pray for us in this faith venture and if you would like details of how you might contribute email admin@hope-church.org.uk

The Granary, St Martin's Quarter

Abel’s Bike

This Christmas we bought Abel a motorbike. He is a community worker and overseer who has spent very many hours walking through the countryside to visit outlaying communities.

Through Exporting HOPE we have been able to provide him with a motorbike, which will make his life and work so much more effective.

Thanks to all who contributed to the Christmas present!

It is great to be partnering with out friends in West Uganda, from whom we have learned so much!

KAMPALA, UGANDA. JAN 2016

In January I traveled with James Shepherd, from HOPE Church, Bedlington, and Paul Harrison, from Jubilee Church, Coventry, back to Kampala, Uganda.

HOPE Church, Worcester has been investing in friendships, in projects and training for many years now and the fruit of that could be seen in the warm welcome and wonderful openness with which we were received by all.

The group of churches we partner with, Life Ministries Christian Centre, has been so helped, in quality and numbers, as they have consistently trained leaders in theology,  leadership ministry and church life. It has been a joy to partner with them in that and we aim to continue!

This time we spent a week training leaders and teaching with a special focus on the book of Ephesians. We also had two Sundays in Uganda and so were able to go our separate ways and teach in different churches.

For me it was a good week of continued building and friendship. For James and Paul it was a first experience of Africa – one they can take back and share with our friends in U.K. churches. Our aim is to have been involved in training up 100 leaders by 2020. I am planning to be at the graduation of another 30, this coming December, at their national convention.

 

DOODLING JESUS

Somewhere in Africa our minibus rattles along the interminably long, hot, dusty, potholed road. It’s been a long day and I am sleepy. A sudden braking and crunching of gears and I awake… Rousing myself, I see a large crowd blocking the road, waving sticks. The driver leans on his horn and edges slowly through the crowd who, very reluctantly, part.

To my amazement, in the centre of the mêlée, stands a naked lady. She is trying to protect her modesty, and, at the same time, avoid the worst of the sticks with which she is being struck.
I feel as if I have slept and awoken in a parallel universe. I have no idea what is happening. Our driver is nonplussed and accelerates out of the crowd, continuing on our journey wordlessly.
Disturbed, I ask him “what was happening? What was that all about?”
“She has been a very foolish woman” he solemnly replies. – Verdict and end of conversation!

My mind wanders to a different time and place but, maybe, a similar lady. Caught “in the act of adultery” she is dragged before Jesus. Leaving aside the question of where the man was, (last time I checked, statistically, it took two to commit adultery), Jesus is told that the law of the day required a death sentence – What did he think?
Though they did not know it, he is the only one qualified to punish her, since he’s the only guiltless one present. However, he calmly declares “Let the stoning commence – providing the first person to throw a stone is guiltless”
He then bends down, seemingly without a care in the world, and doodles in the street dust. The doodling continues for some time until the crowd, so recently roaring for a stoning, slowly slink away.
“Is there no one left to punish you? – neither am I your punisher… go … and sin no more”
This lady had looked for love in destructive places and the law had tried and failed to steer her from the outside. She now experienced love of a different quality. This love freed her from guilt and freed her to choose. The love of Jesus steers from the inside.

The writers of the New Testament didn’t encourage us to go and sin! – “I am writing this so you won’t sin”… but, on the other hand, they were keen for us to know what would happen if, and when, we messed up.
• “You have an advocate” – One who speaks -up on our behalf – Jesus
• “You have a propitiation” – A giant Bible word which simply means that God’s right wrath against sin has been taken away, through Jesus’ work on the cross – there is no punishment.
“By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy!” You are a work in progress – but while others, and sometimes you yourself, may condemn, Jesus can still doodle!

The bones of this teaching is found in John 8 v 1 – 11, 1 John 2 v 1-2 and Hebrews 10 v 14

RWANDA AND UGANDA, SUMMER 2015

Kyenjojo baby

This August it was a great privilege to travel to teach at leaders conferences in Rwanda and Uganda. Serving Emmanuel Rucyaba once more, we taught on “leadership character” and had much fun both in Kigali and in Kyenjojo, in western Uganda.

church building Kyenjojo

It was also a joy to visit clinics, a school and a hospital that we have played a small part in helping…

caring for patient

The work is going well, with many excellent projects and some 140 churches in 6 nations. I love our partnership with these dear friends!

children Kyenjojo

Introducing…Kairos Business Support

Mama Ketrah peanut butter

Allow me to introduce Mama Ketrah. With the help of some mentoring and a micro loan she has improved her small shop in Kampala, Uganda – and developed a delicious line – “Mama Ketrah’s peanut butter”

Tsusabe Uganda

This is Tsusabe. He used to produce furniture as almost a sole trader but with help, and much hard work, he has opened a timber yard, increasing his profits by selling to other furniture makers and also cutting out a long drive to the timber yard.

By exporting HOPE we are enabling friends, like Tsuabe and Mama Ketrah, to not only make a living, but also to produce increased employment opportunities for others.

 

OUTRAGEOUS ”FORGETTERY”

Once he had put behind him his God respecting father, he was able to embark on a disastrous, debauched, reign of his own.

He began by celebrating religious diversity. Leaving behind the God of his Fathers, he promoted any and all kinds of cult – the more perverted the better.
Baal, or “The Master”, a storm god, and his consort Asherah were favourites – and depraved in the extreme. Asherah , – a female mother deity – was worshipped with ritual prostitution, famous for phallic “Asherah poles”. Sex as worship soon became very popular and he led his nation into an enthusiastic celebration of immorality.

In the temple, built for the one true Creator God, he placed altars for stars and planets, angels and demons. As bad became worse he introduced a cult to honour Moloch, involving the horrific ritual sacrifice of children to the fire.

He replaced his cabinet with witches, mediums and spiritualists resulting in civic chaos; a corrupt government filled the capital with innocent blood.

Perhaps, at some point, his conscience was pricked but he learned that, with constant practice, he could ignore it and that, eventually, it even seemed to go away.
Those challenging him were silenced. One brave prophet gave him two words… One was a simple picture of a builders plumb line; “what isn’t built straight, God will flatten”. The other, “like a dirty bowl, I will clear you out, and turn you upside down”.

When the end came it was dramatic. Brought down by a foreign power, Manasseh was led around with a hook through his nose, like a prize bull. Having been ritually humiliated, he was then exiled and imprisoned in what is now Iraq.

Hooray!! The prophet killing, child murdering, despotic, satanic, God rejecting, sex addicted tyrant was history! … Except, before we all cheer, he wasn’t!

This atrocious, obnoxious man turned to an amazingly gracious God. In some “god forsaken” dungeon he prays and finds he is not, after all, God forsaken. He vomits up the deep truths about himself – and God forgives him. Whilst I might have given him a million years solitary confinement, and then the same on probation, God even restores him to his throne!
Grace is truly outrageous!

God loves to respond to “gut prayers” and he alone sees what is going on in our hearts. Genuine repentance irresistibly releases God’s mercy. This was not a token gesture kind of “sorry”, but a genuine remorse. – “I wish I’d never done this, I wish I could undo it, I am ashamed before God and want to renounce it all” kind of praying.

The reinstated King then removes all the idols and altars, rebuilds the neglected capital city and its defences and reinstates the worship of Creator God.

This king, Manasseh, illustrates a wonderful Bible phrase – “their sins … I will remember no more” This is “grace” – a totally undeserved “forgettery” in which go all our demerits. No atrocious sinner is beyond the grasp of an amazingly gracious God.

Perhaps our temptation is to identify ourselves too much with our past sins, and mistakes, when the truth is that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us”

Paul once wrote to a people trapped by their past and reminded them “this is what you were”. The Christian can grasp hold of a whole new identity – “I was this but now …”
• “You have been washed” – the work of Jesus totally cleanses you from sin and shame
• “You are sanctified” – the Holy Spirit has set you apart and gifted you with a new identity
• You’ve been justified – The Father himself has declared His verdict “not guilty”.

This is outrageous – and wonderful.

(The bones of this story are in the Bible – 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33 v 10ff. Other useful verses, for the curious, are Psalm 103 v 10-12, Heb 10v17, 1 John 1 v 9 and 1 Corinthians 6 v 9-11)

SHOCKING LOVE

She’d never settled, though she had been married once, and had children with her husband. Those who knew her, and liked her, said she was discontented. Those who liked her less spoke of her being wild and flighty. Those who disliked her said much worse!
Perhaps inevitably, her eyes wandered. She took a steady lover and later left her husband. A tragic cycle developed as she loved, lost and moved on … A couple of children later, and with no one to support her, she found that certain men were willing to pay for her attentions.
When it finally all fell apart she felt deserted and damaged. Dishevelled and penniless, the decision had been made for her – she would sell herself into domestic slavery.

The Market Place.

I can picture her there, in the market place. Humiliating though it all is, shameful though it may be, there is plenty of interest in this lady! She may no longer be in the first flush of youth, but she remains beautiful, so the bidding rises sharply.
“9, 10, 11 pieces of silver”
“12” – and the lower bidders drop out.
“13… 14 … 14 and a half” – the half a sure sign of dwindling resources!
“15” says “H’”…
Another bidder, out of cash and on his way home from the market, adds, “And a bushel of barley”
In desperation “H” shouts “15… and a bushel and a half!”

The gavel falls. Gomer, for that is her name, is now the property of Hosea.

The Scullery.

After the silent trudge to her new owner’s house, she sits, head bowed. He stands, clears his voice, and outlines his household rules…
“1. There will be no unfaithfulness – no prostitution, no sleeping around, no sex – purity”. – That’s not a line Gomer has heard for a good few years!
“2. You are going to live here for a long time, – and I will wait for you to love me”.

WHAT!?!? – This is not “the ideal Christian family”! – It is amazing, shocking, tragic and wonderful!
Here is a man, Hosea, who wants pure, faithful love; but can do nothing to ensure it. He wants intimacy not just sex. But you can’t make someone love you. You can’t force faithfulness. His is an extreme vulnerability.
The final twists in the plot, like a tale of the unexpected, are that Hosea is already Gomers’ husband, a believer, who claims he’s done the whole thing “because God told me to!”

You can find the gist of this drama in the book of Hosea. Shockingly God tell this man to “go marry an adulterous woman, and get children … for the whole country has become nothing but a whore, by abandoning God”. Later, after being abandoned, he is instructed to go and find her again…

The Great Grace Drama

History’s greatest drama is God’s fixed and determined desire for an intimate relationship with us.
Playing the part of God in a living drama may well have appealed to Hosea at the audition. It sounds good, until you realise that God compares himself to a deserted husband of an adulterous wife!

If we re-live the story, playing the part of Gomer, we discover a story of grace like no other. Created to be in intimate friendship with God, who has pledged himself to us, we have disgraced ourselves, repeatedly. Uncomplimentary as it is, the story portrays us as unfaithful, prostituting ourselves with other, lesser loves.
Many things in this world make bids for our affections, offering fun, power, satisfaction, comfort and security; and to our shame, we fall for them.

The outrageous “Grace news” is that while we were still “adulterous” Jesus entered the market place to buy us out of slavery and to win our devotion. Christ’s own love was demonstrated by his bidding his own life blood – He used the exact word, “ransom”, the price paid to free a slave, to describe his mission. (Mark 10 v 25)

Accepting his love, he re-clothes and re-homes us and asks us to live in friendship with him. What undeserved love!
There is, in this story and within God’s love, a fierce vulnerability. Determined to love us, under no illusions as to who and what we are, He cannot make us love him, yet longs for closeness with us.
God has never desired sterile religious adherence. He has, shockingly and wonderfully, purposed to overlook our former disloyalty, and deeply longs now for us to “abide with him”. Receive his love, and respond to him with new affection.

WORSHIP – a misty morning

Climbing up past an ancient hill fort on the Malvern Hills, on a bright but slightly misty morning, the view began to shrink. I had intended to walk to an obelisk but soon I entered a whitened out world.
Hill fog closed in. The path ahead was not clear. A Bible verse suddenly came to my mind, “be still and know that I am God”. (Psalm 46 v 10) As I couldn’t see which way to go I sat on a rock and just tried to “be still”.

I would have said, until then, that it was a perfectly calm day but, as I sat for a while, my senses “tuned in” and I could actually hear, in my right ear, a slight breeze. I heard pheasants in the woods far below, and a blackbird singing in the distance.

A wonderful bead work of pearl-like dew drops glistened on the grass in front of me.
I was surprised by 3 birds, sitting on the grass, motionless, no more than 2 metres away. They studied me – and I returned the favour. They had been there all along but I had been unaware of them.

I slowly came to the realisation that my left check was warmer than my right – where the sun was struggling to break through the heavy curtain of mist. (I’m not the sort of person who normally takes much time to consider the relative warmth of my cheeks!)
Over the next few minutes a circle of mist, directly above my head, disappeared – an extraordinary ten pence piece of sky blue – with a line drawn across its diameter where a jet’s trail slowly evaporated.

The initial frustration of not being able to get on with the walk changed gradually to an enjoyment of all that I could hear and feel and see.
None of this, I believe, would I have experienced if there had not been a white out. If I had not been forced to take time to be still and open up my senses.

Traditionally there are said to be 5 senses, (seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, and hearing), but there are more of course. – A sense of balance (equilbroception), a sense of heat, (thermoception), the awareness of where our body parts are (so you can be on all fours and put your leg out straight behind you – called propioception) Then there is our ability to sense pain … not to mention arguments over our sense of morals (conscience) or justice or beauty ….

However many or few there are it is certainly true that, if we build in moments of stillness, we can perceive things that are there all the time but which we had no time to sense.

What is true in the natural is also true in the spiritual realm. God is speaking all the time – through his word, through nature, by His Spirit. We need to open up all our senses and learn to be still enough in our spirit to tune in to anything he might be saying.

I don’t believe we are called to an aesthetic withdrawal from the world. The Bible verse not only tells us to “be still” it goes on to say he will be “exalted in the nations” I do believe, however, that carving out time to know again that He is Lord, to be still and listen to Him, receive and be in his presence, is essential. If we take the time who knows what he may speak to us about!!? – songs to be written, people to make friends with, ministries released, business strategies developed, leaders trained, … Worship is sometimes best expressed by being still and receiving. He is, after all, a giving, speaking God.

WORSHIP – Values and expressions

When we talk about “worship values” what we mean is “here are the things we feel are are really important … so here goes…

  • The Father seeks worshipers John 4 v 23 – so worshiping God is the highest calling and will continue through eternity. Worship is not a preliminary to the main thing, it IS the main thing!
  • God delights in our worship  – “he will take great delight in you… he will rejoice over you with singing” …”The greatest thing of all, oh Lord I see, – You delight in me”
  • Worship is a response to who God is and what he does and also an encounter with Him – a meeting!
  • We delight ourselves in him Psalm 16v11, Psalm 84 v1-4.
  • There are many ways to express worship – (see below)
  • It is to do with entering his courts and knowing his presence – not just the singing of songs and the saying of prayers …James 4 v 8, Psalm 95
  • We can come with confidence, Heb 10 v 22, as well as awe, Heb 12 v 28-29
  • God wants all believers to be priests and play an active part in worship 1Cor 14 v 26, 1 Peter 2v 9
  • In God’s presence we also expect gifts as he speaks Psalm 95 v 7b-8
  • Bread and wine was a part of NT worship – it focuses us on remembering the object of our faith, what he did, what he  accomplished and his future return
  • Worship is spiritually powerful 2 Chronicles 20v21-22
  • Unbelievers can recognize something of God’s presence when the church body worships. 1 Cor 14 v 25

Expressions of Biblical Worship …

There are many traditions but here are some Biblically valid expressions of worship..

  •  laughter and joyful songs Psalm 126 v 2;
  • singing 89 v 1, Psalm 105 v 2;
  • bended knee 95 v 6;
  • the bowed head 2 Chron 29 v3 0, Neh 8 v 6;
  • clapping and shouting, Psalm 47 v 1, 95 v 1, 98 v 4-6;
  • making music to the Lord 98 v 5;
  • lifted hands 28 v 2, 134 v 2;
  • prostration, 1Kings 18 v 39, Rev 11 v 16-17;
  • dancing, Exodus 15 v 20, 2 Sam 6 v 14, Psalm 149 v 3;
  • silence Rev 8 v 1;
  • stillness and waiting psalm 37 v 7, 46 v 10.