Sunday, 29 March 2009

The End of an Era!

In the Summer of 2000 I reluctantly agreed to take on the youth work at the King's Arms Church! Now, almost 9 years on, I am about to down tools and move onto something new. It feels pretty tough to say the least. Over the years I have come to love what I do and the amazing young people I serve. I'm not just saying that for effect. Anyone who knows the young people at the King's Arms would have to agree. They really are amazing; such inspiring young men and women who love Jesus and run after Him. It has been such a privilege to be involved in their lives over the years. My housemate and friend Becky Ross will be the new King's Arms youth leader as of a week tomorrow. She is going to do a brilliant job. So as I move onto new things I want to take a bit of time to reflect on some of the things I've learnt over the years. Hopefully some of these thoughts will be helpful for those of you serving in one of the best areas of church life!

1) Always point your young people to Jesus: My hope for all the young people I serve is that they would continue to fall more and more in love with Jesus. It's tempting when you lead young people to want them to look to you to boost your self-esteem and to make you feel good about yourself, but the truth is that we cannot be their saviour. Only Jesus can do that! I want my young people to look up to Jesus and have Him as their hero rather than them focussing too much on me. Pointing your young people to Jesus also helps to guard against them being too inward looking and focussed on themselves. If the young people I serve head off to university in love with Jesus and with their own personnal walk with Him (a relationship that isn't dependent on me being around them or them being around me) then I am happy! Never happy to see them go but totally happy with where they're at!

2) Be the best role model you can be: This is a biggy! Young people watch you when you lead them. That's the main way that they learn. Are we living what we're preaching? I hope very much that I have. So in what ways can we model how to do life; there are so many...

- Model being in love with Jesus, His Church and His Kingdom
- Model purity - whether you're single, in a relationship or married
- Model integrity - Live the life that you speak. Don't be too proud to apologise when you get stuff wrong (which you will) Be open and real about your life
- Model reaching out - We can't expect our kids to reach out to their friends if we're not reaching out to ours!
- Model how you speak - Honour yourself, the youth and others with what you say

3) Pray, pray, pray: Prayer works! That might sound like a pretty obvious thing to say, but it's easy to forget and is often the first thing that goes when we get busy. I remember when one of my young people was anti tongues and I was gearing myself up to have a conversation with her about it. I prayed that God would intervene and sure enough, before I'd had the chance to sit her down He had! One week at small groups I noticed she was speaking in tongues! When I asked her what had happened she told me that she'd had a dream where she was speaking in tongues and that when she woke up she'd decided that she must already have the gift and so she might as well start using it! God is so good! Pray, pray and pray some more and see what God will do!

Working with young people is an incredible privilege. Do your best not to take it for granted! Be their biggest fan and look to big them up whenever you can while also challenging behaviour where necessary. Whatever you do, don't be small minded in your expectations of how God will use them. He has plans worked out for each of them to do and we get to help them on their journey. I can't think of a better way to serve the church! (Except for maybe leading a new training school called TSM! :o))

Sunday, 22 March 2009

7 Healed on the Streets!

Yesterday we had our second 'Hit the Streets' event in Bedford. Over 100 people from all over the country came to be trained in treasure hunting and to then take what they'd learnt out on to the streets. God was so good!

Throughout the course of the day 7 people got healed on the streets; backs, ankles, necks. Pain instantly went from people's bodies as God's kingdom broke out. One man who described himself as an agnostic said he wasn't sure he could stick with that anymore as the pain in his ankle disappeared after prayer. The lady I prayed with had literally just sat down to rest her back because it was hurting when we approached her with a treasure map with the clue lower back pain on! After two short prayers all the pain had gone and she went on her way. One lady was so overwhelmed that God had picked her out that she gave my friend her address and asked if she'd go round her house to pray for her some more!

Perhaps one of the most exciting things that happened throughout the course of the day was when we got to pray for a lady who'd been doing the training who was partially deaf. As a church we've been longing to see breakthrough in deafness for a few years now. Jesus identifies it in His word as a sign of His Kingdom coming and so we want to see it (along with blind eyes opening, incurable diseases being healed, the lame walking and the dead being raised!) As Simon prayed for this lady and she took her hearing aids out she was able to hear noise around her and Simon speaking from a distance behind her head like she hadn't been able to before! How exciting! Breakthrough is on the way!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Joining in the Worship of Heaven!

The King's Arms likes to take its leaders away for a weekend once a year so that they can spend a good chunk of time receiving from God and being re-charged. I've just got back from that weekend and I have to tell you about the worship. It was literally out of this world.

One of the things that really struck me about my time at Bethel was the worship. The incredible sense of God's presence among His people; the hunger in people's hearts and the amazing sense of expectation that God was going to do something remarkable. I'd always felt that our worship at the King's Arms was something really special. That it stood out as quite unique from other churches I've visited. But when I came back from Bethel I felt that there was a whole new realm that we weren't yet tapping into.... We tapped into it this weekend!

Saturday evening was, I think, the most incredible time of worship I have ever experienced. It went on and on and on and on and God just kept coming and coming and coming and coming. At different times throughout the worship there was peace and incredible intimacy; there was shouting and marching and warfare; there was dancing and celebration; there was laughing and weeping and lying down and kneeling as Jesus Himself came into the room.

A couple of the musicians commented this morning that they'd been playing chords on their guitars that shouldn't really have worked but that had sounded amazing. They were totally blown away. Other people said that they'd never known God's presence like how they felt it during that time - people who have been Christians for years entered into new realms of God. It really felt like we were joining in the worship of heaven. How did it start? By pouring out our love to the only one who is worthy of it all - Our precious King Jesus.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

God's Kingdom Came!

I never cease to be amazed at what God does during the Holy Spirit day on Youth Alpha. We had our latest one on Saturday and, in short, God's Kingdom came!

We've had two guests on our latest course. Amazing young people who have come week in week out to learn more about the God we worship. And so the Holy Spirit day arrived and there was a whole lot of expectation. A couple of our young people did 2 of the 3 talks on the day. (Just as an aside here; they were really incredible. It was the first time TJ had spoken and I was really impressed - she's a natural. Andy has done talks in the past, but this time showed a marked increase in his maturity in God. I love seeing young people growing in God - what a privilege!) The last talk was down to me.

After we'd finished worshipping I knew that these guys were ready to commit to Jesus. I knew that if I offered salvation at this point, they'd recieve Him. God told me to shorten my talk so that we could get onto more important things quickly. I probably spoke for about 10 minutes and then it was the moment we've all learnt to know and love on the Holy Spirit day. I asked those who wanted to respond to Jesus for the first time to assume the classic 'prayer' position. Our two guests responded as God's Kingdom invaded earth. What followed was an incredible time of God ministering His love to our new found friends. A love like none other they'd experienced before; a love that competely overwhelmed them and blew them away. It was such a privilege to be part of that moment. It confirmed for me just how much God longs to show His kindness to those who don't yet know Him; how He longs for all to come to a place of repentence.

We have Youth Alpha tonight and we're covering the topic 'Does God heal today?' I'm fully expecting God's Kingdom to come again. After all, it is an ever increasing Kingdom!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Reflections on Bethel #2

It's almost 3 weeks since I got back from my adventure in Bethel so I thought I'd take some time to share more of the lessons I learnt when I was out there. As an aside, perhaps the most exciting thing for me is that I still feel much more in love with God and I still feel changed. I guess I was wondering if being back in Bedford I might lose some of what God did when I was away. I'm so grateful that has not been the case!

1) Know who you are - It seems at Bethel that one of the main things they teach over and over again as part of their school is 'who we are'. I was on a journey of wanting to grow in my identity in God and get to grips with who He says I am before I went away. Now that I've been and come back I'm even more convinced that knowing who we are in Him is a massive key to us seeing all that we dream about seeing in God. And there's a massive difference between knowing who you are in your head and really knowing it (do you know what I mean?) I could reel off loads of truths about who God says I am because I've learnt stuff from the Bible and I know it in my head; but when I stop to assess how knowing these truths are affecting how I live on a day to day basis the honest answer would have to be not a great deal. I am convinced that if we were to really believe what God says about us in His word; if we were to get revelation of the truths so that they affect the very core of who we are; we would be a mighty force to be reckoned with (which as it happens is what I believe has always been God's intention) Some truths to really get to grips with:

- We are Royalty
- We are children of God
- We are in Christ and He is in us!
- We are seated in Heavenly places
- We are Saints

Wow, wow, wow!

2) Prioritise your relationship with Him - God spoke to me while I was in Bethel about the importance of our relationship. He spoke about how much He loves it when I take time out to be with Him; to chat to Him and let Him chat to me. He talked about the fact that the time I get on my own with Him is more important than anything else I do; more important than any responsibility I have or any calling I'm trying to fulfill. The truth is that if we prioritise spending time with God; spending time just loving Him and letting Him love us, it's then that I think we'll start to see loads more happen by accident than we ever will on purpose. In order to develop a deep and lasting relationship, time has to be invested. Often I say that I have a relationship with God, but if I were to stop and look at how I spend my time it's not really a relationship atall. I want that to change. Spending time with God is the most important and most fulfilling thing we can do and He just loves it. Think back to Mary and Martha. Jesus described what Mary had chosen (to sit with Him and be with Him) as the best option. He's a jealous God. He longs for intimacy with us. What an incredible privilege!

The Flower Pot Man!

We went treasure hunting yesterday. There were 7 of us in total (6 of whom hadn't done it before) so we split into 2 teams and once we'd got our clues we head off to find our treasure.

I had the clue flower stall (the one in the entrance of the Harpur Centre). We went there right at the end of our hunt (God's timing never ceases to amaze me!) When we arrived we found the guy who runs the stall sweeping up before shutting up shop and heading home. He was the only guy there so we decided to go and speak to him.

As soon as we approached him with our maps, he asked us if we were doing the list thing too?!? It turns out that the other team had already spoken to him earlier (what are the chances of that happening when there are only 2 teams out hunting? I guess pretty big when God's orchestrating things!) Someone in the other team had got the clue flower pot and window in the floor. As we kept speaking to this guy he pointed out the window (pane of glass) in the floor right next to his stall and followed it up by saying he wasn't on our list.

We explained that we had different things on our maps to the other group and so he was happy to let us go through our clues. Imagine his amazement when my friend Jennifer had his name written on her piece of paper - Steve! She also had the ailment bad back which Steve has suffered with for years due to a car accident. He takes pills everyday and has been told that he just has to live with it. He let us pray for him when we explained that we regularly see people healed at the King's Arms. I felt heat where my hand was on his back and he described it as feeling wierd when we had finished praying. He said he wouldn't know if anything had happened until the pills started wearing off later that evening.

Perhaps the most precious thing about this encounter was right at the beginning when we'd found out that the other team had already been to speak to him. I was amazed that God had picked him out twice and said to him, 'you know what that means don't you!' His reply was priceless - 'that I'm special?' Jennifer and I were able to give a heartfelt yes to his response. That's exactly why God picked him out twice in the space of one hour yesterday afternoon!