Tell Your Story

We are all on a journey with God and for me on my journey I think that genuine stories of God’s provision, sustaining faithfulness, equipping and what God has been doing in my life and others around me have made an impact.

My journey through church and college to this point can’t help but speak to my family and friends. It is clear God has always provided what I needed along the way, even if the way has not always been easy. Our stories are significant, they talk to people, so I encourage you to share with those around you what God is doing in your life- the ups and the downs too.

Along the way there have been natural opportunities to speak about my faith such as with English language students, as they also shared about their faith and culture. Good conversations and discussions can come from being open to one another. I Have felt more equipped to jump in on those unexpected discussions about God that come up out of nowhere, amidst a community group scrabble meeting.

When we spend time with God in prayer, learn to trust in him and his strength in us, understand his invitation to join him in what he is doing in our communities- and to extend that invitation, we can be equipped to share his compassion and hope naturally, authentically, and joyfully with those around us.

Confidence in sharing our faith in God is helped by being confident in who God is, his love, his restoring movement in us and our communities.  We can be confident in a God who gives grace so freely and loves us so abundantly that he would give up his only son for us.

We can be confident on his call on our lives and every one of us is called to share our faith, despite whether we feel we are gifted in evangelism or not- let’s be encouraged that God calls on everyone. 1 Peter 3:15 says we are all called on to “set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

We are to share our faith through action and integrity too. Because of our trust in God, we allow him to change the way we live. Faith calls forward a heart response, stepping up for people around us and living in the light of his love. Sometimes we will make mistakes, but our confidence in sharing our faith is made stronger by knowing of God’s amazing grace and mercy to us. Thankfully, God is mighty and will move in people’s lives despite our mistakes.

This story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman offers us a big dose of confidence and encouragement. The Samaritan woman misses the point, doesn’t understand, and becomes distracted. After seeing God people see themselves and sometimes this is uncomfortable for them, so they may become uncomfortable with us too. We can know that Jesus’s conversations were often not straight forward! None of this is meant to be easy.

In attempting to share our faith with others in word and action, we need a good dose of humility too, like Jesus in this story where he sat down with a Samaritan woman and spoke with her. She was a woman, not a Jew, a sinner, and an outcast. She lived alone, apart from community, likely cast out. God gives us the confidence to reach out to people we are unsure of, who are different from us.  Jesus was compassionate towards outcasts and reaching out in this way speaks to people, he went out of his way to reach the cast out. On the way to Galilee, Jesus took the less preferred route through Samaria which had a long history of tension with Judea. Jews normally avoided Samaria by travelling elsewhere, but Jesus chose to go to a land everyone else avoided, Bethany was one of those places too.

Jesus Listened to a sorry story and showed understanding, he broke through barriers of nationality and orthodox Jewish custom. God loves the world in action too.

Everyone needs to hear about God’s grace and hope and life-giving water. Let’s be encouraged by Jesus. I wonder, where you have had your most significant conversations? Could we offer a meal or a chat over coffee with those around us being open to their story and who they are without judgement? And perhaps in doing be a part of pointing to Jesus and what it means to drink living water.

Thanks to Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman, she acknowledged Jesus as Lord, remained in the light, and revealed signs of discipleship. Jesus displayed humility, he was relational and showed understanding, he shared truth and enlightened too. Responding with heart, she desires follow him.

The Samaritan woman hurried to share the wonder with those who shunned her. She ran knowing who she spoke to and what he offers to all, she was overflowing with awe. She says to them, this is who I was and now this is me. This is what Jesus Christ has done for me.

We live in a broken world, we don’t have to reflect for long before thinking about the situation in Afghanistan, the killings in Plymouth, the suffering of our family and friends, the erratic weather conditions all over the world devastating crops, livelihoods, homes, and health and God’s creation. Our communities need to hear of God’s forgiveness, compassion, grace, mercy, healing, restoration, and hope. They need to know that Jesus is the saviour of the world.

You may still feel unworthy to share your faith, but God trusts us with his life-giving authority, to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28: 18-20.) Remember, God uses the foolish, weak, and lowly for his purposes (1Cor 1:27.) As Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

 

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Wow, God can do big things! 

This post by Rachael Warnock was originally published at Seventy Two

This title is a friend’s response to being told that I am to be ordained soon.

God can do big things indeed!

I am small, but God is mighty. He has consistently moved in, through and for me in ways that I could not expect. On this journey and adventure with him God has closed and opened doors. He has provided the resources he knew I needed and has faithfully sustained me. God has made a way, sometimes in the wilderness. He has been the one in whom I can trust. 

God can do big things with even our small offerings. When we give ourselves to God and his work, including our imperfections, then we can expect God to move! 

I find myself at this point on my journey with God because he moved through a small local church. They offered their resources- time, support and equipping. They allowed me to explore and serve. I experienced an authentic community through hospitality, generosity, joy and struggle.  God’s presence and leading was gifted  through this family and the local small community too. 

I encourage you to find out about your smaller local churches. What’s going on? What are they doing amidst the local community? How could you pray for them or join in? What are your gifts and what could you offer? Could you gift them simply with your attentive presence? 

Do not underestimate what God can do in the smallness and with you too! God wants to be closer to you, to build you up in humility and through those around you. 

God’s doing big things with the small things. He’s raising up those who don’t look like worldly leaders, he’s renewing the wastelands and the desert spaces too. 

I will make a pathway through the wilderness.

    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-20

God’s restoring, mighty, impacting presence is all around, we just need to look in all the right places! 

How is God moving in you currently? How is God prompting you? How can you be more open to him? God is speaking to us, nudging us and cheering us on in our everyday ordinary lives and communities, if only we humbly pay attention. 

 

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There’s A Manger Over There

This post by Rachael Warnock was originally published at Seventy Two

I was struck by an idea for advent, which a college friend had tried in her locality. It would include attaining a life size manger and placing it in locations around the local community to be seen by passers-by, to inspire a thought or a conversation. A picture of the manger would be taken in each location and posted on social media, including just enough of the surrounding area to help people to find it.

I was instantly taken with the project. Such a striking image to pass by in the neighbourhood, in the “safe” spaces and the broken places too. A symbol of Jesus coming into the locality, into the beauty and the mess. Jesus would come to brighten the dark streets and the forgotten spaces.

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighbourhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

Jesus, the saviour of the world was born to a young poor mother from an insignificant place – looked down on and on the margins. Those in the south would prefer to forget Nazareth existed. Jesus was born in a simple manger amidst the mess and darkness of a stable and societal struggle, but he would become the light of the world. Jesus would be hope in the hope less spaces. He would live out much of his life in the margins of society, spending time with people from diverse backgrounds, particularly those just trying to make ends meet. Jesus met them where they were, including at the dodgy end of the neighbourhood.

The Manger amidst the local community is a symbol of hope, pointing to the coming of our Saviour along with light, hope and justice. The manger says that God loves us so much that he comes to us where we are, even in the unkempt areas. He comes for all of us and certainly the poorest and those struggling the most. God’s grace and rule is present everywhere. We can find God on a simple street amidst the litter.

The manger travelled around Devonport and stories emerged from the journey. On Marlborough St it disappeared. I looked up and down, hoping I simply had not seen it. I spoke to apologetic shop keepers and hairdressers, disappointed it would not continue its community adventure. We asked for help on social media to #findthemissingmanger and the post was shared repeatedly. People cared and soon we received a message from a helpful shop worker – it was back on the street, having had a couple of nights inside another local shop. It was intact and ready to go!

The next destination was the local park. After a day or two I went to pick it up but no matter how much I searched, it was not there. Though something told me not to be despondent too quickly. The manger had already gone missing once and was found. I was sure God was making a way for it. I went in search of someone working on the land and happened to find the park warden who said they had placed it inside to keep it safe and that a youth group were planning to use it. So, again it had been valued, taken care of. The carpenter loved it. They said it was a conversation starter, a moment of excitement to find it. The manger was returned and a suggestion of where to re place it – in full view of everyone taking a walk along the path. We went again the next day and I was told by a passer-by that perhaps we should not move it, that it was being used to place plant pots in. So again, it was being minded and cared for, appreciated.

And onwards it travelled. It was placed outside the community centre and after a few days I went to pick it up, but it was not there. Perhaps it had gone this time, not to be found. But again, we asked for help to #findthemissingmanger and again the post was shared. We received a message – a concerned member of the community had popped it over the fence just in case it was “trashed.” Again, the manger was found. Valued and special.

It became clear to me that although we were aware that the manger could be taken and damaged at any point, it had not been harmed, but tended to. People may have barely known the Christmas story, but even so, just enough. Jesus was born there, and the world was waiting for Christmas day. Jesus was coming and they helped to take care, prepare and be ready. We encountered Kindness, thoughtfulness, warmth, hospitality, generosity, and care.

How can we continue the journey with Jesus among strangers in our community? How can we reflect Jesus’ generosity, hope and authenticity by actively joining in with Jesus, participating through the Holy Spirit with God’s renewal, healing, and flourishing?

Like Mary, it is important we are attentive to our interior life so we can be attentive to our communities and speak into them too. Let us remember Mary’s words of praise and all that God has done for us through Jesus including the marginalised, the cast out and the looked down on. Let us take time this new year to reflect on how we can be salt and light, reflecting God’s glory, generosity, and truth. Do we care? “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Luke 10:1-3.

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Holy Spirit, come like a rushing wind

This post by Rachael Warnock was originally published at Seventy Two

Today the world looks different to pre COVID-19. We are emerging from a global pause and stepping into something new, with all the possibility and opportunity this brings. Economic systems and paths which lead to societal and environmental destruction need not continue. There is a chance to pursue something better together.

At Pentecost Jesus’ followers were filled with the Holy Spirit, empowered, and released on the streets to be flames of light in the world. This would mean going out into communities and declaring and participating in God’s good news. They would restore, renew, cast visions, and reimagine a different way to be as the spirit journeyed with them.

At this tentative time, I worry our leaders are not heeding warnings regarding our societal and environmental brokenness. I am concerned they are not now taking the opportunity to action on climate change and to focus on a more sustainable economy for all.

I believe God desires for us to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit’s energy and power. Jesus summoned his disciples to go beyond their comfort zones, into deeper water, though he never left them alone. Now Jesus gives us his spirit, so we too are not alone. The Spirit moves with us, offers courage, strength, energy, and direction if we ask for it. With the spirit we too are empowered to join in with God’s restoration project in our local communities, we too can move for justice and act on hope. As we move out into unknown waters, we can engage with a new normal, but even better- we can create it.

Through Jesus and his spirit, a new world was born. At Pentecost Jesus’ followers were sent out in energy and spirit, to help build a world full of God’s truth, love, justice, and hope. Well here is a fresh opportunity to jump into the new thing that God is doing in our communities, as we seek direction, energy and the Spirits equipping.

After being filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus’ followers proceeded to share their possessions, to eat together and share life together. They proclaimed and lifted up God. They exercised gifts of the spirit like miracles and healings. No one was without. Our lives are not meant to reflect exactly the stories of Acts- we live in a different time and place. Though they offer us a helpful prompt.

Organisations like Tearfund are inviting us to consider our future, to enter the conversation and action shaping a better future together. With the Holy Spirit we can engage in togetherness and we can dream dreams. God with us means so much is possible.

I refuse to believe because systems have existed long term along with ways of doing things, that just because deeper change seems beyond me personally, that these are reasons for the status quo to remain.

In the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, we are now invited anew to walk forwards boldly and hopefully together to make a difference in this world. Holy Spirit come like a rushing wind.

 

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