Truths We Love: Isaiah 55:1

Good morning girls! I’m delighted to have my sister Mia sharing her wisdom with us this morning on the amazing power of God’s Word. Here’s to a happy and courageous Monday! Lx

Monday 25th TWL

What do we do if our friends upload a fun photo, or share a sad post? We might ‘like’ it, or send the appropriate emoji. This lets our friends know that we have noticed what they have shared, but is it really doing as the Bible says ‘ Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn’ or does it still remain a fairly superficial exchange?

As one of my previous posts mentions, I take pleasure in the ancient art of letter-writing, (along with many other girls at my church!). When I sit down and write a letter, I put a lot more time and care into thinking about the particular person, the situation they might be in, and how I can write in a way that engages with them and encourages them. Equally, I enjoy reading back through old letters I have received because it reminds me of the care that and love that the writer has also taken to communicate effectively with me.

The other day, as I was sifting through my box of letters (having recently reached over 100!), I was struck that almost every letter included at least one bible verse.

And it got me thinking of Hebrews 4:12:

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

I want to share this verse with you because it is a reminder of the power of God’s word. So, when we write to each other, or pray with each other and use God’s word, we can trust that it will be working in the hearts of others.

In Isaiah 55:1, God says:

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

When we use God’s words, they will always have an impact on someone, God’s word will never fail to achieve his purposes.

So here’s a challenge to us all: next time we find ourselves noticing that our friends are rejoicing or mourning, how about responding with a verse of scripture, trusting that God’s word can achieve far more than a thumbs up or smiley face!

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Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 19.04.33abby

Mia

Mia is at school in Cambridge, and goes to Christ Church Cambridge. She enjoys rowing, art and spending time with her lovely family and friends. She loves More Precious!

How To Tackle: Job

Good morning girls! We’re stuck into our summer series and have a great post for you about how to tackle the difficult book of Job. Maybe put aside some time this morning to get your Bible out and take a look through this part of the Bible, and see what God might be teaching you through it. Wishing you all happy weekends! L x

Job

I wonder whether you have ever found the story in the book of Job puzzling? He is a wealthy and upright man who loves God. God permits Satan to systematically destroy Job’s flocks, possessions and children – and his health. Do we want to say “Is this fair, God?”

It’s tempting isn’t it?

As the story continues, Job’s friends come to ‘comfort’ him, much of which is unhelpful. He goes on to struggle with his situation, his friends and anguish until Chapter 19, where he makes a statement of faith in spite of all that he has suffered:

“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.”
Job 19:25

Finally, in Chapter 40, God answers Job and reveals his power as the Creator God.

So.. is “Is This Fair?” a question we sometimes have when difficulties, losses and disappointments come into our lives? Do we really grasp the truth that God is our Creator God and Heavenly Father, to whom we belong and who brought us into being (Psalm 139)?

We can be aware of God’s grace as He sustains and walks with us each day. In His grace he gives us wonderful blessings and experiences, but there are times when we need to understand that His grace is also in the darker times we experience.

This is because God is in the business of our personal transformation. He longs to draw us ever closer to Himself, to grow us in faith and trust and help us to become more in love with Him and His purposes for us, in every circumstance.

Paul Tripp says in one of his devotionals:

“There is so much we don’t understand; so rest is found in trusting the Father. […]  He is worthy of your trust and he loves you dearly. Today your Heavenly Father reaches down and says “I know you don’t understand all that you face but remember, I love you!

‘I love you, with an everlasting love’.
(Jeremiah 31:3)

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Vicki

Vicki

Vicki lives in lovely Ely. Family is her joy, she enjoys river walks and watching rugby. She longs to see folk come to know Jesus. (Vicki is also Granny to our very own Katrina!)

Truths We Love: Psalm 62

Welcome to Week 2 of Truths We Love! We’re delighted to be hearing from Tabby for a second time on MP, and really love her inspiring reflections from the Psalms. What amazing truths lie in the passages below! Have a great Monday, resting in God! L x

Monday 18th TWL

“Truly my soul finds rest in God;
My salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I shall never be shaken”.  
(Psalm 60:1-2)

“Trust in him at all times you people;
Pour out your hearts to him,
For God is our refuge”
(Psalm 62:8)

Right now, as I’m writing this in exam season, life is hectic. Everyone is strained, busy and anything but rested! But I love these verses, which remind us that we can find rest in God. We can trust on God as our fortress and “never be shaken”.

While writing this psalm, David faced more suffering than you or I will hopefully ever have to face, but we can see that even in these difficult times, he was still completely dependent on God, who he describes as his “rock” and “salvation”.

I find this so encouraging, because it reminds me of how even when we are shaken, perhaps in our lives or our faith, we can still give it over to God, by prayer (“pour your hearts to him”).

God loves us individually as his children, and we can find rest in God through knowing that He cares for us so much that He has sent his son to die for us – our “salvation comes from Him”.

Therefore, we can depend fully on God, and find rest in the fact that he watches over us and loves us unconditionally. So, when we face trials or periods of weakness, we can remind ourselves of the amazing fact that God is our rock, salvation and fortress, and pray on these verses to feel at peace, and comforted knowing that God is with us all the time.

This passage encourages me to stop trying to only trust myself when dealing with stress, anxiety or doubt, but to cling to God instead. For example, it is way too easy for me to be really worried about something, but then forget to talk to God about it… but these verses challenge us to “trust in him at all times”, and pour out our hearts to Him.

This is an incredible privilege, not only to just talk to the Creator of the universe through prayer, but to have His Holy Spirit live inside us, guiding us, and helping us to walk by faith, too!

And so I would encourage you to rest your soul, by trusting in God at all times, as our refuge.

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TTabbyabby

Tabby

Hi! I’m Tabby. I’m in year 11 at a London school, and I am taking my GCSEs this year. My passions include being a member of an amazing church, eating pizza, and playing the flute. I love reading More Precious, and I find it a big encouragement in my faith.

Emily Charkham: This Week I’m Reading…

Happy weekend! With the bliss of a Saturday morning comes the third series in our ‘Love The Bible’ summer initiative. This is an interview series with girls just like you and me, all about how they make time to invest in reading God’s Word. We hope you enjoy wisdom from the lovely Emily today! x

This Week I'm Reading.fw

1. What Bible passage(s) are you currently reading/have read recently and found really encouraging?

Jesus walking on Water (Matthew 14:22-33). It’s one of those stories that I read when I was little and didn’t notice anything beyond the fact that Peter walks on water then messes up by taking his eyes off Jesus, and if you were me you were left thinking ‘stupid Peter’.

Then I read it again recently and realized that it’s pretty awesome; and at least Peter gets out the boat!

2. What’s been the one, key take-away message so far and how is it changing your day to day life and relationship with God?

Am I limited to one?! God sometimes sends us into storms- Jesus makes the disciples get into the boat (v.22) even though it was getting late and conditions on the lake weren’t good (v.24) : Just because life seems hard doesn’t mean we aren’t in where God wants us.

Jesus sends us to tough places for two reasons:

Firstly to draw us into greater intimacy with Him; He is there in the struggle and as soon as Peter is struggling (“Immediately”) Jesus “reached out a hand and caught Him” (v.31). Then they climb into the boat together (v32), so presumably Jesus and Peter walk back to the boat together, maybe hand in hand-now that’s pretty cool! Jesus sometimes leaves it to what feels like beyond the last minute, but He does not let us sink.

Secondly, He sends us into tough times for us to have a greater revelation of who He is; when He returns to the boat, the storm dies down and the disciples state “Truly you are the Son of God” (v33) and worship Him. If there is no storm, there could be no Divine Intervention and we would not get to see how powerful God is.

The message is that I should trust that God is working in the tough times and stick in there – but it’s definitely a lesson I’m learning rather than lesson learnt!

3. When, where and how do you read the Bible?

I read it in the mornings if I can, but that’s a personal preference thing, I’m hopeless in the evenings! If I don’t fit it in then I will take my Bible and notebook with me for the day and cram it into a tube journey (one way to stop people sitting next to me!) or lunch hour or anytime I can.

I’m reading the Bible in the Year (it’s a reading plan on http://www.bible.com and also available as an app). I generally read it in my bedroom with a notebook in which to scribble anything that jumps out at me, this may be a general message or few words or whole paragraphs. I would love to have more verses to hand to share with others and encourage myself and this is part of my trying to remember them!

4. What helps you keep a good routine for reading the Bible, and what helps those habits stick?

I have to prioritise reading the Bible: I set my alarm earlier in the morning if I know I might not have time that day. I also find it helpful having friends who ask what I have read and share their encouragements and confusion. We all go through dry patches when it doesn’t seem like God’s Word is saying much so it’s important to draw on others have to say.

I find it helpful knowing that, while reading the Bible is crucial and keeps us grounded and rooted in God’s love (read Lucy’s piece on Peace in the Eye of the Hurricane), God’s grace is huge and if we fail to read it one day we can always pick it up the next! Don’t be put off by one day’s failure.

5. What piece of advice would you give to girls who want to start reading the Bible for themselves, or get back into it?

I would suggest getting a friend to read with you, and maybe start with a devotional that takes a small part of the Bible and offers thoughts or questions about it. When I go through a rough patch I often turn to Just like Jesus Devotional by Max Lucado: it’s 30 days long and takes a snippet from the Bible, expands on what is shown about Jesus then applies it to your life, including a few questions and thoughts. I’ve found it an easy way to get back into meeting with God and seeing how applicable His word is!

We need to open the Bible with expectation so pray before you read, ask God to point out whatever is relevant to you. In the Lord’s prayer we are told to ask ‘Give us today our daily bread’; and this can also be applied to reading the Bible, we need Him to give us what we need for that day.

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Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 07.31.05Emily

Emily grew up in three great cities (Oxford, Salisbury, and Cambridge) before graduating from Edinburgh University in 2013 and raining as an accountant in London. After a lot of soul searching she realised that this was not for her and is currently trying to work out where God is leading at the same time as au pairing for a family of seven (including 4 kids under 10 and a guinea pig) in Clapham, London.

She is passionate about seeing others fulfil the potential and unique calling God has given them- and thinks that if we can do this then we can change the world!!

How To Tackle: Lamentations

Good afternoon girls! We’re delighted to be introducing the second series in our Summer 2016 initiative: Love The BibleIn these Wednesday afternoon slots, we’ll be exploring the more challenging parts of the Bible: the tricky books, gruesome stories, and confusing lists.

Our vision for this series is to equip you to understand these ‘difficult’ sections of the Bible better, and to engage with God’s message within them.

We’re off to a cracking start, as the incredible Nell Goddard is with us this afternoon kicking off the series and taking us through Lamentations. Maybe print this post out, or get a notebook and pen out to really engage with it. We’re praying this is a valuable series for you all! Lucy x

Lamentations

Let’s get started…

Situated between Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Lamentations is an oft forgotten part of the Old Testament, swallowed up by the better known books of the major prophets on either side. In addition, as suggested by its name, it’s not known for being the cheeriest of books – it is made up of songs of lament, with only a few glimmers of hope as the book progresses.

That being said, however, it is one of my favourite books of the Bible, and one which has encouraged and blessed me through a lot of my life. Just five chapters in total, it’s a friendly length, and I have often found it deeply comforting to know that there are books of the Bible which weep with me as I weep, and which acknowledge suffering and pain in a very human way.

I do, however, often find it particularly difficult to come at an Old Testament book with absolutely no idea of its context, history, or actual content. In order to make Lamentations a little less daunting, then, I’ve done a bit of research around these three areas, which will hopefully give you more of an idea of what you’re reading as you sit down to tackle it.

1. Context

The writing of the book of Lamentations is traditionally ascribed to the prophet Jeremiah (for which read: most people think Jeremiah wrote Lamentations, but it’s still a matter of theological debate). Lamentations tends to make a bit more sense if you know something of Jeremiah’s story, and the warnings he gave the Kingdoms of Judah and Jerusalem about their imminent destruction, should they continue to disobey God’s word. We see towards the end of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39-52) the fall of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah, and Lamentations immediately follows this downfall, and the people being taken into exile. It is commonly believed, therefore, that this book is expressing Jeremiah’s sorrow at this event. The Hebrew title for the book, ‘Ekah, means ‘how’, ‘alas’ or ‘oh’, and was often used for funeral dirges in Ancient Israel.

2. History

It’s generally pretty tricky to accurately place the writing of an Old Testament book at a particular time in history, but the general consensus across commentaries I’ve browsed seems to be that Lamentations is composed upon the fall of the city of Jerusalem, which is estimated to have taken place around 587/586 B.C.

Interestingly, if you turn to Jeremiah 39:1-18, you can read about the fall of Jerusalem, and God’s promises throughout its exile. It’s pretty moving stuff! If you’re particularly interested in this historical context, you can also read about the fall of Jerusalem in 2 Kings 24-25, and 2 Chronicles 36.

3. Content

It is difficult to accurately convey the beauty of the language and the emotional depth of Lamentations without just quoting bits at you, so I would very much encourage you to read it to find out for yourself what it has to offer. In terms of a loose idea, however, each of the five chapters is an acrostic poem in the Hebrew, with a varying structure. The chapters are all 22 verses long except for chapter 3, which is 66 verses in total. If you’re really interested, a number of online or paper commentaries will give a more detailed outline of the nature of each chapter as an acrostic poem, and how it correlates to the Hebrew alphabet.

4. Why does it matter?

Throughout its pages, Lamentations upholds God’s justice and his righteous punishment of sin (after many, many warnings: see the 52 chapters of Jeremiah to understand just how many!), whilst also grieving for all that has been lost, and holding fast to God’s promise of redemption, his faithfulness and his mercy.

This can be seen particularly clearly in Lamentations 3 – arguably my favourite chapter in the whole Bible! – but must be understood and read within the context of the rest of the book. We see more clearly than ever in Lamentations that it is only when we recognise our utter brokenness and hopelessness without God, and the depth of our sin, that we can truly understand the powerful redemption that His grace offers.

Lamentations is not an easy book to read. It describes some horrible things, and depicts the true depths of human despair. On its own and without context, it could be seen to present God as overreacting to Jerusalem’s sin, and bringing unfair punishment on those who do not deserve it. Within the context of God’s self-definition and declaration of his character in Exodus 34:6-7 and alongside his warnings against Jerusalem’s sin through the prophet Jeremiah, however, Lamentations makes more emotional and spiritual sense.

And finally…

If you can, read Lamentations alongside, or just after, reading Jeremiah. I would heartily recommend praying before delving into this book, and be ready for some seriously emotional stuff. If you personally are struggling with grief, loss, or feeling like God has forgotten you, this is a book which will remind you that you are not alone, and that even in the darkness and the despair, there is hope in a knowledge of God’s faithfulness.

Don’t leave Lamentations without spending some serious time in chapter 3, and I pray that as you read this whole book, you would learn afresh something of God’s righteous justice, and his gracious mercy to you, and to all those he loves.

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Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 22.20.13Nell

Nell

Nell is a 22 year old theology graduate from Durham university. She’s an introvert who likes to talk, she’s passionate about friendship and justice, and she really, really likes dogs. You’ll find her blogging over at Musings Of A Clergy Child about being the daughter of two vicars, an introvert and a Christian. Her book, Musings of a Clergy Child: Growing into a faith of my own is being published September 2017.

Truths We Love: Isaiah 40:31

I’m DELIGHTED to be introducing our brand new Summer 2016 initiative: Love The Bible. We want to fill your summer with engaging, relevant and inspiring content that will help you learn to love the Bible – whether you’ve been reading it as long as you can remember, or have never opened its pages before.

The first series we’re launching is called ‘Truths We Love’ – it’s pretty self explanatory! We’re delighted to have our funky fun friend Florrie kick this off for us. Enjoy! Lucy x

Monday 11th TWL

I love the Bible.

These aren’t quite words you hear every day are they? Many people’s sentiments would demonstrate directly opposing views but as Christians we can rejoice and revel in the words of love, hope, joy and sacrifice.

You’re probably thinking yeah yeah, whilst this will always be great stuff it’s also old news, get on with it now. Fair, I’m waffling but trust me, I have a point. I am certainly guilty of turning to the bible and thinking ‘okay, theoretically this is the best thing ever and I’m literally reading God’s very word right now but God couldn’t feel any less tangible. I mean…its actually just paper, am I missing something?’

It’s at times like these when I turn to a single verse in which, whatever my mood may be, I can focus solely on the Lord and can recognise his strength in us and how truly amazing it is. (I’m actually lying a bit, the Bible is littered with verses like these but for the drama and literary effect I’ll focus on one).

Shown to me by a dear friend in an ‘oh-my-goodness-I’m-so-stressed-out-why-me’ moment Isaiah 40:31 has lifted my spirits in times of sadness and distance from God to encouraging me in moments of elation, rejoicing in faith in him. The words follow:

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ (Isaiah 40:31)

Wicked right? (the good wicked). These lines are so important to me primarily as they remind us of the divine strength that hope in the Lord holds. This is a truth that is so easy to ignore or to forget in our day to day lives, particularly as we wake to such a sinful and broken world.

For me, temptation and the fear of sticking out in a crowd is profound, which I believe can be said for many Christians of all ages. It has been such an encouragement and so helpful to constantly remind myself of these words when feelings such as these arise, as my confidence in my unfaltering strength through our Father’s strength in us is restored and I can recognise that in Him, I can soar, despite the destruction of the world around me.

The words of Romans 8:38-39 further show this might, that cannot be beaten nor lead us to be separated from God and that although the barriers between us will never fade, the strength in our hope will renew and equip us in all that we do and importantly, in how we share Jesus’ sacrifice and love in a way that is truly unstoppable, mirroring our saviour.

If that isn’t reason alone to adore the Bible, I don’t know what is. For with our father, we are invincible. Woohoo x100!

_______________________________________________Florrie

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Florrie
Florrie

Hey! I’m Florrie and I’m at school in the big city of London. Born and raised a city girl with a country heart so am usually found outdoors, dancing, painting, eating bananas and when I can, pretending I’m a cool dude and going surfing. I’m so excited to be part of a CU team at school and even more excited that we can chat about God’s word!

A Glorious Future

Last month we held an event in Cambridge titled ‘Making The Ordinary Extraordinary’. This is Emma’s talk from that evening on how to keep a heavenly perspective, even as we struggle through our everyday trials and challenges.

Join Emma midway through her opening story of learning to walk in high heels… she is a gifted speaker and it’s a hugely inspiring message from the Bible – so I hope you enjoy it! L x

Here’s To Growing Up

Back in May we held an event in Cambridge titled ‘Making The Ordinary Extraordinary’. This is Lucy’s talk from that evening on the passage included below – we hope you enjoy it! x

Place Your Life Before God (Romans 12:1-2, MSG)

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.

Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

What Do We Hope For?

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Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23

I love starting a new week with this verse, as it reminds us of one of the many amazing gifts that God gives us: hope.

What is hope? Hope is a feeling of expectation, and a desire that something will happen. Hope is a sense of anticipation and excitement, and a positive aspiration for things to come. We will all have many different hopes for the week ahead. We may hope to cross things off the to-do list, hope we’ll get work done in time to catch up with our friends, hope our exams go well, hope to perform well in sports matches, or even just hope for good weather at the weekend (we’re all praying for it!).

When the Bible talks about hope, it talks about a far more amazing type of hope – the certain hope that we have in Jesus. The incredible promise we see in this verse is that he – God – who promised is faithful.

God’s promises have never failed yet and they’re not going to start failing now.

This means that the hope we have in Jesus is certain: he promises that he will always be with us, and that He lavishes grace on us and saves us. He isn’t going to abandon us, and in fact gives us far more than we could ever dream to deserve or imagine. We have the most incredible, amazing gift of hope because God who makes these promises to us, is faithful.

So what difference does this hope make for us this week? When challenges come our way, when we are fearful or uncertain of the future, when we are weighed down by anxiety, or even when we are celebrating joys and the good things in life, Paul encourages us to hold on to the certain hope we have in Jesus. This verse encourages us to hold ‘unswervingly’ to the hope we have.

We don’t need to look left or right and search for this hope in other places. We just need to fix our eyes on Jesus, and pray that He would help us to do that.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.’

Hebrews 6:19

Let hope in God be your anchor this week. Pray that He would help you to walk each day secure, with him as your protector, sustainer and deliverer.


Emma P

Emma

Emma had the huge privilege of growing up in Bath, officially the most beautiful city in the West Country. After moving to Cambridge for secondary school, she wasn’t able to tear herself away so stayed on to study law at university. After graduating, Emma has spent the last three years working in finance. Excitingly, Emma said ‘I do’ to the wonderful Luke in April 2014 and is loving the adventure of being married and being part of Team Pendlebury.

Why Vote?

MP Vote

Increasing numbers of people feel misled, disillusioned, or apathetic about politics. Others argue that faith and politics should not mix, which leaves us questioning what our position on voting and public life should be.

But faith can’t just be a private endeavour; Jesus urged His disciples to “let [their] light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”. And it’s hard to argue that good deeds can’t be done in politics.

Despite this, the record of Christian engagement in public and political life is not an unblemished one. But just like my all-too- often messy kitchen, if I just stand outside complaining about it, it will never get clean – I have to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in. After all, Jesus’ brother James wrote that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”.  So what on earth are we to do?

Here are three things I’d start with.

1. Vote

My Grandfather has been sending me newspaper cuttings since I was a teenager as a way of encouraging me to take an active interest in the world around me, and refuse ambivalence or apathy. A couple of weeks’ ago, I asked him why he votes in elections. He used one word: freedom. He explained that he believes that he has been set free through Jesus and called to use his freedom to serve others (Galatians 5). He pointed out that hundreds of thousands of people in the world still don’t have the right to vote, so he sees it as a privilege not to be taken for granted.

Furthermore, by voting we publicly recognise that we submit to the authority of the political system in our nation as established by God (Romans 13:1-17). Voting also has biblical precedence; Acts 14:23 describes how the early Church elected elders by voting. Plus, it’s one way that we can obey God’s command to seek the good of those around us and our nation as a whole (Jeremiah 29:5-6).

Yet, voting is the very least we can do – we can seek God’s reign on earth every day, not just one day every five years.

2. Pray

One way of doing this is to pray for our leaders on a regular basis. Paul encouraged Timothy “that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

The Bible is full of accounts of “those in authority”; from Kings, to Judges, to religious leaders. The accompanying stories describe the reasons why they all needed prayerful support from those around them. Being a leader in any context is hard work.

So how should we pray for our leaders? Whether or not they are Christians, we should pray that God will guide them as they guide us, and pray for wisdom, discernment and protection. Plus, we should extend the notion of “those in authority” beyond politics to other leaders in the Church, voluntary sector, public service, and business. There are an overwhelming number of leaders in society, so choose two or three individuals or groups to pray for, and uphold them regularly.

3. Make your voice heard

Thirdly and finally, if you want to go one step further and become an influencer yourself, you can make your voice heard on the issues that matter to God and to you.  Patrick Regan, founder and CEO of youth work charity XLP argues that social transformation is possible because God is working restoration and redemption in communities. But it also requires us to put our feet on the ground.

Proverbs exhorts us to give voice to the voiceless, Paul implores to help those in need (Ephesians 4:28), and to act because of the hope that we have in Jesus (Romans 8:18-30).

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So how can you be a voice for the voiceless?

1. Build relationships with local politicians; write to them about causes that matter to you and invite them to speak or debate at events. You don’t need to be an expert, you just need to care.

2. Sign petitions on those causes.

3. Get your feet on the ground, get local and start working for transformation by volunteering for a local charity or your church.  Whatever you decide to do with your vote, prayers and time; God has given us a world to engage with so that we might become servants of society who reflect God’s grace and mercy.

 

For more information and resources, visit the websites below or talk to your church/charity about engaging in public life.

http://www.christiansinpolitics.org.uk/

http://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/

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Lucy Parker

Lucy

 

Lucy

Lucy lives in North London, goes to St Luke’s in Kentish Town, and works as a Civil Servant in central government. When she isn’t working, Lucy can be found running on Hampstead Heath, escaping to Norfolk to visit her family, helping to organise a big summer Christian youth festival, and practicing making a wedding cake for one of her housemates!

Praise Him in the Hallway

Monday 13 June 07.00 Horizontal.fw

These five words have been walking their way around my mind over the last few weeks. I’ve had a door shut on me, and the words have been said to me by a close friend. Okay God, I get it!

I’m in a ‘hallway’ in my life at the moment for two main reasons. I’m in the hallway between single life and married-arghabouttobeaproperadult- life and I am in the career hallway. I bet you can guess which hallway I’m more excited about hey!?

While I am here, chilling in these hallways, I know that I have to be praising God.

But the hallway is so boring compared to the living room, compared to the bedroom, compared to the kitchen! True, but the hallway also leads the way, in most cases, to these other rooms. This is true in our lives too. We have to go through times of being in the hallway to prepare our hearts and our minds for the rooms that God has so perfectly prepared us for. Maybe we’re not quite ready for those rooms.

Maybe the room we think we’re going in isn’t the room God wants for us and He has to do a quick decoration job. God can work 60 minute makeovers or He can take years. Praise Him in the hallway. Trust that God’s timing is perfect and that time you are waiting outside the door is the exact amount of time you need to be ready for that room, for that challenge, for that change in your life.

But their hallway seems so much more exciting than mine! Why am I having to wait so long in this career hallway!? They didn’t get the same qualifications as me and they are loving life in the living room, in the bedroom, in the kitchen.

John 13:7 tells us: “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” God’s ways are above and beyond our own.

PRAISE HIM IN THE HALLWAY, GIRL!

Don’t covet. Don’t envy. If it’s a room without God, who’d want to be there anyway!? If it’s a room with God then trust that the same God will too give you your dream room.

You’re learning to trust Him. You’re learning your heart. You’re learning the things God needs to change about you. God shuts doors. God opens the doors. God knows the time to give you the key, but before He gives it you He wants your eyes to be fixed on Him. He wants you to reach out your hand to grab His and when your heart is ready, He’ll give you the key and walk into the room with you, every step of the way.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11

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KateKate

Kate

I’m Kate. I’m a Black Country wench. I graduated from Wolverhampton University in 2014 and currently work as a BSL interpreter. I got engaged to Joey last October and am excitedly planning our wedding for Summer 2017 wedding. I love Jesus and have a passion for worship :-)

Rags to Riches: Hands Wide Open

It’s been a pleasure and privilege to journey through this series with you, to see how Jesus makes a difference in our lives. The last post in the series encourages us to dig deep into His sacrifice made on the Cross, and in doing so swap our rags for His riches. May this bless you in some way! Nadia x

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‘Rags to Riches’ – is there a better way to describe the story God longs to author in each of our lives? He takes away the rags that we once clung so tight to, the rags that used to cover up our insecurities, fears, sins, and brokenness. Into our newly-emptied hands he places riches: riches that don’t merely cover up our brokenness but completely heal it, making us whole and new and beautiful.

It’s so incredibly good, and it fills me with so much joy to be able to say that I have a Father who has done this for me, who has exchanged my rags for the ‘incomparable riches of his grace’, (Ephesians 2:7) a Father who is even now growing me more into the person he made me to be. It’s such a great adventure.

The first time I remember God whispering this love into my life was on camp, when I was ten or maybe eleven. One of our leaders was giving us some space to think through what we had been hearing about while on camp. After a few moments of quiet she read Psalm 121 to us. These words have always stuck with me:

‘Look up to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber…’ (Psalm 121) 

Although I’d heard this before, that God holds the whole world – including me – in his hands, this was the first time that I heard it, the first time I really knew that God was actually there and caring about me.

But this did not mean that life was perfect from there on out. Secondary school started and I thought I was doing okay. Through all of this busyness I was trying to work out who I really was: was I defined by the things that I did, by the people I knew, by the appearances I kept up?

For a while, the answer to this question was yes. I think it’s true for many of us: we define ourselves by the performances we give. Even though my help comes from God, I surely have to do something to make it up to him, right? Something to keep in his good books?

Whilst living like this, I found that I no longer felt at home so much. I found myself getting more exhausted, worried, and stressed out. It was soul-destroying, this act of keeping up appearances in order to feel valued by God and by those around me. Outside, I may have looked fine, but inside, I felt like I was scrambling to stay standing on ever-shakier ground.

I kept turning to God in the Bible and in prayer for help, scrawling out words from the heart in the hope that he would hear and fix it all for me.

One moment that stands out was when I was on a residential weekend for a leadership course. As we arrived on the Friday night, we had some time just for worship and prayer. The leader, Cath, stood at the front, held out her hands in front of her, clenched, palms down. She said, ‘All of you, close your eyes and hold your hands out like mine. Imagine you’re holding shopping bags full of all the things you’ve done or thought of said this week, all of the things occupying your mind…open up your hands and let them go. Place them in front of God as you come to Him this evening. Now turn your hands over, hold your open palms up to God.’

This very simple symbol just kind of undid something in me. I felt the weight lift from my shoulders: I was allowed, invited, to give all this stuff I’d been carrying to God. He wanted to have my ‘shopping bags’ full of craziness and hurt? He desired to give me something of him to hold instead?

It didn’t mean holding up rags to hide my failings and keep up ‘perfect’ appearances.
It meant giving up my failures and my strivings, and letting God transform me with his riches.

I found and I still find now, as God reminds me of my identity in him, that the abundant life He gives us cannot be earned. It can only be received, hands wide open, and face tipped upwards towards the light.

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Hannah

Hannah

Faith Worked Out: Rachel Stonehouse

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 It’s SUCH a privilege to share this interview with Rachel Stonehouse, as she talks about her work with Luminary Bakery. This will be particularly helpful for girls leaving sixth-form, especially those who aren’t heading off to university. We’ve absolutely loved reading this and know you will too. Lucy x

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Book on my bedside table:‘A Meal with Jesus’ by Tim Chester. I had a ‘wow’ moment when I found this in a bookshop. Jesus. And food. Sounded like a book I needed to read!

Dream holiday destination:New Zealand.

My kitchen cupboards always contain:Dark chocolate digestives, vanilla extract and fresh spinach.

Song I listen to on repeat: Give me anything on the new Oh Wonder album and I’m happy.

Most underrated virtue: Discernment

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What is the story behind Luminary and how did you come to work with them?

Luminary is a wholesale social enterprise bakery in East London designed to offer opportunities to women from vulnerable backgrounds to build a future for themselves and their families. We use baking as a tool to take women on a journey to employability and entrepreneurship, equipping them with practical and transferable skills for the working world through training courses, work experience, apprenticeships, and paid employment within our bakery, whilst also providing community and holistic support.

I became involved whilst looking for a way to combine my baking with my faith on a gap year after A-levels. I noticed a lot of my peers serving God through doing something they love in their gap year, whether playing football with street children, working on a drama project in schools or doing youth work. However, as I trawled the Internet and stands at festivals it felt like there was a project for everything other than what I felt called to do: bake.

Just when I’d given up, a friend told me about this bakery one of their friends was setting up. I couldn’t get to London quick enough! God provided the financial support through many faithful friends and organisations and before I knew it I was interning in a very small bakery and teaching groups of women how to bake. Feeling strongly that I’d found my ‘thing’ and had a job so perfectly fitting to what I loved and was good at I decided to give up my place at university and stay on with Luminary as a paid baker and trainer.

What does a typical week look like for you?

Mondays/Tuesdays/Fridays – I bake a range of products from 6am – 2pm for cafes, mentor one of our bakery interns and help train apprentices. A meeting about new products/customers or team training might be slotted in and I order all our bulk ingredients. I also plan and prepare for Thursdays.
Wednesdays – I train to be a pastry chef at a London college
Thursdays – 10:00-6:00 I teach the baking section of our employability course. This is my favourite day.

What do you love most about what you do?

The moment the trainees take what they’ve baked out of the oven on a Thursday – the pride they have and the effect that has on their self-confidence week-to-week is so special!

Is it easy to take Jesus into your workplace?

No. Wherever you work I don’t think it is. Aside from my bed, I spend the majority of my time in the bakery; the ladies I work alongside are the ones I literally do day-to-day life with. So the question really is, is it easy to make Jesus the center of my day-to-day life? The reality is, I think there’s always a struggle to make Jesus the center of your life, wherever that is, whether at school, uni, your home – there’s an inward (and sometimes outward) battle to really make Him the focus, serve Him alone and give Him the glory.

My pride holds me back. My selfishness does too. Impatience, believing I can do it all on my own, and the biggest killer – busyness. All these self-afflicted barriers get in the way. But you know what? He shows up anyway. And that blows my mind. That though we mess up a ‘God-conversation opportunity’ whilst rolling cookies, a trainee asks if she can come to church. That when we break 3 quiche and feel the pressure to get a delivery out on time, we find someone made exactly 3 spare by accident. That after getting impatient to move into our new premises, we realize moving in then would’ve been disastrous and that God’s timing is always better.

I’ve learnt as much as you ‘try’, God’s really the one that’s going to bring my co-workers, women I teach and friends into a relationship with Him. My job is to ask Him to reveal to me what He’s doing, be open and flexible to how he wants to use me and trust that His way of doing things is best.

When you’re busy how do you try and keep God at the center?

If I’m honest I find it really difficult and in no way have worked it out yet – I’ll let you know if I ever get there! As a bakery team we now do a morning reflection at the start of each day. I try to use this time to give the day over to God, whatever shape it may take, and to acknowledge I need His presence and wisdom. I think starting your day in a mindset that you’re working for God (Colossians 3:23) really helps. Busy moments are one of the hardest times to keep God at the center because my mind is so full of the job in hand.

If I’m finding something difficult or challenging, rather than focusing on the problem or situation, I’ve started asking God what He’s doing in it – what is He teaching me? What’s He doing in other people that I can’t see? Why am I responding in the way I am? How does He view it? It has taken a bit of practice to make this a habit but it always puts my focus back on God and gives me perspective. This song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcORoyyjqjw) has almost been like a theme tune to busy days.

What advice would you give to girls who want to do something different after school to find another way to serve God with their life?

Look at your passions and offer them to God: What are you good at? What do you get excited about? What makes you angry? Where do you see need? The way God created you and how life experiences have shaped you reflect the way He wants to use you.

‘God calls people in many different ways, to all sorts of vocations. He longs to harness the gifts He’s given us to be used in His service… we all have unique blend of character strengths and weaknesses. We can never be prescriptive about how God calls… The crucial factor is simply to recognise that He calls all of us to surrender.’ – More Than Conquerors, Simon Guillebaud.

  • Ask advice from those who know you well, love Jesus and you trust. Be prepared for a variety of responses, some encouraging, others telling you ‘you will fail at life if you don’t go to University.’ Value their insight, but take some with a pinch of salt.
  • Pray about it. All of it. For what you should do, advice you’ve been given from others, the fears you have, the technicalities, for what you need… stay close to God through the whole process. And ask other people to pray for you too. ‘Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.’ (Proverbs 16:3)
  • Find your ‘cheerleaders’! Going against the norm can be hard, find a few people who will pray for you, remind you why you’re doing what you are and support you when it gets hard.

What are the biggest things God has taught you throughout the last 2 years?

1. That God cares more about people than efficiency (usually the opposite to the approach of humanity). His way of doing things may not be the quickest or neatest but it will value the people involved, empower and shape them.

2. That where God calls, He also provides what you need.  Whether that’s a place to live, friends, money, food… He IS faithful and He DOES provide.

3. We are designed to be dependent on His provision and a community of other people.

 

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What an amazing insight into Rachel’s life, her work, and her passion for community – and of course, for baking! Do drop by Luminary Bakery if you are ever in London.

Explore the Luminary vision: http://www.luminarybakery.com/
Support their work: http://www.luminarybakery.com/donate/

The MP Exams Rescue Pack

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It’s exam season. The libraries are full, conversations are tense… and amidst the rising stress (and caffeine) levels, it’s easy to forget that we have a God who promises peace.

We’ve gathered a few of our past posts to help you through revision and exams, by pointing you back to God’s peace and His perfect plans. Enjoy!

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 1. Countercultural Peace

PeaceI’ve realised that something about my rushed work schedule and panicky conversations doesn’t fully reflect the sovereignty of God in my life. I’m quick to start relying on my own efforts: how many hours of work can I fit in today? Am I doing as much as everyone else? How would I cope with the embarrassment of failure?

These thought patterns come when I focus on myself and forget that I have a Father who is mighty and gives rest. I’d love this to change. I think there’s something so powerful about demonstrating to the world that there is something bigger to live for than what we can achieve on our own, especially in times of stress and worry, not just in spite of.

Read more on demonstrating a peace that’s countercultural…

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2. An Antidote to Perfectionism

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1. There is a plan for you. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

2. Don’t worry. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

3.  Remember the big picture. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Watch Emma’s talk on replacing perfectionism with grace…

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3. Found In Psalm 27: Courage

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These verses in Psalm 27 are amazing, because they show us that no matter what we are facing, we can be confident because God is on our side. We can step out in courage.

God is described as being our light, shining into the darkness.  He is our salvation; he saves us so that we can have a relationship with him. And, He is our stronghold; He will keep us safe, and not let us stray out of His care.

So we can be confident that whatever is going to happen this week, we can have courage because we are loved by a mighty God who saves and protects us in every situation we’ll face.

Read Emma’s devotional on finding courage…

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4. Salt & Light: Being Distinctive in Exam Time 

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As humans, facing human challenges, with human expectations it is so easy for us to slip into a mind-set where we tell ourselves that it is ALL up to us. We rely solely on our own ability – or perhaps if we need to feel extra ‘lucky’ we will whip out a good ol’ CGP revision guide – and allow ourselves to depend on our own strength, keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

However, as Christians we should seek to have a different perspective and it is important we strive to avoid this frame of mind. We know that divine ability is completely and utterly in God’s hands: He has known and loved us since before the world began and He has a plan for us, a place for us in His heavenly kingdom for eternity.

Read the rest of Florrie’s advice on exam-time faith…

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Wishing you peace during this exam season, and praying that you would keep your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, the perfecter of our faith!

Rags To Riches: Do The Little Transformations Matter?

Sometimes the transformations are large, and other times they occur behind the scenes on a much smaller scale. Sometimes it’s a simple reflection on our lives, and being humbled by God’s Word. This post is a perfect reminder that being faithful in the small things is important too, and that any transformation through Christ however BIG or SMALL, is a joy shared in Heaven. Blessings for the upcoming week! Nadia x

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What is a significant transformation?

What qualities does a testimony need to make it worthy of sharing on a Christian blog, with our fellow Christian friends, or even with the inquisitive non-Christian who asks us our story?

Does it need to be shocking or dramatic?

When we see our Almighty Creator working in others so powerfully and distinctively, it may be tempting for us to consider our own story, our own transformation in Christ somehow less worthy of testifying.

Yet, what I’ve come to realise over the past year and a half as my faith has grown is that God moves within us in more ways than we can humanly quantify; though he is Sovereign King over all nations he is also a graciously loving Father, upon whose palm I am personally engraved (Isaiah 49:16). ALL our stories are enormously significant, for in them God has moved majestically to transform us from within.

 God is within her she will not fall.
(Psalm 46:5)

Brought up regularly attending both church at home and school chapel services, my life appeared, at least from the outside, to align itself neatly with that of a Christian’s. My ‘Little-Miss-Perfect’ attitude to life, coupled with my confident oral affirmation of God’s existence meant I had little doubt that, if the two Biblical places of judgement- heaven and hell- did exist, I was certainly guaranteed a place in the former.

However, coming to university, that reassurance quickly dissipated as God placed three Christians in my path whose distinctive and infectious love for Jesus Christ quickly exposed the weak spiritual foundations upon which I built my life. The parable in Mathew (chapter 7) of the man who builds his house on sand, a favourite of mine at Sunday school, became more and more a powerful metaphor for my own life. Though I had always considered myself strong in faith I began to notice how my life was built on spiritually weak foundations; on the earthly treasures of academic success and personal achievement.

Far from the wise, faithful Christian who constructs his house on rock, my house was foolishly standing on a bed of sand.

I began to realise how a faith in this God was not just a golden ticket to be used on death’s door, but a genuine relationship with a Father who unconditionally cares for each one of his children. Actively seeking God in my life, reading His word, praying to Him and worshiping Him, He has revealed Himself to me in all His power and glory.

Over the past 18 months I have increasingly felt God’s intimacy for the first time in my life; no longer a distant and detached “concept” but a tangible and real presence in my heart.

Through defining myself in Christ, He is redefining every aspect of my life. Where once my eagerness to impress led me quickly to criticise others’ shortcomings and flaws, an inner peace and humbleness now holds me back from considering myself superior and instead allows me to praise God for blessing me with such loving and beautiful siblings, friends and family.

No longer do I look to earthly treasures for glory and satisfaction; it is with Him that my treasures are stored. Before I strove to do my best to elevate myself, now I strive to do the best I can in all I do to glorify His name. Exams and results, previous sources of personal satisfaction and glory, now hold less significance in my life compared to the joy and salvation I find in Jesus Christ.

My transformation in Christ started in the heart and continues to show itself in my life the more I explore God’s word and behold him as my Father, King, and Saviour.

The foundations upon which I build my life are now defined by my love for God. No longer just a password to a safe haven beyond death, a faith in God has a personal and real significance in my life in the now, in the living.

He is a Father for the present and not just for the life beyond this world.

I am constantly thankful for the changes the Lord has made and continues to make in my life. However subtle or simple they may appear, I know they are testimonies of a true and significant softening of my heart through His grace and everlasting love.

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Hannah

Hannah

Originally from Devon, Hannah loves to explore the beautiful countryside of Dartmoor with her beautiful Labradors. She feels most at home there! However, she has been excited and overjoyed to embrace a new and exciting life at Durham, studying Spanish and Italian and surrounded by an encouraging Christian community. Hannah has a wonderful sense of humour and positive outlook on life, and enjoys representing her college in a variety of sports. She’s also a keen ‘tough mudder’ athlete!

From Heartbreak Valley to Acres of Hope

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Have you ever had moments where you want to press the ‘reset’ button on your life? Where you want to give your life a re-boot – to take a break, wipe the slate clean and start all over again?

Maybe it’s in those moments when you realise that your friendships or relationships with family aren’t where you want them to be – they are no longer fun-filled and life-giving, but instead lead to hurt and drain you of energy. Or perhaps it is those days when work is overwhelming, exams are looming, the to-do list is longer than your arm and you just end up deleting your whole essay and start again.

Or sometimes it’s spiritual things, when you realise that you feel far from God, that you can’t remember the last time you prayed or read the bible and you feel spiritually dry. It’s so easy end up feeling despondent and helpless in the midst of it all.

The great news is that the Bible speaks into these kind of situations, and today we’ll look at some amazing verses from the book of Hosea. Hosea was a prophet, and at the time he was living, few people in Israel were being loyal to God’s ways. It was a massive mess, and God told Hosea that He was very sad with the way the Israelites were living and treating Him.

However, God makes it clear that all was not lost, when he says:

“And now, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to start all over again. I’m taking her [referring to the Israelites, God’s people] back out into the wilderness where we had our first date, and I’ll court her. I’ll give her bouquets of roses. I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope. She’ll respond like she did as a young girl, those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.” (‭Hosea‬ ‭2‬:‭14-15‬ MSG)

Verse 14 starts with ‘and now’. This is so amazing, because it shows us that the mess and chaos isn’t the end of the story! God promises to start all over again and that he will wipe the slate completely clean. Even better than that, He promises to turn ‘Heartbreak Valley’, or as another translation puts it ‘the valley of troubles’, into ‘Acres of Hope’.

The imagery here is so beautiful – acres of hope sounds pretty amazing to me, like a spacious, restful and peaceful place of hope. This doesn’t necessarily mean that our lives will look exactly how we think they might, but it does mean that we can live totally secure in the truth that God is perfect love, he has good plans for our lives and he can turn the worst of situations around in miraculous ways.

He can turn heartbreak into hope and trouble into triumph.

No matter what we’ve done, or how long it’s been since we last truly embraced the love that God has for us, we can start all over again with him. He promises to forgive us and remember our sins no more.

No matter what strategies we implement to try to get our lives back on track, there is only one place for us to go where we will have a truly fresh start: God. Refocusing on him and trusting him with today is the only way to ultimately reset our lives. So whether it is the first time we’ve ever done this, or if it’s been a while since we last the time, let’s run into God’s arms today. We can all have our ‘and now’ moments – God’s arms are open wide, ready and waiting for you today, tomorrow and forever.

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Emma

Emma

Emma graduated from Cambridge 4 years ago, and now works in Finance. She said ‘I Do’ to the wonderful Luke in April 2014 and loves being part of Team Pendlebury!  Emma’s other passions include leading music at Christ Church Cambridge, doing Pilates & eating salted caramel ice cream! She is so loving seeing God use More Precious to grow his kingdom.

Rags to Riches: Living A Double Life

I’m excited to share this week’s post in the series with you, because once again it shows the immeasurable transformation that takes place when we surrender all to Jesus. He takes our rags, in this example insecurity and anger, and transforms them into His riches. Have a great week! Nadia x

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Once upon a time, a raging perfectionist and total failure finally clocked that fullness of life was not met by personal achievement, or moralism, but in Christ. This is her story.

Most people assume that a girl like me – enthusiastic to the point of insanity and who currently desires to work full-time in Christian ministry – must have been brainwashed by her parents, a product of her cultural context.

Yes, there was Christian influence around me. I went to half-term Bible clubs and did the worksheets for the prizes, not because I was enthralled by the stories. And when I didn’t get the answers right, couldn’t prove myself, I kicked off. Being a church kid was about being a good kid. Bring your Bible, get a point.

10 points and you get extra sweets. Learn a memory verse (in the car on the way), get a point, get 5 points and you get a prize. I was in church because I wanted rewards for my good acts.

Yet, I believed that I really was a Christian and reassured myself with all my knowledge of the Bible. But in reality, things looked different. I retaliated to school bullies with violence. It was satisfying, getting someone back who had done you wrong; childish justice. In my moments of uncontrollable anger, where was Jesus? He was for Sundays and He helped me win prizes.

I moved to secondary school, vowing to change myself. I soon faced the crippling realisation that I couldn’t just change. Within months I found myself cyber-bullying friends, throwing chairs, and forcing my hands around a throat of an innocent classmate.

My anger was a sickeningly satisfying outlet for my sense of inadequacy and failure.

I wasn’t achieving, I wasn’t the perfect girl, and I was lashing out. Still I wondered: where was Jesus?

That year, I went to a Christian conference in the Easter holidays. It was there when I was first confronted with the moralism that I had confused with Christianity. I knew the sin of my anger and violent outbursts, and I could no longer reassure myself that my other good acts were ‘good enough’ for God.

Knowing that I had failed to change myself, I began to understand the depths of my sin and rebellion against God, and my desperate need for Jesus; in His great love, descended to die for me: the girl who thought she had it sorted; the girl who thought she didn’t need anything but a good knowledge and religious looking actions to be right with him; the girl who had tried to justify actions which were deserving of God’s righteous anger.

It was a slow slog from there. There were many issues that still seemed too big for Jesus to handle. My view of God was quite small. I wanted to read my Bible, but verses on anxiety and anger seemed patronising. I tried to ‘live the good life’ in my own strength. I’m not sure my heart believed what I proclaimed with my lips. If Jesus really did die a death to atone for my sin, so that I could be called a child of God and be given a new status, why was I still trying alone to make myself a ‘better person’?

I became angry at myself, and soon, at God. It took years, after counselling, therapy, bouts of anxiety and panic attacks, and a suspension from school, to finally understand and apply what I knew of God, and particularly the significance of Jesus’ death.

A summer of no friends after I reacted with my fists was a low point. For once, my tears were not merely self-centred shame, but shame before God, and a cry of forgiveness from the Creator and Father I had rejected. I saw the depths of my sin and the consequences of my rebellion, but found on the cross Jesus’ offer of mercy and grace for failures.

I experienced the joy of forgiveness, and learnt to forgive those who I had in the past blamed for triggering my anger and anxiety.

And, finally, my story changed direction. It changed direction because I knew, understood, and accepted a better story – the Gospel. I recommitted to following Jesus, and it wasn’t on the agreement that I was fixed up, but on the agreement that I would surrender my life to the King.

Within a year, the counselling and therapy was no longer needed. It was nothing to do with me. I had been trying for years and falling flat. He alone orchestrated the change in my heart by His Spirit as I read His Word with open eyes and a longing to know more of God’s truth. He alone could rescue me from the depths of my insecurity, inadequacy, anger, anxiety. I experienced such drastic and lasting change that I often wonder if I ever was the person I remember from my teen years.

Every day, I remain a sinful failure, but I am assured that this has been dealt with on the cross of Christ. By God’s mercy, I have accepted the offer of life to the full, of true joy, of perfect love, magnificent peace, everlasting hope, and future glory. My story continues now, trusting and boasting only in Christ.

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Antonia

Antonia

Antonia is in her second year studying English Literature and Ancient History at Durham University. She was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease a year ago and rejoices at the sight of good, gluten-free food that doesn’t taste like sand. She has had the privilege, and joy of seeing friends come to know and trust Jesus for themselves this year and is astounded at the power of the Gospel for salvation! In her spare time, she annoys her housemates by singing (loudly), or indulges in a good crime drama.

 

 

Faith Played Out: Player’s Patience

This post is packed full of practical tips, solid truths, and lots of grace for us as we practice patience on the sports field, or in the boat! We are delighted to share it and hope it will be a blessing to you. Katrina x

I started rowing at University, in my first year at Leeds. It’s been a blast! The adrenaline rush and the ambiance of regatta day totally make up for the hideously dark, early mornings and the torture of the rowing machine.

Rowing holds challenges for Christians. The greatest one I face personally is staying positive at 8.30 in the morning after an hour and a half on the water. It’s so easy to point the finger at everyone else in the boat and say ‘you’re doing it wrong’, or grumble about others not working as hard as you, whilst kidding yourself into thinking you were rowing like the actual Steve Redgrave the entire way. Every time I catch myself doing this I’m reminded of Jesus challenging the disciples;

Why do look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?… You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
(Luke 6:41-42)

This passage is obviously not talking about rowing, but it can apply to it! I have been challenged lately with what to do when these thoughts creep into my psyche. It’s easy to think, ‘I’m a Christian, so I shouldn’t think these things, therefore I’m going to suppress them and forget all about them’. But this won’t deal with the issue long term. Paul calls us to:

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Ephesians 5:11)

So, I am trying to catch myself when I think ‘she’s not working as hard as me’, and realise what the causes are that lead me to this negative thought pattern.

Often it is pride that I am the best, leading me to resent my crew for letting me down (100% not true). Sometimes it’s stress from uni work that makes me rude and impatient. Other times it’s anxiety that the crew aren’t working hard enough so we’ll do badly at our next race and embarrass ourselves.

Once I’ve done this, I can try to turn it around, and remember the truths about God in the Bible that triumph over these lies: I am not created to row, I am created to be a child of God and show his love to everyone around. My identity is not in my scores, or my grades, or where we come in a race. My identity is in Jesus alone. He died for me, and was raised to life! All I should want for my team is for them to get to know Jesus, and if we have a few awesome races on the way, that’s the cherry on top.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.
(Philippians 2:14-16)

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Hattie

Hatty
Hatty

Hatty studies, in her words, the longest degree course title you’ve ever heard, at Leeds (History, Philosophy of Science, Religious Studies & Theology)! She also rows quite a lot for the University team. She loves sport, food, singing, and Jesus, and is really enjoying sharing these delights with the people God is bringing into her life!

 

A Life That Looked Fine

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“Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’
John 2: 8-9

I have always been afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone, when I was a child that meant roller coasters, as a teenager it was making friends, then at 18 I had to leave home and go to University. I spent that first year terrified of my classes, that I wouldn’t be clever enough. I worried what people would think of me, worried that some terrible disaster would befall me, with the end of my degree looming, like the edge of a cliff:

What was I going to do with my life?

But in my second year, a major shift happened. I had always called myself a Christian but I don’t think I ever really got it, I knew a lot of the right answers but there was no real love in my heart for Jesus.

Through a series of coincidences I found myself with two Christian flat mates. I realised they had something I didn’t, and I didn’t know why but I craved it, so I started going to church again. This God I’d sung about all my life, I finally decided to let him in but once again, fear was my stumbling block. I prayed the only prayer I could think of:

“Father, open my heart.” 

And he did. He undid the patched up scars of my broken heart and poured Love in.

I love the story of Jesus turning water into wine, because that’s exactly what he did with my life. He took a life that looked fine, it was sustainable, but fear had left it colourless and a bit bland – and he enriched it in every possible way with colour and fragrance and light.

I had thought my life nothing extraordinary. I doubted myself, and my value. But when the father’s love broke in I understood how precious my life was to him. He could take old bath water, and turn it into a choice wine, something to be savoured.

Often people look at the Christian faith and think it’s boring, it’s just a list of things you can’t do, but my faith has given me more freedom than anything else.

I know every part of me is known, and yet completely loved.

And I don’t think there is a more basic need that this: to be fully known and fully loved.

So that question, what was I going to do with my life? My answer now seemed simple, I decided to live loved. I decided that I would feel the fear, yet know that God could take my weakness and use it, he would take my brokenness and make it beautiful, just as he had turned water into wine – because that’s what he does, it’s what he’s always done.

“I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full!”
John 10:10

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SRelf

Steph

Steph

Steph is a Master’s student at Durham, studying Culture & Difference. Having spent four years in London she’s excited to keep exploring what community looks like in such beautiful (if small) city like Durham. She loves meeting other students for coffee and is constantly amazed to see Jesus’ transforming power in their lives as well as her own

Rags to Riches: Kingdom Perspective

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With exams looming and work overloading, it is so important to be reminded of Heaven, and the joy of living for more than revision, work, grades, the summer, or the weekend. or Katie encourages us that living with a Kingdom perspective helps us in our daily lives. Take a look at this short video as well! N x

Are you living for the little red bit, or the rest of the rope?

For me this is a no brainer, if life on Earth is only a tiny fraction of eternity, then I want to care more about what happens to me in eternity than in my life on Earth. Therefore my decisions here on Earth are very important and determine the rest of my existence.

Have I turned to Jesus and put my trust in Him? Because if so, we can have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you”. (1 Peter 1:4)

This is our rest of the rope, this is our eternity. However if we don’t trust Jesus and have him at the centre of our lives then this won’t be the rest of our rope, our eternity, instead it will be without God.

However I am forever slipping into the habit of living for the red bit; living for life now rather than living for eternity. I put other things first before God, I care more about what other people think of me than what God does, and quite often the way I spend my time shows this: I’d rather spend my time scrolling through Instagram than reading my Bible, or thinking about that dress from Urban Outfitters than praying.

I’m not for one second saying that Instagram and shops are bad because they are great things we just have to remember that they are worldly things. They are things that won’t come with us when we die but will fade away.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, your heart will be also.”
(Matthew 6:19-21)

Where is your treasure, is it in worldly things or with God?

Our treasure should be in Jesus because He is always there, He will never fade, He is the perfect treasure.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in worldly ways and putting these before God, but we really need to try and put God before anything else. Because we are sinful then this will be hard, we will struggle and won’t manage it all the time but through prayer and listening to God’s word we can get better at it! Therefore it will then help us live for the rest of the rope than the little red bit.

We as Christian girls, living in a society that is opposed to Jesus, will sometimes struggle to live for Him. It might be hard to remember that having our treasure stored up in heaven is so much better than stored up here on earth. It is difficult to imagine eternity, as all we’ve ever known is life today. But the Bible tells us just how worth it it’s going to be.

Living for Christ today won’t be easy, people may laugh at us, or think we are weird and at times may not even want to be our friends. But that’s okay because we have Jesus on our side, who will always be with us. He knows what we are going through.

And if we remember that life on Earth today is only a tiny fraction of our existence, then it surely is worth all the hardship we may face today. So trust in Jesus, read your Bible, pray, and meet up with other Christians who will encourage!

Store up your treasures in Heaven rather than here on Earth, so you can live for eternity and Jesus.

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Katie

Katie

Katie is in her first year at college and lives in a town called Leyland in the north west of England. She loves baking, spending time with friends and most importantly Jesus!

What to Expect from Youth Group

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Anna says…

If you’ve never been to church or youth group and are considering it for the first time, you’re likely to be in for an evening of games, discussion in small groups, reading the Bible together, and maybe some worship music (singing together) or a short talk from one of the youth leaders. This is usually paired with some high-sugar snacks…

The set-up of the evening obviously depends on the size of your church, and the number of young people, but this hopefully is a good starting point!

My advice would be not to give up on youth group after one session, even if it does feel a bit awkward at times and even if you don’t feel like you ‘click’ with the other people there immediately. As with everything, it will get better with time – and it’s a really great discipline to get into, as it will grow your faith and build you up to know God better.

Beth says…

Youth group is different in every church, but my advice would be to approach it with an open mind – i.e. don’t panic if it seems difficult or awkward at the start! They normally do!

It honestly is such a privilege to meet up with other Christians who are your age, and to learn how to support them in the struggles they’re facing (and for them to support you too). It usually turns out that they become some of your closest and most faithful friends as a result.

One last piece of advice is not to get too distracted by the boys at youth group! It’s OK to be interested in boys and definitely great to be friends, have fun and to hang out – but I would encourage you to treat Youth Group as a place where you primarily want to mature in your faith. So – concentrate on developing godly and rooted friendships that genuinely build you up – and if it happens that you meet a boy who loves Jesus more than he loves you, that’s a great thing too!

Hannie says…

The first youth group I attended was difficult. I was an odd combination of obnoxious confidence and fragile insecurity – always a dangerous cocktail. In turn, the girls in my group were also outwardly confident and inwardly insecure. This led to many years of in-fighting, sniping and figuring out our broken humanity at the expense of those around us.

A little emotionally spent from my early experience, I changed churches and youth groups when I was 13 years old, where I experienced the very best of youth group. With a few more years to add to our maturity, my experience in this group was a place of total sanctity and safety. I had a lovely group of friends who were beautifully honest in their walk of faith, and youth leaders who were among my favourite people in the world. It was a safe place to ask the tricky questions, mature in my faith with God, and wrestle with a really difficult stage of life. Years later, I am still in touch with many of the girls in the group, marrying the first boy I spoke to, and now godmother to the beautiful baby girl of my old youth leaders.

So what can you expect from youth group? Well in many ways, the same you expect from any other friendship group. It’s a group of peers who are equally struggling through life, desperately trying not to make too many mistakes along the way. You should never expect miracles from the people around you, simply because they call themselves Christians – as always, we remain weak and human, and highly dependable upon the Grace of God.

Equally, if you’re so blessed, you can also expect some of your closest friends and deepest relationships. Youth Group by nature forces conversations that are at a much more intimate level than most other environments. It’s a great opportunity to grow, develop and share your faith with a group of peers who are also wandering down the same path.

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Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)

 

A Healthy Scepticism

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I don’t like using the word sceptical. It gets thrown into conversation whenever anybody shows an ounce of hesitation towards something, or pauses a moment to think before acting. Sometimes it’s not a fair way to describe somebody. And mostly, I don’t like using the word sceptical because it always seems to come out as “spectacle”…

sceptical
ˈskɛptɪk(ə)l/
adjective
not easily convinced; having doubts or reservations.
dubious, doubtful, having reservations, taking something with a pinch of salt, doubting, questioning
”

I like to know exactly what a word means before I use it. It’s why recently I’ve been careful about the words I use in my usual, sarcastic, teasing way. I am training myself to not use certain words that I have since learnt bear really unpleasant connotations. But the word sceptical surprises me, and not just because I can’t say it! It is so often seen as something bad, but actually it’s part of the human condition.

Embracing my sceptical side gives me the yearning to learn more about God. By admitting I have doubts and questions, I can focus prayerfully on bits of Christianity that I am totally bamboozled by.

God is mysterious – lovingly so, but nonetheless mysterious – so we can never know everything. However, if we become comfortable with what we do know, we risk losing the passion to grow. I want to know and feel and love God more intimately and passionately and fiercely than I did yesterday.

So next time you meet a sceptical friend, instead of seeing it as impossible, help them address the doubts. You may find your own along the way but that’s okay – keep pressing in to God because he is the best teacher you will ever have. 

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Sarah

Sarah

I’m Sarah, I’m 22 and a second year Psychology and Counselling student at Northampton. I’m originally from Oxfordshire and love going home (mostly because of my Mum’s insanely good cooking). Some of my favourite things are cups of tea with my best friends, long walks in the sunshine, and being with my enormous (and ever-expanding) family.

Pentecost: A Brave New Mission

Today we’re celebrating Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus’s first followers, empowering them for the mission of spreading the gospel to all the nations! Some say this is the birthday of the church, and it’s certainly an extravagant and extraordinary event for us to remember and be inspired by, even two thousand years later.

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In case you’ve never quite understood Pentecost, do read the whole passage in the Bible – you can find it in Acts. It’s absolutely worth studying in more depth than we can touch on in today’s post. Let’s set the scene:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
(Acts 2:1-4)

Wow! Can you imagine being there? I love how extravagant and rich the scene is – the flames, the wind, the tongues, the languages, the absolute chaos and holiness and the tangible presence of God in all His power and His greatness. There is SO much I could write at this point, but I just want to touch on the two things that have most powerfully spoken to me.

1. God dwells in US!

John 14:17 tells us that God has given us the Holy Spirit to “dwell with [us] and be in [us]”. To ‘dwell’ means to settle permanently in a place or setting, to make your home there. This is mind-blowing! Thanks to Jesus’s resurrection, we are cleansed from our sin, and changed to the point that GOD can dwell in us.

It’s not described as a temporary fix. God intends to dwell with us, to be in ongoing relationship with us, and excitingly – He intends for His Spirit to transform our hearts and be at work in our lives!

This is amazing news for a society like ours, where everybody craves so deeply to be connected all the time. I think that’s why we are so addicted to our phones and screens. We want our minds to always be entertained and not ‘bored’.

We all want to be with something or somebody that fulfils us – but so often we look for this in the wrong places: investing all our time in boyfriends that we think are cool and good-looking, placing our worth in how popular we are at school, wishing we had more followers on Instagram, or more money for better clothes and make-up.

But guess what – the gap was always meant to be filled by God. We were created to do life with God, to walk alongside Him, to praise Him, to worship Him. And with the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us – this is a reality for us! We are made new by the amazing sacrifice of Jesus. We have constant access to our Father. What a privilege – what a God!

 

2. Our brave new mission

So, Pentecost means that we can be confident that God’s Spirit is dwelling in us. But what is our purpose, as we strive to be more like Jesus in our lives here on earth?

In Exodus 23:16, Pentecost is referred to as ‘a feast of harvest’. This is a beautiful picture – the Holy Spirit poured out to ‘harvest’ those 3000 people for God’s glory. These people were given an extremely important mission: the mission of spreading the news of the gospel across the world.

This is our same mission today: to evangelise the nations, and to introduce our friends to the God we know to be faithful and true. The Spirit is not only transforming our hearts, but gives us POWER to be bold, distinctive and outrageously loving to a world that desperately needs to know God’s saving grace too.

Tim Chester says this:

“We’re not given a task that matches our powers. We’re given power (the Spirit) that matches our task (winning the nations).”

All too often we fall into the trap of putting God in a ‘box’. Limiting God to our own powers, our own expectations. One thing to take away from the amazing, rich and crazy story of Pentecost is that God works in ways that are above and beyond our understanding. And most incredibly of all – this SAME POWER now lives in us.

So, never underestimate the power of the Spirit at work in your heart. Never doubt that God will give you the power you need, to do the work He intends you to do: whether this is being bold in speaking to girls at school about Jesus, volunteering with the homeless, sitting with the unpopular people at lunchtime, going out of your comfort zone to lead a prayer meeting or making a change in your behaviour. God is with you! He will make you brave!

God’s Spirit is dwelling with us, transforming us, and giving us POWER instead of fear.

Let’s go!

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Lucy

Lucy

Having graduated in June 2015, Lucy is adjusting to graduate life after three amazing years in the city of Durham. She feels very fortunate to be working in Marketing for a great company in Cambridge, whilst still working part-time overseeing and developing More Precious. Lucy is getting married next month!

Rags to Riches: Be Present

This week’s post challenges us to think about how we compromise the present, because we prioritise the future. Natalie takes us through the importance of being present in your situation, not neglecting what’s right in front of you. This is a huge challenge for most of us, and I encourage you to mull it over this next week. We absolutely LOVE this one! N x

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Be present.

Just imagine, for a moment, that where you are right now is exactly where God wants you.

I wonder, if we looked back at our life so far, how much of it has been spent waiting for something to come… For the end of a lecture, the start of lunch, the weekend, an exam-free summer, the perfect job, your first house, an amazing husband.

You name it, we’ve waited.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with those things, don’t get me wrong. A plate of chips is the greatest motivation to sit through a boring lecture. I also love praying about the future and getting excited for those dreams that God has put in my heart, and he delights in that process too.

But… If I’m not careful, I can find that my dreams for the future become the very things that steal away at the present.

Be present.

Be engaged.

Right now.

1. Be present in the moment

I broke my phone a little while ago. It was weirdly refreshing going ‘old-school’ on life for a few weeks. I learned to turn up at the arranged time for coffee (a miracle in itself), and I learned to embrace the silence of being alone with no gadget to entertain me. I learned to hang out with friends without checking Snapchat, and I learned to eat lunch without posting a less-than-average photo to Instagram.

I began to notice how often I compromise real connection. How this little gadget has become the source of my entertainment, boredom and procrastination. I frequently disengage myself from a conversation, often with good intentions, to quickly reply to a text, or ‘check’ something crucial. I may justify it to myself, but in that moment of compromise, I downplay the value I hold in the people around me.

Now, I’m all about making the most of time… for example, ringing my Nan on the walk to college – great. But I’ve become more aware how I was ‘being present’, but not really present. We’re in conversation, but not fully engaged.

It might not even be our phone; perhaps we’re looking for a more interesting conversation, or thinking about the work we’ve got to do, or just simply zoning out. Whatever it is, I think we have a real challenge to be present in the moment. In the here and now. To be disciplined, and radical, about the way that we engage in conversation. In the small moments of life. To listen through a whole lecture. To watch a film without touching our phones. To walk home (occasionally) without music in.

To be present in each and every moment.

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2. Be present in the day

I remember being 15 and seeing my siblings heading off to University, and thinking ‘I cannot wait until that’s me.’ It’s exciting to talk about what’s going to happen next, about what job we want when we’re older. I want to invite God to stir passions in me now, so that I’m ready to engage in what he’s got for me in the future. But, I’ve realized how easy it can be to focus on the ‘what’s next’ and forget about the ‘now.’

Where I am, right now, is where God has called me.

I’m not even talking about next year or next month, but right now. I never want to be so focused on the future that I miss out on what God is up to today. I’m dreaming with God about some exciting things for my ‘what’s next,’ and I can’t wait. But, do you know what would be a real shame? If I compromised my 3 years at University because I was so fixed on that next step.

It’s so easy to think that our future dreams are going to complete or fulfil us. FYI – they’re not! I’m fulfilled right now by Jesus. No matter what I have, or don’t have, I am complete because He loves me. No man, no position, no dream will make my life any more valuable.

Lets embrace this precious time by chasing God wholeheartedly and being obedient to him, as he teaches and leads us in whatever way he wishes. Lets not wallow over what we don’t have, or who we don’t have. Lets stand together as girls who know who they are & what they carry; whose trust & identity rests confidently in the Father’s perfect timing, and who live out of that incredible freedom.

I want to dream about the future, but not at the cost of the now.

It blows my mind that Jesus knows the span of time, yet he always chose to be present in the moment. Present with those who interrupted his path, present with his disciples, even knowing that one would betray him and another disown him. His focus was consistently being present in the place he was, and with the people he was with; whilst remaining Kingdom-inclined.

I don’t want to see today as simply waiting for something better tomorrow. Because right now, I have it all, I have all that I need. And it’s from that place of freedom that we stop chasing after something we don’t have, or striving for more, or comparing ourselves to a greater ideal, and we live fully in the moment.

Let’s be present. Let’s be engaged.

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Nat Nash Bio pic

Natalie

Natalie

A Southern lady at heart, Natalie Nash is in her first year of studying Theology at Durham University. She is a keen athlete, and Vice-Captain of the University Water Polo team. She also has a love for well-brewed coffee, refining her barista skills during her exciting gap year in Ireland. This lady is exceptionally wise and has a passionate heart for leading people to Jesus, and we expect to be hearing, reading, and seeing much more of her in the years to come.

 

Peace in the Eye of the Hurricane

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When I’m diligent enough to wake up in time, I love beginning my mornings with a devotional from a truly amazing lady called Corrie Ten Boom, who I’ve written about before as one of my all-time heroes. One little sentence of hers has been a big help to me in my own walk with God these last few weeks. It says this:

In the centre of a hurricane there is absolute peace and quiet.
There is no safer place than in the centre of the will of God.

Corrie Ten Boom

I just love that thought: that in the centre of a hurricane there is absolute peace.

First thing on a Monday morning, the week ahead often feels like a bit of a hurricane, with commitments and deadlines and worries and unknowns swirling around. And yet how amazing to know that we can always return to the absolute peace that is at the centre of it all: our Father God.

Philippians 4:7 says that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

This idea of God’s peace guarding my heart and mind has really changed my perspective on how important it is to spend time in His presence. Instead of squeezing in a guilt-tripped prayer before I head to sleep, I’m learning to fiercely prioritise set-apart time with God, because His peace both calms my heart in the hurricane, and guards it from the damaging storms of this life.

The more time I spend with God, and the more I receive His peace, I realise that I need it to face the day. I’m realising that nothing and nobody else can look after my heart like He does!

What a privilege that even in the storms of life, we have constant access to the peace and everlasting love of God, who is at the centre holding all things together.

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Lucy

Lucy

Having graduated in June 2015, Lucy is adjusting to graduate life after three amazing years in the city of Durham. She feels very fortunate to be working in Marketing for a great company in Cambridge, whilst still working part-time overseeing and developing More Precious. Lucy recently got engaged and will be married in 2016!

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