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Love one another

This family is big, proper big.  It's next door, it's on the street opposite, in the office next door, in the town and village just down the road, in fact, it's all over the place.  The church is mega.  

Next week I'll get to travel with two friends, one from The Oak and one from another church, to see a bunch of brothers and sister in another country.  We'll pray together, prophesy over each other, laugh and cry together, teach and train one another, share stories and struggle through the joy of language challenges together. 

But why?  Why do it?

Because we aren't an organisation or a company, a business or a social enterprise.  We are a family.  And a family stands by each other, cheering each other on, giving it's all for each other.  

That stands for the family global and the family local.

I love our local family, The Oak.  The people are just astounding, just astounding!

I love our kids and youth workers and their passion and skill.  I love our worship leaders and their devotion.  I love our hosting teams, connect lunch teams, coffee & chaos teams and every other team in the church giving of themselves for the family business - to join God's mission to see the world transformed through Jesus' power to change lives!  

The church isn't about styles, models and ways of doing things.  It has no perfect method or defined way of doing things - it has people, different people, laying down their own ways of doing things for the joy of being family together.  A family gathered around Jesus.  A family transformed by Jesus.  A family cheering on those around them, taking joy from seeing people thrive, and doing the simple things well - loving one another.

Jesus said that the world would know we were His by how we love one another (John 13:35).  That's the church, right there, in all her beauty.

Today, I take joy in being in God's family surrounded by people who, despite my weirdnesses love me, love each other and love God.  

Take a moment to be thankful today, you are richer than you think!

Chris Mason
2nd December 2018

Love one another

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Pick-a-treat - Subverting halloween

“Mum, will I ever be allowed to go ‘Trick or Treating’ on Halloween?” This was the whiny refrain I had heard from the youngest of our two children for a few Octobers now; a familiar request heard in many a family, I’m sure. Why not, though? Is it so bad to let your child join in all the fun, the dressing up and the FREE SWEETS..? I know my boy is certain that this should not be an issue, and in his head it’s ME that is the evil one, being so strict and mean.

Since our son was 2, when I made a full commitment to following God, I have had to revisit my responses to some seemingly harmless cultural norms. Halloween and the ever-popular trend of ‘Trick or Treating’ has been one of these quandaries. I know my child has no intention to do harm, or be cheeky or rude to people; all he cares about is being able to join in. I know that he loves to dress up, and that he has a yearning fascination with what the experience of trooping round our neighbourhood in the dark, with countless other kiddies and their parents, would be like. The trouble is, I don’t feel right ‘celebrating’ something which is rooted in darkness, and mischief. Halloween and all it really stands for, just doesn’t sit right with any of the values God has placed on my heart, or what is written in the bible. And even if it’s just going round to a few friends houses and chiming ‘Trick or Treat’ to them - somehow it seems like begging; I don’t want to be any part of it.

This year though, I had a little moment of inspiration: what about if we were to take treats to our neighbours instead? This germ of an idea took root. I mulled it over a while, and made an offer to our boy:

“I will take you ‘Trick or Treating’ on 2 conditions: 1) that you let me dress up in a costume of my choosing, and 2) that we take treats and give them out.”

It took him all of 2 seconds to ponder this before responding with a resounding “Yes!”, and he scarpered off to resurrect his self-made costume, leaving me with the task of putting together a costume that could be as light giving as possible and gathering some loot to hand out to Farsley folk.

On the evening of October 31st, Luca and I trooped off in our somewhat contrasting costumes, he with his empty sweet bucket, and me with my overflowing bags of treats, (each one with a #tsunamioflove token stashed inside). I had briefed him on what we would do: only knocking on doors of people we actually know; he could choose the route; I would deliver packages of treats to houses without knocking on doors too. He was up for that, and under his (rather grotesque mask) was grinning happily.

The neighbours and friends who we called on were very pleased to see us- all of them commented on our costumes (the brightly lit umbrella was a hit!) and universally people were astonished when he said “Happy Halloween” quickly followed by my “Pick a treat” as I thrust the bucket of goodies towards them. “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!”, “Oh that’s a nice change”, and “That’s different, how lovely?!”, were some of the comments made. We managed to spread the message of ‘giving and sharing’ to a few other folk, who had their doors wide open ready to receive the troops of ghoulishly dressed children; my boy being delighted at how his bucket was being filled as I emptied mine out.

Every so often there were times when there was just the two of us, walking side by side, and the doorways we walked past were firmly shut, lights off. I asked Luca to choose houses to post treat bags through, and as I squeezed them into the letter boxes I felt prompted to pray a quick silent prayer for the people of that home: that they would somehow feel loved and noticed, and not afraid.

As we walked between houses and streets Luca remarked that he felt “So happy, this is the best EVER” and I took the opportunity to share with him what occurred to me: That it was interesting that as we are blessing others by giving freely, that in turn we are also blessed - not just by the physical candy rewards - but in the good feelings that get stored up inside. It’s a simple message and I’m not sure exactly how biblical that part is, but I’m certain that by being a ‘Light in a dark place’, by doing something unexpectedly kind, and literally showing love to our neighbours, those are most definitely things Jesus called us to do whilst being in the world.

““Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:14-16

4th November 2018

Pick-a-treat - Subverting halloween

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Anger - Part 3/3

Last week I wrote about how God’s best for us is to trust Him to deal with all our anger, even when it feels righteous, and to repent of anger towards others and towards ourselves.

This week I want to share the lessons God has taught me about His anger, and the best antidotes to anger.

6. Does God really feel anger?

Next, I learnt about God’s anger in Numbers 11. I struggled with this passage most, because of the concept of God being angry like me, and perhaps acting out of rage, like me. How could God be exhibiting righteous and perfect anger in this situation?

Numbers 11:1 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down.

I feel scared of God when I read these verses. What is stopping Him from striking me down with fire when I (frequently) complain? How can I love God who kills when He is angry? I had to read around this a lot before I gained some understanding of what was happening through God’s eyes.

The people complained because they did not understand why God was leading them through a desert. They did not personally possess the spirit of God, which brings patience and faith, as this took place before Pentecost. The Israelites had entered into a covenant with God at Mount Sinai, and now God was travelling ‘with them’. But their responsibilities had grown along with this privilege, and their complaining spirit was a disappointment to God, and broke the covenant. Their complaining was unreasonable and ungrateful to God.

As they had broken the covenant, God’s anger and fire was perfectly righteous.

God isn’t angry like me, God exhibits perfect and truly righteous anger. My anger is complicated by my sinful nature.

7. Jesus protects us from God’s righteous anger

The phrase “Fear the Lord” had always worried me. Especially when I read passages like this from Psalm 2

Psalm 2:11 Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. 

But God revealed to me again that “Fear the Lord” is referring to His righteous anger, and this passage also revealed that Jesus’ sacrifice protects us from God’s righteous anger. I don’t need to be scared of God’s anger when I accept the sacrifice of Jesus. God sent Jesus through his mercy, because He wants to forgive us.


Antidotes to anger

Psalm 77  When I was in distress, I sought the Lord….Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord…. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. 

Many of the psalms teach us that we might feel angry or sad about things that have happened, but when we remember God’s love for us in the past, and are thankful and praise Him for the good around us, our negative emotions start to change into joy.

I learnt that the best antidote to anger is thankfulness and praise. This brings us to see God’s love for us in a situation and leads us to repentance.

I have still been angry at times since last year. But I have also been much quicker to turn to God when I feel anger, and this has led to a calmer me, causing less pain to those around me through my anger. Thank you for reading these blogs, and I pray God has revealed more of himself as you have read.

Rachel Holt
2nd October 2018

Anger - Part 3/3

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