Being Human – Mark 2:23-28

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord, even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)

What does it mean to be human?  What is humanity meant to look like?  When Jesus calls himself ‘Son of Man’ – which was his preferred way of referring to himself – he was not merely adopting a convenient title; he was in effect saying “I am the model of what it means to be human; I am how Adam and his descendants were meant to be, to speak, to act, to live.  I am the archetypal human as God intended.”  And he was deliberately echoing Daniel 7, where ‘one like a son of man’ (i.e. a human being) was given complete authority and glory, and a kingdom that would never pass away.

Jesus is not merely the perfect expression of who God is (which we have seen repeatedly) but he is also the perfect expression of what humans are meant be…and what, as re-born and resurrected men & women, we are destined to be.  His glory & authority he intends to share with us, restoring us to the role for which we were created in the beginning.

And during this ‘in-between age’ we are being shaped to fit that future high calling (for nothing corrupt can be carried into the age to come).  We are called & empowered to live in the here-and-now in a way that is consistent with that new humanity which is our future destiny.

Which may all sound wonderful, but rather detached from the nitty-gritty of our normal lives, where daily we struggle to cope with scores of situations – and scores of people – that we find so hard.  Yet that is precisely the point; how else will we grow in grace except through circumstances that require grace.; how will be learn patience if not through situations where great patience is called for; how will be develop our capacity to forgive (as we ourselves have been forgiven) without being confronted by scenarios where forgiveness is deeply needed.

Each day the Spirit seeks to walk us through encounters that he can use to teach us, and develop us to be ‘truly human’.  Let’s not try to skip lessons.

Ministry Update – Hope for Kids

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Happy New Year? Thousands of Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon are yet again having to endure freezing conditions in ‘homes’ made of tattered plastic sheeting damaged by the heavy falls of snow, while electrical  power cuts and low supplies of food add to the misery. Let us pray that relief and help comes soon to those most vulnerable, the elderly and the children.

A religious expert asked Jesus which the most important commandment in the law of Moses was. Jesus told him, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40, New Living Translation.

Loving God AND loving our neighbour. Jesus was harsh on the religious leaders of his day for being super-religious and missing out on the ‘loving your neighbour’ bit. They’re equally important, says our King. Inseparable.   

Permit me to define loving God as ‘worship’.

And loving my neighbour – really loving and wanting the best for them despite all barriers and objections – let me call that ‘mission’. Mission is caring enough to help a struggling family in Yeovil. Mission is loving enough to feed, clothe, care for, educate and share eternal hope with a Syrian refugee or a Zambian orphan. Mission is taking in an abused twelve year old girl in Guatemala and assuring her that her baby won’t be taken away when she gives birth.

In one of Bishop Tom Wright’s books, he likens worship and mission to ‘conjoined twins’, both sharing one heart – a heart of love. With that imagery, I understand why Jesus made the two commandments equally important. Stopping the flow of lifeblood/love to one ‘child’ impacts the other; ultimately, both twins will die.

I find it a challenge, however, to always get the twins balanced. I usually find myself focusing on one at the expense of the other. Lopsided faith.

James 1 v27: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”  

It sounds a bit similar: Caring for the vulnerable – and single heartedness before God; Mission and Worship.

2015 was an encouraging year for Hope for Kids International, with various indicators making it apparent that God is not only with us but leading us on. So, in 2016, we are being intentional in seeking God for growth and investing in the future.

Our heart is to see: a big increase in the impact that our global partners have in the lives of the poorest; God releasing the floodgates of material blessing from supporters in the UK – and a deepening relationship between God’s people here and our brothers and sisters in the developing world, so that we can learn from each other as we walk together. ‘Go and learn’ teams are a great way to start that journey! Get in touch if you want to know more.

God calls us to responsibly seek a growth in the capability of the charity – the right additional staff, wise engagement with volunteers, careful planning and stewarding of our resources – but being open to the surprises that God loves to bring our way.

We are intentional at seeking God’s will for the organisation. Together with the charity’s board of trustees, we take pains to refuse to let the world corrupt us as an organisation, and as individuals we seek the same standpoint. It can be hard.

So please pray for us. Pray that, as we grow, God leads us – to the right staff, the right office space to accommodate us, the right people, churches and other organisations to share our work with.

We are so thankful to those who responded to the appeal to help out with provision of food for children in the Kids Alive Zambia projects. Zambia’s economy has deteriorated further – the government there desperately needs our prayers for wisdom to move them away from even further danger.

We’re also really grateful for volunteers that have shared some of the load. There are still things we need some help on: adding data to a database; someone to create informative communication pieces for facebook, twitter and our website. Get in touch if you would like to help! Thank you.

Roger Allen

Director, Hope for Kids International

Ministry Update – Yeovil4Family

At Yeovil4Family we are looking back on 2015 with thankful hearts as we remind ourselves of all that God has done.  His very nature is faithfulness. Choosing thanksgiving reminds us of what God has done in the past and gives us confidence and hope as we face new situations that are unresolved.

So; we say thank you for…

  • A SMOOTH TRANSITION as we ended our contract with South Somerset District Council and began working on our own again.  We are continuing to receive referrals from all over South Somerset as organisations and agencies, that have seen the value and impact of our work, seek our input.
  • TRANSFORMATION IN MANY FAMILIES LIVES.  We continue to see families making positive steps forwards.

One of our Mentors recently spoke about having visited an old family they used to work with just before Christmas.  They were so encouraged by the family’s joyful response to their turning up on the doorstep; the husband called his wife who was out and about, to come back home and see who had come to visit.  This family had had various difficulties when Y4F began working with them and the Mentor had walked alongside them through various difficulties.  Things, as with all of us, were not perfect now, but they were doing well and spoke about how much of a difference the support they had received had made to their lives.

One of our Link Workers reported having recently bumped into a lady from a family she had historically worked with.  The Lady greeted the Link worker from the reception of the restaurant she was having dinner at.  The fact that this person had taken on employment and was obviously taking pride in her appearance again was a huge encouragement to the Link worker as life was very complicated and troubled when Y4F became involved with this family. Five children, one son with   major anger issues, bad health, housing issues and Debts. Employment had seemed a million miles away.  

During this brief, unexpected encounter, there was a glimpse that hope and transformation were at work.

For all this, we say thank you.

  • A CENTRE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AWARD AND AN INSPIRE AWARD RUNNER UP

We were delighted to be nominated and then win one of 2015’s 8 Centre for Social Justice Awards.

The Centre for Social Justice is an independent think-tank, established to put social Justice at the heart of British politics.  They believe that the surest way to reverse social breakdown—and the poverty it creates -is to build resilience within individuals, families and the organisations that work with them.  The CSJ awards are to celebrate some of these innovative organisations.

Liz Earle from the charity ‘Live Twice’, our sponsoring organisation, presented the award.  It was such a fantastic experience for us to go to London as a team and celebrate together.

We were also really pleased to be awarded Runner-up in the Inspiring Project category from Evangelical Alliances ‘Inspire Awards 2015’.  Rachel and Adam Dyer travelled to London to accept the award.

All these things are a testimony to God’s unending goodness and faithfulness and so we look forward to 2016 with expectancy and with faith that we will see Him do great things amongst us!

Ministry Update – The Lord’s Larder

Through December alone we were able to help 303 adults and 217 children with emergency parcels, along side giving our Christmas Parcels to help make Christmas a little bit better for another 777 people in our local community. This gave us a total of 1297 local people helped with food in December 2015, thank you for help making this possible, we know from feedback from agencies that everyone who receives a food parcel from the Lord’s Larder is truly grateful for this service.

My thanks to everyone who supports the Lord’s Larder, without you we would not be able to help so many people; and may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year.

Grace – Millie Chant

The concept of God’s grace is one that I think people assume they understand, but often don’t. If you grow up in a Christian family like I did you hear about it from a very young age, are taught it is a gift that we don’t deserve and we should be thankful. But there comes a point where we have to address what it really means to have God’s grace, where we realise that it is not a simple fact but a monumental display of love. It’s not something we are owed or are entitled to, in fact quite the opposite, but the magnitude of God’s love is so huge that he gives it to us anyway.

This moment came for me at a youth group camp when I was 15. We had spent the evening in silence, working our way around several stations designed to seem like the routines and behaviours maintained by a Jew before the crucifixion. These were hard hitting, inviting us to examine our hearts and minds in such a way that it was very difficult to maintain the excitement and hype of the first night at camp. We read parts of Leviticus where it describes various laws and rules that were to be abided by at the time. The sheer volume of these rules, routines and laws was astounding to us, it was not something that had been described or explained to us before.

We were then given a talk on grace, and this is when it really sunk in for me. Jesus died so that we would not have the same separation. We didn’t have to keep so many rules of cleanliness or make sacrifices of animals; Jesus had paid the price for us. He died to remove these barriers and give us access to God. We can speak to him at any time; we can encounter his presence without going to a temple. For Jews before the crucifixion God was always at arm’s length, but we have the incredible privilege of him being with us always.

Wow. When you put it simply like that its incredible isn’t it? The grace of God allows us to be in close relationship with him. We are broken, we are sinful, and we should be kept as far away from God in his complete perfection as possible. But despite our sin and our brokenness, God is desperate to be in a deeply intimate and personal relationship with us. And he brought himself to our level, made himself a man, allowed us to kill him in the most brutal way imaginable, in order to do this.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

As a child this wasn’t something I understood. Yes, Jesus died for me and took on my sins, paid the ultimate price as a display of God’s love to me. Standard Sunday school knowledge right? Every child who attends church is told the same thing. But it had no impact on me whatsoever. It was presented as a fact of life, something that everyone knows and accepts. We can carry that knowledge and continue with life as we please. I became a Christian still holding this view. I wonder if I had truly realised what grace is, I might have found my early teenage years a little easier. The more I learnt about what it really was to be a Christian and about the sacrifice that was made for me, the harder I found it to try and be in relationship with God. I wasn’t worthy of his love, I wasn’t good enough to be close to him. I spent a great deal of time running from who God is with the misconception that he couldn’t possibly want me, feeling guilt and shame any time I attended church with my parents.

What I should have realised is that God accepts me as I am. That is what grace is. God loves me with all my flaws, failures, and feelings of not being good enough. He made me as I am, knows the things I have done and the things I am yet to do. He loves me and is proud of the person I am, warts and all.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

The best thing is, God doesn’t just accept our flaws and failures, and He forgives them. He took them all on at the cross. Before we were ever born, before our parents were born, when we were simply an idea in God’s head of a person to be created in thousands of years’ time, He loved us and paid for us. Isn’t that amazing? The enormity of that stops me in my tracks every time.  God’s love is so huge that he can love everyone who has ever been, everyone who will ever be and everyone who exists now, billions upon billions of people and he loves then wholly and completely with everything He has.  And we are forgiven.

The knowledge of that grace now inspires me rather than shames me. I have the opportunity to make mistakes and mess up, and fall no further in Gods eyes. There is nothing I can do to make him love me less or love me more than he already does. His love in never failing, all consuming, and covers every aspect of who I am.  It inspires me to strive to be the best person I can be, to fulfil all of my potential in him, because I can.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2:4-9

 

Millie is a part of the Create team, passionate about writing and loves Tea (but if you make her a brew, make sure you leave the tea bag in!).