How To Read the Bible part 6 – early Christians

I finished off part 5 by saying that the arrival of Jesus and the birth of the early church marked a radical change in how the Bible would come to be read and understood. What had started as a collection of origin stories, poems, laws and records of God’s dealings with a tiny agricultural ancient people group had developed as the priests, rabbis and interpreters unpacked the ‘sense’ of the texts. Now it would take on new meaning again as the early church began to look back in search for prophetic relevance, and forward to add new writings to what would eventually become the New Testament.

brown book page
Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

The New Testament itself emerged quite a long time after the life of Jesus and wasn’t written in the order we read it. The church developed and grew initially around people telling and retelling the stories about Jesus, before later on parts of His life were documented and the beliefs and practices of the early church were formalised in the letters and teachings we find in the Bible.

In ‘Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books were Written’, Marcus Borg explains a bit about the basic structure of the New Testament:

  • ‘The earliest documents are seven of the thirteen letters attributed to Paul. There is universal agreement that these seven were written by Paul in the 50’s. They are earlier than the gospels.
  • The first gospel is Mark, written around the year 70. Matthew and Luke both used Mark when they later wrote their own gospels.
  • Revelation (probably from the 90’s) is not the last book of the New Testament to be written.
  • Second Peter is almost certainly the latest, from near the middle of the second century.’

He explains that recognising the order the books were written can help us have a window into the world of early Christian communities, and how their understanding of who Jesus was and how that impacts Christian living developed over time. He makes a thought-provoking note too, that ‘the process, however, is not intrinsically about improvement. Later does not always mean better. Rather… some of the later documents in the New Testament reflect a domestication of the radicalism of Jesus and early communities of his followers’.

The books of the New Testament emerged from a context of shifting powers and influences. I’ve picked a couple to have a look at, to help us see into that world of the early church: Jewish, Greek and Roman.

building architecture church old
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Firstly, you can’t read the writings of the first Christians without appreciating their Jewish-ness too. Writers like Peter, Paul, Matthew and John had grown up emerged in a culture that approached the Bible with those four assumptions I described in part 4. Around that time a Jewish community in Alexandria was also creating waves in the way they read the Bible. They were a Greek speaking community and were reading the Torah translated into Greek. As they brought their Jewish and Greek mindsets and cultures together, a new way of looking at stories in the Bible came out.

To the ancient Greeks, there was no greater example of literature than the writings of Homer. The problem was, when teaching it to their kids, they felt there were some problems with the sex, violence and awkward questions the text raised. So, they introduced the idea of allegory: that the things written in the text actually all represented something else. The Alexandrian Jews found that this was a great tool to help them tackle some of the tough material in the Bible. What if those things actually represented something else? That way, long and detailed passages about ancient farming practices now left behind could well be a kind of image to tell us how, like farmers, we ought to tend the ground of our heart, pulling out the weeds of sin, tending the shoots of faith and producing good fruit, as the writer Stromateis put it.

close up photo of wheats on field
Photo by julie aagaard on Pexels.com

For early Christians this became the way to look back to the Old Testament. Reading this way, they found clues, or types, foreshadowing Christ woven into every prophecy, story and even in the law. The story of Abraham and Isaac that we looked at in part 5 became a ‘divine prediction of the crucifixion hidden in ancient Scripture’ – Kugel writes, ‘after all, if Jesus was the son of God, then God must have known that His beloved son would be killed and yet did not intervene to spare him, just as Abraham had accepted that his son be killed and did not withhold him… a sacrifice of the “Lamb of God” to expiate sin once and for all… Moreover, Isaac, as he proceeded to the designated place, carried the wood for the sacrifice (Gen 22:6), just as Jesus was reported to have carried his own cross (John 19:17). Even the ram that Abraham eventually sacrificed in place of Isaac reminded interpreters of the crucifixion: Abraham had been able to sacrifice the ram because it was “caught in a [thorny] thicket by its horns” (Gen 22:12), whereas Jesus had been mocked with a crown of thorns before he died.’

This typological way of reading the Bible has had a massive influence on the writers of the New Testament, and on to how we approach scripture today. It began as a way to explain passages that the readers couldn’t identify with –they described God in a way that they didn’t feel comfortable with, or the passages no longer seemed relevant to them, and they were searching for a deeper truth that would somehow make the story of Abraham become a story about them. Were they twisting the stories to put their own meaning there, or simply revealing what had been there all along? The site Biblical Training (set up by J.I. Packer as a free online Bible School) describes that ‘it was not (…) until the time of the Reformation that the allegorical method was seriously challenged; reformed theologians generally rejected it, subscribing instead to the principle “do not carry a meaning into but draw it out (of Scriptures)”’.

But the fact is, it’s not that simple: you can’t ignore allegory and typological reading of the Bible, because that is the way the writers of the New Testament approached it themselves. If they were divinely inspired to write the New Testament, then surely, they can’t be all wrong in the way they read the Torah and applied it in the letters and gospels. In fact, Jesus is even quoted as taking parts of prophecies from the Old Testament and applying them to himself (Luke 4/Isaiah 61 for example). If it was OK for him, perhaps it’s OK for us.

ancient architecture arena buildings
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The final cultural influence on scripture I wanted to look at is the Roman culture. A big part of the Roman system of domination was to use religion to justify and explain its legitimacy as an empire. Around the time of Jesus, a major power struggle was going on. Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, then Mark Anthony and his rival Octavian had a massive civil war to decide who would take over from him. In 31 BC Octavian defeated Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, and in celebration changed his name to “Augustus”, which means “he who is to be worshiped and revered”. Marcus Borg describes how he went on to promote himself: ‘he was heralded not only as “Augustus”, but also a “Son of God” and “Lord”. He was called the “saviour of the world” who had brought “peace on earth” by ending the civil war that was tearing the empire apart. His birth was the beginning of the “gospel”, the “good news” … stories were even told about his divine conception: he was the son of the god Apollo… the gods had chosen Rome to rule the world’.

If you’re familiar with the language of the New Testament, it’s not hard to see how the context of Rome’s claims became the starting point for the writings of the gospels and letters in the New Testament. They ‘use the language of imperial theology but apply it to Jesus. Jesus is the “Son of God” – the emperor is not… Jesus is the “Saviour” who brings “peace on earth” – the emperor is not.’ Borg continues, ‘The contrast is not just a matter of language. The contrast is also about two different visions of how the world should be. The world of the domination system is a world of political oppression, economic exploitation, and chronic violence. The alternative is a world in which everyone has enough, and no one needs to be afraid… the heart, as the gospels proclaim, of Jesus’ message.’

Viewing the New Testament as a window into a developing and evolving community might be an unfamiliar way to some readers of the Bible, who feel uncomfortable with the apparent contradictions and moving goal posts that it reveals. Like the ancient interpreters found, there will probably always be a way to explain away these apparent ‘mistakes’ in the Bible and make it a bit more comfortable to read. But looking at it as a still-forming, ongoing discussion between the believers can also bring a lot of extra depth as we realise they were processing the meaning of all the things Jesus said and did in the context of the changing world they found themselves in.

Advertisements

How to Read the Bible part 5 – interpretation gone wild

In part 4 I introduced the ancient interpreters and their four assumptions about how to read and understand the Bible. Now I want to follow their progress as Bible interpretation grows and reaches a pivotal moment – the arrival of Jesus.

When we left them, Ezra and his priestly friends were reading the scriptures to the returning exiles and ‘giving the sense’ to help people figure out who they were, who they would be and to find the way forward. At that point it was a small group, but soon the interpretation of the Bible would become massive in the Jewish faith.

There is a fantastic underlying belief in Judaism that what was written was always meant to be understood in the context of a conversation and a relationship. For many Jews this comes in the form of the Written Torah – the first books of the Bible as given to Moses – and the Oral Torah – which is what they believe God said to Moses and was not written down at that time but passed on from priests to rabbis through history. The Oral Torah is now written down in various forms but there is still an understanding among many that it requires the wisdom of good interpretation and application to get the full picture.

close up blue textile background
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

What started from a very positive place got more and more complicated though. For example, the Jews were told in the Law to bind God’s commandments as symbols on their hands and their foreheads in Deuteronomy 6:8, but that was quite a complicated commandment: which commands were they supposed to wear out of the 613 laws? How were they to tie them and wear them? What would that look like? Enter the interpreters. They would pick through the accounts to find tiny details that would unlock the secrets of what God really meant but had been a bit sparing in explaining.

The four assumptions became tools for revealing these hidden secrets – if the Bible was perfect and complete, then there could be no accidents. So, if a word was repeated or phrased a bit oddly, then it must be there for a reason. The problem was you could end up with some really obscure interpretations drawn from what must be scraps of clues. And only the best, most wise and highly trained instructors could possibly know what the Bible really meant to say: everyone else would have to hear it from them.

shallow focus photography of white sheep on green grass
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

James Kugel picks out one of these interpretations in his book ‘How to Read the Bible’ to show how this works. He looks at the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham has received his long awaited, miraculous son Isaac, and God asks him in Genesis 22 to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering on a mountain. Abraham and Isaac set off together, they leave their entourage behind and start to climb up the mountain together – the text says, ‘they walked together’. Part way up Isaac looks around and says, ‘Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Good question. Abraham replies ‘God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son’. Then the text continues, saying for the second time in a few sentences, ‘and the two of them walked together’.

It’s that tiny detail that has intrigued interpreters for a long time. If the Bible is perfect and complete, there would be no unnecessary repetitions. There must be some meaning hidden away in the walking together.

Kugel proposes that this story was no less shocking to its ancient readers than it is to us today – the thought of human sacrifice would have been abhorrent, much less destroying the fruit of the fulfilled promise from God. So, they set out to find an explanation to make the story a bit more palatable.

Here is what Kugel made of it: ‘Modern readers generally take these things (challenging things we don’t understand) at face value and then either wrestle with their implications or else just shrug their shoulders: “Well, I guess that’s just the way things were back then.” But ancient interpreters instead set out to give the text the most favourable reading they could and, in some cases, to try to get it to say what they thought it really meant to say, or at least ought to say. They did this by combining an extremely meticulous examination of its words with an interpretive freedom that sometimes bordered on the wildly inventive’.

time lapse photo of stars on night
Photo by Jakub Novacek on Pexels.com

Here is the little rabbit trail they went down in this example. The story we’re talking about starts with the phrase ‘it came to pass, after these things’. This is usually a kind of marker to show we’re moving on to a new story or topic. But ‘these things’ could also be translated ‘these words’. “Which words?” asked the interpreters – sure, it could mean the story preceding it, but it could mean something else – the interpreters set off to come up with some suggestions.

This story was about God testing Abraham, and they noticed that the book of Job also featured a divine test. Perhaps, they thought, the two could be linked. In the story of Job, Satan approaches God and asks if he can test Job. Maybe the same thing had happened regarding Abraham and those were the ‘these words’ that seemed to be missing from the start of the story. That made the interpreters feel a bit more comfortable about the ‘why’ of the story – God wasn’t just putting Abraham through an ordeal for no reason, or because he had temporarily lost his omnipotence and genuinely didn’t know if Abraham was up to the test or not.

two person walking on pathway between plants
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Next, they turned their attention to that little repeated phrase ‘they walked together’. Biblical Hebrew was originally written without punctuation or capital letters, and some of the verbs in our English translation weren’t in there either. Re-jigged, Abraham’s vague reply between the two ‘walking togethers’ could read – ‘God Himself will provide. The lamb for the burnt offering (is) my son’. Abraham tells Isaac the brutal truth, Isaac considers it, ‘and the two of them walked together’ in agreement. This really changes the meaning of the story from how we might have originally thought of it.

‘By interpreting the story in this fashion,’ writes Kugel, ‘ancient interpreters solved two of the major problems raised by this account, God’s apparent ignorance of how the test would turn out and Abraham’s apparent callousness and evasiveness vis-à-vis Isaac. But did the interpreters actually believe their own interpretations? Didn’t they know they were playing fast and loose with the text’s real meaning?’

This is where it gets a bit uncomfortable: were they prophetically digging in to the amazing depths and hidden gems God had left for them in the Bible? Maybe – it does make me think of the proverb that says it’s the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to search it out. But maybe they also felt ill at ease with an image of God that didn’t match the image they had of him and instead of embracing the mystery, they set out to find a way to conform the story to match their expectations. Personally, I think it could start out as a spirit led adventure into the Word, but somewhere down the line, could it be that power-hungry men started to realise they had an amazing tool to pretty much make the Word say whatever they wanted it to say?

From this story alone, you could perhaps give the ancient interpreters the benefit of the doubt. But you also need to look at where it ended up. By the time of the Pharisees, in Jesus time, the original 10 commandments had expanded to 613 laws taken from the Torah, and on from there to the point that one commandment such as ‘honour the Sabbath’ now had 39 extra laws governing it, including specifics such as exactly how many steps you could take on a Sabbath. The Pursue God website has a great short video explaining this.

In fact Jesus had something to say about this tradition and where it had ended up, in Mark 7:

Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

‘These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce,
for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’[d]

For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”

Then he said, “You skilfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 10 For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honour your father and mother,’[e] and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’[f] 11 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’[g] 12 In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. 13 And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”

This marked a huge transition point in the way that the Bible would be read and understood. From this point on we would see the Jewish tradition of interpretation and oral law continue and be cherished, while a split came from the early Christians who would now start to read the Bible in a different way – seeking out the spirit and not the letter of the law.

But the early Christians were from a Jewish background – whether they knew it or not, they often read the Bible in a way that was influenced by the culture they came from. This rich heritage, for better or worse, got woven in to the way that the letters to the early church were written and how they perceived who Jesus was in the backdrop of Biblical history. Next time, I’ll have a look at how early Christians read the Bible.

Chasing your challenges

If anyone who asked me last September how I saw myself, I would not have described myself as someone with October about myself as a creative person who can operate in gifts of healing or prophetic words.  My life experience taught me that I can be a kind, humble servant of Jesus, but my words rarely carry impact or significance.  What a difference a year can make.  I have learnt one key thing: if a challenge makes you feel unsafe and uncomfortable because it’s “not you”, it may well be what you need to chase after.

My experience has told me I can get by OK with written tasks, so why on KLS did I opt instead for the Creative stream where my art needs labelling, my woodwork needs a health and safety test and my photos need deleting!  Because I didn’t see it as “me”.  Guess what?  God taught me so much in the mess of making mistakes, giving offerings of “work” that left me feeling exposed, vulnerable…but honest, authentic and growing.

Experience told me my words lack power….so every time I turn on my computer I must type in the truth from 2Timothy1:7 that I have been given a spirit of power – as my friend, Jon reminds me, resurrection power!

So be encouraged: God wants to develop new gifts in you; His work in you is only limited by your choices to buy into your past limited experiences, and it is released when you say Yes to Him and face the challenge that you think will expose your failings.

Rich Wood

 

My experience at KLS

My experiences at KLS in 1 year 2018

There is so much to say about my experiences and the multitude of things I have learnt from the year-long Kingdom Life School. These are from a natural and supernatural source, biblically, spiritually, relationships and memories that will last a lifetime.

I still remember the very first Thursday evening where all us ‘newbies’ (which was practically everyone including leaders!) had been brought together to spend time in growing, in experiencing and allowing our relationship with Father God to overflow into the lives of those around us, one of these areas being Love Poole. The transformation that has happened in just one year is incredible. The people are hungry and some are becoming ever increasingly expectant of us as a school being present on those Friday afternoons. A true essence of Kingdom Love is spreading and is set to increase!

We all began the year basically like statues, in a sense that we did not know what to expect or what was to happen or what was expected of us and our expectations of Gods transformation in using each of us both singularly and together in his heavenly plans. The encouragement received from the leaders (especially from a certain someone who is excellent at encouraging us out of our statue shells and into our own unique beings) has enabled us to go from strength to strength. From statue to cracking open the top to then jumping out of that shell, only to discover we have wings and that we could fly! The excitement of realising this only made God smile more and more on us.

Personally, I have found myself applying what I have learnt into everyday life situations, conversations both within and outside of where I live. This including the workplace, the people I meet on the streets, my family, my friends and on mission to Holland a country that has very much captured my heart so much that I am still 3 months later still learning Dutch. On that mission trip my group and I saw many things, heard many things and had experiences of both familiar and new things. I found it an absolute privilege to even get on a plane for the first time and realise that it was not even half as scary as my thoughts were telling me. I loved it! I loved the plane flight so much that I am in planning motion for a short flight and adventure by myself in the next year or so. Later on that day I found myself being overtaken with Gods empowerment and it felt so surreal! Over the next few days we gave Prophetic Words (or what we call them on the streets ‘Spiritual Readings’) to those whom had booked up prior to our arrival. The very first session I was grouped in with the lovely Anne and the A-Team (formally known as Group 1) Leader Nathan. The love of God for the women who came in one after the other was so strong that we needed frequent short breaks to prepare for the next. As the weekend progressed I learnt much about the people there, had a first ride on a double decker train with Ad (whom many of you know) clearly stating that “England has double decker buses and we have double decker trains”. Spot on! Fast-forward to the Sunday we participated in two services and were up at the front to pray for people during a ministry time, something before I had started KLS Year 1 that I had seldom done or felt able to do but God is gracious and in time I am able to pray with people knowing that if I keep drinking from the well of life I can do everything put in front of me; I now love praying with people. The overwhelming sense of God’s love during that time was immense and tangible.

It is not about me anymore but what God wants to do through me. This past year has been a mixture of laughter, fun, enjoying the company of fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ, building upon relationships, allowing God in to mould me into something new, to be pruned, to be changed, to explore new levels of Fathers love, the gifting’s given, teaching and reaching new levels of worship. To be completely broken and picked back up with a thread of Gold running through you and finally as in The Ultimate Treasure Hunt (one of our reading books) “Take the risk, face your fears and ungodly beliefs with a laugh, nobody is perfect, honour one another and keep going!”.

So to any of you who are still contemplating the idea, I say just go for it! You have only positive to gain from this year. Sometimes it will challenge you, sometimes you may end up in a tizzy, but you will for sure gain something much much more. For now I am taking a little gap year or two but who knows I may be a student on KLS Year 2 at some point in the future!!

God bless you all!

 

Beth Hayes

The Nature of God’s Love

Have you ever wondered about how God’ highly personal and intimate love for each of us sits alongside his declared love for all humankind? Or how unconditional love can be consistent with the blessings of obedience? Below is a recent piece of journalling that touched on these apparent paradoxes.
I have loved you with an everlasting love that is in no way earned, enhanced by your success or diminished by your failure. It’s true that your obedience and faithfulness delight me, but since my love is absolute and complete, it doesn’t grow or decrease according to your actions. I don’t love you more than anyone else or less than anyone else. My active engagement with you is determined by your responsiveness towards me, but not my love. My joy in you is affected by your willingness to connect with me, but I go on loving you the same whether you do or don’t. It’s true I delight in your love for me and your obedience enables you to enter into the way of blessing, but my heart longs equally for those who are lost to come to know me. It’s important for you to appreciate this so you avoid judging those who don’t know me as you know me, and so you reach out to them as I reach out to them. As you read the Bible, you see that my plan was always to raise up people who would carry the message of my love and be a blessing to others. This is the privilege that all my people are called to, entering into my heart for the nations and being agents of my grace. In doing this, you become a blessing to me, reflecting back to me the love I have for you and for all people everywhere.
All that God has looked for throughout history is undivided hearts that desire to do what is right and refuse to bow the knee to anything opposed to his ways. He wants to protect and guide his people, desiring only what is good for them, but will never violate their freewill choices. Sometimes he has to stand back as we experience the consequences of ungodly choices, hoping we will learn from our own foolishness. However, Bible history shows us repeatedly how many chances he gives us (individuals and nations) to turn back. When we align our choices with his guidance, we enter into the blessings of life lived in him. It’s the little choices that make all the difference – the day to day decisions that determine our way of life. That’s why he cares about the discipline of renewing our minds – taking every faulty thought captive – so that we learn to think and respond to experiences in godly ways. If we do it continually, we establish a healthy mindset and a healthy lifestyle. We become the way that we think.
 
 
Sheila Burton

Community at the Lighthouse

I have been asked by Phil & Heather to oversee the Outreach and Mission of the Lighthouse church for this season. I have been asking God to show me strategies and I shared them in the meeting on July 1st.I thought it might be good to write a blog based on what I shared then. I have felt challenged myself as I have gone through the=is process, and hope that you are challenged positively by the Holy Spirit too. The triple A battery provides power and I believe their is a triple A focus that makes powerful encounters possible for us right now!
Triple A focus :
Acknowledge the great things that are happening among us in terms of outreach and mission at the Lighthhouse,
Ask the Holy Spirit to direct us, as He did in the New Testament church in Acts
Activate ourselves individually and collectively by giving everything to His call to build His church. His promise to us is that by so doing we will prosper in amazing ways.
Acknowledge outreach as it is happening now
Outreach : Homeless-led by Mark & Paula,fortnightly on a Monday the team go out faithfully. Pray for them, join the team, offer to cook a meal. What about a prayer group, praying while the team are out on the streets?
Wareham Foodbank led by Jule Hawkins, Julie has contact with needy families and is helping by taking food to them. We need to be consistent in bringing in food to share and in praying for her as it is difficult to do this in the middle of a busy life
KLS,  in this last year, the first of Kingdom life we are seeing amazing encounters with people. Most weeks people are receiving prophetic words that are bringing encouragement and hope, people are being saved and some have experienced healing on the streets of Poole. We worship, give free hugs and prophetic words, work closely with cafe owners like NO 34, (where we have a prophetic ‘station’ weekly with some regulars coming in,) we treasure-hunt on the streets of Poole, we change atmospheres on the street by our presence, we receive favour from the local council in doing all of these activities.
LHOPs : local houses of prayer, praying for neighbours has been laying a great groundwork in some areas of The Lighthouse Church. Creating opportunities for great conversations and prayer.
Mission : how are we doing in building relationship and supporting our 3 missionaries?   Bex & Moses (Uganda), Andy Game(Japan) and Sam & Shiela(Philippines)
Adopt one. Find out their needs, challenges and dreams and sow into them
Three guiding principles in Outreach and Mission for me :
Relational- cluster of grapes. John 15 Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches. Without Him we can do nothing. By abiding in Him we will produce much fruit.
We must stay connected to Jesus and to each other. Do life together and great grace will flow among us. Spend time really getting to know each others heart and challenges and dreams and sow into them in creative ways.
Led by the Holy Spirit.  Acts 13 : out of worship and prayer Paul & Barnabas were sent out on mission. ‘It seemed good to us nd to the Holy Spirit” This is real confirmation. We will not burn out of we are continually directed by Holy Spirit. There will be challenges and pressures, but what He calls forth, He will accomplish with great grace on us.
Acts 16 ( 3x Holy Spirit intervention- two impressions of don’t go and one vision direction into Macedonia and Europe). How I want to know Holy Spirit’s direction so clear on my life. I am grateful for the way He has directed us so far, but in this season as Bryony was saying last week, I want to have Holy Spirit adventures taking me to places He has in mind for me and The lighthouse church.
Activation : see Acts and Paul’s letters : ‘sent out by the Holy Spirit’ Acts 13 the apostles were ‘sent out’. Holy Spirit directed them and they responded by doing as He directed. Throughout His letters, Paul keeps talking about Holy Spirit’s direction. He says how the gospel constrains him to go and preach. So my response is right now. Holy Spirit what are you directing? where should I be taking the gospel today?
Outreach under the radar : We acknowledge that Lighthouse church is up the 7 mountains influencing and changing cultures by being there. There are so many stories to tell, we want to  be telling these stories in various ways through the year. I want us to support and encourage each other by highlighting the wonderful ways people within the church are showing compassion in the community.
Take for example Laura Wood, working with children who are terminally ill, or have life-limiting illnesses. She works with them and their families providing comfort, relief, dignity and compassionate support at Julia’s House.
Or Mike and Jo who have been foster parents for 10 years. Sharing their home and family with complex, emotionally disturbed, love-deprived children and teenagers. Through their love and commitment, through challenging circumstances, some of the most deeply hurting young people in our county have found respite and love. Bringing them to church where they have received love and encouragement from others, has often been a major positive ‘love bomb’ moment in some of their lives.
Or what about Chrissie who works with children who aren’t attending school. She works with hurting children and families bringing hope and relief, solutions and steps forward in often complex family issues. She, like the others expresses the same sentiment. The day I don’t feel compassion for the children is the day I would stop my job’  They are loving in a wonderfully powerful way, reaching out with God’s love within the context of their role and profession.
Asking key questions : making key decisions. Can we decide to be a beautiful cluster of grapes not a bag of marbles. Being connected means that we are relational with each other, praying for Laura, Mike&Jo and Chrissie for example, finding out how they are doing, how we can support them through the challenges of their work.
Where is my Jerusalem? Samaria and ‘ends of the earth’?
World mission : start by adopting a missionary, Bex& Moses, Andy or Sam and Shiela and sow into their lives great support.
My Samaria : steeping intentionally into another culture.  Eg. Avril and Clare, Avril says ‘ I don’t know what I am doing’ but she is loving, being a mum, discipling in a wonderful way.
By reaching out to the homeless community we are seeing them become believers and be discipled, be restored back into local community again. This is costly, but so rewarding to see a precious life, like Claire, take steps towards being restored back into life again.
My Jerusalem : my local community not just church at D22, the people I mix with through the week. Neighbours, friends, an interest group.
The Lighthouse will grow and the prophetic vision will be realised as we fall passionately in love with Jesus and empowered by Holy Spirit we be intentional in what we initiate in our locality.
‘ there will be church in Lytchett’ this is still God’s heart, equally in each of our local clusters
How are people going to be added to the church? Through meetings at D22 only? Or how about intentional gatherings and activities in our neighbour?
What could happen if we are intentionally creating opportunities for people in our Jerusalems to respond to Jesus and the Gospel? By creating opportunities in our local communities we could provide a first base, a first point of contact, a first step for people coming to know Jesus.
This could be a coffee discipleship group in Poole high street, an Alpha in a coffee shop in Wimborne? a pop-up prophetic cafe in Blandford, or a worship and prayer event in a local venue.
These could provide first steps for people to know the Lord and to be added to The Lighthouse. it is a big step for someone to come to D22 from not being connected with us at all. Providing opportunities locally creates steps into community, into a local cluster, into a home group, and then into the church at large in D22. This creates belonging.
Using the analogy of a bag of marbles or a cluster of grapes, we must choose to be the latter.  A bag of marbles is kept together by the bag and when opened each marble will just roll off in every which way direction, not staying connected. Whereas a bunch of grapes is connected by the stem, each grape in relationship to some others, and all grapes connected to the main vine. So let’s not be a bag of marbles where we are held together by the structure of the church’s programme, say for Sundays. We come and are held together for a time, then scatter through the week. Instead we are a wonderful bunch of grapes, clustered and held together; doing life together in our Jerusalems, in our local communities.
The Holy Spirit is fanning ways of doing this into flame, like setting off fireworks for a heaven party whereby people are going to be saved. Declaring the wonder of Jesus in our Jerusalems will result in wonderful creative ways to provide opportunities for people to encounter God’s love. As B Johnson says ‘We owe it to the world to give them an encounter with Jesus’ incredible power and love.
What might Holy Spirit be calling forth now as creative ways to reach out in our communities :
develop prophetic cafes
treasure-hunting for healings, salvations in our local communities
Spirit cafe
pop-up music cafes
random God encounters with people
start-up businesses to fund outreach and mission
Love Wareham
Love Swanage
Pop-up worship events in villages
These are just some of the possibilities God is calling forth right now. So are we committed to building His church? Is this our first priority?
Haggai is a great lesson for us. Over 3 months from the 6th to the 9th month the Jewish community was transformed by reposting positively and wholeheartedly to God’s invitation.
He told them that they were having issues of not prospering because they were not giving His house first priority. They were looking after their own assets and affairs instead of rebuilding His house.
God said if you start to rebuild my House, I will be with you and I covenant to pour out such favour on you, that prosperity will just pour in from the nations. He encourages their positive response with encouraging prophetic words of hope, covenant and identity. He ends by saying I will wear you like a signet ring ! What a wonderful picture. y signet ring stays on my finger and reminds me of my marriage covenant relationship. It says what is yours is mine and vice versa, it speaks of love, intimacy, walking closely, protection and purpose. ‘With my body I honour you, all I have I give to you’ So it is with our covenant relationship.
The key of coming into this is that the whole of the Jewish community responded positively to the word of the Lord, they obeyed and were activated into doing what they could to rectify their priorities, they came together as one to build God’s house.
So what about us? Are we ready as one to give ourselves as first priority to strengthening and building the Lighthouse church through our local communities, through our clusters wherever we live? Are we well-connected as the grapes are to the vine, or are we living like a bag of marbles?
By activating the Word of the Lord, by listening to Holy Spirit, by being whole-heartedly committed to His vision to prosper us as we seek to build His church locally, we will start to see such an outpouring of His Spirit amongst us that will have an incredible impact bringing about the prophetic words spoken over our lighthouse church.
Alistair Goudie

What a year

A year ago I was preparing to sit my A level exams, with a place to study music at Chichester University on the cards. If someone had said to me then, ‘Actually, university isn’t for you. You’re going to take a year going deeper with God, being thrown out of your comfort zone and making some crazy new friends’, I would’ve probably laughed. But that’s how the year panned out.

Proverbs 16:9 ‘We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps’.

I had planned to do the one week KLS to give me a grounding before heading off to uni, but of course God had other ideas. The week was amazing, I went into it crying out to God to experience Him in a tangible way and the Holy Spirit hit me like a train. On the last day we were challenged to do something out of our comfort zone, but throughout the week I’d already moved out of my comfort zone, praying and sharing testimony in front of everybody. At the time they were very big things for me to do. Looking back, that was God just setting the tone for my year.

The week after I went off to university, but I got that feeling in my stomach where God is trying to tell you something, I knew I wasn’t meant to be there. Within a couple of days I had deferred my place and was back at home, without really knowing what I was going to do instead. Phil and Heather invited me to a meeting and offered me a trial week on the one year KLS, I wasn’t sure but accepted and turned up on the Thursday evening. The moment I stepped into the hall that evening I knew that this was exactly where I should be. God knew all along where I was meant to be, and planned some awesome adventures for me.

The first topics on the one year KLS were Identity and Father’s Heart. Growing up within the church I had heard quite a bit about the heart of the Father, but I’d never actually taken it on board. As I learned and studied my whole outlook on life changed, I’m a Son of God and a co-heir with Christ. I am entitled to peace instead of anxiety, confidence instead of nerves and joy instead of sadness. I know the God-given authority I have and I walk in that on a daily basis. Learning who I really am allowed me to step out with more confidence doing what God had planned, although it’s still pretty nerve-wracking.

As we started outreach in Poole I was nervous about seeing people I know. Whenever I explain to my mates what KLS is and what I’m doing they often have a look of confusion on their faces, so I didn’t really want them to see me shouting ‘Free Hugs’ at the top of my lungs, wearing a fluorescent yellow ‘Free Hugs’ tabard. But of course, this happened. I was on the gazebo team doing free hugs and shouting in my best market trader voice. I turned to my right and locked eyes with a mate from school who was about 25m away. He started to sprint straight towards me and almost knocked me off my feet as we hugged. He started asking what we were doing so I was able to explain how we were bringing God’s love to the streets of Poole and we had a really good chat. God showed me that outreach isn’t as hard as it looks and He is in every single interaction.

image-2

One of the best bits of KLS was the mission trips, I was so blessed to be on team Holland when the snow came at the start of March. If someone had said to me a year ago ‘you’re going to be going to Holland on a mission trip, speaking and being translated in front of a church of 500, prophesying and having your 19th birthday out there’, there is no way I would’ve believed them. Again, God threw me out of my comfort zone, but I’m so glad that He did. There are so many incredible stories I could tell, but this is my favourite. After the first Sunday morning service a young lad came up to me with his mum and asked me to pray for his nut allergy. So of course we prayed but as I was praying some pictures came into my head and I shared them with him. His name was Joshua and I saw him as a leader among his classmates and friends, someone who they really look up to, a role model. I also saw the red sea parting and I felt that he was going to see God do some unbelievable things, and God was going to use him to do unbelievable things. Later that day we were doing prophetic booths and his mum was sitting in with my group to watch how we did it. We introduced ourselves and she said ‘your prophesies for Joshua were spot on, we had an American preacher come and talk to the youth a few weeks ago, he stopped halfway through pointed out Joshua and prophesied over him, you prophesied the exact same things’. After she said this I was totally overwhelmed that God would use me like that.

After the snow had come and gone and the 3 other trips had been rearranged, I was again so blessed to be asked to go on 2 more trips to Shaftesbury and Burnham. On both trips God managed to push me out of my comfort zone again, despite after every week of KLS the boundary being pushed further and further. In Shaftesbury we did some prophetic booths after the Sunday service and I was paired with a young intern from their church. It suddenly struck me as we sat down to start ‘I’m the leader in this situation’. I led as best I could but left God in control as He gave us both amazing words that really resonated with people, and I left amazed again at the ways in which God moves and uses me.

In Burnham I thought I’d got away without really being pushed out of my newest comfort zone, but God left it until the last evening. One of the pastors of the church that we were visiting started the open mic night with a few jokes, God said to me ‘Why don’t you tell a few?’ From what I’ve learned this year, when God tells you to do something it’s probably best you do it. So I got up and told a few and quickly sat back down again. When I sat down there was a guy with Asperger’s talking to some of the team, I hadn’t really seen him come out of his shell all weekend but as I sat back down he did. He started telling me some jokes and we went back and forth telling jokes for about 5 minutes and he really came alive, before going back into his shell. God showed me that you don’t always see the impact of His plans, even if they may seem silly to you, like telling jokes.

Now onto next year and I know exactly where God wants me to be. I’ve been accepted onto year 2 and I’m ready for another year of delving deeper into God, pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone further and having fun doing it every week.

Jake Wood