Stand Up, Stand With, Never Bow Down.

Last night in our Esther series which will soon be available here I referenced Confessing Church Pastor Martin Niemoller. He was an anti-communist who supported at first a reforming movement called National Socialism andits leader, a dashing figure with a gift for rhetoric called Adolf Hitler. Eventually he saw where it was heading, spoke out, and ended up in a concentration camps including Dachau. Look what he said:

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God’s people were in a desperate situation 2500 years ago in the Middle East. It looked like the end. Their days were literally numbered. That’s why the story of Esther is as fresh as today’s headlines, because we’re living in fearful days aren’t we?

An election year, reeling from social and economic crises that seem to have no end. Our nation is in a spiritual crisis, too – we’re desperate for a fresh move of God in our day!

I preached from Esther 3 as Haman’s hate was heading toward a holocaust and the passage said three things to me very clearly:

We should STAND UP for what we believe.

We should STAND ALONGSIDE those who are being persecuted.

We should never BOW DOWN to pressure to conform to what people think, rather than what God says.

We stand up for what we believe. Even if everybody else does it or says it, a Christian has to first ask, ‘What does God say? What does God want?’ As has often been said, “If we don’t know what we stand for, we’ll fall for anything.”

Then, remembering those words of Niemoeller, Christians should never be known as the haters, the racists, the bigots. Jesus summed up the law in two statements so we can judge everything we do and say by them: 1) Love God 2) Love your neighbour. Questions?

It’s to the everlasting shame of the church that so much terrible anti-semitism and the crusades were committed in the name of Jesus, a Jew, who commanded us to not stand against them but Stand with them, even though ‘they’ are of a different race, history, sexuality or opinion. We are to go and do like the Good Samaritan. When you see them isolated hurting and battered – go toward them and help them at cost. Go and do likewise. Cross the road toward them, don’t walk away.

And now who are the most persecuted people in the world these days? According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians, that was a year ago. Things since then have got a lot, lot worse. The Centre for the study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians per year are killed simply for being Christian. That’s 11 an hour for a decade!

Christians face official discrimination in 139 countries. In Malaysia, for a Malay to become a Christian is a crime. In Saudi Arabia to have a Bible is punishable by flogging. In Pakistan the way to get rid of a Christian neighbour you don’t like or seize his business is just to accuse them of blasphemy against Allah. In India Christians are regularly murdered by extremist Hindu militias; in Iraq the number of Christians has been cut from 500,000 to less than 100,000. The last Christian has left Mosul after warnings from ISIS to convert or die. In Syria, in Libya, it increases, in Nigeria the killing of Christians by Boko Haram while churches burn has become so routine it’s no longer even newsworthy.

Perhaps  a question you might ask of someone asking for your vote this year would be, ‘What are you going to do to help and protect the most persecuted people on the planet?’

The Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity, is now perhaps the greatest battleground for Christians, as it has been so many times in history. This week we’ve all seen at least something of the murder of those 21 Christian young men, all in their early to mid-twenties on the beach, by ISIS?

They were members of the Egyptian Coptic church, one of the most ancient churches in the world. A tutor of mine at theological college had the cross tattooed  on both hands at his ordination in his order, so that he could never deny Christ under pressure. ISIS YouTubed their evil as they beheaded those ‘people of the cross’ – in their early to mid twenties, on a Mediterranean beach.

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What has not been widely reported by our media is just how Christian they really were, that martyrdom is not just something that happened in history, that they were selected and killed because they said Jesus is their Saviour.

Those who have watched, like their families, see the men who died are singing and praying to Jesus. While the killers digitally enhance themselves to make them loom larger, the most powerful people on that beach are not those standing with knives, but those on their knees.

The brother of two of them was interviewed in Egypt and says he was glad to see them singing and saying his last words together with friends, ‘Lord Jesus Christ’. He said, “Since the Roman era, Christians have been martyred and have learned to handle everything that comes our way. This only makes us stronger in our faith because the Bible told us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us.”

I said last night perhaps the reason those young Christian men could exude such peace under pressure is because their heroes of the faith are martyrs (like the Theban Legion), whereas ours are ‘Your Best Life Now’ prosperity pundits with perfect teeth?

The interviewer asked about forgiveness and what they would do if face to face with those who killed his brothers. He replied, “My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [him] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason [her sons] entered the kingdom of heaven.”

Beshir then prayed for the killers: “Dear God, please open their eyes to be saved and to quit their ignorance and the wrong teachings they were taught.”

They had been tortured and told they’d go free if they denied Christ, but they would not. So they were killed on that beach. They had that Mordecai spirit that would not bow down to fear and hate. They stood up for what they believed – no matter what. They wouldn’t bow down to evil. And ultimately, that’s how we become more than conquerors. That’s what makes Christians overcomers. Not grabbing a sword and fighting back, but fixing our eyes on Jesus, whatever happens.

Ivy Corporate Mission Partners Annual Meeting

The major missions partners we support as Ivy were able to report briefly on their current position.

Ngage – challenges; a small charity doing big stuff.
Getting funding is tough. Everyone going for the same pot.
Exciting? Still looking at youth work Hub in Burnage.
Also possibility of Free School. Development fund application successful!

Roc;
Highlights – the Fuse; has grown their faith. 2000 visitors from all round the country.
Today in holiday club a child wrote ‘This is the best day of my life,’
Football coach said ‘this has been the best week I ever did.’
Challenge? Bid to deliver restorative justice for MCR
Also – family mentoring
Need more staff, bigger infrastructure.

Besom;
David King – Christians being released into social action. Meeting needs to matched help. Building relationships with the people we help too.
All kinds of people get prayed for, someone recently said ‘THANKYOU nobody ever prayed for me before.’

David is now holding the baton for someone else to pick up the Baton on this.

Dignity.
An amazing year – a big movement of 3600 people meeting in life groups across various African nations like Zambia in rural places.
Villagers doing God’s work where they are. Meet, pray, serve, tell people about Jesus, and pass it on.
Challenge – gaps to fill, stretching – it’s daunting but exciting.

New Day United.
Seeking life to the full for the people of Africa. Mandate – get alongside NGOs. Practical & spiritual help.
Opps to meet with SA govt etc.
There has been some tough spiritual attack / intimidation etc but it’s going from strength to strength amid a precarious political situation. Lynn has had a vision whereby they are not called to build sandcastles, but a city on a hill!

Light: I gave the report on this, so couldn’t take notes on myself -,it’s going great! LZ7 are in Sweden right now, just moved into new office in the Northern Quarter & been working on a new album.

The Message:
Report from Steve Small focused on Eden Merseybank.
Massive acceleration brings difficulty of so much need and opportunities, with too little time.
Cafe will be opening soon which will replace Eden bus in morning and afternoons for Alpha, recovery etc.
Gathering & worshipping more regularly on Sundays.
We prayed for this & the wider work including the MEC and the work around the world as Andy & Michele are in South Africa as we met.

#40DaysCreative Let’s Begin..

Anthony Delaney:

I’m in too! #40dayscreative

Originally posted on Hannah Bettany.com:

I have been encouraged by a friend to spend the 40days of lent choosing to be creative. I believe this will be a challenge but also freeing. There is creativity in all of us..so sometimes to get the chance to be looking for it is helpful.

For me, I can’t sew,knit, draw, paint..I can just about doodle! So this certainly isn’t going to be an impressive 40days! It won’t be me showing off my skills! Still..I can do this. I’d like to be looking each day for something God is saying. Expressing it in different ways..let’s hope one is not interpretive dance!

I think for me it’ll be through something I see in my little boy & I’ll capture it in a photo. Or a picture God shows me that I’ll attempt to scribble out. Or a prayer..who knows maybe even a poem. It could be a simple line from…

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Church We Can All Do

I follow Rachel Held Evan’s blog and I’m grateful for her pointing to this church in New York (a city I’m so excited to be visiting at the end of the year with Zoe).

What a great idea – Dinner Church! Who do you think they got that from?

I can see this working brilliantly here in Manchester.

Sounds, looks and tastes a lot like how church started, and grew – and maybe it holds a big key to how we can once again build movements that don’t depend on ‘Who’s your Pastor?’, but rather ‘How’s your Pasta?’

More about St Lydia’s here. 

FULLY ALIVE! My notes from @erwinmcmanus teaching day at WCA UK

Everything this guy says is tweetable :) I started tweeting some but I couldn’t do that and take good notes so I stopped tweeting…

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I have seen way too many people not reach their potential, but it’s unthinkable that Christians do that.

Christians have been taught that the future was set, by the same people who taught that the world was flat.

The words we use most end up having the least meaning for us.

Beautifying the bride? If you put a beautiful white dress on a bride with a leg cut off and bleeding, she’s not looking too good.

He is from El Salvador – which means ‘The Saviour’. Great address! But he grew up without much religious connection. God was an unreal object of frustration for his mother. He was interested in mythology, to try to work out what it was to be human, which led to a psychiatrist from 12. The psychiatrist asked him, ‘What do you see?’ That clued him into how people see differently.

He began to want to escape from a reality he didn’t like – for a science fiction fantasy world of his own mind.

Then his mother became a Christian, which was way out there to him. But the people in the church proved that love covers a multitude of irrelevance. Because there he came to Christ. Then he wanted to tell people about him, with the urban poor in the West of the US.

He realised that we are meant to not just read the Bible but live it out.

Ended up Pastor of a church in East LA, though he really shouldn’t have been. He knew so little, it did not go well. 6 years of hell. Then somehow the church got well known and he ends up on this Christian celebrity circuit. So he withdrew from that and started Mosiac in a smelly seedy nightclub. They kept moving so Christians didn’t just come along and spoil it.

Then when he was writing, some Christians who disagreed with him and said he was a heretic set up a website with a countdown of when they were going to kill him. And that turned his son away from faith.

So he said, “I want to get out – into art, fashion, film.’

And he did – very successfully. Applied the principles of design to life.

The church keeps desperately holding onto the past, to let go of the future.

At the same time as he went to go and talk to a girl who had lost everything, including her faith, the business bombed completely. He went to his wife and said ‘I have lost everything.’

She said ‘I thought I was your everything.’

He went to his church where he had been speaking out of momentum, not out of life, and said ‘I want you to watch how God can rebuild out of rubble.’

And the next day God spoke to him ‘Behold I am doing a new thing.’

How can you believe that on the worst day?

That’s where it’s real.

When you remember who God is and remind other people who He is.

Out of your brokenness and struggle.

Our anthropology about Jesus is keeping people from him. Instead of making church more relevant, make ourselves more human. We don’t need all the programs, we want people to be fully alive, because that’s what the world needs to see.

We say ‘I am not an artist.’

Are you creative?

Are you a genius?

Well you learned one of the most difficult languages before you were three?

If you had moved to another country you’d have learned that language. It was childs play.

It’s adulthood that told you to colour inside the lines.

As a Christian, we make discipleship being like someone else, who’s like Jesus – instead of being like yourself.

We get taught – you’re a sinner, in total depravity.

Did we get taught – you’re creative, in the image of God?

You’re part of his creative process.

Like bees create hives, humans create futures.

Hebrews 11:1-6

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Isn’t that unfair? What else in creation has to do anything to please God?

Antelopes and daffodils and sunrises don’t have to live up to any expectations. But humans cannot please God without faith.

Have we misunderstood faith?

It’s not living a superhuman life.

God is pleased with you when you live a human life. Fully.

What does it mean to be human?

When you get into ministry you are supposed to study humans. It’s great to have insights on the Bible, IF they are insights for our struggles.

Faith is meant to shift us from what he have (and can see), to what we hope for (and can’t yet see). It shifts us as a species from the past and present to the future.

We take faith and make it something bizarre.

But hope is only ever about the future.

Humans have this unique property no other species have; to materialize the immaterial.

Is faith meant to be argued for (apologetics)

Or is meant to be magical (what you feel)

No, it says this is what the ancients were commended for… they thought about creation and saw it before we lost our way. Faith restores to us what they saw. Because we see that the universe was created at God’s command – so that everything came out something, and we think the Bible says that something came of nothing, which God spoke into.

But that’s not what the Bible says. We believe some things that we think the Bible says because we said it while we were holding the Bible when we said it.

It says it all came out of something INVISIBLE.

Which was there in God’s dream.

God had an idea. He speaks and creates.

You were a dream in the mind of God before you took your first breath.

So shouldn’t you live out the dreams of God before you take your last breath?

What was God’s first job?

Creating.

His initial occupation was artist.

He became Redeemer because of us

But he’s an artist by first choice.

So what do you think you were created to do?

Is it heretical that you can materialize the invisible?

Well- have you ever had a vision, a dream, in image of the world that caused you to act.

Genesis 4 Jabal was the father of people who live in tents and earn their living by keeping cattle. Jabal was Jubal’s brother. Jubal was the father of people who play the harp and flute. Zillah gave birth to Tubal-Cain. Tubal-Cain was the father of people who work with bronze and iron.

Why’s that in the Bible? Because it says because Jabal exists, we get tents, and steak.

And Jubal was the first guy to play a guitar. Before him, there was no sounds to communicate emotions. How did that happen? What did he make the strings from? Jubal sees some cat squashed by a buffalo and starts to work with it.

And we have passive faith that says ‘If God wants it to happen it will happen.’

It’s amazing that everyone who is doing nothing new says ‘There’s nothing new under the sun.’

But maybe Solomon was just having a bad day when he said that. Maybe he was wrong. That doesn’t mean the Bible was wrong. Just because he was.

You can believe Solomon who says ‘There’s nothing new’

Or God who says ‘I am doing ALL things new! My mercies are new! You’re a new creation! There’s going to be a new heaven and earth!’

God is trying to restore us to that real humanity. And the choices you make today shape your future tomorrow.

Evil men are not waiting for the future they envisage come to pass, while good men are waiting for God to act.

The Holy Spirit wants us to see a future so compelling we have to create it. To dream of a better world and dare to create it. Be the dreamers and visionaries of humanity.

Church is not meant to be amateur hour where people who can’t dance well in the world get to do it with ribbons. But we are meant to use all our gifts and talents for the good of all, not just the gifts of speaking and listening.

And Jesus’ command to make disciples was not about making Christians disciples. It’s meant to be about discipling the nations. That are not yet believers.

It’s better to have less control than death. The most organized places in the world are cemeteries. Maybe that’s why you have a lot of cemeteries next to churches.

You can counsel a whole lot of people from the front in a talk (in a general way) if you’re thoughtful about what you say.

What should you do?

1 Do the things that do the most good for the most people

2 Do the things you can be the best at. What you love. That will teach you to discipline yourself enough to be great at it.

Hard work will eventually be mistaken for talent.

Regret only happens because you know you could have made better choices, and looking back we see there was a better way.

I am amazed how many people say they follow Jesus but are in despair and depression. You’re imagining a terrible world. There’s no lion or gazelle going through a mid life crisis. The greatest thing you can do for God is be fully alive.

Ems Hancock at @myivychurch Esther 1 A Culture Of Honour.

There is a way to talk to and be with people that honours people or dishonours them.

Ems has a daughter called Esther and she was born ‘for such a time as this.’

It’s a very biblical thing to exercise a culture of honour.

Around 470BC the Jews were taken into exile and now they were under the power of Xerxes who ruled 120 provinces from India to Ethiopia.

For 6 months he threw a party to display his wealth and power. It was very ostentatious (think footballers mansion).

The royal wine flowed freely and he got ‘very very drunk’ – after a 7 day binge he called his wife in to show her off

She refused and he got very insulted. So did all the men.
Let’s get a new queen!

That’s how Esther got a crown later

Xerxes was a man without honour
Rich, yes – but…
Insecure
Drunkard
Big ego

Communicates through eunuchs
Not a job you’d want

He’s surrounding himself with men less manly to make himself bigger.

The queen was from a royal line in her own right. She was married to the son of her fathers killer!

She had a lot to lose here.

He wanted her to just wear a turban to the party. It’s an abusive, voyeuristic circumstance.

She said no
That’s quite brave isn’t it?
She was potentially saving her husband from more shame.

Her name Vashti in old Persian means ‘most excellent woman’
That’s in Ivy’s year id excellence!!

Those we live with, those closest to us: think about what they need.

How do you honour them?
Hold them in great esteem?

How good are you at recognising others and making room for them and their gifting.

God gets glory from that.
When we make room for God, he shows up.

The temperature effects the growth of a culture in a Petri dish. And in a church!

You can change the atmosphere in a place! In Tescos as well as church.

Honouring is in line with the culture of heaven. Rev 5:13 ‘Worthy is the Lamb!’ Give God honour! Give people honour!

Jesus didn’t say ‘be the best you you can be,’ he said, ‘wash feet, serve, notice others.’

That honours people – and then they grow and flourish and become more effective.

The world tries to honour people who do something great, or stupid if it’s on YouTube

But God honours those who honour him.

In a marriage you get asked to honour your wife/ husband.

Do you honour your church? Love it, comfort, honour and protect it?

How do we deliberately honour others?

1) Praise others for their strengths
2) Say ‘well done’ for growth
3) Rejoice with rejoicers
4) Allow others to use their gifts – you don’t have to do it all! 5) Give space and time for God to be honoured.

A culture of honour is necessarily to sustain a move of God.

Does your personal culture of honour need to change?

Who do you need to thank or praise now – to mimic the culture of heaven?

Big, Scary, Vision presented tonight at Ivy Annual Gratitude Meeting #NewThingGlobal

Ivy has had an exciting year of MORE hasn’t it? So many things to be thankful for! And now we’re in our year of EXCELLENCE, encouraging one another to do my best for God, with what he has given me, wherever he’s put me.

But what would God want us to look like five years from now? By the end of 2020? John Wimber said most leaders overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what you can do in 5 years.

I’ve been here just over 6 years now. I’m 50 in a couple of weeks. It feels like a biggie to me. I’m at a stage in my life where there are only two things I want. I want to do God’s will for my life with all my heart, and I want to do it in community with people I love and who love me. 50! I might only have, what – another 70 years of ministry, unless the Lord comes back! What kind of impact could we have in 5 years? What goals should we set? What should be stopped and what could be started?

This week we met together as staff, then as elders – and I reported back on my week in Kenya; the challenge and huge opportunity I believe God has put before us by Ivy being part of the New Thing network.

It was a pretty intense week! I was there with Pete Edwards who came to represent Westminster Theological Centre and how that could help, as we were talking and praying with a small group of church leaders, a few from North America who founded New Thing, with others from the Philippines, the former Soviet Union, Albania, India and of course African leaders.

New Thing is a church planting network now connecting 50,000 reproducing churches in North America, and I’ve told you before that I’m at the beginning of the work here in the UK, as New Thing UK. The idea from Dave and Jon Ferguson’s book Exponential is that you draw your vision on a napkin. Last year at the AGM I said God had been expanding my vision so I drew not just the M60 and around it. (draw it up – to UK and Ireland)

The fabulous humble guys who wrote that book and head up New Thing, brothers Dave and Jon Ferguson established 4 values to connect churches together; I talked about it this morning at Kingsway and I encourage you to listen to that podcast but to summarise we are partnering in Relationships and Resources, establishing local Residencies in churches to host and train up new leaders, and Reproducing at every level of leadership and serving.

Some of you will have heard me say how recently at a conference I was in conversation with a friend, Alan Hirsch, a well respected theologian, that just made me a little wobbly at the size of the job, opening up in the future as New Thing UK.

The Sunday evening after I came home, a man I haven’t seen for about 20 years since I was in the Police turned up with a prophetic word for me. He told me exactly what I was worrying about (without me saying a word about it) then said, ‘You are going to be part of a movement that will lead a billion people to Jesus, so you can be sure that God will bring alongside you the people you need, when you need them – so relax – and be yourself.’

That took the pressure off! And to be honest, the only thing I could see in my life that could really be part of that billion is New Thing. Last week showed me how the dream could become a reality, and a lot of it has to do with the next 5 years.

By the end of the week in Kenya the vision just got bigger; because we were talking about movements like New Thing Europe, and even Global New Thing.

We’d all read a great book by Steve Addison ‘Movements that change the world,’ which you’ll hear a lot about this year – and I really need you to come to Ivyfest in Buxton on the first weekend of July where I’ll be unpacking it fully as the focus of the teaching there. He describes how movements grow that change nations and cultures. What makes movements in history happen? And it’s a very disturbing book!

It’s the kind of book you read and have to ask, ‘How does this apply to us?’ What am I going to do about what he says? Where do we go from here? Do we have the courage to engage with what he’s saying?

The book has 5 sections, because there are 5 things at the heart of movements. I haven’t got time to go into all 5 but I will at Ivyfest and I’d love it if you got hold of the book and read it first, maybe in Grow Groups after Easter?

He starts out looking at the life of St. Patrick, who travels into scary remote places to barbaric peoples in the face of great opposition, to establish decentralized churches all over Ireland that fitted the culture there – and you still see the impact of that hundreds of years on.

Then how the Methodists got started, here under Wesley and in the USA under Francis Asbury, who was what they called a circuit rider, who called and raised up hundreds of young people to go into ministry, and the growth of Methodism was unparalleled, like wildfire – when they didn’t try to control it. But within 100 years that impact had died, organized to death, formalized it and sterile.

He says Jesus was a movement catalyzer of course, and we all feel that impact. So what was it about what he and Paul and others did, that had such great impact, which lasts? I’ll just outline a couple of the 5 briefly:

  • WHITE HOT FAITH

He says, ‘Movements begin with men and women who encounter the living God and surrender (all) in loving obedience to his call.’

Oscar Muriu who hosted us in Nairobi said Missionary zeal is developed in the mortar of spiritual discipline, pounded by the pestle of persecution and crisis.

So where is the white-hot faith around here? Oscar said it’s hard for us to have white hot faith in countries where it’s comfortable to follow Jesus. Where is our mortar and pestle? How do we stoke and develop this kind of faith? Because we’re very comfortable. But you can see white hot faith in the places where there is a cost to faith.

MOMBASA last Sunday – I am ALIVE! My faith is REAL!! I’m not just laying my life down in theory now…

How do we fight against the tendency to make Christianity easy, comfortable? To remove any sense of sacrifice and suffering? ‘Come to Jesus and everything will be nice.’ That’s not the gospel! If you remove the fire, lower the cost, you lose your zeal, the fire becomes embers. If we ask ‘Is it safe? Can we go into that place? Is there Ebola?’

Imagine if Jesus said ‘Is it safe for me to go to Earth?!’

  • COMMITMENT TO A CAUSE

Movements need leaders who embody and live out the cause! That’s Jesus, that’s Paul. Wesley was a trigger person, who led from the front and was passionate to be a movement carrier. And Zinzendorf. Have you heard of him? Austrian nobleman. Founded the Moravians. His missionaries were told they couldn’t talk to the slaves they went to witness to in the West Indies, so they sold themselves into slavery, became slaves voluntarily – so they could go into the fields where the slaves they wanted to reach were and tell them about Jesus.

We need the kind of Christian who will lay down their lives, so others find life. Who are these people? How do we find them? Where are they?

Some are at uni now, or they could go off and do jobs that do a lot of good or earn a lot of money one day. Nothing wrong with that, but some of them could be a new generation of leaders of the new generation of all kinds of churches the world needs in the future.

We don’t just want to say to young people ‘Give your life to Jesus,’ we want to say LIVE your life FOR Jesus! Lay it all before him! We have to gather and challenge such people and say, ‘Have you considered this? Some of you, God is calling you into full time church work! Get involved!’ Then we train them, empower them, release them. And we don’t measure our church by how many come but how many GO. The catalysts.

Addison says, ‘Movements happen when there’s a cause worth dying for, to change the world.’ And the fact is those between 17 and 27 are the most willing to pay the price to do this. The older people become, the more they have debt and are locked down by golden handcuffs and children, mortgage etc. If that’s you – your job is not done unless you model, mentor, pray for and help this next generation emerge.

One of the guys with us in Africa, Josh Howard, his church planters in India are all between 18 and 25. They’ve planted thousands of churches. We need to raise up the young leaders before it’s too late.

You know ISIS is a movement!? Who’s signing up for that? Leaving Australia and the UK to join up. Young, passionate, ready to die for the cause. This is meant to be spiritual warfare isn’t it? The Army know how to recruit, at 16 – they sign up, to suffer, to train, to be battle ready and to lead others. They get so much responsibility. They give them a tank! We give them table tennis. What are we missing? Is our cause worth dying for? IT IS!!!

We mapped the world out into 8 zones, and some of us took responsibility for various of them. And I got Western Europe, and the prayer goal of 250 new reproducing churches in the next 5 years! I need a much bigger napkin, and to get better at drawing!

We covenanted as a group to plant 10,000 new reproducing churches around the globe by the end of 2020. We said we will establish local training centres in various nations – including one here of course, to raise up and equip new young leaders who’ll go and create churches which become networks, which become global movements, which help a billion people find their way back to God.

We also committed to finding a top few % of those leaders and shaping them, through residencies, to be ‘Jason Bournes’ for the kingdom of God; people who are young, smart, flexible, with adaptable methods, fearless world citizens able to go all over the world learning from different cultures to better communicate the Gospel message.

These leaders will start new missional churches and kingdom movements- beacons of hope all over the world. Maybe spending 6 months in Africa, then 6 months in Manila, training to be movement makers for Jesus Christ. We’ll give and receive these leaders at Ivy.

When I was flying out of Kenya, and flying back into Manchester, looking out of the window at the lights of the cities, I was reminded of Jesus, who looked over a great city, started crying, and said, “There’s a lot of wandering sheep down there without a shepherd, without a Saviour, I long for them to come to me.”

I showed the video about being the lifeboat churches not the cruise liner church this morning at Kingsway. We haven’t got time to show it again tonight, but some of you were here 6 years ago when I showed it and you voted yes to me being the leader here. I told you then that you voted at the same time to be a different kind of church, a ‘Whatever it takes, man the lifeboats, there are people in the water’ kind of church. I’ve called you on that a few times, and you’re still here and you’ve been as good as your word – because we’ve seen a lot of changes and pulled an awful lot of people into the lifeboats on our journey so far.

But now is not a time to settle. Now is not the time to pull in the oars or pat each other on the back. As of tonight, in the year of Excellence, the starting gun goes off, and doing our best means we charge into a future that’s going to be marked with even more evangelistic intensity. The same kind of evangelistic intensity that started this church in 1893, when Oliver Brockbank reached out across social and class barriers to tell people about Jesus, and soon after Ivy Cottage MISSION hall was established.

The same kind of evangelistic intensity has launched and will still fuel all our churches; whether here at Sharston, or at Fallowfield, Kingsway, Didsbury, Merseybank, and wherever else we meet as Ivy. We are not going to take the foot off the gas! We’ll press down even harder this year, and look for every way we can to make the Gospel message come alive in those gatherings and communities, so more and more people find their way back to God.

We want to re- emphasise the importance of everyone at Ivy being in Grow Groups; small groups where real discipleship, support and community happens. Friends, the next five years are going to be wonderful years for all of you who are in that kind of community, and they’re not going to be as wonderful as they could be for those of you who don’t. Christianity is never meant to be lived out in isolation. It’s still Knowing, GROWING and GOING here, and we want to encourage you to take responsibility for yourself to get involved community. You’ll never mature spiritually without it.

If you’re already involved or leading a Grow group, you need to make room for someone. You say there’s no room? Great – that means you need to multiply and start a new group so there’s room for a few new people. I’d love about 20 or 30 new groups to gather for this next Transformed series we’re doing in the run up to Easter, and you can host one, open your home, press play on a DVD, and let Rick Warren lead while you pray and talk with people. And hundreds more people can get connected to the church and to Jesus by Easter if we do that.

A verse that keeps welling up in my heart these days, Romans 1:16, says: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. It is the power of God unto salvation.” Everything we’re doing, all this seeking of excellence, it’s not for excellence in itself, it’s because the Gospel still changes hearts and lives. That’s why you’re here tonight. Because someone told you – Jesus Christ died for sinners. You believed it, it changed your heart, it changes everything. That message is going to go out with frequency and with power like never before this year, and we’re going to keep on growing and planting more new Ivy Churches.

I want to encourage you that excellence means a call to full participation here at Ivy. This is not a cruise ship, it’s lifeboats – and it’s ALL HANDS ON DECK. You can get a lot out of this church. If you want a place where there’s spiritual presence and power in worship, where you can hear great teaching, have your heart touched consistently week after week, this is a place you can get that. But what about what you give? I include finances in this as well as giving your time and talents – and I’m so glad this year a lot of people have stepped up into regular committed giving to the church. How about you? This year. In the next five. Will you get in the game?

You don’t want to stand before a Saviour who shed his blood for you and say, “I said I’d live for you but I never committed myself to the body of Christ. Never found my spiritual gifts. Never became a part of the serving core of the church. But I got a lot out of it.” You don’t want unstained, uncalloused hands when you put your hands, in a hand with a hole in the middle of it.

What are you going to do that’s great for eternity? What are you living for that’s worth Christ dying for? We’re going to have another Membership Sunday, just after Easter – where I’m going to invite you to stand up if you haven’t done so yet and say, ‘Ivy is MY church. I’m going to give, to work, to protect the unity, to serve the vision, right here.’

And if you’re unwilling over time to throw your hat in the ring and say, “I’m going to get in the game and commit myself, to be a responsible, partnering, member, who speaks well of the church and serves wholeheartedly,” then, please, go sit in another church. I’ve said this before and it’s never meant to be offensive, but we keep filling up here; and we need that seat for someone who’s going to come to Christ and be a serious disciple, join a grow group, grow in maturity and become a contributing, participating member here. Because this is not club membership. It’s about redeeming a lost and dying world that is not going to be reached by people who sit on the sidelines.

We don’t just want to be a congregation. We want a white hot faith, fully committed, go anywhere, mobilized army who, in the name of Christ, become players and servers and prayers and givers to achieve the objective that God has in mind for us!

That’s how this church becomes a catalyst church in the nation. Like dominoes falling onto the next one. As part of New Thing UK. And New Thing UK raises up and trains leaders who plant many new reproducing churches, as part of New Thing Western Europe.

And New Thing Europe plants hundreds of new churches that establish reproducing networks, as part of a movement called New Thing Global, that reaches a billion people for Christ.

You know John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world.” In the Great Commission, Jesus said, “Go out into the world and make disciples.” God always thinks globally. God acts, loves and redeems globally. His heart breaks for the hurting, the poor and the lost, globally. We have in these days an opportunity and responsibility to the world, to expand the kingdom of God regionally, nationally, and internationally. That’s not hype. We’re serious. Because the world is waiting and longing.

And when you go like I did to the Kibera slum, see the church there among a million poor people, walk alongside a Pastor who used to be an engineer but now he’s moved in to the slum and grown a church from nobody to 100 in a year, meeting in a tiny tin shed next to an open sewer. When he says ‘All I need to build a church here is my Bible’, you see ‘I need to learn form you’ and you see it’s the same God at work in a foreign culture or church on the other side of the world! And you realize we can partner together to have even greater influence and impact, and you’ll never be the same.

You’ve heard how at the elders meeting we believed God was going to roll all the previous years into this one? More, Stretching, Surprises, Multiplication, Opportunity – with Excellence! That means the next 5 years will be the most exciting in the history of Ivy. You may be new here, that’s okay – because you’re here at the start of some incredible new adventures. You’re here tonight as the gun goes off for a new beginning!

We’re going to start a new series in the evening services looking at the book of Esther, and I don’t know why I planned to do that when I did but maybe it’s because there’s that famous verse in the Book where a man of God says to her, “Maybe, in the scheme of God you were appointed to live for such a time as this.”

It’s no accident some of you are in the room tonight, or listening on podcast. I think the whole course of your life led up to a point where you’d be saved and growing and enough of a Christ follower to be sitting there with a heart that’s bursting with excitement about where this is going. I think God appointed you for such a time as this. And now this year we need you to step up, to do your best for God, with what he’s given you, where he has put you. And some of you will be those movement makers of the future and others of you will help find and equip train them.

But finally there’s one thing I need you all to step up into with me in the next year. That list of focuses for this year wouldn’t be complete without this – and that’s prayer. I have to be honest and confess here, as I did to the elders on Tuesday before they anointed me for this next 5 years and for the huge scary goal of now looking at the whole of Western Europe as my mission focus; I haven’t done my best. Not really, not recently. Especially in prayer. I haven’t led you well in prayer, and I am sorry.

I’ve kept busy, but really – I got to a stage where I look at what we’re doing and I could think, ‘I can do this.’ I can preach a good sermon; leading a team of great people is easy, leading a great church is usually pretty easy. I don’t even need to pray very much to do it. That’s maybe why I haven’t called you guys to pray very much before.

But now, I’m calling you to pray. To pray like never before. Individually and corporately. In 2015, to pray harder than we ever prayed. To fast. I’m calling for a rhythm of prayer and various forms of fasting and I need to know when I do that, you have got my back and you’ll be there. Or we’re sunk before we started. What do you say?!

I look at a vision this big and I know we need people, and I know we need pounds, and I know we need plans. But most of all, we need prayer. Prayer, prayer, prayer.

I look at this global vision and I know – I can’t do it.

I can do church, local church, regional church, pretty well. But a vision so big as to be ridiculous – calls forth my very best, and drives me to my knees. And I have to say it’s great to be so out of the comfort zone, into the FAITH zone! My white hot faith is BURNING!! I feel like I did the day I arrived here at Ivy! I came back home from African and I thought, ‘Great! I don’t know what to do!!’

So I decided to fast and pray on Monday. I had a bad tummy so fasting was easier. Anyway, guess what – same day, I ended up in a phone call later that day connecting me to a leader of a huge prayer network, a very influential leader in the black churches in London, who wants to meet up I’ll be seeing him soon. Now if he got on board – we’d soon have to revise the targets! That’s just one day of prayer! And I’m not even good at praying. Some of you are miles better!

I can’t do this.

God can do this!! We need the Holy Spirit’s genius strategies, the big thinking, the people of bigger faith, those who will make the sacrifices, those who will help establish the leadership models and open the doors to create a movement that changes the world. But the only way this church, these networks, this movement can go forward, is with us on our knees. With MAD prayer, for HUGE miracles!

So can I ask you if you’re able – to join me there, right now, on our knees.

Isaiah 49: And now the Lord says –

he who formed you from the womb to be his servant, to bring people back to him; that they might be gathered to him – for you are honored in the eyes of the Lord, and God has become your strength—he says:

“It is too small a thing for you, my servant, to raise up the tribes around you; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

“Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

In a time of my favour I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, to say to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ and to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ 

They shall come from afar, from the north and from the west,

Lift up your eyes around and see; they all gather, they come to you.

As I live, declares the Lord, now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants.

The children will yet say: ‘This place is too narrow for me; make room for me to dwell in.’

Then you will say in your heart: ‘Where did they come from? Who has borne me these?

Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.

Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord, those who wait for me shall never be put to shame.

Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord, your Saviour, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One.”

Time to Register! Time to get political!

Anthony Delaney:

Already turned off by thoughts of the election? Let this inspire you.

Originally posted on jessie jacobs:

time to register
People using their voice and their power to change something or to do something moves me. It is something I am deeply passionate about. The world we live in is better or worse because of people and because of the things they do and say. Politics is the collective action of people. It is the decisions that are made every day. It affects everything. What your local school is like, whether the pot holes in your road are sorted, whether your elderly relative gets good care at home, what your child see’s on TV, whether you have decent street lighting or what the local health service is like. Everything is political, and yet not all of us are political. Not all of us engage in the political process and that worries me. It really worries me.

This year people are predicting the lowest ever voter turn out for the general…

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‘The Middle’ Monologue (..grab a pillow)

Anthony Delaney:

Amazing encouraging thoughts put together by my daughter, who sounds like any number of people on the video.

Originally posted on Hannah Bettany.com:

God has spoken to me through many storms in life. While I was in a lot of pain, four months after marriage, my new husband having to dress me and do everything for me. God showed me His Kindness as I have shared in blogposts before. He gave me this nugget of Gold.
I am so thankful that as I find myself again feeling a bit blown around, sometimes struggling and feeling in stormy weather. God has used this nugget to bless me again. I love to see it touch others too as God has given so much truth in it. Please watch & I’ll explain more after…
The Middle

This time I felt God saying that Jesus could sleep in the boat, because He is peace. He is the prince of peace who has no fear, He didn’t fear death. How much more amazing would it have been if…

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