Immeasurably More! @RabbiRogers HIGHER.

Ephesians 3

This is the reason we kneel.
God is higher & more glorious than we can imagine.

Picture of a beach
The beach is good
But there is an ocean to step into.
Go in deep enough to trust the waters to hold you

God wants to lead us into deeper waters where we are immersed – where we are out of our depths but the Spirit is in control

Col 3
Look up – that’s where the action is

We look down a lot.
We get focused shuffling along
Look up to where Jesus is

God is bigger
Higher

But we shuffle along.

Look up!
See the stars
He’s bigger than you can imagine!

98% of the universe are invisible to us

The heavens are his playground
The earth is his footstool

We are made of 7 billion billion billion atoms

99.9% of an atom is empty space.

If you got rid of all the empty space you could condense everything to the size of a sugar cube

Don’t shrink God
Don’t control & contain him in a box
Don’t pray a safe prayer to a God that big!

The Jewish story goes that Elijah met an idol maker who is his friend. His gods that he made are in a box – drilled a hole in it so they can breath

Elijah said ‘my God made the box’

We box God in then wonder why he doesn’t help

‘The world is perishing for lack of the presence of God & the church is famished for want of his Spirit.’ AW Tozer

The same Spirit that raised Christ is available to us.
What if we are making our God too small
What if he did the same things?

We settle for the immeasurably less

Miracles are just what God does

We are meant to be ‘what if’ imaginative people!

What if God could?
Guess what
He can.

What if all we have seen so far is just the teaser trailer for the big movie yet to be released in our day?

We talk about the early church, what if thousands of years from now, we are the early church- the stories of our days are their miracle stories?

Don’t just look back at their stories- there is so much more for us.

When you went before the King you would kneel, bow your head. then make your requests

We have a great King!!

NEW THING EUROPE IS ROLLING – GET ABOARD!

Since coming back from the inaugural New Thing Global meeting I’ve been kept very busy. There we established the targets of planting 10,000 new reproducing churches globally, by the end of 2020.

My faith goal in that was 250 across Northern and Western Europe.

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That seemed a stretch for me because Europe is, according to Patrick Johnstone’s great new resource just about the only bit of the world where the church has been on the retreat and decline in the last 50 years. It’s time that changed, and my friends Oscar Muriu from Nairobi Chapel Kenya and Dave Ferguson from New Thing USA stepped up my challenge to make it 500. (Thanks guys!).

2020 seems like a short time scale for a big scary vision (what I called New Thing Europe when I spoke at Ivy on my return), but it’s great to be able to reflect here and give thanks for just some of what’s happened toward its accomplishment in just over a month!

I got back tired and feeling a little rough so spent the first day back from Africa praying. That same day out of the blue an invitation came to connect with Jonathan Oloyede, conveyor of the National Day Of Prayer and a church planter across London. I met with him the very next week and it was like finding a brother! I met again with him on Saturday and he is very interested in partnering with New Thing UK.

On the way to meet Jonathan I ‘just happened’ to read this when praying about the 2020 vision (2 Chronicles 20:20) ‘Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall succeed.’ So I’m believing what God has said, and listening to what he says through His people!

After talking with the elders and staff at Ivy (who are the best!) and getting their full backing I outlined to Ivy at our AGM the Big Scary Vision. People loved it! I was stopped in the car park by Nat, who has worked with YWAM for years and just arrived recently at Ivy, he said ‘I’m in, I’ll serve, I’ll do what you want or need to help.’ And he is doing! (Thanks Nat).

I had appointments then in my diary filling up with some amazing talented young leaders of incredible promise, many of whom are now seriously considering becoming our first cohort of Leadership Residents based here in Manchester from mid September. (Interested in joining them? Email claire.webber@ivychurch.org in the first instance). There’s also the possibility this may be an international thing already as one of the applicants we are looking at doing a year here is from Nairobi Chapel!

I met with my unlikely friend (former armed robber turned pastor) Paul Lloyd, who leads the Victory Outreach church here in Manchester ; what an amazing church- so many stories of complete turnaround there from the most broken backgrounds, Jesus doing what only he can do. Paul is now responsible for their churches across the UK and Europe, we are going to write a book together, and he’s in!

I got invited to a small conference gathering church planters from across Europe meeting in Germany in April where I hope to  touch base again with my friend Alan Hirsch, can’t wait for that.

We recently met and networked with leaders to discuss New Thing UK helping a brand new church planting effort in Hull, and existing ones in Birmingham, London, Cheshire, Bristol and Bath. One of those has already planned a new church plant and another is to multiply from 1 to 3.

My wife Zoe has given up a day from her work as an eye nurse to help me on this – Hooray!!

I’m following up possibilities in Europe including Germany, France, Sweden and Greece.

Next week I’m speaking all week at the leadership stream at Spring Harvest and doing a seminar of church planting for the C21st.

UCB are going to give to New Thing Europe the rights back for the evangelistic and discipleship resources I’ve written so they can be translated across the continent.

We had two guys turn up at Ivy, both early twenties, with 4 years theological study behind them – ordained in the Orthodox church but here in Manchester as part of their training. God led them to our door at Ivy and I don’t know what that’ll end up looking like but they speak multiple languages (Jason Bournes for the Kingdom of God). They were in our prayer meeting last night praying in Romanian and Ukrainian for New Thing Europe! Another young evangelist prayed in Portugese.

Last night Ivy was packed out for our IvyKinetic prayer meeting. I outlined how one of the greatest proofs of the resurrection is the remarkable growth of the early church. When it was not about steeples but people, when they were not about meeting places but meeting God. A great big God who is Sovereign and has never changed.

Back then a Spirit filled, united, prayed up, boldly led movement – changed the world. It was an unforgettable night and left us with the firm conviction, as my buddy Andy Hawthorne said last night, ‘It’s gonna happen again!’

A Better Way To Celebrate St Patrick…

…than wearing a shamrock or even drinking a Guinness

Pray his prayer ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’! 

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On the day we remember a powerful missionary pioneer. I’m reminded of what a revolution this man of God wrought by reading Steve Addison’s Movements That Change The World, required reading for New Thing Europe!

Pray this with me, pray it for me, pray it for you and yours, for your spheres of influence, pray it out loud ( unless it’ll get you thrown off the bus)!

I arise today 
through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
 through belief in the Threeness,
 through confession of the Oneness
 of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
 through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
 through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
 through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
 through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
 through the strength of the love of cherubim,
 In the obedience of angels,
 in the service of archangels,
 in the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
 in the prayers of patriarchs,
 in the predictions of prophets,
 in the preaching of apostles,
 in the faith of confessors,
 in the innocence of holy virgins,
 in the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
 the strength of heaven,
 the light of the sun,
 the radiance of the moon,
 the splendour of fire,
 the speed of lightning,
 the swiftness of wind,
 the depth of the sea,
 the stability of the earth,
 the firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
 God’s strength to pilot me,
 God’s might to uphold me, 
God’s wisdom to guide me,
 God’s eye to look before me,
 God’s ear to hear me,
 God’s word to speak for me,
 God’s hand to guard me,
 God’s shield to protect me,
 God’s host to save me
 from snares of devils,
 from temptation of vices,
 from everyone who shall wish me ill,
 afar and near.

I summon today
 all these powers between me and those evils,
 against every cruel and merciless power
 that may oppose my body and soul,
 against incantations of false prophets,
 against black laws of pagandom,
 against false laws of heretics,
 against craft of idolatry,
 against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
 against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;

Christ to shield me today
 against poison, against burning,
 against drowning, against wounding,
 so that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
 Christ before me,
 Christ behind me,
 Christ in me,
 Christ beneath me, 
Christ above me, 
Christ on my right,
 Christ on my left,
 Christ when I lie down, 
Christ when I sit down,
 Christ when I arise, 
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
 Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
 Christ in every eye that sees me,
 Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
 through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
 through belief in the Threeness,
 through confession of the Oneness
 of the Creator of creation. AMEN! 

Ben Jeffery at @MyIvyChurch – Esther 6 ‘The Man The King Honours’

Ten years ago a friend asked Ben a question that changed everything. He said, ‘If money wasn’t an issue and you could do anything you wanted – what would you do?’

You may have heard that – but what a ‘more to life then this’ kind of question that is! An invite to a bigger life.

It matters to God.

God has bigger plans for our lives than just living.

Ben had an answer straight away – ‘I’d be planting churches that planted churches that helped people come back to God.’

But then he could see all the obstacles. All the ways he wasn’t in the best place to do this.

So – how do I make the best of our limited time?

And what’s the biggest barrier to that future?

Let’s look at a HERO first of all:

Were you into comics? Superheroes with amazing strengths and powers. Look at their origins. A kid ruled by fear – becomes Batman. Wolverine – a life of pain. The Hulk, will he conquer his anger and use his power for good?

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And Spiderman was the best. Teenage Peter Parker, bullied, no friends or girlfriend. A geek. He goes to the science expo and gets bitten by a radioactive spider. Then he finds he has these amazing powers and it’s like ‘What has happened?’ Where did I get that speed and strength. So what does he do with it? He becomes a wrestler! Beats all the biggest guys and he’s on the road to fame. What could be better?

But then a thief robs the place and he does nothing about it because he’s the star.

But the burglar later kills his Uncle. It’s the same guy he could have stopped it. The immortal line then?‘With great power, comes great responsibility.’

He’s not a perfect hero.

The question this poses is, ‘What if the biggest obstacle – is not some baddie, but you?’

Now look at a VILLAIN

He’s in Esther 6. Esther’s the new Queen of Persia, but a genocide is planned to kill all God’s people. She becomes the only person who can do something to stop it happening. So she takes her life in her hands, and throws a party.

It looks like Haman’s bound to win. The King’s command was final.

But (coincidentally) that night, the king couldn’t sleep. He gets people to read all about him, because he’s his favourite subject. 

On that night the king could not sleep, and he gave orders to bring the book of records, the annals, and they were read to the king. It was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had conspired to assassinate[a] King Ahasuerus. Then the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king’s servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” The king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him.

On one side of the wall you have the King looking to honour Mordecai – by coincidence? And then it just so happens his enemy is in the court.

So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What shall be done for the man whom the king wishes to honor?” Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king wish to honor more than me?” So Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king wishes to honor, let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and a horse that the king has ridden, with a royal crown on its head. Let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials; let him[b] robe the man whom the king wishes to honor, and let him[c] conduct the man on horseback through the open square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done for the man whom the king wishes to honor.’

Haman’s so wrapped up in himself here! 

10 Then the king said to Haman, “Quickly, take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to the Jew Mordecai who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.”

Can you imagine his face?! He wanted to be seen, honoured, recognized. He wanted his power to bless himself.

His biggest enemy? It’s not Mordecai – it’s HIMSELF. He was the architect of his own downfall. He was defeated – by PRIDE.

Pride is self-absorption.

Haman’s already the King’s number 1. But it’s never enough for him. He wanted a horse with a crown on it! He’s always thinking ‘What do people think about me?’

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

There are 2 kinds of pride. One says ‘I am superior to others.’

The other kind says, ‘Everyone’s better than me, I couldn’t do this or that – because people will look at me.’ Pride is your world revolving around yourself.

Humility is you revolving around someone else’s world. Getting into their life and focusing on them.

Pride is deadly. It makes you a fool because it stops you learning from your mistakes. You look for someone else to blame.

The humble are happy to receive correction.

Inferior pride people never can take it – they think ‘Yeah I know I’m rubbish.’

You can’t be bitter without thinking ‘I am better, better than you.’

James 4:6 says God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 

The biggest obstacle in my life has always been pride.

Phil 2:5-11 shows us Jesus’ attitude and urges us to have it:

Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

    did not regard equality with God

    as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

    taking the form of a slave,

    being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

    and became obedient to the point of death—

    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him

    and gave him the name

    that is above every name,

10 so that at the name of Jesus

    every knee should bend,

    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue should confess

    that Jesus Christ is Lord,

    to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus was pretty important hey? He left heaven. He was the opposite of proud. So God exalted Him.

God gave Ben a personal word for this year. God said ‘Humility’ and he thought, ‘Oh no – can’t I pick another one?’

The humble trust God to exalt them. There’s power in humility. If we don’t get that, we will keep on being the biggest barrier to what God wants to do in our lives.

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.

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.