Thursday, 7 December 2017

God Coincidences

Over the years, I've heard and read of so many 'God coincidences' - moments when God steps in, in an amazing and unexpected way. maybe a 'chance' meeting with someone that changes everything.

Here is one from the autobiography of Johnny Cash:

"I was walking down 57th Street with June one Sunday morning when we happened on the First Baptist Church of New York, which we hadn't noticed before because its entrance doesn't look like a church's. We saw from a sign outside that services were just about to start, so we went in, and the strangest thing happened. The congregation was seated as we entered, but about halfway down the aisle a young boy was turned around watching the door. He saw us, immediately jumped up, and yelled, "JOHNNY CASH! Johnny Cash has come to church with me!"

As it happened, the only free seats were right next to him and his parents, so we took them, and that's when we saw that the boy was mentally handicapped. He was so excited. "I told you!" he kept saying to his parents. "I told you he was coming!"

The preacher came over and explained to us that, yes, the boy had told his parents, and the whole congregation, repeatedly that I was going to walk into that church, sit down beside him, and worship with him. And that's what I did. Being next to him was such a pleasure. He was so happy.

When the service was over, we walked down to the corner with him and his parents, and they filled in the story. They were Jewish, they said, but their son had decided to become a Christian after listening to some of my gospel recordings. That's why they were in a Christian church on a Sunday morning. They were in that particular Christian church because that's where he knew I was going to walk in the door."


Monday, 23 October 2017

Good Effect

Over the last few months, I have had the privilege of interviewing three great men of God in preparation for books to be published. I have found the experience thrilling. The way that God has used these guys is awesome. Men of faith, ready and willing to be used by Him; having a good effect on the world around them.

But their story is our story too. Every one of us has a story to tell. Every one of us can have a good effect. It may not make a book, but it makes a life – in other words, each one of us has the ability to change the lives around us for good.

Martha Graham saysThere is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.’

The Bible says ‘God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts.’ (1 Peter 4: 10, NLT).

The Psalmist says we were knitted together by God, secretly and intricately woven. (Psalm 139).

I don’t know who you are, as you read this, but God does. You are unique. And you have a unique contribution to give. I may never read of it; I may never see it. But God does. And your family and friends do. Don’t underestimate to good effect that only you can have on the world around you. (Matthew 5: 16, Titus 2: 7).


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Nominal Christianity or the Real Thing?

There’s an interesting article in today’s Times (Can’t link to it as you have to pay to see it- that’s a whole other set of thoughts!) The article by Daniel Finkelstein notes the recent survey that indicated for the first time that over 50% of the nation ‘has no religion’.

He points out (correctly in my view) that this may be a reflection of someone automatically saying in the past that they were ‘C of E’ (ie they went to the local church for funerals, weddings and Christmas) and now felt freer to say they had no firm belief.

Finkelstein goes on to point out the high level of faith still attributed to political power- for example, of our last four Prime Ministers, two were kids of clergymen and one a Christian socialist who read his Bible every night. (Thus, Cameron was the exception, in case you were wondering...). And, again in the article, they key role church and Christian charities take in our nation’s welfare.

I’m not as pessimistic about the Christian faith in the UK as the statistics suggest. I think it’s simply a weeding out (Biblical pun!) of the C of E brigade. I see an increase in spiritual interest in the population. I see many more willing to talk about faith and spiritual issues than was the case, say, 20 years ago. I see real change happening through Alpha courses (many at C of E churches). I see resurgence in Christianity among the denominations. I see continued growth in the non-denominational churches. I see more in the UK coming to a real faith in Christ than I have seen in my lifetime - this is reflected in the numbers of responses to the work of Mission24, for example.

The decline in nominalism is a breakthrough for the real thing.

Monday, 14 August 2017

India - 70 Years On - Still the Jewel

At the age of 17, I heard God speak to me. Your views on this will depend on who you are and what you believe. For me it was a very real moment- the only time (so far!) I have heard God audibly speak to me.

His words were ‘Ralph, I want you to go to India.’

I responded by trying a few Christian agencies, but nothing materialised.

At college I met my future wife. Roh is of Indian origin. I reasoned India had come to me – I didn’t have to go anywhere!

And then, nearly 30 years later, Roh and I are in a Christian meeting. The leader of the meeting calls anyone to the front who has a heart for India. We went forward, expecting to be praying for the country. The next thing we know, someone (who doesn’t know us and is not aware of the back story) is prophesying over us and sending us out to India!

We went there a few months later with some experienced missionaries. I expected, because of the call in my youth, that there would be some longer term relationships established. And that’s just what happened. The moment I met Joel, a pastor and apostle who lives near Hyderabad, I felt God prompting me that this was the man I would work with.

Joel and I have worked together for nearly 20 years now. Roh and I have taken many teams. But right now we can’t.

As India celebrates 70 years of independence, it is also facing increased persecution of Christian’s and Muslims. There is extensive violence and a Government who appear to be turning a blind eye to it.

It is no longer safe to take teams out to help with medical camps and children’s clubs. Hindu fundamentalists are causing widespread persecution.

Seventy years ago, India became independent. It may no longer be the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, but it is surely still a jewel in God’s crown:

The LORD their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.’ Zechariah 9: 16.

I pray that despite the persecution, the church will stay strong, knowing God’s care and protection.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Summer Travels – Summer Reading: Top 10 Travel Books

As you take time out over the summer, always remember to take a good book on holiday with you. And as you travel yourself, here are a few travel books to keep you company:

A young man walks from London to Constantinople between the two world wars, discovering a land and people that were soon to be lost as Nazi Germany began to take control. Beautifully written and fascinating history.

A teacher takes the opportunity to travel to the Solomon Islands. Totally out of his comfort zone, he falls in love with an entirely different way of life. Lots of humour and some great descriptions of a beautiful, hidden paradise.

The older brother of James Bond writer Ian travels with a companion through some of the hardest and least travelled lands, from Peking to Kashmir, back in 1935. A now-vanished way of life and the strangest of encounters.

In 1987 a travel writer decides to follow the Indian monsoon and in doing so, discovers the hidden India.

Writer and poet – and local boy – travels through the Fens, exploring its history, and writing with wit and sensitivity about people past and present.

DJ and writer Maconie travels through his beloved North of England, discovering the real North and the real people that make it up. I love his sense of humour.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, a student walks across America, discovering hidden lives and finding a faith he never knew he needed.

From a peaceful Cotswold village to the violence of Spain on the verge of war in 1934, Lee sees things through a poets eyes. His writing is hard to beat. Quite beautifully written.

Searching for animals, Durrell travels through South America in the late 1950s. His style is funny and his travels through Patagonia are amazing.

Another Patagona book – I really need to go there! In December 1974, journalist Bruce Chatwin decides to travel south into the hidden lands of South America’s Patagonia. There he meets hidden Welsh valleys in foreign lands and a wild land of changing seasons. Stylish writing.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

A Real Church Welcome

The welcome poster is from Coventry Cathedral. I put it up as a Facebook post originally and it gained a lot of comment and interest- so here it is on the blog.

I hope and pray our church is like this. We probably need to improve, but I hope we're on the way.

I love the welcoming language. I love the categories of people mentioned. And I love it that on Facebook, a couple of friends who admit they no longer have their Christian faith of old, both said they'd go to a church like that!

Monday, 24 April 2017

Never Give Up

I love the London Marathon. I've run it twice.

I didn't love it at the time though! The last six or so miles are hard. You have run out of all energy, your body wants to give in. But you keep going.

As you run into The Mall on that final mile, there's thousands of people cheering you on. It's that which gets you over the finish line. People you will never meet, cheering you on by name (assuming your name is on your shirt!) The noise. The applause. It gets you there.

I love this short clip from the BBC of runners helping each other. Lets do the same in the race of life. Don't give up. Keep going. And for those of us with a Christian faith, the Bible says there's a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on over the finishing line.

This is how a modern translation puts it: "Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it." (Heb 12:1-2)

Never give up.