A Second Mother – The Voice Of John The Beloved Disciple

Everything changed that day – no, that’s not quite true. Everything changed the first day He came into our lives. The day He called us to leave all that we knew and loved and follow Him. We were all so unsure initially, but there was something about Him, something compelling and worth fighting for.

However, it wasn’t long before we were glad to follow Him; we knew that He was unique, that He had more to give than anyone before or since. He had the gift of life to give, and He gave it freely.

We followed as He moved  from  place  to  place,  teaching,  healing, and offering a chance to all, regardless of race, creed or colour, to meet and walk with the living God.

Thousands journeyed with us – wanting Him to touch them, bless them and change them and He did. Hopes ran high; many believed that He would raise an army and fight to set people free from the tyranny of Rome. Yet there were no clubs, no spears, no talk of hatred at all, only compassion and love.

In spite of that, there were people who hated him; they were wary of his talk of God, and the relationship He claimed to have with the Almighty. They arrested Him, we were there that night and we ran and hid. They tried him, in a manner of speaking, and they sentenced him to death on a cross.

I was there that day, standing at the foot of His cross, cradling his mother in my arms, as her pain was so hard to bear.

I was there, as He looked down at us, somehow smiling through His agony, and He spoke to his mother in hers.

“Woman, behold your son.” That’s what he said. He wanted me to be that son; He wanted me somehow to take His place, but I did not know how.

Then He turned His head to me.  “Here is your mother,” He said, and then I began to understand, I knew what I had to do. I held her tight, and wiped her tears from her eyes. I would look after her from here on in.

Now I would love her the way He loved her, the way He loved all of us. I took her home, just like He told me to; life would never be the same. But why would I want it to be? Through his death, life and hope live on.

(Deacon Becky Lovatt)

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

 

You Would Have Done The Same – The Voice of Titus the Priest

In some of my recent posts I have included extracts from the wonderfully inspirational Kindle book by Deacon Becky Lovatt entitled ‘In The Shadows Of Victory: Ride the Rollercoaster of Holy Week’.

And as we are now actually in Holy Week most of my blog posts this week will again be taken from Becky’s excellent book.

Today it is the turn of Titus the Priest:-

Believe me, if it had been you, you would have done the same.

This man Jesus was threatening our livelihood, our very existence. He was trying to turn our whole system of belief on its head by talking about knowing God personally.

How can you ever know the Almighty personally? I mean, what rot. God is God, never to be spoken of in human terms.

And then He went even further, claiming He was God’s chosen one, God’s only Son – maybe even divine. What else could we do? We couldn’t have Him going around saying things like that, could we?

If it had been you, you would have done the same.

He called us a brood of vipers, and said that we were only out for ourselves. He made out that we moved in some sort of inner circle, and He told stories, stories that painted us as cold and heartless human beings.

But we have families too; we have wives and children that depend on us. If we were made unclean by helping a beaten and bruised Samaritan, we would have missed our turn in the temple and that means no hours, no pay and no food for the table.

Now tell me that you would not have done the same.

He talked of destroying the temple in three days, the temple that His forefathers had sweated blood and tears to build. He spoke of the synagogue being within us and that God was accessible to all, not just the Jews. Not just God for God’s chosen people, but for all people. But how could that really be the case?

The man was a nightmare; if it had been you, you would have done the same.

We only thought what everyone else was thinking. Get rid of the man, stop Him from whipping up the crowd into a frenzy, and keep Him from trespassing on God’s laws and sacred places.

He was in the wrong, not us. He was the one who alleged He could forgive sins. How dare He, only God could do that. He was the one who touched the unclean, dined with sinners and made friends with Roman tax collectors.

He was the one who rode into the city on a donkey acting like He was some kind of king, and allowing the people to fall at his feet. The same people who so easily came to see things our way only a few days later. He was the one who brought it all on himself. We were not to blame.

It was His doing, He was the maker of His own downfall, and I know if it had been you, you would have done the same.

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Easter Message 2015 – Video from Rev Roy Watson

If you have not yet viewed Rev Roy Watson’s inspirational Easter Message for 2015 I would recommend that you visit:-

 

 

Roy is a Minister in the Gwent Hills and Vale Methodist Circuit.
With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

But He Deserved It – The Voice of Mark the Thief

I remember the day as if it were yesterday. He was my friend, my colleague if you like, my brother in arms, my partner in crime, but that day changed my life forever.

My name is Mark. I am a former criminal, a foe of the nation, an enemy of the state, once, but now things are different and all because of that one day and that one man – that man Jesus.

It was my friend who hung on that cross next to Him, my friend who took his just punishment, my friend who asked for forgiveness and my friend who was offered paradise with Him. Let me tell you about it.

We made a living from stealing. We took what was not ours, just to get ahead, just because we felt  the world owed us  something. We told everyone that would listen that we knew no better, but we did.

We played the game, and we were caught. He, Barney, my friend, was arrested. I ran. I was only out to save my own skin, I left him high and dry. My friend was tried for the crime we had both committed. He was sentenced to death and I was free.

The day of execution came; I stood, ashamed, in the background and watched. It was not hard to blend in as there were thousands of people lining the streets that day.

Yet they did not seek the demise of my friend, but the end of Him. The one they called the Messiah, the King of the Jews, Jesus of Nazareth.

He too had been tried, in a mock court, and sentenced to an unjust death, and with my friend he was led to the Place of the Skull and crucified there. A third was strung up that day, who mocked the Christ and hurled insults at him.

But my friend had seen in Jesus what many others had missed. He had seen the light of God shining in His face and knew that He was indeed who He claimed to be.

My friend accepted the punishment for his crime and asked this Jesus to help him start again.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” I heard him utter.

He was rewarded. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus said.

So now I journey on, without my friend and partner in crime, but now I am a changed man. I no longer believe that the world owes me, and I am now looking for ways in which I can give back.

And all because of that one day and that one offer of paradise, not only for my friend but for me and for all.

(Dean Becky Lovatt)

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With many Peaceful Blessings

Geoffrey

 

Nigeria – Elections Begin Today As Violence Continues

Elections begin tomorrow as violence continues

The delayed elections will begin in Nigeria tomorrow as violent attacks increase across the centre of Nigeria. Christians are reportedly fleeing parts of the north amid fears that the violence that marred the 2011 elections will be repeated. After an attack on Gombe on 14 February, Boko Haram told residents not to vote and warned that they would bomb polling stations.

Elizabeth Shinkut, whose husband was killed by Fulani herdsmen in January, says: “We have been praying to God to touch their hearts and stop these killings and destruction.”

Please Pray:

  • For comfort and provision for those affected by violence
  • For God to touch the hearts of members of violent groups in the region
  • For these elections to be fair and safe
  • For protection for Christian communities both during and after the elections.

Presidential candidates promote peace

Attacks on Christian communities in the states across the centre of Nigeria, known as the Middle Belt, have increased dramatically in the run-up to the elections. One hundred people were killed in a village in Benue state, close to the Cameroon border, as Fulani herdsmen broke into homes and started shooting while their victims slept in the early hours of 15 March.

Presidential candidate General Muhammadu Buhari, himself an ethnic Fulani, condemned the attack as ‘killings in cold blood’. He and the current president, Goodluck Jonathan, have urged their supporters to embrace peace, regardless of who wins.

SAY YES TO YOUR PERSECUTED CHURCH FAMILY IN NIGERIA

We have created specific prayer points for the Nigerian elections and other resources to help you pray for Nigeria. Please speak out and encourage your church or small group to pray for Nigeria at this crucial time.

 

With many thanks for your prayers.

Lisa Pearce
CEO Open Doors UK & Ireland

As you know I am a great supporter of persecuted Christians.

Please add your prayers to mine to give deep inner strength and courage, not only to Christians, but people of all religious faiths, who are being continually threatened with violence for the beliefs.

With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

A Dusty Room – the Voice of Larry, the House Owner

They came unexpectedly. Two of them following a man with a jar – he pointed me out, and then disappeared as the others hurried towards me. I recognised them immediately; they were followers of Him, the teacher.

We had spoken before, this teacher and I, He spoke wisely and seemed somehow to be able to look inside my very soul.

We had discussed money, something that I was very fond of, but He seemed to think that I should give more away, help the local poor, reach out to those in need around me. I was a little taken aback; after all, who was this man to tell me what I should do with my own money?

But He sowed a seed, and it really got me thinking. It was as if He knew it would, as if He even knew the outcome of my thinking.

Then of course it happened, his two disciples arrived and asked for my upper room so that they and the teacher could share the Passover together.

Here was my chance, to show Him that I had been thinking about our conversation. I welcomed the party and told them I would prepare it for them.

They went back to give Jesus the news and I went straight to the room that had not been used for a while and needed a good clean. I spent the afternoon cleaning everywhere, making it ready to receive Him.

It was not too long before they showed up. Everyone looked hot and bothered, He smiled at me as I had said nothing about charging Him for the use of the room. He knew I was beginning to change.

He asked me for a bowl of water, which I provided and then to everyone’s amazement He bent down and washed his disciples’ feet. I have never seen a teacher, a leader do that before. Who was this man who turned the norm on its head and changed everything from the inside out?

(Deacon Becky Lovatt)

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

A Widow’s Offering: The Voice Of Andrew

We were there in the temple with Him again, the way we had been many times before. We were all there, the twelve of us and some of the women who had followed Him from the beginning.

We had gone to pray, but as we had come to expect, nothing was ever straightforward with Him. Many people grouped together, a few women congregated in the courtyard and several men entered the main part of the temple almost as one. We hovered in the doorway waiting for instruction, teaching or blessing. We had not yet grasped that the blessing would come from Him.

He ushered us through the gates, and deep into the heart of the temple and there He began to teach us.

“Look,” He said, “Watch as the men of wealth give their offerings to God. They give little of what they have and keep much for themselves. They give little, not only from their pockets but also from their very souls,” He told us.

He paused, for breath and for effect. He wanted us to take it all in, but I’m not sure we did, I’m not sure we really understood.

“Look,” He continued “Watch as the widow places her last two coins into the plate – this is all that she has and yet she gives it willingly to her God. She offers all that she can, the little money she possesses and all of herself.”

We did as we were told, we looked.

We looked and we saw the men of wealth giving little and we looked and saw the bent over old widow giving all she had, but what were we to do next?

Did He want us to go to her and lend her money or did he want us to rebuke the men for not giving enough? We did not know or understand what He wanted from us.

Years later we recalled the scene and reflected on what Jesus was trying to tell us. It is important that whatever we have we give generously back to God so that he can use it to further the kingdom.

(Deacon Becky Lovatt)

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

I Dried My Tears With My Hair – The Voice Of A Sinful Woman

Everyone considered me an outcast, and they made jolly sure I knew my place, firmly at the bottom of the pile.

Firstly, it was because I was a woman, on a sticky wicket to begin with. Secondly, it was because I had been branded a sinner. I confess, I had not followed all their rules, and gone along with their agenda, but I had to eat, and so I found whatever method I could to allow that to happen.

I had heard about Jesus. People said that He befriended sinners, ate with them, and treated people like me as His equals, giving them the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and maybe even a new start. I wanted that – I didn’t want to carry on with life as it was. I wanted a fresh dawn, and I believed He could give it to me.

I knew that His friends would not allow me anywhere near Him, so I kept my ears to the ground and waited for a good time.

I heard about a dinner being hosted by one of the locals, so I turned up on the doorstep and got myself in. Officials tried to stop me, but I so wanted to see Jesus, I just kept on walking until I reached the main hall.

Suddenly, there He was, reclining at a table with the other guests. I didn’t wait – I ran, hit my knees, and poured perfume from the jar I carried all over his feet.

As I did I began to cry, as the weight of all my sin fell away. My tears and the perfume mingled together and I wiped His feet with my hair.

There was uproar! But not from Him, He smiled and gently helped me to my feet.

Someone complained that the perfume was expensive and could have been saved for the poor. He told them that there would always be poor people, but that they would not always have Him.

Someone else was quick to point out my reputation, after all I was a sinful woman, but He told them I had done a beautiful thing in preparing Him for burial – that had not been my intention but I was pleased He liked what I had done.

The dinner host and his guests condemned me. Jesus forgave me.

And I washed His feet with my perfume and my tears and dried them with my hair.

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

Churches Welcome Call For Benefit Sanction Review

A coalition of major UK Churches, with a combined membership of more than 800,000 people, has welcomed the call for a full independent review of the benefit sanctions system. The recommendation comes in a report from the Work and Pensions Select Committee that has been released today.

Earlier this month the Churches called for such a review in their report Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions which cited new evidence about the negative impact of the current regime. They revealed that, in 2013/14, nearly seven million weeks of sanctions were handed out to people, with around 100,000 children affected. The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also shows that people who receive the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because of a long-term mental health problem are being sanctioned at a rate of more than 100 per day. The most common reason for being sanctioned is being late or not turning up for an appointment.

“The Select Committee Report describes a system that is broken and needs urgent review,” said Paul Morrison Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church. “Churches are often at the forefront of helping people who have been sanctioned and who are in desperate need of food, support and advice. It is unacceptable that vulnerable people can be left with no means of support as punishment for often very minor mistakes.

“The people we have met have spoken of the shame, demoralisation and loss of self-worth caused by this system. As Christians we believe that everyone is loved, valued and made in the image of God, and we have a responsibility to challenge any structure or system that undermines that dignity. We hope that whoever forms the next government will treat this issue with the urgency and seriousness it deserves.”

“So far, more than 1,400 people have written to their MPs about sanctions as a result of the campaign,” added Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty, “It’s great that people in churches understand how important this issue is. We know that sanctions have a disproportionate impact on those who are most vulnerable: young people, care leavers, homeless people, single parents, the mentally ill and those with long-term illness. The new government must act to ensure that the benefits system provides a safety net for everyone, rather than making people destitute.”

Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions was published by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church Action on Poverty, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church and features the stories of people like Sarah* who have had their benefits sanctioned:

Sarah worked as a charity project coordinator until she was laid off a due to funding cuts. She was asked to apply for eight jobs a week, but always applied for more as she was keen to get back to work. One week she was unable to fill out her job search on the computer because there were workmen fixing her roof and she had to stay in the house. Instead she filled out her search in a booklet. She contacted the jobcentre to explain, and ask if they needed any proof to support the booklet as she had emails from prospective employers and had even attended interviews. They said they didn’t need anything from her.

When Sarah went to collect her money she was told she had been sanctioned. However, she did not receive the letter telling her she had been sanctioned so was unable to apply for discretionary funds to help support her and her family. Sarah successfully appealed the decision, though she says that Jobcentre Plus staff repeatedly tried to discourage her from doing so.

“Usually I’m quite a confident person, but they crush you. I found the experience at the Jobcentre Plus so awful I’d rather starve than go back there again. They should properly train the people in the job centre to treat us like people …That whole attitude that people are scroungers is terrible, there’s just no respect.”

The Department for Work and Pensions has failed to respond to a further FOI request regarding whether sanctions make it easier for the DWP to achieve its targets. This is despite the fact that the Information Commissioner’s Office ordered the DWP to respond by 15 March.

I personally think that it is absolutely scandalous that people on benefits should be sanctioned because, for instance, they are a few minutes late for an appointment at the Job Centre.

If an employee is late for work no employer is going to stop their wages because they were a few minutes late for work. There would be an outcry if that ever happened.

So, what I fail to understand is why the Job Centres are allowed to take such  draconian action  by stopping, or reducing, people’s much needed benefits.

Some families are starving because of the Job Centre’s irresponsible action!

I know that I am not the only one seeking answers to this question!!

With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

I Was Out To Keep The Peace: The Voice Of A Roman Soldier

It was just another working day for me and the team. I was head of about twenty men, all assigned to the streets of Jerusalem. We’d had our orders, to be a presence, to keep the peace, and to demonstrate the power of Rome. All was going  according to plan, or so we thought. The morning had passed uneventfully, but we did not know or anticipate what was coming next.

As the afternoon wore on, more and more people began to gather. A large gathering of people always made me nervous.

Before long, there were thousands, all shouting and singing some kind of hymn of praise. Hosanna, I think it was, it meant nothing to me. My men started to twitch, they were getting very worried about the situation, and if I am honest so was I.

Rome was the dominant force, and we the Roman soldiers held court, we were quick to stamp on trouble makers, and we were not renowned for showing mercy. Normally the people of Israel knew their place; they kept quiet and did as they were told.

But that day was different. That day, when He rode into the city on the back of a donkey, that day, they were animated. They ran in packs, cutting off palm branches and laying them at His feet. They stood defiantly against us and they had never done that before either.

It shook us to the very core. We were ready to fight, our swords were drawn and we were on high alert.

But there was not any trouble. No knives or clubs were used, no stones or sticks thrown, not even spoken words of hatred.

Just Him.

A quiet, peace-filled man. A Jew, unassuming, almost unprepared for the welcome He received. He took everything in; the crowd, hailing Him as their king, and the priests watching Him with suspicion.

They knew of the reputation that followed Him and we, standing guard, were only too willing to use the power we wielded over Him.

That day, and the events that followed, made me see Rome in a different light, made me see Him with new eyes.

I had thought it from the very beginning, but by its end I knew He was different, and I knew I wanted to know more about this man they called Jesus—the king of the Jews.

(From The Shadows of Victory: Ride on the Rollercoaster of Holy Week by Deacon Becky Lovatt.

For further information and to download this inspirational kindle book please go to:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00L9UYDKS/  )

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey