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Love in abundance: a reminder of the radical love of God that empowers us to be gracious and to step out boldly in all that we do.

'Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’

(1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)

I’ve heard this passage countless times and to be honest, I think it’s become a bit of a cliché. Surely we know how to love? But take another look, these words are important. I hate to say it but we need to learn how to love.

The Bible tends to use the word love in a big way. Far bigger than the way I might use it to describe how much love Yorkshire puddings or my favourite jumper. Far bigger even, than the way I might use it to talk about how much I love my family or friends or church. The Greek translation for the word Paul uses here is agape.

Agape: a love that is independent of circumstance, a love that is selfless and is given undeservedly. A love for what is most often unlovely.


"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32)

This kind of love is not defined by a fuzzy feeling but by bold action. Jesus gives us a wealth of examples of what real, radical love looks like. My favourite one is John 13, where he washes the feet of his disciples.  Just for a bit of context, foot washing is something that slaves did for their masters, children for their parents and disciples for their teachers. It was counted as an act of huge intimacy, respect and humility towards another person. If I’m honest, this wouldn’t be my go to thing to show someone I love him or her. But for Jesus this is radical: the Son of God washing the feet of normal blokes.

In fact, Jesus was being so outrageous that Peter tries to refuse (v8). Just to make it even better, we see in verse 2 that Jesus already knows Judas will betray him. And yet ‘having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the last’ (v1). That included washing the feet of those who he knew full well would reject him.

Radical love doesn’t fit in to a box or adhere to what we necessarily think it looks like to love others. It is other-person focused; it humbles us to wash the feet of and lay our lives down for our enemies. This kind of love is radical and defines us as His.

Love is not all about the grand actions either. It is just as much to do with the sacrifices that we might consider to be distinctly un-radical. When we love even in the hard little gritty bits of life where it would be so easy to lose our temper, to be impatient or to hold a grudge, that’s radical love.


Love is what love does.


The more we push ourselves to love like this, the more we understand the same agape of God. God’s love allows us to love the un-lovable; it empowers us to be gracious and to step out boldly and be radical.

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)


My recommendation for you today is the song Hosanna by Hillsong. Listen particularly to the words of bridge.

Keep making every day count Challenge from IJM:

‘Nothing happens just because we are aware of modern slavery, but nothing will ever happen until we are.’

– Gary Haugen, founder of IJM. 

Slavery has thrived in the shadows because people don’t know about it. The first step to bringing change is helping people to realise that change needs to happen in the first place.

Your voice has power.

This week, we challenge you to use your influence and tell someone about the 40 million people trapped in modern slavery today.

You can learn more here: https://www.ijmuk.org/slavefree


Katrina

Katrina studied at Durham University and now works in student sport. She has experience in student leadership through Kings Church Durham and Christians in Sport, including weekly 1:1 mentoring - and now heads up Abide, our student network, having pioneered our Faith Played Out sports content. Katrina loves More Precious because the content opens doors to necessary and real conversations about the joys and struggles of faith. She is passionate about watching girls grow with the assurance they are valuable and crazily loved daughters of God.

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Each day is an opportunity: so let’s step out for Jesus with all that we have and all that we are.

We all face challenges every day, big and small.  Tests at school, sports matches, challenging situations with our friends, trying to juggle all our activities and everything on our to do lists – sometimes just getting out of bed on a cold, dark Monday morning is a challenge! So how can we keep smiling and live how God wants us when we feel overwhelmed by what lies ahead?

In the book of Joshua, we see a great example of God calling Joshua to take on a huge challenge.  God asked Joshua to lead God’s people into the Promised Land – a task that was to involve crossing the river Jordan, the battle of Jericho, conquering the land, dividing it up among the tribes and settling the people there.  It was a huge challenge!

When God called Joshua to take all this on, He reminded Joshua about who God is. In Joshua 1, God says: 


“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses [Joshua’s predecessor], so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous … Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

This promise is as true for us today as it was for Joshua back then.  Whatever situation we end up in, nothing is beyond God’s control.  Whatever struggles come our way, his perfect love can conquer every fear.  No challenge is impossible for God.  Nothing is too much for Him to handle.  And He calls us to step out in faith each and every day of our lives.

No matter how old or young we are, we can step out in faith because we trust in a God who is all-powerful, all-loving, and always with us. Each day is an opportunity to use the gifts that He has given us to help those around us, to love our families and friends well, and give God our all.

When our friends ask us why we go to church, we can step out in faith and invite them to come with us one week to see what it’s like. When we see a girl at school being made fun of, we can leave the conversation and go and spend time with her. When our youth group leader asks us to serve at church in the band or by taking looking out for a younger girl, we can embrace the opportunity to use the gifts God has given us. When we’re not sure what subjects to pick, or what to do when we leave school, we can dream big in the security that God has great plans for our life.

When we step out 100% for Him, he wont abandon us: He is our greatest protector.


God promises that he will give us all that we need to do what he calls us to do.

Let’s go!

Recommendation: Set Apart – Tim Hughes
Set Apart // Worship Central - YouTube
Challenge from IJM

Just as every day counts, every prayer counts, too. 

When IJM teams go with police to rescue people trapped in slavery, they often face uncertainty and danger. Time after time, the investigators and social workers on these rescue operations have testified to the power of prayer. The everyday prayers of everyday people can sometimes mean the difference between freedom and bondage - or even life and death. 

So our first challenge is this: Pray. 

You could save these prayer points as a note on your phone and pray for one each day, or you could take a moment to pray for each of them right now. Whatever you do, know: God hears your prayers, and that means that they make a difference. 

Pray for police. When police are well trained and well resourced, they end slavery in their communities. Pray for wisdom and protection for the Anti-Human-Trafficking Units around the world. 

Pray for governments. Thank God for the governments around the world that are taking action against slavery in their countries, and pray that this would become an urgent priority on national to-do lists. Pray for creativity and determination as lawmakers come up with solutions. 

Pray for businesses. Pray that business can use their power for good, and that they make choices to honour their workers and bring change to their industries so that #slavefree becomes normal on our shop shelves. 

Pray for IJM. We’d love your prayers! Pray safety over our investigators, and favour in our relationships with police and governments. Pray not only that we can rescue people, but that we can stop slavery from happening in the first place. 

Pray for the church. Pray that God sets his people on fire for justice! Thank God for all his people who are fighting to change the world, and pray for a fresh wave of determination to see God’s kingdom come!

Emma

Emma grew up in Bath, before moving to Cambridge as a teenager and then studied Law there at university. Since graduating, Emma has worked in finance, and heads up More Precious Establish, as well as managing our busy events programme. Emma is so loving seeing God use More Precious to grow his kingdom, and her prayer is that He would continue to use it for His glory. Emma is married to Luke, Mum to baby Mia and they go to church at HTB in London. 

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If, like us, you’ve woken up feeling rather full from all those pancakes and are suddenly thinking (Dad joke) that Lent has really crêped up on you this year… we’re here to give you a sneak preview into the challenges and encouragements lined up for the More Precious community over the next 40 days. 

Across Lent 2019, we’re encouraging you to remember that Every Day Counts – so whether you’re giving something up or taking something on, every single day you are walking the planet COUNTS for something. You are here for a purpose, and you have influence! 

We’ll also be partnering with the International Justice Mission who are running a make #slavefree normal campaign, giving out regular challenges to get us out of our comfort zones and thinking consciously about the impact of our day-to-day actions on those who are in slavery. 

Every article is designed for YOU in your normal everyday routine – and this Lent we’re preparing you to get ready to use your influence. Whether you’re at school, university or in the world of work – every single girl reading has a sphere of influence. So let’s explore how to use it to glorify God.

You might not know that ‘More Precious’ takes its name from the Proverbs 31 woman, who is ‘more precious than jewels’; whose God-fearing character is more valuable than any materials items or earthly status. 

If you’re like me, it’s easy to skim this passage and become slightly overwhelmed by ALL that this woman achieves… she gets up early, goes to bed late, and seems to get more done in a day than I do in a week! 

But this isn’t a standard to measure ourselves against, but a passage that can inspire us by showing us what it looks like to use our influence and resources for the glory of God. We can learn from the way the Proverbs 31 woman uses each day: 

* She is productive and uses her time and energy for the good of others and glory of God: ‘She works with eager hands’ (v13) ‘She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night’ (v18) 

* She is conscious and intentional about everything in her hands: ‘She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness’ (v27) 

* She shapes her life as an offering to God: ‘A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised, Honour her for all that her hands have done’ (vv30-31) 

* And she uses her influence to bring dignity to the most vulnerable in society: ‘She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy’ (vv20-21) 

Depending on where we live and spend our days, some of us will be walking regularly alongside people who are physically needy and lack basic resources. The Bible calls us to extend our resources and be girls who ‘act justly, love mercy and walk humbly’ (Micah 6:8) – whether through our day-to-day actions or engaging with social action with our church families and community. 

For some of us, it might be that we are surrounded by people who are materially comfortable but have a deep spiritual need. No matter how wealthy, popular or successful someone is – we all have a deep need for the 

grace of Jesus. So let’s be sharing God’s love and walking alongside people from ALL areas of society – just like Jesus did. 

On a much larger scale, we are all called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, 

While Proverbs 31 shows us that we should seek to live justly in our everyday actions, Isaiah 58 is a passage that calls us to seek justice on a larger scale. It outlines our mandate as God’s people: 

‘To loose the chains of injustice And untie the cords of the yoke, To set the oppressed free And break every yoke’ 

The passage doesn’t limit our actions to the small and unseen things, but it actually calls us to be part of breaking unjust systems that exist in our world. 

And one of the largest injustices in our world today is that the poor and needy across our nations are being trafficked or forced to work against their will. We might think of slavery as a thing of the past, but a stat that absolutely floors me is that in our world today, there are over 40 million people trapped in slavery. 

This can feel totally overwhelming to us, and it feels impossible to know where to start. 

But the issue becomes more real and ‘visible’ when we realise that 25 million of those people are in forced labour slavery, many of them making products that we use every single day – like coffee, chocolate and makeup. Something that can feel so far away to our everyday lives suddenly feels quite close to home – and we start to see that our everyday choices can make a large impact. 

This Lent, we’re going to be sharing articles that encourage you to step out in faith, to live free of shame, to pass on the baton to our sisters in Christ, and to be courageous. We’ll be sharing resources and practical ways to live our lives fully for the glory of God, just like the Proverbs 31 woman. 

And we’re also going to be encouraging each other to take a stand and live #slavefree. I imagine if the Proverbs 31 woman was around today, she would be someone committed to making an impact in the small things – deliberate in the clothes she buys and the choices she makes. 

I’m excited to see what we can achieve as a community over the next 40 days, if we channel the intentionality of the Proverbs 31 woman and remind ourselves that our EVERY DAY should count for something bigger. 

So let’s get ready to spend Lent extending our hands to the needy of this world, and becoming more like Jesus in our everyday habits, influence and actions. 


‘A good woman is hard to find, She is more precious than diamonds.’ ‘She rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started, She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day’ ‘She’s quick to assist anyone in need, Reaches out to help the poor.’ ‘Charm can mislead, and beauty soon fades. But the woman to be admired and praised Is the woman who lives in the fear of God.’ 

Excerpts from Proverbs 31 

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 

11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

Isaiah 58:9-12

Lucy

Lucy founded More Precious in 2013 whilst studying at Durham University, and has had the humbling experience of overseeing its growth ever since. She is passionate about investing into girls and young women, and believes in raising up a generation who will live courageously and fearlessly for the Lord. Day-to-day, Lucy helps to build up and invest in businesses with purpose at the heart, and also advises a number of startup founders. She is married to James, lives in London and attends Holy Trinity Clapham. 

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Introducing the final article in our Better Together series. We’ve covered relationships, friendships, dating, mentoring, and now church families. What a rich set of topics to be journeying through together! We pray you’ve been blessed, encouraged and challenged over the past six weeks. MP Team x

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12: 3–5)

Me. Myself and I. The one if we are all honest, we perhaps think a little too much about. Perhaps statements like ‘I’ve got this’, ‘I don’t need help’, or ‘I can do this’ are often what you say? ‘I find it’s easier if I just do it’, is perhaps your first response? This mindset can easily creep into our everyday language without us even realising it and before we know it, we have only thought about the impact for Me. Myself and I.

Over the last week, I’ve been reflecting on this far too familiar tune in my life. Recently, I was moving some furniture at work, as I have many times before, but this time I didn’t realise the full weight. In a split second, it was too late, the chair had fallen, and my foot had become the cushion between the stone floor. Don’t worry, after having it checked out (praise the Lord for the NHS!) it wasn’t broken. However, before figuring this out, I sat down and burst into tears, whilst my lovely colleagues brought prayer, ice, tea and cake (I work for a church, there is always cake). I began to process why I was so upset about what had happened as my foot wasn’t hurting that much - only when I moved it.

For the last article in this series ‘Better Together’, we are looking at our inclusion into a bigger story; the body of Christ.

I didn’t have an easy childhood, for many reasons and life experiences, I grew up quickly. Subsequently, in part, I have always been a ‘get on with it’ kind of gal, friends would have described me as the reliable and loyal one. On many occasions, this has served me well and I have been blessed with lots of varied and deep friendships as people are able to trust and rely on me.

I sometimes adopt the mindset of ‘I’ve got this, I’m good’. The day I hurt my ankle was no different in some ways to any other time when I had ‘got this’. Reflecting, as the tears flowed, there were three questions that were so clear to me;

•    I don’t have time for a broken foot, how am I going to live my life?

•    I’m so independent, who’s going to help me?

•    Why did I do this, why didn’t I ask for help?

Whilst sat in A&E, sending out lots of prayer text messages, I had to forgive myself. I couldn’t go back in time whatever the impending result. There were two outcomes; broken foot or not. 

After finding out it wasn’t, I was praising every day - as it’s painful but could have been so much worse! I was blessed with my friend bringing me dinner, my housemate getting me anything I needed, and so many texts, phone calls, checks in, flowers and care.

It was in these moments afterwards that I realised how far I had shifted to believe that it was quicker for me to just do and that I was the only one who could do things for me – such a lie! As my foot slowly heals and I continue to pray for healing, I have been reminded that I can accept and ask for help and it doesn’t mean I’m not competent; it’s just easier when the load is shared.

We are called to walk together in unity, with Christ, serving one another.

For a while, I had believed the lie of the enemy that I had it covered on my own. He wants nothing more than to separate us from believing God’s truth and to isolate us from one another.

Sometimes God calls us to be bold and take a step of faith alone but being a follower of Christ means we are included into something bigger than just us, we don’t always have to go at it alone.

In this situation, I should have asked my colleague for help as I’m not invincible. We are made to help each other, build and strengthen the body of Christ, so when the storms of life come, we are ready to stand firm together.

As Paul writes in Romans, later in the passage, we are one body with many functions. We must work together to use individually what God has gifted us with; together. In Christ, we belong to each other and so that bears an impact upon each other. If I’d had simply asked, ‘please will you help me?’, I would have caused less extra work for the long term.

Girls, in the weeks ahead, pray and ask God if there is any part of you that thinks you are better offer working alone? If there is, confess this to him and then replace this thinking with the truth.

We are including into a bigger story of the church and inherit a family when we believe in Jesus. I pray you are reminded this week of those wise words from Mother Teresa: ‘I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot: together we can do great things.’

The truth is that in all our relationships we are ALWAYS better together!

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This week we explore the value of mentoring, and how intentional, regular encouragement in our lives can help us reach our God-given potential.

Mentoring is an intentional relationship in which experience and values are shared, learned and passed on.

Throughout the Bible, mentoring was used to pass on wisdom, skills and knowledge. We see lots of great examples of mentoring modelled well, Moses and Joshua, Paul and Timothy, Jesus and the Disciples and Mordecai and Esther.

The story of Esther is one of my favourite stories for so many reasons, but especially because she’s a bold and courageous woman who spoke up for injustice when it truly mattered. Here we talk about Esther in the context of her relationship with her mentor, Mordecai.

From Scripture, we know that Mordecai was Esther’s cousin (Esther 2:7). He adopted her and worked within the King’s gate. (From other parts of scripture, we know that the King’s gate was where business and decisions were made).

Esther didn’t wake up being the Queen - she was mentored so that she might reach her potential from orphan to Queen. We too can sometimes feel we aren’t where we want to be and just need a little encouragement.

It’s never too early to find a mentor to help equip us for where God wants us to be. As we know we are better when we work together!

Our mentors help us consider important questions and encourage us to think differently to the way we naturally do, or our friends think; to suggest options, not answers. Having a mentor doesn’t mean that all the things I find hard will suddenly disappear, but the process of self-reflection can draw us to live differently.

Esther’s life was by no means easy, she faced lots of the same struggles that other girls face across the world. As a girl, in her culture, she had very few rights. She was given an opportunity she knew was beyond her family background but because of her beauty, she was given access. In the time of Esther, family background and status were how you were identified in society.

Great mentors aren’t fixed on getting the glory for themselves but are more concerned with encouraging others to develop.

Even as a Queen, Esther never forgot Mordecai and all he had done for her in equipping her in life. Mordecai didn’t know the impact that Esther would play in the salvation of her people, all he knew is that he was called to do his part.

Esther became more influential than Mordecai in her ability to make impactful decisions. Her mentor had equipped her to know what she should do in all circumstances. He encouraged her to be courageous in the decisions she must make, to use her hands to change history, achieve justice and save God’s people, the Jews.

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
(Esther 4:12-14)

Mentoring/being a mentee has been a part of my life since I was a teenager, beginning with my Youth Workers and godparents. Over time, I’ve had mentors for different seasons and for different purposes; sometimes for my career and sometimes for spiritual development. Whatever the situation, my mentors have all challenged me to live authentically and honestly in my decisions.

How do we learn from Esther’s journey in fulfilling the purpose that God had for her? What does Esther teach us when it comes to looking for a good mentor?

1.    Mentors help us to achieve our potential

Esther was an orphan. She teaches us that our family background doesn’t define our lives but reminds us it’s just the start. Mordecai mentored Esther and provided an opportunity for her to go before the king, then on her own, she found favour with him. Mentors give us the tools to help reach our fullest potential.

2.    Mentors ask us hard questions and teach us about the journey

When it counted, Mordecai challenged Esther and asked her an important question. Was she going to stand up and be counted or was she going to stay silent? It would have been very easy for Esther to ignore her past and focus on her future.  In this case, both the journey of Esther’s past and the destination of her being Queen, are equally important.

If we are truly looking to be transformed into our fullest potential, we need to allow our mentors to ask us the hard questions and challenge us.

3.    Mentors set an example

Mordecai lived with integrity in all that he stood for. He was at the gate of the city, faithful and willing to look stupid in sackcloth and ashes in order to stand up for the injustice predicted for his people (Esther 4:2). We need to make sure that we look for mentors who live with authenticity and integrity in the way they lead their lives. His integrity led him to be second in rank to King Xerxes (Esther 10:3).

Mentoring is significant so we can continue to be developed more into His likeness. Are you ready to be encouraged in being courageous in your life? If you are, find a mentor and get started! Ruth

Ruth became a Christian at a very young age and has been passionate about Jesus ever since! After moving around a lot, London has been home for the last 6 years, including studying for her Youth work and Practical Theology degree. An extrovert, she is passionate about authentic community, organisation and young people living out their full potential in wherever God has called them to be! She joined the team in 2018 and has written the series Better Together for Rise. During the week, Ruth is an Events and office manager for St Dionis church, Parsons Green.

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After our family, our friends are the next biggest influence in our lives. Repeatedly, they are the first people we go to if we need advice, comfort or we aren’t sure what to say – ‘I couldn’t have dreamed of going to my parents about this, insert issue here,’ is probably a phrase that we have all said before. Our friends often remind us that we are better together.

C.S. Lewis, writes, “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”

Do you have wise friends? Are they encouraging you to thrive or drawing you away from God’s potential for your life?

We are all unique. Special. Gifted. This can sometimes be hard to hear as ‘unique’ is often used in such a negative way - or maybe you hear it too much that it’s lost its meaning. But the truth is; we are unique! We are all made differently and so the friends we let influence us and choose to be around will all be different. Do you think of your friends like this?

The writer of Proverbs 13:20 says:

‘Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm’. Who we are being influenced by, will shape who we become. Who are you being shaped by?

This can be a tough question especially if we have friendships with people that go back years - maybe they started when we began our education or before we came to follow Jesus. But for all of us, we need to make sure we have a balance of Christian friends (those who remind us of our God-given identity and encourage us to deeper relationship with Jesus) and those not-yet-following-Jesus friends (who we can continue to accept, show God’s love and be a testament to a living God working in our lives).

Lacking friends in either of these areas might mean we don’t play our role in either welcoming new followers of Christ into the kingdom, or it might limit our depth of relationship with Jesus because we don’t have those friends who are encouraging us to go deeper when life feels tough.

From the first article of this series, we can be reminded that we are first known and loved by God. For all of us though, we are all still looking to be loved and accepted by those around us - especially our closest friends.

However, acceptance has an evil twin; rejection. We are all trying to avoid it but if we have experienced lots of rejection, it can impact our friendships; who we share with and what we say to our friends. 

Romans 3:23 reminds us that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. We all sin, we all make mistakes, we all don’t treat each other as we should be treated; none of us are perfect. Verse 24 goes onto say ‘…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ’.

What a relief! So, how do we learn to accept others and allow others to accept us knowing this?

Friendship should be two-sided. We must think and pray carefully about who we are allowing to speak into our lives and who we are sharing our heart with. Their advice has the potential to change the direction of our lives. This isn’t something to be afraid of, but aware. There have been many times in my life that following the guidance of an ‘unwise’ friend could have led me to make decisions with really serious consequences.

Below are some characteristics I use in making good friendship choices.

1.     Honest‘The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy’. (Proverbs 12:22)

This is at the top of the list for me. I want to be able to trust my friends to keep the desires of my heart and hold me accountable when I need to change my behaviour.

2.     Encouraging‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing’. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

I want to be encouraged in my friendships, to keep my eyes fixed on God when I’m feeling tempted or wisdom in the choices I must make. 

3. Sacrificial ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ (John 15:12-13)

Jesus already laid down his physical life as a sacrifice, but for us maybe this would look like sacrificing your own time for a friend who is upset. 

We can’t make our friends accept us, but we can choose wisely about who we call a friend. We accept others because we are all still a work in progress - despite our sin we are accepted by Jesus. He has accepted us. It’s an active choice we must make to accept people for who they are now and point them to their God-given potential.

God certainly didn’t just leave Saul in the mindset he was in when he encountered him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–19). He showed him the truth of who he was and pointed him to live in his God-given identity.  

Why don’t you try praying and asking Him to show you how you can encourage a friend today into their God-given destiny?

Ruth

Ruth became a Christian at a very young age and has been passionate about Jesus ever since! After moving around a lot, London has been home for the last 6 years, including studying for her Youth work and Practical Theology degree. An extrovert, she is passionate about authentic community, organisation and young people living out their full potential in wherever God has called them to be! She joined the team in 2018 and has written the series Better Together for Rise. During the week, Ruth is an Events and office manager for St Dionis church, Parsons Green.

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We all know that names and labels are a part of our everyday world. They mean something. They are either factual, complimentary or mocking. There is no difference when it comes to our dating relationships.

We all like to know where we stand with someone: whether it’s going on dates, hanging out, unofficial, official or just ‘Netflix and chill’. Whichever way you want to put it, we are all eventually led to ask, ‘what are we calling this?’

The next instalment of this series focuses on the truth that ‘we are cherished by another’. You may ask yourself: cherished? This seems like an old word that you would never say - and to be honest it’s a word even I slightly cringe at still when I say it in the context of romantic relationships.

I remember listening to adults tell me that I needed to be ‘cherished.' Cringe.

Unfortunately, as time has passed and I’ve begun to unpack these ideas for myself, I have come to agree that this is exactly what I want to encourage you to pursue. Someone who cherishes you!

The dictionary definition defines to cherish as ‘to protect and care for someone lovingly’. This definition is a helpful starting place, alongside the Bible, when thinking about our romantic relationships.

The Bible has very little to say directly in the context of ‘dating’ as culturally, in the time the Bible was written, dating was not a concept. Most families arranged marriages for their children because this was the means of strengthening family empires or survival. The choice to marry ‘for love’ was certainly not available for your own choosing, especially if you were a girl – can you imagine your family choosing this for you?

When talking about romantic relationships we can sometimes adopt a few patterns of thinking from the cultures or communities we exist in:

1. Culture says: We must be in a relationship in order to feel that we have made it or to feel complete.
2. Culture says: We must be in a relationship because our friends are.

At this point, let’s remember that Jesus was fully perfect, complete and he was single. And let’s focus on some more helpful ideas and truths around relationships…

1. God delights in knowing us whether we are in a relationship or single.

The label of either ‘single’ or ‘relationship’ can sometimes mean we don’t pursue certain dreams. But the most important thing is that you pursue a relationship with Jesus and follow all he’s calling you to champion, whether your status is what you want it to be or not.

We are, of course, all only on loan to one another until we are reunited with Christ! For some of us, relationships are what we desire and for others, it isn’t. The key here is to know why you would want to be in one, pray and discern in your heart if that’s a desire for you.

As we can see from our friendships, we all have different friendships because of who we are. Therefore, the personalities and looks we find attractive will all be different.

It’s important to note here that romantic relationships should be based on friendship.

We can’t expect to go from not having a friendship at all to (eventually) marrying our best friend… those just don’t line up!

Although, often in Christian circles, attraction can be downplayed. In our romantic relationships, we must also find them ‘easy on the eye’ too but neither one of these should speak the loudest. Girls, in my own experience, I have also found people to be attractive because of their personality even if in the beginning I didn’t notice them the minute they walked through the door.

Finally, and most importantly, focus on a relationship with Jesus.

For those of you who may already have boyfriends or about to clarify ‘what this is’, let me offer something to think about. Is your faith and relationship with Jesus critical to who you are? Can you imagine sharing with someone who perhaps is kind and appears to understand, but doesn’t fully know it to be true in their heart?

I too, as well as many friends, have had to ask myself this question. For some of you, I know you will disagree - but remember, what we focus on will shape what we become. If you share getting to know each other in the context of knowing whose image you are created in and for what purpose, this will grow in you both. If your main commonality is something else, that is what will grow.

God through scripture has lots to say about love and how we treat one another. Paul writes in Romans 12: 9–13, about what love looks like in action. In these verses, Paul outlines the behaviours as Christians we should adopt, beginning with love. Here, love sets the tone for which all the other behaviours follow.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

We see that love, in practice, looks like devotion, honour and putting someone about yourself. Sound familiar?

To love is to cherish; to intentionally protect and care for someone above yourself. We must learn to cultivate this if we desire to have healthy romantic relationships.

Girls, in your reflections this week, ask yourself if you need to spend more time starting from a place of love in the way you interact with others (romantic or not). From this mindset, we can

‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.’Irrespective of your relationship label, God loves you equally. Whether you are dating now or desire to date in the future. He cares about who you are cherishing and that you are cherished by another! Ruth

Ruth became a Christian at a very young age and has been passionate about Jesus ever since! After moving around a lot, London has been home for the last 6 years, including studying for her Youth work and Practical Theology degree. An extrovert, she is passionate about authentic community, organisation and young people living out their full potential in wherever God has called them to be! She joined the team in 2018 and has written the series Better Together for Rise. During the week, Ruth is an Events and office manager for St Dionis church, Parsons Green.

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We can’t choose our family, but we can choose our friends.

Do you remember the first time you went to your friends for dinner and the shock when you realised that your family did things very differently! Maybe they had their phones at the table, they didn’t have a table, or you didn’t have to wait till everyone had finished eating before leaving? You probably thought, “this is not like my family”.

I know in moments like this we can feel disappointed. Maybe we wanted something we didn’t have, or we wanted to return to something we did have. The Bible story of Joseph (Genesis 37 - 50) and his brothers reminds us how no one has the perfect family, but God is always teaching us how to love one another even through disappointing situations or when we don’t treat each other as we should.

We know from the writer of Genesis that Joseph was 17 years old when he had a dream. Joseph was the youngest, but his Dad’s favourite as he was the son he had in his old age, this made his elder brothers very jealous of him especially as age in this culture had more significance – you can understand why they would find it hard! His father gave Joseph a beautiful coloured robe. After his dream, Joseph told his brothers In the dream he would rule over them. You can imagine that this would have fuelled their dislike for him even further!

Later, we see Joseph thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold to the Ishmaelites as a slave and then stripped of his colourful robe. His brothers had gone further to deceive everyone by dipping it in goat’s blood, so they could blame someone else and tell their father a different story. We don’t know what Joseph’s thoughts or feelings were in this moment, but I can image that he would have been devastated. I know how I feel when I’m frustrated, disappointed or hurt by someone in my family.

The most incredible part of this story is that Joseph is reunited with his father (Genesis 48:11) and his brothers (50:15-21), and he forgives them!

Here we see God make good out of a very painful situation.

In the painful story of Joseph’s life (which got worse for him as he is wrongly accused by a woman and then thrown in prison), Joseph could have chosen to hold onto bitterness, ignore God and let the injustice be what ruled him. Instead, he actively chose to forgive his family in obedience to God.

We know from the story that Joseph has had his own family, which meant that years had gone by, and a lot of memories missed, before they are reconciled.

But God is always in the business of redeeming relationships - especially families.

Like Joseph, we are also called to forgive our families when maybe our parents make choices or rules that to us, don’t feel loving or fun. In Ephesians, Paul asks us to:

‘Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you’. (Ephesians 4:32)

We are called to forgive as we have been so graciously forgiven. The only perfect person is Jesus and it’s from his example we learn.

I’m not saying this is easy but forgiving someone even when we don’t think they deserve it, invites Jesus into the situation and he brings freedom for us and joy. Just as we see above, Joseph’s brother’s jealousy killed their joy and bound them carrying a secret for most of their lives. This captive mentality is not what Jesus desires for us.

Here are a few ways we can respond by what we learn through Joseph’s life testimony:

1.     What might you need to forgive someone in your family for? It may not be as extreme as what Joseph brothers did to him but when we forgive it still brings freedom to us.

2.     Maybe you have a great relationship with your family and nothing immediate jumps to mind. Ephesians 6:2 calls us to honour our parents. How can you change your attitude to honour them more?

3.     Like Joseph, Joshua influenced the direction of his family irrespective of his age. Joshua 24:15 reads ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’. How can you help shape how you and your family serve the Lord? If your family don’t know Jesus yet, could this be your prayer?

Joseph learned to embrace his many brothers and forgive them. He didn’t choose his family, but he did choose to allow God to use him greatly, despite his circumstances and injustice. This led him to a senior trusted role in Pharaoh’s household.

Where do you think God will lead you through your experiences if you forgive others? Ruth

Ruth became a Christian at a very young age and has been passionate about Jesus ever since! After moving around a lot, London has been home for the last 6 years, including studying for her Youth work and Practical Theology degree. An extrovert, she is passionate about authentic community, organisation and young people living out their full potential in wherever God has called them to be! She joined the team in 2018 and has written the series Better Together for Rise. During the week, Ruth is an Events and office manager for St Dionis church, Parsons Green.

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A reminder of peace for the New Year ahead… and a challenge on how to live as Peacemakers, even, and especiallym when it is most costly, following the example of the greatest Peacemaker that ever was, Jesus.

Love, MP Team x



‘And there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flocks at night.’ (Luke 2:8) 

Bleating lambs, a dark velvet sky with chandelier stars and a sharp nip in the air. A fire going, the crackle and pop of twigs.  The musty smell of well-worn wool and leather, breathing in clear country air away from the bustling city lights. A peaceful evening if ever there was one.  

‘An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were filled with fear.’ (Luke 2:9) 

Sheep scatter, dozing eyes flash wide, staffs are gripped with white knuckled hands as the shepherds jump to attention. The LORD’s messenger is here: blazing hot, fiery and fierce. Rather than peace, there is fear beyond anything these shepherds have felt before. And yet this messenger who disrupts a seemingly peaceful evening, who causes strong men to quake in their boots brings a message of true peace for all the people, even the shepherds.  

‘Unto you is born this day, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.’ And when the great chorus arrives: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace on whom His favour rests.’ (Luke 2:14) 

The promised king is here, a Saviour, a baby dressed in swaddling bands, lying in a feeding trough.  It’s not what we expected a King to look like – but the chorus of the angels shows us that God’s message is one of peace for ‘all the people’.  

It’s a statement we enjoy - especially on calligraphy Christmas cards. Our idea of peace to all people tends to be similar to the original shepherd scene: crackling fires, cosy company, stillness and comfort. But in the chapters of Jesus’ life we are shown very practically the real price of bringing true peace to the world. 

 ‘The punishment that brought us peace was laid upon Him, and by his wounds we are healed.’ (Isaiah 53:5) 

This one verse shows us what true peace is, and why it was costly. It talks about ‘the punishment that brought us peace’: meaning we can define true peace as eternal relationship and access to our Maker – and it shows us that Jesus had to die to make the sacrifice for us.  

And this is what makes it so precious and costly: we can only access this peace through the work of Jesus – not by anything we can do on our own.

No matter your status: whether you’re a shepherd or king, a child or champion, an influencer or feel we’re hardly noticed – if we trust in Jesus we can be eternally at peace with God, through the work of the great Peacemaker.

Having received this message of true peace, we are called to share it – even when it’s costly. Wherever we are: whether we are spending time with those we don’t naturally click with, being patient with the family member who puts us down, getting used to the rhythms of holiday life rather than regular routine – the gospel of peace remains unchanged. It is open to all people. 

So this Christmas, enjoy every reflection of the Lord’s peace to us in the flickering candles, golden roasts, laughter and warmth. But enjoy too seeking to bring His message of peace in the mess and muddle of this broken world ‘to all people’ bringing ‘glory to God in the highest and peace on whom His favour rests’ until He comes again.  

Prayer: 

Gracious God and Loving Heavenly Father, we pray please for the chaotic world in which we live. Please be at work in politicians, those in authority over us, and our own hearts and minds this Christmas. Please help us as your children to seek to bring this message of peace to those around us even when it is costly to do so. In the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. 

Amen 

This post was written for you by: Rebecca

Rebecca was born and bred in Ireland, is now happily married to Chris and living and working in Exeter, teaching law. Rebecca especially enjoys exercise, 121 coffees, a good book and laughing lots.

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Relationships.

I can imagine that when I say that word you instantly have a picture of who or what that looks like. Maybe, you even rolled your eyes when reading this at the bio or were tempted to stop reading. Don’t. We know that all scripture is God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16–17) and so He will speak through these words even if you have a different experience or perspective.

Over the next 6 weeks, we’re going to be unpacking many of the different kinds of relationships (I don’t just mean romantic ones) we experience in everyday life, that we are called into by God. I can’t wait to hear how Jesus has spoken to you as we journey the next few weeks together.

Have you ever felt invisible?

There are many times in our relationships with others at home, school, church or even God, where we feel completely invisible. Maybe our sibling seems to get more attention, or we didn’t get invited to the party, again. Have you ever asked yourself: “does anyone know I’m here?  Do I matter to anyone?” I know that I’ve had these thoughts before when a situation has happened and I’ve felt completely unloved and invisible.

Psalm 139, written by David, reminds me of the truth that no matter how unnoticed I feel, I cannot go unnoticed by God. In fact, David goes further to say that we are not just noticed by God but fully known by Him. This is a deeper level of relationship than to just be noticed by someone:

Psalm 139:1-6 (NIV) You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

When I’m disappointed or feeling left out, reading this and choosing to believe, ‘I’m never out of your sight’ (The Message Translation) has brought me such peace and comfort. I am reminded that my gaze has fallen away from the One who’s attention and invitation truly matters. It is only in being in God’s sight that I can find peace, no matter whether I am left out or not.

Our culture constantly encourages us to keep updated; to have the latest this or that, get the latest snapchat filter or view our friend’s Instagram story. Our pre-set phone settings are programmed to notify us when someone likes our posts. These things aren’t bad in themselves, but let’s be away of how we use them, and how it makes us view the world. I love Instagram stories, I love seeing what my friends are up to when I’m not with them or when I haven’t seen them for a little while. I find such joy in this!

David writes further to say that God also delights in where we are and what we are doing. Whether we ‘climb the sky or go underground’ He delights in us still. We are still known to Him and His Spirit is with us. So, what does this look like for our lives when we believe we are known by God? How does that change how we see or act around our friends, class mates and family?

A verse that has really helped me understand is:

‘We love because he first loved us’. (1 John 4:19)

For you, love may mean something completely different, but the dictionary definition is ‘a strong feeling of affection or pleasure in something’. So, God has great affection for us and takes great pleasure in us that he chooses to know us.

Here in 1 John, the writer is stating that the ability to love comes from the great assurance of first being loved. What a security there is in knowing this kind of love comes from Him; we are loved! As in the first passage, there is a certainty we can rest in when relationships can look a little tricky or come under pressure that this relationship with God will never change as we will always be known and loved.

For some of us this doesn’t feel quite so easy and, don’t get me wrong, we must choose each day to believe that we are known and loved by God first, because when we really believe this, it will change the way we see others in the different relationships we have.

Listed below are some tips of how to practice knowing this:

·       Know the truth: Reading our bibles and spending time in worship (whether that’s on your own in God’s presence, or singing during the worship time at church) reveals more to us of His nature and who He has made us to be.

·       Invest in encouraging friendships: Spend time with people who have faith in Jesus and who encourage you that you are known and loved! If you don’t have any Christian friends, we will be looking at other relationships that can encourage later in this series.

·       Ask for help: Asking someone to pray with you when you feel alone can really help. Pray He would remind you that you’re not alone.

Girls, go deeper in your relationships this week. Go knowing, in all confidence, that we are known and loved by Him. In this confidence we can change the world! Ruth

Ruth became a Christian at a very young age and has been passionate about Jesus ever since! After moving around a lot, London has been home for the last 6 years, including studying for her Youth work and Practical Theology degree. An extrovert, she is passionate about authentic community, organisation and young people living out their full potential in wherever God has called them to be! She joined the team in 2018 and has written the series Better Together for Rise. During the week, Ruth is an Events and office manager for St Dionis church, Parsons Green.

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