Sharing the Good News of Easter in Albania

A report on the Easter Mission Trip by Trip Leader - Wes Longden

On the trip: Wes, Les, Yvonne, Dave, Joel, Rhys and Jamie

PHOTO-2019-04-22-17-21-41-2.jpg

A team of 7 from Mosaic arrived in Sarande, a town in the Southern Albanian coast via a half hour boat ride from Corfu at Easter. Sarande means ‘40 Saints’ and refers to 40 Christian martyrs who refused to give up their faith when faced with death. The town has certainly grown since Yvonne was last in Albania many years ago, and is a readily developing tourist location especially for Italians.

IMG_1878-2.jpg

Mosaic Church has been supporting the work in Albania through Richard and Linda Welch who served there for over 20 years and are currently back in the U.K. Our aim is to strengthen the church and to support and encourage the young leaders. There are 2 churches that work together, one in Sarande and one in a nearby village Cuke. Life is economically difficult for a significant majority in Albania and this is one of the challenges for the church. The leaders provide a good example to the congregations and work hard at building the church whilst spend a good proportion of their time having to work to support their families.

During the week we supported an Easter outreach event organized by the 2 churches who hired a town hall venue and packed this out with over 200 and put on a programme that included music and drama. Dave preached and people were invited to respond for prayer. It was so encouraging to see a queue of people waiting for prayer at the end.

Jono from Mosaic donated 3 guitars and an amp for the outreach that we were able to gift to the church. This has added to the support for the worship team that we have already given and is it is great to see them growing immensely in their gifting.

We also had opportunity to speak to a group of elderly at a community centre and this was very well received and showed that there are still many older people in Albania with a willingness to explore Christian faith. One man sang out a spontaneous old Albanian Christian song thanking God for sending us.

Yvonne at Cuke Church

Yvonne at Cuke Church

Yvonne preached in Cuke church which was packed out and it was encouraging to see how the church is growing. We were so well received and their attitude is a constant good example as they live their lives in day to day in circumstances more challenging than what we face in the UK.

 We visited some families who live in a derelict cinema that is a ruin. We took food parcels for each family which was the idea of Joel who had been moved at seeing the poverty. We also spent time praying and walked up to a fort and old monastery overlooking Sarande.

Everyone in the team played their part. Rhys spent time filming and getting audio translation for Christian videos that can be used by the church on social media. These could potentially go out to reach thousands with the gospel in the near future.

IMG_1986-2.jpg

All three of the young lads developed a close bond with the young people in the church and this is an important part of our partnership.  Relationships is why we go.  God worked through smaller conversations and opportunities to pray with individuals in their homes and places of work and there was some reconciliation that Lesley and Yvonne enabled.

It was a great trip with memories made and lives transformed. Please continue to pray for the church as they grow and expand to impact Albania.

Symphony of Prayer: Finale - Confident in God

Bible Verse: 1 John 5 v 13-15 TPT

“I’ve written this letter to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you will be assured and know without a doubt that you have eternal life. Since we have this confidence, we can also have great boldness before him, for if we present any request agreeable to his will, he will hear us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we also know that we have obtained the requests we ask of him”

Thought:
Paul writing to the Corinthian church encourages us that “no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” This series of devotions, follows the “movements” for a symphony of prayer, we’ve called Approach, we have seen that the King is Good, we can approach the throne of grace without condemnation, our world can be changed by His uncontainable presence, we can bring bold requests, brave expectations and with tenacious faith, step into all God has for us.

Throughout church history the word Amen has been used to proclaim, strong agreement, a statement let it be so! As we come to the end of these devotions, let’s allow our Amen to resound into the coming weeks.

Prayer and reflection:
As you listen to the track linked below, stand firm in this confidence, allow this confession to grow in your heart, activate your faith and dare to believe in a God who answers prayer.

We Believe

Symphony of Prayer: Fourth Movement - Tenacious Faith

Bible Verse: Hebrew 11 vs 1, 8-10 TPT
“Now faith brings our hopes into reality and becomes the foundation needed to acquire the things we long for. It is all the evidence required to prove what is still unseen.”

“Faith motivated Abraham to obey God’s call and leave the familiar to discover the territory he was destined to inherit from God. So he left with only a promise and without even knowing ahead of time where he was going, Abraham stepped out in faith. He lived by faith as an immigrant in his promised land as though it belonged to someone else. He journeyed through the land living in tents with Isaac and Jacob who were persuaded that they were also co-heirs of the same promise. His eyes of faith were set on the city with unshakable foundations, whose architect and builder is God himself.”

Thought:
How often have we quoted the verse from Jeremiah, ”For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future”? Often when we are quoting this verse we’re journeying difficult situations and we use it to bring hope that God will work it all out for us in the end. This we believe and hold on to, but may I respectfully suggest that belief in and of itself is not sufficient. You see I can whole hearted believe in something or someone, but belief alone does not necessitate action. Belief can be static but faith has to be active. Our Hebrews text, tells of Abraham’s faith motivated action to take hold of the promised land, many years later Abrahams’s seed Israel, stood again on the edge of the promised land, they saw it was a good land, as God had said, flowing with milk and honey, but they also saw the giants and their faith in God’s promise was overshadowed , they only entered the promise some 40 years later, when a new generation activated their faith in God’s promise. Today God’s promise beckons us, God has spoken so much life and goodness into the Mosaic house, he has expanded our sight to see beyond how things look right now, to the future he has purposed for us. This promised land is not without it’s giants, its not without it’s intimidating challenges, but a nervous excitement pervades as we stand toes over the edge all that God has promised, our hearts persuaded and ready to abandon to to His will. Lets not just believe that God has a plan for us, lets allow our faith to be activated, and motivate us to step into and take hold of, all God has spoken in promise.


Prayer and reflection:
As you listen to the track linked below, the psalmist says “you prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies”, dare to activate your faith to step into God’s promise for you.

Raise a Hallelujah

Symphony of Prayer: Third Movement - Bold Requests

Symphony flier-Approach.jpg

Bible Verse: Philippians‬ ‭4:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

‭‭Thought:
Does God answer prayer? I’m sure your immediate reaction was an emphatic Yes! We have the knowledge that we come to a God who answers prayer, but we look around at things we have passionately prayed for and God hasn’t given the answer we expected, and somehow are hearts aren’t so sure that he does. I remember when I was doing the Alpha course, this question came up and the answer has stuck with me. God does answer prayer, sometimes He answers Yes, sometimes No, sometimes not yet, and sometimes not like that, but God always answers prayer. This can be difficult for us as we work ourselves into mindset that God should say Yes to everything. We do however, need to realise that sometimes “Yes” does not serve God’s purpose, sometimes “No” is God’s best for us, and all things happen in His way and His timing. When Jesus taught us to pray, he said “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done”, in 1 John we read, “if we ask anything according to His will”, in Isaiah God speaks to us directly “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than yours, and my thoughts than your thoughts”. God’s view of what he will accomplish in a certain situation is not always the same as our view of what God should do in a given situation. We construct our prayers and requests in such a way that we only give God permission to answer our prayer, if he sees it as we do. As we start to present our requests for our people, our pastoral teams and our programmes, let’s open our hearts, to give our Father full permission to answer and move according to His perfect will.

Prayer and reflection:
As you listen to the track linked below, recall some of times when God’s answer to your prayer was difficult to understand, now start to bring thanksgiving as you now see what God did through that answer.

Thank You

Symphony of Prayer: Second Movement - The Presence of the King

Symphony flier-Approach.jpg

Bible Verse:‭‭ Hebrews‬ ‭10:19-22‬ ‭TPT‬‬
“And now we are brothers and sisters in God’s family because of the blood of Jesus, and he welcomes us to come into the most holy sanctuary in the heavenly realm—boldly and without hesitation. For he has dedicated a new, life-giving way for us to approach God. For just as the veil was torn in two, Jesus’ body was torn open to give us free and fresh access to him! And since we now have a magnificent High Priest to welcome us into God’s house, we come closer to God and approach him with an open heart, fully convinced that nothing will keep us at a distance from him. For our hearts have been sprinkled with blood to remove impurity, and we have been freed from an accusing conscience. Now we are clean, unstained, and presentable to God inside and out!”

Thought:
We’ve probably prayed a thousand times, “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name, Your kingdom come Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. The palmist writes “let your glory be over all the earth”. Moses asks “show me your Glory”. Its clear that throughout the pages of scripture, Gods people have been hungry for God’s presence to be spread throughout the earth. Surely this is also the cry of our hearts, in the words the Passion Translation, “Manifest Your Kingdom Realm and cause your every purpose to be fulfilled on earth just as it is in heaven” We know that when we encounter the Presence of God, things can not remain the same. Our hearts are changed, our outlooks are transformed and our lives take on His fragrance. We love to experience God’s presence in our church services, and I suspect in a subconscious way thats the limit we expect when we pray, let your kingdom come your will be done. Now consider this; what if God’s presence wasn’t only for our services, what if God’s presence spilled out into our families, our communities, our workplaces, our educational establishments, our government, all our spheres of influence, what if the presence of God, was completely uncontainable? What would your world look like if every where you touched was permeated with the fragrance of God’s Presence

Prayer and reflection:
As you listen to the track linked below, start to ask that God’s presence would be the hallmark of the Mosaic house, start to cry out for the uncontainable Presence of God to extend past to the boarders your world.

Here As In Heaven

Symphony of Prayer: First Movement - Approach

Symphony flier-Approach.jpg

Bible Verse:‭‭ Romans‬ ‭8:15-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.”

Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Thought:

Knowing who we are in Christ, endues an increasing measure of confidence in our approach to the Throne of Grace. Often when we purpose to approach God with our requests, the enemy sows seeds of doubt. “Who are you to ask God for that?”, “do you think God will hear you, look at what you’ve done in the past?”. Dear friend, don’t let this voice shout louder than God’s. Allow your heart to hear Romans 8v1 , beautifully rendered in the Passion Translation, “So now the case is closed. There remains no accusing voice of condemnation against those who are joined in life-union with Jesus, the Anointed One. For the “law” of the Spirit of life flowing through the anointing of Jesus has liberated us from the “law” of sin and death” . We have been set free, we have been adopted as Children of the Most High. When we are joined with Him there is absolutely nothing that can keep us at a distance from Him, we have this incredible privilege and invitation, to confidently approach the Throne of Grace, bringing all our hurts and hangups, all our hopes and expectations. In the words of an old song “there’s no guilt or fear as I draw near to the Saviour and Creator of the world, there is Joy and peace as I release my worship to You oh Lord”. We stand confidently before the Throne of heaven, with the assertion “ I am a Child of God”

Prayer and Reflection:

As you listen to the track linked below, allow God’s Voice to strengthen your heart in the knowledge that “there remains no accusing voice of condemnation”

Boldly I Approach

Symphony of Prayer: Prelude - The King is Good

Symphony flier-Approach.jpg

Bible Verse: ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:11‬ ‭TPT‬‬

“If you, imperfect as you are, know how to lovingly take care of your children and give them what’s best, how much more ready is your heavenly Father to give wonderful gifts to those who ask him?”

Thought:
I’m reminded of the C.S.Lewis quote from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where they are talking about meeting Aslan the Lion, and to the question “is he - quite safe?”, the response came “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” As we look through the pages of scripture we find so many references to God’s immense power, He said let there be light and there was, He devastated Egypt with plague after plague, so many people died as they mistreated His presence, surely we come to a God of fearsome might and strength. In Exodus 33 we find Moses asking of God “show me your Glory”, think for a moment about the fearsome acts that God had performed to bring the Children of Israel to this point, then understand the significance of God’s response to Moses, “I will cause my Goodness to pass before you”. This All Powerful, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, King wants us to see, know and experience His Goodness. In Romans 8 we read that we have been adopted as God’s own children, we are His, and as we approach our Heavenly Father, having confidence in His Goodness, we confidently answer the question “how much more ready is your heavenly Father to give wonderful gifts to those who ask him?”

Prayer and Reflection:

As you listen to the track linked below, give thanks for God’s goodness and start to allow confident faith to arise

Good Good Father

Mission Testimony - Albania, Lisa Day

Isaiah 6:8 ‘Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am, send me”.’ I’ve heard and read this verse before but it has never been as relevant to me as it has this Easter. I have not long returned from a mission trip to Albania. Answering a prompt from God my response was, here I am, send me!

2018-04-06-PHOTO-00000446.jpg

This was my first mission trip, having spent many years raising my family going on a mission trip was not something I ever thought of doing. Then approximately 18 months ago a friend asked if I’d ever been and suggested I go and would really enjoy it. I put the conversation aside and forgot about it. However, the seed had been planted and God reminded of the conversation in early 2017. Over the coming months, he watered that seed and my hunger to go on mission grew, until the day a trip to Albania was announced and inside I leaped and said, here I am Lord, send me. As a lone parent there were practicalities to work through not to mention raising the finances, but in my heart, I knew that God called me and therefore would be faithful in helping me get there.

In the months and weeks leading up to the trip, I was facing various personal challenges that brought a great deal of stress and anxiety. I started to wonder if I should pull out, but the pull from God and his calling were even greater.

2018-04-06-PHOTO-00000386.jpg

Ahead of the trip we met as a team and started to plan. Everyone seemed to have an idea of their role and what they wanted to achieve. To be perfectly honest I didn’t, but I knew that was going to go anyway. As I spent time with God and prayed he simply reminded me of his love for me, and to go and love his people.

Wow, wow, wow! The entire trip was incredible from the moment we left. God is good all the time. It was such a privilege to be welcomed into their lives, their church and to share God’s love and hope for his people in Albania. We were able to help practically with their worship team; sharing advice, vision, and passion. We worked with the children bringing fun, creativity, and love. We cleaned up a housing estate; a very small gesture but demonstrating that we care and bringing God’s love.

We spent time with the leaders building relationships further, encouraging them, praying with them. We humbled ourselves to wash their feet, anoint them with oil and prayed, releasing them into their God-given calling. We climbed a mountain, singing and praying over the city of Sarandë, declaring greater things are yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in the city. We supported them in putting on an evangelistic Easter outreach. It was incredible; I’ve never been a part of anything so powerful.

It was full to rafters, standing room only, overflowing outside. People gave their lives to Jesus, lives were set free, God’s love was overflowing and the worship continued long after it finished and people had left. One of the most poignant things that struck me was that this was theirs. We supported and encouraged, helped in a small way, but they had put the work in and this powerful outreach to their community was theirs.

2018-04-06-PHOTO-00000400 (1).jpg
2018-04-06-PHOTO-00000390.jpg

As much as I went to love, bless and help in any way I could, I received so much more. I was loved, I was blessed. I have made new friends that I am now richer for. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the people who welcomed us, loved us, danced and celebrated with us. I’m overwhelmed with God’s love. When they thanked us I thanked them more. When they begged us to return there wasn’t a moment of hesitation, of course, we would return.

Another part of the trip was the wonderful fellowship we had as a team. It was a privilege to grow together, for relationships deepen and strengthen, to pray and minister to each other, for the meals we shared and for the endless laughter and fun. Thank you, Jesus, for the blessing they were to me. Thank you for calling me. Thank you for giving me a glimpse of your love for the people of Albania.

Will I be going again? Absolutely! What will I say when God asks, “who shall I send?” I will say “Here I am, send me.”

Lisa Day

 

Devotionally Anchored, Post Five: The Power of Bible In Community

Photo by  William White  on  Unsplash

Photo by William White on Unsplash

In the final part our Tool Kit of Truth we are going to look briefly at the power of consultation as a tool for truth and finish by calling us to habit and huddle in our Mosaic Community.  

TOOL 6: CONSULTATION  

We Consult God

We always ask the spirit to help us “open our eyes” and gain divine revelation. We need to intentionally open ourselves up in prayer and sensitivity to this. Otherwise, it can just be a book of head knowledge, not heart transformation. The spirit and the word work together in partnership.

We Consult Others

If in doubt, Get help! Reading books, study guides and commentaries can help you interpret Scripture more effectively. Many people have done a lot of heavy lifting to help us on our journey. There are so many great resources out there and a few terrible ones as well. Ask someone you trust to recommend resources and consult wise people to answer any questions and help point you in the right direction. However, if all you read is a daily devotion where someone is writing about a passage of scripture, you may grow too comfortable with second-hand revelation. Using these kinds of resources to compliment never to replace the Word.

We Consult Community

There is power in reading the bible in the context of a spirit-filled Community.  This is why we are looking at embedding the “Habit & the Huddle” in our lives this year in Mosaic Church. (Watch the video to find out more)

Photo by  Ben Duchac  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ben Duchac on Unsplash

The Huddle Questions represent the three basic tenants of handling and responding to the Bible.

  • Observation (Huddle Question: What are you reading?)
  • Interpretation (Huddle Question: What is God saying?)
  • Application (Huddle Question: What are you doing about it?)

Our prayer is that as together we use this Habit and Huddle tool God would begin to move. In The Toolkit Of Truth Consultation is key.

These are the six tools in the TOOLKIT OF TRUTH to help you correctly handle scripture.

  • Classification  
  • Context
  • Christ-Centredness
  • Common Sense
  • Cross-referencing
  • Consultation

You might want to add a secret 7th - Consistency. Consistent engagement leads to life revelation and revelation changes lives. As you start to put these tools into practice as you engage with the Bible our prayer is that not only would you know how to “Handle the truth” but you would let the truth transform your life too.

Devotionally Anchored Series, Post Four: The Bible Cinematic Universe

Photo by  Joey Nicotra  on  Unsplash

Photo by Joey Nicotra on Unsplash

In this series, we are looking at a set of tools to help us understand and interpret scripture effectively. We will call these tools our toolkit of truth. In the first parts, we looked at classification, context, and Christ Centredness. Now let’s move onto tools number 4 and 5.

  • TOOL 4: COMMON SENSE

Common Sense matters! Sometimes we just need to read the text for its plain and obvious meaning when taken in the right context. People are very quick to super spiritualize things.  “Do not murder”… I wonder what God was trying to say? We don’t need to overcomplicate it. People jump through linguistic hoops to make a passage mean what they want it to mean. Sometimes people deliberately stay in confusion, ignorance or intentional blindness so they don’t have to respond to the word!

It is common sense to consider the context of a passage to see if instructions, commands or blessings in both the Old and New Testament were specific to individual circumstances or can apply universally to all today. Otherwise, every time we go to the town centre we might expect Jesus to leave us a donkey tied up ready to use (See Matthew 21 for that obscure joke!)

Photo by  Adam Sherez  on  Unsplash

Photo by Adam Sherez on Unsplash

We also need to understand the difference between DESCRIPTIVE and PRESCRIPTIVE in the Bible. For example, you may read a story in the Old or New Testament where a character behaves in a horrific way –don’t be confused or offended - it is not prescribing how we should respond, or even endorsing the behavior, it is merely relaying it for future generations. This is why it is never a great idea to take more than one wife!

It is not all about using our head knowledge though. Perhaps we should use the term Uncommon Sense to speak of the unique combination of common sense and spiritual discernment we need when engaging with scripture. There is always a spiritual dimension at work behind the scenes. God is the God of the impossible! We can’t explain every miracle or understand all the mysteries of an infinite God. We need uncommon sense to recognize that the supernatural defies logic and that God can work beyond the realm of the natural.

The Bible does contain some real mysteries. Some things need further consideration and study – other things we may never know this side of Heaven. Yet as Mark Twain famously said, “It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

In the midst of mystery, we need to pray for the spirit to bring clarity as we keep Christ central to all we do. In THE TOOLKIT OF TRUTH, Common Sense is key.

  • TOOL 5: CROSS-REFERENCING

For the past 10 years, there has been one series of films I never fail to see at the Cinema with at least one of my children. I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe because it is so connected. Every story arch and character somehow links to the next – from Iron Man to Spider-Man to Rocket and Groot. Fans will look for clues known as “Easter Eggs” hidden in films to help them gain an understanding of the bigger story.

The idea of an interconnected universe is nothing new – we find it first in the Bible. Many times the imagery or language in the New Testament mimics or expands the language and imagery of the Old.  When Peter says “You are a Royal Priesthood” he is directly referencing passages from Exodus and Deuteronomy. Revelation is full of references to the Old Testament prophetic imagery and can’t be understood apart from this interconnectedness. We need to see ALL scripture as part of the Biblical Cinematic Universe.

Practically a good rule of thumb is let the Bible interpret the Bible. When looking at a topic or theme ask Where else does the Bible talk about this?”  Other passages in the Bible shed often light on the passage you are looking at. If you can’t figure out a verse - Look for comparisons but be careful not to assume that the same word or phrase in two different passages means the same thing. The Picture of Yeast, for example, is symbolic of the Kingdom but also a picture of false doctrine. It is also sometimes simply referring to actual yeast!

As we read we see there are big reoccurring themes of scripture that sweep across the whole architecture of scripture; from Creation to New Creation. In THE TOOLKIT OF TRUTH, Cross-Referencing is key.

 

 

Devotionally Anchored Series, Post Three: Every Page Whispers His Name

Photo by  Nathaniel Tetteh  on  Unsplash

In this series, we are looking at a set of tools to help us understand and interpret scripture effectively. We will call these tools our toolkit of truth. In the first part, we looked at classification and context. Now let’s move onto tool number 3.

TOOL 3: CHRIST-CENTREDNESS

What is the most powerful page in the Bible? The blank one in-between the Old and New Testament. Why? We have to view the whole of scripture through the lens of the message, life, death and resurrection of Christ.

Christ changes how we see everything. It is like seeing Star Wars trilogy from beginning to end and already knowing the crucial “Luke I am your father” plot twist. Apologies for those that don’t know that. The Titanic also sinks. Leo dies.

 When Jesus encountered two men on the road to Emmaus he began to teach the greatest Bible study of all time and unveiled the scriptures through the lens of himself.

 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24 v 27

We find shadows, types, and precursors of Christ all over Scripture. From Genesis where he is the Seed of the Woman, to Revelation where he is the Alpha and the Omega. Every page whispers his name. Jesus is the visible image of an invisible God – all conclusions about the nature of God need to be put through the filter of Christ.

There is a great visual example of the supremacy of Christ in the story of the Mount of Transfiguration found in Matthew 17. Jesus reveals his true nature to three disciples alongside Moses (representing the Law) and Elijah (representing the Prophets) and a voice from heaven declares that we are to listen to Jesus. Hebrews echo this when it tells us that in the past God spoke through his prophets but in the last days God has spoken to us through Jesus. In other words – in word and deed- Jesus is perfect theology.

We don’t ignore or diminish the rest of the Bible because of Christ but we do need to reframe it. Christ is our lens through which we view and interpret the scriptures with care.

One example of a Christ-centred lens in practice is how we see the Old Testament Law. Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. When you read the Old Testament Law today you have to read it as if you have already seen the end of the Movie. The laws are all reframed in the light of Christ…

  • What about the OT Sacrifice Laws for worship? Why did you leave your lamb and doves at home this morning? Sacrifices were fulfilled in Christ’s once and for all death – they are obsolete.
  • What about the OT Ceremonial Law? Festivals, feasts, ceremonies, circumcisions, clothes or customs that were meant to provide right standing with God, or distinguish the Israelites from other nations are no longer needed as we discover our new identity “in Christ”. Jesus touched unclean lepers. The New Testament declared that all foods are lawful to eat. Why? In Christ purity now comes from the inside out not outside in.
  • What about the OT Moral Laws? The law is now summarized as love God and love your neighbour.  Certain laws about love, relationships, and ethics not only still stand, but form the foundation of the life in the spirit we are now empowered by GRACE to live. We know that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus got to the heart of the matter – internalizing the external law – for example, “Do not commit adultery” becomes “Do not lust”. This is why we need the spirit and grace. Everything changes with Jesus.

Taking a Christ-Centred approach to scripture is like viewing the landscape from the heights of the mountaintop and not the depths of the valley. Everything looks different from the right perspective. In THE TOOLKIT OF TRUTH, Christ-centeredness is key.

Devotionally Anchored Series, Post Two: The Toolkit of Truth

 

What I am going to do over the next few posts is share some practical tools to help you start to responsibly interpret ANY passage of scripture. We will call these tools our toolkit of truth!

TOOL 1: CLASSIFICATION

The Bible is not one book but a library of books - so we need to identify which kind of literature we are reading to help us understand it. That’s classification. On Sunday, October 30, 1938, the UK experienced a big problem caused by incorrect classification. HG Wells’ War of the Worlds played on the radio for the first time, but people mistakenly believed it was real, causing mass panic and fear of an alien invasion. It was a case of a mistaken genre.

Each genre communicates in a different style or structure. What is the genre of the book you are reading in the Bible? Is it narrative, law, prophecy, poetry, history or a letter? This impacts how we read it. We read a science textbook differently to how we read a novel or we read a newspaper differently to an email from a friend. Should we read the Bible Literally? It depends on which classification of a genre you are dealing with!

Photo by  Todd Quackenbush  on  Unsplash

Single men - be wise – or you may end up waiting for the Song of Songs woman and she looks like a monster! We always need to look carefully at the language of the text within the genre– is the passage using metaphors or other figures of speech such as Hyperbole (deliberate exaggeration)? How does this affect the overall meaning of the passage? If you are not sure, how might you find out more? We need to read the Bible Literarily as much as we read it literally! In THE TOOLKIT OF TRUTH, classification is key.

TOOL 2: CONTEXT Did you know? The Bible clearly says there is no God! Whaaaattt??? Psalm 14:1 says ‘There is no God.” Obviously, we are conveniently overlooking how those words are introduced: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.“’ This why we always need to be careful not to build entire doctrines on single sentences.

Consider the context of the passage you are reading. You can answer 75% questions about the meaning of a passage just by reading the whole text. The context in which any passage is written influences how it is to be understood. Context includes several things like the verses immediately before and after a passage - This is often where the convenient division of chapter and verse can sometimes be unhelpful – we are prone to see things in isolation.

• The paragraph and book in which the verses appear

• The time and culture in which it was written - we tend to default to see everything through our 21st-century lens.

• The message and themes of the entire Bible Anyone who has ever tried to tell a joke in a different country will probably see it go down like a lead balloon (now there’s an expression they wouldn’t get in 1st century the Middle East!)

Why does humor so often fail? Because we miss one another’s context and culture. The Bible was written to address real people who were living in real locations and real times for a real reason. That’s context. In THE TOOLKIT OF TRUTH, context is key.

Devotionally Anchored Series, Post One: You Can't Handle The Truth!

There is a famous scene in the movie "A Few Good Men" where there is a brutal exchange between a lawyer, played by Tom Cruise, and a General, played by Jack Nicholson. At the end of an intense argument over a military case, Tom Cruise's character demands that he wants to know the truth, to which the General famously replies “You can’t handle the truth!”

The accusation that we can’t handle the truth is probably one that Christians have to admit we may sometimes be guilty of. And this has always been the case throughout history.

JackNicholson-409x218.jpg

This was a clear concern in one exchange in one of the New Testament letters where Paul asked Timothy to handle the truth with care.

 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Tim 2:15

The term “correctly handle” originates from the Greek concept of “cutting a straight line.” Some people think Paul may have been using an expression that tied in with his trade as a Tent Maker. Back in the day, tents were made from the skins of animals in a patchwork sort of design. Every piece would have to be cut and fit together as part of a bigger pattern. If one didn’t cut the pieces right, would the whole thing fit together properly? Perhaps this was the essence of the charge to Timothy from Paul about the Bible?

The challenge to correctly handle the Word of God still stands for us today; yet 2000 years later there are new challenges we have to overcome that Timothy didn’t have to contend with. We need to Mind the Gap as we seek to understand scripture.

Which gaps are we talking about? Well there is a time gap, A geographical gap, a cultural gap, a language gap, a writing gap and a supernatural gap! That is more gaps than the London underground!

 In light of these gaps we need to handle scripture with care. Some Christians vary wildly in their conservative or liberal views – with both sides throwing around the phrase “THE BIBLE SAYS” and both sides often misunderstanding how to actually interpret the Bible.

Everybody interprets the Bible – the question is do we do it responsibly?

What I am going to do over the next few posts is share some practical tools to help you start to responsibly interpret ANY passage of scripture. These are what I use all the time and will help you take steps towards becoming a "Bible Jedi"!  

Nicky Johns: How God is Using My Creativity to Make a Difference

My name is Nicky Johns, and I now love to use art to express my faith in God.
Over the past few years, I found that I was frequently given pictures by the Holy Spirit, which I had always been too shy to share.
Recently, however, our church received some teachings around creativity which encouraged us to use our own creative gifts and talents in church and daily life.

It was around the same time that I attended a women's conference where I had the pleasure of meeting the prophetic artist Julia Powell, and in this meeting she encouraged me to try using art more to express the visions I was receiving. 

image2.png

At this time it had been years since I'd done any painting, but feeling affirmed by the encouragement around me I made the decision that I would try and paint some of the pictures and visions the Holy Spirit had been giving me.  
Later, when I joined the intercessory prayer group at Mosaic, I started to share my paintings with the group, and found myself amazed and encouraged when my pictures would fit in or match the pictures and revelations that others had received during our meetings. 

image5.png

I have grown more confident in sharing the pictures that the Holy Spirit has given me, and find that I am more open to receiving pictures now that I have become more open to that side of my faith. Now, when I receive a picture repeatedly, I try and get it on canvas as soon as possible, and regularly share these pictures with the church. 
 

image4.png

Ephesians 2 vs 10 says, "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."

I have found that many people relate better to images, and the Holy Spirit can use these pictures to connect with them in a new and exciting way. I am so looking forward to seeing how the Lord will use me in this way, and the good things God has planned for me and others who are affected by my paintings. 

image1.png

Part 4: Breaking Through the Barriers to Receive

FHoG- 4 (1).png

In the journey of giving and receiving love there is never a problem at the Father’s end of the equation. Until we deal with the barriers to receiving that are at our end, perhaps we will never feel comfortable sat around the Father’s table. What do you think are some of the barriers we need to breakthrough to receiving the Father’s love? Perhaps there is a barrier caused by our own good, bad or ugly experiences of earthly fathering or from our encounters with those in positions of authority. Perhaps there is a barrier caused by religious experience, terrible teaching and the fact that we feel we are pawns in the hands of an angry God. Maybe there is a barrier caused by our own experience and circumstances that don’t feel like they reflect the goodness of God right now, and if we are honest the Father’s love feels distant.

Think for a moment of the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15 as distinct scenes in a film and ask yourself where you are in this picture? Perhaps you are in that place where you are enjoying the Father’s house, and inviting others to join the banquet table? Maybe you are in the scene where you have run away from the Father's house to seek other comforts? Maybe the shame you carry from your time outside the Father's house is causing a barrier today? Maybe the pain and unforgiveness you live with from events on your journey keeps your scene on repeat. Or maybe you are on the road, trapped in the cycle of bargaining as you walk back towards the Father’s house?

Wherever you see yourself in the story, I want to suggest the number one reception issue is caused by our perception of the kind of Father we think we will find when we get to the Father’s house. Who we think the Father is and what response we think we will get from Him when we turn up at his door will determine the quality of our whole Christian walk.

A friend of mine recently said “The reason the world sees the church as so judgmental and condemning is because deep down the church sees the Father the same way. The world doesn’t respond to our message because no matter what we say out loud it is picking up on the unspoken culture of the church. Too many Christians are born again into an orphanage.”

This strong statement floored me and you may not agree with it all. But it does make you think. What if we don’t see the Father for who He really is and what impact is that having on my life? We need to renew our mind with the truth of the word in order to start to clear our lens and change our perspective.

Despite dealing with the very real barriers we face in our journey to receive, my prayer is that as you dwell on the story of the prodigal son and think about the teaching of Jesus on prayer rooted in being fathered that you will find fresh hope that we can still come in spite of all these things and declare those powerful words that can change everything…. “Our Father.”

Part 3: Fake It, Take It, Or Make It?

FHoG- 5.png

The prodigal son found in Luke 15 is a story that works in all cultures and is for all generations. It is a story I have shared many times with unbelievers, a story that has been retold in a thousand sermons, and something that I sometimes wonder whether there is ever anything more to be said about that hasn’t already been said.  

While it may be true that this story is well-known (if by chance you haven’t read it, hop on over to Luke 15), let’s take a fresh look at the Prodigal son parable for a moment as an analogy of taking vs receiving.

The Spirit of Taking

The son likes to take what he wants and take it now! The son takes the inheritance from the Father, demanding his portion, seeking to take worth and significance. The son seeks all the experiences of the world on his terms, seeking to take his freedom. The son takes comfort in momentary relationships and sexual encounters seeking to take intimacy. The son takes the world by storm, squandering his resources, engaging in wild parties – demanding community from a crowd of strangers, but using them for what he can get. 

This path of demanding and taking eventually leaves him with nothing left in his bag of tricks. Even as he starts to return home he is still living in the fake it and take it mentality, trying to plan how and rehearse how he will earn and take his way back into the fold of the Father.

Learning to Receive

Yet the most wonderful moment in the crescendo of the parable comes when the father takes him back. In these moments of acceptance, forgiveness and grace we see the son finally learns to receive.  He receives the robe, the ring and the shoes as he enters the Father’s house and in that moment he realizes he has been given the Father’s blessing, the Father’s significance, the Father’s worth and the Father’s authority: Not only that, but he receives his place at the Banquet table, and in that moment realises he is part of the Father’s family. All of these are given from the Father's love irrespective of the son’s behaviour. They are all given not grabbed.

When you consider the response from the Father’s heart and the invitation back into the Father’s house against the contrast of either the rebel living wildly or the hypocrite performing desperately for attention, both seem awkwardly out of place. These behaviors feel alien and orphan like - they don’t feel right around the Father's table. Yet, why do they sometimes feel so commonplace in church? 

Perhaps this story reveals a great truth that we need to explore further. In the journey of giving and receiving love there is never a problem at the Father’s end of the equation. Until we deal with the barriers to receiving that are at our end, perhaps we will never feel comfortable sitting at the Father’s table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Dealing with Your Reception Problem

FHoG- 2.png

You can tell what people are most passionate about simply by listening to what they talk about and how often they talk about it.  It was plain to all who listened what Jesus Christ was passionate about. Jesus taught about His Father in Heaven at least 181 times in the scriptures. In fact in 1 out of every 140 of his recorded words, Jesus was speaking about His Father. Have you ever stopped to think about what it would mean to receive the same father’s love that Jesus talked about so intimately and affectionately?

As Christians we talk a lot about believing but probably not enough about receiving. Learning to receive rather than feeling like we have to take it for ourselves is one of the differences between acting as an orphan and living as an adopted child.

Everyone knows how panicked a teenager gets when they can’t receive Wi-Fi! A reception problem can cause major family issues! But our struggle to receive can show up in different ways in our daily life that aren’t just connected to technology.

Receiving compliments

I have met many people who simply are not able accept compliments. You say something like “You’re an amazing singer…” and they immediately respond with “Oh but I am not as good as him or her.” You might say “You are such a great friend” and they say “Oh but I never do enough for people”. The compliment doesn’t land and gets deflected straight off.

For others they are actually okay with compliments about their achievements but struggle with compliments about character. When we achieve something great or win or earn it we love to get affirmation, but we can’t accept a compliment for who we are because deep down it jars against our sense that we have to earn affection. Many who struggle to receive a compliment from a human, can also struggle to receive love from the Father. We have a reception problem.

Receiving help and care

When I was ill recently, a number of people asked after me and said they were praying for me. Someone I don’t know well asked at work and I reacted negatively internally. I didn’t want them to think I was weak.  Even in this minor issue I struggled to receive care and concern. I have to challenge myself - Is it enough for me to give care, or do I need to learn to receive it too? Is it okay for me to be vulnerable, is it okay for me to be weak? We often feel fine when we are the ones doing “community” because we are still in control and we don’t have to be vulnerable. Receiving creates moments of connection. Prioritizing giving over receiving can sometimes be a convenient way to keep people distant and our hearts defended. We have a reception problem.

Receiving Love

Receiving invites us out of the place of control and into vulnerability. We all know the people who are relationship drainers – those who demand time, energy and love off us, they take take take but it is never enough because they don’t know how to receive. The irony is, that when we are caught in the attention and approval cycle and are seeking love we are actually unable to receive it even when our efforts “pay off.” We strive for intimacy but actually we fear it because we don’t know what to do with love when we find it. We have a problem with our reception.

So how do we deal with our spiritual reception problem? Well just like that teenager who runs around the room trying to find the best connection, we have to adjust our position. Not a physical position, but a mind-set one. What if the reason Jesus spoke so obsessively about His Father is because of how incredible it is when we are able to experience and receive His love? What if we don’t actually have to DO anything, we simply have to start to receive?

 

Father Heart of God, Part 1: Life in the Father's House

FHoG- 1.png

In the life of Mosaic at the moment we have been spending time looking at Jesus' revolutionary teaching about Prayer. This has come alongside a season of praying for breakthrough for major issues we've been facing in the body of Christ at this time. The reading below is so much more than a 'How to' manual for prayer as it represents a complete cultural shift in how humans can connect with their creator.  

Matthew 6 v 5 - 9 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! 9 Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy."

 In prayer Jesus compels us to move away from the need to feed our own demand for attention and approval from others or even God. So often we strive from a place of performance – acting out and faking it, feeling like the one who shouts loudest will get the biggest portion. We try to be the one with the most knowledge and skill to win at the competition of life. We revel in the maximum exposure we get from outworking personal ambition. We seek satisfaction in the rewards of outward spirituality. The Bible simply calls this behavior being a hypocrite (ouch!). I call it being caught on the religious hamster wheel.

 Life on the religious hamster wheel is like living with the competitive attitude of the Apprentice, the striving of Bake Off, the cut throat nature of X Factor and the performance mentality of The Voice all rolled into one. It is like dressing up in the glitz and glamour of Strictly Come Dancing yet underneath you know you can’t dance. It is exhausting!

 Life in the Father’s house is different. This passage on prayer helps us see that none of this stuff will cut it when we come to connect with the Father. We don’t have to make ourselves seen, God sees us. We don’t have to earn points, yet God rewards us. We don’t have to beg for it, God knows what we need. We find Satisfaction in the rewards of simply being a child.  The defining factor in how Jesus prayed was not that He used a set structure or formula but that He rooted His prayer life in response to God’s fatherhood.

A few weeks ago at a prayer meeting, a women in our church, Tracy Harding, shared a picture of people begging for bread at the palace gates. She then saw an image of those people being led inside the palace and invited into the throne room to be with the King. What a contrast! She shared that God doesn’t want us to be like those begging at the gates, demanding attention and approval, striving in a place of performance and shouting loudest so we get the biggest portion. This is the behavior of orphans, not of sons. We simply need to receive our invitation to the throne room and come.

Jesus taught us to pray like sons and daughters when He said “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8). How does this concept transform the way you might approach God for your breakthrough today?

 

 

 

Shahkabir's Testimony

Baptism S.jpg

My name is Shahkabir, I am ten years old and I live with my Mother and older brother Jahangir in Coventry. I was born in Pakistan, into a Muslim family. I don't like talking about my early childhood much because it wasn't very nice. My father was not very kind to us, which is why my mother decided to bring us to England.

Baptism S6.jpg

Before I used to believe in Allah, and that if I wasn't good I would be punished. We still followed the Muslim faith when we moved to London, it was only after we moved to Coventry that our journey really started. First we came across Hillfields Evangelical Baptist Church. We discovered that they offered a children’s club called “Young Explorers”, and we started going to church on Monday evenings so that my brother and I could attend the kid’s club. We found the Hope Centre, my brother attended the Mosaic Identity youth group, and we met such kind people that we kept going back to Mosaic.

Baptism S2.jpg


At church I was able to hear God’s word and the gospel, and the more I heard and read about Jesus, the more my faith increased, and the more I grew to love God, His people, and His word.
This is why I wanted to get baptised - so that I could follow the Lord Jesus, who is my saviour, my father, and my friend."

- Shahkabir

Baptism S8.jpg
Baptism S3.jpg