• The future

    We’re at that time of the year again where it feels like summer has only just got going but it’s already nearly over. Hopefully you’ve still had a chance to abandon work for a while and caught some sun. This summer break may be my last big one for a while- I’m about to enter into my final year at uni so I’m trying to do as much as possible to make the most of it. I’ve done some travelling around Europe, been to a few BBQs and caught up with friends from home, although I must admit I’ve still managed to devote a large portion of my time towards binge-watching on Netflix.

    As I approach my 3rd year at uni a large amount of the conversations I’ve had with people have taken on a familiar theme: what am I going to do when I finish? It can be great to know that there are people around us who want to encourage and equip us for the future, but for those of us who are unsure of the next step talking about it can send us into a bit of a cold sweat.

    I grew up going to church and throughout my teenage years was told repeatedly that I was part of a generation that is going to change the world. I passionately believe that when we let God into our lives he will use us to change the world around us. But perhaps as time goes by we occasionally lose sight of this all-powerful God and only see the obstacles in the way of His kingdom. Changing the world begins to feel more like an impossible burden than an adventure.

    As a young Christian I often place these big expectations on my life, and when the future is uncertain I forget to live for God in the here and now. I get wrapped up in the fine details of my ‘calling’ and miss out on the adventures He has for me every single day. I measure my worth by the things I do, rather than by the One who loves me as I am.

    I get wrapped up in the fine details of my ‘calling’ and miss out on the adventures He has for me every single day.

    I’m always really encouraged when I look at the story of Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors. He knew that God had big plans and just got on board with them. He didn’t allow himself to become burdened by the things God told him to do because he saw that he was a part of something bigger than himself. He was obedient God and went on an adventure with Him step-by-step (if you haven’t read his book ‘God’s Smuggler’ put it on your list!).

    Psalm 33:11 says “the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” When we shift our perspective away from ourselves it frees us from those burdens of expectation. Instead of panicking about what to do next, we can press into the firmly standing plans of a God who holds the future in His hands.

    When I look outside of myself my fear of the future fades. I read stories of my brothers and sisters all around the world who are literally putting their lives on the line for the sake of God’s kingdom and it blows my mind. I get to take part in something amazing. I get to join in with something so much larger than myself, with Jesus the king at the centre. When we remember this we realise just how exciting our lives are, and we don’t have to wait for the end of uni or whatever else before the adventure starts.

    As my final year of uni draws closer, I want to choose God’s plans over my own. That’s not to say I’ll simply put thoughts of the future at bay. I’ll be proactive and practical as I think about the gifts God has given me and how I can best use them to glorify Him. But I refuse to become crippled by fear of the future. Instead I want to grasp everything he has for me here and now, taking one step of obedience after the other and taking part in His great adventure.


    Want to know more about Brother Andrew?

    Say ‘Yes’ to God like Brother Andrew and journey our incredible God. Commit to pray and speak up for those who share our faith but not our freedom. Sign up and we’ll give you some help by sending you some awesome free resources (like our ‘Ten Steps’ guide) that will help you learn from some incredible, inspiring persecuted Christians.

  • It takes two to tango

    This little saying is one that my mum loved to use throughout my childhood whenever I’d been involved in an argument with my sisters. Even if I’d clearly caused the problem I would always find a way to pin the blame on someone else. I was always the shining angel victimised by my siblings. My mum saw straight through this though. She knew that in many situations there were no innocent parties – each of us had played our part in causing a big upset, so she would whack out her favourite phrase and make us all feel embarrassed.

    Like arguments, relationships take two to tango. Real friendships can’t be one-way – they only exist when people are actively involved in each other’s lives. They can be amazing and fun but they also require loyalty, sacrifice, and sometimes choosing to do things we would rather not. When someone stops investing in a friendship, it can cause incredible hurt to whoever has been dropped.

    Real friendships can’t be one-way – they only exist when people are actively involved in each other’s lives.

    This concept of relationship has really challenged me about my own friendship with God. How often do I become lazy in my faith and forget to invest?

    Jesus has done everything for us. He gave up His own life because He was determined that we would be able to get to know the Father. There’s absolutely nothing that we can do, wrong or right, that can change the way God sees us because of that sacrifice. If we accept Him into our lives then we’re secure in His salvation. It is finished. But our relationship with God is so much more than a contract.

    God is actively interested in you. He loves us deeply but He also really, really likes us. He sees all of our potential and He’s excited by us. Even though He’s so powerful and huge and holy He’s desperate for closeness with us.

    When we’ve experienced the love of God our heart’s response should be to love Him in return and to develop the friendship we have with Him. When we love someone we don’t sit back and ignore them, we want to spend quality time with them and get to know them more. James 4v8 says “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” This is how I want to be with God. I want to purposefully press into Him that I might experience closeness with Him.

    “We never grow closer to God when we just live life. It takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness.” – Francis Chan

    Sometimes it can feel hard to make time to seek God with no agenda. Our lives can feel so busy, and we can have lots of priorities that crowd out our time with God. Yet there are millions of other Christians around the world who have much bigger excuses to neglect God. For them, seeking God is a real risk that can see them fined, imprisoned, or even killed if discovered. But still they are determined to grow as Christians, to meet together in fellowship and to study the bible. They’re an example to us of what being God’s friend no matter the cost looks like.

    Instead of focusing on what we can gain from God maybe we should look to what we can do for Him. Maybe we can ask Him how we can get involved in His plans rather than asking Him to bless ours.

  • Why I need to Blackout!

    I love communication. Whether I’m having a conversation with someone face-to-face, texting, or seeing what people are up to online, I love the feeling of being connected. As I type this up I’m staying at the house of some friends and as soon as my laptop was booted up I was on the hunt for the WiFi code so I could get back online and see what was happening in the world.

    Social media and other forms of communication are brilliant and allow us to keep in touch with people who would have otherwise long disappeared off our radar. But more often than not I find myself constantly scrolling through pages and pages of my twitter feed in order to see what’s new and to keep myself amused. It takes up a lot of my time and I can sometimes take it for granted how easy it is to get in touch with the outside world.

    So that’s why I love Blackout. It’s a unique opportunity to switch off the gadgets and calm our lifestyles down. Even when our diaries look fairly blank, more often than not our time gets mysteriously filled up and we can find it hard to make space for reflection and prayer, so it’s ideal having an event where time is dedicated specifically towards those things.

    It allows us to hang out in the presence of God without feeling as if we need to do anything in a rush and gives us the opportunity to really press into the issues that we care about.

    In particular we get a chance to connect with our wider family who live in places of persecution. For them, being a Christian means that they are shunned by society, and in the most desperate cases imprisoned or even killed.

    It’s hard to think about, especially when life is so much safer here, but for thousands it’s the reality of everyday life.

    This is why I joined with hundreds of others in choosing to Blackout. We fasted from phones and social media in order to devote time to pray for the persecuted church.

    Instead, technology and the ability to socialise wherever and whenever has become something many of us depend on and we often get very itchy if it’s taken away from us.

    Traditionally, fasting involves abstaining from eating food in order to dedicate the time that would have been spent eating towards prayer. In Biblical times this would have been a big deal for those who chose to fast, as meals were taken pretty seriously and food was not as easy to come by as popping down to the shops like we would in the 21st century.

    There’s definitely still a place for fasting from food today, but our reliance on food is much smaller than it once was.

    Instead, technology and the ability to socialise wherever and whenever has become something many of us depend on and we often get very itchy if it’s taken away from us. So, what better thing to sacrifice for 48 hours in order to place the needs of our persecuted family above our own?

    If you’re anything like me, the thought of spending so much time in prayer can seem very daunting, but it doesn’t have to be one dimensional! There are loads of ways you can get creative in prayer, whether that’s drawing a picture, writing a letter or praying over a specific area on a map.

    My youth group made a poky prison cell where we spent uncomfortable hour shifts interceding for those imprisoned for their faith! It’s up to you with how you choose to get involved and make sure you check the resources on the site too!

    So why not get involved? Choose to Blackout: take a modern-day fast and be an advocate for persecuted Christians worldwide.

    Sign up to do the Blackout

    Sign up to do the Blackout this November and we’ll send you a free Blackout pack, with stickers!!:

  • Forget about it!

    News moves quickly. Every day countless new stories emerge about different things that have happened all over the world, so only the most significant or relevant are given mainstream coverage. Because of this it often becomes pretty easy to forget about all that’s been going on.

    A few weeks ago there was a massive amount of coverage given to Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian woman who’s been imprisoned and faces the death penalty for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. The attention the story got gave us hope that the sentence would be reversed, and after pressure from leaders in the West, word got out that Meriam would be released. But then she wasn’t. And now, just yesterday, amazingly, her appeal was successful and she’s due to be released. Brilliant news.

    But as other issues, such as the crisis in Iraq gain more media attention, it’s really easy for other stories to be forgotten. Meriam might be free – but that doesn’t mean we forget about the situation facing the Christian community in her home country of Sudan.

    I’ve been on team with Open Doors for just over a week now, but it’s been a real eye opener to see just how many issues of persecution have happened in that short time.

    Last week we began to hear about how at least a thousand Christian families along with half a million others were forced to flee the city of Mosul after it was invaded by the militant Islamic group ISIS, leaving the church presence in the city virtually non-existent.

    On Sunday at least 45 people, the majority thought to be Christian, were killed in an attack in Mpeketoni, Kenya. Witnesses have said men were questioned on their religion and those who were found to be Christian were shot.

    And on Wednesday at least 21 people were killed from a suicide bombing at a public viewing of a World Cup game in Nigeria. Although no organisation has claimed responsibility, the terrorist group Boko Haram has been behind a series of attacks on these public viewings, that are seen as too ‘Western’ for their strict Muslim beliefs.

    These attacks don’t just involve Christians, but in many cases Christians and others are suffering as a result of non-conformity to the laws of dictators or other religions. So much is happening all of the time. It’s no surprise that we can end up forgetting about some of the news we hear because there’s just so much of it.

    But it’s so important that we don’t treat these stories as one-off events. Persecution is an everyday reality for thousands of Christians around the world, and they can’t simply flick to the next story like us.

    But we believe in a God more powerful than politicians or campaigners. So let’s not just pray about what’s hot in the media, let’s be faithful in our prayer life by remembering those who continue to suffer without coverage.

  • Forced to flee

    What did you get up to when you woke up this morning? My day started with me padding downstairs, whacking on the radio, and making myself a (very) generous bowl of cereal. The sun was beaming down into the kitchen and it was hard not to feel content. I was warm, comfortable, and safe in the comfort of my own home.

    But for thousands of people in Iraq, this morning was not so comfortable. Whilst I munched away at my cereal, panic reigned in the streets of Mosul. Since last Friday the second largest city in the country has been subjected to a militant Islamic takeover. Up to half a million people have been forced to flee the country to protect themselves and their families from ISIS, the extremist group behind the invasion. That’s half a million people uprooted from their homes who are now facing massive uncertainty about their future. All that’s familiar to them has changed dramatically in the blink of an eye.

    The extremist group claim that they have made this takeover in order to “liberate” the city. But for the thousands of people uprooted from their homes, the invasion is not providing any sort of liberation. The World Watch Monitor website estimates that up to 1000 Christian families are among those fleeing the city in fear of violence. This sort of crisis has a massive impact on the church in Iraq, who have been scattered throughout different shelters neighbouring the city. With so many Christians leaving the country, the task of witnessing to others about the love of Jesus and standing out as a light in the darkness becomes infinitely harder. As one source has said, “When this goes on like this, Mosul soon will be emptied of Christians.”

    So what can be done to help? British and US forces left Iraq in 2011 with the hope they had restored some order in a hugely divided country. As we can see, the peace hasn’t lasted, but Western countries will now be reluctant to get involved again, especially as there has been only a minimal response to the neighbouring crisis in Syria.

    The situation seems desperate and out of control, but hope remains for the church in Iraq.

    Several Monasteries a short distance from Mosul have opened their doors to shelter fleeing civilians, many of whom are Christians. Schools in mainly Christian villages have also provided shelter and protection for those in need, giving vital hospitality and stability. The church is standing strong to defend not only its family, but all who are homeless and in desperate need. Where Christians remain together, strength can be found. We’re part of this family, the body of Christ, and it’s our family duty to respond in solidarity and prayer.

    The world we live in is a totally different place to the chaos we witness in the news, and more often than not I’ve found it really difficult to connect with something that seems so alien to everything I know in my world of comfort. But it’s vital that we don’t grow lukewarm to the harsh realities many people around the world are facing. We need to remember that for millions across the world living as a Christian is a daily struggle, filled with uncertainty about the future. Just look at how quickly things have changed for Christians in Iraq. Let’s plead the case of the people of Mosul with our Heavenly Father.

    Where is Iraq?

    What to pray for…

    • Pray for all who have been forced to flee the city, that they would find temporary shelter and safety
    • Pray for the Christian families amongst those left homeless, that they would continue to trust in Jesus despite their desperate circumstances
    • Pray for a swift response from the UN refugee agency, that they might be quick to provide help and assistance to the fleeing refugees
    • Pray for stability and peace in Iraq, a country divided by power and religion

    Do something

    If you can, you can give to our current Open Doors campaign for Christians living in failed states like Iraq and Syria.
    Find out more here…

    More on Iraq…

    Read this post about the 4th country on the World Watch List…

  • We support people who are beaten, tortured,
    imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.