Growing the Gift

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Hattie May Wiatt

Have any of you heard of Hattie May Wiatt and the story of the 57 cents? Hattie was a young girl who lived in Philadelphia in the 1880’s. She attended a baptist church not far from her home, but the Sunday school room was so full of children she was afraid to go in for fear of being trampled. Often tickets were issued before the services to avoid overcrowding, imagine that! On voicing her concerns to her Pastor, Russel Conwell, she was told that one day, when they had enough money, a new, larger church and Sunday school room would be built. Sadly, in 1886 Hattie May died. After her death, Hattie’s mother gave Pastor Conwell a little purse with 57 cents in it, explaining that Hattie had been saving to help the church build a larger premises. Pastor Conwell was moved. He changed the 57 cents into 57 pennies and sold them to his congregation.  Church members made donations, and cheques came in from far and wide. The 57 cents turned into $250.  The Wiatt’s Mite Society was formed and was dedicated to making Hattie’s original 57 cents grow further.  The amount of money raised was a sizable investment towards the building of a new Sunday school and church building, and eventually a university and hospital too.  It’s amazing what can come of 57 cents and faith! Today Grace Baptist Church is still going strong and you can check out their website here.

Why am I telling you this? This weekend, out of the blue, a friend of mine gave a gift to our church to put towards hosting a team of people from Pulse Ministries, who we’re partnering up with to run a holiday bible club for local kids in August.  This gesture blessed us immensely.  The family doesn’t attend our church and their children aren’t at the age where they will be old enough to attend the club in the summer, yet they chose to bless us with a gift. It humbled us.  It encouraged us. However, most importantly of all it revealed their compassionate hearts and kingdom building mindset. They’ve realised the potential this bible club could have in our community. 70 children, many unchurched, being taught the gospel, for 5 hours a day, for 5 consecutive days…that is bound to be a game changer. This isn’t just about a week. Foundations will be laid for lives being built and lived out on solid biblical truths, seeds will be planted which will sprout and grow into blossoming relationships with Jesus Christ. This is kingdom building folks, and that is powerful stuff.

22317_imPOSSIBLESo, we’re asking you to invest: Not in Ste or me, not in Full Life Church or Pulse Ministries, but in growing God’s kingdom here on earth, in the wider church. We’ve changed our friend’s gift into £1 coins and we want to sell them, just like Pastor Conwell did with Hattie May’s 57 cents, at a profit. We’re in the process of setting up a Just Giving Page where you can donate an amount of your choice in exchange for one of the original £1 coins (If you’re not local, message me your address via our Facebook page if you’d like me to post you your £1 coin!). Alternatively you can do a bank transfer into the church account.
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Interestingly, the Bible is full of stories about investing and multiplying, the parable of the talents being the one that springs to mind in this instance. The Message version of it is below for you to read, but for now I’ll say thanks, in faith, for buying a £1 and investing in the bigger picture!

The Story About Investment – Matthew 25: 14-30

14-18 “It’s also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master’s investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master’s money.

19-21 “After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

22-23 “The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

24-25 “The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’

26-27 “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

28-30 “‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’

 

 

Sweet steamed coconut milk buns

This afternoon I indulged a little and enjoyed a sit down in front of the telly.  I watched Jamie Oliver make these beautiful coconut milk buns on his ’15 Minute Meals’ show. With a midweek church meeting at our house this evening I wondered whether I could come up with a sweet version to serve instead of the usual cakes or cookies.

I used:
1 can coconut milk
2 cans (use the Coconut milk can) self raising flour
Some chopped pistachio nuts
A teaspoon of vanilla extract
The zest of one lemon (I’d have used lime if I had one in).
3 drops high strength lime extract
2 heaped dessert spoons of desicated coconut.

Mix all the ingredients together (I used the dough hook attachment on the kitchen aid). Turn out onto a floured surface and lightly knead to bring together. Cut into 10 equal sized pieces and roll into balls. Place into doubled up paper muffin cases and steam for 12 minutes. I don’t have a bamboo steamer (despite one being on my ‘to buy’ list for ages) but my stainless steel one worked perfectly.

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After 12 mins they’ll look something like this:

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Make a glaze using icing sugar and milk, spoon over the warm buns and sprinkle with desicated coconut. Enjoy!

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Oh, if anyone is wondering which lime extract I used there’s a picture below. I found it at a food festival and believe me, a little goes a long way!

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Rich Chocolate and Beetroot Bundt

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HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and are ready to face 2015 with renewed vigour.

With an abundance of post-Christmas chocolate lying around at home, I decided to remove the temptation and share the love at church today with a very rich and indulgent chocolate and beetroot cake. Beautifully moist and studded with chunks of dark chocolate, this is bound to prove popular with kids and adults alike.

A lot of recipes call for cooked beetroot, but thanks to the pulversing powers of the nutribullet I used raw.

Here’s how to do it. Scrub a whole beetroot and weigh out 180g of it.  Cube and put in the nutribullet along with three large eggs.

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Blend until pulverised.

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In a bowl or blender mix 200g plain flour, 250g light brown soft sugar, 100g  good quality cocoa powder, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste before adding the beetroot and egg mixture, and 200ml melted butter. You’ll end up with a lovely rich mixture like this.

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Chop 100g of good quality dark chocolate (no higher than 70%).

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Mix into the batter before spooning into a greased bundt tin which has been sprinkled with cocoa powder to stop the cake sticking.

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Bake for 35mins at 180oC or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for ten minutes before turning out.

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For the icing steep a few cubes of the leftover beetroot in some vanilla syrup (water or milk works fine if you don’t have syrup to hand), then add the liquid to icing sugar to make a thick pink drizzle. Pipe over the cooled bundt.

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It went down well at church this morning.

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Choosing joy in the midst of adversity

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

There are times in every person’s life when being joyful, praying and being thankful for our circumstances may not come naturally. Times when the hurt is heavy, the sickness crippling, the family falling apart or the finances in the red. These are spiritual sink or swim moments. Often the easier choice to make is to sink, falling away from the truths the bible teaches, trying to make sense of the situation in the natural, drowning in a sea of grief feeling and feeling isolated, vulnerable and alone. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Life for us has actually been pretty difficult in a few different ways lately. We’re a young (ish!) couple, trying to lead a church in the direction God wants it to go, doing what we can to reach the community we serve as well as balancing that with supporting our existing congregation pastorally, bringing up a fiesty toddler, being squeezed financially and attempting to grow our family.

It’s the ‘attempting to grow our family’ part which is the catalyst for writing this post today. Earlier in the week Ste and I went for an 8 week pregnancy scan after getting a positive result on our final round of IVF a few weeks ago. We were expecting to see one or two perfect little heartbeats but this wasn’t to be. Both embryos had implanted but our twins hadn’t developed properly and we were told to prepare for miscarriage. At that moment our hearts shattered. All the hopes and dreams of giving Phoebe a sibling, all the prayers we, and so many others, had invested in these two little lives, all the faith we had had that God would breathe life into these babies gone, in an instant. We haven’t felt heartbreak like it before, and we certainly hadn’t anticipated that the grief we feel would be so intense.

There were lots of tears that day, some as a result of overwhelming sadness, some borne out of sheer frustration, and some being of downright anger with God for allowing this to happen after all the years of infertility we’d gone through to get to that point, and on top of everything else we have to deal with at the moment.

I woke up the next day knowing I had a choice to make. I could sink, allowing the grief to over take me, wallowing in my own self pitty and risking becoming bitter about the whole situation, or I could swim. There was no contest.

We know God loves us. We know His will for our lives is better than our own. We know that being a Christian does not mean a life free from heartache and difficulties, but we also know we are not going through this alone. God will not give us more than we can handle, and he will give us what we need to get through this and come out stronger. We fixed our eyes on Jesus once more, and began thanking him for all the wonderful people and things he has blessed us with. Slowly our joy is being restored.

I began to remind myself that good can still come out of this horrendously sad situation. This could be the springboard we needed to launch us into a deeper relationship with our Saviour. How can that be anything but good?! We pray that God is glorified through this, that others will know that they don’t have to go through their heartbreak alone. You too can have the incredible and immeasurable peace of God. If one life is transformed by God as a result of this situation then our temporal earthly loss has been worth it. Be blessed friends, and know that whatever your circumstance you can choose joy, you can choose to be thankful, you can pray, and God will sustain you, carry you and bring you out of this stronger than you went in.

Tough questions: Is our eternal destiny already decided?

Sometimes there are aspects of the Christian faith which we struggle to comprehend or accept. The temptation is to skim over them and assume that they can’t really be teaching what they appear to be plainly stating.

However, 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all scripture is God-breathed and useful for our teaching, reproof, correcting and training, so we cannot ignore sections of the Bible simply because they challenge our perceptions.

In the latest sermon series at Full Life Church we confront some aspects of scripture which can be difficult to understand and yet are, in many ways, fundamental to our faith. We will encounter some tough questions but we will also strive to find true, biblically based answers. This week we look at whether our eternal destiny is already decided.  Click here to listen.

Size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts.

 

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If I had a £1 for every time someone asked me how many people we have in our church congregation I’d be boarding a flight to the Tropics about now; but alas I’m here, thinking about whether bigger is better, or whether we’ve missed a trick.

Full Life Church has been going for over ten years now, and within that time we’ve ranged in size from a handful of families, to over a hundred people and back down again.  This has been for a number of reasons including various venue changes, the stepping down of the original pastor and the appointment of a new one, people emigrating, moving areas or going to a church closer to where they live, and sadly, people leaving because they perhaps feel the church hasn’t quite met their needs at a particular time. Unfortunately, we, like every other church on the planet, are far from perfect, and sometimes miss the mark.  However, we are in the midst of a new season, and a new way of thinking which is already proving fruitful.  I’d like to share a little bit of what we’ve been doing with you to encourage small churches and leaders in similar situations.

With our eyes fixed firmly on God, and prayerfully considering all decisions and ministries, we are learning to recognize and act upon the innate strengths of a smaller congregation. We are figuring out ways to be effective in our community without having a congregation of a couple of hundred. We are building solid foundations, are rooted in the Word of God, and are resting in the fact that God is with us, in us and working through us regardless of how many bums are on seats on a Sunday morning.  We realize that Sunday mornings are merely a snippet of our church, and that each and every member has their own ‘front line’ ministry outside of the confinements of our church venue and services, be that work, toddler groups, WI meetings, craft clubs, school or uni.  There is always opportunity to take our faith beyond Sunday mornings and be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever we are, whatever we’re doing and whoever we’re with. For me personally, one of the benefits of being small is that we operate as a family. We know each other well, we are real with each other, we truly love each other, we hurt when one of our members is hurting, we rejoice when someone has a success, and really importantly we recognize and utilize each others giftings and assets. Each person has a role and purpose within the church. Without them we couldn’t function as effectively as we do, and when they’re not around we miss them.

We have consciously exercised wisdom when it comes to organizing outreach events and ministries, choosing things which are simple to organize, don’t require much manpower, that are sustainable and going to appeal to the community we serve. We’ve collaborated with other organisations (such as Contact the Elderly and Creation Station) and churches to minimize pressure on ourselves, yet still have maximum effect in our community. We do a few ministries really well, which leaves us time to meet other important needs, such as delivering a meal to someone who has just had a baby, leaving little chocolate treats with a scripture for the Whist and Dominoes club, or spending one on one time with someone who just needs to talk things through and pray. We have been encouraged that, despite having only 30 or 40 people in the service, the audio links posted online on the website and facebook page, mean the sermons have a far, far wider reach and we are so joyfully surprised to hear that people across UK and further afield have had a listen.  I find it mind-blowing that the internet can be and is such a vital ministry tool. These days it’s imperative to have a good website and social media presence.

Reading this back, I’m starting to think it could be interpreted as being a little arrogant, which really is not what I intended. We still have a long way to go, and I’m not for a second suggesting this is a perfect model for a church. I am however, excited that after what seemed like an eternity in the wilderness, as a body of people we have finally accepted that instead of wrestling to grow the church numerically ourselves, we simply have to continue to be an outwards looking church, being obedient to God’s direction, seeking to show the practical love of Jesus at any given opportunity, and, very importantly, resting in the fact that God will grow His church and draw people in, in His perfect timing.  Encouragingly, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we are in His will for us, we are blessed in every sense of the word, and as a body of Christians we want the community we serve to experience the same love, blessing and acceptance we have found in Jesus regardless of whether they consider themselves a member of our congregation or not.

So next time I’m asked how many people we have in our congregation, I might suggest that a better question might be along the lines of,” how do you empower your congregation, and utilize their gifts, to be fruitful and effective  in your community irrespective of your size?”

How do we know if we are really saved?

Sometimes scripture can take us off guard. A passage can surprise us, even shock us and
challenge our perceptions of what the Bible teaches. Matthew 7:21-23 is one of those passages, and the temptation is to skim over it and assume that it can’t really be teaching what it appears to be plainly stating. However, 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all scripture is
God-breathed and useful for our teaching, reproof, correcting and training, so we cannot ignore sections of the Bible simply because they challenge our perceptions.

In this sermon Ste (my husband) confronts this difficult passage
and the question that inevitably stems from it…How do we know if we are really saved?

Click here to be challenged and encouraged by the amazing truths the Bible gives us.

Which army are you fighting for?

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It will come as no surprise to you that we don’t celebrate Halloween at home or in our church. Whatever its historical roots, these days there is no denying that it has evolved into a celebration of all things dark and evil, and I for one do not buy into the “oh, it’s just harmless fun” mentality.

The Word clearly states in Ephesians 6:12 that, “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen (spiritual) world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

Whether intentional or not, when we buy into the Halloween ‘celebrations’ we’re buying into something much greater, far more powerful and darker than just costumes, scary faced pumpkins and trick or treating.  However melodramatic it sounds, there’s no getting away from the biblical truth that there is a constant battle in the spiritual realm between good and evil, between God and the devil, and by buying into Halloween you’re stating, inadvertently or not, which army you’re fighting for.  That should make you think. You can’t be on both teams, you can’t pledge your allegiance to both rulers, you can’t fight for both sides.

There is enough darkness in this world already. As Christians we’re called to be salt and light, to add the God flavour in this otherwise tasteless world, and to shine light, goodness and the love of Jesus in dark places. Which army will you be fighting for this Halloween?

Cutting the mustard…Plant or tree?

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.  It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32 ESV)

What if the popular interpretation of this well known parable is flawed? What if we’ve totally misunderstood the message Jesus conveyed through this story? What if the global church has become something it was never intended to be?

In Ste’s latest soon series ‘Your Kingdom Come’, he unpacks this parable in a way you may not have heard before. Have a listen here. His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.