We read in Genesis 2 about a familiar tale, the creation of Adam.
Genesis 2:5–7 NIV
5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
In the bible the imagery of breath is often used to convey spiritual essence and power, unseen except in its effects, including aspects of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The main Hebrew and Greek words translated as “breath” in the NIV are also translated as “spirit” and “wind”.
The breath of life—literally, of lives, not only animal but spiritual life. If the body is so admirable, how much more the soul with all its varied faculties: its emotions, intellect and will.
God formed Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life—whether you believe that this act is literal or not the emphasis on tis draws a distinction between animals and is. this narrative is used to show that man’s life originated in a different way from his body—being implanted directly by God
When the verse talks about God breathing into us the word here doesn’t mean to breathe like we are doing now -it speaks of life, it is the same word that you would use when you talk about someone starting a fire, fanning into flame, or a blacksmith blowing to increase the ferocity of the fire..
I don’t know if you have tried to start a fire but when you start you have to blow very gently, but then as it takes hold you have to blow increasingly harder to make it grow, you have to put more of your breath into the action of fanning the flames - as you get to a really hot fire, look at a black smith, the size of the bellows that they use are massive. They move a lot of air at a time, they impart great power into the flames making them hot enough to refine the most precious of metals to shape the hardest of iron.
This is a perfect picture of how our Father God breathes his life into us.
We start as a vessel that is made in his image a vessel that is fearfully and wonderfully made…
Psalm 139:14 NIV
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
..And then we have encounter with God, he breathes his life gently into us, a soft breath, bringing us spiritually alive as we recognise our need for Him, as he revels Himself to us. He brings us to life. allowing us to know him as Father. The spirit helps us recognise our position in life.
Galatians 4:6 NIV
Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
As we continue to grow in God the impetus of his breath, his spirt is increases.
The spirit like the fire of the furnace refines us at He transforms us. the Spirt, the breath of God empowers us
There is a key difference though between the way the Spirit of God - impacts us and the way that that blacksmith uses a furnace to refine. The blacksmith controls the power of the bellows, he is in control of the process - he doesn’t care if the piece of iron wants to be transformed or not, if the iron is stubborn the smith just pumps the bellows with more force and hits the iron harder.
God, however, never forces his Life, his spirit on anyone it is up to us to decide if we want this.
Both initially when we are presented with the option to accept or reject the message of salvation and also as we live our lives. We engaged in an ongoing choice of how we live fully in, fully out, or partially in the presence of God. This choice reflects in our desire for the Holy Spirit, that breath of God to impart life into us.
The more we desire to walk closely with God the more opportunity we have for God to impart life into us.
Take a moment, still your heart and mind and as God to breathe life into you.
Hear more : From the earth : from the breath of God
We believe that prayer makes a difference, it is effective and is essential to knowing God.
Pray 2020 - Prayer nights will take place on the last Wednesday of the month at the Vine Centre
A time of worship and prayer startng at 7:30pm for Coffee and concluding at 8:30pm
All are welcome.
As well as working for the Vine, I work four days a week in the education software sector. I tend to spend my time working from London, Bedford, Nottingham and my favourite location home. The routes to these offices are very familiar, so much so, I could probably travel them with my eyes closed.
I was driving home from Bedford this week when I suddenly found myself not going along the A1 but rather going off it. I was happily drifting left, over the dotted white line towards the side of the road and off onto a slip road taking me somewhere I did not want to go. I realised that I was taking the wrong road, signalled and steered back onto the road.
I wasn’t distracted, I wasn’t asleep. So, why did this happen?
It was simple I just followed the road. My driving was not intentional, I simply followed the road, which at that point had turned into an exit to another road. I blindly followed the car in front of me not considering it was taking me somewhere I had not intended going. It is so easy to do that when you are driving. Especially when you are on a very familiar stretch of road and when you have been on that road for a considerable time.
Life is pretty similar - it is so easy to stay on the same old track or follow the people around you; not considering that the destination you are heading for is not the one that you really wanted to go to.
We read in Matthews Gospel [Matthew 2:1-12] of the Magi (Wisemen, Three Kings - although they were not kings nor were there three of them) following a star to find a King.
I remember being asked at a corporate event, “Are you a leader or a follower?”
The discussion leader was trying to elicit a response that would determine who would lead the groups in the next highly important training task which from memory was which team could build a bridge to span the longest gap out of nothing but a copy of a newspaper and six inches of tape.
‘Are you a leader or a follower’ is an overly simplistic question; one which I think the only accurate answer is both.
On the day of building the newspaper bridge, I answered confidently “I’m a leader!”. We lost the competition possibly because everyone in the team also declared they were leaders.
At times we all need to be followers:
For the harmony of the group and success of a shared goal we sometimes need to follow.
For our own mental health, there are times we need to let others carry the burden.
For our credibility, we need to follow those who are better placed, equipped or skilled to do things we are not.
For our own development, we need to follow those we can learn off.
As a Christian, I also believe I need to follow God to keep spiritually healthy. I have a suspicion anyone who lives their lives solely as a leader is bound to fail and is displaying more arrogance than leadership skill.
As well as being followers all of us are called to be leaders at times. Some will be placed into a leadership capacity in an organised group such as leading our work colleagues in a team or scout, swimming, or football club. All of us at times have the opportunity (and sometimes necessity) to lead, neighbours, school friends, our families, children in activities and in how we interact with each other – this leadership is often about how we lead ourselves. Self-leadership is often overlooked but is an essential task, where we intentionally set out to do something in a specific way or change something about ourselves or the way we react to situation or others. As a follower of Jesus, the way I act, the things I do and say should reflect my beliefs. Those bits in the bible I have read about honouring people, defending the weak, clothing the poor, feeding the hungry have to be reflected in the way I lead myself. And that is before we get to the big one, ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. These things are not easy. Leadership is not easy whatever level of leadership it is.
Sometimes it feels easier to disengage and be only a follower, to have not cares and responsibilities.
Written on the wall of the room Mother Theresa lived in was the following words.
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.*
Words that I find help get through the challenges of leadership whatever level of leadership that is.
The answer to the questions, ‘are you a leader or a follower?’ needs to be “I am both”, it is not an either-or question. The difficulty is understanding when to be which and in what measure. That is something I am continually learning, often by getting it wrong.
* Mother Theresa’s poem is based on ‘The Paradoxical Commandments’ by Dr Kent M. Keith as part of a booklet for student leaders. More information can be found on the Paradoxical Commandments website and the Paradoxical Commandments for Christians site
December is here. Excitement builds as the month races on.
In a distant place people await a hero to give the oppressed hope, a leader to bring victory over the powers of darkness and tyranny. People gather around this figure expectantly. The anticipation of this event has been told by many, over years. Throughout the galaxy, there have been hints and rumours and now this icon is taking their place, to fight the final fight, the deciding battle where good will triumph.
December the 20th sees the latest episode in the epic story that is Star Wars hit the silver screens. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little excited.
A few thousand years ago in a distant place, rumours of the coming of a great leader were whispered throughout the region, mentioned in scriptures and conversations. These were stories of someone who would change the course of history. A saviour that would conquer evil and bring hope to generations. A leader that thousands would follow, that would lead the way in the triumph of good.
As we approach Christmas amongst the tinsel and turkey, presents and pudding we remember the birth of a man of history; Jesus. We don’t, however, think of him as powerful and world changing but as a defenceless baby swaddled in clothes, born in humble surroundings. The image of that baby does not foretell the miracles that he would perform, or the impact on history and everyday life that would still be present some two thousand years later. What we see when we look at this child in Christmas scenes or school nativity plays is love: The love that Mary and Joseph would have had for their new-born, and the love that God has for all humankind. Within the child there was the spark of possibility, what would this new life hold, what would he be as child, as a teenager, as a man.
I wonder how many looked at that baby and could see the possibilities and potential that was within him that would lead him to fulfil all that was written in scripture before he was born, not many, I guess. And yet as a man who travelled no more than a few hundred miles, who wrote no books and led no armies: His life changed the course of human history and has shaped the lives and cultures of millions across the globe.
When we look at the people and situations around us, I wonder how often we too miss the potential and the possibilities that are in those around us and in ourselves.
The concepts of love and possibilities are at the heart of Christmas whether your focus at this time of year is Jesus, family, presents or Star Wars, Maybe even all four of them.
This Christmas, I pray that you will know both the love of those around you and also the love that God has for you. That you will see the possibilities that are in you and the people you meet.
Have a Merry Christmas and you are welcome to join us at the Vine at any time as we celebrate Christmas the possibilities that Jesus brings.
As I sit writing this article, I am looking forward to a short break on the Island of Rhodes an island that is famed for both its beaches and its history. As many of you will have done prior to going on holiday I have been leafing through books, leaflets, and websites to find things to do, sights to see and places to visit. One of the things that caught my attention was the large number of mosaics that are on the island that survive from 300 or more years before Christ. Each of the mosaics is both beautiful and tells an individual story. Some tell stories that you may be familiar with from Greek mythology, like the story of the Medusa or Pegasus. Others tell stories that are now lost to history and other mosaics are there just for their own inherent beauty.
The definition for mosaic is an artwork or picture produced by arranging together small fragments (sometimes broken) of variously coloured material OR a combination of diverse elements forming a more or less coherent whole.
It strikes me that mosaic seems a pretty good description of lots of things. Let’s start with people. My life, like everyone else’s is made up of a range of different experiences, successes, failures, things I am proud of, things I regret. My personality is made up of some great characteristics and a good number of flaws (I’m not nice to be around when I’m hungry and tired, to name but one). What makes me, me is lots of little fragments, some of which are broken, arranged together. The same is true of each of us. Sometimes though, we focus on the individual parts, especially the boring bits and the broken pieces, the regrets and the mistakes rather than looking at the complete artwork that is you.
– Mosaics are made from broken pieces but are still amazing works of art – so are you.
Mosaic is a great description of the communities we live in. It doesn’t matter if we are looking at our street, village or wider. The essence of a Mosaic is caused by the variety of the pieces. If I consider my neighbours and friends, they are young, middle-aged, more elderly, English, French, Spanish, of Asian or African heritage, monetarily rich or just making ends meet, outgoing, shy, musical, tone-deaf, highly educated or just made it through school, fit and sporty or self-confessed “couch potatoes” Each are different and yet each brings a vibrancy to the community that I live and work in.
The Bible uses a different analogy for the importance of people within the church, that of the human body. 1 Corinthians 12:12 says ‘The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So, it is with the body of Christ.’ It then goes on to say although different, each is important in its own way and each and everyone is known to and valued by God.
If the tiles of a mosaic are all one shape and colour you don’t have a piece of art.
Each piece may be perfect but the whole is boring. It is easy to compare ourselves to others. it is harder to recognise that in the mosaic of life it is our differences that bring vibrancy and excitement to the community we inhabit.
I am looking forward to seeing those mosaics both in Rhodes and in Cherry Willingham.
With parliament prorogued and then not, as legal challenges raced through the courts, the future direction of the country seems less and less clear. It is easy to be concerned by the stories in the press of what a ‘no deal’ Brexit may mean or fear what may happen should Brexit be delayed. Trying to filter the facts from the hyperbole is difficult in the media at the best of times. Now, as we as a country, continue to tread an un-trodden path to Brexit, of one shape or another, or not and face a General Election or possibly not; certainty seems to be a distant concept. One thing that history and life experience have taught me is that we always live in times of change and trial, we are always having to adapt to the unknown and often unexpected.
The Church is often portrayed, especially in the media caricature that is television, as stale, unchanging and irrelevant. My view of the Church as a whole is far from that. Yes, there are some old church building and some churchgoers that favour music from the nineteenth rather than the twenty-first century but that is about style and taste and not about a lack of cultural relevancy. There are many vibrant and modern churches of all denominations, that flex their style to reflect popular culture changes and yet keep to a consistent and relevant belief. Whatever the style of church I see churches that are filled with people that care about our society, about injustice, about the environment and about the communities they are in. I see people and churches that are always adapting to meet the needs of society, providing support services to the elderly or those with debt or those feeling lonely and isolated. This is nothing new. The church has always done this but has adapted with the times – providing support through organisations like Christians against Poverty (www.capuk.org), and co-ordinating projects like Food In School Holidays (FISH) or Assist (www.assistlincs.org.uk) as just three examples out of many. Whatever the music or the age of the building it is clear that the Church is moving with the times, even in uncertain times.
There is one thing about the Church that is unchanging. That is the consistent nature of God. A God that is both immense and yet interested in each and every person on this planet. A God that poured out immense love and immeasurable sacrifice to bring certainty to believers both for today and for eternity; A God that commands his believers to feed the hungry, defend the cause of the poor and the needy and to love their neighbour whatever side of the Brexit debate they are on.
I have no idea what Brexit will hold – What I do know, is that whatever changes the political decisions bring, I serve a God that is unchanging. That certainty is both comforting and empowering as we move through these uncertain times. It is that certainty in God that allows me to pray for all our leaders that they will have wisdom, compassion and tolerance throughout this journey. I also pray for us as a country and a local community that whatever the outcome; we show the best of the human spirit by disagreeing well and being magnanimous in our views to people of other opinions.
Here I am surrounded by groups of people excited by the prospect of travelling to far-flung places, waiting expectedly to fly off to exotic places, anticipating seeing loved ones or imagining how they will, in just a few short hours, be relaxing at the side of a pool or walking on a beach next to an azure sea. Regrettably, I won’t be joining them. As I sit in a hotel at Heathrow, I am here for work and won’t be boarding any planes, but it has started me thinking about holidays.
The first book of the Bible, Genesis, starts with the Creation story. God spent the first six days creating day & night, separating land & sea, forming animals & plants, and breathing life into humans. On the seventh day, He rested. Even given the enormity of creating the universe, I don’t for one-minute think that an all-powerful God was tired and needed a sit-down. Instead, I believe that God sets a precedent for each of us to set time aside to ‘take a break’, to have a Sabbath. In previous generations, this was a set day a week and there is something to be said about keeping a day set-aside for not working. But with the pressures of life in 2019, this is increasingly hard. That does not change our fundamental need to stop and rest.
Studies show that there are benefits to taking time out to rest, even just 24 hours. These range from reduced stress levels to increased immune responses. It is physically healthy to rest. People who take time out also tend to have better positive family relationships and even ‘enjoy’ work more; are more productive and have better short-term memory.
When God commanded us to take a rest, He did it in the full knowledge that as humans with free will, we are the only people who can grant ourselves a holiday. I don’t know what your plans are for the summer, but I do hope you give yourself a break. It doesn’t have to be a week on a far-flung beach; just some time doing something different or doing as little as possible whatever suits your personality. Taking time out alone or with family and friends to recharge physically, mentally emotionally and spiritually is both the focus of a holiday and of God’s command to rest on a Sabbath day. Holidays are less about where you go and more about giving yourself permission and time to take a break.
I pray that this summer you will grant yourself a rest, a holiday and that it will restore and refresh as God intended.
You may enjoy it enough that you make it a weekly event.
The bible is full of amazing stories that you would not expect to find. Many of us will be familiar with the ‘big stories’ that we hear at Easter or Christmas. We may even remember the stories that have become popular ‘picture story’ book subjects or the theme of children’s songs like the annoyingly catchy song about Noah, the Ark the animals that go in two-by-two.
One of the lesser-known stories is about a young man sitting listening to the Apostle Paul speak. Paul was going on, and on and the young man started to doze off. Unfortunately, for the teenager he was sitting in a third-story window, as he slept, he fell crashing to his death.
The question this story raised was why he fell; it wasn’t simply that he was bored to death. It was his position that led to his demise. The young man had withdrawn from the group, away from his friends to the edges of society. If he had been inside the room, he would have dozed and survived.
There are lots of reasons in today’s world that people find themselves either pushed or drawn to the edges of society:
The church has always provided support for people who need help. That help may be through having a safe space to chat about life, a place to have a sense of belonging and friendship or may be specific practical help.
Many of the large organisations like the Samaritans [ Tel. 116 123 ] have their roots in the church and some organisations are still linked to the church serving those that have a belief or have none. Organisations such as Christians Against Poverty [ 0800 328 0006 ] tackling debt or locally Assist [ 01522 370164 ] providing support for the lonely, isolated and those with mental health issues or those just struggling with life. These organisations (there are many more examples) are staffed by volunteers who want to help those on the edges of society.
The bible story I mentioned has a happy ending but if you want to know what happens you will have to find a bible or Google: Acts 20 v7-6.
If you or someone you know feels on the edge why not reach out to one of the organisations mentioned or contact us.
There is no reason to be alone on the edge.