Supporting churches to include people with Autism and Learning Disabilties

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What kind of Father is God?

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This Christmas I have been thinking about Joseph.  We often talk about Mary, the blessed Virgin but prompted by this 80s song by Michael Card   ,  I got my puppet to sing it to the congregation when I did the Christmas talk at the Good News Group.  (and here are the lyrics)

If you want a multi-sensory experience with this post – get yourself a small piece of play dough or ball of blue tack and follow the instructions at each section.  There is also a picture and symbol with each part too. 

The word Immanuel means “God with us” and The Bible says:

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.”  John 3:16  (NIrV)

Joseph became the dad to God’s son.  What an important job.  I am sure that Joseph loved God and we know he obeyed God.  God sent him the message by an angel, and so he married Mary.  We don’t hear much about him in the Bible because it tells us that God was really Jesus’s Father – and Jesus came to show us what God his father was like – and tell us that God is our Father too.

So what kind of Father is God?

A Father who Loves…

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Make a ball with your playdough and think that as you hold something you made in your hands – God holds the world in his hands and he loves it so much.  He wants the world to know how much he loves it.  And to do that he sent his son Jesus into that world.

When we say, God so loved the world it reminds us that he made the world, and he made you.  The Bible also says:

“You created the deepest parts of my being.
    You put me together inside my mother’s body.
How you made me is amazing and wonderful.
    I praise you for that.
What you have done is wonderful.
    I know that very well.”    Psalm 139:13-14 (NIrV)

A Father who forgives

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Make a cross with your playdough.  This reminds us of the sacrifice Jesus made for us and the hope we have when we remember that cross.

When Jesus came into this world, as well as telling us about our Father God’s love, he came to do an important job.   He let people nail him to a cross to take the punishment for our sins.  Our sin is that we ignore God and that leads to all kind of selfishness and bad things in the world.  God knew we couldn’t make ourselves right with him.  So, Jesus did this for us instead. When Jesus died, we know God raised him to life and he went up to heaven to be with his Father.  We know we will not die because Jesus came alive after death.  That is the hope we have when we believe in Jesus, to live with him in heaven forever.   Now Jesus is alive and at work with his Father to look after all those who believe in him until that happens.  That’s him looking after Us!

And the kind of Father God is, made sure Jesus left us with another very important promise – that one day Jesus would come back and make this world new and how it should be.

And that is why…

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6 (NIrV)

A Father who promises always to be with us…

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Make a person with your playdough.  Don’t worry how rough it seems.  Now breathe on it.  Help it move.  Can you make it live?  Of course not, but God made you, he knows you and all that you love, hate, he knows all your gifts and dreams and all the things you struggle with.

When Jesus went to heaven he promised that he wouldn’t leave us.   But he went into the sky and the disciples were left very sad and worried.  Some days later, the Holy Spirit came and breathed God’s power into them.  They had all this confidence to go out into the world and tell others about Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is God’s presence and power with us now, so you can have God’s power every day too.  When times are tough, when you feel broken and when you feel amazing – God’s promise never changes.  He is always with you.

“How can I get away from your Spirit?
    Where can I go to escape from you?”   Psalm 139:7 (NIrV)

“Lord, you have seen what is in my heart.
    You know all about me.”   Psalm 139:1  (NIrV)

A Father who is generous in giving gifts…

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Make your playdough into a tiny world again and give it to the person next to you as a gift.  Make sure we have all given and received a gift.

“God’s gifts of grace come in many forms. Each of you has received a gift in order to serve others.”  1 Peter 4:10  (NIrV)

It seems harder when you have a disability, when the world tells you ‘you can’t’.  When people think you are not as good as them because you don’t learn in the same way, or because you need help to do look after yourself each day.  That’s not God’s way at all.

God says anyone is his child when they believe in Jesus.  He gives everyone the same gift of the Holy Spirit as everyone else that believes in Jesus.  God does NOT put limitations on what you can do for him. So thank him for Jesus and be bold, be strong and praise him every day.  I look forward to what he will do in your lives and what you will do for him.  It’s going to be amazing.

Summary

So, what kind of Father is God?

  • A Father who loves
  • A Father who forgives
  • A Father who promises always to be with us
  • A Father who is generous in giving gifts.

I still have my earthly Father. I call him Dad and I love him.  But he is just a human being just like me.   He can’t be all the things my heavenly Father is.  Jesus said we can call God a special Father name – he called it Abba – it’s the same as Daddy.  Do you feel that close to God that you can call him Daddy? 

I love to pray…

Daddy thank you

Daddy I love you

Daddy help me

Today God’s promise to you is that if you believe in Jesus you are his child.  He promises to love you and that after you finish your life on this earth you will go to be in heaven with him.   You will meet the real Jesus and live without pain, hardship or tears forever.   And while you are waiting for that day he promises to be with you always….every… single… moment.  Every one of you here can serve God, love God and be used for him in your life.  Don’t let anyone say to you, ”you can’t”.  Because when the Holy Spirit is in you, you have God’s power to do anything he asks you to do.   It really is going to be an amazing life when you follow Jesus. 

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When you leave the thing you love the most

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Has God ever asked you to let go of something you loved, even if it was a really good thing?  Why would God do that?

In September I stepped down from the Good News Group and have now had a term of not being there each week.  (Although it was wonderful to be involved in the Christmas service with everyone.)  I’m still a bit heartbroken to be honest but it has been good for me to think about why God would do this to me and what I might need to learn from it.

One thing I realised is that God wants me to come to him and give my time to him.  I’m still working this out as I am naturally a really busy person and can soon fill up a few spare minutes or hours.  Social media is a big draw to me – and I’m still having to discipline myself to stop looking at it so much – (not doing brilliantly on that yet).  Wouldn’t it be awful if I just filled up my time with worthless activities instead of God… so I am aiming to do more walking to my local country park and while I am walking, listen to the lovely voice of David Suchet reading a book of the Bible to me.  I am already falling back in love with God’s word by doing this.  I’m not studying it, or doing a study book…just listening.

By letting go of the Good News Group I have given others the chance to step up.  I have been praying each day for the team that is left and know that it is a difficult time of transition.  But I know too that this is God’s work and he will equip and enable them.  I remember when the previous leaders left, very suddenly, and three of us offered to take on leadership ‘temporarily’!!! We had no clue how to do it or how we were going to manage, but at every step, in prayer, God has enabled us.  If you are running a similar group or thinking of doing so – just pray, pray, pray and know that God will enable you.  The more we trust him, the more he is able to give us – and then we can give the glory back to him.  We know we don’t deserve any of it.

I think I was taking some of God’s glory and putting my hope in what I was doing, not who God is.  I need to be humble and repent of this.

And finally I am now seeing that God has work for me to do elsewhere.  My hubby and I are still visiting other churches and I am getting a better feel of what disability awareness and support might be needed by churches.  I am not feeling the need to settle anywhere else so far, but then if God has that in his plan, we are certainly open to it.  It is a time of waiting and learning – being such an active person, this does not come naturally to me, but then with God all things are possible!

My prayer for all of you (maybe 3 people…ha ha!) who read my blog is that you too know when God is calling you out to wait, listen and learn.  It may be a time he is getting you ready for the next stage of your ministry or a time of discipline and healing.  And don’t forget that our friends with learning difficulties may need times like this too.  It may be that God calls you to come alongside someone one-to-one and support them through their time of waiting.

God Bless and do keep in touch.  There will be some news next year, as I think God is leading me to new things that I have had meetings about recently…

 

Building an accessible church 4 – Starting with some training.

This post comes after I have done two training sessions at churches in Liverpool and Manchester.  What I have been inspired by is the heart of the church leaders and others to start a new season of accessibility and inclusion at their churches.

We all know that oak trees grow from tiny acorns and that Jesus said if we had faith as small as a mustard seed then anything is possible.

Matthew 17:20-21  (NIRV)

 He replied, “Because your faith is much too small. What I’m about to tell you is true. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, it is enough. You can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’ And it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In Liverpool, I spoke about autism along with Cristina who is, by her own definition, ‘An Aspie Christian’.  It was organised by Liverpool Deaf church and we had two BSL interpreters signing our talks and allowing us to communicate with the deaf members of the audience.  We made a point of recognising that there were deaf autistic people and that communication with them needed to take both differences into account.  I learned from the deaf people who attended, some of the differences in deaf communication that I hadn’t know, such as interrupting isn’t really a ‘thing’ for them as the way they communicate in sign language is more fluid than waiting for your turn to say something.  As always, the sensory needs of autistic people were of great interest to the audience and they responded really positively with ideas about what support they could give in their churches.

In Manchester, I spoke about the ‘hidden disabilities’ including dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and how we may have a high number of adults with different disabilities that we know nothing about.  The implications for our preaching and teaching is huge.  What if 50% or more of our congregations can’t understand our Bible teaching fully?  (There are no statistics for the people who actually understand a regular sermon because much is ‘hidden’ and people don’t want to admit they didn’t ‘get it’. – So I made an educated guess to make a point).  We are disabling people if we make sweeping assumptions about the ability to understand and things like literal understanding of spiritual words and concepts (set my heart on fire). There is the need for concrete examples that people can relate to alongside acknowledging the awe, wonder and mystery of our God.  We looked at autism in particular, and what autistic people might need from the church to help them be included and discipled.  We looked at the enormous amount of gifting in people with hidden disabilities that we may need to think of different ways to grow and develop.

What was wonderful in both these settings was seeing church leaders and members wanting to do something positive to make their church more accessible.  Some were just starting out, right at the beginning of looking at what they do and thinking about what was helpful and what wasn’t.  Another church had done a lot of work on becoming dementia friendly and could see how some of those approaches (such as using visuals and having a quiet space) could be developed further to support some autistic people.  One church had started to put symbols on their service sheet as a visual clue to what that part of the service was about.

These may seem tiny but they are significant steps.  We all have to start somewhere and often it is small things like making a quiet/sensory area available, changing the language in sermons to make it more understandable to more people, using a visual schedule to show what will happen in the service and having ways to help people who can’t sit still or who find coffee time terrible because of the noise and demand of socialising.

The best thing is to do an audit of what you do, involving any autistic or other disabled people in your congregation, asking them.  If you are not sure who you have, then speak to an autistic person you might know and ask them to do an audit with you.  An autistic perspective can be such a valuable thing, as long as you remember that each person is different and so other changes may need to be made for others.  Then you can develop a plan – with goals and regular updates about how things are going.

I have written about writing a more accessible sermon here.  Changing our teaching style may be more challenging than you think but more rewarding than you can imagine. Looking at words and explaining things clearly can help all our congregations.  Explaining the Bible, spiritual terms and language in ways that almost all the congregation can grasp means that more will go away from a Sunday service equipped to live the Christian life each day.  Using visuals or drama can help people see what it means and what the concept might look like in real life examples.  It is the simple things in the Bible that we need most to live out in our lives when we are not at church.

My starting point is this question…If a group of adults with learning disabilities arrived at your church in a minibus one Sunday to join your service – would you be ready or could you adapt what you were going to do so that they felt welcome, included and understood something about Jesus’s love and desire for them to be part of his kingdom?

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Keswick 2017

I have been to help with the Keswick Convention Prospects team twice now and although I love it so much the thing that stands out to me is the Wednesday evening in the big tent when the Prospects group go on the main stage to share what they have been doing and sing a song with everyone.  This is well received but feels like a missed opportunity.   The measure for me is this, that when all the group sit down after being on mainstage, the meeting carries on as usual.  The songs contain complex words (and one year we did really have the ‘ineffably sublime’ song…what on earth does ‘ineffably’ mean?)  and the talk is long, full of complex language and concepts and mostly inaccessible to the Prospects group.

A missed opportunity or a token gesture?  I would rather see real inclusion.

Hebrews 11:1 (NIRV)

Faith That Produces Action

Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being sure of what we do not see. 

Building an Accessible Church 3 – Revival is coming.

This blog which is part of my series,  but a bit different.  I have been prompted to write about the wider church picture, addressing some issues that are going on in the world concerning the church right now.  Knowing that what we are doing is part of revival, can spur us on to get on with this ministry with and to disabled people.

A Story About People Invited to a Dinner

Jesus used some more stories to teach the people. He said,  “God’s kingdom is like a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son.  He invited some people to the feast. When it was ready, the king sent his servants to tell the people to come. But they refused to come to the king’s feast.

“Then the king sent some more servants. He said to them, ‘I have already invited the people. So tell them that my feast is ready. I have killed my best bulls and calves to be eaten. Everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’

 “But when the servants told the people to come, they refused to listen. They all went to do other things. One went to work in his field, and another went to his business. Some of the other people grabbed the servants, beat them, and killed them.  The king was very angry. He sent his army to kill those who murdered his servants. And the army burned their city.

“After that the king said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready. I invited those people, but they were not good enough to come to my feast. So go to the street corners and invite everyone you see. Tell them to come to my feast.’  So the servants went into the streets. They gathered all the people they could find, good and bad alike, and brought them to where the wedding feast was ready. And the place was filled with guests.      Matthew 22: 1-10 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

 

great banquet

Painting graphic courtesy of Hyatt Moore.   https://www.smore.com/

There is change afoot in the church, especially the large established churches. For centuries, they have been run by men.  Many of them power hungry and dominating. There have been some amazing, humble and revolutionary faithful men throughout the history of the church.  Men who brought the word of God, men who brought revival.  I grew up going to a Methodist Church and was in awe of the Wesley brothers.  People talk about Luther and Calvin and lots of others.  Great.  Fab.  But where are the women in church history?    (My hero is Lydia.  She was the first to believe and be baptised by Paul as he visited Europe (God led Paul to a group of women – Acts 16) and started the first European church.)

The other thing you might have noticed about today’s church are the scandals.  In America, Australia, Rome and the UK, priests and Bishops have been accused and found guilty of child sexual abuse.  Others have been found guilty of covering it up. Even Prince Charles claimed he was ‘deceived’ to believe and defend the innocence of a leading Bishop, later found guilty.  Women haven’t come out of this unscarred either.  The nuns of long ago who took babies off young unmarried girls, sold the children and kept the women as virtual slaves in workhouses, just for their sins. The years we have shut disabled people away in institutions have been supported and sanctioned by the church – even in being silent about it for so long.

The powerful in the church are being held to account. The world reacts with horror and indignation and hates and blames the church.  The world mocks the church and it’s ‘standards’, telling it is irrelevant and a danger to even those in its care. They have used the Bible to subjugate, to oppress and abuse others for their own ends. Why would anyone want to join the church?

But at the same time there is a revolution happening…

Those who have for centuries have been excluded from the church are banging on its doors.  The disabled, the women, the poor, the mentally ill, the LGBTQ people in our society are asking to be included.

The reason – Jesus.  They know Jesus is Good News.  They know he is a saviour and bring forgiveness and hope in this dark world.  They have faith in Jesus, not the church.  They want the church to change to include them. 

And they are finding their voice.  Those who hold on to power in the church will resist.  The powerful have nothing to hope in except their power.  But look, God is revealing the truth behind the mask.  These scandals are showing us the real state of the church.  And just like in the parable of the great banquet – it’s those on the outside that are going to fill our churches.  We need to be full of faith filled messy people.  We need to welcome with rejoicing all those with messy lives who don’t look ‘respectable’ who challenge the status quo and our idea of who belongs on the church.  A time of great repentance is needed.  A revival is coming in a way those in power had never expected.

I am frustrated with the things happening and being reported about the church. It’s slowness to wake up and open its doors, primarily to disabled people as that’s the area I know best, but to all others too. I can see God working to clean up the church and my hope is to be part of that revival. A church that lives the banquet parable is a messy church.  It is a massive challenge to live Jesus’s radical open armed message of grace FOR ALL.  But the church belongs to Jesus.  No matter what we read in the press – He is working in the church to open the doors and fill up his house!

My hubby and I are spending some time visiting other churches. We want to feel refreshed by different preaching and teaching, as well as see what goes on in our area. We are visiting different denominations and congregations.  I am going with a view to observe and listen to the messages about disability and inclusion. I’m going to observe the demographic of the congregations and how people relate to us as strangers. I’m going to look at the place of women in the church.   Already I’ve visited churches where it doesn’t even occur to them, and women are partnering with men as vicars, leaders and preachers and not just children’s or disability workers.  We all want a church that lives the banquet.  We all want to be in church with many people of all ethnicities, disabilities, sexualities, family types and mental health.  We want to worship together, discover each other’s gifts and open the Bible together.  Jesus knows everything and he loves us.  That’s should be the standard we all live by.

So let’s pray for revival.  Let’s pray for repentance and change, for those in power to let go and let Jesus’s love, (his radical, messy, perfect love,) bring those left outside, in to the church.  I’m excited because church like that is going to be exciting and relevant to our broken world. 

 

NB. “The church” refers to the big established church institutions such as the CofE and Catholic church structures of power and priesthood. Other denominations have these power structures too.

When you can’t do it all and God brings others alongside…

I’m going to be blogging less.  I’ve been struggling to maintain writing this and my autism teaching blog because of other commitments.  I have eventually realised that I don’t need to feel so stressed or guilty – that the Lord is taking me on a different path for now.  I also have a job which is ministry in itself, the Roofbreakers Network to organise and my educational writing projects.  I need to be kinder to myself and take a break now and again, as well as realising God isn’t asking me to do any of this alone.  Only in his strength but also with the teams of people he is connecting me with.  Thank you Lord!

What’s happening?

  1. Since I wrote this blog about putting together an “Included by Grace” book   that work has been steadily going on in the background.  I’ve enlisted my daughter and my dad to help me and we are putting the content together so I can edit it.  images
  2. But also there’s another couple of projects starting to take form.  One of them is a long held vision I’ve had to share our Bible teaching materials online so people with learning disabilities themselves can access the teaching and people who want to plan for groups like ours can also access that teaching and planning.  Well, despite being terrified  (of all the things I don’t know) God has brought alongside me people who get it,  people who are doing similar things and people who want to help.  So our plans to have an accessible Bible teaching website are in the early planning stages but at last seem to be a possibility.   One real encouragement recently was to be put in contact with two other women doing something similar.  One is doing this for children, one for teenagers.  That fits in perfectly with my plans to do this for adults.   Thanks to Mark Arnold from Urban Saint’s Additional Needs Ministry for connecting us!     4 pieces
  3. Finally, it is also a dream to enable the members of our Good News Group to share the gospel with others and we are going to try putting a team together to do assemblies in some of our local special schools.  It would be great for our members to be role models for the children in those schools.  Again, God is good,  I have people who get it, who want to help and even some links with people who have done this before and will share ideas (If you know of anyone else who has done this please ask them to get in touch with me).

All that and it’s the Christmas season so our group is gearing up for it’s annual outreach Christmas service on Wednesday.  They are all so excited.  And then on the following Wednesday, 5 of the group have been learning a puppet dance to “Celebrate the Child” by Michael Card.  I led a workshop about teaching puppets to adults with learning disabilities at the One Way UK European Puppet Festival in October.  This is us putting our words into practice… I might write a post about how we did it and what the challenges were another time.  I know its going to be fabulous and everyone will enjoy it.

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So for blogging…

I hope if you follow my blog you won’t forget about us.  I will repost some of my old blogs, especially the practical advice ones and share them on FB and twitter.  Includedbygrace now has a FB page if you’d like to follow it.  You can comment on there and keep in touch.  And I’m on twitter as @includedbygrace   And pray.  We’d appreciate that a lot.

If you will share includedbygrace blog, FB and Twitter pages on your own network it will help me build and audience for the book, website and whatever else comes from this.  I’m still available for training in churches across the North West and the Additional Needs Alliance Network can find you trainers elsewhere.

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The Power is in Jesus’s Name

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Image from:   http://walkwithjesusonline.com/power-holy-spirit/

This song has been going through my head recently….

There is power in the name of Jesus
We believe in His name.
We have called on the name of Jesus;
We are saved! We are saved!
At His name the demons flee.
At His name captives are freed.
For there is no other name that is higher
Than Jesus!

There is power in the name of Jesus,
Like a sword in our hands.
We declare in the name of Jesus,
We shall stand! We shall stand!
At His name God’s enemies
Shall be crushed beneath our feet.
For there is no other name that is higher
Than Jesus!

Noel Richards

© 1989 Thankyou Music | CCLI: 649800

Over the years I’ve been a Christian, Jesus has done some very powerful things in my life. One of the biggest things has been the power that has given me the ability to overcome anxiety and depression.  Nothing amazing to you maybe, but life changing for me.  Jesus is the source of that power and unless I’m ‘plugged in’ through prayer, praise and reminding myself of God’s Word, I can easily drift back into my former ways.  Jesus’s power is holding me tight, but I do occasionally forget that he’s got hold of me and isn’t EVER going to let me go!

Romans 4:20-22New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’

Romans 15:12-14New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

12 And again, Isaiah says,

‘The Root of Jesse will spring up,
    one who will arise to rule over the nations;
    in him the Gentiles will hope.’[a]

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There has been some good news and developments but I got scared.  I was worried that with no funds and not much time all the dreams I feel the Lord has put on my heart will fail.

How can I forget His power and provision?  If this is God’s work – he can fund it, surely!  The answer to my prayers is that there are other people out there, who have the same heart and abilities that I don’t have who want to come on board.  God is building a team.

Since my post about writing an “Included By Grace” book things have moved on a bit.  We’re putting the blog posts into word documents so they can be edited and developed into book form.  I’ve had an exciting meeting with two Christian web developers who are full of amazing ideas to bring my dream of making our Good News Group Bible teaching materials available to others a reality.

I’m being asked to do some bits of work with my Diocese Youth section to present workshops, give advice and support churches wanting to make their Youth events accessible.  We are going to make a guide for Youth Groups so that they can use this when starting to plan events.  Thanks to BG for his enthusiasm and encouragement in developing this.

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This was my puppet being Samson for our sensory story – dig the hair?

In half term, I went down to Rugby to present 4 workshops at the One Way UK, European Puppet and Creative Arts Festival.  We covered autism, Sensory Bible Stories, Using Makaton and picture symbols for communication and How we teach puppet skills to adults with learning disabilities.  I had a hoot of a weekend!  I loved feeling relaxed and being able to play with sensory stories and puppets! The best part of the weekend was when three different people came to me to tell me how after listening to me last year, they had gone back to their churches and done something new that had made a huge difference to people with disabilities in their churches.  It was worth the year wait to hear such wonderful testimonies!

And I’m back to the GNG this week.  My hopes are to continue building up the abilities and opportunities for the members to share their stories, their gifts and their ideas in the group.  But more than this, I want them to have opportunities to go out into the community and share the gospel with others who have learning disabilities and those who don’t.  I want to see them preaching and teaching others about the Bible.

It will only happen if we are ‘plugged into’ the Power of Jesus’ Name.  The Holy Spirit will give us what we need.  Please join us in praying for this work.  We are inadequate, but Jesus is fully adequate and able to do more than we could ask or imagine!

Ephesians 3:20-21New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

I don’t want to do the ‘judging others’ thing anymore.


Deep in my spirit I’m feeling very uneasy.  There’s thoughts bubbling around in my brain that I keep trying to pop, to push down into the recesses of my mind so I can get on with life ignoring them.  But bubbles rise to the top. And so do these thoughts. 

They concern judging.  Humans have ALWAYS judged each other. The constant power struggles, the instinct to belittle others so that we come out on top is innate in all of us. Just ask yourself who you are jealous of? For me it’s the people with hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy a house in the country on my favourite programme ‘Escape to the Country’.  But I criticise them too easily.  I reveal my jealousy every time I watch the programme. I’m not happy for them when they buy that lovely house in the country.  I’m finding lots of reasons why they don’t deserve it and I do. 

Judging is endemic in the church. However much we try not to, as soon as we say that who someone is, is wrong or that someone can’t because of who they are…we’ve made a judgement about their worthiness. And that’s the root of judgement that I see.  Who’s worthy and who isn’t. And logically, we fall into the trap of thinking that if some people are worthy and some are not…well then, I must make sure no one thinks I AM UNWORTHY.  So we work hard, try our best and put on a show.  We act our way to being seen as worthy.  

And boy do we act. We pretend that we’re trying to pray more. We pretend we’re trying to read our Bible every day (and don’t we feel good when we get the chance to say ‘when I did my quiet time this morning…). We pretend we’re reviewing our giving so we can be just over that 10% gold standard (so we’re better than those who aren’t giving regularly.)  We pretend that going to three evening meetings a week doesn’t hack us off and we wouldn’t rather sit veg-ing in front of the TV after a hard day at work. We pretend we must be a good and faithful servant when the umpteenth rota pings into our inbox, (well we tick the ‘serving in church’ box at least). We try not to ‘tut’ along with the church leader who says they know some people aren’t giving/serving and what a burden that puts on everyone else.  And we all know people that just wouldn’t be welcome or ‘fit in’ at our church. We probably ‘tut’ at all the dirty, poor, criminal, sinning people in the local newspaper.  Well, we wouldn’t do those things, we’re Christians aren’t we? 

You can pretend you don’t (that’s up to you) but we are constantly comparing ourselves with others. We are constantly judging whether others are as worthy as us or whether we’ll ever be as worthy as them.  We are judging using the Bible, of all things, as our justification.  We say these people or those people are not worthy because this or that is sin – and they do that thing so they are sinners.  They are judged.  

But who gave us the authority to judge others in this way. Surely we’re all sinners?   That means we are on a level playing field here. We’ll all stand before God one day and face the ultimate judgement, by the One who IS given the authority to do so.  The Bible is very clear that Jesus, the Son of God, who died on the cross and was raised to life, is the only one with the authority to judge.  

To me, it seems that we must be claiming we are Jesus if we judge. We are usurping him. We are doing what Adam and Eve did and saying we know as much as God. We don’t need him. We can do the judging and tell God who’s in and who’s out….we’ll save him the bother. 

I’m tired of all this.  I’ve listened and struggled with the churches judgement on women, LGBT, disabilities and so many other ‘unworthy’ peoples.  I never saw Jesus turn anyone away from him.   People came to him and he ministered to them.  He changed people, yes….But it came out of their relationship, their surrender to him.   It came out of his compelling kindness and compassion.  Some walked away from him.   And many of those were those who thought they were already worthy.  

I repent of my judging others. I repent of not being brave enough to write this blog before or speak up for those being judged by the church.   It was an interview with a Bishop on local radio this morning that prompted this response in me. It was a masterclass in avoiding the question.  I suddenly thought how tired I was of these games.  I surrender.  To Jesus I surrender.   He’s the one I love because he didn’t judge me, he forgave me and for all these years of being a Christian I’ve known nothing except his kindness and grace. I don’t deserve any of it.  And for certain, no-one, absolutely no-one deserves to be judged by me. 

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