Category: General

Easter Sunday: '...a better resurrection'

By Charlie Osewalt | 16 April 2014

He Is Risen

Speaking about people of faith, the writer of Hebrews states,

'...Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection.' Hebrews 11: 33-35, The Message

Abel, Abraham, Sarah, Noah, David, and so many others that the writer is unable to list them all, were and are part of a great narrative: the weak and marginalized win. Prayers are answered; Faith is rewarded in the here and now. It's what we want to hear: trust, obey and believe and all ends well. Somehow this is going to work out. But, then comes verse 35: 'There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection.'

Sometimes—a lot of the time actually—the underdog loses; the marginalized are forgotten by the world. Nobody seems to care about the tortured, the abused, the hated and the persecuted. In Ancient or Modern times, people suffer and their suffering frames and forms their beliefs.

Till Jesus rose. Then everything changed.

Here are some pre-resurrection beliefs from the first century:

  • Gentiles/pagans could not believe in a bodily resurrection. For them, the soul was good; body corrupt. A body resurrected was not just inconceivable but intensely undesirable.
  • Jews believed in an individual powerful messiah. For them, the material world was good. For them death was not liberation from a corrupt body, but tragic. They had a belief in a resurrection at the end of the world for all; but not in history, not while the rest of the world was in suffering.
  • No people group at that time believed in a bodily resurrection.

People could not believe in a bodily resurrection because no one had even imagined one.

Till Jesus rose.

Then, in a dramatic turnaround, both Greeks and Jews grew to worship and believe.

All peoples heard about a series of multiple, credible, inexplicable encounters with a risen Jesus. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 describes what happened:

'...Brethren, the gospel I preached...[was] what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now.'

People saw a bodily risen Jesus. They touched Him. They spoke with Him. They poked Him. They 'Facebooked': told others and new networks formed. Beliefs changed and they were willing to die for their belief. They had seen something 'better' a risen Saviour. They saw Jesus.

So, if you have tears in your eyes as you see suffering children, or injustice, or hate, or torture, and death, let Jesus 'wipe every tear away.'

This Easter, look to Jesus, because He wiped death out so we could all share in 'a better resurrection.' (NIV)

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Read more:

This Easter, consider donating to the thirsty with the last of our four featured water charities: Charity Water

 

Should I give while in debt? How can I give to friends without making the relationship awkward? Ask the difficult questions with our free 10-part generosity series: The Art of Giving

image by William HC Chong, used under creative commons licence

Holy Saturday: Waiting, Doing, Hoping

By Charlie Osewalt | 16 April 2014

Waiting Room

As we rest in the ‘waiting room’ between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the approach we have to this particular Saturday is somewhat affected because we know the end of the story: Jesus rises on the third day.

But what of those who were there at the cross? His Disciples, loved ones and family saw His death. They were sitting in both a ‘waiting’ and a ‘doing’ space that Saturday. The Pharisees hadn’t missed the message completely – they acted by placing guards around the tomb; they waited, expecting something to happen. Joseph and Nicodemus got on with the practicalities of preparing Jesus’ tomb and body. Then they waited. Still others had to have had some fear, some confusion: will we be next? Yet, all had this in common – they were all waiting, they were all doing, and they all did so in hope.

What did they hope for? For the Disciples, I’m sure it was many, many things: an answer to why their friend, their Master, the Son, had to suffer so horrifically; relief for those who were there sitting at the foot of the cross; relief for the present moment, the fears for their future. For the Pharisees, hope that this would all just die down and go away! For Joseph and Nicodemus, it was the hope of a developing faith in a man who had turned their heads and hearts.

But while their times are different from ours, their Saturday space, their hope, isn’t. We are certain that Easter is coming. The Greek word for hope is ‘elpis’. In Jesus’ time, this word meant ‘the expectation of what is sure (certain)’. Hope! They may have been in fear and doubt, pain and sorrow, confusion… yet on that Saturday they were certain that something was to happen. They were in certainty, in hope, as they waited, as they did. Waiting is itself an action.

Waiting is doing; waiting expectantly; waiting in hope.

There have been others who had hope-filled Saturday spaces – Abraham, for example, as described by Paul in Romans 4. He is our faith father. He lived, he waited, he acted, he hoped in the God he trusted. He dared to believe that God could raise the dead to life. He decided to live, not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do, but on what God said He would do. It is said of Abraham that he was “declared fit before God” because he “(trusted) God to set him right.” The same is true for us when we embrace and believe in the One who brought Jesus to life when conditions appeared hope-less. The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, set us right with God.

On Holy Saturday, we are ‘set right’ by hope, the certain trust that God is going to do something wonderful some day. Something only he could do – raise the dead to life.

In our Saturday space, whether waiting on Him or acting for Him, let us be hope-full. Let’s not be like the Pharisees, and set out to keep Jesus in a box (his tomb). Let’s live in the hope of a new and glorious day, the hope of freedom, the hope of life in all its fullness, the hope of salvation.

Written by Charlie Osewalt and Barrie Thompson

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Read more:

This Easter, consider donating to the thirsty with the third of our four featured water charities: Wellboring

 

Should I give while in debt? How can I give to friends without making the relationship awkward? Ask the difficult questions with our free 10-part generosity series: The Art of Giving

image by Karl Gartland, used under creative commons licence

Good Friday: 'I thirst'

By Charlie Osewalt | 16 April 2014

Spring Drink

O God, you are my God earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you.
My flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

I have been meditating on the last words of Jesus. In John 19:28 He says 'I am thirsty.' Preachers, poets, Christians and non believers have been touched by the sound of these words.

Why?

Thirst is something fundamental that we can all connect with and here, with his open wounds grown larger from His time on the cross and fever racking his body. Jesus calls out with thirst.

His thirst is very human. He is in a moment of complete and utter humanity: He thirsts simply for water. The Creator God of the universe, He who created rain and rivers; dew and tears, thirsts. Fully God, in this moment, my Jesus is fully, totally, human. What does this mean when the God of the universe, who created and forms waters, thirsts?

In that moment, he inhabits our humanity and our suffering. When we suffer—when death enters a household, a plane disappears seemingly out of the air, when mud slides happen—Jesus lives with those who ache in their moments. He cried in aching pain for all on the cross.

He knows hurt. Intimately.

If we meditate each day on Him, on His thirst, we will never be thirsty. As we lift our eyes and heart, soul and mind to Him, then we will be filled by His love; by His agonies, His tender forgiveness, His words—teachings and parables—this life and death.

This Good Friday, experience thirst.

Don't drink for a specified limited time this day. Thirst a little to feel a hint of what our Saviour felt. Then look on him. Meditate on why He thirsted. He thirsted because He loved.

He loved, He loves; he thirsts; He died; and He rose. He satisfies in each and every moment. The question is: whose water will I drink when I thirst? Mine? Or His?

I choose His. The God of All. When I really stop my thoughts and think on this, it is an easy choice. But I have to stop at his well. He, who promised the Samaritan woman at the well that she would never be thirsty again, filled that promise on the cross. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, 'Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.' John 4:14

He thirsted for you; for me.

Drink.

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Read more:

This Easter, consider donating to the thirsty with the second of our four featured water charities: Samaritans Projects

Should I give while in debt? How can I give to friends without making the relationship awkward? Ask the difficult questions with our free 10-part generosity series: The Art of Giving

image by lanier67, used under creative commons licence

Maundy Thursday: Wash

By Charlie Osewalt | 15 April 2014

Image by Runecrem

“Master, you wash my feet?” Peter, John 13.

“Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water. Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it. So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful. Everyone knows this, but no one can do it.” Lao Tzu 

Peter, like Lao Tzu, could not imagine or understand how a person could be as living, flowing, flexible and yielding as water. 

Yet Jesus showed him and He teaches us all how to overcome the adamant, the forceful; how to be like water. This is the Jesus’ final teaching at the Last Supper.

On Easter, with His rising, Jesus will conquer death and give the greatest sign of life, hope and love to our world. The sign comes at the cost of Good Friday when Jesus is crucified. Peter couldn’t see this coming. To be fair, no one did. It was Passover; crowds had hailed Jesus in Jerusalem’s streets. Everyone expected something big to occur.  The expectation is that this should be a dinner to anoint a King. Instead the King bows lows, strips, and dirties himself on a slave’s apron covered with the waste and refuse of others. His first teaching of the night was: remember me, by breaking bread and sharing a cup in community. The second teaching: serve one another totally and absolutely.  Be flexible and yielding like water; be servants to one another. Here is The Message retelling of John’s narrative:

‘Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. When he got to Simon Peter, Peter said, “Master, you wash my feet?”

7 Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.’

After the washing, Jesus explains.

 “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do.’ “

Imagine the scene: the bread has been broken; the cup passed. Jesus gets up; changes his robe; strips to a slave’s apron and begins to wash. He yields, stoops as a slave.  Imagine the horror. ‘We should have washed your feet.’ must have been a thought that passed through their minds. Peter is the only one who speaks, “Master, you wash my feet?” Peter is not flexible in understanding here. Unlike Jesus, he cannot yield.

..But he will. The purpose of the washing, the understanding, will come to all of them. After all, this is His last teaching. Jesus washes because He loves; He is flexible and yielding in love. He loves to the end. Even to the bottoms of our feet.

How are we then to live?  Jesus speaks directly, ‘if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet.’

Girded in an apron, almost naked, vulnerable in love, parts of their dirt had to cling to Him, just as our sins did on that Friday. This is His position on the cross. Naked and vulnerable; flexible and yielding; broken in body and thirsting for water. He loved on the cross and, here, in the room of the last meal.  Every wash of their feet must have called to His heart and mind how His body would be broken in sweat and tears for all very soon.

How then are we to shape our lives and become like water? In being flexible towards others, in yielding our position and washing feet, we become His water: instruments of cleansing service.  Right here, now, with the people He has placed around you: your work; your friends; your church; your family; your enemy. For Jesus washed all his Disciples’ feet. Even Judas’.

Wash.

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Read more:

This Easter, consider donating to the thirsty with the first of our four featured water charities: Water Aid 

Should I give while in debt? How can I give to friends without making the relationship awkward? Ask the difficult questions with our free 10-part generosity series: The Art of Giving

 

image by runekrem, used under creative commons licence

 

 

Security update: Heartbleed

By Daniel Jones | 11 April 2014

Heartbleed - we have determined our services are secure and no further action is required.

On 7th April a team of Google researchers discovered a vulnerability, commonly referred to as Heartbleed, in software used by millions of web servers around the world.  The bug has the potential to leave sensitive and encrypted data exposed as it travels across the internet.

As soon as news of this vulnerability broke our IT and Data security teams conducted a full review of the Stewardship web systems to ensure that all client data continued to be safely protected.

We are pleased to report that, following a comprehensive review:

  • No Stewardship web servers sending or receiving client data were vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug.
  • Only two third-party systems in use by Stewardship were found to be exposed to this vulnerability and security patches were installed immediately.
  • As an additional measure, we have initiated an update of all security certificates on our Stewardship and Give.net servers.

Giving account and give.net users are therefore not being asked to refresh their login details at this time.

 

 

Don't miss the deadline to give this week

By Daniel Jones | 31 March 2014

"I love the flexibility of my giving account with Stewardship - being able to make a final gift before the end of the tax year and then distribute in the months to come makes my giving go further."

Make sure you're making the most of your giving this tax year with your Stewardship giving account.

End of tax year - deadline for making a last minute gift into your giving account.

Please note the following deadlines for ensuring a gift will reach us in time for the end of tax year 2013-14.

  • One-off Direct Debit – requested by noon on Wednesday (2nd)
  • Card payment online – up to Midnight on Thursday (3rd)
  • Cheque – received by us on Friday (4th)

You might also be eligible to carry back Gift Aid - our updated briefing paper explains more.

Not an account holder? Sign up for your account now and start giving in just a few clicks.

3 mission minutes: Jill, South Africa

By Lucy Slater | 4 March 2014

 

Jill - 3 mission minutes from Stewardship 

In this month’s 3 mission minutes I speak to Jill Duncan, a Youth worker in Durban. Jill is passionate about supporting and mentoring young people as they start their journey with God.

Jill - working as a Youth Pastor in South Africa must be pretty different to the UK, what keeps you there?

When I came here in 2009 I immediately fell in love with the place. I think it was just that God brought me here but the sub-tropical weather and beaches definitely help! I also find the different cultures and history fascinating and am greatly challenged by the extreme inequalities.

 

Can you tell us a bit about the young people you work with?

I work with high school aged young people.  There is a wide range of differences in culture and financial circumstances from the wealthy to those with significant financial difficulty.  

Youth camp – this year Jill took 33 (compared to 19 last year)

 

What has been your biggest surprise?

My biggest surprise, or learning curve, has been the diversity and cultural differences in South Africa compared to the UK. There are 11 official languages here and many different tribal and cultural groups. I’ve spent nearly 3 years here and feel like I’m barely scratching the surface!

 

And your biggest challenge?

Although my predecessors and I have worked hard to try and get a mix of people from different backgrounds, I would definitely say that racism is ingrained in many people, but that’s not really surprising considering the long history of oppression.  

South Africa faces many complex challenges including inequality, poverty, HIV/AIDs, sexual violence, corruption and a lack of adequate education and healthcare.  Faced with such major issues it’s easy to become disillusioned, and it is difficult as much of what people say which is normal here would be completely unacceptable in the UK. That is why I try to support the young people I spend time with in every way I can, physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. However, as schools become more mixed I think the young people are becoming more understanding of different cultures.

The Christian youth camps we run also bring challenges, especially balancing the different cultural norms and financial restrictions of the economically poorer against the expectations of the wealthier people. We don’t charge for anything other than trips and camps and subsidise for poorer individuals which helps to remove barriers. We funded approximately half the places at the youth camps we ran this year.  

 

What has God taught you during your time as a Youth Pastor?

Lots! To rely on him and that he will provide (especially financially), the need to be patient and wait for his timing not my own, to be willing to take risks and do different things, listen to him more and do what he says. These are all works in progress, but I have learned a lot over the last few years.

 

What is your vision for the ministry?

My vision is really just to be obedient to God and do his will, which is obviously easier said than done! My main aims are to help young people to reach their potential and grow into the men and women that God has designed them to be, to encourage tolerance, develop leaders and equip young people to put their faith into action.  Durban has always felt like a permanent calling, but wherever I end up, I hope I’ll still be trying to make a difference in the lives of young people.

 

a prayer wall from the 24/7 prayer week

If you'd like to support Jill in her work, you can do so by logging into your giving account and searching for 20119802. Alternatively you can create a giving account and set Jill up as your first recipient by clicking here: https://my.give.net/account/create?beneficiary=GN11119802

a delicious pancake recipe for Shrove Tuesday!

By Alexandra Khan | 4 March 2014

Pancakes by Meggies Cupcakes www.meggiescupcakes.com

This year more than 24,000 people have signed up to do Lent generously with our challenge, 40acts.

40acts aims to celebrate and reflect something of God's generosity at Easter, by preparing challengers for a life-time of big-heartedness. 40 days of Lent, 40 inspirational reflections, 40 simple acts of generosity. You can sign up here: www.40acts.org.uk

Today - Shrove Tuesday - we've asked the brilliant Meggie's Cupcakes to give us unique recipe for these pancakes. You can make, adapt and share these wonderful mulled wine pear/caramelised apple pancakes. Hop over to our Facebook page and let us know how you get on!

Meggie's Cupcakes Vanilla Pancakes with Mulled Wine Pears/Caramelised Apples

(serves 4-6 people)

Ingredients:

- 135g plain flour

- 1 tsp baking powder

- ½ tsp salt

- 2 tbsp vanilla sugar

- 130ml milk

- 1 large egg, lightly beaten

- 2 tbsp melted butter (allowed to cool slightly)  plus extra for cooking

 

Optional extras:

- mulled wine pears (available in most supermarkets, or you can make your own)

- homemade caramelised apples

- maple syrup

- clotted cream

 

Method:

1. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla sugar into a large bowl. In a separate bowl or jug, lightly whisk together the milk and egg, then whisk in the melted butter.

2. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and, using a fork, beat until you have a smooth batter. Any lumps will soon disappear with a little mixing. Let the batter stand for a few minutes.

3. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a knob of butter. When it's melted, add a ladle of batter (or two if your frying pan is big enough to cook two pancakes at the same time). It will seem very thick but this is how it should be. Wait until the top of the pancake begins to bubble, then turn it over and cook until both sides are golden brown and the pancake has risen to about 1cm (½in) thick.

4. Repeat until all the batter is used up. You can keep the pancakes warm in a low oven, but they taste best fresh out the pan.

5. Serve with real maple syrup and a dollop of clotted cream. The combined flavours are simply divine!

 

Some alternatives to try!

Try adding 2 tablespoons of cinnamon in the flour instead of vanilla sugar for a different twist - this will taste especially good with caramelised apples!

To make the pancakes extra fluffy you can also substitute self raising flour for plain flour.

how to put the fun back into February this half-term

By Debbie Wright | 14 February 2014

image by Tony Fischer Photography

 

With yet more floods and storms set to batter our weather beaten nation, for many with school-aged children, the prospect of this February's half term can seem a  bit disheartening. Before you batten down the hatches and resort to DVDs and computer games, check out Stewardship's ideas on how to put the 'Fun back into February'.

 

This school holiday coincides with Random Acts of Kindness Week. So why not set a family challenge to do as many random acts of kindness as you can in one week?

 

  • First off, sit down as a family and discuss how you are going to organise your week. Create a family wall chart/planner, dividing up the days or come up with a number of acts of kindness you think you can realistically carry out.

 

  • You could write out lots of simple acts of kindness like: thanking someone, holding the door open, smiling, being the first to say hello or good morning. Put them in a hat and each day take some out to concentrate on.

 

  • Organise a baking day. You will need a combination of grown-ups, friends, ingredients, recipes and your own creativity. When you have finished making your cakes, give them out to friends, neighbours or go with some adults on to your high street and donate. Watch 40acts video - cupcakes and kindness - for some tips.

 

  • If baking isn't your thing, how about some outdoor activities? A litter pick in your street or local park, offer to wash your neighbours' cars, or walk someone's dog. If they offer money suggest a charity you would like to donate to.

 

  • Random acts of kindness are not just outside the home, think about what you can do for your family. Offer to do the least favourite job around the house (without complaining); tidy up (without being prompted) or just say something nice when someone else is being grumpy.

 

  • To be totally random, why not create some homemade cards, write notes to your family and friends, paying a compliment or saying a thank you. Now here's the fun bit: go and hide them in unexpected places, for instance on pillows, in the bathroom, stuck to the washing machine, inside a shoe. What creative places can you think of?

 

  • Plan an outing and take some different people with you. Look outside your usual group, perhaps someone you don't know well, or a neighbour, someone from a different generation, from church or your youth leader. It will certainly make a memorable outing.

 

  • Spring is just around the corner (no don't laugh) so have a family spring cleaning day. Clear out your bedrooms and collect up good quality toys and clothes you have grown out of. Don't just give them to the local charity shop, try and think of other places or people who would welcome them. Perhaps your church creche or some younger children who would love your party dress that no longer fits. Or organise a DVD/video or book swap, invite some friends around and get swapping.

 

  • If it is still lashing with wind and rain, huddle up and read some bible stories where the weather is centre stage. Here are some ideas to get you started: Noah and the Flood, Genesis 6 & 7; Jesus calms the storm, Mark 4: 35 - 41; Paul ship wrecked, Acts 27 Jonah and the Whale, Jonah 1; Joseph and the 7 years of plenty and the 7 years of famine, Genesis 41.  Psalms 96 and 97.

 

  • Hold a skill-swapping session or party. Even very young children will have something that they have learnt or can share. This can be anything from computer skills, crafts such as knitting, DIY, simple first aid, bike maintenance. Invite people from different generations and see now many new skills you can pick up.

Let us know how you get on and post photos on www.facebook.com/stewardship, tweet or comment below, we would LOVE to hear from you.

And don't forget Lent is coming soon on 5th March, so why not sign up for www.40acts.org.uk and be challenged to carry out more simple acts of generosity for each day of Lent?

You can sign up for 40acts as a family and receive free resources - a weekly child-friendly mini Bible study, a printable kid's wall chart to stick on the fridge and a great activity pack!

 

image by Tony Fischer Photography

bonus resources for a generous Lent

By Alexandra Khan | 11 February 2014

40acts Together is partnering with HOPE for Lent 2014

 

This year Stewardship have partnered with a number of brilliant organisations to bring you 40acts Together - a new way to do Lent generously as a group.

 

From Wednesday 12th February 2014, you'll be able download resources especially for churches, families, youth groups, schools, work groups and more. Some of the resource packs have been created alongside HOPE, an organisation that helps to equip the church in their local community.

 

You'll find some HOPE resources inside the 40acts event planners when you sign up as a group at www.40acts.org.uk, but there are bonus resources for everyone to benefit from.

 

Download them below.

 

Building community at your event

Activities at your event

Interacting with your attendees

How to join HOPE's Big Weekender

 

 

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