Tag: christian community

Knowing God – Interview with Liz Carter

Knowing God – Interview with Liz Carter

1) What is your name and what does it mean?

Elizabeth is derived from Hebrew Elisheva and means ‘pledged to God’ or ‘God is my oath.’

2) Do you think your name suits who you are and/ or what you do?

I’m delighted that my name means ‘pledged to God’. Through the years, I have more and more longed for God to be at the centre of my life. I hope and pray that my writing always lifts God high. Even though my life is one of pain and sickness, I am so grateful for the work of God in me.

3) If you were born in biblical times, when names were given as prophesies, what would your name mean?

Apparently the root of Elisheva/Elisheba is ‘God is my oath’ and also ‘God is seven’ which translates as God being abundance, as satisfaction, even as our contentment (seven being a representation of abundance). This particularly resonates with me, having written a book called Catching Contentment! So I guess the prophecy for my name would be to do with God being my complete satisfaction, my desire, all I need, my everything. I’m up for that!

4) Which of God’s names or attributes resonate with you the most? (give up to 3)

Jehovah Shalom – God is our peace: I love that only in God can we find the peace that is beyond understanding.

Jehovah M’Kaddesh – God who sanctifies, who makes holy: I love that God is holy and worthy of worship, and that God is always making us more holy too when we allow ourselves to be open to God’s work in our lives.

Jehovah Rophe – God who heals: This phrase doesn’t simply imply physical healing, but a wholeness throughout body, mind and spirit.

5) Is there an experience/s connected with these aspects of who God is to you? If so, please share one if you feel comfortable doing so.

So many that it’s difficult to choose! I’d like to go right back to my childhood for this one: I was ten years old and at a Bible camp with my family and church. I was fed up because I felt poorly again. I’d always been the sickly child, always off school with lung infections and tonsilitis, and here I was again, feeling absolutely rotten. I stumbled off to my kids group anyway, having enjoyed it so much I didn’t want to miss it. Besides, others told me, I could just ask someone to pray for healing for me. I was hopeful, so after the meeting I asked my group leader to pray. As he did I didn’t feel physically better, but something else happened. A rush of peace blazed through me, enveloping my entire being. I knew I was in the presence of God, and the peace I felt right then was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Joy came with it, too. In that moment I knew I was utterly loved, but also that God was incredibly powerful and incredibly holy. In that moment, all three of those names I mentioned above seem relevant – God being my peace, God making me holy, God healing me – not in an ‘obvious’ way but doing a deeper work, a work that changed me then and has kept changing me since.

6) Have the names/ attributes of God that you most relate to, changed due to life circumstances such as illness or disability? How so?

I’ve been ill all my life, so I think I have always gravitated towards God as peace, and other attributes such as God being my strength and my comforter. I have come to relate so much more to God as my healer as my understanding of healing has become more nuanced, and my experience of wholeness has come through God’s profound work in my spirit and my mind. My understanding of the ‘now and not yet’ of the kingdom has informed how I see physical healing – it happens sometimes, a glimpse of heaven, but in general we live in the not yet, in the knowledge that we will be fully whole one day.

 Through the years I have more and more related to God as my one desire, as all I need, as the one who makes my soul and my spirit at home and at rest. As my sickness has worsened, I have burrowed deeper into God and found treasures in the darkness.

7) Are there any of God’s names that confuse you or that you struggle with? Which one/s and why?

The more ‘battle imagery’ type names of God are a bit more difficult to embrace – God as a warrior, perhaps. God as judge can also be more difficult. However, with both of these, a different perspective can bring freedom. God as warrior, setting us free from the bonds of the enemy, his power stronger than any evil. God as judge, bringing justice to the world, to every situation where injustice has been allowed to take hold, knowing the heart of every human who ever lived and exposing the evil around us, then bringing liberty to captives.

8) Which parts of God’s character would you like to know better?

I want to know all of God better. The more I know of God, the more I want, the deeper I want to go. I would love to know more of God’s holiness and justice – and I suspect that I will be greatly challenged, the further I go.

9) Which part of the Trinity do you feel closest with and why do you think that is?

That’s a difficult question, because I feel I relate to all three persons of the Trinity in different ways. When I worship, I am worshipping God as Father, Son and Spirit, as a whole yet as three – the great mystery. God the Father draws me close, making me feel loved, accepted, redeemed, yet also can seem so far apart –  holy. Jesus is very relatable – we know so many of his words intimately, we know how he acted, how he loved, how he humbled himself and sacrificed himself. The person of Jesus shows us the character of God.

I often feel closest with the Holy Spirit, simply because the Spirit has been given to us to assure us of the love of God while we are on this earth. Our sense of comfort, peace and God’s manifest presence are from the Spirit. The gifts we are given are from the Spirit, and the fruits that we develop in our lives in our process of sanctification are the fruits of the Spirit. When I worship, so often the Spirit moves, giving me a sense of God’s beauty and outrageous love.

10) How do you think that knowing and using God’s names in prayer and conversation might help us?

I think it can help us to focus in on some parts of God’s character, which can be helpful in different situations. Names of God can help us remember that God is strong, mighty, loving, powerful, compassionate, that he sees us, that he knows us, that he provides for us, that he longs for us to know him. We can remind one another that God is a father to the fatherless, that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, that the Holy Spirit is the Great Comforter. In using names of God we can encourage one another and build one another up in faith, as we are reminded that God has so many facets and that there are names and characteristics of God which can be of help to us in all our seasons of life.

Liz Carter is a writer and blogger from Shropshire who writes about
finding treasure in God in the painful times. Living with long-term lung disease, she has learned a whole lot about what being ‘whole’ in God means, and particularly what learning to be content means. Her first book, Catching Contentment, was published by IVP in 2018, and she’s recently written a six week group study guide to be used alongside the book.

You can get her book, ‘Catching Contentment: How to be Holy Satisfied (IVP, Nov 2018)’ here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Catching-Contentment-How-Holy-Satisfied/dp/1783597402/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=catching+contentment&qid=1582568127&sr=8-1

Knowing God – Interview with Emily Owen

Knowing God – Interview with Emily Owen

  1. What is your name and what does it mean?

    My name is Emily which, according to Google, means ‘industrious’ or ‘rival’. My middle name is Louise which, so Google informs me, means ‘famous warrior.’
  2. Do you think your name suits who you are and/ or what you do?

    Perhaps, inasmuch as I do sometimes see my illness/disability almost as an enemy I need to work hard to rival and (hopefully) conquer.
  3. If you were born in biblical times, when names were given as prophesies, what would your name mean?

    My friends jokingly – I think (!) – call me ‘Planning Queen’, so perhaps my name would be to do with liking to know the plan.  More seriously, perhaps ‘writer’ or ‘speaker’.
  4. Which of God’s names or attributes resonate with you the most? (give up to 3)

    That’s hard! I want to say them all! Today, I pick:
    Jehovah Nissi – The Lord my Banner
    Jehovah Shammah – The Lord is Here
    El Roi – The God who Sees
  5. Is there an experience/s connected with these aspects of who God is to you? If so, please share one if you feel comfortable doing so.

    As a teenager, my life underwent a huge change, as I suddenly went from being a fairly high achieving allrounder, to a person experiencing hospitals, operations and disability. In this whirlwind, I felt more and more defined by my symptoms, and less and less defined as me. During that time, during many times since, God did – and does – remind me that He sees me. He sees past all the damage illness has caused, damage I see every time I look in the mirror, and He sees me. That brings me great comfort.
  6. Have the names/attributes of God that you most relate to, changed due to life circumstances such as illness or disability? How so?

    I don’t think they’ve changed as such, all of God’s names are meaningful to me, but I’ve come to appreciate ‘El Roi’ more, as I mention above; to increasingly value being seen by God. To be honest, I probably took being seen by God a bit for granted: it never really occurred to me, until my life turned upside-down, and I didn’t want anyone – including myself – to see me. I didn’t think anyone would want to. And, as I said above, God showed me I was wrong! And I learned – and am learning – to actively live in the immense privilege of being seen by God.
  7. Are there any of God’s names that confuse you or that you struggle with? Which one/s and why?

    I suppose an obvious one for me to pick might be Jehovah Rapha: The Lord Who Heals. Despite specific prayer for physical healing, I’ve not been physically healed. Yet, as I live in this broken body of mine, each day I learn more of the meaning of 2 Corinthians 4:16: ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day’. I am outwardly wasting away and, at the same time, I am being inwardly renewed – even healed – day by day.
  8. Which parts of God’s character would you like to know better

    Maybe Adonai: Lord. Hudson Taylor is quoted as saying, “Christ is either Lord of all, or is not Lord at all”. To truly have Him as Lord in charge of every part of my life, to know Him as Lord in practice as well as theory, is a challenge and a goal.
  9. Which part of the Trinity do you feel closest with and why do you think that is?

    Probably partly because of my upbringing, in which I was encouraged to know and relate to God, I’d say God. As an adult, whilst I would still say God, I do find I feel closer to Jesus, too.
  10. How do you think that knowing and using God’s names in prayer and conversation might help us?

    I think that they help us pray to more of Him. If I were to only talk to my sister about clothes (perhaps a bad example, I’m definitely not a clothes person!), I would miss out on so much of who she is. She is more than a stylish dresser. What about her job, her humour, her interests and hobbies, etc? If I only knew she likes clothes, how would I know about our shared love of chocolate?! The more we know of God, and Who He is, the richer our relationship with Him will be. And that can’t be a bad thing, can it….

Emily Owen is an author and public speaker. She began writing following a medical diagnosis which turned her life plans upside-down and, among other things, left her deaf. 

After publishing her first devotional books, in the 30 Days series, Emily published her memoir, Still Emily. Her speaking, and more recent writings, combine her personal experiences with biblical teaching and reflections.

Emily is surprised to describe herself as a writer and speaker, but she has no hesitation in calling herself a fan of flowers, candles, purple, stars, and making her nieces and nephews giggle.

1 Year Review and Looking Forward…

1 Year Review and Looking Forward…

I cannot believe that after creating a Twitter account one year ago, YouBelong would be what it is now and heading in the direction it seems to be!

At the time, my Mum was working in a cafe and as I had a hospital appointment later that day, I decided to go into work with her to wait for my appointment. I can’t remember exactly what was going through my head other than that I had just completed my theology degree and was wondering what the purpose of it was as I was too unwell to use it. Then I was reminded of something my course director had told me about – online church. I didn’t really know what that would look like but knew there must be others like me who were too unwell to attend church some weeks, or maybe even every week, and others who could physically attend church but felt isolated by the complex theology and ‘Chistianese’ used in many churches. I can attend church most weeks, with the help of my parents, but have avoided some churches not because I cannot physically access them or because I can’t understand them, but because their theological teaching around pain, suffering and disability is damaging and hurtful. By giving others a safe place to share their thoughts and concerns around balancing life as a Christian with a life as a disabled or chronically ill person, and discover that God isn’t as harsh and judgmental, or formula abiding, as some places make Him out to be.

I quickly knew this project was going to be bigger than I ever intended or imagined when the number of followers grew. This was confirmed to me whilst at Spring Harvest just before Easter when a number of church leaders told me about people they knew of, within their congregation and in the community, that do not attend their churches due to disabilities or chronic illnesses. It wasn’t that they weren’t wanting to change that, but they didn’t know how.

Meeting leaders led to me being invited to a conference where lots of other church leaders gathered to discuss and help one another run their churches in the best way possible. Although a lot of the teaching was for physical churches, it gave me some ideas but more importantly, it grew my network and has helped raise awareness of people with chronic illness and disability in the Church – or not.

Around March, I started a blog (youbelong2019.wordpress.com) as a place to share my thoughts and experiences in greater detail as social media only allows for limited characters. I was shocked and surprised to find out just a few months after starting the blog that I was a finalist in the Premier Digital Awards! As the Premier Digital Conference preceded the awards show, I decided to attend that first and came away with lots of notes and more connections and I hope to work with these people over the coming year. The day flew past and suddenly YouBelong was being announced as winner of the up and coming blog! It still amazes me now and I am so thankful for all of you who guest blogged and who read the posts each week – thank you!

Before long, December was here and with that, advent. I knew I wanted to arrange something for us to do together as a community and after seeing the idea to study the 24 chapters of Luke in 24 days, that the 24 days before Christmas would be perfectly suited to that. I wanted to ensure that people from all platforms (YouBelong is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram now) were able to participate so I posted every day on every platform. It was a bigger commitment than I initially realised but I was thankful for having done it as I not only learnt more about the stories in Luke’s gospel but also got to interact with more of you and have since heard stories of couples reading the chapter together each day and some people sharing them with others they know to encourage them which I love to hear!

And know we are into 2020, YouBelong is 1 year old and we have LOADS of exciting plans in place to move things forward in new ways this year. One of the biggest things that we hope and plan to do is register as a charity so that we have access to funding to enable the team to grow, to reach isolated people where they are, provide resources and training for churches and start a more official online church for those who cannot attend church, either at all or occasionally. This will also include a connect group which will begin on Facebook and be a closed group of people who study the same passages/ topic together so if you are interested in getting involved, I highly recommend following us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/youbelong2019 now as this will be launching in the next few weeks!

I am excited for what the year ahead has to bring and hope you are too! If you have any ideas of things you would like to see included then please get in touch either via email at info@youbelong.org.uk or on our social media.

Jesus rises from the dead

Jesus rises from the dead

Luke 24:1-12

I’m so happy to say that the last blog post was not the LAST blog post. Luke doesn’t leave Jesus dead and in the grave – He has risen!

The stress, busy-ness and pressure has been gradually building in my household over the last month or two as work tasks have increased, hospital appointments have built up, ongoing jobs from the past year need tying up and we prepare for Christmas and the new year. There have been blood, sweat and tears physically and metaphorically! But those things are coming to end, nothing more can be done, and it’s time to stop and relax and ‘let the good times roll’!

Looking back at the chapter in Luke, Jesus has been in the grave, blood, sweat and tears have been present in an even bigger way than in my household, and now, it is time for Him to come alive again and bring smiles back to the faces of His loved ones. The stress, concern, sadness and disappointment was over. Their friend, son, brother and Saviour was back and all was well again!

I am sure I am not alone in letting the tasks that need to be done, and the stress they bring, overwhelm me. If you can relate, please take this as post as your sign to stop. Jesus is born and He has risen again to be your God and Redeemer. Nothing else matters now. Have fun, share the love of God with those around you and relax.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Jesus is crucified

Jesus is crucified

Luke 23:26-43

There have been a few posts recently that have been a bit sad rather than happy and joyful as you would expect and hope at this time of year. I’m afraid we are about to get stuck into just about the saddest passage in Luke now, just before Christmas – Jesus’ crucifiction. There is a reason we are reading this passage today though, and hopefully you will understand why by the end of the blog post…

It is important for us to remember that although we celebrate Jesus coming down to Earth as a baby at this time of year, He didn’t stay a baby. He grew up to become a teacher, friend, neighbour, prophet, brother, healer, carer and more, and ultimately, He became our rescuer, redeemer, forgiver and Messiah when He died on a cross, taking away our sins.

It isn’t nice to read about Jesus suffering and dying in pain and alone, especially at Christmas, but it is important to remember who Jesus was and what He was sent down to Earth for. He knew His purpose so well, and loved so strongly, that even on the cross, when the pain in His arms and feet was unbearable and His breathing difficult, He focused on the sinner beside Him. This man had done wrong in a big way, and did not deserve anything, instead of using His God given power to free Himself.

The next time you see a nativity scene, acknowledge the baby in the manger, but then look closer. Imagine the baby as a man. God sent to Earth in human form to teach the teachers, heal the sick and broken, change theology, share the good news of God, awaken the dead, calm the seas, feed the hungry, release demons and finally, die on the cross for us. He didn’t have to do it, He didn’t deserve it, but He chose to do it for us, because He loves us.

Pilate sends Jesus to Herod

Pilate sends Jesus to Herod

Study of Luke 23:6-12

We are almost at the end of this book now (only 2 chapters left to go!) and things are getting messy! Jesus has been falsely arrested and now the authorities are battling over what to do with this ‘troublemaker’.

  1. Pilate only sends Jesus to Herod in Luke’s account. Why do you think Luke wanted to include this information?
  2. Why was Herod wanting to meet Jesus? How long had he been waiting?
  3. Why did Herod get Jesus dressed up in a robe like a king?
  4. Why do you think that Jesus spoke to Pilate but refused to reply to Herod?
  5. Why was Jesus sent back to Pilate again at the end of the passage?
Peter says he doesn't know Jesus

Peter says he doesn't know Jesus

Luke 22:54-62

I am sure you will know this passage already so I am just going to give a quick summary before getting into the questions for today:

Jesus is arrested, Peter follows, people around question Peter about his connection with Jesus, he denies knowing Jesus, once, twice, three times, then the roaster crows and Peter remembers that he told Jesus he would never deny him but Jesus told him he would do so three times before the roaster crowed….. and breathe!

  1. Why is Jesus taken straight to the high priest after being arrested?
  2. Why does Peter deny knowing Jesus?
  3. Why does Peter cry when he denies Jesus for the third time? What is he remembering?
  4. Previously, Jesus used the Greek word agape for love the first two times, while Peter used a different word, phileoAgape carries the meaning of intense, complete, devoted, sacrificial love, while phileo refers to love as in friendship. Why do you think they used different words?
  5. What can we learn from this and apply to our lives today?