Faith Moving in London

Finding a church community abroad was something that I thought would be very difficult to do. However, I really wanted to experience how churches in a different country operated, how they were the same, and how they were unique. So I made it a personal goal of mine to seek out churches in London. I wanted to see the impact culture had on how things ran. As of writing this I have come across two churches, one recommended by a mentor and the other by chance, and  experienced Jesus in two drastically different ways.

The first was at a start up church called Trinity Central London formerly known as the London Underground Church. Started around 5 years ago, Trinity Central is a very small church with an average of around 20-30 members. It is planted in the heart of the city centered between three main tube stations on the outskirts of Trafalgar Square. Honestly, I loved it. There is an intimacy that can be hard to find in mega churches, but with a church this size you get to know everyone very well and very quickly. They embraced me and got to know me, and that’s something I really appreciated. Opening up with them was easy because the environment was so inviting, and they were very kind in letting me in on all the activities they had planned. I even got to play the lead worshipper’s guitar after the service which I had been craving since I left mine back home in the states. Something the head pastor asked me at the end of the service that really stuck with me was How can we serve you? What can we do to help you and make your time in London the best it can be? Loving to serve others is one of the most impactful things I have learned in following Jesus. It is so filling and makes massive impacts in peoples lives. To find a church that fully embraced that and lived it out was extremely heartwarming. One thing that was evident while being at a church of that size is the urgent need for Jesus in London. So many people still need to hear about the life God has in store for them if they want it.

My other experience was completely opposite from the one I had at Trinity Central, and how I found it was extremely random and lucky. It was a Sunday and I wanted to explore London a little more, mostly go shopping and find a new coffee shop. My plan was to check out the area around Trinity Central, but I got very mixed up on the tubes and ended up pretty lost. On my way out of the station I passed a huge sign that said Hillsong London Church. Now I have heard of Hillsong Churches but never been into one. As I passed by, I saw that a service was just about to start. A few greeters at the front were quick to welcome me in and point me towards where the main service was taking place. Like I said, I had heard of Hillsong Churches but never experienced them. I knew they were a big church with massive services and awesome worship. Immediately when I walked in, I felt the base from music and heard the faint sounds of worship already starting. As I was walked down the hall there were more greeters and people who looked like security guards smiling and guiding me. My excitement started to sky rocket as the music grew louder and I heard more and more voices singing. The hallway came to an end at two huge double doors and a young woman standing in front of them said Hello, and welcome to church and she pushed the double doors open and I was flooded with singing and music. I stepped in to overlook a sea of hands raised in worship all leading up to a huge stage with brilliant lights and a worship team giving a concert-like performance. Waves of joy and excitement washed over me. My arms filled with goosebumps rippled with tingly elation. I was paralyzed with awe and wonder at how many people there were and the energy in the room. I stood there for a moment trying to process everything I was seeing before me. Eventually the same woman that let me in came up to me and said Let me help you find a seat. She brought me up to the front and from there I could see that not only was this huge theater filled with people, but there were two balconies with people as well. I was just so amazed by the whole experience, and so astonished that so many people had come together to worship Jesus in London. It wasn’t as intimate as Trinity Central, but it was powerful. Afterwards, I talked with the woman who let me in and found out that they weren’t even supposed to be at that location. There normal building had to go through some renovations on short notice and so they ended up finding that theater for the day. It blows my mind how things like that happen— That I would get lost and that their church would be relocated right on the path that I stumbled upon.

What I learned from both churches is that yes, there is a massive need for Jesus here still, but at the same time God is moving London. He is working in big ways and subtle ways but his love for us is active. I also learned that no matter the culture, the environment, or the community if people truly are followers of Christ there won’t be to much difference between them. I felt welcomed, accepted and loved in both churches. I saw communities ready to share His story and I experienced his love in new ways, and that makes me incredibly happy.

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Catching Up with God

Today I will leave you with a short message, but I think that it is worth sharing. I have recently arrived in London for a study abroad program, and it has been amazing! I will definitely talk more about London and my experiences here as my adventure in the city continues to unfold. But first I want to talk about something else that happened this morning. I have been here for about 5 days and things have been extremely busy. Even a few days before I left for London things were hectic. Between the planning, the packing, the checking, and the rechecking there has been A LOT of things going on! This morning was the first time I didn’t have to be anywhere or worry about anything and so I decided to go workout at a park. Early in the morning on my walk there, it crossed my mind that I hadn’t said a word to God in a long time. Immediately I started talking to God, catching him up on things, and then listening to what he had to say. It is very hard to describe the joy, peace, and assurance that floods you when you engage in conversation with God. It’s like I had all these things I was trying to keep organized, worries cluttering my brain, and thoughts clouded with concern, and it all got wiped clean and I remembered how good life is when God is involved. The main thing I felt like God was reminding me in that moment, is that sometimes all we need to do is catch up with Him to be reminded how amazing the life He’s got planned for us is, and to remember how blessed we are. So once I got to the park I sat on a bench and just reflected on the amazing experience I just had. I realized that one of the best things you can do with your time, is give it to God. We all get busy and it is so easy to shrink into a tiny, compressed ball of stress and anxiety worrying about things with our minds racing and before you know it, you are sucked into this tiny little orbit called your world. Where it is impossible to think more than a few hours ahead and everything else around you becomes a cloudy blur. It is in those moments that reaching out to God is so crucial. Sometimes all it takes is a quick conversation. But when you do that, I can guarantee that it will set you up for an amazing day. You will begin to see outside your little bubble. If you do it consistently, I can also assure you that He will fill your life with so many real experiences. He will place people in your life, and take you places, and give you the most fulfilling life you could ever imagine. He is a God that wants us to be with others. In the times you’re by yourself and you feel lonely, or even small, He can make those moments where you feel rested and recover instead. Once you commit your life to Him, He will never lead you away from these things. However, it gets hard to see His work and appreciate it if you don’t check in occasionally. So my prayer for you, even if you’ve never tried talking to Him before, is that you just start talking. Whenever you are ready just catch up with Him, because He is ready for a conversation with you, ready to love you, and if you let Him, ready to lead you through an unbelievably fulfilling life.

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Side Note: In my pursuit for a good photo for this post I find a website to an amazing post, with the perfect picture, by C D Swanson. He talks about things similar to what I shared in this post and he poses through his writing the idea of meeting God on a bench and the theoretical conversation that you would have with Him. It is definitely worth it to check it out and give it a read. Here is the link: https://www.cdswanson.com/?p=973

 

The Truth about Affirmation

Affirmation is a powerful thing. However, I think our mindsets are a little off on what true affirmation looks like in life, and I think that it is very important to understand what it really is. Through this post I want to share with you three stories of recent affirmation in my own life and then explain the truth about affirmation.

1

I work at a restaurant as an assistant server, more or less a busboy, and I love my job. I get to serve people and most of the time that is behind the scenes, doing things that nobody knows. It is only human to want to be recognized and acknowledged for the work that you do. Sometimes, it was extremely difficult to convince myself to keep working so hard for what seemed like no reason. So one night I was working with a server I had never worked with before, and I was battling with feeling like I was unnoticed, unimportant. But I decided to keep up my spirit and keep doing my work. In the middle of the shift she comes up to me and says, “Do you love Jesus?” I smiled and told her I do, and I asked her why she asked me or how she knew, and she told me, “Because you are really happy and really kind.”

2

One night after I had just finished up meeting with some people, I was walking down the sidewalk on my way home. I passed by this place called “WOW” which serves bubble tea and other drinks, and something just came over me to go buy two drinks for people in my house. I went in and the place was empty except for two girls who were waiting for their drinks to be made. I walked up to the counter and ordered the two drinks. As, I was standing there I noticed the two girls look at me and then giggle and whisper to each other. This went on for a little and then eventually one of the girls came up and explained how they weren’t trying to be rude, but they thought I looked a lot like this guy from a show they watched. I laughed and ended up talking with them for a while and explained how I just felt a random urge to come in and buy drinks for my friends. The other girl noticed my bible and started asking me questions about my faith, and I got talk to her about Jesus. Afterwards, they gave me a hug and told me to “keep doing good things.” I got my drinks and headed out.

3

I was in a waiting room, hanging out before an appointment and I noticed that the room was pretty empty. It was just the receptionist and me. This thought crossed my mind to start a conversation with the her. It was early in the morning though and I didn’t really feel like talking but I decided I should. We started talking about random things, mostly small talk, and I had actually thought the conversation was over but then she asked me more about my life. We talked for a few more minutes and then she paused and said, “What did you do to end up going in the right direction?” and I laughed because I hardly feel like I know where I am going. But I got to explain to her that my faith has led me to where I am, and I definitely don’t know if it’s the “right” direction but I love the path that I have been on ever since I started following Jesus. She scrunched up her mouth and looked up over my shoulder, somewhere into the distance, and after a moment looked back at me and told me thank you.

I think that it is very easy to let our focus turn to pursuing gratitude and affirmation in life. But what we need to do is focus on Jesus, because when you do that you won’t even care about being affirmed by the world because you are affirmed by the God of the world who sees every second of work you have put in. Affirmation from the Lord will leave you feeling encouraged and inspired and through that you will give into others selflessly and without concern for your own acknowledgement. Also, when you pursue Jesus and let him affirm you it becomes so much more evident all the little ways we are affirmed each day. We have come to believe that affirmation must be a big event that will leave us in awe, but the truth is affirmation is in the smiles that we see from others, the simple and sincere words they share, and the small acts of kindness people do for us. In the stories I shared it wasn’t until I was really doing things for others, without my own desires leading me, that people said something. It wasn’t by my own strength or desires to do something and try and be acknowledge, but a prompting from the holy spirit that led me to affirmation. When I step out of my own way and let Jesus lead, people see that and respond. I also think that it is important to consider that these are what I would call “big” moments of affirmation. You have to realize that these happened after years of following Jesus. They don’t happen every day, but the small things do. If you let your thoughts become focused on being affirmed in huge ways and spend your time and energy living for those moments, you will always end the day feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled. The truth about affirmation is it’s simple, effortless, and everywhere if you focus on Jesus.

*Image is called Picture My Thoughts by Myra Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God Willing

 

What do you do when all your plans fall apart? When the world you know is flipped upside down and everything changes? Everyone goes through a season like this, most likely multiple times through out life. I am writing to address why I believe we find ourselves in these situations, and how we can get through them and be thankful for them.

I was recently listening to the song “Looking for a Savior” by United Pursuit when I got the idea for this post. At the time, I was going through a hard period. A lot was changing, and that can be scary at times. I am still going through everything, but I am proud to say that each day things are getting better as this season comes to an end and a new one begins. Looking back though, I wish I would have known how to handle things better. I wanted to understand how I ended up at that place and why it was so hard. One line from the song stuck out to me: “When our plans become the casualties of getting through the day.” This entire song speaks to the struggle of finding peace and comfort in all the wrong things. However, I feel this line addresses the root of the problem. It is so easy to idolize things, even things that aren’t tangible. In fact, these things are probably the biggest cause of idolization and they are also the most unnoticed at times. For me, I always thought that only real things could be idolized. For example, a person in my life, an object, a book, my family, etc. All these things can be idols but the ones that I really struggle with and that I see others struggle with is ideas, careers, plans, etc. We put so much value on the things we want, even if they are good and pure they are still idols. I have always wanted to be married, become a father, and have a family. These are good things to look forward to and be hopeful about, however, I began to focus only on that. I got up each day with the mindset of getting to that place in my life. My actions were dictated on if they would help me get what I wanted. Pretty soon, my pursuit of these things veered me off course from God’s plan for me. That is why I love the quote from the song. Our plans, even if they are small and seemingly harmless, can be a casualty if they get us out of bed and drive us through our day. If you only pursue these things they will lead to that place of pain, struggle, and sorrow. It’s so easy to justify these things too, because they are great things to look forward to in life. I don’t want you to get it twisted. I am not saying don’t pursue a family, time with friends, love, a career.  What I am saying is that they should supplemented with your pursuit of Jesus. He should be our driving force and what determines our actions each day. In the bible app plan, “Finding God in The Hard Places” by Ashley Abercrombie she puts it this way, “We’re all just walking each other home to Jesus.” I love this because if we consider each day in terms of this quote we keep our focus on getting to Jesus. Also, we are “walking each other” which gives room for relationships. Whether that is through a family, hanging out with friends, or being involved in a career, they are on the path to Jesus, so we don’t need to pursue them individually. When we chase our own desires without Jesus they will inevitably fall apart, and we end up in those terrible and hard seasons.

Getting caught up in our plans is unavoidable. So instead of trying to elude these hard times, we should learn how to make them easier to handle. One thing that helps me get through them is keeping in mind that it is a period of realignment with Jesus and his plans for me. When our plans fall apart, that can sometimes be just what we need to see where we are and the true intentions of our heart. It is very reassuring to me during this time because I know that I am growing closer to Jesus and refocusing myself, and my direction, on Him. Another thing that helps me during times of hardship is reminding myself of the truths of God. He is a good father that has the best intentions for you in mind. He knows your heart and what you want. You can rest easy in the fact that when things don’t go the way you planned, that the heavenly father has something even better in store for you. The plans we make are not set in stone, no matter how much we want them to be. I think this quote from James says it best:

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4:13-15

So, I ask that you still chase your dreams and goals but keep Jesus at the center of it all. When you let God take control of your life you are relieved of the pressure of trying to do things and get places on your own. Know that the Lord is not a reckless father. He will guide you and lead you to what you need, which may not always be what you think you want. We can be thankful for these seasons because even if we can’t see it at the moment, God is leading us in a good direction.

I hope this has helped or encouraged you if you are struggling. I want you to know that you aren’t alone in what you are feeling. Life can take unexpected turns at the most inconvenient times and leave us confused and alone. But remember, you aren’t alone when you follow Jesus and good things are coming. If you want to hear more encouraging words on the same topic, then check out my friend Tristan Epperson’s blog. I have linked it below, along with a link to the bible app plan, and the song. I hope you all have a great day!

IMPORTANT!!!

Before you leave I would like to ask for your thoughts and prayers for the Carr Fire happening in Northern California. I also urge you if possible to donate and help. There are more things than just money that can be donated. I have linked a website down below that explains more on what’s going on and ways you can help. Also, I have included links to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Thank you so much.

“Hope Through Heartbreak” by Tristan Epperson: https://tristanepperson.com/2018/07/24/hope-through-heartbreak/

“Finding God in the Hard Places” by Ashley Abercrombie: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/3137-finding-god-in-the-hard-places

“Looking For A Savior” by United Pursuit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4YhvfN4_Vk

How you can help: https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/2018/07/29/carr-fire-northern-california-help-victims/859636002/

The American Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation?cid=donation&med=cpc&source=google&scode=RSG00000E017&gclid=CjwKCAjw7vraBRBbEiwA4WBOn_LUB8OD179drHUfOnr_uNw4id7CdE3Jl-eIppJYRV_NSBUx2gyYfRoCG1AQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CNOXn6aiyNwCFZwGrQYdQ_IDfw

The Salvation Army: https://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/