Carrying burdens, community of grace, Discipleship, Godliness, Partnership, Paul's Prayers, Phillipians, vocation

“Don’t just ‘SUPPORT’ me, ‘PARTNER’ with me” (Updated).

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Can you say a little prayer for us Vicar?

Would you mind if I said a little prayer for you?

I don’t want to pray a LITTLE prayer!

A “Little Prayer” sounds as though we lack confidence in Gods power to transform lives and circumstances.

I want to be like Paul praying big, hairy and audacious prayers rendering heaven.

I’ve been thinking too often we have dumbed down our language and expectations of prayer, mission and discipleship.

Recently, I came across (via Jackie Davies) a William Booth quote: “I’m not waiting for a move of God, I am the move of God”.

This is God’s plan for the transformation of his world, you and I living for him, stepping out in faith, and partnering with him.

This was reinforced for me recently with two things that happened this week…

The first when I prayed for someone to be healed, and they were, and I was more shocked than they were, which led me to have an interesting discussion with myself afterwards!

The second when I was sharing at a Church meeting the work I am doing in the community, and quite frankly it was pretty obvious they couldn’t care less…

My experience of this healing miracle made me think about living out my calling to partner with Christ (if you are a Christian, that is all of our callings!) and wondered am I really pulling my weight here, am I working with him, alongside him, or doing my own thing.

My experience of the DCC made me feel unsupported, certainly not feeling like we were in any real sense ‘partnering together’.

I was talking to another minister type mate who and said about supporting him, he said “I don’t want people to support me, I want people to partner with me”.

The same is true the other-way around, I don’t want to just support my congregations in mission, I want to partner with them.

The word SUPPORT conjures up images of sitting there with a sympathetic and slightly constipated look, offering milky coffee and making polite noises for a few minutes until the conversation returns to something less uncomfortable and more superficial.

Whereas the word PARTNERSHIP conjures up both people investing heavily in something, standing shoulder to shoulder, battling together amid blood, tears and sweat.

Partnership is a word about mutual investment, were the outcome really matters to those involved.

Support, sounds more like offering a hand, lending a fiver, giving someone a lift, making a cuppa (all good things, but has the image of superficial investment and involvement).

Paul wasn’t after support from his fellow Christians, he didn’t want “Oh Bless him” platitudes, he wants the disciples partnering with him to carry on fighting for the Kingdom cause as fearlessly as he did when he was on his missionary endeavours -especially as now he is in prison, in chains, for talking about Christ.

Paul’s prayer shows his aspiration for his team.

This left me wondering, is this the kind if thing we pray for ourselves? Our Churches? Our home-groups? Our friends involved in Christian Unions at work? Our Kingdom allies locally doing things like work based Alpha, Street Pastors, outreach work or whatever it is God is calling them too?

Or do we pray that God would just “help” them or “bless” them…

Over the next few days I’d urge us to grow our intersessions vocabulary, and realise that as we pray we are doing something bigger more amazing, more powerful and beautifully supernatural..

So let’s rediscover afresh the awesome power of prayer, connecting us with the awesome power that comes from almighty God.

Let’s up our support of one another so that it feels more like partnership.

Let us review how response to God’s partnership offer, are we partnering with him, pulling our weight and keeping in step.

To the original readers of the scriptures the word partnership would lead people to think of Oxon partnered together under a yoke, journeying together, in step, both taking equal share of the weight…

Yet for us the Yoke is a three person yoke, shouldering our partnership with God, and with one another, a call to carry one another’s yokes or burdens -and let them carry yours- as we all partner together to fulfil the heartbeat of creation to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as in heaven.

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Discipleship, Godliness, Spiritual Health

Gorging at the Table.

At the prayer room we have had some exciting words for the city come out this week, one word we had was “my people starve for lack of knowledge” which seems a crazy prophetic word as Christians have books galore, blogs, conferences, sermons and messages online but the problem is that we are just “gorging at the table” the Church in the West is spiritual Obese, the call is to turn the spiritual food we have in so much abundance into fuel.

Over-feeding causes us to become lethargic, often we see people who are wonderful “arm chair generals” they know it all, they can quote everyone from Kris Vallaton to Pope Francis and scatter their language with biblical quotations like linguistic croutons  and yet the problem is that we just feast and feast.

God calling us I believe not just to gorge at the table, but to turn our food in to fuel.

To dream again, and then get out bed and live it out.

“Awake O sleeper and rise from your slumbers”.

The phrase dream again, kept on coming to us in the prayer room, maybe we are lapping up other peoples’ dreams but they don’t satisfy because they are not Gods vision for us ourselves.

 A great quote that my friend Rev. Jackie Davies heard was that for too long the Church has been “waiting on a move of God” where Christ is saying “I am calling you to be the move of God”. It is that paradigm shift of moving from waiting to being.

Ghandi issued the challenge to “be the change you want to see”.

I was having a coffee with my friend Harry the other day and he said “we don’t need another course, Christians know what they should be doing, the issue is them actually doing it”.

The problem too, is our teachers are great at delivering sermons, I’ve delivered a few in my time too, but does our inspiring sermons lead to our changed lives and to other peoples changed lives, is the problem the lack of teaching or rather the problem of discipleship -actually doing it!

We were reminded too, of Lyn Green, who I believe is actually the Baptist “archbishop” who talked of 2016 being a year of “beacons of prayer”, and now 2017 being “beacons of hope” where people move from praying in their closets in their private space, to proclaiming in the public space, prayer is the fire that drives the engine.

God has given us all we need for life and Godliness, we already have the tools we need for mission and transformation, often snacking at the table, is delaying tactics -unable to speak because we are too busy chewing- keeping us from doing what we are actually called to do.

We probably know the stuff, and although teaching is good and important, the Christian faith isn’t just to feed our own heads but rather to transform this world for Christ.

So, let’s see 2017 being a year of the Church getting in shape, getting to be match fit, putting what we know into practice, letting our food become our fuel, as we leave the comfort of our nice warm cosy churches and living rooms, and return to the frontlines God has called us on.

Lunchtime is over, it’s now time to get to work.

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Church, Mission, Mission Shaped Church, prayer, Worship

The Kings Arms.

On Wednesday night we did something different with our on going project “Pints Of View” where we make ourselves available to chat to anyone who wants to chat in our community by sitting in Weatherspoon’s wearing a clerical collar!

We went along to the Kings Arms, pub next door to Trinity, and borrowed one of their rooms and myself and another guy prayed and worshipped for a bit (we did invite a whole load of other folk, but it was just the two of us who came).

Part of me felt why didn’t I just meet next door and pray and worship there, surely God doesn’t mind where we pray anyway? -And worshipping, especially singing, makes me feels a vulnerable and self conscious, especially when there are only two of you there!

Eminem’s lyrics rang out in the bar and a few “F&*$#!” rang out from the loosing team at pool, whilst we prayed and sung out prayers for Gods love to be made manifest in that place…

Wes lead us in an old worship song “Hallejuah my Saviour” which featured the lines “knowing we would bruise him and strike him from the earth”  -for some reason the image caused a lump in my throat. I then though of some of the guys they all have something in front of their name “Vicar Andy”, “Beardy Mike”, “Sleepy Al”, “Dancing Paul” and “bruised Christ” seemed to resonate yet in a way, being in the midst of real lie for many people, this felt more Jesus-like that hidden away on our own in some great religious building,

Humanly speaking prayer and worship don’t seem like very worthwhile or productive activities yet seen from heavens perspective they are crucial.

I have said many times about how all great moves of God are birthed in prayer, and it is true, in fact the Hebradean revival as literally a small group of elderly ladies praying. We all know this and yet trying to motivate the Church to pray has been incredibly difficult. Interestingly prayer before our services is the last job we do after set up is done and often people say “I can’t join you in prayer as I’m doing…” I know set up in important but is shows our hearts that often prayer is not as central to our lives together as it should be.

I have been challenged many times, and I still get caught with this, that I run around like a headless chicken and probably need to spend more times simply on my face before God.

We prayed for our area, we prayed for the city, we prayed for more of God in our own lives,

Before wandering over to Weatherspoon’s, and we had we were joined by a friend Phil, and we had a nice chat… We didn’t see mass revival, but I think God was doing something, and I think he saw our hearts and I believe this small step of faith pleased him, yet I think that the next step of faith is about ensuring that this happens next week, and the week after, something of Jacob wrestling with God “we’re not going till you bless us”…

This is a intentional seeking of Christ’s face, rather than going through the tick box of a prayer meeting often attended out of a sense of duty but limited expectation…

I believe, that as we seek Christ, out of our comfort zone, in the heart of the community, offering ourselves and making ourselves available, we will see him becoming more and more known in Kingswood.

And  as I think about my time in Kingswood, perhaps I have spent too long in the rock soil of religious people who don’t always realise their need of a Saviour… Perhaps to find good soil we need to be here the F words are flowing, Eminem is playing on the Duke Box, people don’t try to looked suited and respectable and often are very often about their pain and the mess of their lives.

Jesus said those who are well don’t need a Doctor, but only those who are sick, yet we spend our time pandering to “healthy” people in our Churches dealing with their coughs and sneezes whilst out from our Church walls there is horrific epidemics breaking out.

It sounds harsh, but I wonder if for to long I pandered to the spiritual hypochondriacs rather than going on an aid mission to they dying, setting up field hospitals and outposts and seeking to bring the healing, transforming, hope-filled love the Saviour to the streets.

I mused the words of Eminem in contrast to our worship songs, one told of anger, hurt, loneliness and rejection the other of hope, love and acceptance.

I remember a quote which said “to change the world you need to tell a better story” and felt that in one sense this is what we are doing, being a prayerful presence, living out and showing a different and better story than the rant of Eminem with the love of God who stoops down to reach us from gutter.

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Bible, Depression, Discipleship, Godliness, Journey, prayer, Spirituality, Worship

When You Are Just Not Feeling It.

Writers block… Normally I have 101 ideas I’m dying to share with the world about following Jesus, but today I can’t think of anything!

Sometimes we go through seasons when really feel Gods presence wonderfully close, other days God doesn’t feel so close.

Sometimes, when we read the Bible it really speaks to us and there is a wonderful connection, other times it can feel like a habit and your read some verses that aren’t bad but don’t really move you.

I’ve had times when I can’t put the Bible down, and I’ve had other times when I’ve struggled to pick it up.

Have you ever been in a church service of an event when everyone else seems to be connecting with God in a wonderful and deep way and we feel a bit jealous because we are just not feeling it?

Sometimes you sing some songs and you feel Gods presence and other times it just feels like you are singing songs, sometimes the words catch you, especially songs that are joy filled “…and I feel like dancing” which doesn’t always resonate with where we are at.

Sometimes it’s a choice, and in singing words it’s a faith filled thing, saying that the truth of God is greater than our current feelings, and I will worship despite my circumstance, mood, or whatever… Other times it’s a question of integrity, I can’t sing “I’m overflowing with joy” when God knows that I’m not, he knows I want to be, but for whatever reason today doesn’t feel like it.
I think there are times in our life when sometimes it isn’t easy being a follow of Christ.

I think that there is a false Americanisation of some worship styles that are often overly joyous and ‘sugary’ as though life is perpetually good and the only human expression the

Christian is allowed is a cheesy grin.

Yet in the psalms there are plenty of laments and even “where have you gone God?” Psalms, Jesus even quoted one of these (Ps. 22) on the cross, I long to see greater authenticity within our sung worship, that embraces rather than runs from pain, confusion and frustration.

I love (and am deeply challenged by) Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name, when the suns shining down on me and the world is all that it should be… Blessed Be Your Name when found in the Desert place, on the road marked with suffering, though there is pain in the offering, blessed be your name… You give and take away, but my heart will choose to say, blessed be your name”.

I don’t think God ever intended human beings to live perpetually on the mountain, he knows that in real life we go into real valleys, and maybe even real deserts too.

In fact it’s the deserts where the most beautiful and powerful growth occurs.

Just as a rose bud develops its best scent when it is tightly compressed.

Yet it is in the mundane we discover something deep in our faith, just as in our human relationships it is easy to serve your spouse when you are totally loved up, but harder when maybe its not all rose petals and romance.

Yet what an amazing act of truly beautiful Worship when we Worship even through the tears.

I think we need a spiritual life that  is robust enough that know,and can cope with highs and lows, and when things are tough we learn discipline and gain strength.
Yet it is easy to serve when your heart is full of gladness, but harder when your heart is full of sadness, but in a way more beautiful and authentic, for we are saying to God that despite our internal and external feelings and circumstances, even so, we are going to rely not on our feelings knowing they are fallible, but instead place our trust on God and his faithfulness, which -despite our feelings- remains steadfast.

Sometimes when you feel you have nothing to say, sometimes that’s the most profound message of all.

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prayer, presence, Spirituality, Worship

The Power of Presence…

I have recently been thinking a lot about worship.

I have suggested that those of us who regularly join together for Pints Of View ought to meet up and pray and worship first.

Something I am keen to suggest too for us as Street and School Pastors before we go out.

I think worship is the key to everything… yet when we worship because it is the key to everything we are missing the point, because to worship in order to get a key sounds more like playing Super Mario than living in a right relationship with God.

I think when we come to God in worship, we are reminded of who he is, he greatness and might, and also of our dependence on him, so often in our meetings although he is acknowledged with a prayer at the beginning our focus often remains very much on ourselves and our capabilities. When we worship we focus on him and his abundance, provision and power. His faithfulness to do all that he has called us to do through us is liberating, because we need to be reminded afresh that we don’t do what we are called ‘for’ God but rather ‘with’ him. The less we worship the more we get this wrong.

Worship is often an act of will, to be honest when life is tough, we are tired and stressed, often we squash our worship out of the agenda, yet often when we are feeling the least like worshipping, often it is when we need to worship the most. We discover that in worship there is a refreshing of the soul, a re-energizing of the will, a renewal of the mind that need, but don’t always need.

Yet not only does worship reminded us of who God is, and not only does it require us to shuffle of the thrones of our own lives and let Christ re-take his rightful place, it also affirms us in who we are in Christ. We are his beloved children.

I believe that because sometimes we live in worship poverty, that is a contributory factor in why so many Christians struggle with their identity in who they in Christ, and of the Fathers great love for them.

Worship shows us God, but as we worship God somehow we discover afresh something of God’s love for us, a divine exchange seems to happen, as we pour our love at his feet, he pours his love over us.

I’m struck by how we use our bodies in worship.

When our hands our  lifted up symbolise surrender, which is I believe at the heart of what worship is, even though we don’t understand what is happening around us, why it is happening, it is a surrender and saying to God even though I don’t understand, I still trust you with my life.

When come before the communion table with our empty hands, we are reminded that we come to God empty handed, but come before a generous God who will provide all we need as we seek to follow him.

When we are down on our knees we remember God’s might and majesty… his rule over our life, who he is, and us pledged to his service.

Yet worship isn’t just a need for us, but I do believe that when we spend time in God’s presence we become more like him, we become like those we hang around with, which is true when we are with God, we become like him, he shines from us.

I love the story of Moses coming down the mountain with his face shining because he had been in the presence of God, so much so he had to put a veil over his face… His encounter with God shone out to the people, who noticed the presence of God on Moses.

It’s a picture often picked up in scripture, the treasure shining from the broken clay vessels, gleaming out of the cracks, proclaiming “Christ in us the hope of glory”.

The presence of God with his people is so important and powerful that when God offers to let the people of Israel go into the promised land without him, Moses says “if you don’t go with us, how will we be different from the other nations of the world”.

God’s presence is beautiful… he’s the one who draws people to himself, but gives us the privilege of partnering with himself.

On twitter I came across a Catholic picture of the Communion Elements with the words above them “you are what you eat” -and although I’m not into transubstantiation-  I love the picture, the more you celebrate Christ in Communion, the more of him dwells within you.

I think that too often we approach God with functionality, e.g “we ought to pray”, rather than as a Father “I just want to be with you”… Yet when we are with him we are changed and the world notices. “They realised that they (Peter, James and John) were ordinary unskilled men who had been with Jesus”.

When we worship we realise that it is less about technique, or style and more about God’s love overflowing from us.

I believe that the “when Harry met Sally” quote “I want what she’s having” ought to be something that happens more regularly, that Christ is seen in us, not just that we have clever words, we have beautiful flyers or we inviting them to a great event.

If you were going on a long journey or doing something important most of us would charge up our mobile phone (if we had one) just as when we go out on mission (which is actually what any of us do the moment we walk out of our front door, or into work, or the kids playground) we can’t go out on empty, on drained and with the dreggs of God’s presence.

This doesn’t mean you have to turn up at Church all the time, it could just be encountering and worshipping God with CD in your car, or just taking some time out on a park bench before leaping into whatever situation.

My suggestion is that we need to be intentional about worship.

Worship not just when you feel like it, but actually probably more worthwhile when you don’t feel like worshipping that’s probably when you need to do it the most.

Work out times and places that will feed your soul with encountering Christ, engaging with the Father, rather than praying out of a understanding of its importance functionally.

God knows we need him, he loves to hear from us, but so often our prayer and our worship is often as a ‘warm up’ to doing something or for a sermon rather than simply because he is a good good father who loves you.

Sometimes I think we should stop all Churchy work, and just take time just to encounter Christ again, pursue his presence.

The key to it all is the presence of Christ, at times his presence has convicted and converted people without any words uttered, we carry the presence of God, but too often this wonderful light gets hidden under bushels.

I love the image of overflow, when we encounter Christ, the overflow of his presences in his people, splashes out to a hungry and thirsty world, who seem him in his people and the thirsty world is drawn to the one who quenches our deepest thirsts and satisfies our deepest hungers.

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Church, Exodus 17., prayer, Unity

Holding Up the Arms of Moses…

Ex.17.

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

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It is a great picture of Moses praying with his arms raised, and whilst he is praying the army is being victorious in battle, but when he tires and lets his arms down everything changes, the Israelites begin to loose the battle and everything begins to deflate and unravel.

I think my first point is that we need to first realize we are actually in a battle, this is a real fight with a real enemy… too often we don’t realize that we are in a battle, we are surprised when we stick our necks out for Jesus and get persecuted (even sometimes sadly from those who we thought were meant to be on our own side).

The other point to realize that prayer is not an optional extra, a bit of a garnish like a sprig of parsley, to our normal every day lives (nor a bit like a hobby), it effects everything, including whether spiritual victories are won or lost (I know before someone says it that the war was won with Christ on the cross) but there are many victories which I believe the church tragically offers Satan and the enemy armies on a plate simply because we aren’t praying!

I know what it is like to be like Moses, praying away with good intentions, but I know that I can tire and the good intentions get harder work and become more costly and sacrificial it is easy to simply stop praying, or praying less, or less passionately, or with less belief that God is going to show up.

The truth is we need each other to keep us sharp, to encourage us, to challenge us, to stand alongside us, to hold us up when we are struggling, this is a challenge in our massively individualistic culture, yet God wants his Church to be a community, living corporately… praying together and standing alongside each other. Proverbs reminds us that just as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another, Hebrews 10 urges us to ‘spur one another on’…

When we do street pastors, we always have a few people, praying for us back at base, and as all the rest of the Street Pastors team will testify, it makes such a difference when we are out on the streets knowing that there are people back at base praying for us.

I’d challenge us to get back up and start to intercede afresh like Moses did, and watch and not be surprised that our prayers change and transform the course of the battle, to keep praying even when it is hard, painful and tough and sacrificial (perhaps even ‘especially when it is hard, painful and tough and sacrificial’), to get other people to stand alongside you in those critical battle moments like Aaron and Hur… Also, I’d challenge us to be like Aaron and Hur to look out for those prayer warriors who are flagging; those brothers and sisters who are struggling to pray for themselves; the discouraged and despairing and stand alongside them holding their arms up for them…

What are we like?

I see things like this blog as like Aaron and Hur, that is coming alongside the Churches in this nation, where many have like Moses flagged a little, and we are challenged to stand alongside our tired family members holding up their sore limbs and support them with both our love, prayers and commitment to them, Christ and his battle.

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Bravery, Colosians, Discipleship, Godliness, Leadership, mentoring, Mission, Mission Shaped Church, Paul, Paul's Prayers, prayer, Spiritual Health, vocation

Praying with Paul 1

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

One of my favourite passages… Here Paul, a prisoner, isn’t simply praying (as most of us would) “GOD GET ME OUTTA HERE!”
Instead his heart is for God to be glorified.

He challenges the disciples to devote themselves to prayer, incIdently the word “devote” has the same root word as to “vote” (which has somehow been lost in our modern day political systems where we put a cross on a peice of paper ever 5 years) the idea is more about throwing your life behind your choice of how you live your life. Imagine if that was how we thought of voting, not just a tick in a box but throwing our lives behind now we think the world should be, voting everyday for the world we want to live in and for our children to live in.

This isn’t the polite Anglican intersessions some of us have become used to, here the idea of Praying as though your life depended on it.

The idea too of watching with thanksgiving is the idea of being expectant and grateful that God is at work in his world and too see him answer our prayers.

To often Christians pray with their eyes shut, praying not expecting to see God answer or move in the situation we are praying about… And when he comes through are we grateful? Or do we attribute it wrongly saying this like “that was lucky”?

So, what is Paul urging us to pray for? That people would hear the message of Gods good news of Christ crucified and resurrected.

It’s the message the world is literally dying to hear. Described in Phillippians as “the word that gives life”.

A message so powerful we need Gods help in handling it wisely.

A great picture of God going a head of us and opening doors for our message, which in fact is his message.

We as Christians partake in the mission of God, his mission, he’s the evangelist yet choosing to work through me and you his people.

God is setting up Divine appointments for us to bless and encourage us as we see people drawn to Christ through what he is doing in us.

I love Paul’s humility when he prays that he may ‘proclaim the message as faithfully as he should’.

God wants us to speak his words faithfully and in fact he promises to give us the words to say.

The prayer here shows a humbleness of heart which knows his need of Gods help in evangelism, this help he needs especially when chatting to people who aren’t yet Christians.

Paul realising he’s an ambassador of Christ, how he behaves will effect what people think of Jesus. Therefore he asks God to make him wise in his actions that any encounter he has will draw people to Christ.

Thr idea about being “seasoned with salt” is an interesting one.

Interestingly too much salt makes people sick -which is what happens when people go for it with evangelism unwisely, “zeal without wisdom is folly” (or foolishness the opposite of wisdom) but just enough salt makes people thirsty for the everlasting streams or springs of living water which can only be found in Christ.

This idea of being united and unified in Christ, being joined together in him through the proclamation of the gospel -which binds us all- where one suffers we all suffer and where one rejoices we all rejoice.

Let’s looks at Paul’s prayer, which I think only comes from heart that realises what actually ultimately matters, ordinary people coming to know Christ, his good news and awesome love for them.

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