DIRECTION Magazine

The official monthly magazine of the
Elim Pentecostal Church

direction cover January 2014

Direction is a high quality monthly magazine providing inspiration, vision and teaching for everyone in Elim and beyond.

Direction is produced by New Life Publishing on behalf of Elim, which comprises over 550 churches in the UK and Ireland, but is also linked to over 9,000 Elim churches in other countries. Elim is also in co-operative fellowship with thousands of Pentecostal churches around the world, and has missions work in over 40 countries.

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Hope and comfort for the suffering
Assisted suicide – a right to die or a duty to die? CARE’s Lyndon Bowring responds to Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill and similar legislation in Scotland   On more than one occasion I have had the incredible privilege of sitting and praying with believers nearing the end of life; offering reassurance, comfort and hope to them and their loved ones. There has been a supernatural sense of God’s peace and presence as they slip away from this life to be forever with the Lord. As Christians we have such a fantastic hope of eternal life, leaving behind sin, suffering, sadness and death to be raised up with Christ and live with him. Life is precious from conception to its natural end because, as Genesis 1:27 says, “All human beings have been created by God in his own image.” But however strong our faith, the actual process of dying can be a worrying prospect, especially in cases of serious illness, pain, loss of mental capacity and independence. Some Christians believe there may be circumstances in which it would be better to end a person’s life prematurely, so is important to consider the implications. Scripture teaches that God has ordained the time of our birth and death. At the lowest point of his suffering, Job affirmed, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Christians should do everything possible to care for the most vulnerable – it was Dame Cicely Saunders’ Christian compassion that led to the first hospice being opened in England and our nation has remained at the forefront of the hospice movement and of developing palliative care throughout the world. The law regards assisted suicide and euthanasia to be a criminal offence, with penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment, although judges have discretion in hard cases and there have been hardly any prosecutions over the years. And sometimes treatment for a very sick person that will alleviate their suffering may also result in them dying sooner, but this is not what we are talking about here. Medical and health professionals, and those concerned for disabled and other vulnerable people, are strongly opposed to any kind of euthanasia. The profoundly disabled and seriously ill are at risk here. A right to die can all too easily become a duty to die. Presently, Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill is proceeding through the Houses of Parliament. It calls for doctors to be permitted to provide the means at their request, to a person with a terminal illness. The organisation backing this, Dignity in Dying, insists that this is wise and reasonable, protecting loving relatives from being prosecuted for murder. But opponents to the Bill – especially the Care not Killing coalition to which CARE belongs – are deeply concerned that the most vulnerable in society would be put at risk if it were to be passed. Similar legislation is going through the Scottish Parliament, and CARE has been working hard with others to prevent this from happening there. As the Falconer Bill proceeds through all its various stages, we need to keep praying and getting involved where we can. Please visit the website – www.care.org.uk/liveandletlive – and join us in this endeavour. CARE has produced several resources – a special prayer diary, briefings and Bible study material – to help you understand the arguments for and against, inspire and inform you to pray, and suggest positive alternatives to euthanasia and assisted suicide. Let’s choose life and do all we can to bring comfort, hope and tender care to those who are suffering.   Direction Magazine Print | Digital | Articles | Advertise | Mailing list
Surviving uni
Scared of university? Wonder how you’ll handle the pressure? These tips from Cheltenham Elim student Luke Taylor will help…   Sex, drugs and alcohol: three things associated with freshers’ week, which is the first week of university. Three things which Christianity outwardly rejects. So how does a Christian survive a week of supposed hedonism? This is a question I hope to address and give some tips, which helped me ‘survive’ and – dare I say – enjoy freshers’ week. I’m studying history at the ever sunny university of Exeter. I am currently a first year who loves university and engaging in the social side of it but also deepening my Christian faith. It’s fair to say that without tips from my sister Abi, who has just finished at Nottingham, my freshers’ week would have been quite different. Get involved University is an amazing opportunity to try new things, reinvent yourself, and explore. But so many Christians waste this due to the horror stories third years have instilled in them about freshers. Many Christians are told to stay strong in their faith but interpret this as not sharing their faith due to fear. This is not what God wants, he calls us to be in the world, but not of it. University is an amazing opportunity to share the gospel as people are often very open to ideas as they try to form their individual view of the world. Don’t limit yourself by staying clear of dark places, but instead be the light set on a hill. Ask, seek, knock On your first few days, go and knock on people’s doors, get to know the people you will be spending the rest of your year(s) with. A lot of Christians will have tell-tale signs in their rooms such as a Bible, journals or Bible verses on notes, or you could even look through their music to strike up conversation. Now don’t vet your neighbours or lead them to ask for a room transfer two days into university, but look out for signs during your first few days, as a good Christian friend can be such a help during uni. Nevertheless, be cautious of delving into a Christian bubble in order to avoid missing out on certain aspects of student life. Set boundaries Know your limits with regards to alcohol before you go to university, it’s much safer to overstep the mark at home with parents or trusted friends than people you don’t know. Know your limit and keep to it, if you feel yourself wavering then just stop, most people I met admitted after freshers’ week that they didn’t enjoy drinking – they just felt that everyone did it. If you don’t want to drink lots, don’t. You’ll be amazed how many people respect that. Unashamed Don’t be afraid to mention the CU (Christian Union). Pray for opportunities to mention Christianity, and they will come. During my freshers’ week I prayed for an opportunity and one of the boys in the common room shouted ‘anyone want to pretend they’re a Christian to get some free food?’ I replied that they could go with me as I was a Christian. The result was seven others in the common room saying they were also Christians. Don’t be afraid to mention your faith – you will be surprised how many people are Christians – a few people just aren’t willing to be the first to say it. On the money Freshers’ week is expensive, there’s no denying that. However, it doesn’t have to result in you eating Tesco value soup for the rest of term. My advice on money would be to budget and withdraw cash from the bank, don’t use your credit cards and don’t take them on nights out. A way of saving money is on societies – definitely join clubs, but be realistic in terms of time. You won’t be able to play BUCS (university league) for more than one sport, so don’t spend £400 joining rowing and squash as you will find your squash racquet collecting dust in the corner of your room. Sexual purity Whatever ideas that you have of freshers’ week in relation to sex have probably been exaggerated. My advice is to know where you stand before uni, know how far is too far, and find an accountability partner. These three things will help you stay where you want to be. It has to be a personal decision. If you go to uni with your parents’ expectations or church expectations on what you should and shouldn’t do, you are unlikely to keep them. The choices you make have to be based upon a personal decision and relationship with God. Throughout the first few weeks of university remember that everyone is in the same boat, everyone will be keen to make friends and have a great time. So don’t let nerves prevent a fantastic week of meeting new people, enjoying a newly-found independence and, of course, not yet having any deadlines!   Direction Magazine Print | Digital | Articles | Advertise | Mailing list
Four heart attacks, one miracle!
Little Ava Mear somehow managed to survive four heart attacks within the space of an hour, and her family have no doubt it’s because of the prayers of God’s people…   Clive and Mary-Jane Mear faced the hardest situation for any parent when they were told by doctors to say goodbye to their little girl – after her heart stopped three times. But four-year-old Ava stunned medics when she pulled through and miraculously survived her heart stopping for a fourth time in 45 minutes after doctors hooked her up to an artificial lung and heart machine. The Mears, parents to Ava, who is now five, and her brother Alfie, ten, are members of Elim’s Luton Christian Fellowship (known locally as LCF), and are now thanking God and their family and friends for the support they received when Ava was at her worst. “Just knowing that she was covered in prayer was a great comfort,” Clive, 45, says. “I must admit that I would have thought that this would have tested my faith, but I never questioned it. I just knew that God was in control. “You don’t have your daughter go through four heart attacks and live through that without some kind of intervention by God. “How we would have got through this without knowing that somebody else was in control of it all, we just don’t know. The hardest thing as a father was having no control – there was absolutely nothing I could do. I couldn’t take the pain or the heart attacks away. “If we hadn’t have had our faith we’d have gone mad by now. Ava’s life from the outset has not been easy, so we believe that the fact that she’s still here means she’s here for a purpose. We have always been grateful for both of our children – they are gifts from God.” Ava was born with the cerebro- costo-mandibular syndrome, which means that she has no ribs on the front half of her body. But the series of events that happened in January had no connection with her illness. She was admitted to Luton and Dunstable Hospital after her parents found her struggling to breathe. After discovering a tiny rash, doctors suspected meningitis, and told the Mears that Ava needed to be moved to another hospital that could manage her care. Crucially, they chose Great Ormond Street as she was already under their care for her underlying condition. “We said that we’d be better off there because they had all her notes, so they arranged things quickly, and once in the ambulance, we were there in under 40 minutes,” says Clive, a director of a charity marketing agency. “We later found out that there are only 20 of the machines that saved Ava’s life in the whole of the UK, in just four children’s hospitals – so we knew that God’s hand was on her.” Upon arriving at Great Ormond Street, Ava was taken to be admitted while her parents were told to get a coffee. “Within a few minutes two nurses appeared telling us we needed to go with them because Ava had gone into cardiac arrest,” Clive remembers. “We rushed upstairs and walked into the room to see a 6′ 6″ male nurse doing adult CPR on her chest, which was quite distressing to see. “They got her back and it happened again, then for a third time. It was then that they turned to us and said, ‘She’s very weak and you really need to come and say goodbye.’ So we did the hardest thing that any parent could ever be told to do, and we said goodbye to Ava. Then they took us to the parent’s room where a lovely lady chaplain joined us and we prayed. “Then a consultant knocked on the door, and told us, ‘We’ve got her back!’, and that there was a risky procedure which involved a machine called an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) which would, in effect, act as Ava’s heart. “But it was very risky. I cut him short and just told him to do it and that I’d sign any papers later. As they were hooking her up she went into cardiac arrest for a fourth time, but thankfully the machine took over and it bypassed her heart.” Ava spent the next 12 days on ECMO as, with the help of a kidney dialysis machine, it cleansed her blood. Then the Mears discovered what had caused the heart attacks. “It turned out that she had had a severe reaction to the Strep A virus which in most people just causes a sore throat or tonsillitis,” Clive explains. “In Ava, it got into her blood stream, and started to shut down her organs, including her heart, lungs and kidneys, causing her to have the multiple heart attacks. Due to the fluids being pumped in to deal with the infection, Ava swelled up like a balloon. The machines helped cleanse her blood of the virus.” Months later, Ava still sleeps in hospital overnight with Mary- Jane, but she is slowly recovering and the Mears are now looking at how they can help others. “It’s been a great opportunity to spend time sharing with other parents,” Clive says. “We’ve come out of hospital with our daughter but many parents don’t, so we’re so grateful. “Every day Ava recovers a little more. She’s doing things that we thought she’d never be able to do by this stage in her recovery. “I’ve been blogging on Facebook every day since day one about Ava’s journey, and I’ve had people say to me that they’ve not prayed in over 20 years, but that they’ve prayed for Ava. That just proves that God can use any circumstance to draw people to himself. Now we want to supply another ECMO machine to save other children’s lives.” The Mears’ church, LCF, and the village community in Caddington where Ava lives, are raising money to buy another machine that saved her life. “We’ve launched Ava’s ECMO Challenge to raise money for another machine,” Clive says. “We’ve raised £17,000 so far and we need £80,000. The church has been great, and they are organising a number of fund raising events.” A Great Ormond Street spokesman explains, “Ava is the only Group A streptococcal case who has gone on to develop toxic shock requiring ECMO at the hospital in the last two years.” LCF pastor Alan West says, “Every Monday night since Ava was hospitalised, 60-80 people from the church have met to pray for her. “I’ll never forget the first time that my wife and I saw her in the hospital and she was hooked up to all these machines that were keeping her alive. There just seemed so little hope but I was reminded of the verse in the Bible where Jesus said that if you have the faith of a mustard seed then God can do the rest. So along with Mary-Jane we prayed over Ava and it was definitely a mustard seed prayer – and the rest is just a miracle. “When they came to church on Easter Sunday as a family it was so emotional and an incredible moment. Ava’s still recovering and now our prayer is that there will be no lasting damage. “I’ve been moved by the kindness and generosity of the church at this time.” To help buy the new ECMO machine, visit www.justgiving. com/avas-ecmo-challenge   Direction Magazine Print | Digital | Articles | Advertise | Mailing list
Abortion on demand
Doctors are flouting the law amid moves to further liberalise access to abortion, says Lyndon Bowring Executive Chair of CARE   It’s an extremely sensitive subject and one seldom spoken about. But recently abortion has been in the news – with the actions of some clinics and doctors particularly coming under scrutiny. Not many people realise the 1967 Abortion Act did not actually make abortion legal, it just dealt with extremely serious situations – when there was real risk to a woman’s life or health. Sadly, however, since it became law, more than 7.5 million babies have been lost through abortion in the UK and the figures indicate that in 99.5 per cent of cases there is no such risk to the mother. We effectively have abortion on demand in this country despite important safeguards enshrined in the law. A crucial intention of the Abortion Act, which was restated by the Government in 1999, is that two doctors must see a woman to confirm that the specific legal grounds for an abortion are met. But this requirement is being widely disregarded. In fact, the General Medical Council (GMC) has admitted that dozens of doctors are known to have pre-signed abortion referral forms without ever seeing the patient. Inspectors found piles of these at some clinics – in one case they were pre-signed by someone who had left four years before! It is still unclear how many forms were signed by each doctor and when, and what grounds they gave. But he or she could know nothing what whatsoever about a pregnant patient attending the clinic weeks, months or even years later. A Freedom of Information request brought this illegal activity to light and the Care Quality Commission investigated the situation in 2012. Although allegations were made against 67 doctors, the GMC has closed every case! Not a single person has been called to account, referred to the police or been struck off the medical register. The Health Minister Earl Howe and Public Health Minister Jane Ellison MP have both conf irmed that pre-signing abortion referral forms is a clear breach of the law and they are calling for action. But despite their stand on this issue there are moves afoot to further liberalise access to abortion. The Department of Health published interim guidance last autumn; that doctors would no longer need to see the patient but can just form a judgement based on information passed on to them by other staff – which may only be a nurse or counsellor. They are now deciding whether to confirm this change of policy, which would make abortion even easier. Abortion is serious, we are destroying unborn human beings made in God’s image. Although many see it as the most practical, if difficult, solution to an unwanted pregnancy it is also likely to cause physical, emotional and ethical problems to women and their families, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals and to society as a whole. CARE is monitoring this situation and working closely with Parliamentarians and others to ensure that the law is justly upheld.   Direction Magazine Print | Digital | Articles | Advertise | Mailing list
Life after drugs
Drug addicts in Russia are finding hope through an Elim-backed project, as retired minister Derek Chittick reports…   I first came across Salvation Centre in Asbest, Russia, in 2000, when I spent an hour visiting there with a Russian Pentecostal pastor. My main memory of that visit is of a beautiful location in the middle of a forest, and the vegetable patch where they grew many of their own supplies for the year. In 2009, I returned as part of a team of Scottish church leaders organised by Tearfund, when we spent more than a week getting acquainted with the work there and in two of the sister centres planted out in neighbouring regions. What we saw then impressed us immensely, as we witnessed the transforming power of the gospel applied to utterly broken lives. Salvation Centre is built on the belief that if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation, the old has passed away and the new has come. The programme is rigorous, Christ centred, practical and effective. We wept as we heard tragic stories, but rejoiced in seeing the evidence of lives turned around by the Spirit of God. The programme doesn’t just focus on getting people off drugs, but also on getting them back into society, living fulfilled and active lives rooted into a local church. Since the 2009 visit, I’ve been back each year, and it’s been particularly exciting to see people who were going through rehab on that occasion now having progressed to the point of being able to open and lead new centres and bringing others into the freedom they have found in Christ. It all started in the summer of 1998 with a young man working on a ambulance team as a male nurse. At that time there was a drug boom in Russia and a lot of people died of drugs. The young man found himself in church, met Christ and started a dynamic work amongst drug addicts. He created an active team and a social organisation named ‘Salvation’ was registered. After 16 years it’s estimated that about 600 people have been freed from addictions. There are now seven other non-profit centres with about 100 residents on the courses at any one time, free of charge. A team from the Orenburg site visited Elim Bible Week in April, but since then Barnabas Fund has published details of raids that have taken place on four church-based rehab centres by the Russian authorities as part of a crackdown on Protestant churches. For more details, visit www. salvationcentre.org       Direction Magazine Print | Digital | Articles | Advertise | Mailing list
Truth behind trafficked children
What happens to children rescued from modern-day slavery? Care’s Executive Chairman, Lyndon Bowring, says it’s a situation the government is finally tackling   Imagine being a teenager who has survived the nightmare of being trafficked from abroad and forced to work as a prostitute. Locked up for months or even years, beaten, abused and only able to cope with the horror of it all with the help of the drugs they are introduced to, one day, by some miracle, they are rescued. Police raid the place, arrest the traffickers and take the victims to a safe place. Between 2005 and 2010 in the UK, something like this happened to 942 children. They were placed in local authority care and a whole new chapter of their lives began. As well as safe, secure accommodation, they needed all kinds of other help: perhaps medical care, counselling, a chance to go to school, assistance in tracing their family, legal advice and support as they faced interviews with police and immigration authorities – many scarcely spoke any English. What a bewildering experience for a young person alone in a foreign land. But the really shocking fact is that many of these children were anything but safe. One third of them vanished after being rescued – almost certainly tracked down and reclaimed by their traffickers. Alongside other organisations Care has worked for many years to draw attention to the plight of young human trafficking victims. In 2011, a groundbreaking EU Directive required member states to ‘appoint a guardian or a representative for a child victim of trafficking in human beings from the moment the child is identified by the authorities’. The UK was the second last country to sign up to it and our government has yet to consent to providing these dedicated child trafficking guardians to help victims get through the labyrinth of officialdom and provide much-needed reassurance at such a frightening time in their lives. The Home Office is preparing its Modern Slavery Bill but the system of ‘personal advocates’ they are suggesting is an inadequate approach, which won’t effectively protect these incredibly vulnerable children. Meanwhile, Lord Ian McColl, a Conservative member of the House of Lords, has worked untiringly to persuade them otherwise by bringing forward a series of Bills and amendments on this issue. A dedicated Christian, Lord McColl feels passionately about human trafficking, and Care has been privileged to assist him in his efforts to champion the issue over several years. Last November he brought an amendment which was defeated by just 15 votes. So you can imagine how delighted we all were when on Monday April 7, the House of Lords overwhelmingly backed his amendment to the Immigration Bill to introduce specialist Child Trafficking Guardians for child victims! He won by 282 votes to 184! At his request, many people backed Lord McColl and his colleagues with intercessory prayer and it was truly a significant victory. For these unfortunate girls and boys, having a friendly face – someone who understands the system and is able to support them and stand up for their best interests – would make all the difference. But it’s not quite over yet, as we still have to urge the government to accept the amendment when the Immigration Bill returns to the House of Commons before it can become law. In 2009, The Guardian investigated the case of a children’s home beside Heathrow airport – 77 Chinese children had disappeared in three years from the 59-bed local authority block. Only four were ever found – two of them in brothels in the West Midlands. Appointing Child Trafficking Guardians is not the complete answer but it would be a significant step forward in ensuring that child victims of trafficking in this country are properly cared for.   Direction Magazine Print | Digital | More | Newsletter
The perfect ingredients…
Keeth Bandara finds that his local Pizza Express has all the right ingredients for one of Elim’s less conventional church plants…   A slice of worship, a topping of the Bible and a sprinkling of prayer – that’s the recipe for a new Elim church being planted in the west of London – at Pizza Express. City of Lights, based in Uxbridge, might be in its early stages – the first service was held in February – but Pastor Keeth Bandara believes he is fulfilling the commission of Jesus to take the gospel to the highways and byways. It might sound crazy, but Keeth has been dreaming about starting such a church for more than a decade – and he hasn’t been eating too much pizza. “I was 18 when I got the desire and passion to plant churches, so ten years of thought has gone into it,” he says. “After a lot of praying and fasting, 2014 seemed like the best time to make it happen. “When I originally got the vision I knew we would be based somewhere around the M25. I remember when I was 19 I bought a map of the M25 and stuck it on my bedroom wall. When we were praying about two possible locations, we all felt that Uxbridge was the ideal place. “Not only is it the gateway out of and into London, but it’s also the gateway to the world, with Heathrow Airport on our doorstep. “It was difficult to find a location because a lot of buildings have restrictions on prayer and worship. We’d tried several locations with no success. I was told to try churches, but decided against planting in an already-existing church – I decided I would only go to a church building if it was closing down. So I went into the town centre to speak to businesses to see if any would open up early on a Sunday morning for us. “Pizza Express said yes, and it’s a perfect, non-threatening venue. Who knows, maybe once a month we’ll order pizza for everyone.” With an impressive CV which includes spearheading Candyshop, a youth event on sex and relationships, which has now gone national and is in three venues, 28-year-old Keeth hopes to build on his experiences in his new role as a pastor. “I spent six years volunteering as a youth pastor at Watford Elim and working as a programme leader at a pupil referral unit. These roles have taught me a lot. I’ve still got a long way to go, but either I keep dreaming or take the risk and do it.” Seen as a significant retail and commercial centre, Uxbridge is the perfect place for Keeth to target new members as he aims to focus on families to build the church. “There are a lot of churches working with the student population already,” he says. “I’ve had some meetings and introduced myself and offered my experience, but we feel that family is where our ministry initially lies. “We want to be open to what God wants to do here. After our initial research we realise Uxbridge is difficult ground, but a prayerful team filled with faith is a team that I am sure God can work with. “Our mission statement is simple, to ‘live the resurrected life that is found in Jesus’. We see it worked out in our motto ‘Live, Love, Lead’. “My biggest push is cultivating a culture that creates ‘marketplace’ leaders. Many people look to the church as the main focal point of ministry, but what would it be like when a whole congregation takes on that role in the marketplace? “I truly believe that there would be an influx of people getting saved, not just in church but on someone’s lunch break at work and in the school playground. The resurrection life for me is a supernatural one and I am passionate about seeing people not only knowing Jesus, but beginning to live, love and lead like him.” The new church has received the backing of Elim. Dave Campbell, Superintendent for the Metropolitan Region, told Direction, “I think what Keeth is doing is great. My kids are always saying to me, ‘You need to get out more,’ and I think that is what Jesus is saying to the Church. And that’s exactly what Keeth is doing. “People have been fishing in their own ponds for too long and it’s so exciting for me to see that we’re looking outside of the Church. It’s great to see a young man like Keeth leave the security of the Church and go where the fish are.”   Subscribe | Buy Copies | Read More
Equipping the church
Duncan Clark unpacks the theme for this year’s Elim Bible Week   I am a cricket fan and I am in mourning. The last six months have been some of the most depressing in living memory for an England supporter. We have been out-thought and out-played. Defeat has been followed by embarrassment, which has been followed with humiliation. We have become familiar with the word ‘whitewash’. This winter of pain has had its effect on the team. Commentators, those with great cricketing know-how, pin-pointed the problem: confidence. A lack of it. “There’s a lack of confidence in the dressing room.” “They’re playing without confidence.” “They’ve lost their confidence.” Some of the phrases they said. One defeat followed by another gradually eroded any belief that the England cricket team could succeed. Confidence had been sucked out of them like a hoover. “Do not throw away your confidence.” That’s the instruction from the writer of Hebrews. Christians who had experienced significant persecution were starting to waver. Doubts were creeping into their minds. Would God deliver them? Would God remember them? Heads had gone down. Confidence was draining away. The writer of Hebrews wanted to plug the leak. “Keep believing.” “Remain hopeful.” “Hold on to your confidence.” Confident. It can be an uncomfortable word for a Christian. It sounds like a close relative of arrogant, egotistical and pride. The brother of big-headedness? The enemy of humility? We are wary of over-confident, self-confident Christians who might slip into self-importance and self-centredness. We are wary – because that’s not us. But neither are we pessimistic, cynical, despairing or ‘glass half-empty’ Christians. Our heads are up. We are thinking positive. We are confident. Not a worldly-confidence. A Godconfidence. During uncertain times, when economies fail, governments falter and leaders fall, our God remains faithful, dependable and worthy of our trust. We are confident that God is for us and his steadfast commitment to us never changes. And this confidence in God creates a confidence within us. We become a confident people. Secure in our God-given identity, calling and purpose, we’re not afraid to try and fail, to take risks, to push boundaries and take faith-steps. We confidently embrace change, pioneer new initiatives and live forward-reaching lives, because our God inspires us toward confident action. We are confident in the gospel. Confident that the ancient message of a crucified Saviour still has power in contemporary culture. It still has power to transform lives, to heal communities, to give hope to the hopeless and new beginnings to the broken. We confidently believe that Jesus still saves, heals and restores. And this ‘gospel-confidence’ produces a confident Church. A Church with a clearly articulated vision, a defined purpose and a significant future. Our togetherness produces a boldness which moves us out of our buildings and into our communities, confidently proclaiming Christ through word and deed. This confident Church has confidence in the Bible. Confident that unchanging truth can be found in the words of Scripture. Confident that when we open its pages, God will speak. Confident that its words will comfort, motivate, teach and guide. And when its relevance is challenged and cultural norms change, we remain confident that it still has authority for life today. And on dark days and during challenging times, when suffering, disappointment and pain are present, we still maintain a confident hope. Confident that God is present. Confident that he hears. Confident that he has a plan. Confident that he will deliver us. We have confidence in God. We are confident people. We form a confident Church. We are confident in the gospel message and the Bible’s authority. We have a confident hope. And so, we will pray bold prayers, dream big dreams, create forward momentum and believe that we will prevail. We will plant churches, reach communities, teach passionately and love outrageously. We will take Spirit-empowered action, break new ground and pursue a ‘God-adventure’. We will not shrink back. We will not throw away our confidence. We’re not conceited or smug. Neither are we arrogant, egotistical or proud. We are confident.   Subscribe | Buy Copies | Read More
God can forgive anyone
God can forgive and change anyone – even murderers – as former terrorist and UVF member Bobby Mathieson found out   A former terrorist who served 14 years in prison for crimes including murder is now back behind bars – as a Christian preacher. Bobby Mathieson was part of the notorious Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) that fought the IRA in the violent Irish fights of the 1980s. He was sentenced to life in prison but was released in 1996. He then formed his own successful business but his demons tormented him and he suffered from depression and contemplated suicide – until he found God in 2008. Bobby, 52, is now a committed Christian who attends an Elim church, and shares his story with anyone who will listen. This is nothing new – God changes people,” says Bobby. “The Bible is full of men like me – King David committed adultery and murder but he was the apple of God’s eye. Moses killed an Egyptian but God used him powerfully. Saul was instrumental in Stephen’s death. “I realised that all these years I’d been believing the lie from the devil that I was beyond redemption. Now I understand what the Bible says in Romans 10:13, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of God will be saved.’ Every single one of us is undeserving of his grace, but that’s the type of God we serve. “The last thing I wanted to do was go near a prison but there is one just down the road from the church so I’ve set up a football team and we’re making connections. I share my testimony in schools, churches, coffee shops – anywhere that will let me. “I now know that there’s no other way to be saved but through Jesus Christ. When I was at my lowest point and wanted to end it all, I got on my knees and said sorry to God for all that I’d done – and that’s when I knew I was forgiven. If God can forgive me then there’s hope for anybody.” Bobby joined the UVF at the tender age of 18 when the fighting in Ireland was at its worst. “I’d grown up playing with people from across the community – Catholic or not. Then The Troubles kicked in and everything changed,” he recalls. “People were throwing petrol bombs and burning families out of their homes. “I’d moved to East Belfast and was playing for a pub football team there. These guys were all older and they were drinking and fighting and I thought it was great. It suited my teenage mindset. “All these guys were caught up in The Troubles. This was when the hunger strikes were on in the prisons so it was all over the news. Politicians were always on the TV saying the IRA were destroying the country. They were saying that we needed to fight. Well I was a fighter – I did a bit of a boxing – so I joined the UVF.” Two years later, Bobby and six others were arrested and faced ten murder charges between them. Unfazed by his crimes, Bobby saw himself as a soldier in battle and his crimes as acts of war. “Six of us were charged and there were ten murder charges along with hundreds of others for shootings, robberies and everything you could think of,” he says. “When we got charged, there was no remorse because in our eyes, we defended Ulster and were fighting for our country – that was our mentality.” After two-and-a-half years on remand, Bobby and his fellow terrorists were sentenced to life in prison and were moved to the notorious Maze Prison in Belfast. Bobby was able to access drugs on the inside but, perhaps surprisingly, he also started to attend church there. “We all went to church because it was a meeting place. We had respect for the pastor but it went in one ear and out the other. “My mind started to tell me what a rotten person I was and I’d run over and over all the bad things I’d done. I became convinced that I was transparent and that everybody could see all the bad things I’d done.” Unable to cope with the severity of his crimes, Bobby was referred to the prison psychiatric ward following a failed suicide attempt. “Two Christian women used to write to me,” he recalls. “I thought I’d lost my soul and it was irretrievable but these women writing to me gave me a hope that maybe there was a chance for me. So I started praying to God. “Then one of the women wrote to me and said that God would not condemn me. They talked me out of my suicidal thoughts and after two years I was put back into a cell.” After 14 years in prison, Bobby was released in 1994 – to a surprising reception. “I didn’t know how much I was respected by the UVF until I got out and they threw me a huge party,” he says. “But I was like a zombie. I was convinced that there was a big conspiracy against me and that they all wanted to kill me.” Aware of his breakdown in prison, the UVF backed off Bobby and he eventually settled down to a normal life. A skilled joiner, he set up his own business and married Alison, who already had two children, and they then went on to have three kids of their own. But Bobby couldn’t escape his crimes. “We had a big house, a nice car and holidayed twice a year and I’d left the paramilitary world,” he says. “Word had spread that I’d gone mad so they were happy to let me go. “To everyone on the outside it seemed that I was making a success of my life. People were always saying to me that I’d done so well and that I should be proud of what I’d achieved. “But in my own mind I knew that there was a God and that I’d rejected Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Every day I would pray and ask God to give me a chance, but I just couldn’t get over what I’d done.” Then, in 2008, Bobby’s suicidal thoughts returned. “I started believing that my wife and children hated me,” he explains. “My mind was showing me what a horrible person I was and telling me that I was going to infect my kids and the only way to stop this happening was to kill myself.” Desperate, Bobby’s wife rang the church minister who had married them, David Beckett, of Bangor Elim. “He came to see me and told me that if I took my own life, my children would never get over it,” Bobby says. “I fell on my knees in front of my wife and children and cried out to God. I apologised for not accepting Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and for all the things I’d done wrong.” Bobby has grown in his Christian walk and is now confident in sharing his faith with others. Pastor David told Direction, “I am so privileged and blessed to count Bobby and his wife Alison and their family as good friends. They are so much an important part of the Bangor Elim Church. “Bobby Mathieson is the most genuine and authentic Christian I know. He lives out his faith every day. “In his job as a floor layer, Bobby never fails to share his miraculous testimony in his own inimitable way and has been the catalyst for many people coming to faith in Jesus. “With his time in prison and his involvement in the Northern Ireland Troubles as a paramilitary, God has opened so many doors for Bobby – not least going into prisons and Young Offenders’ Centres. “He also speaks to his former combatants and those younger guys contemplating going down the road Bobby took. He shows them a better way.”   Subscribe | Buy Copies | Read More
Choose life not death!
Euthanasia is a topic increasingly discussed in the news, but what should be the Christian approach? CARE’s Executive Chairman Lyndon Bowring answers   Recently the Belgian Parliament voted overwhelmingly to allow terminally-ill children of any age to ask for their lives to be ended by lethal injection. This can happen provided these young patients are conscious of their decision, that it is approved by their parents and medical teams, and that they are in great pain for which no alleviating treatment is available. These young people are legally barred from driving, marrying, voting or drinking alcohol until they turn 18 and yet it is deemed appropriate for them to make this deadly choice. A few days before this, in my view, deeply horrifying decision was made, I listened to a BBC World Service programme on the subject. It was chilling to hear medics, paediatricians and young people suggesting children as young as ten with a terminal illness could show sufficient maturity to decide whether to be given a lethal barbiturate. I imagine all of us know of people – both adults and children – who have had to struggle with life limiting, terminal illnesses, and the heartache this also causes for their loved ones. This summer, parliamentarians will debate whether terminally ill adult patients of sound mind with only six months to live should be legally entitled to be helped to commit suicide. The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, has stood firmly against this, and we hope other medical bodies will continue to do the same, but the media is highlighting a number of very sad cases and there is a battle on to influence public opinion on the issue. Pro-euthanasia lobbying group Dignity in Dying – previously the Voluntary Euthanasia Society – knows that British society is not ready for full blown euthanasia so they are adopting this ‘softly, softly’ approach; starting with ‘assisted dying’ for a small number of individuals who are suffering. Lord Falconer in the House of Lords has tabled Bills to permit this, and many genuinely feel this ‘compassionate’ approach is the best way forward, dismissing any concerns that this measure is the start of ‘a slippery slope’ to full-blown euthanasia. It is only 12 years since Belgium legalised euthanasia for adults and look where they are now – 1,400 cases of euthanasia per year, which is now set to rise to include children. Once assisted suicide for a few very tragic cases becomes acceptable, it is not long before this death culture is extended to others. We can judge how civilised a society is by the way it cares for its most vulnerable members. Frail elderly people, those with disabilities and serious medical conditions, individuals suffering from mental illness and children are amongst the most vulnerable citizens of the United Kingdom. The concern is that the ‘right to die’ proposed by Lord Falconer and others is in serious danger of becoming for some ‘a duty to die’ so as not to be a burden on others. The most positive alternative is to be found in the evergrowing hospice movement and the successful development of palliative care for those nearing the end of life. Here we see love in action. Britain is renowned for pioneering and promoting palliative medicine and care that greatly relieves patients’ suffering, to the end of their natural lives. CARE, along with other organisations and individuals, will fight assisted suicide legislation in every way we can. In the end everything comes back to the issue of human dignity – the precious value and welfare of men, women and children, who are made in the image of God, crowned with glory and honour, and loved by him.   Subscribe | Buy Copies | Read More


 

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