Monday, May 22, 2017

Reaching The Unreached Conference 2017!!!!

Hi, we're pleased to announced another RTU conference Sat 4th November 2017 at
London City Mission
Nasmith House
175 Tower Bridge Road
London
SE1 2AH


Booking is not open yet. Follow this blog to receive the latest info.

To see talks from previous RTU conferences, go here http://www.urbanministries.org.uk/rtu.html

Monday, May 15, 2017

Image Bearers 6: Voice

Here's the video and discussion guide for part 6 of our New Discipleship tool



Image Bearers 6 ‘Voice’

Feedback on how you got on with the tongue assignment of only building people up?

Read Matt 12:36, and discuss for a couple of minutes (how does it make you feel? How important is it to say the right thing? How easy is it to say the right thing? How long does the Tongue assignment really last for?)

Read Eph 4:15

What are we supposed to speak?______________

How are we supposed to speak? ________________

What will the result be? _______________________________________

Your mouth is your most useful tool for making disciples (helping people become more like the image of Christ).

Read Luke 6:45  
According to this verse, what’s going on when we don’t speak the truth lovingly to others?

So the real problem with our voices is our heart!

Tick the boxes for ways that you often use your voice. Circle the corresponding verses, and add them to your armoury of truth to pray through them during the week.

How you often use your voice
What’s in your heart
Replace with the good (meditate on these verses)
Speaking more than listening. Giving lots of advice
Pride: What I have to say is more important than what you have to say
Prov 3:7
Not sharing gospel truths with people
Fear: I can’t do this. Fear of man: They’ll think badly of me. Pride: They don’t matter enough for me to share God’s word with them.
Prov 29:25-26; Rom 1:14
Speaking in a harsh tone
Fear: I need to protect myself
Anger: I’m fed up with you
2Tim 4:18; Eph 4:29-32
Not encouraging people
Pride: They don’t deserve encouragement. Selfishness: All that matters is if I’m encouraged
2Cor 13:11; 1Thess 5:10-11; Heb 3:13
Gossip
Pride: I know all the information about that person, let me be your guide about that person
Prov 11:13; 16:28; 20:19; 26:20; 2 Cor 12:20
Flattery
Selfishness: I want you to like me, or to do something for me
1Thess 2:5; Rom 16:17-18; 1Tim 3:8 (NET)
Criticism
Pride: I know better than everyone else
Prov 3:7; Jas 3:13-18;
Not giving constructive criticism
Fear: I might lose this friend if I correct them.
Eph 4:15
Accusing people
Pride: I’m all knowing and  you are definitely wrong.
Zech 3:1-4; Rom 14:4; Rev 12:10
Defensiveness
Self-righteousness: Its impossible that I did anything wrong
Rom 3:23-24; 1John 1:8; 1Tim 1:15
Complaining
Pride: I should be treated better than this
Phil 2:14; 1 Pet 4:9; Phil 2:3-11
Not speaking out on injustice
Selfishness: I don’t want to get caught in the cross fire
Prov 31:8-9
Self promotion
Pride: I want you to know how good I am, to win your approval.
Acts 5:1-10; 2 Cor 12:6
Putting people down (even with jokes)
Pride: I am putting myself in a superior position to you
Eph 4:29
Arguing
Self-righteousness: I must be right.
Jas 3:17 ‘submissive‘ here means ‘open to reason’
Condescending
Pride: I’m better than you
Prov 29:23; Jas 4:6
Blaming
Pride, self-righteousness
Gen 3:12; Prov 28:13
Not owning up to sin
Pride, self-righteousness
Jas 5:16; 1 John 1:9

Read John 1:14
If we want to be like Jesus, our words need to contain ____________ and ___________

a) How can your words contain truth?
1)    Listening to God’s word (so that it informs your words)
2)    Listening to the person your speaking to (to avoid misunderstanding them)
a.    HUG without RESQ
Why do both these things require humility?

b) How can your words contain grace?
By exposing the hardened parts of your heart to God’s word. As the heart becomes softer, the more grace we will give others (Heb 3:12-13). Preaching the Gospel to ourselves each day.

So we need to be constantly:
1)    Hearing God’s word.
2)    Applying it to our hearts
3)    Hearing other people
4)    Passing on God’s words to them

There’s an interplay here of relationship, assessment, and voice:
a) To know the right way to use your voice with someone, you first need to assess where they are at.
b) To be able to use your voice in a patient way, you need to assess where you’re at and remove the log from your eye, and fill your heart with God’s love through his word.

Read 1 Thess 5:14, How can you know which category someone is in? ____________

If they’re weak – don’t speak, instead patiently _____________


If they’re disheartened, patiently ______________


If they’re idle or disruptive, patiently _____________

Memorize Eph 4:29


Pray

Sunday, May 14, 2017

RTU 2016 Q&A session now online

In this Reaching the Unreached 2016 panel Q&A, Efrem Buckle, Simon Smallwood, Julian Rebera, Graham Miller, and myself (Duncan Forbes) try to answer questions from the audience about:
Messy Church
Discipleship and Evangelism
What role cross-cultural workers should play (that one always comes up!)
Class and Race issues

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mental Health and Justification by Faith

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, I'd like to focus on how it relates to justification.
Because of Justification by Faith (click on this link for an explanation by a much younger me!)

If I have mental health issues, people might look down on me. But Father God looks at me with a smile, saying, 'This is my son with whom I'm well pleased [because you're In-Christ]'(Matt 3:17)

If I have mental health issues, I might look down on myself. But Father God says, 'No-one is righteous, no one is good enough without my Son's righteousness being given to them. Here, take my Son's righteousness.' (Rom 3:10, 20-24)

If I have mental health issues, people might pass me over for things, But Father God says, 'I have chosen you and made you holy and blameless in my sight.'(Eph 1:4)

If I have mental health issues, people might judge me, But Father God says, 'Who are you to judge one of my servants? Is your mind 100% healthy?' (Jer 17:9; Rom 2:21-23)

If I have mental health issues, it might just make it even clearer to me how much I badly need Jesus' robe of righteousness.

If I look down on others with mental health issues, this might make it clearer to me how much I'm not trusting in Christ's righteousness.

If you wanna think about this more, here's a sermon called 'Are you good enuff?'

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What about when you're Post-Mental-Health?

Its Mental Health awareness week, so here's another post! There's many problems with the term 'Mental Health', not to mention how its used differently between the UK and USA. One particular problem is that once you no longer exhibit the symptoms necessary for a mental health diagnosis, its as if you're completely fine now. This leads to two similar problems:

1) Those who don't have an official mental health diagnosis can think they're ok.
But we all need renewing of the mind (Rom 12:1-2). We all have sinful hearts (Jer 17:9). We all have unbelief in God's goodness throughout the day. So, if we don't have an official diagnosis we can feel like 'I'm ok' when really our hearts (where our mental comes from) need some serious work on them. If you go through our worksheet here, you can see how even without mental health issues, our assessments of people and situations can be way off.

2) Those who no longer present symptoms can think they're now ok.
The doctors might say you're fine now, but you might still have stuff to work through. For example,
I found that once I no longer had PTSD symptoms, I still had to mourn through past abuse, and still needed renewing of the mind in key areas. I might no longer respond with PTSD symptoms to certain triggers, but I still respond in a way that need's God's help.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trauma and what happens in the Brain (Sensitization)

When we experience trauma, our brain is changed. The excellent book "The boy who was raised as a dog" (by Perry & Szalavitz), explains in the second chapter how our brains can experience sensitization. The following is my understanding of this from both the book and my own personal experience of trauma.

Sensitization works like this: We experience a traumatic event, and our brain becomes more sensitive to the stimuli we've experienced. For example, one day we hear a gun shot and see something traumatic happen. Our brain logs the stimuli of the gunshot, and becomes more sensitive to loud noises. This could mean that a year later, we hear a car backfire, and our brain responds as if it were a gun shot, resulting in us hitting the deck, with our body surging with adrenaline.

How the sufferer can respond to sensitization:
1) Knowing that this is a normal pattern of the brain, can be immensely helpful. Instead of feeling like a brain injury patient, you can feel more like a person made in the image of God, with a brain functioning how God made it to.

2) Knowing the benefits of sensitization can be helpful. God has made our brains this way, presumably to protect us from further trauma. Sensitization can lead to incredibly quick and useful responses to harmful stimuli. In my case, by God's grace, I saved a couple of lives, and protected myself many times because of sensitization. I see the sensitization in my brain as part of Father God lovingly taking care of me as one of his sons.

3) Knowing that sensitization is not really an overreaction. OK, technically, I think scientists would say, the trauma survivor's reaction to the car back firing is an 'overreaction' to the present stimuli; but I think there's a more helpful way to view it: It is not an overreaction to the present stimuli, but a commensurate reaction to events both present and past. Here's why this matters: If I frame my jumping to the ground as an overreaction, then I will shamefully see myself as the problem, and wish I was different, and try harder to be different, whilst ignoring the past trauma I'm still reacting to. If, however I frame my hitting the deck as a commensurate reaction to both the past trauma and the present event, then, I understand how much the past trauma is effecting me, and I know what still needs to be dealt with - the past trauma.

4) Processing the past trauma. This is beyond the scope of this blog post, so I will just briefly explain that I need to work through the past trauma, with someone witnessing the trauma, validating my feelings, and helping me see any lies I might be believing about that trauma. I touched on this here.

5) Using sensitization to grow. My reactions to certain stimuli teach me how to grow in my response to a fallen world. I faced a number of life threatening situations as a child which were obviously very scary to me, and affected how my brain works. As an adult, when I've experienced life threatening experiences, I've found that afterwards I feel shaken and upset. One the one hand, that's to be expected, but on the other hand, knowing about sensitization, I know that part of my shakiness and upset is due to my childhood experiences. So, these are opportunities for growth. I grow by mourning the past events, and by renewing my mind (Rom 12:2). Now, I'm armed with a truth I did not know when I was a child, now I know that God is sovereignly in control of everything, and will only permit certain things to happen if its for my good and his glory (Rom 8:28 etc.). So, firstly, I live off a regular diet of meditating on this truth. Secondly, after life threatening events, I now process  them through this grid, considering how God was in control the whole time. Thirdly, I've processed the past events through this grid too. So, knowing about sensitization leads to the renewing of my mind, and the healing of past hurts.

How can friends respond to a trauma survivor's sensitisation:
1) Don't tell them they're overreacting. That's as useful as telling someone to 'Calm Down!' Instead, recognise that their reaction is probably a commensurate reaction to past and present events.

2) Consider if you are adding to their trauma in any way. When you think they're overreacting, have you in any contributed to that? For example, if they were traumatically betrayed in their childhood, have you just betrayed them in some small way? If so, don't minimize your actions by saying, "you're overreacting", instead quickly confess your wrong to them, no matter how small it might be. This will firstly help your own relationship with God, and secondly, be very healing to your friend. It might even be the first time a betrayer has repented to them - just imagine how healing that could be! The flip side, is that if you don't confess how you've hurt them, they are going to be feeling double pain, not just the pain of what you've done, but the pain of the past being replayed in their brain.

3) Be a trusted friend on their side. Our natural instinct to other people's sensitization is to be impatient and judgmental, thinking, "oh come on, just get over it, stop making stuff such a big deal." But when we think like that, we're beginning to cross over from being on the same side, to the other side of the road, which then easily leads to being in opposition to our friend. Instead, let's remember that we're on the same team. Let's show our friend that we're with them and for them, and will mourn with them (Rom 12:15). Let's show them they can trust us. If we do this, they might feel safe enough to trust us with helping them use sensitization to grow. For example, there's a small number of people to whom I can say, "you know, I think I'm really hurt because of how similar that thing is to what happened when I was a child." These are invaluable people in my life, worth their weight in gold. They are people who I can easily trust to give me the encouragement to keep on growing for God's glory.



Monday, May 08, 2017

The Rightness and Wrongness of Being a Minority

I'm a minority. I'm disabled, and I'm from a council estate. I've experienced discrimination for both of these things. My whole life I've also felt an affinity for any other type of minority group around the world. I believe us minorities are often treated badly, and I believe that we often fight against this in both a right and wrong way. So here goes....

The Rightness of Being a Minority
God is against favouritism and prejudice (Jas 2:1-4). He has a soft spot for the poor and the broken (Jas 2:5). When people in power act contrary to this, they are in the wrong. When people speak up against prejudism and injustice, they are in the right.

The Wrongness of Being a Minority
I'm not going to talk about the wrongness of social inequality in the UK, or the wrongness of disability from the fall (Gen 3). Instead, I'm talking about the wrongness that I carry around with me every day. I'm a sinner, with a heart that carries around a mixture of good and bad (Ezek 36:26; Jer 17:9). When I take a stand against injustices, there's a chance that I'll do it in a proud, self-righteous way.

Sometimes, people see us minorities as whingers who need to shut up complaining. Others see us as automatically in the right, almost made righteous by our minority status. I think its more complicated.