History teaches us that we shouldn’t be surprised by events like the current coronavirus pandemic. It’s certainly not the first time something like this has happened. For example, there was a world-wide pandemic in the middle ages known as the ‘bubonic plague’ – and this was even more potent than the coronavirus which we are facing today. Then in the early 1900’s, there was the so-called ‘Spanish Flu’, an unusually deadly influenza which swept the world.
Yet, what makes Covid-19 so shocking is that few of us could possibly have imagined anything like this happening in the 21st century. Our whole way of life is being profoundly challenged. A simple trip to the grocery store is now an anxious search to see if shelves are stocked with the most basic items for everyday living. Who ever would have thought this could happen to us? Not even a hint of warning. One day, things are ‘normal’. The next, there’s a new normal. Just insane.
And that’s the point. Things were never as solid as we believed. We’d placed our faith in a way of life which we assumed was as certain as the sun. It never was. If the global pandemic has taught us anything…it must surely be that the foundations on which we build our lives REALLY matter. Suddenly, all the stuff about ‘faith in Jesus’ makes sense. HE is the only rock who is solidly reliable. Why did we ever allow ourselves to become so complacent and trust flawed human systems instead? How could we have missed the mark so widely? Why would we ever have permitted ourselves to simply put our faith in a way of life that was always precarious anyway?
In this crisis, there are many things which don’t make sense. How long will it last? What will the future look like beyond the ‘crisis’? What will change? What will be the economic price of all this? The lists of questions go on.
I don’t have answers to any of those questions. The only thing that makes sense to me in this crazy season is the message of the cross. Jesus gave HIS life so we could experience HIS life. John 3:16 stands as a pillar of truth in a crumbling world.
My encouragement to you….no…my plead with you is to put your faith in Jesus Christ. He is the light who will show you the way forward. He is the truth who can be completely relied upon. He is the way…the ONLY way to eternal life.
Lean in to his grace. Call out to him. Believe his word. Jesus Christ – God’s Son – who died on a cross and rose from the dead. He did it all for you. That’s real love. He’s totally worth following.
About 18 months ago, I found myself feeling extra-ordinarily anxious. This wasn’t just the normal kind of anxiety that you might experience when you’re nervous about something. No, this was different. I’d never felt anything like this before in my life. Normal tasks caused me to be uptight. Little things became significant concerns. I was on edge. The curious thing was that if you’d seen me, you would never have known my struggle. I didn’t look the nervous type. But inside, this thing was a big deal.
One day, I went to see a doctor about it. This is not the kind of trip I’d normally take…call it ‘male pride’ if you will. But I was pretty desperate. Within five minutes, the young medic was able to identify what was going on. I’ll never forget the letters he uttered “P.T.S.D.” – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
See, earlier that summer, my wife became seriously ill after giving birth to our daughter. The two week hospital drama was an almost surreal experience. Every day during those 12 long nights, I was in ‘fight’ mode – I mean that in the best sense of the word. I was fighting in prayer. I was fighting the good fight of faith. I was fighting to support my wife. I was fighting to speak positively in the midst of the negative medical reports. Then after two weeks of ‘touch and go’, one day, the senior consultant expressed amazement at Lydia’s progress – and announced that she was free to go home. A week later, we moved into a new home (long story) with a three week old baby. All seemed well.
In the subsequent weeks, I threw myself into fatherhood duties and serving my church. Life was great. So much to do and to accomplish. But I hadn’t really taken the time to process the enormity of what had just happened during the summer. How could I? Life was moving at 1000 miles per hour. While my mind was more than delighted to move on, it was as if my body wasn’t so willing. There’s a really helpful book on the psychology of trauma called ‘The Body Remembers’ by Babette Rothschild – worth a read. But how are you meant to rest when you’re a new dad and you’re pastoring a growing church plus you’ve got a billion other responsibilities? The point is…these questions are an irrelevance as far as the body is concerned. If I didn’t take some time to stop, then the body would stop for me. It needed to recover from the ‘fight’. Thankfully, I was able to identify my issue just in time. I dread to think what might have occurred if I’d just ploughed on.
Over the next weeks and months, I found myself gradually getting better. Sometimes, the old anxieties returned with a vengeance and it felt like I was back to square one. But little by little and day by day, I got better. Even still, there are moments of inexplicable anxiety that I have to deal with. But I’m learning to lean into God like never before when these moments occur.
I’m no medical expert. However, the one thing I’ve found most helpful during this season has been perhaps the most underrated miracle cure in the world….R E S T. During those times of anxiety, I’ve learned to create time to rest – even moving my diary around so it can happen. It’s only when I’m well rested that I can manage the tension of worry and find perspective. I would go as far as to say that rest is a spiritual thing. Jesus himself invited us to rest when he said ‘Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST’ (Matthew 11:28).
Rest is an act of faith. It is not complacent – but is a statement of trust in God’s grace. Ultimately, this is the resting place of those who follow Christ.
If you find yourself struggling with worry, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Anxiety is no respecter of persons. No-matter how ‘strong’ you think you are, no-body is THAT strong. It’s in those times of struggle that we need to learn to lean in and make our resting place in God. He is our shelter. He is our fortress. His name is our strong tower. The Bible tells us that ‘The righteous run into it and they are safe’ (Prov 18:10). This has certainly been my experience. May it be yours too.
Ever picked up weird vibes from being around somebody? I guess we’ve all encountered them at times. When I experience them, I always try to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. The first thing I tend to do is try to check my own heart to see if I’m the one who has caused the sense of weirdness. For example, have I said something inappropriate? Is my demeanour awkward? Is my body language defensive? Have I hit a raw nerve in something I’ve asked about? Is it the way I’m looking, sounding, smiling? Maybe the the other person is going through something in their life which I have no idea about? The questions could go on and on. BUT the danger of this kind of internal questioning is that it can quickly change from healthy self-awareness to unhealthy paranoia. Sure, no doubt there are times when I can be the cause of weird vibes – but not always.
One of the weirdest vibes you’ll ever encounter is when you’re talking to someone who is beside you – but they’re not really ‘present’ with you. In other words, they are distracted as they constantly glance around to see who else might pass by. They’re poised to make a quick exit in order to take advantage of a better opportunity. That’s just how some people live their lives. But for me, this is weird. As soon as I pick up on this kind of vibe, I tend to disengage from the ‘conversation’ because I’m not willing to be treated as second class. I try to give anyone I talk to my full attention no-matter who they are – and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect anything less in return.
Anyway, there’s not much you can do about other people. But you can do something about YOU. Here are eight ways you can try to protect yourself from giving off weird vibes:
1) BE FRIENDLY – It’s not rocket science. Just be friendly and approachable. This really helps.
2) SPEAK POSITIVELY – Set the tone. If you’re ‘weird’ for not gossiping and backbiting, that’s not such a bad thing. Just keep it all positive.
3) AVOID INTENSITY – The shallow end of the conversation pool is underrated. It’s always better to make your way to the deep end from there. Do shallow really well. This is about connecting on the same level. Take your time before making ‘best friends’. Far better that way.
4) BE SELF AWARE – Make sure you’re not the cause of weird vibes. See the questions I asked myself above.
5) RESPECT BOUNDARIES – Learn to read people quickly. Overstepping their personal boundaries of space and tactilty is the surest way to provoke antagonism. So be sure to read and respect this.
6) ASK QUESTIONS – You can tell far more about someone by the questions they ask than the statements they make. So ask great questions.
7) LISTEN WELL – After you ask a question, LISTEN to the answer!!!! It might not be the answer you want. But that’s not the point. It’s all about listening well to others. The lack of this is a definite cause of weird vibes!
8) TAKE INTEREST – Remembering details that people mention to you is HOW you build real and genuine connection into their hearts. This means taking genuine interest in those you do life with.
We wanted to let you know about some additions we’re making on team.
2020 really feels like a ‘coming of age’ year in the life of our church. We’re more solid than we’ve ever been. There have been a whole bunch of marriages recently and loads of babies born too!! Meanwhile, lots of families have decided to make the Junction Church their spiritual home – and our kids ministry has grown very significantly! There’s a very real sense of vitality and vibrancy in our community. The vibe is pretty amazing and the culture is strong.
Leading the Junction Church today is very different to how we led when we first pioneered it in 2012. Back then, there were less than 100 people. Today, there are hundreds of people meeting across three campuses (Loughborough, Leicester & Nottingham).
Early on in the pioneering journey, Lydia & I set ourselves the goal of raising up a new generation of leaders who could play their part and serve God’s house. So we poured our entire lives into anyone and everyone who was up for the challenge. The calibre of leaders who are emerging in our church today is truly astonishing. Watch this space!!!
However, back in those early days of pioneering, two young guys leaned in and became part of our journey. Their names…Frazer Botham & Jonah Dykes. It was obvious to us that these guys were leadership material. But we never said a word about this to them. Experience has taught us never to try and do God’s job for him. We simply journeyed with them….slowly, carefully and quietly. Over many years now, Frazer & Jonah have demonstrated outstanding qualities. We’ve invested in them – teaching them, helping them, encouraging them & stretching them (the latter is metaphorically speaking!!!). It has been an absolute joy to observe their teachability and willingness to lean in. Actually, it was far more than mere willingness. They RAN….with conviction and purpose. Their faithfulness has been proven, beyond question.
Recently, during the 21 days of prayer and fasting, Lydia & I both felt it was time to give some official recognition to Frazer & Jonah. So on Sunday 8th March, we will be publicly praying for them and recognising them as pastors in our church community. Frazer Botham will carry responsibility in Loughborough. Meanwhile, Jonah Dykes will carry responsibility in Leicester. Lydia & I will continue to bring overall leadership to the church – casting vision, setting culture, caring for people and raising a generation. The addition of Frazer & Jonah will only serve to strengthen our church and help keep us focused on the main thing.
In 1 Timothy 3: 1-7, Paul outlines the qualifications for ‘overseers’ in Gods house. Among the character traits mentioned are things like: respected, faithful, patient, hospitable, able to teach, non-materialistic, caring, carrying a strong track record of being planted & committed to God’s house & humble. We commend both Frazer Botham and Jonah Dykes to you. They exude all these characteristics….and more.
This year, both Frazer & Jonah will begin a three year journey towards ministerial ordination. This will be with the Assemblies of God, one of the largest & most respected classical Pentecostal movements in the UK and around the world. This movement has a rich heritage of faith and carries a strong emphasis on the contemporary work of the Holy Spirit today. Lydia & I both hold ministerial credentials with AoG and we also serve as regional leaders for the central east area of England. So we look forward to seeing Frazer & Jonah flourish.
Please make a point of joining us on Sunday 8th March as we officially recognise these guys as pastors in the life of our church. Keep praying for them and their families. Pray especially for a breakthrough in Frazer Botham’s health. We are totally committed to seeing him healed and whole.
These are great days. We are excited about what God has in store for us. We’re totally up for everything!!
Roy & Lydia Todd
Caroline Flack was a talented TV presenter who had everything to live for. Yet, the online bullying she endured became all too much for her. Just tragic.
But when the headlines fade and life cruelly goes on, what happens next? Will there be soul searching? Will those who carp and snipe think twice about the affect their words have on others? Will the media back off the salacious stories which earn mega-bucks but ruin people’s lives? Naturally, this is unlikely. Shifting bad culture is like trying to turn the ocean tide.
Over the years, I’ve observed the sheer nastiness that can lurk in online culture. In a very small way, I’ve been on the receiving end of a jibe or two myself. It was inconsequential. But still, it was horrible. After one particularly nasty online comment directed at me, I remember having a pretty restless night. I wondered, ‘Do people really think that about me?’ Sure, deep in my heart, I knew it was a rogue remark that ultimately meant nothing. But finding perspective in that moment was very challenging. What I experienced was nothing compared to what others go through.
If you’re ever tempted to post a judgmental comment online, think twice. It will do nobody any good. But the affect on others can be catastrophic.
Sure, the cultural tide might be flowing strongly in a terrible direction. But it MUST be challenged nevertheless. There needs to be a fresh alternative. When something’s good, big it up. When you’re thankful, say it. When you appreciate those people who love and care, express your gratefulness. And do it with uncomplicated purity….not accompanied by any hint of sniping and carping. Life is too short for that stuff.
And what about church? Sure, it has it’s challenges. But ultimately, church is a community of people who are all on a journey of faith. If any culture should model positivity and good vibes, surly it ought to be here, right? Well then….let’s start here. Maybe by God’s help, we can start to turn the ocean tide?
Let’s suppose that life for you is pretty decent 90% of the time. How do you measure this? Well, let’s say you have reasonable health, a good community around you, potential, prospects, opportunity, a roof over your head and food on your table…plus a whole lot more besides. Sure, there are some challenges too…and no-one is exempt from these. Yet, if it’s true that life is fine 90% of the time, then it begs the question – why do so many people carry negative vibes 90% of the time? It doesn’t make sense. I might even go further and say…it lacks integrity!!! See, being negative is often mistaken for ‘just being honest’. But it’s not the same. The two are very different.
Negativity is manifested through things like…cynicism, suspicion, gossip, complaining, nastiness, insecurity, backbiting, poor behaviour, mean spiritedness, a sense of entitlement, complaint & criticism, joylessness and a refusal to celebrate what’s good in others. Negativity feels better about itself when it is putting others down.
Proverbs 11:27 sheds some light. It says ‘If you search for good, you WILL find favour; but if you search for evil, it WILL find you’. In other words, you WILL get what you’re looking for. So…what are you looking for?
It’s all too easy to get caught up in negative culture. How many offices are filled with gossip? How many work places are steeped in a culture of complaint? How many times have you seen snide comments on social media that are unfair and unjust? Yet so often, we just go along with it because we assume these negative vibes are normal. But for a person of faith, this is NOT normal. Faith can never thrive in an atmosphere that is negative…ever. Nothing will ever get accomplished in a negative culture either.
Truth is, God has called us to be different. This means he wants us to challenge the ‘norm’ by showing HIS norm.
If I could get alongside you and encourage you in this season of your life, then I would strongly advise you….BE POSITIVE. It doesn’t mean you won’t have challenges and tough times. Of course you will – and faith never denies these when they occur. But being positive means keeping perspective – and checking your attitude in the midst of challenging times. See, you can’t always control your circumstances. But you CAN control your words….always.
Words are powerful because they set the atmosphere over your life. Proverbs 18:21 puts it this way: “The tongue has the power of life and death”. This means you have the power to speak life and hope – or doom and dispair. It is completely your choice. The challenge for many is habitual negativity that is stuck in a rut and which needs to be seriously challenged and adjusted. My encouragement to you is…ask God to help you. As a natural melancholic, I know I need God’s help.
Be positive. Be an encourager. Speak well of others. Don’t just blurt out the first negative thought that comes into your mind. The bible encourages us to ‘take every thought into captivity and make it obedient to Christ’. It will radically change the vibe in you and around you…and that’s exactly what our world is going to need more than ever before.
If you’re relatively new to the Christian faith, the name Reinhard Bonnke will probably hold little or no significance for you. But for those of us who’ve been on the journey a while, the man is a true legend of the faith.
I first heard Reinhard Bonnke preach at the Kings Hall in Belfast. The year was 1987. The conflict in N Ireland was at its inglorious height, with not even the slightest hint of a peace process on the horizon. I remember traffic chaos on the way to the Saturday night meeting because there had been a bomb scare near the venue. On arrival, I was amazed to see over 10,000 people gathered to worship God and hear from ‘God’s servant’. I’d never seen anything like it in my life.
Eventually, Bonnke took to the stage. His message gripped me from start to finish, and his delivery was utterly mesmerising. I’d never heard a preacher like him. Sure, he raised his voice…but it wasn’t the kind of angry shouting that some of the old Irish preachers were notorious for. No, his was the sound of sheer excitement and pure joy. Reinhard took a simple biblical text and then explained it with stories and illustrations which totally made sense. Afterwards, he prayed for those who needed healing – and story after story flowed from many who believed they’d received a touch from heaven. I was profoundly impacted by that meeting. It was only in the proceeding weeks and months that I began to understand the impact of Reinhard Bonnke’s ministry in Africa, the continent with which he is principally associated. Kings and presidents respected him, and his outdoor gatherings attracted hundreds of thousands of people, with many finding faith in Christ.
In 1997, exactly ten years after my first experience of his ministry, I heard Reinhard preach again, this time in the city of Birmingham. I even got to meet him afterwards. He was warm, gracious and overflowing with kindness. After chatting to me, he laid his hands on my head and asked God to bless me and use my life for his glory. That night, I received something from heaven which I can only explain as an anointing. Over the next decade, I would travel extensively around the UK, speaking at thousands of events and leading many to faith in Jesus. Though I can’t fully explain it, I’m convinced there was an impartation that night when Reinhard Bonnke prayed for me. It shaped the direction of my life and ministry.
In 2007, 20 years after my first encounter with Reinhard’s ministry and 10 years after receiving prayer, I was honoured to spend a few days with him. Though now a little older, he’d lost none of his fire. Over good food and drink, he told stories of his experiences in life and ministry. He shared some of the challenges he’d faced too. Reinhard opened his heart with characteristic warmth & fresh humility – and I felt truly humbled to sit at his feet and learn, up close & personal. I will always be grateful to God for that privilege. It deeply impacted me.
In December 2019, at the age of 79, Reinhard Bonnke went home to heaven. How amazing to think that millions there will be grateful that a servant of God carried the gospel to their nation, their city, their town, their village. God used him to make a difference that will last forever. This one man’s life of surrender and obedience is a challenge to all of us. What might God accomplish through your surrendered life? Imagine if you dared to believe God? All things are possible.
Hey Student!Here’s my ONE piece of advice for youby Roy Todd
So…you’ve got your A Level results. You now know what uni you’re going to. Your heart is racing at a million beats per minute because you’re excited and nervous all the the same time. You got it all going on, right?
Yup…it’s all true. These next few months are set to bring a massive change in your life. The move to university is nothing short of stratospheric! Moving away from home, making new friends, learning to do life without mum and dad always being close by, starting your new course…..there is an insane amount of stuff to take in…and that’s before the month of October even finishes!
No doubt you’ve heard lots of ‘tips’ on how to survive at uni, most of which are really helpful. Then there’s the ‘heads up’ stuff about what to watch out for, like how to keep yourself safe, how to budget, how to stay alive (btw, the latter is REALLY important, ok!!) There are lots of great articles and blogs out there which I don’t need to add to.
HOWEVER…..if you would permit me to give you just one piece of advice before you head off to uni, then I’d say this – ‘Get planted in a really great local church.’
I’m not merely suggesting you find a church to attend on Sunday’s. No. I mean…get yourself PLANTED in a really great church. What do I mean? Well, this is all about immersing yourself in a community that draws out the greatness in you. After all, that’s God’s heart for your life. The idea of being planted means developing strong roots. This is how you will TRULY grow.
Since we first pioneered the Junction Church, our heart has always been to create a home away from home for students. So we’ve developed a culture which is safe enough for students to feel loved – but daring enough to create opportunities for risk. See, the problem with a lot of the stuff we hear today about ‘discipleship’ is that it’s far too theoretical and risk averse. The unwitting message it sends is… ‘get your life sorted out and then start following Jesus’. But this isn’t messy enough for me. See, if faith is a journey, then you’ve got to get moving, even through the sludge of life. That means doing stuff – serving, getting involved, playing your part. Yes, you’ll mess up. Yes, you’ll get things wrong. Yes, you’ll make loads of mistakes. But in a loving environment, there is a lot of grace for you. This is where you find out how God’s love for you is constant and real. This is where you grow in faith and confidence. This is the kind of gritty atmosphere that will draw greatness in you.
We offer loads of stuff for students here at the Junction Church. In fact, you’ll rarely hear us even refer to you as a ‘student’ because here, you’re simply part of the family, not an outsider. We host Sunday lunches, mid-week life groups, leadership development, in depth teaching on theology, worship community, daily devotions, social action projects, hang outs in homes around the area and a whole array of other stuff too. Here, you never have to do life on your own. We are absolutely passionate about championing you to become everything God has called you to be. It’s the very heart of who we are.
So, if you’re coming to Loughborough, Leicester or Nottingham, do yourself a favour and be sure to check us out. If you like the vibe, get yourself planted and we will cheer you on all the way.
So that’s my one piece of advice. Get yourself planted. That’s how you’ll flourish. (Ps 92:13).
by Roy Todd