Plunging into the promise – Romans 4:13-25

A recent gift & an unused sermon illustration: made in the Holy Land (part of the promise to Abraham) this olive wood "Jerusalem Cross" has crosses on each arm of the central cross. Our faith requires us to accept and trust in Jesus Christ who died on a cross, yet rose again to new life.

I had to take my personal story of ministry and faith back 18 years, to the parish of Warfield (near Bracknell)  to preach about that little word “faith” last week. The process proved to be one of the toughest battles I’ve had in the sermon writing department. Apparently the result was worth it though, in that I now know at least one person with a decision they’d been grappling with, for which I thank God, and him alone!

(You may find looking at The Message version of Romans 4 helpful – it’s the one we read in the evening service this sermon was preached at.)

Do you remember the first time that you trusted God for something? It might have been as you prayed for someone for the first time, or as you tentatively moved forward into your first ministry, sensing somehow that you were ‘meant’ to do this thing for which you felt distinctly ill-equipped. It may even have been something that seemed almost an accident, or a co-incidence; almost but not quite – because you were sure that God was directing this and guiding circumstances towards some particular end that he wanted you to be part of.

My husband and I were reminiscing recently about our 5 years attending church in Warfield. Shortly after we settled as a newly married couple into St Michael’s Warfield, the church held a church planting conference. A significant part of the geographical area that the parish covered was being developed as housing, and the churches leaders had obviously entered into discussions as to how it might build a new congregation within that new community, using as it’s base the CofE aided school that was conveniently being built on a road called All Saint’s Rise.

We had laid low since arriving in the church, and were not eager to take on long-term responsibilities. We did not live in the parish, nor even on the edge of the new housing development, but well to the south. We didn’t expect to have anything to offer, and might perhaps have not even attended the conference, if it were not for the fact that God, in the shape of the Anglican mafia, took a hand. Our old vicar from our Aberystwyth era, had a conversation with our new vicar at a meeting, in which our names cropped up. And lo, we were asked to lead the worship for the church planting conference in Warfield!

There was something about the circumstances, the twists that conversations took, our own reaction to that one weekend’s commitment, that meant we both knew, deep down inside, that this was only the start of something God wanted us to do. We trusted that God knew what he was doing because we weren’t completely sure what he was asking of us, but within months we were less than surprised to find ourselves on the leadership team of the new church plant at All Saints, Warfield.

I went to look at Warfield on the web, to see what All Saints might be up to these days, almost if you like, to check out the validity of the story as a sermon illustration. I discovered that this very weekend (3rd March 2012) was in fact the 18th anniversary of our very first service at All Saint’s Warfield. From our small musical contribution to those first tentative steps at church planting have blossomed 18 years of ministry in a developing community, and in that parish, three further planted congregations!

At the beginning of Genesis 12, we read “The LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation,and I will bless you.”

I wonder if Abraham really understood at that stage in his life, at the tender age of 75, why it was so important for him to leave the trail his father was following and set off with his family and his herds for pastures new? Yet, trusting in what he believed God wanted of him, he did it anyway; and he kept on doing it as God guided his life continually in the decades to come.

He exhibited something we call faith; a small word, that trips off the tongue quite easily, usually in reference to others, but which is so difficult to live out in practice!

Faith.

We probably know the story quite well. Abraham the nomadic leader of pre-written history. A man not without selfish fears for his own well-being that did no honour to God, his wife or the Pharoah of Egypt! (Genesis 12:19) Yet someone for whom God’s promise that he would be the ancestor of a multitude of nations (Gen 17:4-6) developed over time, despite his efforts to take matters into his own hands with Sarah’s servant Hagar. Abraham, the geriatric who, nearing 100 years old still hadn’t sired a legitimate heir, and whose equally aged wife remained agonisingly barren.

Yet, Abraham “dared to trust God to do what only God could do” as we heard in the Message version of Paul’s letter to the Roman’s just now. And we know that Abraham’s faith was rewarded in the birth of Isaac. It was tested once again on the mountain of Moriah, and vindicated in the renewal of the God’s covenant promise in that place, and ultimately in the formation of God’s people the Israelites.

From what may have seemed an insignificant act of faith that we read about in Genesis 12, Abraham’s example, followed by that of his descendents, led to the founding of a nation of believers.

I wouldn’t normally place myself in the same context let alone sentence as Abraham, but reading the website of the Warfield Churches last night, reminded me that from a perhaps insignificant act of faith 18 years ago, has grown (with a lot of help from a lot of other faith-full followers of God) a vibrant fellowship of believers.

According to St Paul in this passage in Romans, Abraham is our “faith father” – the one from whom our faith in God is inherited. It is not that we have inherited simply a faith in the same God as Abraham believed in, but that Paul believes we should have inherited the attitude and degree of faith that Abraham exhibited when everything seemed hopeless and he decided to “live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do, but on what God said he would do.” (Romans 4:18 MSG)

Both Abraham, and to a far lesser extent those of us who planted the congregation at All Saint’s Warfield, exhibited great faith in God, plunging into the promises that the church there understood God had made for us to fulfil. But what was it that strengthened Abraham’s faith, inspires people to plant congregations, start new ministries, and share that faith inheritance so that we might see God’s promises for our generation and our community fulfilled.

We’re told here (Rom 4:17 TNIV) that Abraham had faith “in the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.” As his life went on God revealed to Abraham both the power and the faithfulness with which he acts in people’s lives, in such a way that Abraham’s faith was revealed as being in a God of resurrection and of creation. It wasn’t a blind or unreasoning faith, but one based on a rational response to a God he knew to be reliable and trustworthy.

For in the birth of Isaac was both creation and resurrection. In Isaac’s conception for Abraham was the resurrection of a body that was “as good as dead” (Romans :19) and for Sarah a reproductive resurrection. God was also showing himself to be a powerful creator, fulfilling his promise to Abraham through the future that was made possible in the birth of his son. This was gift, God’s overwhelming gift of grace to Abraham, the fulfilment of his promise that he would make Abraham the father of nations.

We can probably understand that on Mount Moriah, the power and faithfulness that had made Isaac’s birth possible, were the inspiration for the faith with which Abraham carried out God’s instructions. Yet, what Paul seems to be saying in this passage of Roman’s is that Abraham’s faith in the power and faithfulness of God, pre-dated the miracle of creation and resurrection that was Isaac’s birth, and that this is the extent of the faith to which we are heirs.

Do you remember the first time that you trusted God for something, felt God’s hand on your life not just for your own good, but in a way that would impact on the life and possibly the faith, of others? How certain were you that God, through his power was able to do even that which you sensed he was making you part of, let alone “immeasurably more than you asked or imagined” (Ephesians 3:20)?

Personally, I don’t remember anything of the sort.

Trying to remember back 18+ years to the months between the church planting conference in 1993, and the birth of a new congregation in March 1994, I can’t remember much at all to be honest, except some uncertainty as to whether Graham and I were fit for the purpose others seemed to see us being called to. Not for the last time in my life, I was probably being more obedient to the wisdom of my elders, a trust in their possibly naïve view of our abilities, and a prideful unwillingness to let them down, than I was actually showing faith in the power of God.

Perhaps your faith has been stronger than mine was at that stage in my life. If it has been, I do encourage you to share the testimony with us later if you wish. But it is often so much easier to see in the lives of others, examples of faith in the power of God to make the seemingly impossible, possible, than it is to witness to it in our own lives.

Canon Andrew White signing books at St. Thomas's Lymington in October 2010

I regularly have my puny faith encouraged by emails or Facebook messages from Baghdad and the Foundation for Relief and Reconcilliation in the Middle East. Canon Andrew White and the people of St George’s Baghdad, exhibit each day the kind of faith in the power of God to do miracles – financial, political and medical – that I don’t even wish to witness the need for! I guess you all know the story of his MS, his commitment to the practical needs of others, and to work for peace between the Abrahamic faiths, and within their fractured networks. His work, and the stories that issue from St Georges are for me living proof of the creative and resurrection power of God, in which I so often have such little faith.

Here’s an example of one of Canon Andrew’s emails. This one is dated in late August last year (2011):

The Alpha Course recommenced here this week. As usual we have so many people wanting to do the course that we can’t get everyone onto the church at once, so we meet at different times through the week. There are still hundreds of people at each session.

The really amazing thing is that we now have a course just for Muslim women….They tell us that they all come to Alpha because they have seen how we love people and care for them at the clinic. They have also heard that miracles happen at the church and they come to find out more. It is all rather amazing and a wonderful testimony of how good G-d is and how effective Alpha can be.

Abraham, was called from what we now call Iraq, to the place that became known as the Promised Land, where if my geography isn’t out, Isaac was born and God made his covenant with Abraham, and to which the people of the promise would return again and again through their history.

The faith of Abraham was based on the visible grace of the God to fulfilled a personal promise in a way that was eventually to bless the whole world. That grace was a gift, un-encumbered by the later necessity of the rules and regulations of the Mosaic Law that was required to give boundaries to God’s people.

We, like Canon Andrew and the people of St George’s, are heirs of that quality of faith. In fact like Canon Andrew, we are in the privileged position of being able to have faith in God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which showed beyond all doubt the dependability of God’s power. If you like, the faith of Abraham and the faith to which we are heirs through Christ, are the brackets around the parenthesis that was the era of the Law and the Prophets.

Yet, I don’t know about you, I but have a horrible tendency not to live as though I have the same quality of faith as Abraham, or someone like Canon Andrew. Not if I’m honest with the thoughts and feelings that flit through my mind as I pray for someone, or even as I prepare a sermon. The level of expectation my faith has in the power of God’s grace to change lives through the testimony of Jesus’ death and resurrection, is limited by my forgetfulness of examples of that power and the doubt that creeps in through my reliance on self, rather than the work of the Holy Spirit.

It is perhaps ironic in the era of the BOGOF offer and the free gift, that faith in the grace of God, a free gift generously given, and belief in his trustworthy power to create and resurrect life, can be so difficult for us to hold on to.

Doubt can hold us back from plunging into the promise that God has for us. It might be doubt that we’ve heard correctly God’s voice directing us; it might be doubt in our own abilities. It might be doubt in the willingness of others to be open to hearing God’s voice, or doubt in the structures of our church and society to make possible that which God wants to bring about.

Each of us has the option of grasping hold of a promise from God. He wishes to be exuberant in what he wants to give us, and through us what he wants to give others. The promise is that we have a part to play in fulfilling that original promise to Abraham, that we God’s people, the inheritors of Abraham’s faith, would be a blessing to all nations. We can only do that through acting as though we really believe in the same power of God that raised Jesus from death to life.

The only way I have found that I can maintain even a mustard seed sized faith in God (Matthew 17:20), and set aside my earthly doubts, is to keep reminding myself of past circumstances when some contribution I hesitantly made to his Kingdom, seems to have born some fruit, often in the hands of others, as is the case at All Saint’s Warfield. I have to learn to rely more and more on the power of God to work through me, way beyond what I know myself to be capable of, through continual practice. I have to discover for myself afresh each day, just how powerful is the love and grace of God.

As we move through Lent, we have a special chance to acknowledge our doubts and fears fledged through our continual tendency to depend on ourselves. We can do so with the assurance that we will see afresh at Easter, the power of God in the resurrection of Jesus.

God want’s to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, in our lives, and I believe, in the life of St Peter’s. St Peter’s is far from dead, but still God wants to call into being, things that are not yet! We have to dare to trust God to do through us, what only he can do, and what we can not do without him in us. Once we have worked out what we believe that is, and that after all is what Andy has presumably been called by God to help us discover, then we mustn’t tiptoe around the ideas asking sceptical questions (as the Message version of Romans 4:20 says). Instead we must grasp firmly that little word ‘faith’, at the same scale and with the same intensity that Abraham did, and Canon Andrew does, and plunge into whatever work it entails, sure that we do so filled through the Holy Spirit with the strength and power of our creator God and the resurrected Christ.

Creating stories that build trust in God – Genesis 41:15-30 and 39-40

Joseph. Joseph of “Technicolour Dream-coat” fame.
The ‘leading man’ in one of the best stories in the Bible.
Born to be talked about, and even sung about.
Possibly tall, dark and handsome.
Definitely, the focus of my attention on my hen-night!

Joseph; someone who would gain any man’s trust, quickly and efficiently.

In the chapters before our reading this morning, first Potiphar, then a prison governor, had placed an awful lot of trust in Joseph, and it wasn’t anything to do with a coat, or with dreams.

No, scripture tells us that that Joseph appears to have been a very able administrator…. “the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” (Gen 39:23) Someone must have recognised where his talents came from, for the fact to be noted in scripture!

But when it came to explaining dreams, it’s Joseph who, quick as a flash, shifts the responsibility for what he’s about to say away from himself. It’s not Joseph, it’s God who’s going to do the explaining!

Joseph says it three times, just in the verses that we’ve heard this morning:
v16 God will give Pharaoh the answer….
v25 God has revealed to Pharaoh, what he is about to do;
v28 (again) God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do.

But Joseph isn’t passing the buck out of a sense of self-preservation. God was giving Pharaoh these dreams, and therefore it was imperative that Joseph gave the credit to God for their interpretation, otherwise the significance of their meaning would be lost.

Because, Joseph knew that God was up to something! He recognised that God was trying to make it clear to Pharaoh that he was about to do something really significant. It was quite simple to explain that God was giving Pharaoh privileged information, the inside story on what he was going to do next; that he was going to give Egypt seven years of feast, followed by seven of famine.

Ever the picture of efficiency, in the bit of this story that hasn’t been read this morning, Joseph then outlines a rather natty little plan to get Egypt through the famine; save a fifth of the good harvests of the first seven years, to feed everyone during the next seven years. “Simples!”

Joseph, in this one swift move, gains Pharaoh’s TRUST, his respect and achieves the miraculous – he opens Pharaoh’s mind to God’s control of creation. “Since GOD has made all this known to YOU …” says Pharaoh to Joseph.

That’s massive!
This is a Pharoah we’re talking about, a God among God’s! Here was a Pharaoh not only acknowledging the control of another God over the created world, but also acknowledging that though it was Pharaoh who God had given the dream to, he, Pharaoh, was powerless! Without God working through someone other than Pharaoh, someone even lower than his own servants, Pharaoh had no way of knowing what was going to happen. No wonder he was going to lay all his TRUST in the man who had just revealed all this too him!

Joseph was right, God really was up to something. Up to something big. It was much, much bigger than a 14 year cycle of feast and famine. It was bigger even, than working through the dreams of a Pharaoh to save a few lives!

The book of Genesis is all about conception, about God’s plan for the world he created, and specifically his plan for the people and tribes of Israel – it’s all about God making stuff happen. For the tribes to recognise their freedom under God, to enter with him into their promised land, they must first increase in number in Egypt. God’s people were going to grow and be protected among the wealth of Egypt, created by the administration of one of their own, Joseph.

We don’t know whether Joseph recognised the big picture. We don’t even know if Joseph at this stage foresaw a time where being in a position of power in Egypt would enable him to protect his family and be reconciled with them.

But what we know he did recognise, was not just God’s control of his life, but God’s use of him to impact on the lives of others. Joseph TRUSTED that God was in all things. The fact that he was good at his job, the slander and lies that put him in prison, the dreams that seemed to surround his life, and the lives of those around him. God had his hand in all things, and Joseph TRUSTED God enough to recognise that and proclaim it.

It’s a good story isn’t it. The Joseph story has got it all: attempted murder, family intrigue and relationship breakdown, sexual harassment, extremes of wealth and poverty, prisons and palaces. At the centre of the story is Joseph, but every time it focus’s on him, he turns the story back to focus on someone else; God. He works hard using the skills the Lord has given him, but when he succeeds, he’s pointing everyone back to God, not himself.

For the servant who brought Joseph to Pharoah’s notice, and for Pharaoh, their dreams were important things. When someone who was known as TRUST-WORTHY proclaimed their meaning and by doing revealed the future, that got their attention and TRUST still further. So when that person, Joseph, then said this was all down to something else, to God, that too could be TRUSTED. God was acknowledged and trusted by Pharaoh because of the trust and respect placed in the one who proclaimed him.

2 Timothy 2:15 says this:
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

The word of truth is that we should not accept for ourselves the credit for our skills, but point rather at the living Word, our creator God and Jesus Christ, as their source. After all the Psalms tell us that “He who trusts in himself is a fool!”

To be the TRUST-WORTHY people we hopefully are, we must consistently point to the greater truth of how we come to be that way.

I have many Facebook friends, but one of them is a bit special, a bit different, and has a tendency to crop up in my sermons rather a lot! We’ve only met him once, but because of the many stories we’ve heard about him, and the people who TRUST him, he has our respect. And every time we read a story about him, or from him, God always gets the glory. He’s Canon Andrew White, the vicar of Baghdad.

Relatively recently he had a team from God TV with him filming in Baghdad, and though I haven’t seen the programmes, Canon Andrew’s commentary on the responses of the film-crew to their visit was telling. The crew said:

“The most amazing thing was the people; people who had seen such persecution and yet we could see the Lord in their eyes and the Glory of G-d in this place.”

We are safe and comfortable here in the West, in our leafy semi-rural suburbia. But can people see the Lord in our eyes and our lives, the glory of God in Yateley and it’s people? Perhaps we’ve been able to bring God’s glory to visit in the testimony of those we’ve invited to Yateley, but it’s us that really count. We are the one’s who people meet on the street, in the shops and round the take-aways and pubs, the ones whom people locally need to recognise as TRUST-WORTHY and who must point to God as the source of our skills and attitudes.

One of the very noticeable things about Joseph, and also about Canon Andrew, is that they proclaim their TRUST in God BEFORE they know or see revealed how it is that God is working through them, or others to reveal himself. Even before he’s heard the dreams, Joseph tells Pharaoh (v16) that God will reveal what they mean. I’ve read about Canon Andrew doing similar things, particularly with the American military personnel that he has worked closely with. I’m sure it is only through TRUSTING God repeatedly, and knowing exactly how God tends to use us, that we can make that TRUST apparent in advance, in such a way that people really sit up and take notice (like Pharaoh did!)

We’re more fortunate than Joseph. Through scripture, and the revelation of God’s work in millions of individuals before and around us, we can see much more of the big picture than Joseph could. We know of God’s faithfulness to the family that became the tribes and nation of Israel. We know of his promises to them that God honoured despite their failure to TRUST him. We know and love the Lord Jesus Christ who brought about the relationship we now enjoy with God. Jesus did that because he understood his own place as God’s Son, and because of his great TRUST in the purpose and will of God, he revealed the God’s love to us through the cross and resurrection.

Detail of 'The Risen Christ' by Carl Edwards from St Clement Danes, Central Church of the RAF

I had the privilege on Thursday of meeting, praying and worshipping with Christian members of our Armed Forces, at their main Day of Prayer event in London. The theme of the day was Hope, the Christian “hope” that one of them described as being the environment in which love thrives best, like fish do in water. Theirs was a hope that spoke not of wishful thinking, but was based on scripture, and even more importantly their experiences of working to gain people’s TRUST in some of the grottiest places in the world, knowing that the risen Christ was along-side them in what they were doing. Theirs were lives that noticeably gave God the glory.

My reflection on their lives, was that because of who they are, what they do and how they do it, I TRUST them and I TRUST their testimony of God at work in their lives. Just like the padre who said love swims round in hope, so I believe I saw hope, swimming around in the TRUST that they place daily in God, through the love of Christ at work in the world and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Are the people of St Peter’s to be trusted? Are we living lives that point to God through the way we use the skills he has given us? When people tell stories about us, or we talk about each other (and we know we do), are they stories that build TRUST, not just in us, but in God? Are we trusting God to use us, seeking to recognise what God is about to do, what he is saying to us at this moment?

I know these are questions that face us as a church, at a time of anticipating new beginnings. But in the story we heard today, God was at work on a huge scale, through one key character, Joseph. God was recognised through the TRUST that Joseph placed in God and witnessed to, by what he said and how he did things. That responsibility is now yours, and mine. And it’s not a story in a book, or on stage, but it’s real. Do we TRUST God enough to proclaim his name?

The opening words of Psalm 25 say this:
“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul, in you I trust, O my God.”
They echo the words of Psalm 23 which are a statement of trust;
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

God is at work in each of us. We each have the ability to witness to the TRUST that we have and place in God, and the impact that has had on our lives. We need to allow God to shine his light through us, so that others can see and hear that we TRUST God, so that they can do so too.

Terrorism hasn’t died, so let us pray

When my husband and I heard the news yesterday morning, our immediate thoughts were that Bin Ladin’s death puts a lot of people in a lot of places, at greater risk.

Then yesterday afternoon we received this message from Canon Andrew White in Baghdad (we receive his email updates and he also posted this on Facebook):

“So, Osama Bin Laden is dead! A day that has been longed for many years. Today is just the beginning of the fight against al-Qaida. Terror is not over, the reality is that that we are now all in a very dangerous time. Al Qaida will try and show the world that they can and will still commit terror, so we all need to be on our guard.”

After I’d posted the quote on some Christian blogs I follow (LLM Calling, Bishop NickBaines and The Churchmouse), I realised I’d better log my thoughts here too.

I think that Canon Andrew’s many American supporters, and the rest of us, need to pray hard, because Bin Ladin’s death, and now the frankly appalling behaviour of some American’s, is putting more lives at risk.

One man may have been killed, but I am quite sure that militant Islamist terrorism hasn’t died.

My prayer this morning:

a small part of one of the Forest Stations, at Lincoln Cathedral

Father God
in this violent world,
where so often it seems only possible to meet acts of terrorism,
with yet more killing,
grant us the wisdom and strength to stand up for peace,
and a stop to retribution.
We remember those who,
as the political situations of the world shift dramatically,
are placed in even greater danger,
asking you Lord, to protect them.
Shine the true light of your love in the darkest corners of your world,
and through the power of your Holy Spirit,
change the hearts of those who seek what is evil.
We ask this through the name of your risen Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Technical Update

At various points in past months I’ve worried about the capabilities of my old Palm, partially converted information to Googlemail and Google Calendar but then not been able to access it. There’s also been the anti-virus question – though Gs Vista laptop is butch enough to cope, my XP laptop and the old house machine were grinding through a 10 minute boot-up before you could use them!

So for you lovely folk who have offered advice and such like, this is where we’ve ended up:

G managed to lose his phone taking C to the cinema to see Avatar with some friends for Cs birthday, which precipitated some head scratching as to what we do for mobile phones. Given the issues we’d come across, for the first time in our lives we decided that I should go onto a contract, and get us at least one phone that had 3G connectivity. I’ve ended up with T-mobile with a LG-GW620 and though I’m still technically a little lost at times, the ability to get emails in places I couldn’t normally (including the armchair, without the need to get the laptop out) as well as the access to Google Calendar, has already started to show benefits.

My best geek moment of the last week since I got it was being able to announce to 150-ish Mothers’ Union members the news that Canon Andrew White was responding so well to stem-cell treatment for his MS that he had managed to run the length of St. George’s in Baghdad (just because I’d got his email update from FRRME while sat in St. Saviours, Brockenhurst)!

G ended up with my old clam-shell phone with a new sim card in it to which O2 kindly sent his old phone number – he largely only uses it to say he’s on his way home from school!

On the anti-virus front, thanks to Steve’s visit and yet more conversation on the subject, we ended up putting AVG on all the machines. It even managed to find a trojan on one machine that must have been there for ages! We also bought a wireless network card (Edimax from Novatech) for the house machine so that it’s stopped dropping out in its new home – our proper office upstairs! Now my laptop is the only thing that gets drop out regularly, even sometimes with a dongle plugged in to boost it.

So my thanks for your advice folks – we’ve not used all of it, but it was really helpful and it was great that finally we’re sorted for a bit, at least till technology takes another leap we need to follow (or we can afford to upgrade the TV!) There is also the small matter of needing the time to tranfer the remaining Palm contacts to Google… after the essay is done methinks, the Palm’s not dead yet!

Finally, I continue to be incredibly impressed with the service of Zen Internet – the contract for the Mothers’ Union website was up for renewal and I needed to arrange Direct Debit payments from the charity account rather than use my credit card. So far so easy – great people to do business with.

My ‘unconverted’ state

I’ve just posted on the Mothers’ Union site about Canon Andrew White’s latest venture being into the world of blogging, so to save repeating myself completely I refer you there: the children that empower and inspire

I personally find this man a humbling inspiration, and find his ‘unconverted’ state (follow my blogroll to his contribution’s to the Telegraph’s Faithbook) a huge encouragement since it reflects much of my own experience. I have in the past grappled with a sense of ‘loss’ that I have not had a conversion experience, especially as I meet inspiring people whose journey to faith have changed their lives dramatically.

However, being ‘unconverted’ has also been a blessing – I have always been surrounded by a family of supportive Christians – but not without the occasional doubt – mostly in this last year of Reader Training! It has also not been without it’s periods of dramatic change and growth.

I wonder what your experiences are?