PiZzA PaRTy.

We had a onesie and pizza party tonight at Girl’s Group! Three bunnies, a panda, a leopard, and a snowman showed up. ‪#‎onsies‬ ‪#‎pizza‬ ‪#‎fun‬ ‪#‎food‬ ‪#‎fellowship‬ ‪#‎discipleship‬ ‪#‎GirlsGroup‬

 

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Mentor Training Day.

Successful day Monday of mentor training with the team. “If we only concern ourselves with effectiveness, we take on smaller & smaller tasks that are achievable & measurable. If we want to see big things, we need to concern ourselves with faithfulness. Are we being faithful to our call?” – Rick Lewis ‪#‎YouthforChrist‬ ‪#‎StocktonParishChurch‬ ‪#‎TeamCentralStockton‬ ‪#‎MentoringProgram‬

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*OcToBeR HiGhLiGhTs*

OCTOBER… You’ve been brilliant. Here’s our top 10:
1. YOUTH RETREAT: “Not of this World” theme {1 Peter 2:11-12} … Brian’s message was based on Thor & Morgan’s was inspired by Man of Steel. It was a fantastic weekend of fun, food, and fellowship!
2. MISSION WEEK: Youth for Christ took advantage of the half-term break and we got to serve in our local communities together. Brian was on the Thornaby sports team, and Morgan was on Thornaby core team. We were able to keep kids off the streets by feeding them lunch, playing sport in the park, and working on crafts together.
3. MAKE IT GLORIOUS: We had a media team drive all the way up from Kent, England to do an on camera interview with us about who we are and what we have the privilege to do here in Stockton. {Additionally, we will be speaking at their summer conference and we could not be more excited}!!!
4. DISCIPLESHIP: One-on-one’s and group sessions have been going excellently. Over the last month, we have taken a handful of our girls to a nice dinner, a few of our guys to lunch, and have meet several of our young ladies for coffee. Furthermore, we have had the opportunity to take our entire youth group bowling, which was super fun!
5. GIRL’S GROUP: Morgan & team started a new apologetics study with their girls called “Big Questions.” {It’s been an extremely encouraging study so far}!
6. SUNDAY MORNINGS: Last month we kicked off our “Epic Series” and October covered teachings on Abraham, Isaac, and Moses + 1st episode of The Bible Series.
7. YFC MENTORING: A new school year means new kiddos and it’s been a blessing to start meeting with them every week.
8. HOMELAND: Morgan was stateside for a bit to celebrate her best friend, Casey, on her wedding day! {The wedding & Casey were both spectacular}.
9. REFRESH: Brian led worship at a youth worship event, called Refresh, where young people gather from all over Stockton each month.
10. GRAD SCHOOL: Morgan finished another 8 week term of seminary!! Woohoo! …A couple more semesters left!!!
…Welcome to NOVEMBER!

*Team Mission Week!*

{Team Mission Week}! ‪#‎Thornaby‬ ‪#‎TeesValley‬ ‪#‎LunchClub‬‪ #‎CraftClub‬ ‪#‎YFC‬ ‪#‎Americantheme‬ ‪‪#‎kids‬ ‪#‎cupcakes‬‪ ‪#‎Northeast‬

*Youth Retreat 2015!*

 

*YOUTH RETREAT 2015* // Day 1 ‪\\ #‎Carnival‬ ‪#‎SPCYouth‬‪#‎Aliens‬ ‪#‎NotofThisWorld‬ ‪ // Day 2 \\ Crafts * cards * quiz * Circus * scavenger hunt * smiles * superman message! ‪#‎kryptonite‬ ‪#‎youthworkers‬ ‪#‎lovemyjob‬ ‪#‎England‬ // Day 3 \\ Board Games * Brownie Cake * Angels & Mortals * Dodgeball * Rounders / 1 Peter 2:11-12 ‪#‎Carlton‬ ‪#‎UK ‬‪#‎unicycle‬

Popcorn Buffet

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We had a really fun time with our youth yesterday morning watching the first episode of The Bible Series… Popcorn Buffet and ALL! ‪#‎SPCyouth‬ ‪#‎StocktonParishChurch‬ ‪#‎EpicSeries‬ ‪#‎Popcorn‬

Every Tribe, Tongue, & Nation

Stockton Parish Church held a small prayer & worship service tonight and gathered together was a family of people from England, Scotland, America, Albania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Iran singing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!” I couldn’t help but smile as it felt like a little glimpse of what Heaven will be like. What a day that will be! “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9

We LoVe our TEAM!

*We love how God hand-picked every single one of these wonderful humans to come serve in the North East! Each team member is so special, unique, and valuable to what God is doing in this place! ‪#‎ForSuchaTimeasThis‬ ‪#‎Revival‬ ‪#‎NorthEast‬ ‪#‎England‬ ‪#‎TeesValley‬ ‪#‎TVYFC‬ ‪#‎Family‬

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Bowling Social!

A couple months ago, we started going through the Bible with our youth. On the day we covered Abraham, we also took our kiddos to KFC for lunch, and then joined another youth group for an afternoon of bowling! To cap off the night, SPC hosted an extraordinary evening of prayer & worship.  We are ever so thankful to be youth workers and to get to do life with these young people. It is truly a privileged position.

 

Monday Mornings.

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Though the 40+ American YFC workers here are serving in different areas across the Tees Valley, we have the privilege of coming together as a team once a week. It is always a blessing and an encouragement to seek God as one unit. On the projector screen, you can see a power point presentation that Brian put together at the request of a few colleagues, inquiring to know more about the sport of “rugger.” Post-meeting, Brian successfully taught a bunch of “football-loving” Statesiders about the game of Rugby, whilst the Scottish (huge Rugby nation) pastor of the host church listened in amusement.  ‪#‎LoveourYFCfamily‬ ‪#‎LoveMondays‬ ‪#‎TVYFC‬ ‪#‎England‬

*RuGbY wOrLd CuP*

We had an absolutely AMAZING time cheering on the U-S of A at the RUGBY WORLD CUP yesterday! So incredibly thankful to get to do something like this… Happy belated belated belated birthday to Brian. wink emoticon ‪#‎RWC2015‬ ‪#‎USA‬ ‪#‎SCOTLAND‬

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RUGBY!

The Rugby World Cup kicked off  last month, and needless to say, we’ve officially become a “rugby family”. Not only does it make me happy to see Brian doing something that he loves, but the Stockton Rugby Club has truly been a blessing to him while living in England. Immersing in the English sport culture in general has been a lot of fun for both of us.

 Here’s a write-up on Brian and one of his games –> The Northern Echo

A.C.T.S

12030496_887364237966805_8266301184776580861_oGirl’s Group: To assist our youth in getting the most out of God’s Word & prayer, we have been focusing on a few very practical tools over the last couple weeks. Our girl’s have learned two helpful acrostics:
1) S.O.A.P = Scripture, Observation, Application & Prayer (Bible Reading).
2) A.C.T.S = Adoration, Confession, Thanks, & Supplication (Prayer).
Additionally, we started a brand new series called “BIG QUESTIONS” (Apologetics), which focuses on equipping our young people for defending their faith! Please pray for the leadership team as we prepare for this truly important task. THANK YOU!

Roseberry Topping

 

We have had a very exciting and fruitful two weeks of training with our new team!!! smile emoticon Recap: The first week was all about team bonding (in the Lake District) and the second week consisted mostly of youth work technicalities (in the Tees Valley). As a finale to week two, we were sent on a scavenger hunt in Middlesbrough and ended the day by climbing Roseberry Topping—an iconic hill on the edge of the North York Moors. (Roseberry holds beautiful significance for TVYFC because you can see the ENTIRE Tees Valley from the summit, which makes it a remarkable spot to pray over the area). Saturday, we took a coach trip with our church to the stunning Fountains Abbey. Sunday, we kicked off week 2 of our new youth series, “EPIC” (and Morgan taught on Adam & Eve). And tomorrow?! We will be getting certified in First-Aid. Woo! I hope you’ve had a full, but great weekend as well and that you’re looking forward to the start of a brand new week.

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Lake Retreat

First week back in England after summer break consisted of climbing tall trees and bonding with our new team in the ‪#‎LakeDistrict‬! It was the perfect way to kick off the new term with ‪#‎TVYFC‬. ‪#‎England‬ ‪#‎GospelDream‬

We’re BACK!

11933415_877055145664381_9083940156184282677_nThough Brian and I had an amazing time in the states with our families during the month of August, we have officially returned to the UK and have jumped right back into things! We took our youth to COSTA Sunday morning to pray and chat about the new year as well as have a “last hoorah” before the Y6’s move up from KidZone next week. This Sunday we will be starting a new year-long series called, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, where we plan to go through the entire Bible from Creation to Revelation. Can’t wait!

T-shirts for SALE!

11118827_870646339638595_744346135742741670_oHey friends, Brian & I are selling this t-shirt designed by @fundthenations to raise the necessary funds to stay and serve in England for a second year. If you would like to buy a t-shirt, just let us know and we will send one your way. We are enormously grateful for your love and support over the last year. Your prayers have been invaluable. God bless you! #shopFTN #fundthenations

*JULY Highlights*

1. First Year: We completed our first year with YFC in England. In a few days, we head back for the month of August, then start year two in September.

2. SPC Youth Lock-In: It was a movie, hide & seek, live mafia, popcorn & ice-cream kind of night! 
3. Soul Survivor: We camped out for nearly a week at a youth conference in Stafford. On top of lives being transformed, we really treasured how much closer we grew to our kids.
4. School Mentoring: In January, our team began a Mentor Program at a local secondary school and we ended the year with a Graduation Ceremony/party for those students. The school really supports what we are doing and has invited us back for the new school term!
5. Girl’s Discipleship: Morgan was able to do lots of fun activities with her girls during the month of July-Painting, Netflix, milkshakes, & horseback riding included!
6. Christian Union: Our team hosted the last lunch club of the year & threw a pizza party for the secondary students.
7. Mayor’s Service in Parish Gardens: Our church home hosted the community of Stockton for a service, concert, and burgers.
8. Camp of Champions: Youth for Christ hosted loads of sports camps for kids this month & Brian did a great job running one in Stockton.
9. Seminary: Morgan completed her first year of seminary! She starts back up at the end of August.
10. Church Coach Trip: On America’s Independence Day we were at the beach with our church fam playing volleyball + eating fish & chips.
11. Mission Weeks: YFC hosted several mission teams in the Tees Valley from Colorado & Texas. We loved having them (and all of the incredible summer interns) here with us for either the whole summer or for parts of it.
12. BBQ Bashes: A girl’s group celebration for the end of the school year + SPC Staff BBQ at the Millers.
13. School Play: One of the Y6’s moving up to youth in September starred in her school play & we got to go support her!
14. Y & F: The big summer blowout for Young & Free with SPC & the Tab Youth.
15. Yorkshire Three Peaks: Brian hiked this 24.5-mile challenge in only 7 hours.
16. Birthday Boy: Brian turned 26 during our camping trip at Soul Survivor!!!!

Soul Survivor

Hey friends! Brian, our teammate, Brittany, & I are took SPC Youth to an epic summer conference called Soul Survivor this summer camped for 5 nights and 6 days! Our heart was to see young people encounter Jesus and grow in their faith and boy, did they. We have so many amazing stories to share from it. We are truly thankful to God for all that He did. Please continue to pray with us that the things that were learned and experienced would continue to resonate in the hearts of our kids. It was a truly life-changing week for all of our students, as well as for the thousands of other young people who were there too. 11026186_864643246905571_382153969959938462_n

Happy Independence Day!

11698889_852263414810221_5545131723215083845_oSaturday, July 4th, was spent on the beach, playing volleyball and eating fish and chips with great friends and church fam… We certainly did not foresee that one day we’d be celebrating our country’s independence from the British Empire in none other than Great Britain, but alas, here we are! :) Happy Independence day America…from the motherland! And thank you once again to all of our friends and family back home for loving and supporting us through this journey of faith.

JUNE: Top 10 Highlights

 

Our top 10 for JUNE:
1. Young and Free: The launch and first month of a new weekly youth outreach on Friday nights.
2. 3 Peaks Challenge: Brian and several other members of the Youth for Christ team hiked the 3 Peaks Challenge, (3 countries, 11,178 ft. total elevation & 11.5 hours of hiking) raising money for youth projects in the Tees Valley.
3. Youth Church: After hiking 3 Peaks, Brian was inspired to teach a message on “God’s favorite view”… us!
4. Cafe Church: We switched venues and hosted an open mic night in Stockton this month. We are really excited to move forward at Costa and have Cafe Church during open hours so that more people will have the opportunity to hear the gospel!
5. Girl’s Group: We finished the book of Esther that we had been studying for the last two months. Next week, I plan to anoint and bless the girls with “Esther” oil that I acquired in Israel.
6. Community Fun Run: Central Stockton & axiom team members helped out at a local secondary school’s family health day, raising money for Butterwick Hospice.
7. Graham Turner: We were privileged to have a special guest visit us in England for ten days. It was an absolute JOY to have Graham do life with us. We got to show her some of our favorite places as well as explore some new ones. (York, Whitby, Durham, Loch Ness, Glasgow, St. Andrews, and Edinburgh, among others!)
8. Coach Trip: We got to spend time with our church family in York.
6. Vision Day: Our leadership team at Stockton Parish Church went away for a day to plan and play for the long-term future of the church and for revival in the town of Stockton.
10. Bethany Laughlin: It was bittersweet saying goodbye to our teammate, Bethany, as she headed back to America for good, while also celebrating her and her time here. Love you, Bethany!

Each Day Counts.

Today in mentoring, one of our students said that meeting with us was the highlight of her year. We were so encouraged by this!! Although your actions or investments may seem small or feel insignificant at times, remember that “each day counts & every action and reaction matters.” (Lysa TerKeurst) It is truly amazing what God will do through a willing heart paired with a joyful attitude, genuine love, and kindness. (Romans 12:9)

HERO of the Faith

10986972_849748618395034_4846707406148121941_nWe have been studying “Heroes of the Faith” with our youth group over the last several months and our students got to meet a living hero of the faith in yesterday’s guest speaker, Graham Turner, who bravely shared her testimony of persevering in trials through faith. Thank you, friend, for demonstrating what it looks like to trust God in ALL things.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faithproduces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Team BBQ

11539565_847644301938799_2006015479961171308_n 11659384_847644291938800_3717391912547870777_n  Central Stockton Team BBQ today in honor of our girl, Bethany, who will be saying farewell to England next week. She has served incredibly this year and has been an absolute asset to our team in every way. It was so apparent from the beginning that God hand-crafted our hub and it won’t be quite the same without Bethany. We are going to miss her enormously, but we are also really excited for all that God has for her back in America! We love you, Bethany!

SPC VISION Day.

 Vision Day: Today our leadership team went away to plan and play for the long-term future of Stockton Parish Church. Our time together was extremely encouraging and we are all more zealous than ever to see REVIVAL in the town of Stockton!!!

PrAiSe RePoRt

Praise Report: One of the students who we have been praying for consistently over the last several months told us today that he had tried praying and that God had been answering his prayers!!! He hasn’t made a decision to follow Christ yet, but the Holy Spirit is clearly at work! (Keep in mind that this young man professed atheism when we arrived at his school, so the act of praying in itself is monumental.) Praise God!

3 Peaks Challenge: COMPLETED!

So proud of Brian and the rest of the TVYFC team who summited the 3 Peaks (11,178 ft. total elevation & 11.5 hours of hiking)!!!  You guys are amazing! ‪#‎Snowden‬ ‪#‎ScaffelPike‬ ‪#‎BenNevis‬ ‪#‎Wales‬ ‪#‎England‬‪#‎Scotland‬ 

Community Fun Run

North Shore Academy Health Awareness Day with YFC & Axiom…

Coach Trip: YORK

A few weeks ago, we took a coach trip to York with around 100 people from our church.

It was a beautiful day of fun and fellowship!

York is rich in history. The city was founded by the Romans in 71 AD! It was also where Constantine, the first Christian leader in history, was crowned emperor. One of York’s gems today is the York Minster, built in 637 AD. It is one of the largest of its kind in Northern Europe and has the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” – Psalm 133:1

(Pictures are from the inside of York Minster)

Young & Free

11390219_840690602634169_2515057744298016412_nIn June, we launched a brand new youth event called Young and Free. Our heart for this weekly hang out is ultimately outreach. We wanted to create a place where a.) our youth would feel proud to invite their unchurched friends and b.) we could invite the young people we meet and work with every week within the schools. Though the numbers have been low, the nights have been a success and those who attend have a lot of fun!

MAY: TOP 10 Highlights

MAY: TOP 10 Highlights


1. YFC Social: Central Stockton team partnered with Axiom (YFC’s sport evangelism team) to host a social for our fellow Gap Year workers. We organized sand volleyball + BBQ + smores at Runswick Bay and it could not have been a more perfect day!
2. Cafe Church: The TVYFC launched another Café Church in the Tees Valley. We loved supporting the Hartlepool team at their very first Cafe Church of the year.
3. Newcastle Falcons: We got to go to a Newcastle Falcons Rugby game with our buddy/manager and his wife to celebrate his birthday.
4. Best Decision Ever: Our niece, Faith Kendall Lindsey, made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as her savior!!!
5. Pentecost Sunday: On Pentecost Sunday, we were given the amazing opportunity to lead the main service at our church for the first time. Morgan planned the music, welcome, sharing of the peace, offering, and the crafts… and Brian preached the message. The biggest highlight of all was when two people gave their lives to Jesus during the response!
6. Try Praying Campaign: Our church partnered with church’s across the UK and passed out try praying booklets to people in our community and within the schools we work during the entire month of May. (There was a kid, teen, and adult version).
7. Celebration Service: The whole Stockton community was invited for a picnic and service in Stockton Parish Church’s gardens on Pentecost Sunday. There were also loads of baptisms!!! smile emoticon
8. SPC Youth Social: We hosted a fun movie marathon + pizza social in the main hall of our church with some of our students.
9. One Year of Marriage: May 29th was our one-year anniversary! We were given the most amazing gift, which was getting to celebrate in Ireland!!! We are so thankful for the opportunity we’ve been given to not only spread the knowledge of God to the world, but also get to see so much of it in the process!
10. Brave By Faith: Brian’s testimony of faith was featured on http://www.bravebyfaith.com.

BRAVE by Faith

M11390192_1598940950381290_1842440596392021348_ny incredible friend Juliette is a missionary in Cape Town, South Africa and God recently called her to create a website for the purpose of connecting and inspiring people all over the world to step out in faith and be brave for Christ. I am so amazed by her vision and all that God is doing in and through her. Juliette’s faith and passion for Jesus is truly inspiring so it’s fitting that she would start this website! :) Check out BRAVE By Faith when you get the chance and read her most recent feature. You may recognize him! ‪#‎BraveByFaith‬

Glimmers of His Kingdom Come

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Tonight at girl’s group, our weekly Bible study, a question was raised: “How have you seen God’s providence in your life?” Though not fluent in English yet, one of the girls responded as she wiped tears from her eyes, “When I was in Iran, I did not know God, but I do now. Now I feel Him near to me.” I thank God for these moments and glimmers of His Kingdom come. Once we are touched by the grace of God, nothing else compares. In our lives, we have experienced many wonderful things, but none so wonderful as the love of God. It is a joy to know that this precious girl has experienced God’s love for her. “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:19 ‪#‎GospelDream‬

365 Days of us.

One year ago this past weekend (May 29th), I married the person of my dreams and have been living the life of my dreams ever since! Thank you God for your faithfulness, for the gift of marriage, and for the opportunity we’ve been given to not only spread the knowledge of you to the world, but also get to see so much of it in the process!  ‪#‎adventure‬ ‪#‎marriage‬ ‪#‎oneyearanniversary‬

 

Please check out this beautiful blog post of our special day: Southern Weddings Feature

Pentecost Sunday

11046777_831976366838926_3324869019547790247_nMorgan had such a fun time leading the All Ages Service on Pentecost Sunday & I loved getting the opportunity to preach! The most incredible part of all was when two people gave their lives to Jesus during the response! They also happened to be a couple. It was cool to see God use us (a couple) to bring another couple to Christ. God is doing so much in Stockton-on-Tees, England and we are honored to be a part of it.

We had a lot of fun preparing for the event, including planning the Pentecost craft, where we made flame hats as a church family to represent what happened in Acts 2:1-13. After the service,The whole community was invited for a picnic, Celebration Service, and baptisms in Stockton Parish Church’s gardens.

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I love this picture of our Iranian brothers during the service as they sport their flame hats. :)  Thankful for these guys, their hearts to serve, their love Jesus, and for how brightly their flames burn throughout our community. #GlobalChurch #Family #SPC #HolySpirit

The Angels Rejoiced!

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I can’t even explain how excited I am to announce that my niece, Faith Kendall Lindsey, has made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as her savior!!! Her mom said that she’d been asking a lot of questions about Jesus and said that when she sang worship songs she could feel something happening inside her so she asked her mom to help her invite Jesus into her life!!! What an incredible God we serve and what an incredible heart He’s put in Faith. I pray that she continues to pursue her Heavenly Father everyday and that her life is showered in the blessings that come with being adopted into the family of the living God. Thank you Jesus for the price you paid for Faith. Holy Spirit I ask that you’d pour yourself into Faith and that she would be filled with an abundance of life. – Brian

Hartlepool Cafe Church Launch

The TVYFC has launched another Café Church Tees Valley! Every week Cafe Church is happening in either Stockton, Stokesley, Guisborough, Yarm or ….HARTLEPOOL!!! We loved supporting the Hartlepool team last night at their very first Cafe Church. Job well done! Love you guys. Romans 1:16 ‪#‎CoffeeandJesus‬ ‪#‎CafeChurch‬ ‪#‎Hartlepool‬ ‪#‎TVYFC‬

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YFC Social at Runswick Bay

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At the beginning of May, we (Central Stockton team) partnered with Axiom (YFC’s sport evangelism team) to host a social for our fellow Gap Year workers. We decided to plan an afternoon of sand volleyball and smores at Runswick Bay and it could not have been a more perfect day! (The Yorkshire Coast is full of hidden gems like this one.) We love this team SO MUCH and thank God for every single one of them!! ‪#‎YouthForChrist #GospelDream #Family

 

Fundraiser: 3 Peaks Challenge

Hey guys, Brian here! In June I’ll be doing the 3 Peaks Challenge to help raise money for our various projects throughout the Tees Valley. The 3 Peaks Challenge is where you summit the 3 highest peaks in the UK in under 24 hours. The goal is for each person doing the 3 Peaks Challenge in June to raise 500 pounds (that’s British people money) a person. That’s approximately 825 USD. It’s an incredibly challenging task (no pun intended) but I know that the goal of raising funds for the youth will drive me to finish. Your donations would be going directly to youth projects such as leadership training, day trips, service projects, summer camps, and cafe churches. Many of the churches in the area lack funding to support youth ministries and completely rely on donators like you to keep them going. If you would like to donate please use the paypal account on the main page of our website.

Thanks again for all your support and prayers. Morgan and I are so blessed to have people like you in our lives. We love you guys and please let us know how we can be praying for you all as well.

snowdon-from-garnedd-ugain

The three mountains are:
Snowdon, in Wales (1085m)
Scafell Pike, in England (978m)
Ben Nevis, in Scotland (1344m)

*April Highlights*

April Highlights
1. First, we had the amazing opportunity to fly home over Easter and spend about 12 days with our families—Morgan got to be a bridesmaid in her best friend’s wedding.
2. Youth Church was held at the parish the Sunday of our return from America. (4 local youth groups combine once a month) We did an “At the Movies” theme and Brian shared an inspiring message on the movie, Secretariat.
3. Also on our return, Brian was nominated and voted (by the church members) to be on the Annual Parochial Church council.
4. The Esther journals that were donated have been given to our Older Girl’s Group and they are almost 4 weeks into the book of Esther.
5. Our younger girls group is officially happening on a weekly basis and they love it!
6. Team Stockton hosted a “Skit Night” for April’s Café Church. Brian and a “year 9” student (from Ian Ramsey) acted out a drama sketch on prayer and did a fantastic job.
7. A household of five from Iran recently accepted Christ and was baptized at the parish and sometime last week, they received status to stay in the UK! They have two daughters, both participating in our youth group and Girl’s Groups.
8. Brian and I finished another seminary term this weekend and are continually thankful for the blessing of furthering our education.
9. Both of us got to share our conversion testimonies at Ian Ramsey Secondary School over the last two weeks.
10. Stockton’s High Street has been under construction for years, and this month the fountain was completed and is looking beautiful.
11. Though it was bitter sweet, we said goodbye to three of our Gap Year Team members who have finished their year of service in England… They will be missed.
*April, you flew by! May, what’ve you got in store?!

Skit Night – Cafe Church

For April’s Cafe Church we hosted a “skit night,” which included a fun improvisation game, an amazing drama sketch, and a terrific message about prayer. Big thanks to Brian and Katy for working so hard on the play, and a huge thank you to Carolyn for directing it. You guys did an incredible job! Lastly, we are so thankful for Stefanie, who always brings such wisdom when she speaks. Friends, please continue to pray for Cafe Church in Stockton and across the Tees Valley. We would really love to see more young people attending the event and hearing the gospel. Pray for vision and fresh ideas as we continue to lead this outreach. (You can view a short clip of the 10 minute sketch on our Facebook page, Morris Ministry.)

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Brian Shares His Testimony

Do you guys remember the post I shared a couple months ago about a thirteen-year-old atheist who told me that he needed to “stop coming (to lunch club) or that he’d start believing?” Well, after Brian shared his testimony yesterday at Ian Ramsey, the same young man approached him and asked, “Did all that REALLY happen…?” Brian said, “yes, of course it did.” smile emoticon In response, the boy replied, “hmm… then I need to try talking to God.” This may sound like something small, but it is absolutely remarkable. We have been praying for this specific young person for months, and it is SO encouraging to see God pursuing him and softening his heart. Pray for our friend today. Pray that he DOES decide to try praying, and most of all, pray that God would reveal Himself.

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Pray for Nepal

As you pray for all the families that have been affected by the devastating earthquake in Nepal, please also join us in praying for Naomi Clegg, the daughter of one of our church members. Naomi moved to Nepal to be a missionary in January. By God’s grace, she has been protected, though the house next to her was destroyed. If you feel led to send support to Naomi (in any form) as she serves those directly affected by the tragedy (in the name of Jesus), please let us know and we would love to connect you with her.

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Girl’s Group

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Girl’s Bible study has been one of our most successful discipleship efforts, so we felt led to start one for the younger girls as well! Last month we hosted our first year 5 and 6 Girl’s Group! (4th and 5th grade in America.) To launch the new Bible study, we hosted a “sparkle” party with sparkler cupcakes and sparkle crafts!! My friend, Katy, taught on Phil. 2:13-15, pointing out the part about “shining like stars in the sky.” Toward the end of group, the girls made some impressive tea light (candle) holders to remind them to shine brightly for God’s glory! These girls are AWESOME! I am really eager to see how the group develops–I think it will be an amazing way to help transition the younger girls from kid zone into youth group more smoothly. Not only that, but it will be an excellent opportunity for the older girls to step up and help lead the younger. #disciplesmakingdisciples

*February Highlights*

Welcome to the month of March! Here are some of our highlights from February:

1. Speaking in Stokesley again—Brian shared about the relevance of God in our lives through personal testimony.

2. Participating in a very beneficial listening seminar, that will no doubt assist us in ministry—particularly during mentoring sessions at North Shore.

3. Launching the Year 5 and 6 Girl’s Bible study. Woo!!

4. Making the 1st Team for Stockton’s Rugby club!! (Go Brian!)

5. Welcoming four different youth groups to the parish for a Valentine’s Day themed Youth Church! I organized five “minute to win it” challenges and Brian preached on the link between faith and love.

6. Receiving the most incredible & most thoughtful Valentine’s Day package from Brian’s parents!! (Our families back home are so loving and supportive.)

7. Having my husband’s best man, Mitch, join us in England for a whole week! We got to show him all of our favorite places…including Durham, York, the Lake District, Oxford, London, Saltburn, and Middlesbrough.

8. Learning from Mercy Ministries, who joined one of our Monday morning meetings—they taught on how to effectively tackle tough issues like self-harm, eating disorders and abuse.

9. Celebrating the creativity in our gifted young people by exhibiting their artwork at Café Church.

10. Hosting a ministry team from Durham University (students who are studying to be vicars) for the weekend and enjoying a shared meal with them on Sunday after church.

11. Entertaining our youth group for a pizza and movie night at our place.

12. Sharing the gospel at Ian Ramsey!!! (So many seeds are being planted every week!) We long for these kids to know Jesus.
Awesome, awesome stuff happening. Thank you, Lord for all that you are doing.

Awesome, awesome stuff happening. Thank you, Lord for all that you are doing.

 

Restful Assurance

I wanted to share a few of my thoughts on the concept of faith. In one of my previous posts, I spoke of a really unique experience in my life at a time when I felt spiritually and emotionally drained. God picked me up so much in that moment, but since then I’ve learned that moments of excitement are just that… moments. One big burst of energy is not enough to sustain us throughout the daily grind of our lives. Though God used the moment to pick me up out of the gutter, it’s been something else entirely that’s kept me walking on solid ground.

After that initial experience, I feel like God has been pressing on my heart the concept of faith. I shared this with the vicar of the church I’m working for and he gave me some profound advice… “study it.”

(I’m always searching for quiet time ideas and it had never occurred to me to spend that time purposefully examining the things that God was laying on my heart. To me, this is poor listening. I hear the things that God has to say, but I do not follow through with them enough to let His words actually take hold of my life. It is essential that we not just hear, but that we actually give the things we hear time to take their effect… but that’s completely beside the point.)

So, I began to study faith and was drawn to the story of Abraham. His story had always fascinated me. His only understanding of God was most likely oral tradition passed down to him through his family line… no Bible and no church. Suddenly, the God who must have felt a bit like a fairytale to Abraham, speaks to him. Abraham then did exactly as God asked. It is so simple really: God spoke and Abraham listened. Most likely, Abraham was not waking up every morning and having a quiet time or hosting Bible studies at his house—yet he is counted among the mighty men of faith in scripture. God’s Word says that the Lord counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

So often in my life, I have put value on the wrong things to make me feel or appear righteous in my relationship with God. I value my work, my discipline, and my relationships. These things are all good, but none of them can measure our righteousness. We don’t get to heaven by the number of friends we have, by the work we’ve done, or by the quiet times we’ve completed. God says that we get to Him by faith alone. When I looked up faith in my theological dictionary, I found the definition to be quite shocking honestly. (I didn’t like fall out of the chair, but I was like “oh snap that’s crazy”) I expected to see this audacious declaration of being willing to jump out into the unknown, and conquer huge tasks in the name of the Lord, yet what I found was that faith is a “restful assurance” in the promises of God. This woke me up.

The key factor of our relationship with God is not an action, it is a submission. God has put big dreams on my heart to make His name known to the world. If I’m constantly worrying about tomorrow and tricking myself into thinking I’m spiritually strong by filling my life with more “churchy” things, I’ll never make it. Work harder and do more is not the formula to a God-centered and faith-filled life. In fact, that formula was robbing me of my joy and peace. It is impossible for fruit to flow from a life without faith. You can be the best boy in the choir, but without faith, you’re not really following God.

I challenge you to join me today in being restfully assured of the promises God has made. Let us not attempt to draw peace from the assurance that we’ve worked hard enough to please God, but rather may we draw our joy from the FACT that God is pleased with us when we put our faith in Him.

Love you guys,

Brian Morris

by-faith

 

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Brian and I spoke at a lunch club today on the imperative topic of why Jesus died… Not only that, but we felt it was also necessary to pair the gospel with the strong evidence we have historically in proving the death and most importantly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everything hinges on the resurrection. Anybody can claim to be the son of God, but if Jesus came back from the dead, then He is who He says He is.

After the bell rang, a 13-year-old atheist came up to me and said,

“Morgan, what you said was very convincing. I’m going to have to stop coming or I’ll start believing!!!”

Ha!! It about knocked me over. All I could say in that moment was, “Thank you Jesus.” Please be praying that the seeds planted this afternoon would take root!!

In Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case For Christ,” he says, “In light of the avalanche of evidence, I decided that it would require more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a follower of Jesus Christ.” Jesus said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” That’s our story and I pray it becomes the story of the 30-50 young people that we meet with every week at Ian Ramsey Academy.

Marriage: Conforming into the Image of Christ

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HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!!! Romans 8:28 – “And we know that for those who LOVE God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” …I know that this is not one of the more popular verses about “love” shared on Valentine’s day, but I wanted to point out the beauty behind it within the context of marriage. The goal of everything that God does in His providence and for His children is to conform us into the image of Christ, marriage included.

When you think of the image of Christ, what are some characteristics that automatically come to mind? Three qualities that stand out to me are His unconditional LOVE (complete love; no conditions), His MERCY (not giving what IS deserved; deliverance from judgement), and His unending GRACE (giving what is NOT deserved; extending kindness to the unworthy).

So, here are some questions: How would we ever learn unconditional love if we were married to people who met all of our expectations and conditions all of the time? How would we ever learn mercy and heart felt compassion if we were married to people who were never difficult with us, never failed us, and never sinned against us? How would we truly learn patience and long suffering if we had spouses who were never slow to acknowledge their sin or ask for forgiveness?? How would we ever learn how to extend grace and pour out favor if we were married to people who were always deserving of every good thing?

Marriage is one of the greatest instruments of sanctification because it gives us the opportunity to be more like Jesus every day. We are married to people who do not meet all the conditions, so that we learn unconditional love! We are married to people who need mercy so that we learn to give it! …And thus we become like the God we worship. This friends, is one of the most beautiful parts about committing your life to someone forever.

Matt Chandler said, “In forgiving and loving our sinful spouses, we begin to understand on a much smaller scale what it meant for our holy God to forgive and redeem us.” I pray that we are more intentional in loving our spouses unconditionally. We worship God for His unconditional love, mercy, and grace, but we sometimes demand that our spouse live in such a way that they not be in need of it. By God’s grace, we are capable of this supernatural love, but we must be utterly dependent on the power of Christ to do and be what He has called us to do and be, especially in our marriages.

I am so incredibly thankful for a spouse who loves me unconditionally… even on the days that I do not deserve it! Happy Valentine’s Day! :)

(Inspiration from Paul Washer sermon mix)

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Ian Ramsey Lunch Club!

YFC has recently partnered with the Ian Ramsey Christian Union and we are delighted to not only be in a new school this term, but also to have started a weekly lunch club. Our team was in the academy every morning last week hosting assemblies and spreading the word!

We wanted to take the time to thank everyone for praying on behalf of the school assemblies last week because those prayers proved powerful and effective! We were nearly speechless when 40 or 50 young people showed up on Wednesday to the recently launched lunch club. Our team had to improvise and split up the younger students from the older students simply to make enough room!

It absolutely blew us away and we wholeheartedly believe that God is doing something very special here. Please keep tomorrow in your prayers as we begin a series of teachings…ultimately the gospel. Tomorrow Bethany and Rachel will be speaking on the topic, “Who is Jesus?” Brian and I will be teaching the following week on, “Why did Jesus die?”

Thanks again for praying!!

Locking Arms

We meet every Monday morning with our gap year team members and other youth and kids workers across the Tees Valley! Here is a great capture of Brian leading us in worship yesterday. #LockingArms #GospelDream #YouthForChrist

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Developing the Body of Believers

How many parts of your body do you want working? All of them, right? If parts of our body aren’t working, then we don’t feel healthy… This is true of our physical body, and it’s also true of the spiritual body of Christ. Why are we content to limp along with only a very small minority of God’s children involved in God’s Work? The church must be intentional in developing ALL of God’s children to reach their full potential. Perhaps the greatest challenge in reaching the world is the challenge of developing the body of believers. While the church must be in the business of preaching the Gospel, it must also concentrate on the mission of developing the saints.

Mentorship Program

For the past five months, we’ve been going into North Shore Academy as YFC volunteers. Over the last term, we sat in classes, doing the best we could to assist the teachers where needed. While we were thankful to have a presence in the school, we certainly craved the opportunity for more intentional relationship building.

We are thrilled to announce that God has answered this prayer and opened an incredible door through a mentoring program that has launched due to the relationship built between North Shore Academy and Youth For Christ. This kind of trust was undoubtedly formed through the seed planting of the YFC workers who came before us and volunteered in North Shore every day for years.

This week we started mentoring in groups and one-on-one!! How exciting is that?! The academy’s head of disciplinary hand-picked the students who she felt needed mentoring the most. We will be meeting with them every week. It is an amazing privilege and also a great responsibility. Please be praying for the young people that God ultimately paired each of us with this year. Thanks!

FISHERS OF MEN.

(3) “FISHERS OF MEN.” The final three words of Matthew 4:19 indicate a response of action… something that affects what we live for and what we do.

A disciple of Jesus is saved for a purpose. A disciple of Jesus is about being on mission. Inspired by who Jesus is an what He has done, disciples are absolutely compelled to love people and tell them what they’ve found in Jesus. It’s not something that “radical Christ followers” do. It’s what every disciple should do.

“He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:15

Our mission is not to live comfortably, go to church every Sunday, to be nice to people, or to know a lot about the Bible. All of those things are good, but the real mission is for every disciple to JOIN in God’s mission. We can’t just be spiritual consumers; a true disciple of Jesus is a spiritual contributor.

There is NO greater gift or act of love than to share the hope we’ve found in Jesus Christ. Do we really believe? Do we really love? If we do, then there should be more urgency in our hearts and in our churches to share the greatest news the world has ever received.

Being a “Fisher of men” is a commissioning and a call to action. Do we love people enough to act? We all have God-given abilities that can be used for His glory and to point the world to Him. Are we using them for the Kingdom?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

…AND I WILL MAKE YOU

(2) “AND I WILL MAKE YOU…” <— This is a really exciting statement! These next five words in Matthew 4:19 indicate the process of transformation that happens for every follower of Christ. After Jesus invited people like Peter and Andrew to follow him, guess what? …they were never the same! The disciples were different than they were when they first met Jesus because walking with the Lord changes you forever.

This attribute of a disciple is primarily a spiritual response to the Holy Spirit. It speaks to people at the heart level, as they assimilate the Word of God and allow Him to transform their inner being. (Ephesians 3:14-18) Discipleship isn’t a transfer of information leading to behavior modification–it involves transformation at the deepest levels of our understanding. (The heart and spirit level)

Romans 8:29 tells us that we are being conformed into the image of Christ. That’s the goal. It is when we are becoming like Christ in word, thought, attitude, and action that the world starts to be transformed too. It is when we stop simply admiring Jesus for carrying the cross, and we start picking up our own crosses.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 promises that God is transforming us from one degree of glory into another. (into HIS image) God will transform everything, especially how we see the world, and what we value and consider important. This is Discipleship. It’s Jesus molding our hearts to become more like his heart. It is when we start to truly love what he loves and hate what he hates.

Habits like Bible study, journaling, memorizations, prayer, fasting, and giving are all means to an end. They connect us to the grace of God, and through the grace of God we are transformed into the image of Christ. The more we are transformed, the more we will love and reach a lost and hurting world.

FOLLOW ME…

Matthew 4:19 – “ He (Jesus) said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” Over the next few blogs, we are going to dissect the three parts of this verse: (1) “Follow me” = [sacrificial] (2) “and I will make you…” = [transformational] (3) “fishers of men” = [relational].

(1) “FOLLOW ME” – What does it mean? This is an invitation and it indicates our acceptance of Jesus Christ. “Following” means we recognize and accept who Jesus is as Lord, leader, and master of our lives. Following takes sacrifice. It takes trust. It takes surrender. He’s the one who initiates and guides. He is the light that illuminates our path and our thinking. John 12:26 says, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.”

Accepting Jesus Christ doesn’t mean he’s going to fulfill all of your wishes and dreams. Accepting Jesus by His definition is more about knowing Him and following Him as the one true God. Though we used to be self-ruled, now we are Christ-ruled. Jesus Christ lovingly rules our lives, and as he does, he replaces the falsehood we were handed from the world with the truth. Following Jesus means learning and believing those truths about Him. Disciples of Christ must be truth seekers and truth revealers.

Jesus leads. We follow. There’s no one else I’d rather trust and submit to as the head of my life than the God of the universe!

DiscipleSHIFT

Last week I started my second term of seminary, and one of the courses I’m taking is called Discipleship Ministries. Over the next month, I’d love to share some of what I’m studying in my blog. Together we can examine all things discipleship. ie. What does it mean to be a disciple? What are the Biblical requirements? The cost? How do I start discipling others? How important is discipleship? If you have any questions or comments along the way, don’t hesitate to ask or engage.

To begin, here are two essential qualities of a disciple of Jesus:

1.) LOVE FOR GOD’S WORD

If we do not continue in the Word, then we are wide open to deception, discouragement, and defeat. You cannot be a disciple without an aggressive commitment to consume and obey the Scriptures. As we drink in the Word of God, it has the power to transform our minds, and when our minds are transformed, then we can experience the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Rom 12:2).

2.) LOVE FOR OTHERS

John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Ultimately, if we do not love others, then we don’t truly know God. Francis Schaeffer observed that our love for one another should be so strong that it would unite believers in such a way that the world would believe that Jesus was sent by God. I pray that we as a Church can embody this kind of supernatural love and be committed to it in every way. Love for others includes first having God as our greatest love and in turn, purely loving our neighbor, the lost, the poor, the marginalized, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we love like this, there is no argument that can stand against this force. I think the way we love is often a great indicator of the condition of our faith. What is your love level like right now?

Youth For Christ Conference

Hey everyone, Brian here, and I just wanted to share a particularly awesome moment from the recent YFC conference we attended in Manchester, England.

The moment I speak of was a beautiful encounter with God that ended a really hard season in my life. Over the past couple of months our ministry in England had begun to feel like an incredible weight. The amount of life changes Morgan and I have gone through in the past 8 months was catching up with me and my focus had begun to shift off of ministry and onto myself. It felt I was just trying to stay above water. It came to a head around Christmas time, and I remember sitting in one of the night services completely numb (not a great place to be in ministry). I couldn’t hear, sense, or feel God and I began to offer up such a simple prayer. “God I can’t feel you, but I know You’re here and I know You sent me here. Please rescue me and breathe new life into me.”

Flash forward a couple of weeks and I found myself in Manchester at the YFC Conference. One night a gifted speaker from London was preaching on David and Goliath, and having the courage to face giants in our lives by simply having the willingness to step up to the fight. She said that God promised that He would do the rest. It spoke directly to my situation. I felt I had been willing to come to England and now I was waiting for God to really move in me and move in the lives of the youth I was ministering to every day.

Before she could even finish her alter call, I began to walk toward the front. I trust my God and I knew that I needed prayer to continue to have faith that He would move. I could feel that He was already stirring something new inside me and I could sense a fresh call inside me to pursue the youth in England with much more passion and focus than I had before, but I was still so apprehensive. Even though I could sense something new, I was still so afraid I’d fall back into the place of feeling so drained that I was in before. Nothing particularly special happened at the front of that room. In fact the guy that prayed for me prayed so quietly I didn’t hear a single word he said. I felt confident though. Confident in the promises in scripture that the more I continued to just say “I choose You God” that He would come through for me. I’d seen Him do it too many times for Israel and David in the Old Testament to be fooled into thinking He wouldn’t do the same for me, His beloved adopted son.

The next morning, during our coffee and tea break, a man I had never seen before in my life came up to me and asked if I had gone to the front the night before. I said yes. He told me that he’d tried to get to me last night, but the crowd was too big and he lost me, but as soon as I began to walk to the front he felt God slam something on His heart to speak to me. He asked me if I had ever been repelling. I said yes. He then said that God had shown him I was on the edge of a cliff and I just needed to trust that when I stepped off the harness and the rope would catch me. He said that God just really wanted me to know that I could trust Him. I was floored. Firstly, because a random person has never come up to me and said they felt God had shared something for me with them. Secondly, because it spoke to exactly what I was going through. I knew my God was speaking to me through the man that came up to me. It was so beautiful.

That’s not the end…

Morgan then walked up to me and asked if we could go over and meet Wes Stafford, the founder and CEO of Compassion International. He was one of the speakers at the conference and was chatting with people after the morning message he had delivered. I said ok, and joined my wife with the crowd of people surrounding Wes. He shook her hand and began talking and answering the questions of the group. The whole time I was just quiet, and quite honestly not listening to a word he was saying because I was still just thinking about the incredible way my God loved me and was breathing new life in me. I noticed Wes was beginning to say his goodbyes and move on, when we made eye contact. He did a double take, parted the crowd, and walked straight to me with his hand out. I shook his hand, and while my face looked quite startled I’m sure, he asked where I was from with the most intense curiosity. I told him I was from Oklahoma and that I was here for a two year commitment with YFC. He asked what was next, and I said I had no clue. He then asked if he could share some advice…. Needless to say, I said yes. Wes then went on to tell Morgan and I that often times we won’t know the next step, but we have to be wherever we are 100% for the time we are there, and if at all possible try and give 110%. He then looked in my eyes again and said, but I can already tell you will.

It was almost too much. Out of sheer joy I could’ve punched through a brick wall I was so fired up. Why? Because someone important told me he could see potential in me? NO! Because a fellow believer who has been in ministry for years looked me in the eyes and could see that God was doing something in me. It was the icing on the cake that what God was doing in my heart, made a man do a double take, part a crowd, and walk straight up to me to see what I was about. He wasn’t drawn to me. He was drawn to the flame Christ had lit in my spirit.

The moral of the story? God delivers on His promises. When the desire of our heart is to have more of Him, He gives it to us. Every. Single. Time. I can say that with no fear because it’s not a promise that I’m making. I’m a witness to it, but it’s a promise that the living God made to all who seek Him.

A month before, I was at the end of my rope. I was drained and feeling so numb. I began to press into God and there was no immediate answer. I continued to press into God, and finally my eyes were opened to the wonders of a God that loves me so much. He used three random people I had never seen before and will most likely never see again to tell me the same message: I’m with you and I love you.

It wasn’t just a cool experience though. That’s not how God works. He’s not in the business of flashy emotional highs, He’s in the business of breathing into the dust and creating new life. His touch doesn’t leave a fingerprint it completely alters what He comes in contact with. Today we had our first day back in schools. Normally it’s a time that is particularly draining. The kids have generally no interest in God or me, and today the atmosphere was flat out different. I came into a classroom and I felt I couldn’t contain the love that was beating in my chest for those kids and they responded to it. I could travel this whole world and talk to a billion people, but if I’m not submitted to God, it’s all dust. When a person is submitted to the living God, He could ask them to pick a gum wrapper off the street and save a whole nation through the act. Not because the act is significant, but because HIS words are the MOST SIGNIFICANT in all of existence.

Thank you so much for your prayers! God is moving so much in her and I’s lives and we are so thankful for you and your support! Please continue to pray for us and the youth we work with. Morgan and I are experiencing revival in our ministry and we pray that we see a revival in the youth here to follow.

Song: Overwhelmed (by Big Daddy Weave), Give Me Faith (by Elevation Worship)

Scripture:
Deuteronomy 4:29 – But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Proverbs 8:17 – I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Jeremiah 29:13 – You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Digging Deeper. Hello 2015!

Hey, Morgan here! Brian and I just finished up a wonderful week in Manchester at the 2015 Youth For Christ Conference, themed “Digging Deeper.”

 
It’s been an incredibly encouraging start to the new year for both of us. The speakers, seminars, workshops, and overall fellowship reminded us of the importance of our job as youth workers. What an honor it is to be commissioned by the God of the universe! We are truly blessed to be doing God’s work here and pouring into the lives of these kids that He loves SO much. We are more motivated than ever to press forward into 2015, giving it everything we’ve got!

 
One of the many inspiring leaders who joined us in Manchester was Dr. Wess Stafford, the former President and acting President Emeritus of Compassion International. Stafford shared with us every morning and I can’t emphasize enough how moving his stories were from his upbringing in Africa to his life changing experience through the help of a YFC worker when he was fifteen.

 
How cool is that? You never know what you say or do that will change a person’s life forever. Someone influenced Wes, a hurting young man, who grew up to love Jesus passionately and lead a 645 million dollar Christian nonprofit that speaks up globally for the poor, helping millions of children in need every single day. I just love that. God wants to use you.

 
Thanking God today for refreshing our spirits this week and for breathing new life into His work for us in England. We are excited to dig deeper with Him in 2015.

White as Snow

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December 31st
White as Snow

We are celebrating New Years Eve in the snowy Prague, Czech Republic tonight!!! Snow is often associated around Christmas time. This passage in Isaiah however, associates snow with the forgiveness of sins.

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” Isaiah 1:18

First, “Let’s settle this,” means, “to come to a legal decision.” There is no call for a compromise here—the people were to come to an agreement with God concerning the immense gravity of their sin. God was not declaring His people innocent of wickedness, but He was willing to pardon their sins if they would repent and turn to Him.

Second, white in all of time has been symbolic of innocence and purity. Snow and wool are substances that are naturally white, and therefore, portray what is clean. (Scarlet, or crimson, on the other hand, are colors of a deep-red permanent dye; its stain is virtually impossible to remove)

Third, Isaiah was a prophet of grace. The name, Isaiah actually means,“The Lord is salvation.” He was a man who consistently taught on God’s pardoning of sin for those who truly desired forgiveness and to walk in obedience.

Isaiah 1:18 is a stunningly beautiful depiction of what Christ did for us on the cross. In this promise, the worst of sinners may find comfort and hope. God here assures us that however guilty we may have been in the past, however deep dyed our sin may have been, it is possible to be restored to purity and holiness.

What an encouragement to know that after repentance, our sins are no longer deep, fixed stains. They are forgiven. We serve a God who wants to purify us and make us white as snow.

I pray you start off this New Year with a clean slate before God and a completely yielded heart. “All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” I John 3:3

Recommended Readings: Psalm 68:14; Ecclesiastes 9:8; Daniel 7:9; Matthew 17:2, 28:3; Revelation 1:14, 3:4-5, 4:4, 7:9, 7:13, I John 1:9

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WISDOM

December 30th
Wisdom

”Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-12

History tells us that after Jesus was born, wise men came to look for Him, probably from an area that is now in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia or Yemen. Although they are often called the ‘Three Kings’, the Bible does not directly say that they were kings or that there were three of them. Three men is only an educated guess because of the three gifts brought to Jesus.

We do know however, that they were unquestionably men of learning. The word Magi comes from the Greek word ‘magos’. Magos comes from the Persian word ‘Magupati,’ which was the title given to priests in a sect of the ancient Persian religions. Today we’d call them astronomers.

With that said, the Magi would have followed the patterns of the stars meticulously. As mentioned in the Bible, the men saw an unusual new star in the sky, and knew that it told of the birth of a very special king. There are also indicators that they were probably wealthy and held in high esteem within their society (and by people all over the world). Pretty interesting!

Now that we’ve covered the three wise men, what does the Bible say about WISDOM and how do we become wise men and women?

In summary, the Bible tells us to…

1.) FEAR GOD: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10

2.) ASK FOR IT: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

3.) HANG OUT WITH WISE PEOPLE: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

Recommended Reading: Proverbs 4

Favored.

December 29th
The Favor of God

The first area of England we lived in was called Mill Lane Estate in Stockton-on-Tees. A friend of ours who also lived in the neighborhood felt God leading him to develop an outreach called “Mill Lane” Mission. Every Thursday night he hosted a neighborhood Q&A where anyone with questions about God, the Bible, Christianity, etc. was welcome.

On the first night, a seventeen-year-old girl raised her hand and asked, ‘Why did God choose Mary?’

After a short period of silence, another friend of ours said something brilliant: ‘I ask myself the same thing—why did God choose ME? …Why am I favored?’

These are such beautiful and profound questions. ‘Why do I hear from God and others do not?’

“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:30 … “For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor you will surround him as with a shield.” Psalm 5:12

‘Me? Favored by God? Me? Righteous?’ “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Before we could decide for or against God, before we could ask forgiveness for our first sin, before we could show him how “devout” we are, before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4), God favored us. God’s favor did not find us because he knew we would become great Christians someday or raise good children or give to charity… God favored us because He’s a good God. God’s favor was an act of grace to Mary and it is an act of grace to us.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were STILL sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

I think about this kind of grace within the context of my job as a youth worker. I did not live a perfect life. I’ve done bad things. I’ve failed miserably in so many ways and so many times…. yet, God still wanted to use me. He never gave up on me. He continued to pursue me. He showed me undeserved favor. Nothing qualifies me (or you… or anyone) except Jesus Christ.

I’m reminded of John the Baptist when he said, “the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” Luke 1:30 I am unworthy, nevertheless God has anointed me to preach the good news… me… sometimes fearful, doubting, anxious, stubborn, insecure me.

What a good God we serve! He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. I may be in vocational ministry, but the Lord has commissioned every single one of us to make disciples. Don’t let your past mistakes or your feelings of inadequacy keep you from serving God with your whole being and from doing something of eternal significance.

“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Recommended Reading: 2 Peter 1:2-3, I Peter 2:9, John 15:16

Letters

December 27th

Christmas Cards

I love getting mail, don’t you? –Especially the good ‘ole fashion snail mail. There’s something special about receiving cards and letters through postage rather than through email, text, or Facebook inbox.

Our (first) Christmas cards were mailed out a little late this year because I wanted to include a ministry update letter at the end of the term. The update letters got me thinking about how letters were one of the only ways of communicating in the first century. In fact, a lot of the Bible’s New Testament is a compilation of letters.

Fourteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament have been attributed to the apostle Paul, who often communicated through letters. He wrote about justification, sanctification, redemption, and the resurrection of Christ. Other letters focused on addressing immorality and idols, or marriage and purity. Paul also refuted legalism in some of his letters and examined God’s plan for us, the meaning of godliness, and the proper place of grace in the Christian’s life.

Paul penned about Jesus in creation, and instructed us on prayer and proper leadership in the church. Further, he taught about spiritual warfare and warned against false teachers. Paul even wrote letters from prison!

Christmas is over, but I urge you to write a letter to someone who has really been a blessing to you this year. (It doesn’t have to be long.) Find the perfect card and use your hand-written words to encourage your friend or family member, letting them know they’re loved and appreciated.

What kinds of communications do you most often use to express these kinds of thoughts to those in your life? Do you use your words to uplift and encourage?

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” (Proverbs 327) If you think something good, say it or you could be withholding someone of a huge blessing.

The New Testament may be known for letters, but the entire Bible is a letter of God’s love toward us. What is the most meaningful part of His letter to you?

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Impossibilities

December 26th
Impossibilities

“‘Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! NOTHING IS TOO HARD FOR YOU.” (Jeremiah 32:17)

Jesus was an “impossible” baby. How could a virgin give birth to a son—the Son of God no less? Why do you think God takes pleasure in doing the impossible?

There’s a pattern throughout scripture of God calling His people to step out in extreme faith and obedience—to be a part of the impossible. —> ie: Sarah having a baby in her old age, Noah building an ark when it had never rained, Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, Moses parting the Red Sea, Gideon’s army of 300 conquering an army of 135,000 soldiers… (The list could go on and on because these “impossible” accounts FILL the pages of God’s Word.)

God is STILL in the business of doing the impossible. “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20)

Is there anything that seems impossible in your life right now? Hope? Healing? Provision? …The salvation of a family member? …The Restoration of a marriage? Pray and ask God to do the impossible in your life today…

Our God specializes in miracles—not only to demonstrate his power and love, but also so that He may be glorified when the victory is won and the task is complete. After experiencing God do the impossible, our faith increases in knowing that we didn’t do it.

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Without God, the possible is possible but with God, the impossible is possible.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:26

So Loved.

December 25th
So Loved.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

“For God so LOVED the world that he GAVE his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

*There is no greater LOVE than this.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is GIVEN, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

*There is no greater GIFT than Jesus.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is LOVE, not that we have loved God but that he LOVED US and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4: 9,10)

*Praying your Christmas is built around this kind of love today.

“By this [love] we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has GIVEN us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the SAVIOR of the world.” (1 John 4:13,14)

*Today is a day to celebrate the gift of Christ as we gather with friends and family. While you’re giving and receiving gifts this Christmas, remember the Giver of all things and consider why we give in the first place.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-39)

*May you love and be loved extravagantly today in Jesus name!!

The Power of Light

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December 24th
The Power of Light

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE!!!!!!

Growing up, one of my dream jobs was to work for National Geographic. The October 2001 edition of National Geographic had an article on the “Power of Light” with this quotation:

“Light reveals the world to us. Body and soul crave it. Light sets our biological clocks. It triggers in our brains the sensations of color. Light feeds us, supplying the energy of plants to grow. It inspires us with special effects like rainbows and sunsets. … Scientists don’t fully understand what light is or what it can do. They just know that it will illuminate our future.”

This quote has JESUS written all over it. The only thing that will illuminate our past, present and future is Jesus Christ. Light “triggers in our brains the sensations of color…” My mother-in-law once described encountering Jesus as everything in life changing from black and white to color! I love this explanation.

Tonight at church we had our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. It was spectacular. After the sea of radiant candles tonight, I couldn’t help but write about the light of Christ again. Did you know there are 76 references to light in the New Testament? The references are used in the following ways:

1.) GOD IS LIGHT. John tells us, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

2.) MANKIND BY NATURE ABHORS THE LIGHT. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)

3.) JESUS IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness could not comprehend it.” (John 1:4-5)

4.)WHEN WE’RE SAVED, WE COME INTO THE LIGHT. “For ye were sometimes [in the past] darkness, but now you are light in the Lord: walk as children of light…” (Ephesians 5:8)

5.) BELIEVERS ARE TO SHARE THE LIGHT WITH OTHERS SO THAT THEY TOO CAN BE LIGHT “[we are ministers whose responsibility it is] …To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance…” (Acts 26:18)

Mill Lane Mission Nativity

Yesterday was a fun filled day of cookie baking, movie watching, and gift-wrapping with the girls of SPC youth. Afterward, they kindly helped serve at the Mill Lane Nativity event—a Christmas neighborhood outreach associated with the overall Mill Lane Mission.

Mill Lane has a large demographic of young children, so this Christmas event was created for kids and their families. While reading the Christmas alphabet poem, the central Stockton team, paired with the Stockton Parish staff and SPC youth, served delicious hot chocolate, mince pies, and the array of spectacular baked treats prepared by Brittany and our girls. After the children dressed up and acted out the nativity scene, every little boy and girl was able to choose a wrapped Christmas gift.

In Mark 9 Jesus tells His disciples that, “whomever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

Children have such beautiful innocence. Jesus loved children, and so should we—He taught that entering heaven is not about great scholarly knowledge, admirable accomplishments, or social status. It requires simple faith in God. What do you think it says about Jesus and His ministry that children were nearby? How can we be like Jesus in this way?? Is your life characterized more by being served or serving?

(Special Thanks to…Duncan, Rachel, Deb and Brit for all of the hard work put into promoting and preparing… Demi and Chloe for helping dress the kiddos…. Naledi, Ziyanda, and Brittany for baking 10 dozen cookies…. and Michelle, Jennifer and Zinhle for being “Santa’s elf’s” and wrapping nearly 100 gifts!)

Light of the World

December 22nd
Light of the World

Christmas lights are everywhere during the holidays. They are by far one of my favorite parts about decorating. If it were up to me, I might keep the Christmas lights up year ‘round!

In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the Light of the world.” This is the second of seven “I AM” declarations of Jesus recorded only in John’s gospel. Just as a candle dispels darkness, so does the Light of Jesus Christ—His light illuminates what is truth and exposes what is not.

Jesus also refers to His followers as the light of the world. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16

I have loved this passage ever since I was a little girl. The idea of shining on behalf of the Lord makes my heart come alive. I adore the fact that because of Jesus, people can look at us and see something different. I pray this is true for my life and I pray it’s true for yours.

The way we live should be an on-going witness to the reality of how Christ has changed us; a certainty of His presence in our lives. Remember that it’s not our job to necessarily “save” people—that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. We are called to REFLECT Jesus Christ to the world. We are commissioned to serve, speak, live, love and do as Jesus did on earth. Did you know that the moon isn’t bright on it’s own, but that it is merely a reflection of the sun? Similarly, it is when we are reflecting the “Son” of God that we shine most brightly.

When we worship God with pure hearts and love others as ourselves, we radiate a supernatural light. Remember, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8) Make a point to live as children of light during the Christmas season in all of your interactions and relationships. After Christmas, the lights come down, but our light should always continue to shine.

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Ministry Update

England Update: Dear friends, Brian and I have been serving in England for four months now and we consider ourselves acclimated to the many life changes here. By God’s grace, we truly feel “home.” We cannot express in words the amount of peace and joy in our hearts that has been birthed out of simple obedience to God’s call. We are exactly where He wants us to be. There is so much to catch you up on, but I suppose a good place to start is by sharing a little about our town, “Stockton-On-Tees.”

 Stockon-On-Tees: Stockton is not the most desirable place to live in the UK—In fact it is considered the “armpit” of England. We see broken families and a huge shortage of fathers on a daily basis. Stockton is home to a lot of poverty, drug addiction, alcoholism, as well as physical and verbal abuse. From day one, we noticed an alarming amount of affliction on this town—Stockton has a large demographic of people with limps, canes and wheelchairs of all ages.

During the first three months of our move, we resided in community living with two other young women serving in England. Our neighborhood was considered government housing—most of the occupants were refugees, asylum seekers, middle-eastern immigrants, or poor/disabled British families. With this in mind, our team developed a ministry called, “Mill Lane” Mission where a neighborhood Q&A was hosted every Thursday night. Anyone with questions about God, the Bible, Christianity, etc. was welcome. This outreach has been going great and our team has seen a handful of people come to know Christ.

While I speak of all the devastation in Stockton-On-Tees, I am also extremely encouraged. On High Street, there is a campaign going on called, “Rediscover Stockton.” The town is literally rebuilding itself in the physical realm by putting in a new performing arts theater and a fountain in Town Square. While there is tangible construction going on in our town, I see a beautiful parallel of what God is doing in the spiritual realm—He is rebuilding Stockton spiritually. Brian and I fervently believe that God wants to restore Stockton in this generation. Our team is incredible and each so uniquely gifted and passionate about making a difference. Without a shadow of a doubt, the Lord is moving here in northeast England and we trust wholeheartedly that He has brought us here with great purpose.

Youth For Christ: Our schedules have been busy since we landed in the UK. As YFC workers we are in primary and secondary schools every day of the week. Within the primary schools, we have established reading programs, lunch clubs and after school kid’s clubs. Kids Clubs have proved quite successful. It’s been a lot of fun seeing them grow in their knowledge of God, in their creativity through crafts, and in character through sports. God has shown Youth For Christ amazing favor; He has been faithful to open many doors throughout the public school systems and across the Tees Valley. It is pretty astonishing that we have been given the ability to not only reflect Jesus to the next generation, but also openly teach about Him.

Some of the Kid’s Clubs can be extremely challenging due to the bad behavior of many of the children. Most of these kids have terrible home lives and simply do not know any better. They are often disrespectful, disobedient, vulgar, and cruel to one another. (We do however see progress and are encouraged by it.) In secondary schools, we work as teacher’s assistants in the nurture classes, which are comprised of the disruptive, unruly students or those with learning disabilities. We have also begun one-on-one mentoring programs, which have proved extremely effective. We are thrilled to continue this program next term.

Café Church: Morris Ministry was asked to head up a Café Church in central Stockton. Café Church is a casual worship experience with a gospel-centered message that meets in local coffee shops across The Tees Valley. This outreach program has been going good so far. Our first service was the largest Café Church YFC has ever hosted. It is our desire for these events to be effective in both Christian fellowship and community outreach. As youth workers, we desire for Cafe Church to be a helpful tool in bridging the gap between the church and schools. Typically kids are more likely to meet at a coffee shop than at church on a Sunday morning—the outreach provides a safe and comfortable environment to build relationships, as well as present the gospel.

Stockton Parish Church: When arriving in the England, we were immediately planted in the Stockton Parish Church, which is over 300 years old. Brian and I were officially commissioned as full-time staff members in mid-October. It was an unforgettable experience to be anointed with oil, prayed over, and deemed “worthy of the calling we have received.” (Eph. 4:1) The ceremony was made extra special because Mr. Kevin and Mrs. Susan Morris flew into England and witnessed our commissioning in person.

One of our favorite parts about our church family is the diversity. There are over 15 nationalities represented at our parish. Brian and I anticipated working with a bunch of teenage “Brits” when we arrived in northeast England, but to our surprise, we also get to work with 50 incredible Iranian families. Many of our new friends fled Iran for religious freedom and most of them are seeking asylum in Stockton. (Christianity is illegal in Iran, and the penalties are severe—anywhere from jail to the death sentence.) The language barrier can be difficult at times, but we share the same spirit and they’ve become like family.

SPC Youth: Our biggest priority has been leading the youth group at the Stockton Parish Church. We disciple throughout the week, and on Tuesday nights, Brian leads a boy’s Bible study and I lead a girl’s Bible study. In October, we organized our first youth retreat—the theme was on “Identity.” The weekend went brilliantly from team challenges in the forest, to fish and chips on the Scarborough shore. Brian taught an incredible message on the power of our thought life and one young person shared about encountering the Lord for the first time. The following morning I got to share my testimony.

Brian and I have been given many opportunities to speak at different churches, youth groups and youth events—both together and as individuals. We are exceedingly grateful for every chance God gives us to testify to His faithfulness, goodness and grace. In November, we hosted another successful event called “Youth Church.” It was a collaboration of three different youth groups from local churches in Stockton—the students all came together under the same roof to worship as one body. We have also been able to host a several fun youth socials, including a movie night, ice-skating, and a spectacular Christmas Party.

Highlights: In September, Elam Ministries provided the Persian community with an accurate, complete, easy to understand Bible translation for the first time. The New Millennium Bible took a team of over thirty translators nearly 20 years to complete and a few men lost their lives in the process. Considering the demographic in our church and the new Bible release, we felt God asking us to create awareness and raise financial support for Persian Bibles. Through generous people like you, we raised money for nearly 50 Persian Bibles! Every family in our church has now been provided with God’s Word in their native language.

On a personal note, one of the boys in our youth group moved from Iran only a few months ago.  He could never fully participate in the lessons because he was still learning English and did not have a Bible in Farsi.   One Sunday morning, we presented this twelve-year-old boy with his first Bible. I can’t describe in words how thankful he was nor could I describe the look of pure joy on his face as he strolled out of the youth room absolutely beaming and heading straight for his parents.  He was so excited to share His Bible with them. We will never forget this moment.

God’s Faithfulness: As most of you know, Brian and I are missionaries, so we will be working here for the next two years with no salary. With that said, it has been a beautiful opportunity for us to truly depend on God to provide for every need. We have had so much to thank Him for recently. First, God provided us with the resources to purchase a vehicle in England. (This was made possible by selling my car back home, while simultaneously receiving a generous online donation.) Having transportation has been an absolute blessing. For the first several months, we walked everywhere or took the bus. The flexibility that a car provides has been enormously beneficial for ministry.

Second, God has provided us with a house. Brian and I resided in community living our entire marriage (six months), until recently. While it certainly had its season and blessings, having a home to call our own has been the most remarkable gift. A family from another local church (talk about the capital “C” Church) provided us with a house, and didn’t even ask for us to pay rent. On top of that, the church we work for partnered with a charity that has committed to paying our house bills.   Needless to say, God has taken care of us! We are overwhelmed with His goodness and faithfulness.

Conclusion: Overall, this journey has been beautiful thus far. It’s certainly not easy doing full-time ministry, but God has unquestionably made our hearts come alive here. Brian and I have been challenged immensely and are growing exponentially in every way. We are so honored to be serving in England and we long to pour our whole hearts into our positions as youth pastors. Every day we are in awe of how God has entrusted us with this task and we humbly receive it. Thank you to everyone for your love, support, and continued prayers. We love this country, our town, our church family and you—our extended family! Your love and generosity is making an enormous, ETERNAL impact on this community!

MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Love, Brian and Morgan Morris

Prayer Requests: (1) Please pray for us as we implement a new discipleship program next term. (2) Please pray as we continue to pursue our seminary degrees online. (3) Pray that we raise the support to stay in England for another year. (3) Pray for God to continue making an impact on the lives of the young people here. (4) Pray for Kid’s Clubs and Mentorship Programs. (6) Pray for continued vision and discernment (7) And last but certainly not least, please pray for us as newlyweds and that we would continue to grow closer to God and closer to each other.

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Candy Cane

December 21st
Christmas Candy Cane

Have you ever heard the legend of the candy cane? Last night at our Christmas party, I witnessed one of the most intense games of charades that I have ever seen!! The final word in the basket was “Candy Cane.” Ironically, that was also the prize for the winning team! Before handing them out, I briefly shared this story...
Once upon a time, an Indiana candy-maker decided to create a new kind of candy... a candy that would hold more significance than just being a sweet treat. He wanted his latest creation to somehow witness to his Christian faith. So what did He do? The candy-maker began with a stick of pure, white, hard candy–white to symbolize Jesus’ virgin birth and sinless life. The hard candy is to symbolize the firmness of the promises of God, the Rock of our salvation.
"[you are] redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God." (I Pet. 1:19) "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (Is. 1:18) "He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken." (Ps. 62:2)
The candy-maker formed his candy into the shape of a “J” to represent both the precious name of Jesus and the staff used by the Good Shepherd. "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow..." (Phil. 2:9) "...I [Jesus] am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep." (Jn. 10:11)
Thinking this candy was somewhat plain, the candymaker decorated it with red stripes. The original candy cane was made with three small stripes to symbolize the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe stood for Christ's shed blood on the cross, so that we could have eternal life.
"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his stripes we are healed.” (Is. 53:5) "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 5:8)
What great hope we have received... this is the reason we celebrate! I pray after reading this beautiful story that you never look at a candy cane the same again. Merry Christmas!!

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Ice Skating Social & Christmas Party!

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Last week I flew back to the states for a quick trip to be in one of my best friend’s weddings!!! It was such a special weekend. On Tuesday night I was officially back on UK soil…just in time for our girl’s Bible study Christmas Party!!! We had such an amazing time eating Chinese takeout (special request), and playing a fun Christmas music quiz and pin the nose on the reindeer. We even got to decorate sugar cookies and play secret santa!

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Yesterday we took our kids on an ice skating social and tonight we hosted our SPC Youth Christmas Party. It was a great success! On top of serving a delicious salad & spaghetti dinner, we provided a fun hot chocolate bar, a smores station (straight from America!!) and all kinds of other delectable treats. We played Christmas musical chairs, charades, and catchphrase… then topped the night off with a hilarious White Elephant Gift Exchange. It is a blessing to be able to do things like this for our kids. We are so thankful for everything God has provided!!!!

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SPC Christmas Series

December 19th
SPC Christmas Series

*Greetings from England!* Brian here! Morgan thought it would be a great idea for me to summarize our Youth’s Christmas Series for today’s devotional.

Sunday, November 30th – DECORATIONS
Here in Stockton-On-Tees, England, Christmas decorations were beginning to shoot up everywhere, especially on the High Street. I asked the youth what their favorite Christmas decorations were and why they meant so much to them. After a plethora of interesting responses, we studied how God decorated His own house in Exodus ch. 37-39. In this passage, we see how God had specific instructions for the way He wanted His temple decorated. Similar to how Christmas decorations always place a certain spark in our hearts every year, God desired for His people to get a spark in their hearts when they walked into His house and saw His decorations… Decorations that previously no human eye had ever seen on earth. God loves us enough to reveal the mysteries of heaven just for our enjoyment.

Sunday, December 7th – GIFTS
At the beginning of the lesson, I asked the youth what the best gift they’d ever gotten was… One of the boys said an “Xbox,” and one of our girls said her cell phone. Afterward, I asked what made those gifts so special. Whether it was sentimental or not, they could all agree that the reason their gifts were meaningful was because they had value and because the giver put a certain amount of thought into the gift. Jesus was the greatest gift this world has ever known. He was the most valuable gift of all time, and God the Father put an unbelievable amount of thought into it as well. In fact, God had been planning the gift of salvation since the moment sin entered into the world. The prophecy of Genesis 3:15 comes true when Jesus crushed the serpent’s head in the garden of Gethsemane just before He was crucified. While Adam and Eve were still standing in the Garden of Eden receiving the consequences of their sin, God had already begun a plan for the world’s rescue. He had already begun wrapping the greatest gift of all time.

Sunday, December 14th – CHRISTMAS TREE
It was pretty unanimous among our youth group that the Christmas tree was the most important decoration during the holiday season. We discussed how bizarre it was that we put big trees in our living rooms and decorated them with lights and “bobbles” (English for ornaments). They had never thought about the significance of the Christmas tree and what it actually stood for… I told them the story of “The Three Little Trees,” which I strongly recommend you Google. The story speaks of three wooden objects mentioned in the story of Jesus’ birth: 1) the food trough Jesus was laid in after His birth, 2) the fishing boat Jesus calmed the sea of Galilee from, 3) and the cross Jesus was nailed to in order to save the world from sin. Trees played an extremely important role in the life of our savior and they continue to play a vital role in our Christmas decorations. Every time you look at the tree this holiday season remember that our God came humbly into this world—He did incredible miracles proving His divine nature, and He died on the cross after a sinless life on earth.

So, that’s what the Youth at the Stockton Parish Church have been learning over the last few weeks. Thank you so much for all the prayers and donations.

Merry Christmas and Many Blessings,
Brian Morris

Christmas in July

December18th
Christmas in July
“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)
After spending a semester in Athens, Greece four years ago, I flew home to Oklahoma just in time for the holidays! It was an extra special Thanksgiving and Christmas because my sister, her husband, their two kids AND their dog had temporarily moved in with my parents. (Matt & Samantha were building their first home, and to save money, they stayed with our family until it was completed.)
When I got home, the Christmas decorations were already up—we used to do it big in the Woolard household. There was garland, lights, and other decor covering the fireplaces and mantles. We had green, red and gold bulbs hanging from the chandeliers, and blinking Christmas lights dangling from every window seal. Christmas was truly grand that year and the house was once again, successfully transformed into a winter wonderland.
Christmas quickly came and went, and it was back to college for me. At the end of January, I drove home for a weekend visit, surprised to find the Christmas tree and all of the decorations still hanging. I laughed and asked my parents to explain why everything was still up a month later. Turned out, the room designated for storing the Christmas decorations was turned into a bedroom for my sister’s children. (There was no other room in the house available for storage, so the decorations stayed out!)
I started visiting my family on a frequent basis, and I kid you not, I got so used to those Christmas decorations that I didn’t even notice them anymore. For the next six months, it would be Christmas at the Woolard residence. By that point, it was no longer uncomfortable or embarrassing—the decorations did not bother me.
Isn’t the SIN in our lives all too similar? If we don’t deal with our sin and put it away like we’re supposed to, then it's eventually going to make a home in our heart. Has there ever been a sinful habit in your life that you felt bad about in the beginning, but then the more you did it or thought about it, the more comfortable it became to do or say, until it didn’t even bother you anymore???
Just like I got used to seeing Christmas trees in July, the sin in our lives can also start to feel normal if we aren’t careful. Do not allow yourself to become calloused and hardened toward sin. Ultimately the hardness of the human heart can only be repaired by the grace of God. It is he who can restore us, by taking away our heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh.
"When the people return to their homeland, they will remove every trace of vile images and detestable idol worship. And I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their hearts of stone and give them tender hearts instead, so they will obey my laws and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God..." (Ezekiel 11:18-21)
Is your heart hardened? “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) The original translation of "sin" means "to miss the mark." Ask God today where you're missing the mark. Ask Him to forgive you of your sinful thoughts, actions, or lifestyle, and to purify your heart by giving you a sensitivity toward sin. I'm thankful today for a God who specializes in heart transplants!! (Ez. 36:26)
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (Ps. 119: 9-11)

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Holiday “Wish List”

December 16th
Christmas Wish List

Wish Lists! Did you make them as a kid? Do/did you receive them ever as parents? Chances are that you’ve asked to have something for Christmas at least once in your life.

I was reading James 4 on the plane yesterday, and it got me thinking about the concept of “asking” God for things and how many of us misinterpret the scripture, “ask and you shall receive.” (Matthew 7:7-8, Luke 11:9, or Mark 11:24)

It’s not like God is some kind of cosmic santa that gives us what we want; Jesus was not giving a magic formula for self-gratification. Make sure the things you want from God are things God would want to give you. Sometimes when we ask, we don’t get the answers we want because of selfish ambition.

James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

At other times, we dream for big things or want God to come through for something, but are not willing to pay the price of diligent study, hard work, and patient prayer.

When asking things of God in prayer, always check your heart.

Here are a few helpful and telling questions to ask:

Is it biblical?
Who gets the credit?
Have I grown enough to receive it?
Would others glorify God when they see the results?
Would it harm my continued growth in Christ if I receive it?
Will lost people come to Christ?
Will the body of Christ be edified?

Jesus told the disciples in John 14:13 that the requests made in His name would be fulfilled so that “ the Father may be glorified in the Son”. <– This must always be at the forefront of every prayer.

May everything we say, do and ask for in prayer be all for the glory of God. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name be ALL the glory because of Your lovingkindness… because of Your truth.” – Psalm 115:1

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Oh, Christmas Tree

December 15th
Oh, Christmas Tree
“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” – Revelations 1:8
Have you ever wondered why we have a Christmas tree or why it’s an evergreen? I learned recently about a man named Boniface. (680–754) He was a Christian missionary, best known for establishing the first organized Christianity in many parts of Germany, and founding the use of a Christmas tree to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. It’s a fascinating story!
From his other missionary travels, Boniface knew that in winter the inhabitants of the village of Geismar, Germany gathered around a huge old oak tree (known as the “Thunder Oak”) that they had dedicated to the false god Thor. The gathering was an annual event of pagan worship centered on sacrificing a human, usually a small child.
Boniface desperately desired to convert the village by destroying the Thunder Oak, which the pagans had previously boasted the God of Boniface could not destroy. The fellow missionaries who voyaged with Boniface were fearful that the Germans might kill them, but Boniface, bold as a lion, grabbed an axe and chopped down the Thunder Oak of “mighty Thor.”
Astonished by the destruction of the oak tree and in awe of Boniface’s preaching of the gospel, the German tribe accepted Jesus Christ and were baptized. Instead of using the oak tree to worship a false god, Boniface suggested for them to use an evergreen tree to represent Christ. Why? (1) Because the green leaves of an evergreen are constant and unchanging, just like Christ’s love… (2) it is a sign of an endless life… (3) and it points toward Heaven.
Tonight, when you gaze upon your radiant Christmas tree, I hope you think of our faithful and constant God.
“Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree!
Thy leaves are so UNCHANGING…”
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8
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“Prepare Him Room”

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December 14th
Prepare Him Room

An English writer and theologian named Isaac Watts first published the famous hymn, “Joy to the World,” in 1719. Ironically, Watts never intended for it to be a Christmas carol. He was simply paraphrasing the words of Psalm 98: “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth . . . for he comes . . .” (vs. 4, 9).

Psalm 98 celebrates God’s protection and restoration of his chosen people. Watts’ song rejoices in the same way, as it expresses joy for the salvation that began when God became man.

“Joy to the World,” provides us with these beautiful lyrics: “Joy to the world! the Lord is come . . . LET EVERY HEART PREPARE HIM ROOM.”

“Prepare Him Room…”

These are such significant words… for ANY time of the year, but it’s an especially stunning reminder during Christmas time when so many things can distract us from our faith.

December is filled with busy shopping days, holiday baking, mailing Christmas cards, wrapping gifts, stuffing stockings, putting up twinkling lights, preparing for the visiting relatives, and welcoming kids home from college… Whoa! “Prepare Him room, prepare Him room… prepare Him room!”

It’s no secret that Christmas can be chaotic and frenzied, leaving us with endless “to do” lists…… Let’s take heed to this beloved hymn and prepare our hearts for Christ. When we do, we experience the greatest level of JOY imaginable.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” – Colossians 3:16

Seasoned With Salt

December 13th
Christmas Crash
Several years ago, I was driving home from college for Christmas break and rammed into the back of a car as I exited off of the highway. (For the record, it was completely my fault.) I remember the horrible pit in my stomach as I pulled onto the side of the road to “meet my fate.” Was this guy going to yell at me?? Take advantage of the situation by making me pay more than the damage? Would he sue me for “neck injury”?? Who knows!
I was expecting the worst, but to my delight, the man whose car I smashed into was incredibly GRACIOUS toward me, unusually kind, and unbelievably understanding of the situation. WOW!!!!!!! What a relief! I can’t emphasize enough how much his reaction blessed me and blessed what could have been a very ugly situation. (I found out further into the conversation that he was studying to be a pastor.)
“Walk in wisdom toward those who are unbelievers, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech ALWAYS be GRACIOUS, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” - Colossians 4:5
The Bible tells us that believers are called to always live on mission. In Colossians we are reminded to (1) live in a way that establishes credibility in the faith. In other words, we should practice what we preach… and (2) that we make the most of every evangelistic opportunity to share the gospel and reflect Jesus Christ in our interactions with strangers.
This Christmas while we are bustling through busy malls, waiting in long lines, and stuck in traffic jams, let our responses be “gracious, seasoned with salt.”
GRACIOUS: To speak what is spiritual, wholesome, fitting, kind, sensitive, purposeful, complimentary, gentle, truthful, loving, attractive and thoughtful. (Eph. 4:29-31)
SEASONED: Salt not only flavors, but also prevents corruption—the Christian’s speech should act not only as a blessing to others, but as a purifying influence within the decaying society of the world.

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Grace & Truth

December 12th
Grace and Truth

So 46 hours later, I finally made it to St. Louis… Seeing my mom and dad’s faces at the baggage claim filled me with so much joy! It was great to see them after not only traveling for two days straight, but also after being in England for the last four months.

While I won’t be able to stay in the states for Christmas, don’t we naturally have a deep need to be with family during the holidays? Whether it’s your spouse, kids, parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, close friends… There’s something about Christmas that beckons family togetherness!

Family togetherness is an incredibly beautiful and vital part of life. And although we love our families very much, we don’t always have the most beneficial thoughts or sentiments toward them, right? Sometimes instead of joy, we can feel frustration, or instead of enthusiasm, we can feel apathetic and indifferent. We can either feel delighted by our family or feel irritated by them. Family members can be the source of both happy tears and tears of sadness.

There is no perfect family, but we serve a perfect Savior.

“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

No matter where our emotions take us, it’s important to react in love, grace and truth. When GRACE and TRUTH define our conversations with family over the holiday, we can truly celebrate the splendor of togetherness and more importantly, the reason for the season—the birth of Jesus Christ.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh… for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do…Now the works of the flesh are evident: …enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions…” – Galatians 5:16-24

This Christmas, let’s pray AGAINST enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, rivalries, dissensions, and divisions. God doesn’t want that for you or your families.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” –Galatians 5:22-23

Instead, let’s pray FOR a spirit full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control toward one another.

“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” – Proverbs 16:32

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Perspective.

It has been a crazy day y’all. I (Morgan) am currently sitting on a plane in London about to take off for Chicago. (I’m headed to St. Louis to be a bridesmaid in a dear friend’s wedding)

Brian and I have been up since 5am this morning. (UK Time) We left Stockton early this morning and got stuck in traffic, making a two hour drive to Manchester, a four hour drive. With that said, I MISSED MY FLIGHT.

After the four hours of driving to Manchester, we drove another three hours to London to catch a different flight. The good news is, I made it in the knick of time! The bad news is, I didn’t have time to write the daily December devo.

I can however, share what God reminded me of today: DAYS LIKE THIS HAPPEN. In fact, they’re inevitable. We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we can control the way we react to what happens. We can also choose to trust in the One who always remains in control. No matter how stressful our day feels, the universe keeps spinning and God continues to sit on His throne.

Are Brian and I running on fumes today? (three hours of sleep?) YES. Have we felt sick and tired all day? Yeup. Did I have a few good cries this morning? Without a doubt, yes. (Lol) Did we spend loads on (unnecessary) gas money and a new flight? Painfully, Yesss.

BUT at the end of the day… I’m alive. I’m healthy. Jesus loves me… AND I made it on a plane. So… it’s all good. Even on my worst day, I’m blessed beyond measure and have something to lift up in praise. I have 10,000 reasons to thank God.

Perspective changes everything. We can either complain about our situation, or tap into God’s supernatural peace… Because guess what!? Having a bad attitude doesn’t change our situation. What’s done is done–we can’t reverse time, so we might as well have a positive attitude rather than a negative one (Now if I can just put this into practice a little more consistently )

We are all a work in progress folks. Thank goodness God promises to finish what He starts in us.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Phil. 1:6

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Cheerful Giver

December 9th
Cheerful Giver

“Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7

Giving gifts is one of my favorite parts about this time of year. With that said, we challenged our youth group to a Christmas gift challenge and now I’m passing it along to you. The challenge is for you to go Christmas shopping for someone that is NOT a part of your immediate family or circle of friends…

I know this is way out of a lot of people’s comfort zones, but pray about it! Ask God to show you someone who He’d want you to bless this Christmas.

(Ideas: your neighbor, teacher, someone elderly, your mailman, a barista at your fav. coffee shop, a foster child, someone in your church…)

It doesn’t have to be anything big. (It could be a card; you could even bake cookies) Gift giving is FUN!! It’s the best feeling in the world to know you’ve made someone feel happy and loved.

Questions: What’s the point of giving people gifts? How generous are you with your time, treasures and talents? Do you believe that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive? Think about a time in your life when you blessed someone with a gift (or your time)…. How did it make you feel? Think of a time where someone surprised you with a gift… Did you feel loved?

My prayer is for the Lord to make us more generous year round. I pray that we comprehend the simple truth that everything we have belongs to Him anyway.

“…Keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said: ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’” – Acts 20:35

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Promise Keeper.

December 8th
Promise Keeper
“For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.” – 2 Corinthians 1:20 NLT
Yesterday Brian taught about Jesus being our ultimate gift. He explained how God promised our rescue from the beginning. Did you know that directly after the fall of Adam and Eve, God was already declaring His plan for our salvation?
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he (Jesus) shall bruise your head, and you (Satan) shall bruise his heel.” - Genesis 3:15
The plot continues throughout history…
"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch (JESUS!) to spring forth for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.' – Jeremiah 33:14-16
The prophecies were fulfilled AS PROMISED, through the birth of Jesus Christ... “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel (God with us!)." - Isaiah 7:14
The prophecies were fulfilled through the death of Jesus Christ...“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” - Romans 5:8
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16;1
...and the prophecies were fulfilled through the resurrection of Jesus Christ! “And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus... He isn't here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body WAS lying." - Luke 24:2-3; 6
God has kept ALL of His promises since the beginning of time and He's STILL keeping them. This Christmas let us REJOICE in a God who keeps His promises to us, even if it means sacrificing His one and only son.
Let us rejoice in a God whose word does NOT return void. (Isaiah 55:10-11) Let us rejoice in a God who does not fail... who is constant... who is trustworthy. Let us rejoice in our good and FAITHFUL God… the realization of our every need, hope, and desire.

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Living in Expectation

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December 7th
Living in Expectation

“Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed…” – Romans 13:11

Today was the second Sunday of advent. I learned this year that advent comes from the Latin word “adventus” meaning “arrival or coming.” The Hebrews looked forward to the coming of a Savior or Messiah – this is the First Advent. Now, we are waiting expectantly for Christ to return —> the Second Advent.

So practically speaking, advent was created to remind us of the glorious return of Jesus one day. It’s something we should be excited about and look forward to year round. As believers, we should always live in expectation. Not only for His return, but simply for HIM in general.

“But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation… My God will hear me.” – Micah 7:7

We should live with expectation of a God who listens and who speaks. EXPECT the Lord to give you eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to receive new and captivating things from Him every single day. God wants to speak to you and He does it in all kinds of ways.

Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” – Joshua 3:5

Anticipate Him! Think about how much we anticipate Christmas arriving… the music, the lights, the gift giving and receiving… the food!!! We should have the same anticipation for the things of God.

I hope this Christmas we can stop in the midst of all the craziness and distractions, and “reset” Jesus Christ as the center of the season. My prayer is for God to make us more aware of what it means to live life in expectation.

Are you prepared for the return of Jesus? How different would your life be tonight if you knew Jesus was returning at midnight? Is Christ at the forefront of your Christmas celebrations?

“Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come…” – Mark 13:33

O Little Town of Bethlehem

December 6th
O Little Town of Bethlehem

Today I went to the Durham Christmas Festival with our lovely new neighbors. After visiting the craft fair, we attended “Carols For All” at the stunning Durham Cathedral. One of the carols we sang was “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

In the book of Micah, the prophet foretold that the Messiah would come from this small and seemingly unimportant town.

” But you, O Bethlehem are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies until the woman in labor gives birth… And he will stand to lead his flock with the LORD’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. Then his people will live there undisturbed, for he will be highly honored around the world. And he will be the source of peace… Micah 5:2–5 NLT

Isn’t it just like God to do his WORLD-CHANGING work in a little town, in the middle of the night, in an animal shelter? God chose to do something significant somewhere insignificant. The little place on the face of the earth is where God chose for the Savior of the world to be born!!

Isn’t it JUST like God to call, equip, empower and use YOU… to change the world?

Right now I live in North East England. It isn’t considered one of the most “desirable” places on earth to live. Neither is my home state of Oklahoma. In fact, they call my area of the country the “fly over states” because people tend to “fly over” us to get to California, New York or Florida. ha!

The point I’m trying to make here is that God wants to use us…. and nothing else matters. (Not our past, not where we were born, not our grade point average, not our social or economic status… etc)

God can do anything…anywhere… with anyone.

He wants to use me. He wants to use you. And He takes great pleasure in it!!

Are you a willing vessel? Ask God today why He has you where you are and what He wants you to do with your life. Then ask Him to give you vision for your future and to put a God-sized dream in your heart.

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Caring at Christmas

December 5th

Caring at Christmas

Last month in SPC Youth during Adoption Awareness Week, we watched the movie The Blindside and talked about a.) How we were adopted by God and appointed as co-heirs with Christ! and b.) How not only did God adopt us out of darkness, but He also commissioned us to help others in need.

In the book of James, we are reminded… “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is THIS: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)

I found it so interesting that the text put “caring for those in need” WITH the call to “be unstained from the world.”

Honestly, a lot of us seek to be “unstained” by DISTANCING ourselves from those we consider to be “stained”. Sometimes we try to avoid the most troubled in society, rather than care for them. Sometimes we overlook our neighbor in need, let alone the suffering in another country.

In Jeremiah 22:16, God makes a bold declaration that to truly KNOW Him, has EVERYTHING to do with helping those who are suffering.

“He gave justice and help to the poor and needy,
and everything went well for him.
Isn’t THAT what it means to know me?”
SAYS THE LORD.”

Christmas is a GREAT time of year to help others!!!!!! There are TONS of families in need. …SO HOW CAN YOU HELP!?

Here’s a couple ideas…

1.) Sponsor a child somewhere. (or babies and their mothers) Compassion International, for example, is a GREAT organization for that. (http://www.compassion.com/) ((Or you can simply adopt a low income family this Christmas and help purchase gifts for their kiddos))

2.) You can be a part of an already established Christmas organization. Ask your church what they’re involved with this month! There are several charities created for the purpose of giving to the less fortunate during the holidays.

Two organizations I love and have partnered with in the past are:
-The Samaritan’s Purse ( Operation Christmas Child )
-Prison Fellowship, who founded “Project Angel Tree”
(http://www.prisonfellowship.org/programs/angel-tree/)

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God With Us

December 4th
God With Us

“”Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Emmanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

Names of God are one of my absolute favorite things to study. We have names for His compassion, grace, healing, provision, guidance, peace… the list goes on and on.

At Christmas time, Emmanuel is the perfect name for Jesus because it means “God with us.” This time of the year, we celebrate that God came to us through His son, Jesus. This is what Christmas is all about…it is the start of the Good News.

A similar name for God is “Jehovah – Shammah,” which means, “The Lord is there.”

He is there… as a loving Father.
He is there… as a faithful friend.
He is there… as courage when you’re afraid.
He is there… as your defender when attacked.
He is there… as the answer to your uncertainty.
He is there… as hope when you’re discouraged.
He is there… as peace when you’re overwhelmed.

He is there……
for true satisfaction when you’ve tried everything BUT Him.

HE IS THERE… never failing, always the same….yesterday, today and forever.

“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” – Jeremiah 29:13

His presence is one of the greatest “presents” we could ever receive. His nearness is completely indispensable to true joy and fulfillment.

Emmanuel–God is with us!! Take time to be in God’s presence today and be blessed in the name of Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord who promises to be present with you always. (Eze. 48:35)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nncUQw4TeXY – “I’m A Lover Of Your Presence,” by Bryan & Katie Torwalt

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The Year Round Gift

December 3rd
The Year Round Gift

This week in SPC Youth, Brian will be sharing about all things “gifts”—from giving to receiving, to Jesus… the ultimate gift. Jesus’ birth is what Christmas is all about, right? It marks the day GRACE arrived on earth. The BEST news?? →It never stopped arriving—God’s grace is the year-round gift.

And it’s poured out in abundance! —> “From His fullness we have all received, GRACE UPON GRACE.” – John 1:16

Because of Jesus, unending grace is ours to keep.

Grace on grace on grace on grace on grace on grace on grace…..

Romans 5:20 says, “But where sin increased, GRACE increased all the more!”
^^ In other words, there’s no one His grace can’t reach, and there’s nothing His grace can’t redeem.

One of the first scriptures I ever memorized was Ephesians 2:8,9 – “For by GRACE you have been saved through FAITH. And this is not your own doing; it is the GIFT of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Remember that your faith in Christ IS enough. Anything else undermines the truth that salvation is a gift, not a reward for our good deeds. When we set up additional requirements for salvation, we deny grace and the power of Christ’s death on the cross. (Gal. 3:1-5)10286921_10152487934396961_184041447900207619_o

God Wants All of YOU.

“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” (Col. 3:5)

This morning while reading in Colossians, I was reminded of the moment when I truly gave Jesus all of me. It was when I came to the realization that I hadn’t actually been “putting to death” my sinful nature, but merely wounding it. There’s a big difference in heart transformation and behavior modification.

Ask God to help you deal with the root of your sin so that you can experience true freedom and healing. Pray like King David when he said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my thoughts; see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139: 23-24)

My advice is to stop crawling off the altar.

Trust God, and sacrifice your flesh.
Die to self, and you’ll come alive in Christ.

God wants all of you.psalm 139.23-24 bright

Rest of Heart in the Midst of Activity

December 2nd
Rest of Heart in the Midst of Activity

The holiday season can be a bit chaotic for us all. I don’t know about you, but my “to do’s” often feel endless and I sometimes find myself overwhelmed by the tasks at hand.

It’s easy to get burnt out and overloaded, especially when we try to do it all in our own strength. We aren’t supposed to depend on ourselves, we were created to draw on the infinite sources that are in Christ.

“Jesus said, Come to ME, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find REST for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)

Sometimes the struggles and stresses of life can really weigh us down and drain our energy, but Jesus tells us that in the midst of it all, rest is found in Him.

Most of us break down simply because we are carrying all our own burdens and all our own problems. We are even sleeping with them, allowing them to crowd our minds. (Nervous strain can also come from assuming a responsibility for things that were never intended to be carried by us.)

Ask God to help you, today. When we find ourselves tired, overwhelmed or discouraged, there is a supernatural source to draw power from… the Holy Spirit.

‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ – Jesus

“So now I (Paul) am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me… when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-11

Remember, far too often we try to do everything on our own, but don’t be surprised if that leads to burn out. We can be fruitful and productive without having breakdowns when it is not our activity, but HIS.

Draw from the Lord’s strength this season & REST IN HIM! It is a wonderful rest.

“Rest of heart in the midst of activity, such is the life of adventure with the Savior.”

“IDENTITY” Youth Retreat

At the end of October, our team lead the first youth retreat of the school year!  The theme of the retreat was IDENTITY.

Brian taught an incredible message on the power of our thought life and one young person shared about encountering God for the first time!!!!!!! The next morning, I was given the opportunity to share about my experiences with Miss USA and my testimony of finding my identity in Christ alone.

Overall, the retreat was brilliant. Our students had a blast with the team challenges in the forest and loved the fish and chips in Scarborough! :) We also had a “country” theme which included bobbing for apples and a bunch of British teens line dancing and eating watermelon for the first time. HA!!

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By the Word of their Testimony.

Brian and I were invited out to the beautiful town of Stokesley youth to speak a couple weeks ago.  It was an incredible opportunity to share our hearts on identity and relationships.

We enjoyed our time with those young people so much.  We also had a blast decorating cookies and drinking (amazing) hot chocolate by the fire with them! It was truly a great night and God was so faithful to speak through us, even though we were both under the weather!

A couple days later, I had the great privilege of speaking again in Middlebrough and sharing my testimony with the wonderful students at Kings Academy.

Brian and I are exceedingly grateful for every opportunity God gives us to testify to His faithfulness, goodness and grace!

Thank you God, for using us.

by-the-word-01“They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…” Revelation 12:11

Stockton Cafe Church

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Morris Ministry was asked to head up a Cafe Church in central Stockton! A week ago today, we ran our very first gathering at Caffe Nero. WHAT IS Cafe Church you might ask? It’s a casual worship experience with a gospel-centered message that meets in local coffee shops across The Tees Valley.

It’s our desire for these events to be effective in both Christian fellowship and community outreach. As youth workers, we also pray that Cafe Church would be a tool for bridging the gap between the church and schools.

Our October Cafe Church was made extra special because Brian’s parents were visiting us in England and got to be a part of it–Morgan planned, promoted, and emceed, Brian led the worship, and Mr. Kevin Morris taught a great message on repentance and forgiveness. #familyaffair #MorrisMinistry

The November Cafe Church was also a great success. We were incredibly thankful to Mike Taylor, director of Youth for Christ and UK USA Ministries, for teaching an excellent message on Thankfulness! YFC is so thankful for him and his leadership. We also owed a big thank you to Brian, Bethany, & Ellis for leading us into worship and Brittany, Rachel, & Josh for helping set up! Love our team. Love our town. Love our Lord.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” – Psalm 100: 4,5

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Commissioned.

We were officially commissioned as staff by the Stockton Parish Church on October 19, 2014! It was an unforgettable experience to be anointed with oil, prayed over, and deemed “worthy of the calling we have received.” (Eph. 4:1)

One of our favorite parts of the ceremony was being surrounded by our young people while they too, prayed for us as their leaders. We are so honored to be here serving in England and we long to pour our whole hearts into our positions as youth pastors.

God continues to blow us away with His faithfulness. We are in awe of how He has entrusted us with this task and we humbly receive it. Thank you to everyone for your love, support, and continued prayers. We love this country, our town, and our church family!

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Living Stones

A few weeks ago, we had two large boxes full of Farsi Bibles show up on our doorstep! WOW!!!! We are blown away by God’s provision.

Our church had a confirmation service recently for those who were baptized last month, and through YOUR donations, we received enough Persian Bibles for EVERY SINGLE new believer.

It was an absolutely beautiful service filled with worship and testimony of the living God. Brian read to the congregation 1 Peter 2:4-10.

THANK YOU for your support! Your generosity is making an enormous, ETERNAL impact on this community! #Farsi #Bibles #SPC #LivingStones

“You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple…And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God… anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced… you are a chosen people. You are a royal priesthood… a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light…Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:4-10

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Dictionary: blameless |ˈblāmlis | adjective | innocent of wrongdoing

How great is our God that he casts our sins as far as the east is from the west and remembers them no more? (Psalm 103:12) Our past mistakes have been deleted by a nail-scarred hand. I’m in awe today of the scandal of grace and that our good God declares us righteous, forgiven, justified, holy and completely blameless before Him. (Ephesians 1:4; 5:27) <—- Walk in this identity today. What others say about you is irrelevant, what God says about you is everything. #identity #forgiven #holy #blameless #grace

“He has made (you) alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” (Eph. 1:4)

“He did this to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Eph. 5:27)

Dictionary: blameless |ˈblāmlis | adjective | innocent of wrongdoingColossians-2-13-14

Eternity Conscious

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December 1st Devo

Eternity Conscious

Can you believe it’s already December? Where did 2014 go?

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.
We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.” – Psalm 39:4-7

I pray today that we can all grasp this reality: our lives are fleeting.

God says our time on earth is, “but a breath.” It’s a drop in the ocean. It’s here today and gone tomorrow, and we’re not even guaranteed tomorrow. When I think about our short lives on earth compared to eternity, I’m motivated to live more intentionally and love more passionately.

Remember, our lives are made up of time. How are you spending yours? Is your hope in the Lord or in earthly treasures? What does it profit you to gain the whole world, yet lose your soul?

Are you loving God and loving the people He has made?? What did you do in the year 2014 that will matter for eternity?

There is only one thing that will stand the test of time and count in the end… it’s knowing Jesus and making Him known.

You’ve got one life on earth, what are you going to do with it?

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Marriage Advice from a Couple of Newlyweds.

On November 29, we celebrating our 6 months of marriage!

Here’s some advice from a couple of newlyweds:
God’s Word says…
1. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”- 1 Peter 4:8 (Love unconditionally & fight fear)

2. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12 (Keep Christ at the center)

3. “Be completely humble and gentle; Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”- Ephesians 4:2-3 (Be humble, gentle, and unselfish)

4. “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”- Mark 10:9 (Always remember that you’re on the same team)

5. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4–8a (Exercise patience with one another & be slow to anger)

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Thanksgiving Kid’s Club!

The Central Stockton team spent Thanksgiving day at Mill Lane Primary School. We adore these kids and their big hearts toward us and toward one another. It’s been a lot of fun seeing them grow in their knowledge of God (and in their dribbling skills) ! God has shown Youth For Christ amazing favor. He has been faithful to open many doors throughout the public school systems and across the Tees Valley. It’s pretty incredible that we’ve been given the opportunity to not only reflect Jesus to the next generation, but also openly teach them about Jesus and His love! #KidsClub #Thankful #YFC #GospelDream

 

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“Thanksgiving is a time of quiet reflection upon the past and an annual reminder that God has, again, been ever so faithful. The solid and simple things of life are brought into clear focus, so much so that everything else fades into insignificance.” – Charles Swindoll #GREATisHisFaithfulness #HappyThanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving!

“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to LIVE GRATITUDE is to touch Heaven.” – Johannes A. Gaertner

I pray that today and every day we are people who authentically “live gratitude.” As we do this, our lives become a fragrant aroma to God. The transformative powers associated with a thankful heart are truly remarkable. A heart filled with gratitude can literally change the whole way we see and experience life. It is like a flood-gate opener to unexplainable PEACE & joy!

I once heard preached, “If you want t be JOYFUL, then be THANKFUL for everything, and if you want to be miserable, then complain about everything.” I’ve also heard the quote, “It is not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy.”

Praying today that we are all humbly aware of God’s goodness and FAITHFULNESS in our lives and that we recognize our Savior’s love in EVERYTHING He has given us! Every little blessing is far too precious to ever forget to say, “Thank you!” As Thomas Merton said, “every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence a gift of grace.”

HAPPY THANKSGIVING from England!

Cheers! xo

Brian & Morgan Morris

“To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us–and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence a gift of grace.” – Thomas Merton

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Pure and Undefiled Religion

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A couple Sunday’s ago I led the youth solo while Brian was in Birmingham, Alabama for his best friend’s wedding. I had the pleasure of kicking off National Adoption Week and here’s a glimpse at my talking points…
There are so many beautiful similarities between an earthly adoption and our spiritual adoption. Adoptive parents must take sacrificial steps in order to make a child a part of their own family; likewise, God took sacrificial steps in order to make a way for us to be members of His family. One of God’s greatest sacrifices was sending His son, Jesus, to die for us.

…God sent his son to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His child, God has made you His heir.” (Galatians 4)

Takeaway #1: We were adopted by God and appointed as co-heirs with Christ! How awesome is that? (After God invited us into His family, we became children of light to display God’s splendor to the world.)

Ephesians 5:8-9 says, “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.”

Takeaway #2: Not only did God adopt us out of darkness and into His marvelous light, but He also commissioned us to help others in need. (We care for orphans not because we are rescuers, but because WE are the rescued!) 

 James reminds us… “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is THIS: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)

It’s startling that the text puts caring for those in need with the call to be unstained from the world. In truth, many of us (in the church) sometimes seek to be “unstained” by distancing ourselves from those most troubled in society, or those in need.

The real child without parents is going to have a lot of difficulties. The real woman who lost her husband is going to come with complications and brokenness. The real person in need will come with some messiness. Most of the time we cannot help that child, or widow, or hurting person without getting a little messy ourselves.

In Jeremiah 22:16, God makes a bold declaration…

 “He gave justice and help to the poor and needy,

    and everything went well for him.

Isn’t that what it means to know me?”

    says the Lord.

The Lord, God Himself, declares that to truly KNOW Him, has everything to do with helping those who are suffering.

Another thought-provoking scripture is found in Matthew 25. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world…for I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? …Or a stranger and show you hospitality? “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

 The passage continues as the King also looks to His left and says, ‘away with you, you cursed ones…’ because when I was hungry, you didn’t feed me, and when I was naked, you didn’t clothe me. They reply, ‘when did we ever seen you in need, and not help you?’ (His answer was pretty simple): ‘When you refused to help the least of these brothers or sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ (The last verse is sobering) “…and they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

I’m so thankful that our God has declared us righteous and that we get to inherit the Kingdom as His children!  “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:4-5)
I’m also thankful to serve a God who is a Father to the fatherless, and a defender of widows! (Psalm 68) 
Are you defending widows? Are you allowing yourself to get a little messy? If God hasn’t called your family to  adopt, how else can you visit orphans in their affliction? (James 1:27)
 (Here's a few ideas: We could fulfill God's invitation through helping meet the emotional, physical, or spiritual needs of the fatherless: we can do this by fostering, sponsoring or even mentoring a child; we can always find ways to give of our time or resources.  Finally, we can do our part by simply shining light into the darkness and revealing God's true identity as a Father to a lost world.)

The Persian Bible

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*AMAZING NEWS!!!!!*

On September 22, over five hundred people journeyed to London, England from about forty different countries for a VERY special event:

The dedication service of Elam’s new translation of the Bible in Persian. ( Click HERE to view website! )

For the first time, the people of Iran have been provided with a Bible translation that is accurate, easy to read, and easy to understand. Every single verse has been thoroughly checked and examined, ensuring that The New Millennium Bible is as close to the original Hebrew or Greek as possible.

It took a team of over thirty translators and specialists nearly twenty years to make the Persian Bible a reality. This reality is a magnificent proclamation of the global Church’s commitment to God’s Word.

In May 1994, Tateos Michaelian, Iran’s most experienced translator, took the lead in translating the entire Bible. Soon after, Tateos was murdered for his faith. (The team bravely resolved to continue and named the translation project ‘The Michaelian Project’ in his honor.)

When the translation work began two decades ago, many expected the Iranian Church to fade away under the immense pressure from the hostile government.   Yet, the Church in Iran continued to GROW!! God’s word is not chained; no one can stop the move of the Holy Spirit.  

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*A reason to CELEBRATE!*

The new translation of the Bible should be celebrated by every believer; but we feel an extra need to get excited because we are celebrating alongside  the numerous Iranians who attend our church in North East England.

((Iranians are an Indo-European people.  They speak Persian (Farsi), not Arabic and 90% are Shia Muslim.  The nation of Iran opposes Christianity: Bibles are banned, evangelism is illegal, and converts from Islam could face the death sentence.))

Many of our new friends from Iran fled their country for religious freedom; most came to England seeking asylum from what I understand.  It is clear that God is doing remarkable things here in the UK and especially within the Iranian community. We have FIFTEEN baptisms on Sunday, October 26th!  Praise God!

On another personal note, one of the young men in our youth group moved from Iran only a couple of months ago.  He could never fully participate in the scripture readings or lessons because he was still learning English and did not have a Bible in Farsi.   Last Sunday, we presented this eleven year old boy with his first Bible!! –A beautifully bound, leather Bible in Persian.

We got to see this awesome kid open up God’s Word and grin from ear to ear because he could finally understand the text!  I can’t describe in words how thankful he was nor could I describe the look of pure joy on his face as he strolled out of the youth room absolutely beaming and heading straight for his parents.  He was so excited to share His Bible with them! We will never forget this moment.

Friends, while our hearts are bursting because ONE young man received a Persian Bible, we are also mindful of those within our church without God’s word.

There is a huge need for more Bibles and we‘d love to extend the opportunity for YOU, our friends and family back home, to help fund a Bible in Farsi. The Bibles are 12 pounds online, which is currently equal to 19.29 in US dollar.

If you’d like to donate a Persian Bible to someone in our church, click the donate button on the bottom of our homepage (www.morrisministry.com) and write a message/memo (also on the bottom of our homepage) informing that the donation is specifically for Bibles.  If you’d prefer, you can purchase the Bibles online from the Elam Ministry Store   ( PURCHASE BIBLE HERE! ) and have them shipped to this address: Brian and Morgan Morris/ Stockton Parish Church/High Street/ Stockton-on-Tees, England/ TS18 1SP

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Continue to pray with us and the global church for an explosive growth in Iran that will  impact the entire Middle East.

Please also pray with us for God’s protection on the Bibles as they flood to Iran.  (and also remember to praise God for YOUR Bible(s) and your freedom to worship because there are people all over the world who have died for it.)

THANK YOU for lifting up the whole nation of Iran before the living God. We believe that we serve a GREAT and mighty God, who answers prayers!

With Joy and Celebration,

Morgan and Brian

Youth for Christ Lake Retreat

Below is an article I helped write for the Derwentwater Hostel website.

‘In partnership with the Tees Valley Youth for Christ, 30 American students have been twinned with schools and churches across Teesside, where they will be serving as youth workers for the next year. The majority of the group had never been to the UK before, and so the Lake District was a perfect introduction to our long-term stay in the UK.

After arriving at the hostel we immediately hiked to the top of Surprise View. Everyone was completely enamoured by its effortless beauty, and it was a powerful place for considering how this landscape might have been created. While admiring the view, TVYFC Director Mike Taylor shared an inspiring message on Vision.

Following Surprise View, we hiked a little over three miles to Watendlath Tarn, hidden away in the mountains. Then, after the refreshing hike, we headed back to the hostel and played sports games until tea. We were graciously served a filling meal and delicious desserts by the hostel staff.

After a morning of worship and sharing our stories, we tackled Cat Bells together. Our group represented many different levels of fitness, yet every student was capable of reaching the top.  Whether you are a casual walker who wants to make the most of a beautiful afternoon, or an experienced hiker looking to explore further, Cat Bells is a highlight for everyone. Each view was truly spectacular, and the fresh air was exhilarating.

After our leg work-out on Cat Bells, we challenged our upper bodies to a little kayaking on Derwent Water. Kayaking was equally breath-taking, but from a uniquely different perspective. The weather could not have been more ideal, with the water glistening magnificently in the afternoon sun.

We spent our third day in Ambleside, enjoying the best of town and countryside. Some of us stayed on the high street, enjoying a quiet day in the coffee shops, while others spent time shopping, playing volleyball in the park, or hiking on Loughrigg Fell. That night we also had a relaxed evening out in Keswick.

Overall, TVYFC was completely blown away by the beauty and charm of North England, as well as the service and accommodation at Derwentwater Hostel. The staff attentively met all of our needs, and made our time in the Lake District that much richer. It was an unforgettable week.’

For more details, visit their website: Derwentwater Hostel

Dating with Purpose

A couple weeks before we left for England, Brian & I were interviewed by the lovely Ashley Brown for her YouTube channel, “Ashley Empowers.”

She is featuring a series called, “Dating with Purpose.” The vision behind this series is to showcase young, relatable Christian couples that “dated with purpose” so others will be inspired to keep God first in their relationships too.

My prayer is that God was glorified through every word and that His goodness and grace was magnified above all else!

Here’s our episode…Dating with Purpose

Stockton Parish Church

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7 fun facts about our church home:

STOCKTON PARISH CHURCH

1. The settlement began in ‘Stoctun’ in the Anglo-Saxon period. (‘Stoc’ names usually indicate farms which belonged to a manor/religious house.)

2. The parish has been active for 302 years! (The foundation stone was laid in 1705 and the building was completed in 1712.)

3. The first sermon preached was on the text “My house will be a house of prayer”. (The parish is still a powerful house of prayer today!)

4.  A third of the congregation are asylum seeker’s from Iran (Asylum Seeker = Someone who leaves their country, often for political reasons or war, petitioning for government protection and residence in another country)

5. Half of our youth group came to Stockton from Malawi, Africa. 

6. There are over 13 nationalities represented at the parish.

7. Six years ago, the Stockton Parish Church had less than 20 attendants, mostly elderly. The doors of the church were nearly shut when God breathed life into its dry bones–the parish is now one of the most thriving churches in the Tees Valley.

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A quick update on our new beginnings: September 7th was our first Sunday at the parish. (Our second day in the UK). The church’s welcome was overwhelmingly positive–every person we came in contact with lit up with joy and refreshed our spirits.

I was particularly encouraged to hear that the parish had been praying for us for months.  In fact, before we had even applied to work in England, the parish had been praying for God to provide them with a couple.  It’s wild to think that we were an answer to a people’s prayers 5,000 miles across the ocean. Our God is great! 

After communion and during worship, Brian and I had tears welling up in our eyes as the peace and presence of God swept over us. We were exactly where we needed to be.

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about SPC. We are truly humbled to be on staff at such a lively, Jesus-centered church and we thank God for sending us to Stockon-on-Tees.  It is an honor to be a part of what He is doing here!!!

“Punctuation Saves Lives” – Psalm 46:10

Earlier this week, the “verse of the day” on Youversion was Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God:”

It is one of the more well-known Psalms; in fact, if you were to say, “Be still AND…” –many people could finish the phrase, “…Know that I am God.”  Yet, very few know, or are even aware of this beloved Bible verse being contextually  “incomplete.”  Notice the punctuation mark.

It’s a colon. Not a period.

What’s a period’s usage? To announce the end or completion of something.

Psalm 46:10 does not use a period because the verse isn’t finished. It’s not the end. It’s not complete.

After the colon, the verse continues on and God declares, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.”

What’s a colon’s usage ?? To prove, explain, define, or describe the elements of what preceded it.  Because this complete sentence, “be still and know that I am God,” precedes a colon, we can gather that the explanation of why we must know Him as God is to “exalt Him among the nations.

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

Knowing God and making Him known will always be interwoven. It is the mandate (and joy) of every believer. Simply put, it’s The Great Commission. (Go. Make disciples. All nations. Baptize. Teach.)

John Piper puts it this way, “Evangelism means depicting the beauty of Christ and His saving work with a heartfelt urgency of love that labors to help people find their satisfaction in Him.”

So, why does punctuation save lives? 

1.) Punctuation matters here because if we had missed the colon, then we would have missed the point–beholding God’s glory, rejoicing in it, and bringing others into the same joy that we found in Him. I feel that God’s instruction in Psalm 46:10 is less about our own “peace of mind” and comfort, and more about exalting Him in all the earth.

1.) Punctuation matters because the saving, sanctifying, authoritative Word of God came to us  in the form of a book–filled with fixed letters, wordssentences and yes, punctuation.  The Bible is God-breathed, inspired revelation. With that said, we must also believe that every word He chose was on purpose, and that even the punctuation has a deeper meaning.

As I am hours away from departing to England, my prayer is that we, as the Body of Christ, do not neglect our responsibility to The Great Commission. As The Church draws nearer to Christ in unity, feeling His heartbeat for lost and dying souls, we realize that we are all serving one King and one kingdom. Be encouraged today as we seek to obey His will together.

Exalting Him,

Morgan Morris

 

 

Our Wedding Film

“Love is patient, kind, humble, selfless, forgiving, & trustworthy. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13

I am absolutely delighted to share our wedding film with you. :) Folks, we are called to an unfailing love by the One whose love will never, ever fail.  Christ’s love is relentless. He is the ultimate example of true love.  I thank God every day for a husband whose love is not conditional and I’m choosing him forever.

Joyfully, Morgan Morris

(Destination: Marco Island, FL ~ Stylist: Kylie Swanson ~ Videographers: http://penweddings.com)

UK-USA Ministries

Watch this interview to hear Mike Taylor, founder of UK-USA Ministries, explain in detail about what they do, why they do it, and what they hope to accomplish.

Over the past 10 years, the UK-USA partnership has blossomed and the organization has seen hundreds of USA students engaged in local ministry in the UK. Through the mandatory Religious Education classes offered in every public school in the UK, they have utilized USA students sharing their testimonies and RE lessons on short-term trips. While this partnership has been effective and they have seen benefits on both sides of the pond, it has become increasingly obvious that the most effective form of evangelism in a “Post-Christian England” is long-term relational ministry.

We are so excited to join the UK-USA team in England! Our hearts are pounding to get plugged in and to start serving in Stockton for the next two years of our lives!

For His Glory,

Brian and Morgan Morris

Brian & Morgan Morris

Morgan and Brian were introduced while hundreds of miles apart—Brian was finishing his college education in Mississippi and Morgan was studying in Missouri.  The two met for the first time in person on May 19, 2013 in Tulsa, Oklahoma after a month of long distance courting.

The couple would Skype for several hours a day, sharing their hearts on just about everything: hopes, dreams, desires, and fears. They discussed their strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and anything in between—most of all though, Brian and Morgan spoke of their mutual love and passion for Jesus. All of their conversations— no matter how brief or lengthy, casual, serious or silly —would without fail, lead to the praise and worship of the one true God.

Beyond their compatibility, both young people were deeply devoted to their Savior and pursued the heart of God above all else. Brian and Morgan fell in love with the reflection of Christ that they saw in each other.

Brian says that when he saw Morgan, he knew she’d have his heart for the rest of his life. After six months of dating and a lot of prayer, Brian knew in his spirit that God agreed; Morgan was the woman he was to marry.

In January 2013, the couple, along with Brian’s parents, toured Israel. Brian decided there was no better place to propose than the spot where Jesus proposed to His bride (the Church), in the Garden of Gethsemane.

SHE SAID YES!

One year and ten days after meeting, Brian and Morgan were wed on May 29, 2014 in Marco Island, Florida.

The Morris’ spend each day thanking God for the gift of each other and for the gift of His extraordinary grace.

The newlyweds will reside in Stockton-On-Tees in the Northeast of England with their German Shepherd, Elvis.