"All we have are 5 loaves and 2 small fish..." - by Pastor Charmaine


It’s so easy to quickly read over accounts in the Bible that we’ve heard since we were a kid, and have read many times over; we know the story well, the characters, the lessons we learn from them, what it tells us about Jesus, or the disciples.  

So last week I decided to give some time to re-reading with intention, the three miracles that we’d looked at during our series so far. Jesus walking on water, Jesus calming the storm and the feeding of the 5000. Some of these accounts are recorded in more than one book in the Bible, and it was really interesting to see what details one book gave over another. 

The miracle that grabbed my attention was the feeding of the 5000, so well-known to me. So I asked myself these questions: ‘What did this account tell me about God? How did that miracle impact me?’ and ‘How does it change the way I live my life or approach God?’. 

Feeding of the 5000 - Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-16

“You give them something to eat” - this was the first thing that surprised me, which I hadn’t really noticed on reading before. The disciples were probably tired and possibly wanted a little time without the crowd, telling Jesus to send them away to find some food. Instead, Jesus tells the disciples to provide! It made me wonder what Jesus was thinking in making such a proposition. Sometimes, we’re too quick to settle on the fact that we don’t have the ability, creativity, or even strength to pursue a solution. Perhaps Jesus wanted to see if they had really taken in all the other miracles he had done prior to this moment. Would the disciples be bold enough to ask Jesus to do something? Or had they still not realised or understood the extent of the greatness of who He was? 

So provision comes, by means of a little boy’s lunch. 5 loaves and 2 small fish. The disciples thought it wasn’t enough... “all we have are 5 loaves and 2 small fish.” Couldn’t Jesus see that this was ridiculous! However, that was the provision, that was what was available. So what did Jesus do? It says “He looked up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves”. The miracle hadn’t taken place at that point – still 5 loaves and 2 fish...but Jesus thanked God for what was provided! How easy it is for us to see and know God’s provision, but forget to thank Him for it. I believe it was a key moment prior to the miracle. Jesus thanked His Father first.  

Then, Jesus hands out the bread and the fish to his disciples to distribute - I wonder what they thought was going to happen at that point?! “Are we going to look really ridiculous here? But hey, we must obey so let’s just hand out what He’s given us...” so it was in the action of handing out and distributing the food that they kept feeding and feeding and feeding all those people!  

Sometimes we can’t see what God will do, or know how He’ll do it, until we step out and act.  

The crowd ate “as much as they wanted” or other gospels say “until they were satisfied” and then they gather up the leftovers. What? Leftovers? From 5 loaves and 2 small fish? Yes...12 baskets full! We’re not told how big these baskets were, but they only started with a boy’s lunch, so 12 baskets of whatever size was a miracle too – not only did Jesus feed the whole crowd, there was surplus. 

So you see – God does provide. He is our Jehovah Jireh. The surplus speaks to me, not just about God’s ability to provide over and above what we need, but that there’s more to share, more for others. Out of the overflow of His provision for us, is plenty for to share with those around us; for them to experience a God who loves and cares for them too. 

I continue to see and believe that in Jesus there is no lack, we sometimes have to be bold to ask for what we require, other times we simply need to thank God for what’s in our hands and see Him do something great as we put our faith into action.

Fear To Faith - by Pastor Charmaine

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“Can you feel that stretch? Can you feel the tension in your arms?...there’s always going to be tension when you surrender your life to Me, over being comfortable...” Not what I expected to hear from God as I purposefully responded to Pastor Lizby’s (C3 Amsterdam) message called Born To Stretch and raised my hands and arms high, stretched out wide - I’d heard it previous to her visit to us at C3 UnitedLife; and boy had I been challenged.

If I look back over my 37 1/2 years, I’ve journeyed all kinds of ‘tension’ and challenge; from learning to be comfortable in my own skin, to having the courage to speak out, to meeting new people, to becoming a wife and mum...and the last 5 years or so have brought tensions I never dreamed I’d have to face; some easier to handle to bring faith and God’s solution to them and others I still journey today, but what I took away from Born To Stretch, was that I will find God in the stretch, in the tension...that when I feel I’m being so stretched, I have to go to faith, I have to choose to trust God in and for the outcome, or that reaching the ‘there’ will happen but I need to journey well, whilst being in the middle.

I’m declaring over my life right now that “I might have more reason to sing than to fear” (lyrics from Whole Heart by Hillsong UNITED) - more reason to worship God than to doubt, more reason to declare His truth than give in, to my insecurities.

I’m reminded daily that it’s also about how I journey my tensions or seasons of challenge; I said in my message a few weeks ago (Super Fruit Part 1) that we should be living lives that are full of joy and strength rooted in God, no matter what life throws at us or is bombarded at us through the media. We can have a different dialogue to the world around us, otherwise we’re just the same as everyone else - but we’re a holy people, we’re set apart, we’re in the world but not of it - the world needs to see that we are Jesus’ disciples by how we speak, by how we love one another. And if we don’t learn to choose joy and cultivate joy, especially in the tension, then we’ll reap other things, like sorrow and worry.

So let’s learn not to wrestle in that stretch - it’s challenging enough right?! Go with it, stretch with the tension - stretch your thinking, align it with God’s Word; stretch your faith and allow His joy to be your strength, stretch your capacity, not to wear ourselves out, not at all, but to realise we can give ourselves to what’s in front of us or in our hands, because we’re filled with His Holy Spirit and God will grace us for everything we’re called to.

Let’s be people who chose faith over fear and are ripe and ready with love and joy, with characters that exude Jesus!

[You can find Pastor Lizby’s message Born To Stretch here on podcast.]

Who, Not The What Series Reflections - by Shandah Graham

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On Easter Sunday the last message in the series ‘Who Not the What’ was being shared with us and I was captured by the first slide based on Romans 8, showing who God says we are:

We are Dead to sin and Alive in Christ
We are Born of the Spirit
We are Children of God
We are Chosen and Called
We are Justified by God
We are More than Conquerors

This slide caused me to think about what that actually looks like in my own life with God. I was thinking who am I? Who am I in Jesus, my mind first went to who I was without Jesus and I was a shell of a person, lost, carrying feelings of fear, worthlessness, rejection and a constant reminder of my failures, oppressing who God has chosen and called me to be, I was this imperfect - unfinished work before Jesus.

I then thought about who I am in Jesus and I’m a person filled with God’s purpose. My failures, forgiven, and became lessons, tools to do better, within the grace of God. The feelings I carried were removed and replaced with the truth...

John 3:16

Jesus saw me as worth dying for

Deuteronomy 31:6

God is with me. He would never leave nor abandon me.

Proverbs 20:24

God knows where I’m going (Matthew 7:7) if I’m lost I only need to ask Him where I am and where I need to go next.

2 Timothy 1:7

I know that God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

1 Corinthians 3:16

His presence fills me,  God’s Holy Spirit resides in me.

Am I now perfect? Am I now this finished work as I live in Jesus? No it’s a process of putting God first and surrendering my all to God daily. Jesus is doing an internal work within my heart - within me as I draw close to Him leaving who I was behind, trusting, keeping my faith in Him alive as I continue to get to know who Jesus is through His word.

So who am I?

I am Dead to sin and Alive in Christ
I am Born of the Spirit
I am a Child of God
I am Chosen and Called
I am Justified by God
I am More than a Conqueror

Nothing Shall Separate Us - by Pastor Ben

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Our series ‘Who, Not The What’ has sadly come to end, but what a series it’s been!

When planning the final preach in the series, I was struck by the language the apostle Paul uses towards the end of the chapter, the way it built and built into a final crescendo, as if he can’t contain his excitement any longer, he exclaims (I imagine shouting at this point):

“I am convinced...”

 He continues to refute anything and everything that anyone might think could separate us from God’s love. What incredible verses!

 As I read them, I felt that same passion bubble up in me and spill over into this spoken word poem:

Whatever you’ve done, whatever you’re doing, whatever you will do.
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you are, wherever you go.
God has always loved you, loves you now, and will always love you! 

You cannot be separated from God’s love.
His love is inseparable,
Death can’t kill it,
Life can’t ruin it,
Satan can’t steal it,
Governments can’t squash it,
It doesn’t stop for a moment or fade over time
You can’t measure it, quantify it,
Or plumb its depths,

Its unchanging,
And unconquerable,

It’s indescribable,
His love is inseparable!

I hope that this blesses you as it has me, His love for you is amazing, and it should mould who you are.

The podcast for this message including the spoken word is now up here, preached by Pastors Tim and Charmaine, along with all the messages from the series. I encourage you to listen again and allow these truths to change your heart.

Mum Enough - by Pastor Charmaine

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We’ve brought a song called Here Again by Elevation Worship in our Services recently and it reminded me of something I wrote a couple of years ago about being ‘Mum Enough’. I shared what I wrote on Sunday and a few people have asked I share it wider - thanks for your encouragement.

The song (Here Again) is all about declaring just that...I’m not enough unless God You come - there are moments in my life....when it feels like God is far away, or I need reminding that God is with me and won’t forsake me...so when I call on Him, He will answer, He will meet me here again! No matter who you are, and whatever season you find yourself in, know today that right ‘here in the middle, is the place where God promises to be’.

Mum Enough… 

Sometimes, just sometimes, I really believe I am!  I believe that I am mum enough for my children…and mum enough for me to feel good about it and maybe even proud of myself… 

Then there are those moments, those car journeys, evenings, dinner-time tantrums, crazy mornings, where it all goes wrong and the current reality of never being enough shouts so much louder… "I'm a rubbish mum and to be honest I can't be all I need to be. Why did I think I could, I don't do 'this' particularly well and I'm always shouting...do my kids even know my 'nice voice'?" and if I feel I am being 'enough' I can't seem to maintain it for very long… 

Before I was a mum, I intently watched other mums. I watched with interest and intrigue; what they did that I liked, what they did that I didn't! 

I promised myself I would do this and would do that, that I wouldn't use this, never say that. I saw the examples of what I wanted to become and took note of the sort of the shoes I didn't want to step into...

But that's just it...when you actually become a mum you see that in the face of it, we're all very similar - we thought we'd be a certain type of mum but we've been unable to live up to our own expectations! Motherhood has so many highs, so many joys and rewards but with it also come the tears, the struggles, the frustrations...what I've learned though and am still journeying, is that on my own...I will never be enough...

For me everything comes down to trusting God…trusting in who He’s made me to be and to see myself as He sees me – not just as mum; I'm His child, a follower of Jesus Christ – and all my confidence is in Him alone!

 If we don’t know who we are in God we'll constantly make comparisons with other mums or other women. But if we can acknowledge that 'mum' on our own means we'll never be enough, with God, who's infinitely enough, we can truly, actually, be MUM ENOUGH! God is able to fill the areas where we feel weak and inadequate - if we're open to His Holy Spirit He'll show us how to be that awesome mum for our kids in every season of motherhood.

Words In Season Series Reflections - by Ben Parsons


What a series we’ve been having just finished over these last two months! 
Our ‘Words in season’ series has seen 7 incredible speakers invited to seek God and share what He is speaking to them about our church in this season. 

We’ve had: Bruce Oliver, Simon McIntyre, John Kirkby, Lesley Marshall. Michael Conrathe, Chrissie Chapman and Paul Demetriades. What a calibre! Each one brought their own unique style, voice and message that they prepared just for us. 

During these 7 Sundays we’ve heard some amazing messages and seen God work in incredible ways, we’ve seen healings, people released from demonic oppression, people returning to Christ and people receiving Him for the first time! 
God is at work in C3 UnitedLife!

As I reflect on the messages we have heard, though none of the speakers knew what the others were saying, God seems to have woven a thread through each one. In different ways the Lord is speaking of moving ahead with purpose and conviction into the future He has for us!

No more 'monkey business', and no more 'going round the same mountain'. It’s time to 'dust off' and move God’s church forward through prayer, the gospel and His miracle working power; to truly see ourselves, our church and our community changed.

I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have, and in awe of what God has done here, however I hope you are even more excited about what He is going to do! We are shaping the future in Jesus name!

If you missed any of these messages, you can get them on podcast here.

- Ben Parsons

Honour Sunday Reflections - by Catherine Prince


Honour Sunday is a highlight in the calendar for UnitedLife as it is a time for us to come together as the family of God to encourage and thank one another. We all have a part to play in the mission God has called us and no part is more important than another. Seeing and reflecting on the impact our church is having on our local and global community through the service of generous and talented people using their gifts to make a difference and point people to Jesus is inspiring. I was so encouraged to see that UnitedLife is not only having an impact on Sunday mornings but right throughout the week in so many community initiatives like CAP, Storytime, TazZa and the team who visits the Sutton Court Care Home.

I love that our church values family and the roles that they play in the life of our church and I loved that we got to thank and hoFor me, I was completely blown away and overwhelmed to receive the Honour Award. I am so blessed and honoured to be a part of the family at UnitedLife and I am so grateful to God for His grace and how being a part of this church has seen me grow so much in the past few years - both in my faith and who He has called me to be. I am also so grateful to my church family for their love and support through the years. I would not be who I am today without Jesus and the prayers and encouragement of so many and for that I am truly thankful. Reflecting this past week has inspired me to look forward - I want to continue to grow and serve in the areas that God has called me and I want to inspire and help others in their journey. We all have something to give and we must never think that what we have to give is insignificant. There are so many examples in the Bible where God took what somebody thought was “too small” and worked His glory and purpose through this. (The boy and his lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fish which Jesus fed 5,000 is just one example)

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10.

This verse is one of my favourites as this demonstrates what it means to honour God and others. He has given us all unique gifts and we shine His grace best when we are loving, encouraging and serving each other by stepping out and using our gifts to be a blessing. Jesus is the ultimate example of what it means to serve others. One of my favourite examples is when He washed the disciples’ feet. This act was usually done by the lowliest servants in the households of that time but by doing this act of humility and love, He foreshadowed His ultimate act of love and humility of the Cross. God will use what we have to give and being able to serve Him and his church for His glory and point others toward Him is the ultimate honour. 

I pray that we continue to be a church that loves to honour God and one another.

- Catherine Prince

CAP Snowdon Sponsored Walk - by Hilarie Leong


It all started with an idea God gave me about 18 months ago. The idea was to raise funds for CAP by doing a sponsored walk up (and down) Mount Snowdon. It took some time for the plan to take shape, but once I committed to it, I found that it took on a life of its own. I sent out emails to gauge interest about 2 months before the chosen date, and to be honest, there wasn’t much! I had guides, now I needed walkers, then I could think about logistics.

One morning I bumped into a work colleague, Linda, in the car park and told her about the plan. She said “that sounds wonderful; I’ve been wanting to do something like this for ages! Can I come?” Slowly the list of walkers began to grow, Donna, Pete and Grant agreed to join us!

Pam, who manages a day centre, very graciously agreed to lend us their centre minibus. A massive thanks to our three drivers: Linda, Donna and Michael who took turns driving on the day. (We got a parking ticket, but hey!)

The day arrived, and we set out at 5am and arrived at Mount Snowdon at about 11:30, we started our ascent up the Pyg track at 12pm. Our guide Natalie was ill and couldn’t be with us on the day so Hard Core Pete and James stepped up and did the job! These two young men were our shepherds for the day, they set the pace but they were patient, encouraging and always willing to stop and help those who were struggling. At one point James was carrying 5 ruck sacks. The climb was harder than most of us expected but it was a good day and we all made it up and down the mountain. We got back to Sutton at around 1.30 in the morning, and home shortly after.              

The best part of the trip for me was getting to know people better. The sense of being part of a team and supporting each other was very special. The climb itself was a great parallel for the Christian life with all its challenges. There are times when you just run out of fuel and all you can do is sit, rest, refuel then get up and keep going. At these times the friends around you make all the difference.

We raised somewhere in the region of £2000 for CAP, so a huge thank you, to all who took part and all who gave!

- Hilarie Leong