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stonepavement church planting
Name:
Location: Bourton-on-the-Water
behind the scenes


2002 Coming soon!

Friday, July 29, 2005

indoor fruit baseball!

It was explained to me when I arrived home last night..Matthew now better from the bang on his head and his brother Jacob (who threw the rock) decided while Karen was upstairs cleaning that they would play indoor baseball! Ok so that's not a good start and they know this is not the right behaviour for indoor recreation. Even their older sisters couldn't work out how they rationalised this behaviour as "ok", or even as something they would not be caught for doing.

Anyway, the plot thickens, they decide that the baseball will be substituted for an apple an orange and a banana in rotation until these fruits are smashed to pulp and the pulp of these fruit is stuck on the tv, sofa, lounge desk and carpet floor.

In place of the bat they used their sister's musical recorder...great choice..!

When Karen came back downstairs....Well you can imagine the scene, smashed pulp all over the lounge walls, floor and furniture and the boys with an expression on their faces like; "it was his idea as they look at each other"......after an explanation and disciplining they are ordered to get in the bath and get clean...(they were also covered in fruit).

They walk upstairs and get on with their bath...Karen starts to clean up in the aftermath...about 15 minutes later while in the kitchen Karen hears water running, but it sounds close by, like in the next room, but there are no appliances going, no dishwasher or washing machine turned on...so where in the water coming from???

You guessed it...water is leaking through the ceiling in the ground floor shower room!! Karen runs upstairs only to catch Matthew in the act! He's standing on the back edge of the bath against the bathroom wall preparing for another record breaking jump slide down the back bath side into the bath which each time causes a tidal wave to overflow the bath sides onto the floor, they had been improvising again for a fun park high slide!!

.......the rest is history...another day in the summer vacation of our house...only 1 week since school broke up so far!!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

"shaking the church!"

Earlier this week I walked in to our home after returning from work and the family were all gathered in the front lounge and looking rather pale faced. Our long time friend Jan (now retired - a former nurse) was sitting in the room aswell. As I looked around I realised that Matthew our youngest was stretched out on the sofa with a towel and ice pack on his head....

..."Okay so what happened" I asked?

Karen looked at me and relayed the saga of how Jacob, Matthew's next older brother threw a rock into our tree in the back garden, the rock however didn't feel the need to stay in the tree and fell back out with the sharp edge landing on the front crown of his Matthew's head - well; springs of living blood gushed from his hair and every member of the family responded differently the instant after the accident:

  • Alexander the eldest boy(9) ran around in a panick.
  • Jacob, who threw the rock looked on with disbelief at what had happened to his little bro' by his own hands.
  • Esther, she screamed!
  • Charis and Sarah our two older daugthers ran straight for towels and ice and placed them squarely on Matt's head...stemming the blood flow..

NB* Matthew was fine - but as a family the whole event lasting just minutes had shaken them all quite a lot.

Hebrews 12:26-29 "At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." "

God at this moment in history is shaking His church only to be left with that which cannot be shaken. God carries out this shaking process by presenting His church and individuals with problems. These problems are not designed to cause His people to fall from grace but to get to grips with the things in their lives which need to be sorted out and the things that need to be changed in the church structures that they build. We need to understand that everything is shakeable except for God and God wants us to understand that we can only put our confidence in Him.

God wants to be left with mature, fruitful, righteous and effective servants who will not fall appart or let Him down when He needs them. He also is looking for churches that will be left with the right structure and programmes that will enable His will to be done and not hinder it.

Luke 18:7-8 "And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

resignation & disqualification!

"And as Christ's soldier, do not let yourself become tied up in the affairs of this life, for then you cannot satisfy the one who has enlisted you in his army. Follow the Lord's rules for doing his work, just as an athlete either follows the rules or is disqualified and wins no prize" New Living Translation 2 Tim 2: 4-5

"Soldiers on duty don't work at outside jobs. They try only to please their commanding officer. No one wins an athletic contest without obeying the rules" Contemporary English 2 Tim 2: 4-5

"No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules." NIV 2 Tim 2: 4-5

Resignation and disqualification - I currently have been working in recruitment for the last 2+ months and it's not for me. So I'm about to resign. I've reflected on the situation for a while:

1. You don't know what profession/work is right for you until you try it.

2. Any work for me is "tent making", whilst the main thrust of life is centred around being used in ministry whatever shape or form or kind of anonymous service this takes.

3. Recruitment is a cut throat industry, no trust, just profit. It's dressed in the guise of providing clients with a "high level of service" and "adding value" to the recruitment process for corporate companies. Then those in the business sue each other for stepping on each others "turf"...no thanks.


So in the next few days I will be explaining to the branch manager that this just isn't for me. scary!..but necessary. We need to be true to the prompting God gives us and I'm so not called to be a recruitment consultant...

Paul warned Timothy that not running the race because of distraction in the world could lead to disqualification..in all areas of our life the calling God places on us needs to be held in front of us as we travel and not placed aside for any reason other than directed by God.

So the next few weeks will prove a new test of faith as I seek new employ and step into the unknown again...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Winston Churchill

"The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." Winston Churchill

Monday, July 25, 2005

18 weeks to christmas!

"Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain." ~Author Unknown

Rainy days, showers and dark clouds and it's only 18 weeks to Christmas! I know, summer in the British Isles doesn't last that long. As the year draws closer to Autumn and those rainy days get more frequent...it's good to know the spiritual reality of our days doesn't change.

New life happens every day, a new day is a new challenge and new test. Paul talks about our life situation like this...

Colossians 2 :14-15 "Having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross"

Paul also said in 2 Corinthinas 2:14 "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him."

It's true, being led in triumph means all our enemies have been triumphed over. When a Roman General was victorious in battle he was given a triumph by Caesar and arrived back in Rome with all he had captured in procession behind him - all captured soldiers and prisoners were led behind him. Here Paul reminds us that we too in reality live in this triumph that Jesus provided for us and leads us in continually...not just once, but continually.

We don't need the gimmicks of "positive mental attitude" and the self helps that promote independence from everyone (inc God), we have the reality of triumph and this triumph has a beautiful aroma of the knowledge of Him and the Good News He brings...Praise God..

Saturday, July 23, 2005

everyday matters!

“If ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious: unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter Ch2:3-5

I am continually challenged by the opportunities we face every day of our lives and how we handle them. For me, the daily fact that the Grace of God (unmerited favour) is sufficient in all my circumstances always prompts me to submit and surrender to His will and daily purpose for my life.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said “never before have we had so little time in which to do so much.” I’m sure he had some pressing moments in his generation of war and tension.

It’s our privilege to be called “living stones” and with these the Lord is building a spiritual house. This house has a purpose, one that brings Him glory. Jesus repeatedly says in John’s gospel that His purpose is to do the will of my Father in heaven. As we start every new day this to is our purpose.

Franklin Roosevelt was up against the clock in his life circumstances – the stark reality is that we are too. We have the lasting and powerful words of the Lord Jesus – “As the Father has sent me so I am sending you” Jn20:21

Our “quiet times” of personal and group study serve as food to nourish and restore our hearts and minds. Our witness in our daily walk is the point at which we are “spent” for the Lord, where tensions and troubles will often come across our path. Many men and women have gone before us and have been subject to prejudiced scrutiny and often misunderstood in their day – BUT – their obedience in spite of opposition has brought us a heritage and an example we can follow. I think of the disciples who after being so close to Jesus received the His words in vs.21 above but then in Jn20:22 Jesus breathed on them and said “receive the Holy Spirit”. We too have the Holy Spirit as God’s comforter and source of heavenly power working through our lives - according to the degree by which we surrender to Him daily – Praise God

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, July 22, 2005

guidance newsflash!






Procrastination is a time killer....





Sometimes we know what we have to do and don't!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

"time" - an unfinished project

Last year while church planting life was the most hectic it has ever been....time was a premium, both Karen and myself were privileged to be doing what we were doing and found that the use of our time was key to a simpler week. Each Monday morning we would put down our weeks committments, work out who was where and who had to be in the right place at the right time. Slowly we worked a good system. I found that the men/women in ministry I had met up to this time struggled with the management of their time, prioritizing it and using it.

Inherent in ministry is conflict with time. Many calls on time are made to the men and women who minister in the Kingdom. One day we had a mission team with us in Canada up from Kentucky (they are now life long friends) and I joked with the Director of Missions about writing a book for Pastors about time management. I've been trained in my profession to optimise time and to "plan the work, work the plan" you name it, it would seem I've be trained in it.. What seems to happen though, is we don't apply such beneficial learning and understanding of the stewardship of time in our ministry life and calling.

So last Autumn I started to write. The book is planned out and roughed ready for 21 chapters. 6 chapters are complete in draft form and the remaining 15 ready to complete...and now I restart. When we knew the Lord was calling us back to England last Autumn I stopped to pack the house...and put "on hold" the project. Now it's time to begin again and aim at late summer to complete the work. Excerpt from chapter 1


"A Godly Respect of Time"

"There are three kinds of driving forces behind our use of time; briefly we’ll look at what they are and which one of these we need to focus on.

1. Time governed by our circumstances - Circumstance Driven Time
In this place you will find the circumstances of your life dictate how you use the majority of your time. You find yourself bouncing between appointments, late for meetings, letting down significant people in your life and sometimes missing the important family times. It seems the interruptions and demands on your time are in control. If some of this rings a bell in your thought process, then quite possibly your time is circumstance driven.

2. Time governed by your desires – Desire Driven Time
Are you addicted to certain things in your life, which waste your time? Here our desires dominate our priorities even where we are sometimes tempted. Do you have parts of your week where you have idle time, giving rise to temptation and fulfilling the fleshly desires? Maybe it’s a sport you have to watch? Can’t turn the TV of all night since the football game is on? These traits are those of time driven by our desires.

3. Time governed by our values – Value Driven Time
Here our values govern the use of our time, allowing us to set the important times of our days and week aside for family, our son’s and daughters, without pressure distracting us to the commitments of others. We can see daily and weekly that our time is being spent on the priorities God has set out in lives, those He has set out in His calling on our lives and we are able to see that our week has made steps towards these goals.

As we work through the disciplines and steps to reach a well ordered and managed agenda and use of our time, this book will help you start towards seeing Value Driven Time as the prominent characteristic in your life. As you seek and rely on the Holy Spirits power and wisdom to enlighten and give you the committment to change then the changes will slowly take effect. (According to the commitment you are prepared to give.)"

I'll let you know when it's completed...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

living true to your calling

"A called person should never serve a need or a denomination first" Bob Gordon

A calling from God has within it a recognition that we will be equipped for the call. Even though we may feel inadequate and unworthy (and we all do from time to time) we need to know that in God we will be supplied with what it takes to respond fully to the call. We also will be able to be disciplined and trained in it.

With a call comes an anointing of God which enables leaders to fulfil their call. It is the Holy Spirit working through you and He should be in control. Certain activities in your life will receive anointing and you need to learn to operate in those areas where the anointing of the Lord will be released through you E.g; praise and worship, prayer, teaching, etc...

A call must be lived - and not just left on the shelf. God is looking for faithful people who will walk in obedience to Him, and we need to operate in our calling in order for God to sharpen it and make it more effective..Sometimes when you're mentored you may come across what I call a "Bird Nest Leader", someone who mentors, trains and then leaves you in the nest and doesn't launch you,..... "yes" there will be some near misses and "yes" the odd bumpy ride, but that's how reliance and trust in God come and how His calling on your life is fulfilled through supportive launching...

Warnings:

1. Laziness - will work against a call where we expect God to do everything instead of stewarding the talent the Lord has given us. (Matthew 25:14-30)
2. Busy Lives - can work against your calling if we allow our lives to be swamped with other things and fail our calling.
3. Spreading too thin - Do you pastor now and find yourself covering a multitude of callings, some not yours? Stop and unravel your calling and release other people into their ministry. This will enable the church to function as an interdependent, effective body that God intended..

Called people:

...know their God (Ephesians 4:4-6)
...know that God put's His hand upon their life and that He is committed to them (Romans 8:28; 1 Thess 5:23-24)
...see themselves as God sees them (Romans 9:20; 1 Samuel 16:7)
...know they are owned by God (1 Cor 6:19-20)
...know their purpose in God and are unshakeably committed to this (Philippians 3:12-14)


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

16th century church plant

345 years ago a group of non-conformists challenged by the Holy Spirit, broke English law and met to preach the gospel and worship as a community without a lisence, without the common prayer book and without a Bishop! here in the Cotswolds. They risked fines of upto 1 years salary.


They challenged the law and for the rest of the centruy up to the 1689 until Parliament passed the Toleration Act, they met privately and started to build the church we now worship in. Our Pastor (Rev Ken Davies) this week reminded us of the price they were prepared to pay for the freedom to worship. Early Dissenters suffered ruiness fines, break up of their worship and even times in jail.

For what? To freely worship God. They proposed the simple use of English, prayers that came from the heart (not a worshipbook), hymns sung by the congregation, and sermons not written and read by professional sermonwriters in the bishop's employ but sermons crafted by the local preacher out of his deep and prayerful study of scripture.

As a church today the old 16th century hall is now the back hall. As the church grew they planted and sponsered new church plants in sight of the Hill on which Stow-on-the-Wold stands. They funded and supported new church plants impacting the rural community for miles around. When mission forms the central priority of any church, blessing will follow. As God's own give themselves away in obedience, He builds His kingdom.

Today: The Hills of the Cotswolds, which saw Wesley preach from surrounding fields in a horse and cart is praying again that new life and growth will come...as their people remain faithful in outreach....Many older churches, small in size are in a situation that resembles the stresses and pressures of new church plants...the needs are the same, (excluding maybe a building)..the unbelieving community is the same,...and the demand on ministry is the same...we just need the workers...people, who with no thought for themselves will abandon their ambitions on this earth for those of the next...Amen

Luke 10:1-3 "After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves."

Monday, July 18, 2005

persecuted/front-line church planting!

"They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." Rev 12: 11



The "word of our testimony" is powerful to overcome satan and all his tactics. Here are 2 testimonies:


Saudi Arabia church planting:
Many worship in fear of their lives. Travelling to worship on a Friday morning (Saudi holy day) is risky. Religious police will follow you and tale you to the location of your place of worship (so you have to use different routes and watch your rear view mirror). Meetings are often in a compound or a small warehouse provided by a Christian or sympathetic ower. When you meet you risk being raided and arrested for "seeking to convert a muslim". Many an American and Brit have been deported for this crime. Many local and national Christians hide for fear of a death threat if they are cuaght - immediate death. Other foreigners whose governements do not have such a high standing with the Saudi authorities have their citizens arrested and tortured...yes tortured.

June this year the World Daily News reported: "Saudi Arabia's religious police arrested eight Christians, including one who was beaten in front of his 5-year-old son, according to a Washington, D.C.-based human rights group. "International Christian Concern" says Chittirical John Thomas, an Indian national, was pulled from work in Riyadh by Saudi Muttawa authorities, dragged to his home and beaten."

We worshipped and led a cell church here (1995-1997), secretly, watching our own brothers and sisters in Christ being beaten for their faith and abused by their Saudi masters. We had to meet in secret and something struck me then that has lasted until now and will last a lot longer, our fellowship thought nothing of themselves for the sake of Christ....what a witness...such a humbling period. Remember in prayer those who must remain nameless for their courage and for their strength....if God called us we'd go back, my wife Karen said to me "I'll leave the dishes in the sink and go straight away!" ..that's how privileged we were to meet the heros of our faith...the anonymous ones!

Taiwan church planting:
A church plant in Taipei, dual language, English and Mandarin in the centre of 7 million taiwanese, reaching their culture. Where? The 10th floor of a multistorey carpark above DaYeh Takashimaya department store. It's a plant reaching out into it's community. We worshipped with them for a season when we in Taipei in 1997.
Amazing selfless fellowship...amazing multicultural outreach and ministry. Westerners and Taiwanese hand in hand, reaching into the horific society of sex trafficking and drug abuse. Where the enemy roars like a lion, there's no subtle cultural barriers, just enormous satanic spiritual strongholds. But it is a work formed with a vision, served with lives given away for God and to see His glory manifest in Taipei...remember them; Tim and his family, Andy and Fiona and theirs... http://www.oasiscf.org.tw/

Every church should church plant...we have no excuse..where does church planting start? In the lives of individuals who refuse to let Satan defeat them by silence, if he can silence us from being a witness - he wins! Church planting is a life thing, it starts in our words and is lived in out lives....

Saturday, July 16, 2005

every church should plant (part 2)

Note on photo: The road west to the Red Sea from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - 800 miles to go. Many underground fellowships risk their lives in this country and region every day for the sake of the gospel..we were there in the 90's where we saw our brothers and sisters risk their lives regularly in reaching their muslim neighbours for Christ....

Individual leadership doesn't come easily to many. We’re not all called to it and for those who might be - we have a tendency in our consumer-conditioned society to remain firmly in our comfort zone where moths and cobwebs thrive and our spiritual man/woman remain starved of nourishment. Only when we break out of this comfort zone and a dependence on being spoon-fed (Sermon tasting rather than biblical teaching) will we begin to understand the revelation that personal evangelism and outreach brings.

Church planting isn't simply about new groups. God is not limited to one model of growth or revival. In our 21st century culture and particularly in a UK setting we have many Churches under 100 people. They experience all the constraints of a church plant; they have the same potential to nurture growing Christians and to have a vision for growth and new planting. These churches can experience the vision and form of a church plant. E.g.: An old church with an aging fellowship disconnected from an emerging culture (word "emerging" used carefully here).

Some steps come to mind in church growth when we consider fellowship in the context of growth size:

Up to 100 in fellowship: A church planting, small group where evangelism steps 1(Reach the lost) & 2 (Nurture the young) are values predominantly. This is where the evangelism of the "core team" (founding families or leadership group) is key in the growth of the plant. Where life changes are forged in the lives of those serving.

100-150 in fellowship: A plant looses the experience of being new as the number increases. Home church and discipleship picks up and encouragement is evident. The available gifting in the fellowship compliments all aspects of the fellowship with worship, pastoral and youth and beyond.

150-200 in fellowship: Steps 3 (Disciple the growing) & 4 (Launch the Mature) come more into their own with the vision of planting back on the horizon. Strengthening a fellowship with leadership by training and mentoring will birth new leaders with a call to plant/outreach and eventually plant. These team members can either prepare to be sent out or prepare to take over existing leadership roles. NB: Maybe within the founding pastoral team there are church planters/evangelists whose gifts are simply that and they move on to plant again...sounds likes like Acts.

200-250 in fellowship: enter again that strategy to launch a new plant.

Church Planting requires apostolic leaders, not leadership by consensus or by conformance to needs. Erwin McManus in his book "The Barbarian Way" has challenged us so perfectly to the opportunity we have and battle we have in our days here right now, today, you and me...hello

I have to reiterate God is not limited to one model of growth, but, there is that word "but". Where does He work most, what does history show? We grow, are invigorated as believers and see new life when we are stripped of our props, taken out of our comfort zone friendships and stand in a place of need (be it direction, discernment or provision)...a place of nothing where we cry out to God and he responds... "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." He will fill empty vessels and use surrendered lives. Paul tells us he's learnt it and goes onto say "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Cor 12:9

Friday, July 15, 2005

every church should plant! (part 1)

Step 1 : We have to be mission minded. Not summer evenglistic short term mission only, Not mission in a crusade manner only. But mission in a 24/7 manner. It's easy to say and it's easy to write about but it's not easy to live.

What is the role of the church? "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever"? Yes just as this from the Westminister Catechism's (c1640's) shortest text reminds us. But how? As a church several simple stages come to mind.

1. Reach the lost: Translate the gospel message through life and word to unbelievers

2. Nurture the young: Teach and disciple new and young Christians.

3. Disciple the Growing: Stretch and mentor those understanding and experiencing a balanced walk

4. Launch the mature: Every leadership should seek to establish servant ministry within the church body. Launching into gifts and callings that individuals have is enormously important. Then planting becomes a habit instead of splits and divisions.

(Secret: Here the importance of servant leadership is singularly relevant. Own nothing, give all glory to God and watch the church grow)

Step 2 : We have to have an outreach strategy. A plan prayerfully discerned, relevant and culturally sensitive for our neighbours and friends. A plan that places the full gospel message into the lives of our community. God promises He is faithful when we are obedient.

Step 3 : Be ready to harvest. In John's gospel, Jesus sowed and harvested instantly. Being prepared both for long ground cultivation and instant harvest is best plan.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

what is mission?

"I won't be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by praise, frustrated by problems, debilitated by temptation, or intimidated by the devil. I'll keep running with my eyes on the goal, not the sidelines or those running by me. When times get tough and I get tired, I won't back up, back off, back down, back out, or backslide. I'll just keep moving forward by God's grace. I'm Spirit-led, purpose driven, and mission focused, so I cannot be bought, I will not be compromised and I shall not quit until I finish the race."
Rick Warren, in celebrating 25 years of Saddleback Church in California.

The Apostle Paul put it this way in Acts 20:24
"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

the truth about islam

Things won't get better until the 2nd Coming...get ready. Before then my children will be living in a different world. A world where they will be penalised, persecuted, even imprisoned for their love of Christ. As parents we talk about this from time to time with our 3 daugthers (The boys are too young still) and remind them that their days and our later life days will be in threat of discrimination all the way to persecution. They need to be prepared.

Last night we discovered our own home grown terrorists bombed London...should we be surprised? No..I'm not...

From Voice of the Martyrs I read this today:

Islamic Nations Slaughter and Enslave Christians
"Tom Barrett at American Daily has written an excellent article detailing the persecution of Christians. "THERE IS NOT ONE CHRISTIAN NATION ON EARTH WHERE MUSLIMS ARE PERSECUTED. Yet in 83% of nations where the majority of the population are Muslims, there is systematic government persecution of Christians.

This persecution includes imposing the death penalty for sharing the Christian faith with a Muslim; national laws prohibiting conversion from Islam to Christianity; destruction of churches; and murder or expulsion of Christian missionaries. Even in the few predominantly Muslim countries where the government does not openly participate in the persecution, it ignores and even encourages illegal persecution by Muslims against Christians.

...If the United States were to treat its roughly two million Muslims with one-tenth of the violence and humiliation that these Islamic nations heap on their Christians, the worldwide outcry would be immediate, and justified. Why, then, does the "Community of Nations," including the United States, turn a deaf ear to the cries of the persecuted Christians in Muslim nations?""

From FOX News (Nov 2004) I re-read this today:

"LONDON — He's called Sheik Terra.
With a Koran in one hand and pistol in the other, the British rapper calls for the murder of non-Muslims, including several world leaders, on a videotape. The video is well known in one London mosque, whose imam — or leader — is accused of setting up a terrorist training camp in Oregon and whose followers don't like Western media. Abu Hamza who lost two hands and an eye in Afghanistan, is in jail now but other extremists from among Britain's two million Muslims continue to preach violence, veiling the message to take advantage of some of Europe's most liberal freedom-of-speech laws."

Get ready, religious freedom is on the way out..

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

What is the value of anonymity?

"I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." Luke 7:28

As I read through blog world, I see a lot of writing about christian leaders and what he/she has said and why he or she are not the kind of leader we should be following and why their emphasis is "off centre", or "off right", or "in error",.......and we seem to sit in judgement of men and their emphasis which doesn't match ours or that of our leaning

What I read in scripture is what Jesus said of John the Baptist. "The one who is least in the kingdom is greater than he":

As bloggers are we guilty of first contributing to the
exaggeration of a man's ministry far beyond healthy measures? There is a point where the Lord will use a man or a woman uniquely in proclaiming the gospel for a season with great power and evidence (Eg..the 1904 Welsh revival and Evan Roberts). In our modern broadcast and media world modern day ministries can be catapulted to a global perspective in a matter of months, their exposure is enlarged enormously and they themselves become the focus of attention. It seems in this time of scrutiny they are subjected to an inflated and filtered critique as leaders rather than taking the opportunity to echo the message they have been used to bring.

Recently I have read blogs with several comments about Rick Warren, about Bill Hybels, and John McCarther...all of them giving critical appraisal of the man, even Charles Stanley didn't miss the fire recently. We wax eloquent on how we differ, the reasons why we differ and the problems and errors in their ways, and their ministry, their theological approach and sometimes just plain about the way they sound or the translation they promote.

Jesus said "who is the least of these". John the Baptist had great exposure especially after Israel's intertestament times of strife and war. Here they had a Prophet..and what did he do? He promoted his own anonymity and deverted all attention to the Messiah...I think we've lost focus somewhere along the way when we promote the messenger above the message, where we let pride slip in very covertly by this inbalanced promotion...we should beware. God blesses anonymity = brokenness because it allows God to give Himself glory through the use of his people who take no glory back for themselves...let us be careful, when we take the glory from God - He either removes His annointing or removes the man...

Monday, July 11, 2005

reasons to blog

A recurring question that I've been processing since starting to blog is "why am I blogging?" About 2 months ago my sister Nae said she'd started blogging and we could keep up with her news and ministry as it happens. Even though we're just 30 minutes drive away, our time is full with life and work. It was 2 years ago when I first met Tim Challies that I started to understand what a "blog" was. Tim's now on 617 consecutive days of blogging.... Now I blog...still sounds like a secret society, mysterious and exclusive.

It's a journal: Daily life changes and circumstances challenge me. Usually at lunch I'll post a blog that has been in my heart.

It's for friends and family: As we've travelled around the world keeping up with people becomes more and more difficult as we meet more people and the busier life gets...I'm not excusing keeping up friendships..but for most people it's nice to catch up, to remember, to pray...

It's for me: A discipline to keep, a place to put down thoughts and values through life as I am formed into the character God is wanting (life does that, God uses it to forge our characters by the reponse to each and every event whether blessing or test). I'm sure 12 months down the line when I look back, the content of some posts will seem primitive in comparison to present trials or tests.

It's about a vision: "stonepavement" is something Eric Bryant gave me. (executive pastor for the
mosaic) We met breifly and traded ideas on a name for a church plant in the Cotswolds..."stones" was in the initial thought process. Karen my wife knew that stones had to be turned and moved in the process of reaching our region for Christ and that a road of living stones would be laid down in the region as the Lord renewed His witness here...It's about this vision and the steps and life of a vision from day one...a testimony of God's faithfulness, revelation and timing. There's no grand start, no fundraising, no denominational push here...just vision....Hab 2:2 so we start.
It's for bloggers: why for bloggers? Well it's here you read. Here we each read of encouraging lives. Honesty is encouraging, challenging and motivating..when I read some of the writings here it urges me back to the importance of the great commission...I'm here to give glory to God...and this is mine and the life of my family and the vision we are understanding and walking in...until He comes.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

what is your ministry?

Several weeks ago, Alex our eldest son had a birthday party where he invited his friends to a very ordinary afternoon. No fancy restaurants, no drive to a burger bar or crazy clown to come and visit, just an ordinary afternoon. We arranged the start time and then waited. Some came early and some came late, but when they arrived we had some time to spare before we walked to the local park and played wide games and played what 9 years old boys ans some girls like to play.
......for a short time I had to keep them quiet... I mean keep 12 nine year olds quite!...it seemed impossible...I knew it was going to be tricky, but I had a secret ploy, a secret method I knew had worked every time I'd used it and for you here there is no charge to this secret "kids quiet" game....

I rounded everyone up and explained this first exercise was special and difficult and that only the very strong would survive....they all seemed to want to know what this competitiion was... tell us, they cried..."Right" I said "line up and I'll tell you"...seemed the proper thing to do..."Now" I said,

"everyone has to stick their tongue out and leave it sticking out for the longest!"

.....they kind of looked at me ...blank...then one by one, they did it...and slowly all of them were stood silent....yucky, slobbery wet tongues sticking out of their mouths as far as they could stretch......and there they stood, walking around looking at each others tongues...they could talk, but they had to leave their tongue out, and they did....muttering slobbery talking tongues...hillarious!

So what does this story have to do with the question?...these kids (great kids we had a blast all afternoon..an English village birthday party) did what they were told...this game doesn't really work with children much older...they did this crazy game, they thought it was a game but the purpose for me was to keep them quiet. They never knew why, just that they had to do it...and they did it.

.....in some way in God's kingdom it's the same, we don't know why when God prompts us through His Holy Spirit to do things, why He guides us the way He does. We left Canada 6 months ago, everything in our natural world said no, we want to stay, but God said "Go". We didn't want to come back to Bourton-on-the-Water, but God said "Come back"...He unequivocally has a perfect plan for each of our lives. He is moulding our character perfectly for His purposes and glory. We are the clay and He is the potter.....

God has ordained that we be conformed to His likeness, that we form part of his body here on earth, that we are to be obedient to the last thing He has given us to do before He will move us onto the next...our ministry is to "know Him and make Him known"..

George Muller said "He orders our steps and our stops". We know our "Calling" if you don't then ask God to reveal it to you. Then live it! Simple...at every opportunity live it, encourage, serve, challenge, share the good news of the Gospel...we'll have an account to give one day when we stand before His throne......How many people who we know or have known, when they stand before the throne of judgement when asked why they did not accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour will answer "I didn't know the good news of salvation". And then the Lord will ask them "didn't you work with/know Andrew" (insert your name here)

Talk is cheap (so is blogging)...life isn't...

Friday, July 08, 2005

"the fragility of life"


"I heard people crying, there was a lot of noise, people were, praying, I heard people praying out loud and some saying "Hail Mary's" it was aweful, people we scared and there was panic" trapped commuters words to BBC reporter

"There we're local labourer builders who just started to walk into the hospital to give blood, the Londoners and British public near the scenes assisted and helped in anyway they could." BBC correspondant

A Time for Everything
"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil?
I have seen the burden God has laid on men." Ecclesiastes 3:1-10

These separate snapshots of life during and just after such an event as this, brings to my mind the fragility of life, and the futility of life without Christ. Solomon reminds us of the burden of life...Paul reminds us of the reality of life in Christ..."I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" Galatians 2:19-21

Jesus told us "As the Father has sent me, even so send I you" John 20:21...as we respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit we are urged to share the words of life that all (in our sphere of influence) might hear and believe....

Thursday, July 07, 2005

"in remembrance of London dead"

terrorism.

n : the calculated use of violence (or threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimindation or coercion or instilling fear

© 2003 Princeton University
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"The terrible thing about terrorism is that ultimately it destroys those who practise it. Slowly but surely, as they try to extinguish life in others, the light within them dies." --Terry Waite

"All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail. It must be business as usual" --Margaret Thatcher

"There is no possible negotiation with these killers. Our aim is to win over terrorism. Only by being firm we can stop terrorism. We must be firm fighting the terrorists and opposing the final aims they want to achieve." --Jose Maria Aznar
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"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NIV)

So many questions come to mind, like "How could we let this happen?" all the way to "Am I ready to meet my maker NOW?"...but ultimately we know that we know as it gets worse there is only one eternal answer....Jesus Christ..

Dear Lord have mercy.....

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

What is the "Cotswolds 1.5%"?

Courtesy of the Cotswold District Council - "Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful areas in England, the Cotswolds, with its unique stone-built heritage, gently rolling hills and broad valleys, is an ideal destination for the discerning visitor. Explore historic market towns and discover small charming villages dotted across the landscape, each with an interesting church and perhaps a country pub – each season throwing a different light on a changing scene."

You might be mistaken if you assumed from this blurb above, that you could get a "pint" in your local church!!..heaven forbid..

Location by drive time, 1hr from Birmingham, 1.5hrs from London and 1hr from Bristol.

Heritage.
1. Charles Wesley preached from a horse cart in his missions to the Cotswolds around Stow-on- the-Wold. (Central town of the North Cotswolds)
2. The decisive battle of the English Civil War was won in Stow-on-the-Wold..the streets ran with blood after days of battle...a battle which liberated England and saw the advent of religious freedom from Rome...

And Now: Where are we today?..81400 is the population of this rural stretch of England in the South Central Midlands....but..

A government report from 2004 found that only 7% of "Christians" (As defined by our census - more a cultural Christian considered the same as being British!) in the UK regularly attend church. (Attending church is not the point we know... but it is indicative of the state spiritually of this nation we have to admit..) This equates to a little over 4000 Christians in this "interesting church" area of 250 square miles..Nationally the population is 58.79million..of which 14% claim to belong to a Christian denomination. This statisitc, includes those who go to church, because they always have, those who go because it's tradition, and approx 70% are over 50 years old...what's left? 1200 Christians in the Cotswolds below the age of 50.

(I'm not discounting the over 50's, but do want to establish the truth of the mission field for new growth and outreach for today's generation)

Conclusion for these statisitcs -The facts: 1.5% of the people in my village of 4000 (that's 60 people) are believing followers of Jesus Christ...

...in summary a region, and nation in crisis...darkness.

"Oh Lord help us to be abandoned and available to the leading and prompting of your Holy Spirit...give us courage Lord...."

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

what is "strategy"?

(This photo reminded me that we often see what we think is the whole plan, but oh how much there really is in store for us!))

I went to google today and searched the words "life" and "strategy". The result: 45 million returns for this search...numerous self help, coaching and counselling pages offering me answers to all my earthly needs.. Great I'm now sorted all I need to do is spend the next 4000 consecutive hours non-stop reading and digesting this content and then my life is in shape according to google. Isn't google a helpful place.

"However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." Winston Churchill.... thanks Winston.. I'll refilter my results.

"Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there." John Kotter ..... OK so strategy helps me get somewhere which has results...we're making progress

"What do you want to achieve or avoid? The answers to this question are objectives. How will you go about achieving your desire results? The answer to this you can call strategy." William Rothschild...so now I get it....

Something like the word strategy does seem to be a word that should be in my life, but from this it simply describes the "how" for seeing a "Call" or "Vision" come to fulfillment.That makes it important, it makes it something I should have in place in my life to bring reality and tangible steps into the vision. Let's say in my life I have a call to reach my fellow countrymen with the gospel in a culturally relavent way...for me the incumbent church in the UK holds for many people of my generation and my childrens generation barriers which are strong...for me it is in the form of renewal, revival, even church planting...where do I start...

"Strategy is the strand that links the call to the fulfillment" and....


Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails"

Sunday, July 03, 2005

"what is vision?" (part 2 of 2)

I remember ...we were driving across the top of Oakville in Ontario two winters ago, it was snowing a blizzard 45degrees into the windscreen and visibility was pretty limited...but there's something about Canadians when it snows,.....they just drive like it's a sunny day, you could almost hear their minds thinking as they drove... "Hey we know where the road goes, we've had rough weather before...so what's the fuss? Keep going."

I didn't find this approach that bad in hindsight. Whereas if we get even a snow cloud hovering over us here in England, we run for the bunkers, batten down the hatches and it takes us at least a few weeks to get this weather topic off our lips!.

Chuck Swindoll described vision this way "Vision is essential for survival. It is spawned by faith, sustained by hope, sparked by imagination and strengthened by enthusiasm. It is greater than sight, deeper than a dream, broader than an idea. Vision encompasses vast vistas outside the realm of the predictable, the safe, the expected. No wonder we perish without it."

Bob Gordon put it this way "No significant life can be lived for God, nor can any significant work be done for God, unless it is grounded firmly on the reality of spiritual vision."

The definition of vision is broad and deep, I couldn't claim to cover more than pointers about vision and all the implications of it, but pointers are easier and this is what comes to mind.

There's Personal Vision and Corporate Vision. These two forms will often overlap since God rarely calls His servants to work alone without others..

The EFFECTS of vision.
It is quickening: it brings direction and purpose (Part one yesterday) It is motivating: it helps us progress towards our goals and these goals are clear within us. It is constraining: we will only then do things confined to the boundaries of our vision. It is sanctifying: we will start to get our act together in order to serve God.

Issues like sustaining the vision, enabling the vision and dealing with loss of vision and having your vision tested are all aspects to consider when we look at vision in the warfare we are called wage.

Questions we are wise to ask ourselves, and I am encouraged by doing this:
Do you have and know the vision God wants for you?
Where are you now with God and your work with Him?
Is the place you have attained your limit?
Are you doing all you could possible ever do for God now?

I'm challenged and in some ways more determined having looked at the vision I believe God has given me...it depends on my willingness to walk the road ahead, even though I don't know clearly how it will form or the exact timing God has in mind...

Proverbs 29:18 paraphrased might read like this "Where there are no plans and goals based on God's word to a group of people, those people will drift into meaningless, pointless, ineffective existance." perish the thought!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

what is? series."what is vision?"

A what is series...I was thinking how to progress with the whole thought process of laying out vision, mission, strategy, etc.. all the buzz words which sound inspirational but can be really meaningless and become as much a hinderance as an aid, unless we make them reality...happen. So here we go:

What is Vision (Part 1 of 2)

We took Esther our youngest daugther to get her hair done last night..had to get it done in the same place as her sister and aunt...! As she looked in the mirror at the vision in front of her I could see her satisfaction that the cut she had dreamed of was actually taking shape in front of her eyes, the vision she had, was being made a reality to her...literally....it made me think....God has a purpose and a plan, I know more overused words here, but familiarity with terminology must not eclipse or hinder the reality of purpose in our lives...God given purpose.

Habakuk 2:2 "Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it." What about this one Proverbs 29:28 "Where there is no vision, the people perish" Clearly we're encouraged to define the dreams, goals and direction God gives us to help us in our daily walk with Him. In difficult times, in slow times or confusing times, having a difinitive direction and vision of what God has gifted you to do or called you to do will balance life's storms....and they come...it's the norm....

After the fall of France in 1940, Churchill's foreign policy consisted of three essential goals:
1. Preserving the British Empire,
2. Smashing the Axis (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan),
3. Preventing the Soviet Union from coveting Eastern Europe.
By the time he was voted out of office during the July 1945 Potsdam Conference, Churchill could claim to have accomplished the first two of his three foreign policy aims. But he was compelled by Stalin and Roosevelt to acknowledge the inevitability of Soviet dominated Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, Churchill's immortal speech in Fulton Missouri (in which he warns the world and the new American President Harry S. Truman about the ominous consequences of a Soviet iron curtain that descended over Eastern Europe) galvanizes the West into forging the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and integrating West Germany.

Churchill didn’t achieve his complete list of goals, but was instrumental in establishing NATO, the strongest and longest lasting military alliance in modern history.

As we focus on the definition or refreshing of personal/corporate goals and aims, we can take hope that we don’t operate in a ruthless private corporate world reaching better performances every month at the demands of shareholders......(I'm so glad I'm not in that anymore...it's a crushing environment).. We are privileged to be ambassadors of God’s unfailing and unconditional love....this is 1.01 for vision, "to know Him and make Him known"...1.02 Is something like this.. "Lord, what gifts, talents do you wish to use in my abandoned life lived for you? Show me how you can use me in this temporary assignment here on earth?" Big question but a real one that when answered will bring glory to Christ... strength, definition, motivation and staying power to us....

Friday, July 01, 2005

sagging rafters


"If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks"
Ecclesiastes 10:8 (NIV)


There are some biblical principles, which warn us about laziness and idleness. In many places today we see the opposite with rush, rush, rush in the lives around us and even spreading often into our own lives. No matter what you are doing today one simple rule stands: The way you think today is going to determine who you are tomorrow, and the same applies to our time:

"What we do with your time today will determine where we are tomorrow."

The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us to be diligent with all we are given.

"We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" Heb 6:11-12 (NIV)

A lot of what we receive today can be broken down into chunks of time - in between the beginning and end of each day.

More than ever before with respect to the use of our time in ministry, whether full time ministry or with the more time constrained lay ministries, we absolutely must focus some more of our energy not simply on how to fulfil God’s call on our lives but to ask ourselves what is the best use of my time in God’s eyes.

Reminding yourself daily "How can I respect and honour your gift of time Lord?"

God has a plan and purpose for our lives. We have been amply enlightened in recent years with authors and eminent leaders of our generation reminding us of the call to having "purpose" in our lives. In order to reach these God appointed purposes on our lives we need to breakdown our Goals, into steps we can put our hands around.

In this first venture of blog life the focus is for me to know more of His will and to be available for more use by Him ...for Him...to give Him glory.....