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Christmas thought….

Ice, sweets, polar bears, carols and penguins……might seem a strange group of words for a Christmas blog but stay with me.

This week has been a great week; Sunday we had a carol concert at church where guys in penguin costumes greeted people with sweets. Around 900 people came many of whom don’t often come to church and the presentation was amazingly good if I say so myself!

Then on Wednesday my wife and I went to listen to classical music whilst watching polar scenes on a giant screen, perhaps a little middle aged but hey we enjoyed it!!

As I listened to the beautiful music and watched the amazing scenes I couldn’t help keep thinking, ‘wow, that’s unbelievable, that’s unexplainable’ so much detail and so stirring how does it all work?

Now as I sit thinking about the dawn of Christmas and imagine Mary hearing the news of her impending birth I can imagine her thinking; ‘wow, that’s unbelievable, that’s unexplainable’ and here’s my thought for you this Christmas time.

If you’re struggling to believe in the story, or you’re struggling to trust the God of the story, you’re in good company Mary did too but she came to the place where she said ‘let it be to me according to your word’ and then she saw. People think you see in order to believe but actually it’s the other way round!

This Christmas may you believe and may you see that the God who created ice, polar bears and penguins, the God who put imagination into the minds of composers to create beautiful music is the same God who sent Jesus to earth 2,000 years ago for you and for me. Unbelievable? You better believe it!

Happy Christmas!!

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‘Can I make you bigger?’

To be honest when I was asked this question I nearly fainted; make me bigger, are you kidding? I’m trying to lose weight not gain it! So who asked the question? Well if you check out the video this is me introducing some teaching we’ve been doing on messages Jesus sent to 7 churches in Asia Minor and we thought we’d be a bit creative and do some green screening. This is where you speak in front of a green screen and then the technical people make it look interesting! Problem was when we looked at the first take I was too small in the picture!


I’ve been reflecting on this and reckon a lot of people are asking ‘how can I become bigger?’ perhaps making more impact, more influence, more ‘success’ whatever that means.

Do you know something; the journey to become bigger is an interior journey not an exterior one. It’s not a quick fix, media altering journey but a one of self-discovery, interior mining for who we are and what we’re here for and that requires time, endurance, pain and in my opinion can only truly happen with God on our life who’s goal for us is to become bigger people but in things that really matter, that stand the test of time and leave a legacy.

So do you want to become bigger?

Then look upward, look outward but also look inward….
‘The longest journey of anyone is the journey inward’ former Secretary General of UN

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Reflections from SE Asia – Part 2

‘When was the last time you did something for the first time?’ As we get older it’s possible to stop trying new things, to go with what’s safe, comfortable and familiar. The problem is if we do that we miss out on so much, new experiences bring new learning and new learning brings new growth. We expand as we stretch, we discover as we stretch and we get to create stories and memories and when we’re old and grey those are the things we’ll be telling other people about.

So what did I do for the first time while I was away?

I floated down a river in a rainforest, I swam at the base of a waterfall, I ate a fish’s eye, I went to a Malaysian longhouse, I rode in a longboat, I played Chinese whispers without using words and I walked in a village entirely built on a river…..I now have some new stories and some new memories, so do something for the first time you never know what you will discover……..

Reflections from SE Asia – Part 2

‘When was the last time you did something for the first time?’ As we get older it’s possible to stop trying new things, to go with what’s safe, comfortable and familiar. The problem is if we do that we miss out on so much, new experiences bring new learning and new learning brings new growth. We expand as we stretch, we discover as we stretch and we get to create stories and memories and when we’re old and grey those are the things we’ll be telling other people about.

So what did I do for the first time while I was away?

I floated down a river in a rainforest, I swam at the base of a waterfall, I ate a fish’s eye, I went to a Malaysian longhouse, I rode in a longboat, I played Chinese whispers without using words and I walked in a village entirely built on a river…..I now have some new stories and some new memories, so do something for the first time you never know what you will discover……..

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Reflections from SE Asia – Part 1

I’ve just returned from an amazing trip to SE Asia to speak at various events along with a friend of mine who came as the worship leader. We went to Brunei, Singapore and Malaysia and such a lot happened in those few days. We met some great people, we saw some amazing sights and we ate some really weird food! I’ve never eaten fish eyes and other assorted internal parts of animals before!

So for my reflections…..

We live in an amazing world, so diverse, so rich so beautiful and yet filled with so much pain, poverty and discord. As we met various people from different backgrounds and cultures I was again impacted by the beauty of the church. Where else on planet earth could you feel so at home so quickly with people who are so different? Where else on earth could you sense a level of relationship with people you’d never met and may never meet again? When Jesus said ‘I will build my church’ I think he had something more beautiful in his mind than we could ever imagine and with all its weaknesses and imperfections the church is still God’s best idea yet!

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‘What you see when you walk’

 

Recently a group of church leaders in our area began a series of prayer walks across our borough. As we walked from the Merry Hill shopping centre towards our town of Halesowen, I was amazed at how much more I saw when I walked than when I drive. It reminded me to slow down, to walk more and to pray when I walk for the people, towns and communities I pass by or through. It also reminded me of another walk we did just a few weeks ago in a very different location… Zambia.


Here is a video that tries to capture that walk, some of the sights, sounds and people of a community in need of help and hope. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could learn to walk together and bring hope to our communities whether in Africa or on the way from the Merry Hill shopping centre!

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Is this the way to Amulo?

Sounds like a really annoying song that was out (again) a few years ago but actually it was what I found myself saying quite a lot in a car whilst bouncing across roads that had more potholes than road just outside Kitwe in the copper belt region of Zambia. My wife Allison and I had just left a conference hosted by Hands at work, an amazing organisation, actually more of a family, who support projects all across Sub Saharan Africa that are actively reaching and serving widows, orphans and vulnerable children. Now the conference was over and we were off to Amulo for a community stay; the chance to stay in a house and spend 24 hours with a family.

When we finally found Amulo we found a community of around 3,000 people; no school, lots of child headed households, widows, orphans, young men who were drunk at 3 in the afternoon and at first sight what appeared to be a hope forsaken place.

As we walked the streets with Pastor Boyd and another church leader (Webby) our impression began to change. Here were men who loved God and who loved people, who made friends with drunks and those who were sick and dying. We discovered home base care workers who had nothing but gave everything. We played with kids who had no shoes but had the life of Christ in their eyes.

After we had walked the community we had a meal with the pastor and his wife and were captivated by their beautiful 2 year old daughter whose name meant ‘peace.’ We’d been taught how to ‘bucket bath’ and so were apprehensive but ready. What we were not prepared for was sitting down together after dinner and the pastor saying, ‘do you know we have relatives who won’t visit us because of where we live but you have come to the UK and are willing to stay in our home, this is a privilege for us….’ There were tears in his eyes!

We were speechless; it was us who were honoured, the privilege was ours to be able to spend 24 hours in the home of this family was something that will live with us for a very long time. The grace we encountered, the spirit of service and sacrifice was both humbling and inspiring.

Now as we as a church embark on a journey with this community we pray that we will meet Christ more and more as we look into the eyes of the child, the widow, the vulnerable and the amazing people who are responding to the call of God and bringing hope and help to places like Amulo….

We pray that more and more churches find an ‘Amulo’ and begin a journey of transformation and hope.

 

For more information about Hands at work…..

www.handsatwork.org

 

 

 

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Play that country song backwards….

So we’re going through book of Jonah and as a leader I want to try to pull out some lessons in leadership from this amazing book. In Jonah chapter 2 inside the belly of the fish Jonah has his ‘country and western’ moment. You know that moment, when you sit down and start thinking about all you’ve lost…in fact imagine a country song backwards? you’d get your house back, your dog back your best friend Jack back, your truck back, your hair back your first and second wives back….!!

The thing is when we’re in a storm or in a situation where we feel trapped our first cry is ‘God get me out’ but what if what we feel we need rescuing from is actually what has been sent to save us? David said ‘Oh that I had the wings of a dove I would fly away…’ but God didn’t give us wings so we could fly away so perhaps we need to reframe the question from ‘when can I get out of this?’ to ‘what can I get out of this?’. Perhaps if we play the country song backwards we stop being the victim and start being a….leader…or even start being a follower……of God, the one who ‘for the joy set before him, endured.’…..Just a thought…

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Who’s your captain? (lessons in leadership from JONAH)

This song was written by one of our young guys and the visuals created by our designer; I love the creativity in our church! Sunday we began a new series on the book of Jonah and I want to pull out some lessons in leadership as we go.

So Jonah is on the run from God, in a storm, fast asleep but God sends him a ‘captain’ (Jonah 1 v.6). Someone who tries to wake him up, ask him a great question and then given him some solid, godly advice. You know where I’m going right? We all need a ‘captain’ do you have one? We all drift to sleep in some areas of our lives, we all need someone who is bothered enough about us to try to wake us up ask good questions and speak sound advice into our lives. However, I’m discovering this, we say we want people to speak into our lives but we don’t! We say we want it but we don’t like it and often we don’t listen because actually we want to be the ‘captain’ rather than listen to a ‘captain’ and so follow our ultimate ‘captain’ much better….think about it sshhhh; is that a knock on you door I hear?

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This photo is taken from a gay pride march in Chicago which was surpring to me in that there was a demonstration from Christians at the march. That’s not surprisng perhaps but the fact that this small group of Christians didn’t have inflammatory placards but simply wore T shirts saying ‘we’re sorry’ was incredibly surprising. Some of the people on the march were so impacted that they left the march to embrace the T shirt wearing Christians! This is grace in action; this is a demonstration of the fact that we can hold different opinions and views without forgetting our shared humanity. When we live like this we are the hands and feet of Jesus who never scared off people, who was a friend of the friendless, a refuge for the broken and a magnet for the marginalised.
I wish I was more like him…..perhaps I need to live more in GRACE……

This photo is taken from a gay pride march in Chicago which was surpring to me in that there was a demonstration from Christians at the march. That’s not surprisng perhaps but the fact that this small group of Christians didn’t have inflammatory placards but simply wore T shirts saying ‘we’re sorry’ was incredibly surprising. Some of the people on the march were so impacted that they left the march to embrace the T shirt wearing Christians! This is grace in action; this is a demonstration of the fact that we can hold different opinions and views without forgetting our shared humanity. When we live like this we are the hands and feet of Jesus who never scared off people, who was a friend of the friendless, a refuge for the broken and a magnet for the marginalised.

I wish I was more like him…..perhaps I need to live more in GRACE……