Welcome! It's wonderful to see you here!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
So I've been reflecting lately - those in the Christian world are well aware of the phrase 'church planting'. Others might think it's some gardening term, or a funny/strange way of talking about a building (bricks & mortar) program for a church building.
But I wonder, outside of the training ground that is a church plant, whether most fully understand what it is to church plant?
I'm guessing those of you that have been reading over the last two years will have already seen in some detail the essential essence of what it is to church plant. Clearly, firstly, its a lifestyle. It's not something done just on Sunday's (or whenever you meet together as a recognisable group), but it's something you do all the time, every day, every month. For example, having people around for meals. Meeting new people for coffee (these are especially true for a city plant and that in a foreign culture where everyone new to the city is in more need of pastoral care - you know, someone looking out for them). It's helping out the core group as much as possible - so moving them into their houses (for the record, besides our own, the count is three house moves for families already in these two years - and because we all live in flats, the stairs are what make it very hard!).
It's hosting visitors - both family who've come to see exactly where their children/siblings etc have ended up, as well as hosting others looking in, one way or the other, be they church leaders (who are important for bringing in Biblical Foundations), mission teams, visiting speakers, or just tourists.
Friday, September 3, 2010
The summer has been long, hot and hard in many ways. The hottest summer for many many years, the south of the country on fire as a result, smoky skies to boot. The long nights of St Petersburg during the hottest spell meant there was no let up in the humidity and heat. It was unbarable at times, it really was, and something we hope is never repeated! Never!
So I'm grateful for the rain and cold that has hit. Anything is better than that heat. Anything!
At Hope Church as well, we saw the momentum we'd built up hit fast into the summer months, which really start anytime from the end of May, regardless of what the weather might say. Russian schools finish in that week, so from then onwards people go to their dacha's ('summer houses') for various lengths of times, but usually certainly the weekends. That means the city empties a little of Russian's, soon replaced by thousands of tourists.
So we knew the church, as it had been, was going to be a little quiet. Could a church as small and as young as ours get through financially a month that clearly had much the same costs, without the regular giving of our faithful members? How would we get through such a quiet month. Well, God had different ideas!
Yes, many were away but others still joined. In June a guy from England, having been in contact before, came for the first time. He's very much part of who we are, a great asset to us and a good friend now already! In August three American's arrived, all wanting to be a part of us. A Russian lady, who's been in this city for 5 years already, also decided to come for the first time. She's joined us as well.
These people alone are great people to be part of a church. So it was not quiet in relation to them coming.
But what of the finances? Well, having gone twelve clear months now, we have a better idea of the high months and low months. How did God work? Well, I'm not sure what the low month was but I know the high month easily....yes, August 2010....the 'quiet month' just gone! Somehow, with much fewer people and less happening, a much larger offering came in.....it's amazing how God works. We'd also taken a special offering in August for a family who'd had to flee their home town because of a death threat, and had nothing. If that amount wasn't included, it was still our highest month! Also, this didn't include a church in the UK spending about 22,000 rubles on two electronical devises which they wanted to bless the church with.
Finance wise - it was a huge month for the church. Amazing how God works. We are entering a season of financial challenge and God has started it by bringing in some key provisions.
I tell this just to glory in God, in how amazing He is, how He works in His own way, what ever we think might happen. With God you just can never tell!
Personally, as a family also reliant of faith giving, we've seen God starting to act and show that he's got everything under control.......He is good!
We tried to get some rest as well, though that was a little hard. It boiled down to a 4 day holiday we took in the middle of August which was great....but I came back to work with the same amount to do, just with a week's less time!
This Sunday see's the church celebrating our 1st Birthday, and launching a series on faith, titled By Faith. On the 13th September our school of ministry is launched, EFM (Equip for Ministry). (Check out our churches Facebook group for video's on both of these).
It's all great stuff but I'm already realising that I need to do this all with God's energy, because my own is already failing....
But I'm encouraged that St Petersburg is fertile soil. God has shown through his direction that He wants a great church in this city. Those that have invested finances with us as a family are seeing rich returns on thier investments - not only are you guaranteed riches in heaven, where thieves cannot take away from you, but your investments are bringing returns in this life as well through changed lives in this great city in Russia.
And if God effects St Petersburg for the gospel, then the nation and the nations will also follow after!
So I praise my God for all that He has done - I ask Him for strength to grow through these coming months. I also thank you for reading this, and for all those that are investing prayers and finance with us - they are making a difference and I trust by now you know it's a safe, profitable investment....one that you can continue with for as long as God allows!
Blessings upon blessings.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it."
8 His brothers said to him, "Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?" And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
9 Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. "Listen," he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me."
10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
Now we'll jump a few verses to the end on verse 17, where Joseph has been sent by his father to find his brothers, out somewhere with the animals;
So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
19 "Here comes that dreamer!" they said to each other. 20 "Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll see what comes of his dreams."
21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. "Let's not take his life," he said. 22 "Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don't lay a hand on him." Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.
23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the richly ornamented robe he was wearing-24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, "What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood." His brothers agreed.
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, "The boy isn't there! Where can I turn now?"
31 Then they got Joseph's robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornamented robe back to their father and said, "We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son's robe."
33 He recognized it and said, "It is my son's robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces."
34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son." So his father wept for him.
36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard.
I've heard many times people using the opening verses of this, talking quite badly about Joseph, giving him a bad account for how he opens his mouth and just blurts out what ever he is thinking. It's as if they assume he is bragging to his brothers, as if saying "Look how special I am...."
I don't think this is entirely fair or true. Yes, he was young (it tells us he was 17 at the start), so maybe there is an element of his youth blinding him to his brothers feelings. Hate is very often hidden though, so their harsh words aside, there was no way for this young Joseph to actually know his brothers true feelings towards him.
But holding this thought, what do we know of the character of this young man, both at this point and from what follows in the latter chapters of Genesis. Well, it is clear to me that Joseph was at least honest, pure, one who flees sin, hard working, he hears from God, he is used by God, he's a great leader and he's very forgiving.
And the brothers? Using the same process, what do we know of them? They are full of hate, have unkind words to say, they even hated all the more, they were mocking, jealous, murderous, plotting evil, lying, greedy and deceptive.
Next to each other, the characteristics of both Joseph and his brothers do not match up; Joseph wins hands down! Given this, the 'bad' account we see in verse two, from which the brothers hated Joseph, we see that what he pointed out to his father about the way they were working with the animals would have been correct. They probably were working badly....therefore their hate was unfounded, based on the fact that their own short comings had been noticed.
Coming back to the story, when you look at what has happened to Joseph, at the hands of his own brothers, it might lead you to ask the following questions;
Did God abandon him to his dream? As if to say, having revealed something to Joseph, did God stand back and take His hands off the matter?
Or had Joseph miss-heard? Maybe he just got it wrong?
Or maybe he should just never had shared his dream to anyone, especially his family?
My starting point to answer these questions is to remember in the Bible it states correctly that God works all things for good, for those that love him. And straight away in the story, even at the end of chapter 37 shown above, we get a glimpse of God already at work, in the way Joseph is sold to Potiphar. Not only is he one of Pharaohs officials, he's also the Captain of the Guard! Talk about rubbing shoulders with people of influence!!
Even before this moment, we see God at work, first through the actions of Reuben wanting to spare his life. Clearly if Joseph had been killed by them (imagining that this option was even possible!) then there would have been no forfillment to his dream. We then see that even through the greed of Judah, God is about to work to bring about the plans He has for Joseph. Because it was their greed at wanting to get something from their brothers downfall that led them to sell him to the passing merchants.
God is always at work and able to forfil the dreams he has for us! Amen
Someone once said "Every great dream begins with a great dreamer", but I feel the Bible says it better when in Ephesians 3:20 you are encouraged that God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.
As we've seen, Martin Luther King Jr had dreams and God was in them and brought them to be. History has shown us such greats as Vivaldi, Bach, Handel and Da Vinci, who all had great dreams and produced amazing things from them. Yet these last four did things from just human minds.
I personally have dreams, things I know God has said to me but I am yet to see. It's these dreams and promises that keep me pressing on, pressing forward to the day that I see God outworking these things unto completion, all the time knowing that the process has long been started by Him already. And I believe every Christian can have their own promises, their own dreams from God.
The Prophet Joel, which is also requoted in the book of Acts, says "I will pour out my Spirit..." and this we are told will lead to prophecy, visions and dreaming dreams! We are in this time. The Spirit has been poured out on all people and its time to dream those dreams.
With God, all things really are possible, if we submit our plans to his, our ways to his ways, our desires to his, our dreams to his. If we make his dream, ours!
Do you have dreams? Do you have dreams that are personally yours? Do you have dreams for your local church, your city, or your nation? I believe we can each have our own dreams, as well as the corporate ones that include us all. But if we only have corporate ones, God can become less personal, and we just are one of the crowd, hidden behind what covers a much bigger group, safe in our salvation but no danger to the enemy as the corporate dream doesn't take root into our own lives, effecting them as a result. Don't hear me wrong - I do believe we need corporate promises, its just my experience is that if this is all we have, the individual needs to really work at seeing how they can outwork that promise within their own life, thus buying into it, otherwise they tend to just hide behind the fact that God has said something to their church, but nothing changes in their lives, so no fruit results from that word.
Are you a dreamer like Joseph? Maybe you've physically had dreams like he did - maybe you want to? It's been my prayer these last two months that I would have dreams like he did.
Or maybe you feel like your dreams are attacked & shot at like Martin Luther King Jr or Nehemiah? You've shared them to the 'wrong' people and instead of hearing encouragement, you were given harsh words.
Maybe you don't yet have any dreams? To this it just means God has a blank canvas ready to outwork a masterpiece on.
Lord I pray that there would be many dreamers out there - not day dreamers or people that only dream for personal gain, but people who hear you in their hearts. May You put into these people your dreams, and may You breathe life into these dreams. For anyone reading this who has had their dreams attacked and laughed at, please help them to forgive and forget those words, and to once again pick up the dreams you placed in them and give them the encouragement to see these dreams come to reality.
Thank you Lord for all that we can learn from Joseph. Help me to learn so much more from what follows in this series. Amen.