Welcome! It's wonderful to see you here!

I'm a passionate writer - and therefore spend most of my time writing thriller novels. But I also live an interesting life in the nations. This blog is here for that aspect of my life - our life - I live with my wonderful wife and two daughters.

I believe in encouragement. I live for obedience. I believe in learning from our experiences, and this blog exists for both of those, and more.

So that you stay connected, getting every new update, please add your email address to receive all updates directly, or follow the RSS feed.

I was part of the leadership team in St Petersburg, Russia - which planted Hope Church in 2009.(www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com).
In March 2012 Hope Church sent my family to plant into Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia. I therefore lead this small but growing church plant team. Here is the website for Hope Tallinn (www.hopetallinn.ee)

For details on our journey here, read the series called Adventures of Faith which is linked for you on the right hand column, just below. That details our original journey to Russia and then onto Tallinn 4 years later.

Author for fiction novels - Cherry Picking (2012), The Last Prophet (2015), The Tablet (2015) and The Shadow Man (2016) are available on all major bookselling sites. Please visit: www.timheathbooks.com

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Treasure Hunting Update

So we've been out twice since I last updated here, and its about the last time that I want to talk about now, which happened last Saturday here in St Petersburg.

We went out in two teams, the group made up two English people, one South African, one Nigerian and a Russian. The Nigerian has good Russian having been here over 5 years already but he'd never done a treasure hunt before so I thought to put the other English girl and SA with him who don't have much Russian. I could then go with the Russian lady, who has no English, and at least could communicate with her.

So we formed our two teams on very practical grounds this time - and not as usual by putting people with similar clues together.

So off Janna and I went with the other three heading off on their way as well. Quickly we realised we BOTH had written down the name Vladimiar so we went off looking for him first! Janna had Shoe Shop and I had Watches/Clocks (same word in Russian) and just up from our office (as in lots of this culture fashion base that is SPB!) there are loads of shoe shops, and many of these also join onto Clock/Watch shops as well!

We looked for any men in the shops, and the few we saw we approached, Janna asking if their name was Vladimiar before being told it wasn't and we left.....

I'd also written down Park and Beer and Alcoholism, which understandable here usually all go together. We were heading away from the park I knew, but after going in all the shoe shops up one side of the street just up from our office (yes, about 100 metres and about 6 shoe shops!) we met two homeless men standing in front of a shoe shop.

Janna asked them their names - not Vladimiar - but they were clearly drinkers and when a third man, Kostia, came and joined them, he was clearly drunk. Kostia actually stood in front of them and we talked (Janna mainly!!) with him.....after about 10 minutes the other two walked off leaving us with Kostia. He only had one eye and clearly knew the gospel, he was crying telling us all about it. He showed us his arms where he injects himself. He talked a lot (as does Janna!).
We gave him a few cards for Sunday, explaining that we met just around the corner from that very spot. He hugged me.

He was drunk - how much would he remember....

He didn't come Sunday but Janna saw him again on Monday on the way to a meeting at the office and he said he was sorry he missed it, so we might see him again. How amazing would it be if Jesus gave him his eye back!! Do it Lord!

Anyway, we managed to pull ourselves away from Kostia, crossed over and started heading back down the other side of the road towards our office, and beyond that the park. There were many more shoe shops so at that moment, in God's timing as always, we glance into the first one and couldn't see any men. As Janna turned to walk on, I spotted that someone was coming out and its a man. I signal to Janna and we follow this man into the next door shop - another shoe shop, of course!

We ask him - Is you name Vladimiar? - Yes, he replies, a little interested now.....

Isn't God good!

It's more for our confidence than anything. We chatted with him outside for about 10 minutes, he even said it was a miracle that we'd found him in the way we did....but that was it, he wanted nothing more and went on his way. So our chat with Kostia just before had been much more fruitful, but it was just encouraging to know that God gave us someones name and the fact he'd be in a shoe shop and we found him just at the right moment........had we not talked with Kostia for as long as we did, we'd have been far from there when we saw him......God's timing, you've got to love it!

We had 10 more minutes and I knew there was a very small 'park' area just after the office - it's a few benches and some bushes really, but it would have to do. We didn't have time to get to the park another 10 minutes down the road.

So we waited by the steps.....not long there, a young guy of 21 was walking past and Janna just stopped him and started talking. He listened and listened, and said the occasional thing. We talked with him for about 30 minutes! Janna had written down on her sheet as a prayer need "Trouble with Parents" and when we got to talking about praying for him, he went quiet - there was certainly something troubling him. "Was is a girl?" Janna asked - no. "Is it your parents?" - YES! He wouldn't tell us but yet again God had shown us the person to which he wanted to impact that day, in that moment.

I gave him an invite and suggested he look us up on the web, email me any questions but encouraged him to come along. So we'll see....

Janna walked away weeping for him.

Flic, Johan and Steven from the other team shared they'd had three conversations but didn't feel they had been that amazing - and yet, Katya, one lady they had spoken too, called the number on the invite and went to home group on Tuesday night. At the home group, where many had said they were coming that night, none of them turned up so it meant Katya had 3 of the leaders all to herself to ask lots of questions! So yet another praise God moment! (Later note - Katya became a Christian the following Saturday, coming to church on the Sunday for the first time).

We go out again in a week's time.....

Monday, November 1, 2010

Faith in Giving - Where do you stand?

I recently spoke on this at Hope Church and enjoyed it so much I thought I'd write down my notes here as well...

In the Old Testament we see that giving, or the 'tithe' as it is called, was a very exact thing. We see the 10% rule brought in, but the requirement went far beyond just money in these time. The first born male of animals, for example, were a tithe to God - as were grain and first fruits...

There were rules for everything, in fact these were the Law's for which the people needed to live by, their requirements for living good lives, for staying in God's blessing.

The New Testament brought in a different system altogether - Grace. This included giving. Now we see the basis for Christian giving was from the heart, not out of requirement or law, but more around generosity. Jesus's observations in the temple with the old lady who put in all she had to live on (2 small coins) compared to the rich who 'threw' in their amounts for all to see are very interesting. Clearly the amounts are not important, but the heart. But what is also clear was that proportionally the old lady put in well over the '10%' ( it was ALL she had left!) and the rich probably much less.

So in the NT we see a freedom in giving - no longer to be LIMITED to 10%, but a freedom to be free and generous and to see God lead us into exciting things that he has in store for us.

And in this NT period that churches are in, we see two ends of the spectrum when it comes to giving. At one end we see what is called the Prosperity Gospel - you give in order to get rich! At the other end of the spectrum, in reaction to this, we see people so rejecting that teaching that they lose the joy in giving altogether and revert to the OT tithe system for want of something more grounded...and not so prosperity driven. And all churches are somewhere (usually more in the middle!) on this spectrum....

Let me pause now though and introduce you quickly to three members of a new local church;

First up we have Careful Kev. Kev is a cautious man, cautious with money - in fact cautious with everything. He takes the OT 10% tithe model and keeps it very precisely - to the nearest penny in fact! He's obedient, but really it's a 'bill' to him, a 'cost' at being part of a local church. He doesn't have much joy in it though, it's just something he should do...something he must do. Financially speaking, he has some debts, but just about does ok...

Next up we have Stingy Steve. Steve holds back from all people, even family. At birthdays, for example, he'll only spend money on people that have already spent the same amount on him. But he doesn't really like giving many gifts.
Steve really likes the teaching on freedom from the OT tithe because he can give much less & feel good about it. As it is, he gives only loose change that is clogging up his pockets, just to look good on Sunday's, as well as make his wallet feel lighter! He also always feels he never has enough money - he wants more - if he was rich, he tries to tell himself, then he would give more away. Financially, he's always short of money.

Finally we have Generous Jen. Jen is generous with all she has - time, patience and especially money. She has real joy in her spirit. She see's the 10% tithe as a starting point & prays about how much more she can give above that each month. She gives in many ways - it's exciting and she is always amazed at how God uses her. She lives within her means and has many friends around her. Financially, she always has money to share each month, as well as time, emotion and patience of course!

Kev, Steve and Jen have all recently joined a new local church. They continue their beliefs in relation to their giving over the course of a year - we'll come back to them in just a moment.

Local Churches - Very rarely are local churches funded by big business or huge revenues from television stations and other media. No, nearly 100% of the time (there are always of course exceptions, but generally speaking!) churches are financially supplied through the giving of their own people, the local family of believers that make up that church.
It is clear to me, as well as Biblical, that God's overwhelming preference for blessing in the local church is the generous tithes of it's members.

So, in the 'local church' used in the story above, we suddenly see that there is vision for a building project which will cost the church £1,000,000. So on top of all their normal costs, they want to see this extra amount come in. They need faith and they need God to provide the finances.

And we know where God directs, He also provides for.

So lets look at the numbers. Using the 10% tithe as an example, for £1,000,000 to be given in offerings to the local church, that first means God will release £10,000,000 in order for one tenth of the amount, ie a million, to be given to the church.

And how would our three examples deal with it? Well Careful Kev would see a large amount coming in as the perfect time to clear his mortgage and pay back some loans. It's only prudent after all as he doesn't want the worry of debts. Some money would trickle through to the church no doubt, but not the 10% as normal. No, this large amount coming in was surely for his own blessing to take the pressure off himself, for a while.
And Stingy Steve? Well, suddenly a lot of money is too big a temptation. Now he can finally do all the things he's not been able to do. To take that trip he always dreamed about and to live life the way he's seen others live. The money is soon spent and none of it finds it's way to church.
But Generous Jen is different. She's always made the decision to first give God back a huge portion. She's got a good understanding about money and there's no danger of a generous tithe not making it through to the church.....in fact, with a church full of Jen's, maybe God releasing just £5,000,000 would be enough to see £1,000,000 given in tithes (shocking, that's 20% I here Kev say!)

And this is where you see that somewhere in the past the prosperity gospel based themselves on truth. The Bible does say you'll be blessed in giving. And while our motivation should never be to get rich, there is a principle that God is more likely to bless a generous person than someone who gives very little....and as we've seen, if you were God and needed the local church to get a bumper tithe, what type of member of that church would you most likely choose to give a little extra too......of course, Generous Jen. She doesn't give to get rich, but because she knows the spiritual blessing she is storing up for herself, as well as the blessing in many ways she experiences in life now. She loves the fact that she can play a part of outworking the Kingdom financially in her world and see's this as the reason she has money from God in the first place.

She gets that freedom from the tithe means we are free to give more. Not because we have to, or must do, or need to do. But just because its an honour to, no matter how little we have!

God loves a cheerful giver. Not a rule follower, or a reluctant obedient attitude - but JOY! Real joy. The type of joy you only get by giving money away just to bless something, when there is no immediate return for the giver (that would be a transaction).

But the Bible is clear - giving is never without reward.....but the reward might not always be money, nor should the motivation be for what you'll receive.

So, what type of giver do YOU want to be.....?