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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Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Christmas 2013!

Once again, our Christmas music/photo/video greeting for you all.

Happy Christmas, and may you have a blessed, richly fruitful 2014.

Tim, Rachel, Mia & Anya xxxx

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

God Speaks - Bible - Part 5

Welcome to the latest part of a series that I'm calling "God Speaks..."
Over these nine entries, I want to look at some of the ways that God speaks to us (it's not an exhaustive list of course - I'm sure others can add to it!). Because He does speak.  All the time.
Because God is real, because He loves us and because He is good - He speaks.
Usually, it's us (mere people!) that fail to listen or maybe fail to understand that it was God speaking to us.
I want to share from my own life, as practical examples, some of the ways God has spoken to me.  In all, I want to briefly look at these nine ways that we hear from God:

Dreams (click here to read this section)
Visions & Pictures (click here to read this section)
Through Others (click here to read this section) 
Angels (click here to read this section)
Small Still Voice
Burning Bush
Audible Voice

Personally, I've experienced six out of these nine ways listed - and as we go through the series, I'll make these clear how that happened.  So, here we go with the next part!

Part 5 - Bible

It's not just enough to say that the Bible is the word of God and therefore speaks to us.  Of course it does.  For me, that goes without saying.  But I'm saying more than that, which I'll get to in a moment.  
As a book, the Bible is fascinating, if you really give it the time to fully look into it.  True, for the beginner, it does seem like a challenge to even start to read - where to start? Many think, like with any novel, and start at the front - that's logical, and I certainly have done that.  Genesis and even Exodus are actually great story accounts covering huge periods of time - but by the time you get to the book of 1 Chronicles, you will almost certainly stop, if reading it like a book.  
One book.  And of course, in some ways, it is that - but it's also a collection of many books.
If you were reading it for the first time, I'd say to actually start much later on, in the New Testament, which is the smaller, second half of the book.  Read John's gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are the four gospels, and make up the first four books of the NT.  The book of John looks at the life and death of Jesus, the central character to the whole Bible.  And once you understand that, the Old Testament (OT) makes a lot more sense.  Yes, it's a whole collection of a lot of different books - but they all tell the same story - that soon, someone is coming!  Of course, we understand who that was from this side of history, but in the time these OT books were written (the last one was still 400 years before Jesus was born), they didn't know when it was about to happen.
Let me lay another thing to bed, which often gets said about the Bible, usually from people that haven't read it, or certainly understood it.  Having read the book cover to cover several times, and certain parts much more, the book holds together as a whole - it does not contradict itself, it is perfectly understandable, which is how it's meant to read. As a whole, it does communicate the same overall story - that a loving God, who loves us more than we can imagine, had to give his son to die for us, because nothing we could ever do could deal with the separation that existed between us and God - which the Bibles calls sin (which is an archery term for 'missing the mark').  If you fired an arrow, and it didn't hit the target, you'd shout 'sin' to notify people that you'd missed the mark.
When we do things that hurt others (not to mention hurting God) we sin - even when it doesn't hurt others, only ourselves, it is still sin.  God's plan for us is so amazing, that when we do what (only) our own hearts want, we miss the mark.
Anyway, back on to the subject.  What I meant by the above was that as a book the Bible is so much more than just ink on paper (or letters on a screen if you are reading your Bible on a tablet!)  Because it's inspired by God, it has the power to speak to us.

So how has it spoken to me?

I said I wanted to go beyond the basic fact that the Bible speaks to us in general.  One thing I don't go in for (though of course there are always stories where this worked!) is what I'd call 'Bible lottery' - this is where you say to God "OK, I need you to speak to me now, so I'm going to open up my Bible and see what you have for me" and then you just open it up, and point your finger randomly on a verse and take that as His answer.  I will literally now do this with my Bible, and then copy in the verse that it gives me (it will be funny if this turns out to be a really encouraging and timely word!)  Here goes;

Solomon went up to the bronze altar before the Lord in the tent of meeting and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.

The above verse was from 2 Chronicles 1:6 and was literally where I pointed to once I'd opened, without looking, onto that page.  Unless I was really praying about how many offerings I should make (in which case, I think this would have been quite a challenging word!!) it really isn't much help.

What has helped, and has happened so much more frequently, is to regularly read the word of God, working through whole books, and therefore reading one or two chapters a day.  Within the normal, daily reading, it's been amazing how often the verses I've just happened to get up to for that day are exactly what I needed to hear.....more than just coincidence when it happens time and time again.  Is it that God knew, on that particular day in my life, that I'd get up to that particular chapter, and therefore inspired it to be written in such a way....

The other way (and combined with hearing God speak in another way - words - which is the subject of the next entry) where I've heard from God, is through getting a certain verse suddenly 'appear' in my mind.  This could be in a number of ways (everyone of us is different!).  Maybe some numbers appear, or the whole reference.  In my most bizarre example, it was a general sense - I had the book Luke and the numbers 1 and 3.  Now, this happened when I was in my late teens - still living at home, in the suburbs of London.  While not the city centre, it certainly is not the countryside.  Wildlife, while not completely invisible, is lets say, quite rare.  I had been praying about how and when God wanted to work with me.  About where I was headed.  I'd had words and desires about healing, and stepping forward in things.  God had spoken to me through others about the nations.  So I was seeking God on this particular evening (it wasn't late), worshiping with some music playing, when I felt the Luke reference and the numbers.  I turned to Luke 13 (which seemed to make sense) and started reading.  I kept reading - and later on, this is exactly as it happened....
When I got to verse 31 (those two numbers again!), whilst reading in my head, outside there was a noise.  And as the words of that verse were going through my head, my brain was obviously processing what it was hearing.  As I finished verse 31, about to start verse 32, my mind caught up and told me that the noise outside was a fox. Instantly, I read this in the following verse:

He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’

It was the encouragement I needed for that moment.  What was funny, and totally without my choosing, was whilst playing hockey in England, for my Cheshire based team, my two shirt numbers were first 13, then 31....It's as if God was reminding me of what He'd spoken to me that day, as I made the move to Manchester, and ahead of future moves overseas.

A few years before that, I also found great encouragement as I was just starting to process the call to the Russian speaking world, with that map of Asia that appeared before my eyes, when reading the book written for me....As a Tim (which is short for Timothy) the book 2 Timothy I always take to be To Timothy.  Paul starts the letter:

To Timothy, my dear son.

I like that truth!  It was particular gripping when later in chapter 1 it said:

You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me

Here I was, processing that same calling, reading that the people God had called me to for salvation, again were listed here as having deserted God!  I identify a lot with 'young' Timothy, and though not as young now as I once was, always took encouragement from Paul's letters to that young leader.

So, how has the Bible spoken to you?  Maybe you are new to it - I encourage you, to talk with someone about it, maybe read it with someone from time to time that can explain what is coming up.  If you are stuck with where to start, read John, or read Luke and then Acts.  Both those two books were written by a doctor named Luke, and give an account firstly of the life of Jesus, and then following his resurrection, the life of the early church.  It's a fascinating adventure story - but better than that, it's true!  And years later, it's as true and helpful today as it's ever been!

Thanks for reading - this series will continue next with how God speaks through Words.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tallinn Update - Winter at Last!

As we hit the first of December, so we had the first real snowfall.  Winter has come at last!  Over night, the temperature has dropped down to nearly minus five.  The rain and overcast (slightly warmer) days have given way to sunny, clearer skies and noticeably colder days.  But these are what make Tallinn winters so beautiful!  And I much prefer sunny days in winter.

So, as we hit December, a busy time of year for all, we wanted to send out an update in good time, before things get too festive, with all the news from us in Tallinn.  As usual, our now annual (it will be our 5th one!) Christmas musical photo/video card will come out later this month, so keep an eye on this blog for when it does.

Before we get stuck in, and so that you can see what's coming, here are the headlines for this update:

  • Continued favour on the Toddler group
  • Core formation and hopefully soon growth
  • More Visitors - though finished now for the year
  • Job Challenge
  • St Petersburg trip coming up
  • Health challenges as we mark one year since my back injury
The Winter Market in Tallinn has opened - this photo, I guess taken a few years ago, shows the setting for the market. The huts are set up a little differently now, but with the snow and lights, the effects are still as magical. It makes the Old Town, just that little bit more special.

Toddler Group

One thing we've often mentioned but not said too much about, is the weekly Sing & Play children and babies group we host at ours every Thursday.  This is certainly Rachel's 'baby' - if I'm home, apart from being around to help set up a little (though not as much as Rachel needs often), I tend to get to listen through the walls as the flat fills up, talking to the parents as I make the odd drink, while working in the office.  This group has continued to do really well.  Please pray that Rachel and Elisabeth (who runs it with Rachel but has her hands full with 3 children of her own!) are able to get more help with it.  Rebekah (who we'll mention again later) was able to help while here for ten nights recently - staying with us, and therefore here for set up and clear away, it really showed the great value this adds, and something Rachel is now missing with Rebekah being back in the UK!   The other mums are getting involved too though and are now making a cake for the group each week.
  Once a month Rachel has now started including a Baby Massage class within the group.  This is a skill she picked up when she had Mia back in the UK.  She was given training and taught some classes in the UK at the time.  It's funny the things that come back years later - like her Body Shop training with make-overs and facials that opened the door to working with the Butterfly project in Tallinn.
The group of mums (there was one dad for a while, though his working pattern changed and he's not currently able to come) is a mix of several nationalities, but there are several Estonian mums coming, including one neighbour from the fifth floor of our building.  She has helped with doing some of the songs in Estonian.  These babies are all going to be singing in many languages!

Core Development....and Growth?

The last two weeks have seen some challenges - but I write this saying that as a team, we are in a much stronger place because of it all.  I think the adjustments that we have made to our program, which came out of long conversations over about three days last week, have put us in a better position to move forward.  It was as if God was in the midst of the conflict, bringing us safely through to a much better place.  It gives us all more room to grow, and helps launch a weekly home group meeting which should really serve the core, as well as being a building point for those that have shown an interest in what we are about.
And on the back of this, Rebekah, who we've mentioned already, and talked about praying for in the last October update, has stated that she is planning on moving here in February next year, to help out with the church plant!
This is fantastic news, and though the details are not sorted out (like job, where she will live etc!), it is a great statement of faith.  Please pray that she gets some great options offered to her, that allow her both to build relationships and flourish, whilst giving her time to get stuck in with Hope:Tallinn events.  She is wanting to come and help establish a Children's ministry, serving both those within the church, and as options develop, those outside.  She would be a great blessing, so please be lifting her in your prayers as she outworks the practical elements of this over the next two months.  
Arriving at the coldest point of winter, pray for a great adjustment - I guess, it can only get warmer for her!
She would be the 8th adult member of the team - and we are praying that the current core doubles to 14 (very quickly!!??) in order for us to think about launching the church plant into the next phase.  

Last month saw some more visitors, and actually the last for the year.  As well as having Rebekah with us for ten days, we also had a visit from Colin Baron (Manchester, UK) with Dave Henson (Cardiff).  They spent a few nights in Tallinn, having come from St Petersburg.  Dave, because of his back, stayed in a local hotel, to give him space to move around in the night, without disturbing anyone.  They spoke at our midweek meeting, and I had as much time as I could with them.  For Colin it was his first time in Estonia.  I don't think it will be his last.  And then just a few days after they both went, Rachel's mum and dad came to stay for five nights.  They were a real blessing and Mia and Anya especially enjoyed having Grandma and Grandad around for the weekend.
December and January are clear, and will be kept that way.  As a family there has been a lot of pressures, which is natural in our situation, but it seems a good time to pause a little, and enjoy the holiday when we get to Christmas. The girls are also getting busy with school plays and ballet concerts, as is normal for this time of year, so it gives us the space to enjoy these events with them.
Taken the other month looking towards Tallinn in the distance
As a numbers man, I totaled up the visitors this year.  March and December will have been the only months that no one was staying with us, but if you take each nights sleep someone has had, and put them in a row, it comes to 136 nights out of those 10 months.  Of course, most of these have been multiple people staying at the same time.  On the other side, there were also 54 days when one (usually this, and usually me) or all of us where away from home, often in another country.
This fact alone is so different to what life had been in Russia, and especially in England.

Events - Gathering of a Community
The main events that are now happening each month are a big meal together once a month, as well as the focused men's and women's events.  For the men, this has been Poker nights at our home which I have hosted.  It's great for building friendships together, creating a bridge in our relationship where we can meet at other times to talk, and is also just about having some fun! I'll say it again, as I've said before - we do not play for money!  
For the ladies, Rachel has recently hosted a SPA event, which is the second time they've done that.
And all of them together are building community.  It's ironic that while most people in the world now live in cities, statistically mankind is now the loneliness we've ever been.  Simply having people living around you doesn't cut it - unless you are part of a community.  And we've seen, through the meals and these other events, a community emerging.  Having come here not knowing anyone, we've seen friendships developing.  And as life gets busier, our prayer and battle will be to keep space for relationships, and building others into communities.

And it's also just a good principle to bless the city - to be a blessing to those around us, regardless of their beliefs.  
The view from our window the other day
Another way this was recently outworked, was Rachel hosting a baby shower at ours for a lady from another church.  We are really friendly with them, have served them on a Sunday a couple of times, and it was great to help make the event possible, by hosting and organising the event.  It's Rachel working to one of her main strengths - hospitality.

The Challenges

Health has been a bit of an issue with the girls (Rachel included!) over this last month or so.  Both Mia, and Anya more so, have missed days at school/kindergarten.  Rachel has been fighting something for some time - and if I'm honest, as I'm writing this, I'm starting to not feel so good myself.  It seems we really do need a cold snap to kill off these nasty viruses.   Your prayers for health would be appreciated!
It is also now a year ago since I was taken to hospital in an ambulance, not being able to walk.  And twelve months later, the time they said it would take to fully recover, I can say I'm getting better all the time.  I will of course be careful - it was when the snow first arrived last year, and something I did moving the snow, that caused it all in the first place! So while it has been a challenge on many fronts, I am looking forward to really enjoying this Christmas and winter, which were a struggle last year.

The Job Challenge

Something that came to head with the visit of Dave last month, was this issue of family income.  While we are only in the early phases of church planting in Estonia, we have also already been away from the UK for over five years now. So it's been natural that churches and individuals have felt they were unable to continue with their monthly giving.
While we continue to live by faith, with about half our income coming through faithful giving (not only from the UK), we are thinking about ways to press through with finance.  For the last few years, we've been living on a very fine line, and this last year in Tallinn actually spending more than came in.
In relation to paid work, I am now working two days a week for my old full-time UK job, which I've been doing some hours for ever since we first left the UK.
This year, I launched a business as a language agency.  While that is getting some teaching work in (all Rachel's lessons are now going through the company) it's yet to really stand up on it's own two feet as a business - please pray for continued favour on this - as well as with my writing.  My book is continuing to sell, and I am well on my way to finishing the second novel as well.  I really hope that this can be released in 2014.  My official Author Page recently went live on Facebook - please be sure to connect to it here. By liking the page on FB, it allows your friends to see the page, and increases my reach.  I am so thankful to everyone that has already done this. If you haven't yet, please do. It means so much to me. And long term, I really hope to be able to focus solely on writing as my trade.  I believe this is the career God will open up.  For this, I really do need your prayers.
This all being said and done, there is a real need now for income, so I am exploring the options of increasing my working week to full time - by either finding a part time job in Tallinn for three days a week, and still doing my two days in the UK, or needing a full time job here.  
This option does scare me if I'm honest.  It would be a huge change to life here, and a real challenge to fit everything else in with church.  The wider travel side I would need to lay down, and as the church grows and approaches its launch, again, that would be a challenge for time.  
But I do tend to focus on the specifics and not look too far ahead.  While I would love the business to take off and my books to sell rapidly, it might well be that in the mean time I need to take on some more work.
Please pray for the right job - the perfect job that pays well and matches my skills.  Having started looking, I am already really limited with options. Due to language and experience, my skills are more easily fitted to the UK market.  But I only need one job that's right for me.  Please pray, in what ever God wants, that this whole situation changes rapidly.  We know God has the perfect way through.

St Petersburg - next week!
As I check the calendar to see when it is that I am going, I had a mild panic to realise it's only the end of next week when I am going back to St Petersburg.  I am travelling on the Thursday with Stephen from the team here, and Arnoud and Enrico will be joining us on the Friday.  We'll have the whole weekend in the city, encouraging the church there, and exposing both groups to each other.  Please pray for a blessed trip, and like in Holland, as the four of us spend more time together, for great fun and memories to be formed. We travel back to Tallinn on Monday 16th December.

Family and Prayer Points

Mia had a small part in a ballet show yesterday and has a bigger role, where we will all be there to watch, in the middle of next week.  Both girls are continuing to enjoy life.  Both are so much fun, though we are aware with Mia's school, there is a lot of pressure put on the students.  She gets hours of homework each week.  It's often hard for us to keep on top of it.  They are both speaking Estonian well, in their own little way.  Anya certainly understands a lot, and is the one most surrounded with it, when she is in kindergarten.  Mia's Estonian class teacher has mentioned to Rachel how well Mia is picking up the language and that she has surprised her with the things she has understood.
We will be staying in Tallinn this Christmas - the tree should be going up next weekend, which I guess will also feature in the annual Animoto video greeting that I will try and get around to doing soon!  We'll leave you with some prayer pointers.  Thanks for reading this year - the blog went through the 20,000 visitor mark last week - an incredible thought!
  • Pray for God's abundant breakthrough with the job/finance situation
  • Pray for a quick recovery of this nasty virus
  • Pray for Rebekah as she makes final plans regards moving here
  • Keep praying for salvation 
  • Thank God for every visitor we've had this year!
  • Thank God for the great communities that are developing!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

God Speaks - Angels - Part 4

Welcome to the latest part of a series that I'm calling "God Speaks..."
Over these nine entries, I want to look at some of the ways that God speaks to us (it's not an exhaustive list of course - I'm sure others can add to it!). Because He does speak.  All the time.
Because God is real, because He loves us and because He is good - He speaks.
Usually, it's us (mere people!) that fail to listen or maybe fail to understand that it was God speaking to us.
I want to share from my own life, as practical examples, some of the ways God has spoken to me.  In all, I want to briefly look at these nine ways that we hear from God:

Dreams (click here to read this section)
Visions & Pictures (click here to read this section)
Through Others (click here to read this section)
Small Still Voice
Burning Bush
Audible Voice

Personally, I've experienced six out of these nine ways listed - and as we go through the series, I'll make these clear how that happened.  So, here we go with the next part!

Part 4 - Angels

This is the first of the nine that I can't say I've personally (yet!) experienced. I do believe that I have seen an angel, on at least one, maybe two, occasions.  But they didn't say anything to me very profoundly, so this time I'm not going to draw examples from my own life, but reflect through the stories of others the very real way in which sometimes God chooses to send a messenger to us to share some news.
It's November.  Soon it will be Christmas.  All around the world, in many countries, little children will be rehearsing for the Christmas nativity.  Many of these will dress up in white and play the part of angels.  The Angels that brought 'good news that will cause great joy for all the people.' 
In this one story alone, the angels appear on many separate occasions.  There is the first appearance to Zechariah (Luke 1:11-20), then to Mary (Luke 128-38).  This is followed by the Shepherds (Luke 2:9-15).

I like the verse in Luke 2:21 that says: "On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived."

Angel in Greek means messenger.  As we see here, the message was clear and understood!

And it tells the overall theme - the theme of this series - God speaks!

Angels appear throughout the whole Bible - from the Old Testament, when we are told they appeared from anything such as a donkey to a night wrestling with Jacob, all the way through to the New Testament - as like with Jesus' birth, so it was with his death that angel's were there to share the news - first that he was no longer in the tomb and once again when he'd ascended to heaven.
Each time passing on the message - the Saviour of the world has come.  He's not dead - he's risen and now is reigning.

King's of the world have come and gone - they have ruled with power and reigned for maybe fifty years (if they were lucky!).  Jesus came and ruled with love, and reigns for eternity.  The contrast is clear - and angel's were central in bringing this important message home.  The world needed to be clear - The King had come!

Now let me say one more thing about angels.  The world famous singer Robbie Wiliams once sang a smash hit song "I'm loving angels instead."  This is not their role, nor are we to focus on them.  They are messengers, and by spending too long in conversation about them, we forget the message - that Jesus is the Christ.  He is God.  That anyone who believes in Him, can have eternal life.
People love the spot light.  We (often) love to be centre stage - and yet, on our own, we cannot solve the issue of sin and death that we are born into. The message of Christmas, and then 33 years on at the first Easter, is that the spotlight is not on us - it's on Jesus.  And what Jesus did was done once and for all.  Our part is nothing - it's all about what he HAS done - past tense. No need to continually pay anymore - He paid once and for all.  It cost him his life but He died for you.  It really is finished!

And it's a rather amazing message to have been given to us - where-ever you first heard it from!

Next up - how God speaks to us through the Bible....

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

God Speaks - Through Others - Part 3

Welcome to the third part of a new series that I'm calling "God Speaks..."
Over these nine entries, I want to look at some of the ways that God speaks to us (it's not an exhaustive list of course - I'm sure others can add to it!). Because He does speak.  All the time.
Because God is real, because He loves us and because He is good - He speaks.
Usually, it's us (mere people!) that fail to listen or maybe fail to understand that it was God speaking to us.
I want to share from my own life, as practical examples, some of the ways God has spoken to me.  In all, I want to briefly look at these nine ways that we hear from God:

Dreams (click here to read this section)
Visions & Pictures (click here to read this section)
Through Others
Small Still Voice
Burning Bush
Audible Voice

Personally, I've experienced six out of these nine ways listed - and as we go through the series, I'll make these clear how that happened.  So, here we go with the next part!

Part 3 - Through Others

God puts people around us because he knows it's not good for 'mankind to be alone'.  He knows we need companionship, friendship and someone to talk to. Yes we need our own space, but we were made for relationship. And one of the key reasons why is that God will often speak to us through those that are around us.  Sometimes in a not so obvious way - at least to the other person. Sometimes directly through the other person.  So in this post, I want to look at the vital role that someone else plays in hearing God for you.

Acts 13
13  Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Whatever the channel, it's God who speaks to us, through the Holy Spirit.  We  know that, of course.  In the passage above from Acts, it's in a group setting (though Barnabus and Saul/Paul were also present) where God makes it known, through the group, that He wants these two men set apart for the work that He is calling them into.
From this, and from my own experience, we see two common principles at work - firstly, it's good for others to hear from God for us.  Secondly, it will confirm and fit with what we ourselves are feeling.
I would be very cautious if I was speaking with someone and they told me someone brought a word over them that cut across everything they felt or were doing, and didn't fit with anything else God has said about them - even contradicts it.  
Because of this (and I'm not saying the above situation cannot be God speaking!) I would go as far as to say, if this happens to you, you are well within your rights to note it (let's not treat prophecy with contempt) but shelve it, until maybe something further comes.  Ultimately, if it is God and you haven't gotten the message the first time round, He'll let you know again...and again.  He is God, after all.  If something comes from 'left field', and from a source you are not totally familiar with, you are right to weigh it carefully and wait on God.
But when something comes that confirms what God has said to you, or comes from three or more unrelated sources saying the same thing, then you had best get on with what God is saying to you!  

The golden rule for bringing words over others (and the same applies for you receiving them as well) is to ask - is it Encouraging, Comforting, Strengthening?  This is especially true for when you are just learning to grow in this gifting.  For that reason, don't look to bring directional words to early. What I mean by a direction word is anything about who someone will marry, maybe life moves or situations, dates etc.  You get the idea.

A recent example to highlight this was the three prophetic words that came out BEFORE October 3rd seemingly confirming that San Francisco was about to be destroyed by the worlds most powerful earthquake ever recorded. On the surface of things, it seemed they added up - three sources (check!) saying the same thing (check!) from reputedly seasoned people who'd had a proven track record (check!).
And yet it would seem the words were confirming a destructive, hate filled God was bringing his judgement and annihilation to Northern California as punishment for something.
But this doesn't sound like the loving God of the Bible that I personally know.
And so it proved.  Granted, had I been in San Francisco that day, having read what I read, I think I honestly would have found things to do somewhere else - say New York.  But chatting it through with a friend, who spent a lot of time in California and loves the city of San Francisco, he opened my eyes to the continued sense of words that seemingly confirm California is doomed, and yet contrasts that with the character of God.
Such a destructive word is neither encouraging, comforting nor strengthening!

In Tallinn, we're seeing the encouraging beginnings of a growing prophetic culture within the core team of the church plant.  Every time there is a visitor with us, we make time to pray for them, to bring prophetic words and speak God's blessing over them.  It's great hearing the guys and girls speaking words over people they don't know, but I do, and how spot on these words are!  This is what we love to do!

Two key words were spoken over me early on in my life, one confirming the other, with each having a very profound impact on me.  These were by Gerald Coates and Andrew Davies and if you click on their name you see a little as to why.
Both took the risk in bringing a word over a stranger.  Both actually dared to talk about times.  Interestingly enough, when Gerald brought his word over the then 17 year old young man I was, it was mainly about 17 years time from then - over the 34 year old self that now writes this post.  So I am particularly interested in why this year of all is any different from the rest.  I guess we wait and see!
Crucially, both were encouraging and very shaping.  They brought release and growth, as well as a personal awareness of God himself working in me - He is after all the personal God!  What might have been a distant, far away 'relationship' was suddenly made powerfully alive and very personal.

And that is why God often speaks through others.  If this is not your experience, maybe you need to change churches.  If you can make it over to Tallinn, come and hang out with us one Sunday and let the team speak destiny into your life!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

News from Tallinn - Autumn Update

It's great to actually get to appreciate the changing of the seasons here in Tallinn.  I guess it's the trees that are so plentiful around us that make us notice the change.  Summer is certainly gone, and while winter is at times making itself known that it is on the way, it's the lovely colours of the increasingly falling leaves that tells us we are in a season of change between the two.

And that change of season for the church plant, mentioned and talked about in the last family update, has been one of amazing speed and encouragement!

So we want to bring you news on what is happening, some of it a development from the last update, much of it just answered prayer to the requests we made last time.

Here are the headlines for what this update will go on to say:

  • Core Team Growth and fresh momentum
  • Packed out social events
  • The four guys go to Holland
  • Football fever hits Estonia
  • Early answers to prayer
  • Treasure Hunting to start in Tallinn
  • Toddler group is flying

Hope:Tallinn core group and momentum

We mentioned last time how things had been progressing, but there has been an acceleration since September that has taken us all by surprise, in a wonderful way!
Over the summer, we certainly had been talking about a sense that this Autumn we'd be moving up a gear, even if that didn't come through on here. The natural addition of StephenKetlin to the core (we mentioned they were about to arrive last time) we'd see as giving increase and therefore faith.
We were not wrong!  In fact, it feels with a core of seven now together in September, we really were starting the church plant.
One thing we have been reflecting on, which has been amazing to realise, is that none of us knew each other as we were each heading towards being a part of Hope:Tallinn.  It was God who pulled us together, which is hugely encouraging and hugely releasing.  Had we 'recruited' our own team, we'd have fallen so far short of what God had for us.  They are an incredible bunch, and the chemistry and connection is so releasing.
While we continue to have a gathering focus, we have increased intensity in prayer and worship together.  The weekly prayer meetings since the beginning of September have been electric.  There has been a very strong prophetic sense, a wide use of spiritual gifts, prayer for the lost and worship that has touched heaven.  
Stephen has been able to slot in, playing guitar for us so well and leading us in worship.  Both he and Ketlin have a keen prophetic sense, which works with the incredible gifting in this area already obvious in the others.
We said before how our basis of team is relationship, but with that strongly in place already, each has been able to serve with their gifting.  It's team how we love it and team as it's meant to be.
Hunger for God was such that we've now started doing 'mini' church together, taking an hour before/after a social gathering to worship together and study the word, so these are happening every weekend now, with once a month a longer, Vision Sunday.  That happened last Sunday, and we had two visitors with us from other countries - an Estonian lady who is married to an American, and mother to five, who might one day all move back to Tallinn (!), and Veronica, from Hope Church in St Petersburg.

In September we also held specific men's and women's events.  A 'high tea' for the ladies which saw eleven come together and was a real success, enjoying delicious cakes and plenty of tea.  Also a success were the two men's Poker nights (not for money, before you comment!).  There were about a dozen over the two nights, and one guy commented the following week that he realised he'd been laughing all night, and hadn't drunk any alcohol.
This Sunday we have a meal together that we hope a great crowd of people will come to.

Trips & Visitors

Last time round we mentioned both of these taking place (in various quantities), and the same has continued.  In the time of writing this so far, Rachel has had a message confirming another visitor is coming for a week, which is happening when we have two others with us.....the logistics will be fun, but it's an exciting development.  But more on that some other time.
I went to St Petersburg in August, spending time with the core team there and wider leaders, having traveled while Dave Henson was also in the city.  Dave himself also came over to Tallinn a couple of weeks ago, and is coming back in November with Colin Baron, from Manchester.
Also from Stockport we have Rob & Sarah Walters coming over for a long weekend later this month.  They will share at our Vision Sunday as well as helping with an informal marriage seminar we are putting on at ours.  We are keeping this one low key, inviting just four ministry leading couples.  A strong marriage is key to serving best in the local church, and all marriages take input.  We are taking this encouragement to build in help before we need it!
We also had Matt Medd briefly visit from Riga and Sveta from St Petersburg.


Last week, I also went to Holland with Arnoud, Enrico and Stephen from Tallinn, to be part of a church planting conference hosted by Relational Mission, which is Mike Betts' apostolic sphere.
It was a timely visit, stirring in many ways.  We've come back with a greater sense of salvation, and prayer to that end.  One phrase I have taken away with me was this:
"No to conversion without the church and therefore no church (planting) without conversion!"
My other three highlights were; team time together.  It was brilliant to do this trip together (even if not possible for all 7 of the team) but as guys together, we really moved things on, within our friendship and understanding of each other, a long way.  Secondly, it was great to be in a bigger context of worship and teaching, to connect with new people, and experience something of Holland.  And thirdly it was great to be encouraged prophetically for Tallinn, to connect deeper with friends, and build closer.  One particular example is with Phil Whittall, who was over from Stockholm.
Some more photo's from Holland can be found here.


Future England players signing their autograph
resting on a copy of Cherry Picking!
Something a little different in September was the chance to go to two football games in two days.  Firstly, via our friends from Võhma, SimonHeloise, they were coming up as a family to watch the Estonia Vs England under 19s match in Tallinn and asked if we'd like to join them.  England won easily, and it was great for Mia and Anya to celebrate their first ever game with a win.
The following evening was the World Cup qualifier between Estonia and The Netherlands.  And for but the final minute, when Van Persie equalised, it would have been an unbelievable win for little Estonia. The game finished 2-2.  For this second game, I'd taken a group of about 11 to the match, and later found out there was at least another 6 people we knew who were at the game.  It's part of the joy of living in a capital city with a small population.  It was a great night, especially for the Dutch friends who went with us, as well as Arnoud and Elisabeth from the team - it was their first ever football match!
Here is a video Arnoud took while we were standing behind the goal (including the penalty that made it 2-2 in stoppage time!):

Prayer update from last time
Mia's party at a soft play area with girls from her class

Rereading the areas we asked for prayer from the late August update, there have been some noticeably positive developments so far.  As said already, the Stephen and Ketlin arrival and settling process has been brilliant.  Rebekah is very positive about the prospect and chance of moving to Estonia, and is now planning to come for a week in November to look for jobs possibilities.
Our call with Open Door church, made available through the connection with Adrian Horner, also went well.  They even clapped as we finished and burst into prayer for us.
In relation to the prayer about finances, the teaching I had coming up did not go past the two week trial period, the Finnish student feeling he needed American English (!) more than British.  One Skype option might be opening up for teaching a lady in Moscow.  We never cease to be amazed at how God works!
A lot of girls!
Business wise, there have been some positive developments in relationships.  I got to meet with Mia's school Director in September, and he was very positive, even wondering if something could be built into their school curriculum!  Another school in Tartu is looking at options, that came about through a 'divine appointment' through Rachel, but we'll have to save that for another time!
My writing has been consistent too, and there has been some publicity for Cherry Picking, in rather surreal circumstances!  Angela Kemm, who is part of Mike Betts' team, recently was also in Holland for the conference.  Coming over to pray for me, publicly in front of others, she started with "Oh, I bought your book - nice to meet you!"  Needless to say, I was blown away by the encouragement!  She even went on to mention it during her session at the conference in front of everyone there.  Because of that, at least another person there said they'd buy the book!
Having brought these back from Holland, and starting to
eat them, we were told they are for St Nicholas's day
in December.  Oh well, tasty all the same!
And this kind of thing is exactly what I asked to pray for last time.  Thank you for your prayers!

Treasure Hunting in Tallinn

It's nearly three years since I started taking teams out onto the streets regularly in St Petersburg, as talked about here. And this Saturday at 4pm, the whole core team is meeting to go out around Tallinn and do the same.
One of the big stirrings that came out of our time away was the call for real gospel proclamation, and the awaited celebration of the first person to give their life to Jesus.
Please pray for us all!  God often does as much in the team who are stepping out in this way, as He does on the streets. But having said that, we are excited by what will happen, what will open up as we look to follow His lead and go where He will show us.

Parent and Toddler group growth

Another area of rapid growth has been the Thursday morning weekly children's group that meets at our house. Rachel and Elisabeth have been faithfully running this for a year now, but like everything else, it's started to take off this last month. The other week there were three new people that morning, and since starting to write this update, Rachel got a call from someone asking if it's OK to bring three new people tomorrow!
Rachel is also going to start doing baby massage regularly within this group, a skill she picked up some years ago in the UK and yet again, God is using this to further open doors of relationship with people.

Family, closing and prayer!

It goes without saying, life at times has been rather fast paced but through it all, though often tired, we are enjoying the ride!  The girls continue to do well.  School for Mia is often some long days and/or early starts, with typically an hour or two (sometimes more!) of homework each night.
Anya is starting to speak away in Estonian.  Both girls are starting to understand so much - unlike their parents who are working hard but it's not coming so naturally!
When I was in Holland, Rachel took the girls to the International Horse Show that was happening in Tallinn last weekend, and it was a great hit with them all!
Mia is well liked within her class, and some comments made at her birthday party in September show that she is kind, caring and helpful to her class mates which is encouraging to here!  
I'll end with the prayer points for this update:

  • For the Treasure Hunting this Saturday
  • For the meal this Sunday
  • For Rebekah to be offered a great job that firmly opens the door for her to move and join us in Tallinn
  • For the first person to be saved
Thanks everyone!  Your prayer makes the difference!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

God Speaks - Visions & Pictures - Part 2

Welcome to a brand new series that I'm calling "God Speaks..."
Over these nine entries, I want to look at some of the ways that God speaks to us (it's not an exhaustive list of course - I'm sure others can add to it!). Because He does speak.  All the time.
Because God is real, because He loves us and because He is good - He speaks.
Usually, it's us (mere people!) that fail to listen or maybe fail to understand that it was God speaking to us.
I want to share from my own life, as practical examples, some of the ways God has spoken to me.  In all, I want to briefly look at these nine ways that we hear from God:

Dreams (click here to read this section)
Visions & Pictures
Through Others
Small Still Voice
Burning Bush
Audible Voice

Personally, I've experienced six out of these nine ways listed - and as we go through the series, I'll make these clear how that happened.  So, here we go with the next part!

Part 2 - Visions & Pictures

Have you ever read about something, maybe a painting or sculpture, but then only really understood it once you saw what it was you were reading about with your own eyes.  Suddenly it became real - you understood it in a different way.
Sometimes it happens the other way round too - you might watch a film, but only when you read the book did it really come alive (books have a way of doing that, which is why I love writing them!).
God speaks to us in a number of ways, and each way has its own use for communicating what it is we need to understand.  And that's important to remember. We need to hear in different ways at different times, to understand what we need to understand.
The purpose of all spiritual gifts is to communicate something.  God's heart for us.  His plan for us.  His intention for our lives.  His warning to us (maybe) but certainly His best for us.
The writer of many books of the New Testament, Paul, was a man who had visions.

Acts 16:9
During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

This resulted in movement!

Acts 16:10
After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Wow - no waiting around there then.  Why?  The vision had been so clear - this picture of a man in Macedonia begging Paul to come and help - that Paul knew it was God, and was able to act on it straight away.  Sometimes it takes longer for this to happen, as I'll get to in a moment.

Later on, we hear about another vision Paul has:

Acts 18:9
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.

This time, instead of resulting in instant movement, the vision (we are not told any more of what it looked like, or what else happened) was used to bring a confirming word to Paul, that brought peace and an encouragement to press on with what he was speaking about.

For me, maybe not necessarily as vivid as with Paul, the visions and pictures I've had have also brought clarity.  As an author, I am a very visual thinker, but what has marked out these visions as being from God, was their sudden and deliberate interruption across my normal thought pattern.  And it's something you certainly learn to pick up upon in time as being authentically God.
When God first spoke to me about going to the former Soviet Union, the map that appeared before my eyes was so random and outside anything that I was thinking about (or even remotely interested in!) at the time.  Instantly I knew it was God.  And what was about to happen, which probably in real time was only happening in a matter of seconds, was going to radically shape the rest of my life.
On the map I was looking at (with my eyes closed) I saw it covered in, what looked like, five forests, three along the top and two underneath (similar to how the 5 Olympic rings are).  As I looked, in my minds eye, into the detail, I became aware that these were not trees but people, and at that moment of revelation, heard a voice (again, I assume this was in my head, not audible) telling me "These are people for salvation - go!" and the map rolled up, just like someone screwing up a piece of paper.  At that precise moment, the same voice said that I was to move to Manchester (from London) the following year and do the year team.  That was August 3rd, 1999.
It was actually nine years, nearly to the day, before we landed in Russia, as a direct response to that vision.  I'd just spent eight years in Greater Manchester, at Stockport Family church, growing in the things of God, growing in leadership.  My time there was indeed a great stepping stone to Russia.  By following in obedience, I learnt many things that I needed to know, that I guess I would not have learnt staying where I had been.
And by doing the year team, it put me in contact with a certain young lady named Rachel - who just months after meeting her, was to become my wife. Had I done the year team but not moved, I would not have met her.  God is in the detail - and He speaks to us, through different ways, to communicate that to us.
For our part, we need to obey.

We first started talking about our move to Tallinn in 2011, after God once again spoke to me through another vision whilst at home in St Petersburg (in January 2011).  It was much the same as the time mentioned above - it broke clearly across my natural thoughts, gently making known it's message. Though there isn't always the feeling of gentleness when you start to think about the consequences of yet another move to a new country!  But we'd learnt the lesson of obedience.  Trust God and He will guide your path.

So we've seen, whether from the Bible or our own experiences, God speaks through Visions & Pictures.  

Do you need to hear from God about something?  Maybe He'll speak to you this way soon!  If you ask Him, just be prepared to follow what He shows you.

Next up we'll look at how God speaks through others.