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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.

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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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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.
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