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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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!