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

Some want to help in practical ways:

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Brexit and Me: An Outsider's Inside View

"We won't make them leave straight-away. The ones that score the most points might not even have to leave."
Answer given on a BBC Radio show today (talking about EU nationals currently living in the UK, post Brexit result). Since when was that ever in the debate, anyway?

Hello, I'm English but I live in Estonia (a thriving EU nation, if not with its own unique regional challenges). I voted in the recent UK referendum on the issue of whether the UK should remain or leave the European Union.

I traveled back for a family celebration on the day after the result was declared - last Friday. I was still in shock. Still am actually.

On Saturday morning I went to a local play-ground in Oxford. There were lots of people, families, out enjoying the day, their kids playing. I was with my two daughters.

We've lived in both Russia, and now Estonia, for the last eight years. In the past, whenever we've traveled back to the UK, I've often made use of the other languages we've picked up. Sometimes for the novelty of it, mainly to be able to communicate something to our girls whilst out in public that I don't necessarily need others to hear.  It's (usually) our secret language!

This last Saturday the same thought crossed my mind. Even as the Estonian words were forming in my head, this time I caught myself.  And this is why I'm writing this article.

You see, the caution that crossed my mind was this - I don't know anymore from those around me whether I'd be as accepted if I spoke anything other than English. This thought greatly troubled me.

There I was, as English as anyone can be, tall and male (so least likely to be physically threatened by any would-be aggressor) and I no longer felt it was acceptable to speak a European language to my children in a public park in England.

Now let me state the following, before you read into things that I am not saying:

- I'm not suggesting that everyone who voted LEAVE was basing their decision on racist and/or xenophobic viewpoints.
- I'm not saying that I was threatened in any way or that people living in Oxford (or anywhere) are all hostile towards outsiders.

I'm merely saying, because of the result, that an element of doubt was now in my mind. And in that moment I felt what all visitors, especially EU citizens (many living and serving this nation for a long time already) must now feel.

And that is a really sad revelation.

Now whilst I state that the LEAVE vote wasn't solely based along xenophobic lines, there has sadly been a very vocal element of this voice rising up since the result - foreigners being told by 'locals' to leave the country. The news, social media and papers are growing on a daily basis with accounts of this type of anti-social (and criminal) behaviour.

And even just days after the actual result, it is clear that everything promised on a successful LEAVE vote is far from a given - the NHS lie is maybe one of the biggest.  There are also large numbers of LEAVE voters (presumably unaware of how voting actually works, or just playing with what they thought was a harmless protest vote) that are now voicing they'd not have voted that way if they'd known, or at least now showing doubts upon their decision.

As well as this free license the result has given to the racists, the last few days have also seen the following:

- The Pound crashing in value (as well as the UK markets).
- Both main political parties in a state of free fall, their leaders doomed.
- Both Scotland and Northern Ireland very likely to vote for their own independence, therefore breaking up the UK. Either of these breaking away causes a huge issue with what becomes of the borders after that. They'd have to be secured to keep people out.
- It's clear that the EU isn't going to roll over and make it easy (why should they when we've been the ones to ruin the relationship?)  There are therefore no guarantees at all when it comes to any type of business trade deals.

These are just some of the issues.

Clearly the strongest issue is the fact that the xenophobes now feel they have a legal right to abuse anyone they deem as unworthy of staying here.

Is that what you voted for?

Again, I'm not saying anywhere near the majority of those 51.9% who voted LEAVE were doing so on racist grounds - but from what can be seen, the number that share some element of that view would be a significant percentage.  

And let me be clear - if you were putting everyone on a xenophobic scale, 0 being no issue whatsoever and 10 being outright racist, there is no gradient. Another from 1 up to 10 is already xenophobia.

So even if that number was as little as 30% of voters, that's 3 people in every 20 (lets assume its a 50/50 split for IN or OUT, then 30% of those 10 LEAVE voters makes 3 people).  Standing in that playground on Saturday, with a lot more than 20 people around, statistically, I wasn't going to take that risk.

Of course the referendum was just something to take the nations pulse, so to speak, on the issue of EU involvement. It has no legal power to take us out of the Union, and as the days go on, you can see the full weight of making that call taking its toll. No one wants to be that person.

The whole debate, vote and now result, of course, was completely wrong to put the nation through in the first place. The UK should never have been put in such a position. 

What now?

Is all hope lost? I don't believe so. There are growing calls for a new referendum. I'd go along that. 

If you now knew all you do in the days after the result (and seen these xenophobic attacks) would you still have voted LEAVE?

Think about that one.

I'm not saying you need to carry on as before. I just believe the vast majority would look at what has happened - as if the curtain has been pulled back and light shed on all those 'promises' that the LEAVE campaign made - and suddenly you aren't now so certain.

Maybe its the racist thugs, jumping on the LEAVE band wagon (with good cause, I might add, as the vote has given them all exactly what they were looking for) that has caused you to take stock and say; 'hold on, that's not what I voted for.'

What next?

Sadly, once this action gets formalised, there will be no going back. There is time to stop this. Let your voice be heard.  Stand up for what you want the UK to really be.

Don't let the thugs win.  We aren't a nation of xenophobes, are we?

And if the UK does leave the EU?

The vast majority of younger people wanted to be a part of the EU - so I'd say leave, travel into Europe, get work there, enjoy life in the common market. Visit places. There are many places calling out for people to come to them - Estonia being one of them. It's an amazing country, and an amazing experience.

You all do have a choice.  

But time is running out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Faith -- feɪθ --


"Faith – it does not make things easy, it makes them possible"

"Don't compare your beginnings to someone else's middle"

"Worry ends when faith in God begins"

These are just some of the many thousands of similar quotes you might find on the subject of faith. In the light of yesterday's attacks in Brussels, we are once more reminded of the darkness so prevalent in front of our eyes.  It fills our television screens, our newspapers and our social media news feeds.

So I want to dwell on faith, a little, if I might, and end with a picture I've taken this week which I believe captures the essence of faith in action.  You'll see what I mean later.

Faith, like I guess with words such as love, hope, affection, has no actual power in itself.  If you were able to bottle up any of these, to capture the actual essence of what it was, if it were even possible to have a jar full of the substance of faith, to look at it, to feel its weight, it would still be powerless, still be totally flat.  You see faith, like love and all the others I mentioned, has to exist within relationship.  Without that connection, it doesn't hold any power.  And whilst as a Christian my key relationship (and one I'd expect you to assume I would include) is with God, even if you don't believe in God, this principle is still at work in the world, in your life, regardless.  You can see that in love, for example.  Take out the object of that love, that affection, and there is no actual substance.  We walk outside, in faith knowing we won't just float around, nor sink to the depths, because of the relationship between gravity and the forces of physics that keep our feet on the ground, and no lower.

We are all people of faith – regardless of what people might think about that statement, what images that conjures up. People have faith in their favourite sports team, spending time and money to attend games, investing energy and emotion into the teams successes (and failings!).  You have the belief (another word for faith!) in the fact that at the end of the month your days spent working will be rewarded with your salary.

All these are examples of faith in action – faith working in relationship with something, someone, else.

But it also matters in whom you hold that faith, and the level of faith you have is proportionate to the object of that faith.  Let me give you this example.  If a five-year-old in my daughter's nursery class told me they'd give me €10 million, I wouldn't have a lot of expectation that this would come about – my faith would be very low in that regard, based on the individual. If, on the other hand, Bill Gates was visiting the school, and once I got chatting with him he then said the same thing to me, my faith that I might actually receive this amount of money suddenly changes. Here stands a man that can actually make that happen!

How much more so with God? I mean, not the god the world doesn't believe in, the one that gets laughed at right across Estonia, the notion being that any religion is just fairytales for kids (another reference I saw mentioned today on Facebook within a group here in Estonia) and that adults know better. I mean a God that is so much bigger than we can explain, so much beyond our rejection of him. A God more loving that we could ever give him credit for, and a better Father to us than we could every experience. A God who suffers with us, who suffered before us and who brings an answer to all the suffering, a solution and end to all the death that surrounds us, through the person of Jesus.

What if this were the one you put faith in – what then might be possible?

Estonia stands on the brink of becoming a totally godless nation. What will be difficult is that in other areas, the nation is advancing rapidly, without the need for God. They will soon, unless we change the atmosphere here, be able to stand, and like those early humans in Babel, call out to the world and say 'look at what we've done, aren't we great, and all this without the need for belief in your God.'

Estonia is the frontline in the spiritual battle for the increasingly secular societies the world is seeing. The battle is here, and the battle is now.

I've been reading about Joshua lately – there was the first generation group of leaders around Joshua and then there was the second generation. Both were faced with the same challenge, to take hold of a new land that was filled with very real giants. The first group failed the test, God taking them all out until only Joshua and Caleb remained, the entire rest dropping in the desert. God was raising up new people to put around this adventure ready, faith filled warrior.

I relate to Joshua (in that I'm seeing those around us falling back, leaving me wondering if God is stripping away in order to rebuild).  It's not easy, and church planting in the most spiritually hostile land in Europe takes its emotional toil. But I keep in mind what my heart sees, the light God has placed there for better days to come for Estonia, despite the increasing darkness I'm seeing with my eyes.

God, move mightily on this fragile land. God of Joshua, break down the giants that live in Estonia. Breakdown the fortified cities of Secularism and Atheism that have set themselves up like Jericho in this nation, the residents boasting in their apparently superior position. Send an army that would see these walls come falling down. Bring outworking to our faith and obedience for standing here, spying out a land flowing with milk and honey, and believing that you can take this land. Put the right kind of warriors around us, friends that we can go into battle with to see this nation reaching heights that they never even thought were possible. In a time of increasing darkness – let your light break out!

We are praying about how to partner more with others to see Kingdom life break out, so please pray with us for a conversation we're having with some people on Monday.  We are also praying for this army to join us.

In all this, we still love the fact that God has called us to Tallinn. Because of our relationship in the one who called us, because of that faith that he knows what he is doing even if we don't, we know the future here will be exciting. Whilst emotionally it threatens time and again to get too much, we must keep our eyes on him. There's a land to possess here, and we aren't going to give up that easily. Are you?

Now, about that photo of faith in action I mentioned at the beginning. On the weekend I planted these little cuttings. They are sitting on our balcony. I don't know if they'll actually take, it was partly an experiment to see how these type of trees take. I hope they do. But that's not the main point. The main point is this; why do we have little trees growing in small pots that can't possibly sustain them, on a balcony without the space for them to grow? It's the same with the apple tree my daughter is also growing for a year already. Why? Well, though the trees will grow well for the moment, and I can transfer them to bigger pots that can keep them growing, I know that this won't be enough. But one day (hopefully in the not to distant future, for the saplings sake at least!) we'd love to own some land, something outside the city with a garden – space to grow some trees, space for an apple tree. So we are growing them now, ahead of the time, knowing that when that time might come, the trees will be ready to be planted into the ground.

Will that happen before the trees get too big? Will we see a church planted that thrives? Will a nation be saved?

We believe so...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Vision -- vɪʒ(ə)n --


The world likes to say a lot about vision, and for good reason.  Here are a few examples;

"Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world." – Joel A Barker

"Where there is no vision, there is no hope." – George Washington Carver

"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality." – Warren G. Bennis

Let me tell you a story of this past week in Tallinn:

Sunday was a fantastic time of gathering together, seeing Estonians, Russians as well as us Brits, the Dutch and half a dozen other nationalities that it's now common to see amongst us.  This is Tallinn, and the nations are increasingly coming here.  We had a guest speaking, a Russian background believer from another church in the city.  It was great seeing our Estonians get behind this brother's word to us.  
Sunday saw eight folks there for the first time.  These people have come through personal invitations, the church as a whole so outward in their connection to this city we get to live and work in.  Relational connections are strong in a culture like Tallinn, where strangers are left to themselves.  
Still, our welcome team smashed through that cultural hurdle and embraced these visitors as they arrived.  It's wonderful having a welcome team made up of warm hearted folks from different backgrounds, both those raised and living all their lives in Tallinn, and foreigners who've adopted Tallinn as their new home.  Seeing black and white serving side by side, it makes me praise God.
Three people responded to the gospel, one during worship, as a Russian anthem of praise rang out.  We have three native singers that serve us on any one week, Estonian, Russian and English sung from the front.  We've always encouraged everyone to join in, and its great to see the older Estonians and Russians learning the other's language so they can better understand one another.
There is nothing like a love for God to melt away decades of hostility.
It was during a prophetic word that the Russian guy gave his heart to Jesus during the time of worship.  I didn't see what happened at the time, but was told about it after.  The other two responded to the message that was brought.  
That's a dozen responses so far this year.  We're praying for more.
What I love about being part of Hope:Tallinn is stories from the week.  It's never been just about Sundays and that excites me, too.  In the weekly visit to the sheltered housing on Monday night, one of the ladies (who'd given her heart to Jesus the month before) shared her story of transformation with the other people there.  Two more said they wanted to know more, and have signed up for the next Alpha course.  We'll probably host one just for the group coming from this one shelter, as there are a number of people we think would be interested.

In work places too stories keep coming in of people gossiping the gospel. Two church members got to share with colleagues yesterday, they emailed me today to say.  
On Saturday's street team, they got to pray with several sick people.  They even went with one man on his way to the hospital for a check up.  A few people got prayed for at the hospital, too.

It's crazy!

I love being part of such a city reaching church.

Signed – my future self – maybe five, eight or ten years from now.  But this will happen here one day.

I'm a story writer so, sorry, I couldn't resist.  But wouldn't that be a great, normal weekly account of what real church life should be all about?  I thought it would be easier to 'show' instead of 'tell', a regular writing method I try and use in my other life.

We need people who are brave enough (we know the idea of moving abroad might sound scary to some) to read this and in their heart say, "yes, I agree, Tallinn needs that too.  I get to experience this in my normal life here in (insert your own country) at (insert the name of your church), so why should Estonia miss out."

I know there are people reading this, wondering about contacting me, feeling God prodding you again about this (and I'm not talking about the man, you know who you are, who's already contacted me about this very thing!)

You can help make this vision a reality.  Vision without action is a mere dream but I don't want this to remain a dream – help us take action to see this beautiful picture become a reality.

Help change the world.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Momentum -- məˈmɛntəm --

"A river is easier to channel than to stop." 
― Brandon Sanderson

"One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals"
Michael Korda 

The world has a lot to say about momentum, these being just a small handful of the results that come up when you search this word on Google.  I've been thinking about this word a little as I've thought about what to write on this week, the days getting away from me so that it is already approaching Friday evening before I've got around to writing down my thoughts.

I'm not always a good front seat passenger in a car, which my wife would probably agree with.  Put me in the back seat and I'll happily sleep, but in the front I can't help but notice things, spot when the gear is too low, the engine working harder than it need do.  

Driving in a low gear, whether as a passenger or the driver, is never that much fun.  Heavy traffic (which, really, we don't have a lot of in Tallinn, though its all relative  here a traffic jam is five cars waiting at a junction!) means you rarely get out of third gear.  Our car has six gears, and its only once we clear the city (which doesn't take long to do in beautiful Tallinn) that we get to move through the gears, and pick up some speed.

As leaders, we have gears.  Actually, whatever walk of life you are in there is an element of different times calling for different gears.  My writing life, at the moment, is seeing me move up through the gears  its been an exciting year so far because of that.

We've now been four years in Tallinn, as I wrote about last week.  And if I use the picture of a six speed gearbox, (not counting reverse, because let's face it, who wants to go backwards!), I'm not sure, as a church plant leader, I've ever really gotten out of about third gear.  We've had a few false starts ― people moving away suddenly, or deciding church planting wasn't for them after all.  We've had seasons of growing numbers ― first gear, into second then third...before the crunch of tires, momentum halted and we are back to (seemingly) a snails pace.  Of course, picturing the car (as my image says above) whether its first gear or sixth, you are still moving forward.  Progress is progress ― albeit slow.

It's hard to think that as a church plant leader, I've not been able to move through the gears as maybe was the case in St Petersburg.  There, with a great team around us, we could all operate where our gifting felt most natural, flowing into fourth, fifth and then sixth gears as space allowed.  There were great 'times' of being a leader back then, blessing people, prophesying, growing together as a group.  It caused others to move through the gears too (which is what real leadership is all about, seeing others growing in who they are, released to be all they can be).  We had genuine, spirit filled, forward momentum.

In contrast, I've not been able to see that happen (yet) in Tallinn 
― a result being, those that have been with us (sometimes very briefly) haven't caught the very thing we want them to see.  Momentum then grinds to a halt.

Maybe that's the thing.  In a land such as Tallinn, where the ground is so untouched, the seeds of the Kingdom yet to be planted, we've had to swap the car for a plough, doing away with gears altogether.  With a plough, there is no gearbox, no moving from fourth to fifth, just simply forward movement.  Forward progress, one row at a time.  Progress.

And that's an interesting thought.

Do you know someone who can push a plough with us?  We'd love to have you come visit and see this amazing city, this interesting people, yourself.  It doesn't matter whether progress is fast or slow, we aren't going to quit  because, as the saying goes, progress is progress.

Tallinn needs a whole bunch of spirit filled, fun loving, people seeking, God worshipping people, and so do we.  Mission is fun and best done in team.  And best of all, with the image of a plough instead of a car, there is no chance of back seat driving! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Reflections on Four Years...

Yesterday we marked four years living in Tallinn.  This photo was taken as I walked back home in the morning, the sun shining, the snow so vibrant and fresh.  So Estonian.  It feels good having been here four years, so I felt I'd break from my current blogging style (for one week at least!) and throw out some thoughts and reflections on our time here.  Let's see what comes up.

Moving to Estonia (for us) wasn't a difficult move.  Quite the opposite.  Though we will always miss the dear friends we left behind in our previous home city of St Petersburg, moving the relatively short distance west has always been something special in what it offered in closeness to nature, as well as ease of getting around a much smaller and less populated city.
We were therefore used to winters, and in fact, winters have seemed cleaner here (when it has snowed, anyway!) than maybe we ever got to experience in St Petes, living so close to the centre as we did then, there was no nature in easy reach of us so we never got to really see that side of winter life, besides the occasional church weekend away that we had during our time there.

We'd also got used to living in a flat/apartment, compared to a house as we had been living in the UK.  Due to cost of living in Russia, we'd spent all our time (aside from the first ten days spent in a hostel) in the same nicely finished, but very cosy, two roomed flat.  Being able to get a four room flat for less money in Tallinn was always going to feel much more spacious.  For all these things we are very grateful.

We've grown too as a family over this time, plus I hope grown in understanding of the task ahead of us, as we roll into year five and all that this, and the many others ahead of us we trust, might have in store for us.

I guess the biggest contrast in our two lives abroad (the nearly four years in Russia and these last four years in Estonia) must be what has happened church wise.  I've probably touched on this in previous posts, so don't really want to repeat myself, but as I reflect back, if you'd asked the 'Newly arrived to Tallinn Tim' back then what he thought might have happened after four years regarding seeing a new church gathered, I would have probably envisioned more than might otherwise be on the ground.  Of course, there is a lot of invisible stuff that no one really knows about, which I'll come back to in a minute.  Back then, my only other experience of cross cultural church planting was from what we'd just gone through in St Petersburg.  Moving in the August, the church plant's first public Sunday meeting just over 13 months later in that September, 2013.  Two and a half years after that first Sunday, we were being sent out as a family to plant a new church into Tallinn. Bam bam bam!

Now, I knew it wasn't going to be the same in Tallinn.  I think if you read through the early posts around the time we moved here, you'd pick that up. Recently I've posted how Estonia is in practice the most atheistic nation on the planet.  In a recent conversation with a local pastor here in Tallinn, a man with over fifteen years experience living and serving other churches right across the nation, he estimated there to be something like only 10,000 committed church goers in this great city.  He also had a really interesting comment to make, which I think I'll save for my final thought in this post.

Coming back to something I touched on earlier, and lets think about roots.  Outside in Estonia, there is snow everywhere.  We have a number of plant pots on the balcony (our only chance of some sort of garden open to us at the moment). Inside these pots, as well as some shrubs that I trust will come to life again once the heat of spring really comes, there are a number of bulbs. I'd forgotten about them really, and looking out the other day at what was clumps of rather sad looking old growth from the plants from last year that now needed removing, it would be easy to think there was no life there. It is freezing, there is snow everywhere, and the sun doesn't appear for very long, even on sunny days. But removing most of this old growth, there they were. A few bulbs are starting to break through the soil, green life visible in an otherwise soil filled existence.  Life finds a way.  In a month or two, there will no doubt be dozens of flowers pressing through. Right now, the roots are going down, drawing what they need from the soil to push up through the surface.

These last four years have certainly seen us put roots down here in Estonia.  We aren't going anywhere fast, that's for sure.  God has called us to this people and therefore we are here until (or if he ever does) God calls us anywhere else. Jesus often talked about seed falling to the ground, or a mustard seed which whilst small, grows to become the biggest of all garden plants. So you see, when roots are getting established, it might not look like a lot else is actually happening. But don't underestimate the power of good roots. Just look at the trees destroyed when even moderately gale force winds press in. Relationships with those in this city also have deep roots, which in their proper time will result in fruit of some kind. We know more people outside of the church here in Tallinn than we ever have at any other stage of our life. That's exciting, and whilst it doesn't mean people are ready to get saved soon (if ever) it does suggest God has been doing something behind the scenes (or below ground) that we might not yet fully realise.

We've said already how that as a church plant we need more people to come and join us. We are prepared to wait for this to happen. How long will we wait - that's a good question, which I've no better answer than really say as long as it takes, or until God says otherwise. You see, as a family (and I'd certainly include our two girls in this conviction because of what they've said to us this year) we believe it was God who called us to Tallinn, and that His purpose for us here was to be involved in a church plant. And whilst things might not have gone as they had for us in Russia, these two things still remain true.

So we need to navigate a new way through, and find out what God has for us in the mean time if, for example, ten people move to join us but only arrive in two years time. What happens before then?

This is something that we are now working through - and have a solution for, actually, though can't say that here, just yet, as we need to continue to pray through it and talk it through with some folks here. But it certainly involves waiting and praying for the future workers (you?!) to come and join us. Tallinn is an amazing place to live, we've managed it for four years already, and believe me, when I look at me from this angle, there is nothing at all about me that makes me in anyway more able to do this than the next person. Honestly. So if I can, anyone can and that's the bitter truth.

So many incredible things have happened to us over these short four years. I'll list the random events below, as I can remember them:
  • Mia shaking the hand of the President of Afghanistan
  • All three girls meeting and shaking hands with Prince Harry
  • Appearing as a family on an American TV show that's been shown even here in Estonia, which people we know have then seen many times!
  • Being interviewed by the main national newspaper and having a double page article on me.
  • Me and Mia visiting the President's home and office.
  • Getting spotted on TV (at a volleyball game) and having my recent tweet broadcast live during the Estonian song contest selection.
  • Having my novels stocked by the national book store chain.
  • Being Top 20 in both the USA and UK on Amazon for my debut novel (this is real time, happening now!)
And so much more, besides...!

I'll finish with a very interesting thought I was told by a fellow pastor here this week. It fits with something I felt once being here, which was the fact that if we are going to live and serve in Tallinn for many years, it didn't necessarily mean we couldn't be leading the whole thing.
My friend said, whilst often the model as a foreigner is to see a 'native' person leading the works as the ultimate goal, in relation to Estonia (maybe applicable wider as well, as situations warrant) this is a total misnomer. He pointed out that Estonians haven't been very good at reaching Estonians, hence the fact that the nation is the least spiritual nation on the planet (numerically). He has a good point. I guess I might at times thought that the ONLY option was to see Estonians reaching Estonians.
But that would be like saying that slaves needed to end slavery, or that obese people were the only ones to deal with obesity issues, or the poor were the ones to end poverty. Of course not! The poor can't end the cycle unless the rich change things and then share what they have with those that don't.
I see what he meant about Estonia. If Estonians were reaching fellow Estonians then we wouldn't need to be here in the first place - would God have even needed to have called us. Did he make a mistake, therefore? 
One situation (true and which happened to me, though I'll keep names out of it for obvious reasons!) was at a prayer meeting. I asked an Estonian to speak with another Estonian visitor (they were of the same gender) who was there for the first time, me obviously seeing the fact that they'd be best to communicate and welcome that person than I would (I'd seen this visitor briefly on the door as they'd arrived, and they didn't speak either of the two languages I was most proficient in.) When I arrived back in to the main room, I pointed out this visitor (clearly another Christian, as it was a churches together joint prayer meeting I'd been hosting for a short time) and this person said to me "Yeah, who are they?" to which I'd replied, with eagerness, "Go and ask them."  The instant reply was "I can't do that, it's not Estonian" and they refused to speak with them.  A fellow Christian not able to speak with another Christian because they didn't know one another.

I kid you not!

Needless to say, I went over and spoke a little to this person in my basic Estonian, but midway through the evening, this visitor just left, clearly assuming there was no one there who spoke her language fluently enough to feel a part of it all.

But it makes the point from above. If this really is the view point (and believe me, this person who'd said this to me really isn't just your average Estonian believer, they've been around the world and seen lots of church in the West as well) what hope is there of reaching Estonia, if we leave the job only to Estonians? 

They have a part to play - absolutely!  And there ARE great Estonian churches and leaders in this country. But non Estonians have a vital role to play, too.  That's my point. Don't count yourself out from moving here because you aren't Estonian.

You might just be the very thing this nation needs!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Success -- səkˈsɛs --

What is success?

As I sit down here today to write, I realise I've been working through this idea a little these last few weeks. Or more to the point, God has been working through it in me.

Today, I feel more content than I have been in months (years?!).  I feel less stress.  Deep down I feel happier and calmer.  My wife has noticed it, my kids comment on it.  All is well with my soul.

So, what's been going on?

I've no huge answer really, like most times, just life experience that I reflect upon and learn from.

For some, in relation to success, they live their lives craving it, looking for it, hunting down any opportunity.  Others, however, are not necessarily looking for it when they might come across it.  They are more afraid of being a failure. Success therefore means very little to them.

I have certainly related to that second group for much of my adult life.

This year, I started working through the BIOY app.  Simply reading the Bible each morning, taking in vast chunks of text (which is needed in order to finish it in one year) has had a noticeable effect.  My reading habit (for the Bible) had become a little careless - too many excuses, I think really! I've certainly noticed a change inside.  So that's one thing that's had an impact on me, for sure.

I was also listening to a talk recently. It shared how a barren couple sensed God telling them to stop asking him for children, and instead thanking him for children!  They now have five kids under the age of five - truly over blessed! It made me think about my writing life.  I often ask God for breakthrough, for success with my writing. Most would look at me and probably say I am successful already with three books published and another two or three in the process of being finished.  But as I said above, it wasn't really success that I was running to, but something else I was trying not to be discovered as (a failure, to be very clear!).

I realise that has always been a weakness, and something God has worked through me these last twenty years. Still, I've not learnt yet to really enjoy or appreciate success for what it is, passed the day or so around the event. Nothing seems to affect me long term, in order to give me some lasting peace, some on going contentment.  Or so it seemed.

Applying what I heard above, the other week I encouraged the church plant to thank God for success in our lives, on an individual level as well as a group. So in my heart, I thanked God that I am a successful author. I prayed out thanks for what God was doing with us all in Tallinn, the lives being changed, the people taking steps towards or with Jesus.  In the midst of darkness, there really is some light breaking through!

I've also had a greater sense of planning this year, of walking into new stuff this year and taking hold of what God has for me.  That's helped to build in a more focussed routine.

At the beginning of the year we shared with the church plant how we felt we needed to spend more time with friends in Tallinn, and less time doing meetings. It's brought real life to us, so that we've been able to spend hours with folks that we've been getting to know, time that we just didn't have to spare when trying to do 'church' as much as we were - of course, the element of building relationships in the community we are called to reach, is the essence of church.

We hold the vision and value of a larger gathering of Hope:Tallinn highly.  One day we'll come together weekly as a group and worship and pray and preach. But not until God has sent us co-labourers.  In the meantime, we are reaching out to those that need God. And in doing this, we are being a success for Jesus in Tallinn, bring Kingdom culture in our relationships with others, as we look to love, serve and just hang out with folks that don't yet have a close knowledge of the love God has for them.

In holding the future of the church plant loosely (it was always in God's hands anyway, really) it has brought huge comfort to me. I guess it was a weight I never intended to bear alone and so it being lifted has allowed life and freedom to return. In thanking God for the success already happening its also brought about a change in me.

As I mentioned last time (I think), the parable of the talents has also really spoken to me. It's where Jesus shared a story about a landowner who gives to one servant 5, to another 2 and to another 1. The one with 5 produces 5 more, the one with 2 produces 2 more, but the one who was given 1 simply buried it because he was afraid of his boss. The guys who'd doubled the investment both were allowed to share in the blessings of the landowner. The guy who had not done anything, his 1 was taken away and he was banished.

In the commentary notes about this passage, Nicky Gumble says that what was given to even the guy with 1, represented 20 years salary. In other words, a huge amount. Enough to put to work, to invest and to produce a return.

It's therefore a related thought with all of the above. The point of the story isn't to be the most talented, but to use what talent you have to the best of your ability. To make it personal for me, as an example, it doesn't actually matter if I'm a 5, 2 or 1 'talent' author - what matters most is what I do with that talent. Do you see? It's really powerful. Both the first two servants got to share in the masters success. I don't think it was a proportionate reward based on their returns. I think it was equal, because Jesus wasn't trying to highlight a hierarchy in rewards based on ability, but a shared blessed of the much based on using what you've been given. Anyone given even 20 years salary has more than enough to get started.

So if I'm faithful with the little when it comes to my writing (I'll let you decide if I'm a 5, 2 or 1) Jesus promises he'll give me much. It's a nice word, isn't it. Much.

So, no more excuses. Regardless of what you don't yet have, use what you've got. And thank God that you are already successful.


As a funny side note, I've recently implement a number of new marketing ideas in relation to my writing life. One includes putting out a book permanently free (which I've just done). As I write this, I'm #3 in the USA Conspiracy Thriller chart - an unbelievable position given how much competition there is in that market. Just using that little talent...and knowing God will make it much.

If you want to check out my book (and find out details how to get my second novel FREE as well) click on the relevant link. Whilst these two links are for Amazon in the USA and UK (my main two markets), the FREE book is actually available everywhere, on all types of eReader. Just search your favourite database for 'Cherry Picking by Tim Heath' and you should find it.

USA - http://amzn.to/1XxE6Rg
UK - http://amzn.to/1QlHiJS

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Believe -- bɪˈliːv --

Belief.  It's powerful and it's divisive.

Powerful - because it can change your whole outlook, your whole worldview, even your life.

Divisive - because it can alienate you from others or make you a target.  It can separate families, it can put you in prison and it can make you lose your life.

Last month, I saw something on Facebook posted by one of my Estonian connections.  It had other Estonians commenting, liking, suggesting the fact they'd like to move there.  The post?  It was from Iceland, supposedly reporting the 'fact' that 0% of under 25s believe that the world was created by God.
I think the person had posted this with the hash tags along the lines of 'religion', 'fake' and 'eduction.'
Some of the comments went along the lines of 'see what an education teaches you!' and others just said; 'when can we move there!'

Estonians, once more, revelling in the idea that God doesn't exist.

But it got me thinking...because of my education, not despite it, I know that just because someone says or thinks something, doesn't mean it is.  Education has taught me that we don't know all the answers!

So when the leading minds of the world taught that the world was flat, the Earth didn't change shape to go along with this 'fact.'  When mankind assumed everything orbited the Earth, the solar system carried on as it always had, and always will.
When people say to God "you don't exist" He must just look upon them like some father marvelling at the rubbish coming out of his child's mouth and reply: "I do, and I believe in you, even if right now, you don't believe in me."

Since when has someone denying something ever actually had any effect on the reality of, or existence of, the object of that denial?

Education, and logic, has taught me to think like this...and when I apply that to faith (everyone operates in faith, as I'll come to in a moment, regardless of what you believe) it only strengthens that conviction, not destroys it.

It's illogical to throw out the claims of Jesus, the existence of God, wholesale. Totally illogical.  Firstly, there is the undeniable historical person of Jesus, undisputed by Christian and non Christian historians.  This guy walked the earth - fact.  

In the Bible we have evidence of what this man said.  The Bible holds up to all textual analysis, far more so than other great works which are also undisputed. The time we have the earliest copies from, the quantity of these copies, the time between events, no other historical document has as much evidence going for it.  We therefore know, without any doubt, that what we have as the modern day Bible is as close to the original as we can get - far closer to any other text of its age.

What Jesus said in the book provides another issue - to quote C S Lewis, Jesus could only have been Lord, Liar or Lunatic based on his own words.  No other title is justified.  He wasn't 'just a good person or just a good moral teacher' though he was also these things.

Central to his life is actually his death and then what followed.  If Jesus didn't come back from the dead as he said he would, then everything that went before becomes invalid, we need not accept his words.  But if he did...!
Again, the evidence is there.  The lack of body, lack of the Romans then producing a body, the fact each of his followers lived outworking the knowledge of Jesus' resurrection, and most dying horrible deaths defending that fact, no one denying it at the end...

Lord, Liar or Lunatic.  Education and applied logic leave us with no vague, confusing situation.

Back to belief - we all believe in something, even if its nothing.

Picture a room if you will.  There is a big wooden door that is standing closed, so that we can't see into the room. Inside that room, I believe God himself dwells. It's the man Jesus Christ.  I'm standing next to you, outside the room.  Let's pretend there is no other supporting evidence - it's just you and me, outside a door.
You, as an atheist, don't believe there is a God.  You don't believe Jesus is in that room - you believe the room is empty.  You see, it's not enough to say that you don't believe in God, because you are also therefore saying that you believe there is no God. 

We all believe something.  Some in a person, others in a void.

And here is the thing - I'm happy to know you if you have no belief.  We can be friends, I can share the things I know and feel, if you like, but I don't need to. But want I can't accept is the statement that belief equals fairy tales and life without God is because of good education and logic.  I'm a very logical person and I see this completely simply.  There is no confusion at all.

Sadly, it's often other people who choose to distance themselves from this kind of open, relational conversation.  I'm here for anyone who really wants to talk, to walk through this all, even if it takes us years of talking to get there.

It's said that soon schools (in England) might not teach about what happened to the Jews during the war because it offends muslims, who deny the holocaust actually took place.  People deny the moon landings too.  Does that actually have any affect on the truth of the events?  No, of course not.  Education has taught me that, and that's not about to change.

So what do you believe?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Soldiers -- ˈsəʊldʒə --

We were all born into a war zone.

I'm not talking between one nation and another, or people groups, dictators or anything like that.  There has been a battle raging in the heavens since before the creation of the world.  In fact, when Adam and Eve ate that fruit and ushered in the fall, it really was only the fall of humankind.  An original fall had happened, when a created angel wanted the place of God, and the punishment for that stupid idea was to be sent from heaven - with a third of the angels.  The devil has been waging war against God, and his plans, ever since.

There are some very 'dangerous' places in the world today if we just switch on the news.  Yet something I've always said is this:
"I'd rather be in the middle of a war-zone inside the will of God, than in a place of (relative) safety outside of his will."
Oh, to be foolish enough to be outside his will!  It doesn't bear thinking about really.

There is a spiritual battle raging for Tallinn.  That's why we are here.

They say, 'Estonians don't do religion.'  And looking around (my Facebook feed is often full of examples proving this fact!) you'd have to say this seems the case.

It's certainly not an easy place to plant a church!

But, I don't really believe that Estonians, or anyone to that fact, simply 'don't do God.'  What I do think is true is that Estonians haven't done God, and haven't had a history of seeing the Bible preached for what it really says. Their rejection, at best, is of a god they think they know about.  A god their communist leaders of the past said didn't exist.  A belief system laughed at in schools (it still is nowadays too!).

Put any Estonian before a living, breathing, healing and all loving, all forgiving God, and they too, like millions of others, suddenly will do God.  I'm convinced of the fact.  That's a large part of why we are here.

'Tim' doesn't have the answers in himself.  Nothing about me is going to change this nation.  But I do know someone who can.

This last week I had another Estonian tell me they don't do religion, and therefore turned down my offer to them to share my personal story.  I was at least able to agree that the God they don't believe in is probably a god I wouldn't believe in either.  We'll see if one day he gives me the chance to really share who Jesus is.

To plant a church here, to even get up to twenty people (the thought seems like a lifetimes effort away!) is going to take something incredible.  Because, as I've said, there is a battle raging for Estonia.

Officially, Estonia ranks number 2 in the world of most atheistic nations. Number 1 is North Korea.  One of the challenges with Estonia is the population.  Doing a little research online, it suggests in North Korea, there are only 1.7% who are Christians (there are other religions showing higher too, but for the sake of comparison, I'll stick to Christianity.  Estonia doesn't have many other religions represented anyway.)  

1.7% is a low percentage, for sure.  Estonia, though the lowest Christian nation in Europe, must have a higher percentage than that - but, here's the thing.  North Korea has a population of 24.9 million people - 1.7% therefore represents 423,000 people!  That's a third of the total population of Estonia, or more to the point, the entire population of Tallinn!  And yet, there are something like only 4,000 Christians here in the capital, maybe a few more.  But not tens of thousands.

Estonia needs something special!

I used the quote from Winston Churchill mainly because we have a General who is Great!  The greatest in fact!

2 Chronicles 20:15 says; "For the battle is not yours, but God’s."

Thinking about this nation, thinking about the Christian brothers and sisters we are praying will move here to join us, it's wonderfully reassuring to remind myself that this is God's battle.  As I said last time in my post on obedience, we are only here because it was first His idea.  And that idea involved seeing a vibrant, spirit filled community loving the city and all whom are put before us.  Serving this great place, being a blessing to all.

Does that stir you?  Want to come and join us to see this happen?

Only the battle hardened, God called, service trained soldiers need apply...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Obedience -- əˈbiːdɪəns --

I'm blogging again.

I've been writing a lot, actually.  Mainly novels (number four is just about to be finished in draft form, very exiting!) and sometimes for websites, a recent one being for 'Encourage Dads' which was fun.

Last night I was on a call with Maurice Nightingale, who is a leader in a church in Ipswich, UK, and part of the team that serves us all in Relational Mission. He's a good guy.  At the end of the call, he encouraged me to blog again, stating that he used to point people to the way I regularly posted.

The last posting here was back in March last year - oh dear.

The thing is, there isn't a lot to say.  A change of approach is needed, therefore.

In reality there is loads to say, but that can wait.  What I was encouraged to do was just pour out my thoughts, the visions for church in Tallinn that are rattling around, even if just to encourage myself.  Yet looking at the stats as I came but to this (rather dusty!) blog, I've had thousands of visits in the time I've been away, so someone is reading.

The aim of this blog was always to have a place where you could hear from my heart, hence the name.  But maybe the next phase will be hearing the vision for Tallinn.  For Estonia even.

So this is me, back again, with a maybe fresh approach.  We'll see what happens.

I've been thinking about obedience today.  We're in Tallinn because God said so, quite simply.  The same went for our time in St Petersburg.  He said, we obeyed.  It's quite simple really.

What has happened in the two place's 'numbers wise' has been (so far) quite different.  There are a few reasons for that, which I'm sure will come out in the months ahead (if not, or you want to know before, just email me and ask!).
But shouldn't we measure obedience, primarily.  

Let me tell you this story, then I want to touch on something from the Bible.

Meet Joe Bloggs.  Like many others, he's called to reach ants.  The great God in the sky wants all ants to know that he loves them.  God tells Joe to go stand on an ant hill.  Joe engages with lots and lots of ants.
Meet Johnny Bloggs.  He also wants to serve God.  God tells him to go stand next to a tree.  He does see some ants making there way up and down the tree. He tries to tell all of them that they are loved.
Meet Julie Bloggs.  She also wants to serve God.  God tells her to stand in the middle of a field.  With the long grass it's hard to see if there are any ants, but there must be some.
Meet Jim Bloggs.  God tells him to go stand in the home range of an anteater. There are not many, if any, living ants here for Jim to find.  It's the last place ants want to be! 

Joe is hailed as very successful!  His 'church' is seeing ants arriving all the time, and they now need three venues hosting five meetings to fit them all in.  Johnny too is doing well, his constant stream of ants have helped him grow a big 'church'.  He gets asked to the speak at the occasional conference too, though nowhere near as much as Joe does.
Julie has found it a challenge, though has managed to spot a few ants, two wanting to join her group.
Jim feels worthless.  He's not found any ants that are still alive.  He's looking at the success of the others and wonders what he's doing wrong.

You get the picture.

Yet, say we measured it on something Biblical like obedience, what then do we see?

God looks at Joe, Johnny, Julie and Jim and says to them all - "Well done!  You are exactly where I asked you to be! Great job!  I'm proud of each of you."

I've been working through Nicky Gumble's 'BIOY' app where you read through the Bible in one year.  I'm sure this will feature strongly through the months as I pull Biblical stories.  At the moment, we're in Job.  Throughout the whole book (and therefore life) of Job, we see a man obediently serving, loving, and worshipping God.  Yet outwardly, we see two different versions of the same man.
In the opening verses of chapter 1, we see Job the successful man!  In verses 13-18 his world (and roof, literally) comes crashing down.  He's lost everything!  In chapter 2 its his own health.  Same man, two different states.

Which of the two versions would get the invite to speak on Sunday at your church?  The first one, obviously.  Yet its this mans obedience that should shine through, his unwillingness to 'curse God and die' as his own wife suggests, his determination not to blame God for what had happened to him.  It's the same man throughout.

And I identify with Job in that.  I do with Jim Bloggs as well.  All to often we allow the worlds system of 'value' (ie wealth, success, fame) to infiltrate the church.  It can make me look and wonder at times - what's actually happening here, Lord?  Can anyone get saved in Tallinn?  

The answer is a resounding yes, of course.  And despite 'nothing' much happening here, even within our humble realms two people made first time commitments to Jesus last year.

And I'm the same Tim that was part of a super-doper 'successful' church in St Petersburg.

It's time I stopped looking at 'success' and start resting in obedience, which is the core of what I'm trying to say. I'm not actually trying to speak at conferences.  Let's value obedience.  Let's encourage generously.  Success in God is being exactly where He wants you to be.  No other qualifiers.  

That must also mean you can be worldly 'successful' yet not in the place God wants you - and that, my friends, is scary.

1 Samuel 15:22 
But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Enough said.