Tuesday 8 April 2014

Love feasts update

I just had the privilege of meeting with Tom Bloomer through a Google Hangout. He met with a group of missionaries and gave an insight into the background to Love Feasts. His message referred back to the history of the Love Feasts and gave the team the feedback that, although Youth With A Mission (YWAM) has different expressions of this, there is no need to make a 'copy' of what happened 40 years ago in one operating location. Rather, see what the elements are of good fellowship - being honest, asking tough questions, forgiving and seeking forgiveness - can be present in our meetings.

Tom emphasised the importance of eating together as a primary focus for some deeper interaction. Referencing studies of teenagers who regularly eat the evening meal together are less likely to engage in illicit behaviour - drugs, alcohol, anti-social behaviour etc - and they would be mentally and physically more healthy.

Studies have shown that teenagers who regularly eat dinner with their families are less likely to engage in illicit behavior involving drugs and alcohol and more likely to get better grades and be mentally and physically healthy.

A study done by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse revealed that teens who eat fewer than three family dinners per week compared to those who eat five to seven a week are twice as likely to use alcohol and tobacco and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.
(ref: Psychology Today Blog)

I think I can learn a lot from this Elder in our mission, whose passion is to serve Jesus, whatever it takes, and has a legacy of doing just that. Hearing the simplicity of what we need to do - invite people into our homes and share food with them, I'm inspired to apply that to our own ministry.

It was something that we felt strongly when we came to Muizenberg. We felt God say: open your home and make people in your midst feel welcome. Having people to dinner has always been a blessings, and somehow, there's always enough food. May God increase our capacity to welcome people into our house and be willing to share and be vulnerable in the community - to continuously humble ourselves and raise Him up.

Tom ended the Hangout with a challenge to try and have a meal together with our teams once a week; to step away from fast food; to take our time over eating and fellowship with one another.

Monday 7 April 2014

Doing the impossible for God

I did a survey recently among Youth With A Mission staff that work out of operating locations in South Central Africa. The overwhelming majority, when asked what the most effective and needed communication would be from my team is, answered 'face-to-face'. This is a region vast and wide where travelling between locations can take 2-3 days, across land boarders where visa restrictions, language and currency regulations become a battle in themselves! Added to that, working for a ministry where we fund ourselves, I barely have enough in the account to pay the rent, let alone travelling to have face-to-face meetings with everybody.

Added to that, the quality of the internet across this region is terrible, so Skype/Facetime is out of reach of most.

Added to that is the fact that my wife is expecting our second child and we have a very busy family life and ministry at home to contend with.

So I'm seeking wisdom on how to bring face-to-face valuable communication without continuously travelling!

Please keep me in your prayers.

Keeping it simple

Sometimes we like to over-complicate the gospel. Other times we like to make a formula: to do it right as a Christian, you need to do: x, y and z. But I'm learning that the Bible doesn't teach that. It teaches something much more straightforward, but much more profound! I'm currently working my way through the Old Testament as a project for work, learning about the sphere of communications. The Old Testament is a wonderful foreshadow to the gospel. In fact, without reading the Old Testament, the New makes very little sense. What are we being saved from? What is sin that we are all condemned for? Why is sinning bad? All of this is answered in the wonderful words of the Old Testament writers.

Just this morning, I read:  “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the LORD your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy." Deuteronomy 30:15-16

That command hasn't changed. You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. Luke 10:27

The bit I think most of us find hard is the working out our salvation, as Paul describes it in Philippeans 2:12. It's the obeying, despite everything we see around us; the following whatever the cost.

I've come home today to rest in his presence and spend some time thinking on these things and seeing if I can take steps towards raw obedience. I think I've over-complicated my life!

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Praying for Zimbabwe

The great thing about coming together in missions is that there is strength in community. I’ve been invited to come and share about communications at a leadership gathering in South Central Africa. We’re meeting in Livingstone (just near Victoria falls) and I’ve had the privilege of joining in all the sessions. The group has been exploring what God is doing in the region. We had a focus this morning on Zimbabwe. Historically many ministries and bases across southern and south-central Africa have been launched by YWAM volunteers coming out of Zimbabwe. However, in recent years this has suffered, and staff numbers have dwindled. The group came together to pray and intercede for the nation and ask for God’s heart for this nation. God spoke in wonderful ways: in words, in pictures, in Bible verses. And they all focused in on a love for this country. The first session this morning was concluded by a spontaneous worship session where we all sang together ‘akuna wakaita sa jesu’ – there’s no one like Jesus. What a wonderful experience.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Preparing for my next trip

You know that feeling when you're about to embark on a trip. Finances are (just about) there to buy the plane ticket and the last days are approaching before you leave.

I'm about to head off to Livingstone in Zambia to meet with leaders working across South Central Africa. I have met some of them before, but I've never been in a position to teach them...until now!

I'm nervous and keep staring at blank pieces of paper entitled: key messages that I want to give. Aaaargh. A few days to go and I'm really not ready. Please, Lord, help me now!

Saturday 15 March 2014

Learning to be more deliberate

Just watched a movie with my wife and a couple of friends, called About Timelate on a Friday night. I wasn't really in the mood for a movie, but I thought, oh well, let's give it a go. 

This film had me laughing and crying and - what's best about a good movie - it challenged me to think long and hard about my life. 

I love films that spark a discussion afterwards, where we really have to think about what we've just seen and provokes us into thinking about something deeper. The film, without giving away the plot, gets the audience to think seriously about what we value the most and how we live our everyday lives. It gave an insight into the beauty and depth of the mundane daily existence. It forces you to think: what if I lived my life in a more deliberate way!?

So, I am accepting the challenge. I'm asking God today, Saturday, to begin a new work in me that causes me to have my eyes open to the reality around me; to be aware of His presence in the small 'insignificant' things that usually pass us by. And, more importantly, to be present and purposeful in my family life and not squander what precious time this is, with the people whom I love and who love me the most. 

Friday 14 March 2014

Missing the true leaders in our midst

Watching children is a very interesting activity. You see a crude reflection of adulthood. The kids are much more obvious with their selfishness, greed, anger and thoughtlessness. Yet when we look around us what do we see? Which leaders of nations do we elect? Which leaders of churches? Certainly not the most humble, selfless characters in our midst.

I'm currently processing how I teach my three year old son about the world. It is especially pronounced as he is such a gentle character. He loves sharing and giving. He is really out going and extroverted. However, to other kids who don't understand these virtues, he looks like a pushover. Rather than being admired by his peers, they push him around somewhat.

Then I look at the Christian communities around me and see that we admire the loud, extroverted, bold leaders who are confident and self assured. Meanwhile the humble, servant hearted people are overlooked and sometimes even mocked.

We want the 'go getters', the self-made fighters.

Yet what does the Bible say?

A friend wrote this on her Facebook wall today:

Jesus didn't choose scholars to be his first ambassadors. He chose social outcasts and despised criminals who were merely willing to abandon all they had to receive all he had to give.

The Bible doesn't promise us fame or fortune in this world. In fact the promises are so much greater, but they're not offered to the bold and braizen.

Blessed are you who are poor,
For yours will be the Kingdom of God
Blessed are you who hunger now for you will be satisfied
Blessed are you who weep now for you will laugh
Blessed are you when men hate you
When they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man.
Luke 6:20-22

Reading this list of beatitudes, I realise that I need not look at or lament what I see around me. The value that others put on my son and what people hold as valuable in a worldly sense is irrelevant compared to the value that God puts in those that just lay it all down for him, whatever our social standing.

Though it may be tough, Lord help me walk the right path to righteousness.

And help me to teach my son to do the same.


Wednesday 12 March 2014

Love feasts

When I first came into Youth With A Mission, just four years ago, there was this term Love Feast banded about. I wasn't sure what it meant and it certainly sounded a bit dodgy to me!

As I have travelled to different regions and operating locations, I find that the term exists widely but is used in a variety of contexts. It was odd to me that such a name exists but nobody really had a pure definition of what it meant. Some places it was a reward - a meal as a gift to a team returning from outreach. Other places it was used an excuse for a party. Yet I'd never been to one where the focus was on a sober, but intentional meal in preparation for the Sabbath.

It filled me with joy, therefore, today to receive the latest edition of the International YWAMer with an article from Tom Bloomer, entitled How Did YWAM Love Feasts Begin? explaining the history behind the concept. It appears that the name has travelled well, but the purpose and value behind why they're important hasn't.

This touched my heart, especially, as God has really been challenging me this year to step up as a man, husband and father (taking more responsibility) and taking the Sabbath more seriously. This is a year for really exploring what it means to rest in His presence. It's a year for developing, deepening and maturing. It's a year of preparation what God has instore for me.

I love this soaking in His presence. As charismatic as that may sound, for me that is manifest in reading my Bible and taking walks along the sea front, allowing him to speak to me in the quietness of the moment. It's also in group fellowship - meeting with friends, sharing coffee and asking them how God has impacted their lives and what we need to give thanks for.

I don't have my ministry all figured out. I don't even know how it's going to look in six months time. All I know is that He is true, trustworthy and someone I want to follow and spend time with.

What a joy it is to be serving Him in this way.

Monday 17 February 2014

Measuring the Land

The word God gave to AfriCom as a ministry for this season is: measuring the land. This work is somewhat invisible. It's a research work that will take many months if not years. It's a time of taking stock and seeing what we've got.

I haven't even begun to scratch the surface on this. Yet I believe God will guide me in his timing as to how to build up the ministry of AfriCom to His Glory.

As far as I can see, this year is going to be about travelling. I already have plans to visit West Africa (Togo) and South Central Africa (Zambia) in the first half of this year. Please pray with me that I can raise the funds to travel and that I'm walking in obedience to where He is leading me.

Friday 31 January 2014

Knowing God's timing

Sometimes our prayers are answered over a period of time, sometimes immediately. I've recently experienced an answering of a prayer that was quicker than expected!

As missionaries, we have certain domestic (i.e. from our home in the uk) financial matters to deal with. My brother-in-law does a fantastic job of opening our post and scanning it, sending it to us by email so that I can respond to all enquiries that come in.

However, there was an issue that didn't seem to have a solution remotely. It felt that, whilst email and phonecalls worked in some cases, here the matter just wasn't being resolved. So I prayed, "Lord, if you want me to go home to sort out this problem, then please guide me - and pay for my ticket!". Within a day, I had a relative call up and offer to provide money for this particular problem. Though she didn't say it, the money just so happened to be the price of a return ticket back home. So I booked the ticket and left for home!

Knowing that I've been praying about many things, particularly to do with mission work, that haven't been (apparently) answered in the past months and even years, I was keen to find out what God's purpose for this trip would be (over and above sorting out my personal issue).

So, I held it up to him. And he spoke. And what happened: he brought me to my knees. He reminded me of the things I'd said. He showed me how I had forgotten his promises in one area of my life and showed me how I had backtracked on my promises to him. I was broken. But I was free. I was free from the burden of having to carry this sin. God gave me an open door to confession and repentance. He even gave me a mechanism in which to begin. I am now walking that road of repentance and it feels really good.

Reading this, you might wonder: "what is it that he did?" If you really want to know the details, just email me and I'll tell you! But I think it's more important that I show you the impact of what hearing His voice and being obedient does:

Rather than raising me up to be great, he raised himself up, putting himself back in the position he should be - to be worshipped, adored and served. At the same time, I was humbled, as He showered his love, affection and forgiveness on me. Praise God.