All posts by chris

Commissioned!

Last Sunday, 13 December, was our commissioning service at our Church: Brook Lane Community Church in Downham. It was the most amazing time, something which we will cherish for years to come.

We were really encouraged that so many friends from far and near were able to be there. It was wonderful to be prayed out so enthusiastically. There were the inevitable embarrassing words, but Joanna and I managed to get our own back by subjecting everyone to our singing, in French! The Worship Team did such a good job of accompanying us that we’re thinking of kidnapping them and taking them to France. We’ll miss you!

bonvoyageWe had a great Brook Lane shared lunch afterwards, and a lovely sister in  Christ cooked this gorgeous cake for us. Wow!

Suppose we really have to go now…  🙂

Launch Approaches…

launch

Yes… scary or what? Last week we sat down and wrote out our to-do list of things we needed or wanted to do before we leave for France. I just checked and although a lot of things have been crossed off, there are still a total of 65 items on the list. Gulp.

One of the triumphs has been ordering our French SIMS for our mobile phones, from Free (I wish it was, but it’s good value nevertheless). Very easy to do online, and the SIMs should be waiting for us when we arrive at Les Cèdres. We get a huge data allowance (50GB/month), so will be using our phones as mifi devices to get internet connectivity in the flat, saving the cost of broadband and a landline.

A not so triumphant moment was in Bromley High Street yesterday. We’d been out for lunch to celebrate our anniversary (16 years: Joanna’s a brave and wonderful woman!) and had temporarily gone separate ways to do things before meeting up again. I walked out of the restaurant thinking “Hmmm, feel quite full for such a simple meal.” A minute of two later it was “I don’t feel too well” and by the time I got to the bottom of the High Street I felt very unwell indeed.

Thank you so much, Dreams, for letting me sit down and providing a couple of glasses of water, while Joanna went to get the car. After a few hours sitting calmly at home and drinking lots of water I felt much better. Back to 100% now. I won’t tell you where we lunched, but we won’t be returning!

OK, back to that to-do list. Next up: RIP some more CDs from the music collection (can’t justify space to store CDs!).

Holidays

We had a wonderful holiday in Southern Spain,  just outside a small town called Álora, in the hills about 45 minutes inland from Malaga.

Pan_IMG_4544This is a panorama from the top of the garden of the villa we stayed in. The weather was warm and sunny, just like this, every day. The pool was just a little cool for a dip though.

It was so relaxing exploring the countryside and the towns. From the charm of ancient Antequera… antequera2   …with its cool Moorish-themed courtyards…

antequera…to the wild pine-scented mountains…

spainmountains…and amazing lakes…

spainlakes…to the sophistication and bustle of Malaga…

malagaronda-newbridge…and the sheer wonder of the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge, completed in 1793) in Ronda.

We’d thoroughly recommend the area to anyone needing a relaxing break.

It was strange trying to pick up our few words and phrases of Spanish after many years, and we nearly launched out in French a few times by mistake!

Thank you, Lord, for refreshing us so amazingly.

 

 

 

 

 

Ducks And The Church

Some days ago, I was taking a praying walk** on the path that goes beside the Pool River from Sydenham (where until very recently I used to work). It’s a very attractive walk, despite being in crowded South London.

It had been raining and the river was fairly swollen and fast-flowing. A pair of Mallard ducks were swimming around in the river. You know the ones:

mallardsThe chap is the one on the left, all bright  and snazzy, the girl is the one on the right.

The male duck was being very attentive, making sure the female was OK, stopping when she stopped, moving on when she moved on, just checking out she was fine.

This started me thinking about Jesus and the Church, the Bride of Christ. Jesus is attentive, He’s always there, making sure that things are OK, making sure we don’t get swept away in the current, suggesting good places to go for feeding. Constantly watching out for us.

The second thing that occurred to me was about the female duck. From a distance, the female Mallard can appear just brown and nondescript. But if you get close, you can see that what might appear to be just generic brown is actually a myriad of different coloured feathers, all beautifully arranged. In fact the beauty of the female Mallad is quite breathtaking.

The Church can appear rather brown and uninteresting to us. Perhaps we’ve become jaded about the whole thing. But that’s not how Jesus feels. He’s looking at the Church, His Bride, and He sees beauty, breathtaking beauty. He doesn’t see a boring brown mush, but all the intricate and infinitely varied colours which fit together to make something truly amazing.

Church: Jesus loves us, as the whole Church (as well as individually), and He thinks we’re amazing and awesomely beautiful. So fluff out those feathers with pride, you’re the King’s Beloved, you are the Bride of Christ!

** So what’s a “praying walk”? it’s not prayer walking, which involves walking round an area and praying for the people of that area, plus the businesses, schools, police, shops, and so on. A praying walk is taking a walk and praying for whatever God wants you to pray for along the way: I usually write out a list before I start. I have found that it’s often much easier to pray outdoors than indoors, I get distracted less easily and because I have a defined route I keep going for the whole walk. Quiet streets, parks, beside streams or rivers all work well for me. I find that usually I can pray out loud quietly (shutting up when I pass another person!). Since I’ve been doing this I’ve been praying for longer, covering more ground in prayer and enjoying the whole thing much more. And I get some exercise too. Give it a go!

Do We Really Need To Pray?

Why bother praying for those who don’t yet know Jesus as Saviour? Why bother praying for France? What’s the point? God knows all about the French people, surely? Why should it make a difference for us to pester Him about them? It’s not logical!

pray

JO Fraser was a missionary to the tribal areas of the border area between China and Burma, with the China Inland Mission. His biographer, Mrs Howard Taylor**, wrote:

“Repeatedly he had had occasion to notice the difference between people and places that had been much prayed for and those that had not. In the former, half the work seemed to be done already, as if an unseen ally had gone ahead to prepare the way. This made him not only persevere in prayer himself, whether he felt like it or not, but impelled him to induce and encourage Christians at home to pray.”

Fraser himself wrote:

“I really believe that if every particle of prayer put up by the home churches on behalf of the infant churches of the mission field were removed, the latter would be swamped by an incoming flood of the powers of darkness. This seems actually to have happened in Church history…”

Yes, it makes a difference. Prayer makes all the difference! Without faithful and persistent and passionate prayer there will be no breakthrough in France.

The flood of the powers of darkness is real enough in France at the moment. But our prayers can push back that flood, through the power of the name of Jesus.

Please, will you pray for France? Please, will you pray more for France? Please, please, will you pray even more for France?

Let’s keep on praying for a breakthrough in France!

** Behind the Ranges, Mrs Howard Taylor, OMF Books, 1944 and many reprints. Highly recommended.

Breakthrough: Three Rs

I was scheduled to preach at our Church on Sunday 6th September.  The subject was What the Bible says about Worship and I completed my preparation on Friday 4th. Great! However, lying in bed on the Saturday night I felt God was dropping other stuff into my mind and heart, centred around the word breakthrough.

As a Church we’ve been praying for our community for so long, and seeing some fruit, some people becoming Christians. But we long for a breakthrough. It seemed that God was saying that the breakthrough needed to be in us, as a Church and as individual Christians, first of all, before it could be in the community.

And as I lay there in bed, God dropped the bones, very bare bones, of a sermon into my mind. I have to tell you that I am not at all the sort of person who changes their mind at the last minute: a sermon often distils over a number of weeks, I usually spend all day Saturday on it, I usually write it all out, and when it’s done it’s done.

So on Sunday morning I had an A5 sheet of paper with a heading, three words, three verses and a couple of phrases. “Are you sure, God? Really? I don’t do this, God!”

I thought I’d hedge my bets and take my nicely prepared notes on Worship as well as my scrappy A5 paper up to the front when the time came. Up I went, praying madly. Looked down at the nice notes… and the scrappy A5… took a deep breath and began.

Breakthrough, then. We long for breakthrough in our community, we long to see a powerful move of God. Joanna and I long to see a breakthrough in France, a powerful move of God, hence the title of this blog.

But to see a breakthrough in our community, or in France, we need to see a breakthrough in ourselves. Three things that we, as Christians, as Churches, need to do:

Repent. Jesus said “Repent and do the things you did at first” (Rev 2:5). We need to repent of our sin, especially the regular sin, the habitual sin, the stuff that’s ingrained in our lives which God hates. We need to repent of our sin. Properly, to spend some serious time with God and ask Him to show us the areas in our lives which are wrong. Secondly we need to repent of our half-hearted Christian lives. The attitude which says “You can have this much of my life, God, but that’s it. No more.” It’s time to start surrendering, totally, absolutely, without reservation. And to go on surrendering, day by day by day.

Resist. James advised “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Now I am not the sort of person who sees demons behind every lamppost, but the devil and his helpers are real and active. They are active in the world, amongst non-Christians, and they are active in trying to oppose God’s work through tempting Christians. So we need to learn to resist every temptation to sin, lethargy, fear and faithlessness. And we need to learn to deliberately and specifically oppose the devil’s work in our community: do it verbally, using the Bible!

Revive. Jesus said “Your have forsaken the love you had at first.” Doesn’t God send revival, by His sovereign will? Yes, He does. But we need to revive our hearts, to regain the love we once had for Jesus. As Christians we are very fond of putting every responsibility onto God and not taking any for ourselves (except for those areas where we truly need to “let go and let God”, but that’s another story!). Remember that Paul said to Timothy “Stir up the gift which is within you”. God does amazing stuff, but we need to use our will and act. Let’s revive our love, our passion for God.

God would say to us “I am the God of the breakthrough, I am the God who can.” Will we do our part and repent, resist and revive?

Language

I’ve been thinking just recently about language learning, reviewing in  my mind what has been working well for us and what has maybe not worked so well.

We did around 18 months of Adult Education evening classes, once a week. It was great to meet new people and talk about why each of us was learning or improving our French. We learnt and refreshed some important grammar and vocabulary. What didn’t work quite so well was advancing in French conversation: with the best will in the world, speaking French with other Brits will never be as good as conversation with a native French speaker!

language

Alongside evening classes, we have read French (the Bible, books, magazines, news on the web…) and listened to French audio of the Bible.

In the Summer of last year we had some sessions with a French language tutor, just talking French. We both found this very helpful, giving us more confidence.

So when our evening classes finished in June, we were delighted to make contact with a young French woman who does some language tutoring. In our weekly sessions, we’ve made progress with our grammar as well as our conversation skills. It’s been really helpful to learn from someone young, whose French is very current.

One other thing which has been very helpful for us on so many levels has been French worship songs. Because singing is often slower than speaking, it’s a great way to learn pronunciation at a realistic pace (if you have ever listened to two French people speaking together at full speed you will know what I mean!).

For me, I now spend much more time worshipping in song in French than in English, and it has been such an amazing blessing. God has used these songs to encourage me, teach me, draw me to Himself, challenge me and more. I have found that worship leads me naturally into prayer, and when I’ve been worshipping in French often I move naturally into praying in French, in a fairly limited way at the moment I must admit!

In fact this has made me wonder if it is possible for your “heart language” to change? Already there are concepts, ideas, feelings towards God, that for me originated in French and stay in French; sometimes they just don’t work in English. Could it be that one day the language my heart naturally speaks to God in may be French, not English?