All posts by chris

Flashback: Spring/Summer 2014, Moving Forwards

After all our research into international mission agencies, and coming to the conclusion in May 2014 that God was leading us to work with a French denomination or organisation, rather than an international agency, we were finally able to move forwards.

movingforwards

We were pretty sure that God wanted us to spend a year learning French properly, in France. And we were pretty sure that He wanted us to do that at the Les Cèdres Christian language school at Massy, in the South-West suburbs of Paris. So in June 2014 we contacted Les Cèdres and began a discussion about going there to study.

Everything turned out to be very straightforward and we were able to eventually get ourselves booked onto a 12-month intensive course beginning in January 2016, and also fixed up with accommodation in a tiny studio flat 10 minutes walk from the language school.

All of this was very encouraging for us, as it helped to confirm that we were moving forwards in the path God had planned for us. Back in April 2014 we very much felt God was telling us to simply trust Him, to trust Him simply, and stop trying to work it all out for ourselves. Simply trust… trust simply. Thank you, Lord: got it!

Church As Team

In a football team, it is the job of each player to be completely aware of where all the other members of your team are on the pitch.

team1

You have the ball. Should you take it up the field yourself? If you do, and someone comes in to tackle you, will there be any team-members nearby you can pass the ball to? Will they in turn be able to pass it? Or maybe you’d be better to pass the ball right now. How? Forwards, sideways, or backwards (where there might be more of your team)?

We need to be completely aware of all the other members of our team, our local Church: where are they, what direction are they running in?

Who can help me? Who can I pass the ball to? Who needs some help? How can the team succeed (rather than me get my moment of glory)?

We don’t tend to think of Church as Team. We think of leadership teams or welcome teams or tea/coffee teams, but not of Church as Team or Home Group as Team. I think we ought to think about this concept rather more and see how it applies to the local Church.

Aroma And Light

Aroma.

Like just-baked bread, freshly-made coffee, rich Bolognese sauce for pasta blipping gently on the stove.

Lying in bed in the morning with the smell of bread wafting up the stairs as the bread-maker finishes its cycle, coercing me into getting up.

Inviting, drawing us in, almost irresistible. “I want some of that!”

How can we be just like that, as Christians? Drawing others in, like a fresh aroma?

For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

We are the aroma of Christ. We don’t need to try to be, we are, says God.

We are the light of the world, says Jesus:

You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others (Matthew 5:14-16)

We just need to believe it and live it. Live as the light, live as the aroma.

While prayer-walking some months ago up on the hill overlooking the valley in which the housing estate God has called us to as a
Church sits… I catch the smell of the vegetation brought to me on the fresh wind. I’m not sure what the plants are, but the smell is pleasant and full of life.

Yes, we are the aroma of Christ. But think how much more widely the aroma spreads when it is carried by the wind of the Holy Spirit.

Clear-Out Time

Bank Holiday weekends are a really good opportunity to have a clear-out, so we have been taking full advantage of the May Bank Holidays!

clearout

A few weeks ago we went through our garage and got rid of a massive amount. Nearly all the garden tools went to our local Community Garden (leaving just a few for our future tenants), lots of DIY tools went to friends and the Church’s Shedless Men DIY project (DIY is definitely not Chris’s thing…). And a whole heap more went to the local tip (sorry, Waste Transfer Station).

Oooo, that was nice! Empty shelves, empty cupboards, worktops not stacked high with stuff.

And the kitchen. I’m constantly amazed how many jars and tins and packets I can find with a best-before or use-by date of between one and ten years ago! More empty shelves… And a resolution: if I’m not 100% sure we’re going to eat it, I’m not buying it any more!

This past weekend we tackled the loft. After we got married and I moved into Joanna’s flat, we had to get my little terraced house ready to sell. Which meant clearing out the loft. Joanna learnt some important things about me at that time, one of which is that I inherited from my parents a tendency to squirrel things away, “just in case…” My Dad built a mezzanine layer in our garage for those “just in case” things. I put mine in the loft. Joanna couldn’t believe her eyes: four, yes four, old vacuum cleaners, in their boxes, none of them working. Piles and piles and piles of magazines. And much, much more. The heap of stuff outside the house to be disposed of was so high it completely obscured the front windows.

Never again, I vowed. Ahem. So, Saturday saw us ploughing through our loft and wondering why on earth we ever kept this and that, and that of all things! The pile wasn’t as big this time, but it was big enough. Joanna has made a trip to the local Charity Shop today and has a visit to the tip scheduled for tomorrow.

Oh, and various bushes and trees in the garden have had their ambitions seriously scaled back (we don’t have a big garden at all, but if you leave a bush for long enough it becomes a tree!).

It feels good to have cleared out. Really good. There are still more cupboards and drawers to go, but we’re making good progress.

It gives us a real feeling of preparing for a new phase, a new adventure. Clearing the decks, moving on from the past. That was then, but this is now.

Which brings me to a favourite worship song, written by Luc Dumont, but here sung by a young lady whose name I don’t know. It’s called J’irai, I will go…

Here are the words of the chorus, in the original French and then a rough English translation:

Donne-moi le courage
De quitter mon rivage
Et de marcher sur tes eaux
Le courage d’être libre
Et d’oublier le passé
Le déposer à tes pieds
À tes pieds

Give me the courage
To leave behind my shore
And to walk upon your waters
The courage to be free
And to forget the past
To put it down at your feet
At your feet

It takes courage to launch out into the new, the challenging, the exciting but also scary. Courage I can only find in Jesus.

It takes courage to leave the past behind, to forget it, to leave it very specifically at Jesus’ feet. Courage I can only find in Jesus.

In both cases, it really is worth it. There are many things in my life I have got wrong, sometimes spectacularly wrong. People I’ve hurt, especially Jesus. But I can leave it all at Jesus’ feet and move on.

For me, clearing out the garage, the loft, the garden, my warehouse, is very symbolic. The past is done, the mistakes are forgiven, the failures too. It’s time to be FREE!

free

 

 

It’s All About You, Lord!

Coming back from our prayer time at Church this morning, this song popped into my heart (not one we’ve ever sung at our Church I don’t think):

Singing as I shaved and showered (you have to careful singing while you shave!), it came fresh to my heart that everything we do is (or should be) about our God, about His Glory, about His Kingdom, about His Name.

It’s not about us, not our glory, not about our group or Church or denomination, not about our fame or renown but about the Fame of our Lord God!

Let’s make His name famous! Let’s make every effort to push His Kingdom forwards! Because He, He alone, is worthy of all praise.

He, alone, is worthy to receive the sacrifice of our lives, our selves, in totality. In Him and in Him only is fulfilment and peace and joy; never in our goals and plans and selfish desires. Only when we release ourselves, surrender ourselves, totally to Him.

Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we declare to You that You are Alpha and Omega in our lives, in our Church, to You we give all the praise, for You alone are worthy.

En français:

Tu es Alpha et Omega
Nous T’adorons, Seigneur
Tu es digne de louange

Nous Te rendons la gloire
Nous T’adorons, Seigneur
Tu es digne de louange

Here’s an audio version in French:

Flashback: More Courage, Less Caution!

Some notes from my Bible reading at the end of January 2014, in Joshua. I’m in Joshua again just now, so it’s interesting to see how God continues to speak.  Joshua 1:1-9 reveals some good principles for God’s work at any time:

“Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross … into the land I am about to give to them … I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised … No one will be able to stand against you … I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. … Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey … do not turn … to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book … always on your lips; meditate on it day and night … Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

There is a constant theme of courage. When we launch out in courage, in God’s will and plan, God moves! How can we expect Him to move if we are cowering in fear, unwilling to trust Him?

townscene

Allied to this is a quote from J Oswald Sanders which I first came across back in January 2014 (in the prayer letter of some friends):

“A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the Kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution.”

Yes, yes and again yes! Oh how often the advance of God’s Kingdom has been held back by over-cautious Christians, afraid to launch out, content to become ever more inward-looking and ever less focussed on the millions who do not yet know Jesus!

So, for Joanna and me, what is in our hearts is to have more courage and less caution so we can see the enemy pushed back and the Kingdom of God advance strongly in France. What about you, in your patch of the vineyard?

A Significant Birthday

I had an important birthday recently: 40 years ago this March I became a Christian. I remember very clearly walking out of the room where it all happened into a corridor and knowing that things were different. It was only over the next days and weeks that I properly understood exactly what had happened.

From that moment, everything changed for me. My non-Christian family thought I’d gone bonkers but that it would soon blow over. It hasn’t yet!

Over those forty years the most amazing thing to me has been God’s incredible patience with me and His grace. I’ve made so many mistakes, disobeyed Him so many times, lived for years at a time deliberately and knowingly flouting His will, lived a half-hearted Christian life much too often… I could go on and on. But He has always been there, He has never let go.

There’s a song by French Canadian singer Luc Dumont which for me expresses this extremely well, called Malgré Tout (Despite Everything in English):

Here are some of the words:

J’ignore combien de fois
Dans mon cœur, je t’ai trompé
J’ignore combien de fois
Ton humble cœur, j’ai attristé

Pendant si longtemps
Ma vie ne fut que manquements
De plus en plus loin de mon but
Je m’éloignais de Jésus

Malgré tout, tu m’as pardonné
Malgré tout, la croix tu m’as donné
Malgré tout, tu as su oublier
Tout cela, malgré tout

The first verse in English is (roughly):

I don’t know how many times
In my heart, I’ve cheated you
I don’t know how many times
Your humble heart, I’ve grieved

Malgré tout, despite everything, for more than forty years now, You have stuck with me, Jesus: thank You, thank You, with all of my heart.