All posts by chris

Praying Together

On 21 January 2014, Joanna and I had our first evening of prayer as a couple for France. Since then we’ve been praying together for France one evening a week, which has been an immense blessing to us, drawing us closer to the country and its people, over more than a year now. Recently we have been starting our France prayer evenings with a time of song worship in French, which encourages us in God and in our language learning!

Very soon after we began going out together we decided that we wanted to pray together regularly, so we started what we called “D&P” once a week, standing for “Dinner and Prayer.” We can thoroughly recommend this as a really great way to have a date! It certainly helped us keep our relationship centred on Jesus as we grew together, both before and after we got married. One of the benefits is that it gives us a regular time to talk through lots of things in God’s presence.

If you’re part of a couple and are not yet praying together regularly, please do give it a go: it’s fantastic!

Flashback: A Distant View

From the end of 2013 these thoughts have been coming back to my mind every so often and have been very helpful. From my teens I’ve been interested in mountaineering and I used to read every Himalayan expedition book I could get my hands on in the library! So the images I describe here have been embedded in my mind for a very long time.

Imagine you are a mountaineer, part of an expedition bound for the Himalayas, aiming to make a bold first ascent of a high and challenging mountain. You are making your approach the old-fashioned way, taking several weeks to walk in from the foothills.

Imagine you are standing on the crest of a ridge of these foothills. The air is clear and you are looking North. In the far distance, on the horizon, you can see a line of sharp, pointed, snow-covered mountains, reflecting the sun in a truly dazzling sight.

With difficulty, you manage to find the peak your expedition will be ascending. Wow! It looks so exciting, so beautiful; the idea of climbing it sends a delicious thrill over your whole body.

That’s how it felt for us when we began to dream about what God could do in France. To be part of a real move of God which would see a significant advance of His Kingdom in France was thrilling. And in all honesty, at that distance it’s easy to focus on the thrill and forget the hard work and setbacks that will be ahead…

As the days of the approach march are ticked off, and the foothills become higher, you can no longer see the mountain you are going to be climbing. It’s hidden behind the smaller ranges. Life becomes a daily rhythm of valley, pass, valley, pass, trudging on.

Again, in the middle of trying to work out how we might actually get to France and how it might be possible to work for God there, it was easy to let the goal, that glittering mountain, recede from our consciousness. Not that we’d forgotten, it was just not so much in our thoughts.

One day, however, you crest yet another ridge and suddenly, it’s there. Your mountain. Still some way away, but its shape and ridges are clearly visible. And its size is apparent, too. Ouch. It’s big! It looks hard, very hard. Can we really climb this?

For us, as the weeks pass by (alarmingly quickly, now), the scale and difficulty of what we believe God is calling us too become much, much more apparent. And much, much scarier. Is this really possible?

And so you come to the final march to Base Camp, at the foot of a massive glacier, about 3km from the base of the mountain. Its South Face rears up in front of you. Huge, precipitous, awesome in scale and difficulty. Every now and then an avalanche starts from one of the hanging glaciers on the face. The sound of the avalanches takes some time to travel the distance to where you are standing.

That’s your route: the South Face. But, being so close, you can also pick out the lines that others have tried. You can begin to see how to create a route to avoid the avalanche tracks. You can plan where the first few camps might be. And where your summit party might exit the face to attain the summit. It’s possible. We can do this…

In our mountain-climb, we find it so very helpful to think one stage at a time. Can we make this step, does it seem realistic? Well, yes, it does.  What about the next step? OK, yes. And so on and so on, step by step, stage by stage. The whole task, the whole mountain, still seems totally crazy. But this step? Yes, we can.

What makes it all realistic, of course, is that the Leader of our expedition is Jesus. As Paul said in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The challenge is to continue to be excited by the Mountain, not defeated by fear.

Here I Am / Me Voici

A song fragment which is in my heart this morning:

Here I am, Lord
Seeking Your presence
Here I am, Lord
Seeking Your power in my life
Here I am, Lord
I just want more of You in me
I just want more of You in me

And a French version (not a direct translation):

Me voici, Seigneur
Je cherche Ta présence
Me voici, Seigneur
Je cherche Ta puissance en ma vie
Me voici, Seigneur
Je veux plus de Toi en moi
Je veux plus de Toi en moi

In song: English, and French.

 

Voici Le Jour / This Is The Day

One of the devil’s not-so-subtle tricks to get Christians off course, which still seems to work surprisingly well, far too frequently, is discouragement. Often tied in with getting us to look at ourselves and our human situation, not at God. Which causes us to stop listening to God.

Yesterday I was getting back to the preparation of some training and teaching material which is destined to be reworked in French (when my French is good enough!). As I took the pile of notes off the shelf where they had been languishing (for too long) I was overwhelmed by a massive feeling of “This is a total waste of time.” It was like someone had plonked me in the middle of a huge, thick, stifling grey cloud. I immediately began remembering all the Christian things I’d ever done which didn’t go quite as well as I’d hoped.

“See,” said the voice inside “no-one will be interested and it won’t achieve anything. Just forget it.”

It’s easy to say now that there was absolutely no logic in what was happening, but logic and feelings don’t always play nice together!

Fast forward to this morning and a scheduled prayer time at Church. “What time? Are you stupid?” Needless to say it was a very encouraging time. As we were leaving a fragment from a French worship song came into my mind: “Voici le jour.” In English, “This is the day” is how it’d be usually translated, but voici really means “here is.”dawn

So, here is the day that God has made, a brand new day. Here it is, God has made it and given it to me and you. What will I make of it, what will you make of it? Voici le jour.

If my feelings scream out “It’s a total waste of time!” what does God say? This is what was in my heart this morning: “Let Me worry about that, you just do what I tell you to.”

God calls us to be obedient. Not to worry about working it all out and feeling it’s all going to be OK, but just to be obedient, to do what He tells us to. He will work it all out, that’s His job; it’s not ours.

So, I’ll be picking up the pile of notes again later, telling the devil to get lost, because I’m just going to do what God tells me, to obey.

This is the song, sung here by Dan Luiten (though I’m more familiar with Paul Baloche’s voice singing it). It’s a bit rocky, hope that’s OK with you… 🙂

Who, Me?

who-me

When God’s people were in a desperate situation and cried out to God, who did God send? A man who considered himself the least in the weakest family in his tribe. Gideon. Least: smallest, perhaps youngest, of least value. In his eyes. But not in  God’s eyes:

The Lord is with you, mighty warrior … Go in the strength you have … Am I not sending you? (Judges 6)

L’Eternel est avec toi, vaillant héros! … Va avec la force que tu as … N’est-ce pas moi qui t’envoie? (Juges 6)

Who, me? Are you kidding, God? No, He isn’t. “Go in the strength you have” says God, His strength, not ours. “But God, I’m just…” No, in God’s eyes we are each His mighty warrior, if we trust in His strength.

Click here for a song snippet.

Broken Chains

On 3 December 2013 God gave me a picture or vision of France covered in piles of rusty chains, binding the people.rustychains

But Christians were breaking the chains and cutting them into pieces by the power of God, all over France. Lines of people were then carrying the pieces of broken chain to the coast, from all over the country, and throwing them off the cliffs into the sea, so the people could not be chained-up again.

It was not just a few chains here and there being broken up and taken away, but a very significant amount, leaving lots of areas of clear ground where there were no chains remaining.

Then people were dancing in the rain of the Holy Spirit, free from their chains, with the rain washing away the sort of “rust dust” that remained on the people and the ground. This was happening all over France.

Releasing, Sending, Accepting

Returning briefly to the mission agency subject… You may think that we’re just a couple of rebels who don’t like dancing to someone else’s tune… and there is a grain of truth in that! But, we wrestled and struggled over looking for an agency for 7 months, from October 2013. Looking back through my prayer diaries reminds me of the difficult times over that period, feeling discouraged and downhearted, whilst at the same time feeling more and more burdened about France.

It wasn’t until 19 May 2014 that we finally had peace that God did not want us with an international mission  agency, after exhausting all the possibilities (and nearly exhausting ourselves!).

I look back on this as a time of testing: it was important that we could know from experiences of disappointment, frustration and discouragement that we weren’t just being starry-eyed dreamers but that this thing was from God. So, thank you, Lord, for testing us, though it wasn’t fun at the time…

What’s with the Releasing, Sending in the title of this post? Our heart is that the Church planting teams we work with are as much training teams as they are planting teams. (I’m using teams in the plural here in faith!) We want to see French Christians trained in discipleship, evangelism, disciple-making, teaching, leadership, Church planting. Some will go back to their home Church and help push God’s work significantly forwards in that location, some will become Church planters themselves, others will do different things.

For this to become reality, Churches all over France will need to be willing to release some of their very best people for a time of training (and perhaps further ministry elsewhere) and to send them. Sending means supporting in prayer, pastorally, and financially. This is a big ask, especially for Churches who are already struggling with people resources and financial resources. But the only way that France can see a spiritual breakthrough is if Churches release and send those God is calling to work in the harvest fields. We believe God wants to use many more French Christians in this harvest, in a new way, to radically increase the effectiveness of outreach work in France.harvest

Where does accepting fit in? We want to be able to accept as many French Christians as possible into training opportunities on Church planting teams. To accept the young and the older. To accept the experienced and the inexperienced. To accept the University graduate and the one with no exam passes. Think of the 12 rag-tag misfits that Jesus dragged round the Middle East for 3 years and you’ll get the picture.

We want to be as flexible as we possibly can in our training. Rather than ask trainees to fit around our rigid schedules and dates, we’d like to try and fit around them. Jacques can come for 12 days? That’s fine. Amelie has 4 months beginning in February? Great! Pascal and Maryse can only come for a weekend? We’ll help them as much as we can. Michel would like to train for 15 months? Super!

We want to remember our struggles to find a home for the vision God is giving us and make sure that it’s much easier for our French brothers and sisters in future.