Heading out to Cambodia

So, here I am sitting in a lounge at Birmingham airport, enjoying some lunch before heading off into the unknown (for me!) of Cambodia, via Amsterdam and Bangkok. I’m heading out there with good friends, Mike and Kay Sprenger from Darlington, to teach at the Transform Asia pastors conference, to meet up with our friend Setan Lee and to see some of the churches and projects he leads. 

It’s a curious mix of feelings – excitement, nervousness and apprehension all mixed in with the firm knowledge that this trip is beginning to fulfill a number of prophetic words that I have received over recent years. 

God has spoken very clearly about Jubilee having a reach and impact far wider than Derby, and about me travelling to different places. Many of those prophetic words, whilst encouraging, at the time seemed crazy! Could God really do that with me, with us? Well, here’s proof that He can! 

So, what has God spoken to you about? What might He be calling you to do? Meanwhile, watch this space for some updates!

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What does the label say?

One of my Christmas presents last year was an electronic labelling machine. This was a great present, and anyone who knows me well will not be surprised that I’ve been labelling anything that doesn’t move, and some things that do! It reminded me of the Dymo machine of years past!

But my fresh passion for labelling has got me thinking… We can be very quick to label other people. And we can be very quick to label ourselves. This often isn’t helpful as we can be too quick to judge and too quick to put people into boxes and place limits around what they, or we, can do.

So, if you’re the type of person that tends to label people – be it others or yourself, my encouragement to you is to hold back from this and ask God to give you His perspective on people. Learn to see people’s potential in God. One of my friends was excellent at this recently, where at a prayer meeting he spoke out what he saw God doing in people’s lives and affirmed their gifts. This was so encouraging and very uplifting. Why not this week, look for opportunities to bless, to build up and to encourage.

If you are a Christian, the only label that God puts on you is one that says “son” or “daughter”. Now, that’s a label really worth having!

A weekend with Dr. Setan Lee from Cambodia

photo 2Last week, Sarah and I were honoured to meet Dr. Setan Lee, who, together with his wife, Randa, started and now lead, Transform Asia, a ministry serving the nation of Cambodia. Transform Asia have around 45 churches, an orphanage, a feeding centre, a trade school, a day care centre, rice distribution and other programmes!

I met him at our ChristCentral Churches team meeting, which he was a guest at, and then we had the privilege of hosting him in Derby for a few days. He spoke to our leaders, at a men’s breakfast and during our Sunday meeting. (The audio from the Sunday morning will go up on the Jubilee website next week).

Hearing his story was quite incredible and very moving. He was saved during the horror of the Killing Fields in the mid 1970’s whilst escaping from the Khmer Rouge through the jungle into Thailand after 4 years in a youth concentration camp, where he saw hundreds of his friends and family killed. His life is now devoted to serving God, preaching a message of forgiveness and looking for ways to serve the people of Cambodia.

Setan and Randa’s life story is summarised here in this short video. I would encourage you to watch it. (WARNING – the video contains graphic images).

I will have the privilege of travelling to Cambodia next year with my good friends Mike & Kay Sprenger from Kings Church Darlington. Together, we will be teaching at a pastor’s conference for the churches Setan oversees and then get to visit a number of churches and projects that Transform Asia run.

According to The Joshua Project, over 98% of the Cambodian population is classified as “unreached”, that is less than 2% are evangelical Christians. The need for both proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel is clear, and a real challenge.

One of our core values as a church is to be involved in reaching nations. We are praying to see what doors God might be opening up here, both for ChristCentral Churches and for Jubilee. Watch this space for more!

The Welsh Outpouring – a personal view

VictoryYesterday evening I travelled with a couple of other church leaders from Derby to Victory Church in Cwmbran, South Wales. For the last month, this church has been holding meetings 5 nights a week as a response to what God has been doing in their midst. These were not started as part of a strategic plan or strategy, but rather as result of what God has been doing.

I started to hear a little about this on Twitter, and when a friend and fellow Newfrontiers pastor visited and wrote about it on his blog, I knew I wanted to go!

Some background

A month ago, on 10th April, God broke in to a regular Wednesday night meeting and they experienced His presence in a new and powerful way. Since then they have seen hundreds of people respond to Christ and many people healed. Over 9,000 people have now been to these outpouring meetings and people are travelling from across Wales, the UK and indeed Europe to see what God is doing and to encounter Him afresh. Many church leaders are going and praying for God to do something similar in their churches.

Wisely, I think, they are not calling this a revival; it’s too early for that. They are calling it an outpouring – the “Welsh Outpouring”. However, it does have many similarities to revivals of previous generations and it is exciting to see what God might do.

You can see their Senior Pastor, Richard Taylor talk a little about how it started here.

So, what did I make of it and what did I learn?

It is clear that this is a church that loves people – really loves people who are far from God. They have a heart to see people reached with the love of Christ and have a passion for God to move in Wales.

The pastor, Richard Taylor, is clearly a man who loves people, loves the church and most of all loves Jesus. He is very quick to point people to Jesus and make it clear that it’s all about Jesus and what He is doing. Jesus really is at the centre of this.

We were queuing for a good 30 minutes to get into the building and the sense of faith and anticipation in the crowd was tangible. Once inside, the band were already playing and we started to worship. My guess is that there were somewhere in the order of around 400+ people. After a while, Richard stepped in and led the meeting in song and then began to preach. He preached a simple yet powerful gospel message and called people to respond. Around 12-15 people responded to Christ, which was fantastic.

One thing I noticed was people’s hunger for God. Here were a group of people hungry for God’s presence and meeting with Him. This really challenged me – have we settled for too little, have I been too easily satisfied? You could feel people’s faith and love for Jesus. That was so encouraging in itself! There was an expectancy – people were expecting to meet with God, and they did. I guess that should not surprise us – as we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.

This was probably what impacted me the most. I have been in other meetings and sensed God’s presence in a greater way, felt more of the Holy Spirit’s power; but I don’t think I have ever seen such faith and expectancy before.

This was not a slick presentation – it was raw and a bit rough around the edges. The stage lights didn’t seem to work, the screen was on the wrong side of the room (because they’ve turned the meeting around by 90 degrees to better accommodate what God is doing). None of that seemed to matter – God was moving in the place.

I do think it’s worth commenting on the context. Here is a local church who were already loving and serving their community. They were already engaging with people far from God, not as a result of a meeting but out of obedience to Christ.

For us, we need to be loving and serving people who don’t know Jesus yet and at the same time praying that God might move in such a way where we live.

Is this revival? I don’t know, but what I do know is that lost people are getting saved, sick people are getting healed and those oppressed are getting set free. That can only be good – and Jesus is getting all the glory.

What to do when there’s a prophet in the house!

JulianWe were very blessed to have our good friend Julian Adams in Derby this weekend just gone. Julian is a gifted prophet and a great gift to the church. The Heaven touches Earth conference we held on Saturday was attended by around 230 people from across Derby and the wider area.  I will post a more detailed review of this later in the week I hope.

Julian also joined us on Sunday morning at Jubilee. He felt he should speak about extravagant worship. Personally, I was both really encouraged and very challenged by this.

I was encouraged because I love enthusiastic worship. Public worship is indeed an overflow of our personal life with God and I love to be in a corporate setting where worship is enthusiastic and passionate.

I was challenged because of a comment he made which was, “Isn’t it funny how extravagant worship of others produces a judgmental spirit in us…?” I have certainly been guilty of this myself, sometimes being irritated by a passionate noisy worshipper in a meeting! When this happens, it reveals the true condition of my heart – not as in love with Jesus as I would want to be. There is a challenge here not to judge others but rather to look at my own relationship with God. (A story about not judging the speck in another’s eyes when there’s a log in your own comes to mind!)

As with all prophetic ministry, what Julian brought needs to be weighed. In fact, that is true not only of prophetic ministry but biblical teaching also. I would be the first one to encourage people to read scripture for themselves and compare what is being taught in church on a Sunday to what the Bible says. We need to be both feeding people with truth and teaching them how to feed themselves with truth.

This Sunday at Jubilee I will follow on from what Julian brought. We will look at what it means to weigh prophecy and how you do that in a God-honouring way. We will consider how all of us can grow in the prophetic, and we will look at the fundamental issue of receiving or being baptised in the Holy Spirit. I do hope you can join us!

Arnold Bell – a life well lived

ArnoldI spent this afternoon at the thanksgiving service for the life and ministry of Arnold Bell, who, until his death shortly before Christmas, led City Church Sheffield. The service had a number of tributes from different people who knew him well. Clearly, this was a life well lived.

One of the Elders of the church spoke from Hebrews 11 and described how the writer to the Hebrews talks about these men and women of faith. They were just ordinary people, he said, believing in an extra-ordinary God, and living accordingly. Arnold was an ordinary man who believed in an extra-ordinary God and certainly lived accordingly. His life was an example to many and even his Thanksgiving service was a challenge to us to believe God and live accordingly.

Here’s what I wrote recently on his tribute page:

My first meeting with Arnold was when he was my lecturer when I was studying on FIT for Leadership, and then FIT2 (the forerunners to Leadership Training Foundations & Advanced). I remember being taught to think Biblically and not make assumptions; to look at what the text actually said and not to be afraid to say, “we don’t know” when we really didn’t know!

I remember preaching class with Arnold and also remember what he thought of my sermon! His honest feedback was invaluable and helped to shape my preaching in both content and delivery.

On FIT2, there were only a handful of us and I well remember how we used to try and get him onto Monty Python or other such subjects on a Friday afternoon! His impressions of comedy moments were quite something!

More recently I have had the privilege to serve with him on the ChristCentral team. He always brought such wisdom and insight to situations and will be sorely missed. Arnold – thank you for all you taught me, modelled to me and encouraged me in. Your legacy lives on.

So my question is this – are you believing God, and are you living accordingly?

… and a very Happy New Year!

Anyone who knows me will know that I am probably the worlds worst blogger. What started off as a good idea soon got relegated to the bottom of the to-do list, and more often than not has fallen off altogether! However, a friends post on Facebook yesterday got me thinking, so I thought I would share my thoughts.

He was reflecting on the year that was 2012. He was saying that for him, it had been a mixed year – some highs, some lows. My guess is that this would be true for most of us. Life is rarely all good or bad – it’s most usually a mixture. He went on to quote from Romans 5:

Romans 5:3-5 (ESVUK)
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul talks about hope. This is one word that has such a stronger meaning in the Bible than we have for it in everyday English. We might hope for good weather, or for a favourite sports team to win their next match. Often this hope is no more than wishful thinking. Biblical hope is so much more. Biblical hope looks not to good fortune but looks to Jesus. We are encouraged to put our hope in Him.

The Psalmist puts it like this:

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. (Psalm 71:5)

As 2012 has now ended and we look forward to 2013, my encouragement to all of us, me included, is not just to hope for a better year, but to put our hope in Him who is our hope. Let’s put our hope and trust in Him who promises to walk through this year with us, no matter what it may bring. As you hope in Him, let me wish you a very Happy, Hope-filled New Year.