This is the new normal!

ad_encounterFor some time now, I have been trailing the weekend just gone as one which I felt would be significant in the life of Jubilee Church. We were really looking forward to the visit of a team from Kings Church Horsham and had a real sense that God wanted to do something quite seismic in the church. He did!

We were wonderfully served by Andy, Trevor, Janet, Jo, Juliet, Nicky, Jules and Jon from Kings. This gifted team gave themselves to us over the whole weekend. It was a packed programme and they served enthusiastically and with such graciousness over the entire time. They had prayed and prepared and came ready to give. We are so grateful to God for them and for their heart to be a blessing to us.

The sense of God’s presence over the weekend was tangible. The prophetic gift which was released was incredible. God has certainly been at work in Jubilee this weekend, and I feel that He has raised the bar as to what is to be called “normal” in church life. The challenge for us now is to not go back, not to settle for anything less. If we are not careful to push on, then this weekend could just become a “that was nice” weekend in our history. I don’t believe for one minute that is what God would want. This remarkable weekend should serve to encourage and motivate forward into all that God wants for us. Sarah and I are certainly up for that. Who else wants to come on the journey?

Visit to Cambodia – January 2015

I thought it might be helpful to write a blog post about my recent time in Cambodia. I am well aware that my last post was over a year ago, so I make no promises about the regularity of such posts!

I am writing this on the plane back from Cambodia. This has been my second visit, and once again, it has been a great trip.

The main reason for going was to be part of a team teaching at the Pastors & Wives leadership conference for Transform Asia in Cambodia. Transform Asia (TA) have somewhere around 35-40 churches working together alongside a variety of social action projects right across the county. This is all led by Setan and Randa Lee, together with a small team of staff and other leaders. Both ChristCentral Churches and Jubilee Church Derby are partnering with TA and seeking to serve them and be a blessing where we can.

On the way out there, I met up with Mike and Kay Sprenger in Amsterdam, and we travelled the rest of the way together .

Landing in Phnom Penh on Saturday 17th January, we were met by Setan and some of his staff, and then we headed to the South West of the county where we stayed overnight. Mike preached on Sunday morning in Chhouk Kampot and I preached in the afternoon in Phnom Vor, both TA churches.

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Phnom Vor is right in the centre of a jungle area, in the middle of nowhere. There was, however, great 3G mobile phone reception! We saw 4 first-time decisions to follow Christ alongside 4+ healings. It was wonderful to see God on the move, but intensely frustrating not being able to speak the language and converse easily.  IMG_0053

After another overnight stay, we arrived in Kep on the Monday morning. This was the location of the conference and would be home for the next few days. It was great to have hot water once again, but not so great to have a mixture of geckos, large spiders and cockroaches! However, the view from the guest house more than made up for this!

Mike, Kay and I, together with Scott Price who works with Setan in Cambodia, all spoke on the theme of, “Don’t lose your way.” We were encouraging the 80+ delegates to hold fast in their commitment to Christ, and not to fall at the many obstacles that life throws at us. We looked at the particular hurdles that leaders often face, namely money, sex and power.

The teaching was well received, as were we. On the Wednesday evening we had an evening meeting where I taught about the Holy Spirit and then we prayed for one another. God moved powerfully and it10904011_10152594364755796_7242436137108835516_o was evident that the Holy Spirit was at work refreshing, encouraging and empowering people.

Serving this group of leaders was great fun. They have much to teach us about serving the poor, counting the cost and prayer. I trust we can serve them by teaching from the Bible and sharing from our experience in building the church.

On the Friday, we travelled back to Phnom Penh where Mike & Kay and I checked into a now familiar hotel and enjoyed the rest of the day relaxing together. I was delighted to visit the Blue Pumpkin coffee shop once again!

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The second weekend saw me meet up with Simon & Becci Brown They are leading the Newfrontiers Church Plant, Liberty Family Church in Phnom Penh and it was a great joy to see them once again, and this time to meet with their church on the Sunday morning. I preached on God’s heart for the nations as they had a special Sunday celebrating this theme.

They and their team of young leaders are doing a great job, building a church that is true to the model of church we see in the New Testament, and reflects the values we hold dear.

It was an unexpected bonus to also meet up with another Newfrontiers leader from the UK who had been travelling to another nation in the Far East.

It has been a real privilege to see what God is doing right across the other side of the word. It has been a joy and an honour to meet with leaders, encourage some churches and to preach and teach in a variety of settings.

At a prayer meeting on the Sunday evening as my trip drew to a close, God broke in and the Holy Spirit moved powerfully. We are praying and asking God for such a breakout here. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. And He’s the same in Derby and the UK & Europe as well as in Cambodia and South East Asia.

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.

Is anything blocking the river?

I preached yesterday from Ezekiel 47 about the River of God. The image of a river or flowing water is often used in scripture as a picture of the Holy Spirit or the Presence of God. The passage in Ezekiel reminds us that God’s presence brings life, that He wants us to experience His presence and that His Kingdom is an ever-increasing Kingdom.

But we also looked at potential blockages to the river of God in our lives. Just like this waterfall which I saw on a recent walk, stuff can get into out lives which blocks what God wants to do. Four things came to mind particularly, but I am sure there are more. These are:

  1. Unbelief
  2. Cynicism
  3. Lack of faith
  4. Sin

Unbelief is OK if it’s your starting point and you don’t stay there! A man who brought his son to Jesus to have Jesus heal him, exclaimed in Mark 9:24, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” God loves to help us overcome our unbelief.

If unbelief is not dealt with, it can lead to cynicism. Cynicism is dangerous – it says things like, “I’ve seen it all before”, “Yea, yea, I’ve heard it all before…”. Cynicism can quickly become a mindset and rather than it being the blockage to what God wants to do, you become the blockage. If you’re prone to cynicism, repent of it and ask God to give you faith and to help you overcome your unbelieving cynicism.

On one occasion, Jesus rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith (Mark 16:14). We should be people full of faith and those who are growing in faith.

Finally, sin can block what God wants to do in our lives, particularly if it’s persistent and habitual. God loves to forgive and offer a new start, so if you’ve got caught up in sin, turn to God, confess it to Him and repent of it and ask Him to make His river flow in your life once again.

The river that started as a trickle became a deep river that no-one could cross. Let’s be asking God to make that true of His work in our lives.