Advent- Brokenness Restored

I love Christmas, the season, the build up but I have noticed that it has grown into this picture perfect time of year.
Its not limited to commercialism either, the nativity story has become this lovely story of cute baby Jesus being born, the famous carol Away in a Manger says “Little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” Really?

Jesus was born into a world full of hurt, pain and brokenness. He was born not in a palace but a grimy stable, not to wealthy perfect parents, but to a teenage mum! It was gritty and real.
Christmas is not a time to pretend that everything is okay but a time to be reminded of our saviour, our need for heavens intervention, Jesus the Son of God entering the brokenness of this world because he loves us.
On the cross Jesus takes our sin, our brokenness and restores, through faith in Jesus life is eternally transformed.

The Christmas story, is the story of God’s rescue, of Gods light shining brightly into the darkness.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9.

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Advent Devotional- Hope

If I could sum up what I think about advent I would use the word hope. Not in a wishy-washy ‘I hope this works out’ way, but hope as the bible describes it, the confident expectation of good things to come.

Titus 2:11-13 describes what as Christians we are hoping for:

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

It’s a word to us today to keep going, keep trusting, keep looking up, to be full of hope.  If through hope we can keep looking to Jesus it will give us a heavenly perspective on the ups and downs of life.
As we celebrate advent and remember when Jesus came for the first time, it reminds me that just as God kept his promise to rescue us, he will keep his promise to return & take us home and for that I am full of hope!

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Glory to God

The church which I am involved in leading- Redeemer King is super blessed to have a whole bunch of creative people serving on the team.
They have written and performed this brand new original track called Glory to God.

It’s a really apt title track for our debut EP, the heart behind planting RK was to bring glory to God, so it brings me joy that people within the church are now creatively streching out that others can worship, connect with God and bring him glory.

 

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Tanzania- drawing to a close

I am sat looking at Lake Malawi- one of Africa’s Great Lakes. Some argue it belongs to Tanzania others Malawi in fact there is an on going international dispute as to where the border is. For the purposes of me seeing a different country lets say it is Malawi. 

Kyela is the last location for the pastors conferences that I have taken part in(where I am now) and that takes place tomorrow. Today has been a travel and rest day, we travelled 30km on a dusty rocky road which reminded me of some  of the roads you would see the old top gear boys on- it took a while! But boy was it worth it. Lake Malawi, washing up against the feet of the Livingstone mountain range- an obvious reminder of the beauty of our planet and how awesome our creator is. The fact is we don’t have to look far, whether it’s the night sky or each and every person we see, we should see the beauty of creation and of course it’s creator, but sometimes something spectacular brings it all into focus. 

It’s a real honour to be able to serve The Lord in this part of the world and I am thankful for my prayerful supportive church family for making this possible, I hope not only will this time impact the pastors here but my heart and I hope our church too. 

To date we (that’s me and my Father in law) have done four conferences in Mbozi, Tunduma, Mbeya and Tukuyu. Each conference has around three to three and a half hours of bible teaching plus a lunch which we provide for all the pastors. The food provided for them is a real treat- rice, sauce and meat, it may sound standard but for most it is a meal they at most may enjoy once a month. 

I have so far taught from Exodus, Luke and Romans 12 with Peter focussing on Matthew 16 and the book of Titus. Romans 12 has been great as I have explored with the pastors that the gospel message should shape our life and our faith should shape our actions. Many of the pastors think you have to earn Gods favour through works, where as the book of Romans teaches that because of Gods mercy and grace to us in sending Jesus to die in our place we can be made right with God- and because of this we should and can live in such a way to bring him glory, we can draw attention to Jesus with the way we conduct ourselves in this world. 

The pastors, churches and families we have seen and ministered too have been so thankful- some of them remembered me from three years ago so it was great to see those guys again alongside many new faces, they have been incredibly welcoming and hungry to know more of The Lord – they rarely get any bible teaching– so it is awesome to be able to share that and show them the gospel. Many of them are experts on creation or the last days but the heart of the bible is the revelation of Jesus Christ as Gods son and him coming to rescue us- that gospel (good news) message is what we have been sharing time and again- if the pastors get that, then so do their churches! It’s this message that transforms and saves lives not whether we believe in six literal days of creation or not!

It has been a joy to be here and as this trip to Tanzania draws to a close I pray that the effect of the teaching on the pastors and churches would bear lasting fruit in seeing the kingdom of God advance and multiply in South West Tanzania. 

There’s so much more to say and of course to do, but for now… This time draws to a close. 

   
 

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Jambo Jambo 

Hi everyone, I have arrived in South West Tanzania and all is  well. Today we took our first pastors conference in a town called Mbozi, it is south of Mbeya on the way to Zambia just off the great north road which runs the length of Africa. 

Around 25 pastors from villages all around turned up and we got to share the good news of Jesus with them encouraging them in their faith. None of them have had any training, they have zero resources , no access to any books or online stuff so they were incredibly thankful. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to share a little. 

I am now in the city of Tunduma (right on the Zambia border) tomorrow we have another conference with hopefully over fifty local pastors from both Tanzania and Zambia.
Please pray for the next few days I hope to be sharing from Romans 12 on the gospel & living that out and seeing the kingdom advance here in TZ. 

It’s an amazing country and the people so friendly- be amazing to see God move and transform communities In this part of the world. I was going to say beautiful as a landscape but it’s not the serengeti or Mount Kilimanjaro- it’s a dust bowl- a harsh terrain, poor, but full of character! The people, just beautiful their hospitality, kindness and hunger for God should inspire us to greater things. They live out the truth of verses like philippians 3:8,

“I count everything as loss compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

Really humbling. Thanks for reading. 
That’s all for now. Cheers. 

  
 

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Rahab- An unlikely hero.

Life is an adventure, consisting of plenty of ups and downs, good days, bad days, moments of triumph and moments to forget.
How do we retain peace in who we are and what we are here for when our world and our lives are just roller coasters of emotion. How can we have any security & hope for the future based on our past?

As Christians thankfully our identity is not based on our past achievement or failures, consider Rahab.
You can read her story and how the bible comments on her life in Joshua 2, Joshua 6: 22-25Hebrews 11:31 & James 2:25.

Rahab literally means pride, insolence, savagery- hence there’s not many little girls called Rahab, she was a Caananite who were the enemies of Israel and their God, her chosen profession was prostitution- in fact it’s debated as to whether she was a madam operating a brothel out of her own home, oh and she was a convincing liar. She is not stand out material for hero of the year. Yet, despite all that, her past, her choices, God transforms her life, she puts her trust in God and she goes onto to become the Great Great Grandma of King David, and she appears in the family tree of Jesus as seen in Matthew 1.

She faced a choice as we all do, whose story are we trusting in? Are you defined by your history or by the history of God?
What is your faith borne out of? Is it the greateness of God or faith in our own ability?

This is what it says of Rahab who hid the spies and so saved their lives,

“I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, & that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt…..the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Joshua 2.

Here is a woman whose own history and life is stacked against her, yet she hears something and acts upon it. Don’t let your past, your darkest present moments continue to be a barrier to God: sin is massive- yet grace goes further, all too often our past is a hang up that minimises grace. Your own history does not shape all you have to offer and all you can be, God’s does.

And his history centres around Jesus the God-man stepping into the breach for you in order to rescue. When Jesus hangs upon a cross- he hangs with the weight of our sin and wrong before God on his shoulders, his death and subsequent ressurection secure a new future for those who put their trust in Jesus, the Bible as God’s story is one that says to you, come home.

So like Rahab, whatever our depths, in faith lets centre on the one who moves mountains, the one who breached the gap between us and God so we could be welcomed into the family of God.

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The trip to Calais

In mid October, along with two guys from our Church we ventured down from Derbyshire to Calais in Northern France.  We went to the home which is known as “the Jungle”. It is a camp made up of both refugees and economic migrants from large parts of Africa and the Middle East. We spent a few hours of the afternoon in the camp.

The purpose of the trip was threefold,

  1. Take some items (blankets, tents, clothing) in order to help those who now call the jungle their home.
  2. See for ourselves what it is truly like. The media stirs up all sorts and I would recommend going along and seeing with your own eyes before passing judgment either way. (It is worth having a contact on the ground though, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies)
  3. To encourage the Christians there and get alongside a team (who go in weekly to share the good news of Jesus). All with a view of discovering what can we do to make a difference and help bring hope.

    So…  we did take some stuff. The people of Redeemer King Church  were very generous and we filled up my car with a load of clothing (mainly for men) pots, pans, blankets, chocolates, sleeping bags and tents.

    Some of what was taken

    Some of what was taken

    Some of this was distributed to a few Sudanese guys we met, they had a shopping trolley that we filled at the road side.
    But for the most part we opened up our boot and people gathered round. There was no violence, anger or even the slightest problem, in fact they were more polite than we are. “Can I please have this?” “Do you have any shoes that will fit me?” At one point I was surrounded by 20 guys from Iran, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and they all patiently waited their turn, all of them thankful, all of them keen to wrap up warm ahead of winter.

    The Jungle – well you drive along a B road out of Calais and it is literally there, by the side of the road. It’s like going from your town to the next with a refugee camp along the side of the road. You take one turn off this B road and you’re in.  It is a camp of about 5,000,  but growing every day as more and more men, women and children make the perilous journey. It’s slowly developing and loads of French and British people were on the ground cleaning up, building shelters and facilities and generally being helpful. That being said, it’s not a nice place to be. It’s a slum and I can only imagine what conditions will be like as winter takes hold

    It is heavily segregated, dependant upon where you have travelled from, and even which tribe you belong too from wthin that country. It was peaceful whilst we were there but empty shotgun casings on the floor and the presence of French riot police tell a different story. We spent most of our time with a group of around 20 blokes from the Darfur region in Sudan. (pictured below)

    Some of the guys

    Some of the guys

    We sat around in one of their tents as the rain lashed down singing songs, drinking chai (tea) and eating dates. Even though they had travelled thousands of miles, they showed incredible generosity towards us – they have nothing to their own names, yet shared what they had. Very humbling.
    Most of them were at the jungle because they were waiting. Waiting for their papers, waiting for a light at the end of a very long tunnel. Most of them wanted asylum in France or elsewhere in mainland Europe and they had each come to better their life – they wanted education or to be reunited with relatives. You can’t blame them, I’m fairly sure we would do exactly the same. And the attraction of Calais? Well it’s not the town… it’s more shabby than chic, it’s where their mates are, so why not wait together?

    Mohammed told me about his journey from Darfur, up from Sudan into Libya and the Sahara desert, four days in cars and walking to get on a boat headed for Sicily- absolutely rammed with people- and during the crossing people are falling off left and right and there’s no lifeboats, no search and rescue just abandonment. Then from there up through Italy and onto France- a long way to end up in a slum for what seems an indefinite time period. He had been there 11 months. All he wants is to study and help his family out.
    The living conditions are poor, tarps and tents make up the majority, however, thanks to the generosity of volunteers they do have warm clothing.

    As for giving them hope, we sat round and talked about Jesus, a Spanish man shared his story and we sang some songs. Week in week out, a team from a local town go in and share the good news with them. There were also two Churches in the Jungle one which was set up by some Pentecostal Ethiopians (Come on!) that had literally just begun.

    So how do we make a difference?
    Well to be honest, the guys on the ground are doing an amazing job so pray for them, encourage them, support them. If you are reading this in Kent or London, get involved.
    You see to really help you need to be in it for the long haul, to be there regularly to invest in relationship, that is more difficult to do from a few hundred miles away. You can end up feeling a bit helpless about it.

    However, this crisis is larger than Calais, and that’s where other charities come into play. Helping people in Syria or Iraq or other countries where they are being displaced from is really key, helping those that simply cannot make the journey that many of them have made.
    So that’s certainly worth exploring either as individuals or Churches.

    My final thoughts from going to Calais are these –  we need to change our attitude and approach; to treat people as people; and in the midst of loving people to direct them towards the hope that we have in Jesus.

    More often than not we spend all our time with people like us, and as a result we love those like us and struggle with anyone who is different. The call of Christ is to share his love not just with our mates, but with those who are not like us, to love those vastly different.  In order to change, we have to be intentional in who we hang out with, be willing to take some risks, to be generous and bless people- even if their lives look so different, we have to be the ones who bring hope by telling them of the saviour of the world. For guys like Mohammed in Calais, asylum in the UK or France will not meet their deepest needs, but meeting Jesus will.

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