Friday, February 01, 2013
I remember as a boy in primary school the first time I heard the nursery rhyme ‘As I was going to St Ives’.
As I was going to St Ives
I met a man with seven wives
Every wife had seven sacks
Every sack had seven cats
Every cat had seven kits
Kits, cats, sacks, wives.
How many were going to St Ives
The tale is of a man travelling to St Ives and the various people he meets on the way. The list gets longer, some of the older versions of the rhyme have many more lines but all end with the question, ‘How many are going to St Ives?’
I remember the class debating it for ages and our teacher, Miss Morgan, patiently waiting for the penny to drop. Of course, only ‘I was going to St Ives’!
What made the debate so long? Why does such a simple rhyme easily fool us into adding all of the characters up and giving the wrong number? The answer is we are so interested with the interaction with people and events we forget the destination.
It is the same in life. We want to digest the moments and forget the final place we are heading to. Some will tell us to live for the moment. Others have a philosophy live for the now you’re a long time dead.
The Bible brings another perspective, an eternal one. We are born to live forever if we accept the gift of salvation God is offering in Jesus. God loves us so much He wants us to be with Him forever.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life
As Christians we are aware that we have a final destination. I am reminded of the story the Evangelist Arthur Blessitt tells. He fell asleep on a plane and after the plane landed the stewardess approached him, gently woke him and asked, ‘what is your final destination sir?’ His immediate reaction in his drowsy state was to answer, ‘heaven’. Heaven was so much a part of him that it was in his subconscious.
The apostle Paul writes in Philippians 3:14
I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus
There is a heavenly prize, an upward call. In Christ when we are born again we become eternal. Not our body which is corruptible but our spirits. We are called to live with an eternal purpose, eternal calling, and eternal destination in mind.
The gate that leads to life is narrow. It is easy to miss those doors along our path that lead to abundant living. We need a pressing on mentality with a determined purpose to fulfil the will of God for our lives.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
I have been meaning to get around to creating a church website for some time but procrastination ruled. I couldn't really see the end result so didn't really have an inclination to work through to a conclusion.
Last September I was in Cape Town for the annual Summit of the Harvester Churches and as well as taking away lots of new material each church leader was given a 'Church Plant Pack'. Apostle Aje Pelser had advised us that if we brought a pen drive to the Summit we could have a copy of the files the pack contained.
When I got home I noticed a folder called 'Corporate Identity'. As I looked through the items I found that I had enough graphic material to start work on the website giving it a look and feel of being a church related to the Harvester family.
I began to do the work just before Christmas but time and events meant I didn't really get time to look at it again until the end of January. As I began to understand how it could look now I have the right graphics I gained heart and pushed through the technical obstacles until I had something I felt could be published on-line. It has been live now for a few weeks and already has evolved.
I was so inspired by the final result that I travelled to the Halifax Church with my son Ben who had helped me with the initial project and we made a 'website in a day' with them.
There is a scripture in Hebrews 12:2 that says: -
"looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God"
We all need something to inspire us to complete things. Jesus was inspired to do the will of His Father and saw things through to the end.
Someone once said it is not how you start a race that matters but how you finish. Become a finisher in life. Run the race well. Endure hardship and push through to the prize.
For the believer the reward is everlasting life. It starts the moment you enter into Christ by faith.
New Harvester Reformational Church Birmingham website can be found at: -
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
It was a privilege to be present at the baptism of Wang Hui (English name Dinah) who was converted to Christ at the 11AM Sunday service on 23rd October 2011.
Dinah is from China and is a student at Aston University where she met one of our church members who invited her to church. Read the full story in the latest Reformer. Just e-mail for a copy.
She was interviewed prior to her baptism and here is the transcription:-
Her baptism video:-
Mary: Dinah, can you tell us a bit about where you’re from and what you do?
Dinah: I’m Dinah and I’m from China. I’m an exchange student at Aston University.
M: Did you hear about Jesus before you came to England?
D: Yes I heard about Jesus because one of my aunts is a Christian so when I was 9 or 10 years old I went to church with her. But at that time I did not know the real meaning behind it. I just knew there was choir and...but I did not know the real meaning of believing in Christ Jesus.
M: How often did you go to that church?
D: I just went there twice.
M: Is your aunt Chinese?
D: Yes, she’s Chinese.
M: How did you come to believe in Jesus?
D: Really amazing! I went to a lecture and I met Mary there. I know that Christianity is the prevailing belief in the Western World because I know that people are guided by their belief and have got their way of doing things so I am really curious about it and so I want to know more about it so I followed Mary to the church Household and see Ben and Annie and Mary and they are dancing in worship. I want to be part of the body so I just want to establish my relationship with God. So I prayed with Graham and then I confessed that Jesus is my Lord.
M: How has God helped you?
D: It’s not easy to be alone and to go abroad, sometimes I just feel homesick. I think I’ve gone through a culture shock! I think everybody is hostile and English people are really cold! God made Mary and I meet and God gave me a family – Graham and Annie are my father and mother and I have Ben, Mary and Katie are my sisters and brother.
God helps me with my studying, in my life, and I know that God will never forsake me, He will guide me and help me.
M: Why do you want to be baptised?
D: Because Jesus said ‘Believe and be baptised’ and I just want to obey His words and commands.
M: Thank you, Dinah. It’s such a blessing to be a part of your story.
Her baptism video:-
Monday, January 09, 2012
I am not a great fan of the way most people celebrate Christmas. It often is to do with an excess of spending and indulging and bears little resemblance to a Christian celebration. Over the years as a family we decided to stop giving presents and see it as a time to celebrate each other and spend the time together enjoying that.
This year was very special. Our daughter Jenny is now living in South Africa with her husband Louwrens and is expecting her first child due any time now. It was sad not to have her here but God made up for that with an international set of guests.
We had three nationalities staying with us over the holidays. Mary lives with us permanently and is from Lebanon. She has become a daughter in our home integrating well with the rest of us. Dinah is a student at Aston University and the newest convert in our church. She is from China and is studying in the UK with a view to doing a Masters degree. Werner was also a temporary guest visiting from the Harvester Church in Cape Town. He was here to see his girlfriend Katie, a church member, and do some work in the Church.
I cooked breakfast for us all Christmas morning. It felt so right to have all of us together. It reminded me of the unity that comes from belonging to Christ and the fact that there is no national barrier between God's people. We are one in Christ.
We held the Christmas Day service in our home which continued this sense of family. It was special to worship and pray with each other. Tears were shed and bonds were strengthened.
I think I have now discovered how to celebrate Christmas. Make it a celebration of the family of God and the wonder of His Body.
So next year who knows who will be with us.
Friday, July 22, 2011
As I was preparing to preach today one of the verses I read stood out to me and led me along a whole different meditation.
“For whoever gives you a cup of cold water to drink in My Name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward”
As I meditated I felt challenged as to my attitude to receiving from those God chooses to use.
1. God uses ‘whoever’
Whoever may be someone we don’t know, or someone we wouldn’t choose to receive from. They could be anonymous to us. The important thing is they are God’s channel of provision.
When I have been in need, especially financially, I have often looked for a source God would use. The well off ones, or close friends. More times than not is has been the person I would never have dreamt of – the pensioner or someone with little resources themselves. The first person to give into my ministry was a pensioner with little money. I confess to feeling a little guilty receiving.
If it’s whoever we can’t choose them God does.
2. A cup of cold water
A cup of cold water doesn’t seem a lot. Yet to a thirsty man it is everything.
It can be the smallest and most insignificant thing to us that we give but to someone else it can be so important and necessary.
One of the most precious things to give is our time. Going out of our way to walk the extra mile. I have been privileged to be on the receiving end of so many kind gestures. People have taken the trouble to help or spend time with me to make sure I enjoyed something. On my trips to South Africa to minister I have received so much kindness. It may seem like a ‘cup of cold water’ to some, not much, but it creates lasting memories and precious moments to those who receive.
3. In My Name
This prompted me to consider my attitude and thoughts as a receiver. Do I see it as from Christ? Do I see that beyond the gesture the ultimate source is God? He inspired the gift to meet my need because He loves me.
Pride often causes us to refuse what people offer. We can wrap it up with all manner of false humility but pride often refuses to allow us to see ourselves in a place of need.
We need to show thankfulness and gratitude when we receive and humbly accept what God is using someone to give.
4. Because you belong to Christ
I see in today’s world we want to be the answer to all the provision in our lives. Or maybe the opposite, we expect everything to come form others and we do little for it. God does expect us to work hard and enjoy the reward of our own hands but if we are in Christ we are designed to be part of His Body the Church. There is a responsibility to give and receive.
Apostle André Pelser quotes his friend and mentor Mike Woods as saying. ‘None of us have it all together but together we have it all’
God has so designed Church that we need each other. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that we are members of a body. Some are hands, some eyes, some feet but with Christ as the Head. We are made in Christ to belong to each other.
I saw from this not only that we need each other.The gift we receive is simply an in-house transfer. The giver is not going to lose out because it is all within the Body. I just happen to be in need and the provision is to allow me to continue ministry to the Body.
5. He will by no means lose his reward
As God is the source of the gift He is the source of the reward. I have sometimes made too much fuss when I have received from others, often to their embarrassment. It’s because I have been so grateful or maybe even relieved because of the pressure of the need.
I found it a great blessing to realise I can receive with confidence because God will reward them.
Jesus said ‘assuredly’. It is a vow He uses here, not just an idle phrase. There is substance behind the promise.
If we give ‘in His Name’ and to someone ‘belonging to Christ’ He is obliged to reward. If we give to bless others for the sake of the Kingdom and prompted by God we will not lose out.
As a receiver that lifts the responsibility from my shoulders. I don’t have to feel guilty about taking a gift. God will reward.
Friday, September 10, 2010
One thing I like about the Internet is the instant access to information and resources. It allows you to re-live some things and helps take you back to past times that were precious to you.
When I was in my early 20's I served as a Pastor in a small church in West Yorkshire. I play guitar and introduced many new songs and styles of worship to the congregation. I even formed a group from some of the young people and we sang and worshipped in quite a few places.
One of my favourite artists from that era is an American gospel artist called Andrae Crouch. He was different, very real. More a worshipper than a performer. I managed to see him live on his tours to Britain in the 1970's and was never disappointed. I have several vinyl LP's of him my favourite being 'Best of Andrae Crouch and the Disciples'. Sadly I have no record player anymore but I was able to buy a couple of remixed Cd's a few ears ago with all the favourite songs on them.
I love music, love playing guitar and singing. I am a worshipper. Songs are more than sentiment and words to me but a way of discovering the reality of God's presence in my life. Many times when I listen to music I weep, not because of memories it invokes but truth it speaks of. I love the old Wesleyan hymns because in them is such amazing doctrinal truth. I often find songs speak more accurately of God's truth than sermons.
Worship in song has done many things for me. It has broken depression, brought deep inner healing, inspired prophecy, released joy and happiness.
I remember one beautiful memory when I was in a meeting years ago. A man I knew was attending and had a serious heart condition that threatened his life. I was with him in the meeting when someone performed a song, 'Rise and be Healed'. As it was sung the man I knew stood to his feet in faith in response to the words and was totally healed. A very special memory indeed.
The love for music was imparted by my father. He was not a spiritual man, far from it. He had a great voice. He would sing to me songs his mother sang to him as a child. He was born 1905 so you can imagine the sings were very unfamiliar to me and from an era long gone. I still remember them. The memories are probably the only sweet memories I have of him. His love of singing gave me a love of singing. He was a pub singer, me a gospel singer. In his last days my music was what he heard. The songs of faith and hope. I took him to church one day and he wept as the hymns were played. A few weeks before his death from cancer he made peace with God. His song could have been so different. He would have made a great gospel singer.
Music and song have paid a big part in my journey. I understand why David has so much to say in song in the Psalms. My song has changed over the years. My new understanding means that some songs that were precious I can no longer sing because the words are not accurate. So new songs need to be written and sung.
Friday, May 21, 2010
The past couple of weeks have been filled with incredible acts of kindness. On Friday 7th May I was sat in the evening enjoying a night in with my wife. As we relaxed I received an SMS from a friend in Cape Town. It read something like this: 'André wants you here for conference, ticket paid, when can you come?' At first it didn't sink in. I was all geared up for our trip in July / August and resigned to the fact that that would be the next time I saw my daughter Jenny. It took about half an hour and the arrangements were in place, I was booked on a plane from Birmingham via Amsterdam the following Monday.
As I winged my way over Africa I was so excited and hoped that the trip would be kept from Jenny so I could surprise her. I was almost the first off the plane as it landed and my lift from the airport indicated that it was probable that she didn't know. As we pulled into the drive at Apostle André's house I was a little nervous. It was after 10:30 and I thought Jenny might already be in bed. It turned out that she was the one answering the door. Her face immediately told me she didn't know. At first it was total incredulity, 'is this my dad, can't be he's in England, but it is' She melted into my arms and dissolved in tears. It was the start of a great week with her. She is so happy and I am so privileged to have been able to see it.
Next day I was visited by the other two Brits in the Church, Duncan and Beverley. It was great to see them and even after just three weeks it was obvious they were benefiting from their time there. Lots of catching up.
The week was so blessed. I feel at home in the church there. I received a message from one of the church members on my return: "just having you here at church is heart-warming, like an older brother who left the nest to build his family, and comes home for holidays to visit." That's how it feels.
I had mixed feelings as I left. Wanted to stay longer but knew that things needed doing here.
My return was scheduled for Monday 17th on the 23:55 plane to Amsterdam but the ash cloud meant it was delayed until 6 the next morning. More time with Jenny at least. The delay meant I would not be able to make my connecting flight to Birmingham and the earliest alernative was a day later which meant a stay over in Holland.
This is where other old friendships came to the rescue. I have known my friend Anita since school, she is one of my prayer supporters and we regularly visited her and her family in Holland during the 1990's. Business and different journeys meant I had not seen her since 2003. Annie arranged for me to stay there and I wondered if it may feel a little awkward. I needn't have worried. I was made so welcome and felt so at home. It was a great bonus to see them.
I finally got back to be met at the airport by my best friend on earth, my wife. She is truly amazing. I am so blessed, all of this friendship offered freely.
It reminded me of the scripture from Proverbs about a 'friend who sticks closer than a brother'. His name is Jesus. Such a faithful friend.
Thank you God for your blessings, for friends and loved ones who are a gift from you.