Thursday, 30 August 2012

Back in Beijing..

As I write, I am sat just half a mile from Tiananmem Sq having breakfast. It's Saturday and we (I'm traveling with Steve, my son) have just one more day here before heading home after an awesome 10 days here in Beijing. And what a trip it has been! Exhilarating, exciting, exhausting and more, but above all a joy, catching up with dear friends, and a massive privilege getting to speak in all sorts of contexts. It’s 4 or 5 years since I was last here, but it feels like yesterday, and we quickly got back into the hurly burly and general craziness of this huge, crowded city!

A priority for us on this trip has been to enjoy time with my good friend Byron who became a very special friend when we were here last. Byron with his wife Karen heads up Newday Creations which is a very special place on the outskirts of Beijing, incorporating a foster home for 40 or so babies awaiting adoption, a language school, and a factory for local workers. (Check out Newday website) On top of that, Byron is strongly involved with BICF (Beijing International Christian Fellowship) and other Christian groups here, and he arranged a pretty full on itinerary for our visit with speaking engagements here there and everywhere!

Another high priority has been to spend time with Phil & Laura Harverson who moved to Newday with their family about a month ago. Phil previously led the Newfrontiers church Oasis in Chelmsford before relocating to China, and we were their first visitors from the old country! It has been great to meet up and spend time with them in their little apartment - complete with a huge picture of a London bus outside Fortnum & Masons, hanging on the wall! Phil has just bought an electric bike / truck thing to transport the family around the village & we got to ride on the back - what a hoot! Actually it’s Phil’s birthday today and we will be enjoying birthday cake with him this afternoon! Do pray for these guys as they find their feet here - especially for their children Abi, Peter and Hannah, that they will quickly make good friends here.

Steve & I have been based at Newday where we have been wonderfully looked after. In fact during our stay a new baby arrived at Newday, and they have a tradition that if there are guests staying when a new baby arrives, they get to suggest a name! Well, it was a little boy just a few months old, so Steve came up with the name Henry. Those of you from Kings will have fond memories of Henry Tyler who was so instrumental at Kings years ago. So we figured that people back at Kings would have no problem remembering to pray for a little Chinese boy called Henry in Beijing, that God would strengthen and heal him and find him a Christian family somewhere in the world. Special. You can see his picture on the Newday website.

Steve and I have got to speak in a number of settings and met some wonderful people whilst here. Particularly special was the Sunday morning when after preaching I was asked to baptise three new believers - what a joy! And how these people sing! So thank you Byron, thank you Phil & Laura, thank you BICF and all the other dear friends we have had the privilege to meet, and above all, thank you Lord for allowing us to serve your precious people in this part of the world - it is a special frontier!

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Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas - it's amazing!

I like Christmas! You wont get any humbug from me, even if I do get a bit wound up by all the hype and excess, because there are many good things about Christmas to be celebrated and enjoyed. Personally, I look forward to time with the family at home - the great company, the laughter, the food.. log fire.. games.. pressies.. And yes, I am very aware how blessed I am to be able to enjoy all of the above when so many in the world keenly feel the absence of such things at this time. I’m very grateful.

I also like Christmas because of the focus on Jesus - even if he does so often get lost amongst all the nonsense. Let him be heard! Now this is where I’m afraid I do have a bit of a gripe - some of those awful carols... (I’m going to get into trouble here..!) like ‘Away in a manger’. Who said baby Jesus never cried? He really was human you know! And what about the line.. ‘Christian children all should be mild (??!!) obedient, good as he.’

And then there’s the de-radicalizing of Scripture - listen out for the reading of Isaiah chapter 53, read with polished poise.. “Who has believed our report...” when actually it should be read with shocked amazement, something like.. “Who on earth will ever believe this??!” because what Isaiah goes on to describe, centuries before it happened, is a Saviour King who would willingly be humbled & humiliated, beaten & killed, all for the sake of carrying the guilt and punishment of lost people like us. Astonishing! And long may it amaze and astonish us and result in loud and long celebrations!!

My prayer is that Jesus will be seen and heard because he really is the Saviour of the world - and we are in need of saving. Yes, he came for the last, the least, the little and the lost, to pay a price that we could never pay to bring us into a life & future that we could never earn, and for that, I am eternally grateful!

So have a great Christmas - be amazed.. and very grateful to God!


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Sunday, 23 October 2011

Knowing & enjoying God..

Someone asked me this morning for details of a quote that I used whilst preaching, and I promised to put it on my blog this afternoon! It is actually my all time favourite quote outside of the Bible and I can practically quote it by heart! The reason that I love this quote is because it expresses so well the truth about God's grace and his kindness towards us.
It is from J I Packer's classic book, 'Knowing God', from the chapter entitled 'Knowing and being known'.
I hope you enjoy it!

“What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it – the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort – the sort of comfort that energises, be it said, not enervates – in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love, and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me. There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and am I glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realise this purpose. We cannot work these thoughts out here, but merely to mention them is enough to show how much it means to know, not merely that we know God, but that He knows us.”



Sunday, 2 October 2011

Joy on the Journey..

Joy is in short supply nowadays, believe me, I’ve just been reading the weekend papers. So it’s very timely that we have just begun our new preaching series @kingsnorwich entitled ‘Joy on the Journey’. Based on the Book of Philippians, this series seeks to show that living life as a Christian really should affect your demeanor in a very noticeable way, even (or perhaps I should say especially) in challenging circumstances. Ask the apostle Paul; his life was not exactly a tea party, what with the numerous beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, personal setbacks & abandonments, yet he demonstrated that a Christian, living with an ongoing, intimate relationship with Jesus, is able to walk through the severest circumstances and still know joy and peace of mind.

Paul describes this dynamic, life-changing relationship with Jesus as ‘being in Christ’, and not as the pinnacle that super-Christians might one day aspire to, but the fundamental stance of every Christian. Of all the expressions in the New Testament, the phrase ‘in Christ Jesus’ is one of the most difficult to translate well. In union with Christ Jesus is probably the closest in English, but in other languages you have to use expressions like ‘tied to Christ Jesus,’ ‘one with Christ Jesus,’ or ‘standing together with Christ Jesus.’ One writer put it like this: To be in union with the living Christ is to live continually in his presence just as a bird in the air, a fish in the water, or the roots of a tree in the soil”.
You see, there’s no such thing as a ‘nominal’ Christian. In the vocabulary of Paul and the New Testament you are either ‘in Christ’ or you’re still ‘dead in your trespasses and sins’. The problem is that we have often lowered the bar in terms of what it means to be a Christian (“Just believe, give mental assent”) and with it, the expectation of what the Christian life should be like. Gordon Fee puts it like this: Knowing Christ is not some kind of intellectual exercise. Rather it is to live in relationship with him in such a way that one comes to know him intimately. And to know him is to be conformed into his likeness.

I’m not writing this blog to make you feel bad! Quite the opposite. In these uncertain, fear-inducing days I believe that Christians not only have astonishing resources to draw on - if they will start living in Christ, they also have the only real answer for their dismayed neighbors who have no idea what the future holds for them.

I close with a quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones: ‘A Christian is not merely one who is a little less miserable than he was. He is one who rejoices.’! And I for one, am very glad about that!


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