Wednesday, 12 December 2012

What is our focus?

Christmas is less than two weeks away. Yet again I have to ask, where has the year gone? I can't believe how quickly the last 12 months have gone. Yes I know it is a sign of growing older that time becomes compressed. The year or so has gone so quick yet so many events have taken place.

In the last 14 months we have seen two amazing young people leave this Earth to take their place with their saviour. Some lovely friends have left and returned to their homelands, taking a piece of our hearts with them. New people have come in and added themselves to our community, some because they have come to know the grace, love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ

This is our focus.

I have been so challenged lately by the apostle Paul's words in Romans 9:3 where he is basically saying that he is so desperate for his Jewish community to come to know Christ that he would be willing to accept separation himself if that were possible. Think of the impact and consequences of those words for a minute. Those are some pretty big feelings that Paul is pouring out there. This is the same Paul who can seem quite harsh and focused on the personal purity and growth of followers of Christ. He lets his feelings for his fellow Jews overflow with desperation as he sees them following the same legalistic road that he once travelled.

My challenge for us as NCLC is, are we more focused on our own personal walk with Christ (which IS essential) than we are to see our friends and our world saved from a life without Christ and a lost and dying eternity? Do we have a bit of Paul's desperation in us? We don't have to be alienated from Christ, but we may have to give up some of our "me" time.

This coming year our challenge as a church community is to keep our focus on the lost and to also grow more Christlike.

We will be making some changes in the new year that will allow us to move forward and see our communities impacted with Christ.

Over the past eighteen months we have bought our own office space and moved from doing everything in our dining room. We have also moved Sunday venue three times, ending up in our venue, the place we now call home. We have brought structure, policies and procedures to our staffing, finance and HR areas. This has all helped set a great foundation for the organisational side of our community. Despite the tragedies of lost loved ones, people leaving the community, "God has crowned the year with His favour."

Now it is time to continue our forward momentum.

The church leadership is being very intentional about looking at all aspects of our community to see what has stagnated and what is working. We will be reintroducing some things, leaving some things behind and starting some fresh initiatives. All done within the boundaries and culture of who we are as NCLC and with the question in mind...

"Will it MAKE and GROW healthy DISCIPLES?"

I am excited to see what God will bring in 2013.

But we still have a few more weeks to serve the purpose of God in 2012. Our Christmas presentation is not just a nice service at Christmas, it is an opportunity to present the good news of Jesus to those that don't know Him. On the 23rd December we have the Cottey's back with us from Tanzania. Then our last service of 2012 on 30th December at 5pm will be a great night of worship and baptisms. If you haven't been baptised, don't put it off any longer, obey what the word of God has told us to do. What better time to be baptised in water than as we end one year and head into the next.

Are we prepared, as Paul was, to give up something of ourselves in order to bring the lost to Christ. This is our challenge. Will you join me?

See you Sunday.
Teesside 11am
Newcastle 6pm.

Merry Christmas

Jon, Dee,Théa, Imani & Judah Cook
(not forgetting our newest addition to the family, Breck our black labrador puppy)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Christmas musings

Today I am taking part in my Tuesday ritual. Head to the Metrocentre in Gateshead, go to Starbucks, grab a coffee and study for my next preaching/ leadership night/ or whatever my next speaking engagement happens to be. I love sitting here reading, writing and watching the world go by. Today is no different, except for the fact that people seem to be walking a little quicker, carrying a few more bags and are probably slightly more hassled than usual.
Its the Christmas season.
I am watching the sales people on the stall in the middle of the walkway trying to attract potential customers and get them to stop. There are many refusals, some polite with a smile, some not so polite (usually pointing to their watch as they refuse) and some just completely ignore the attempts of the retail staff. How many refusals must they get in a day, yet they still continue on with a smile!
Christmas can get so busy with all the shopping, the parties and the preparation for the big day that we can forget the importance of this period that we, as followers of Christ, are in.
This is the time we celebrate His entering into the mess of humanity to put the finishing touches to God's master plan for our reconciliation back into the family in place. We are not just celebrating the birth of Christ but also, in the words of the carol
Born that we no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.
This plan wasn't an afterthought of God but it was put together before the foundations of the earth were laid. His intention for humanity has always been to bring us back to himself despite our rebellion and disobedience. Christmas reminds us that God is good and He thoughts toward us are good.
Christmas reminds us that we have an intricate part to play in this plan. God chose Mary to carry Jesus, Joseph to take care of Mary, shepherds to spread the good news, the Wise men to give credibility to His birth and us to be witnesses to why His birth is vital for mankind.
In the busyness of Christmas don't be too busy to share with you friends, family and work colleagues why we, as Christians, love Christmas. It is because it shows Jesus' amazing love, God's incredible grace and the all encompassing fellowship of the Holy Spirit towards us.
If a small group of sales people can keep asking, despite rejection after rejection, can we, who have the very words of eternal life in us, keep talking to people about this Jesus in a manger.
Have a blessed Christmas.
Remember, God has crowned your year with favour.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Who is to blame?

This week we have seen more headlines of children vulnerable to abuse. We all want to know who is responsible. We want to know how can someone put these atrocities right. We want to know what is being done about it.

Unfortunately they are the wrong questions that we are asking. So all the time we are asking the wrong questions we will get the wrong answers.

So what are the right questions? The right questions start with not apportioning blame but claiming responsibility. If we start with the understanding that those children are our responsibility then the questions become very different. An old African proverb says "It takes a village to raise a child". We all play our part in raising children. The problems arises when we abdicate our responsibility. We become so involved in our own lives that we forget that God created us to live and thrive in community.

As society as a whole has become more individualistic, it becomes easier to lay the blame at someone else's door. Blame has NEVER solved a problem. Taking OWNERSHIP and RESPONSIBILITY will. Nehemiah said this "I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly towards you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses." (Neh 1:6-7) He aligned himself with the problem and from there started looking for the solution to the destruction of his city. As the church of Jesus Christ (who aligned Himself with the problem of sin and brought the solution from there) we too often move away from society's problems with the excuse that we are "not of this world". 
  • Children being abused is not a government problem.
  • The country's national debt and recession is not the government's problem.
  • The riots that took place last year is not the problem of poverty.
  • Human trafficking is not a police problem.
  • Children's lack of literacy and numeracy skills is not an education department problem.
  • Childhood mortality in Africa is not Africa's problem.
  • Children in care is not a social services problem.
  • Litter and pollution is not a local authority problem. 
They are all MY responsibility. They are YOUR responsibility. They are OUR responsibility.

We start looking for someone or organisation to blame because it is easier than to look at our own lives and say "I'm sorry, I did not play my part in looking after you". 

Please understand I am not saying that governments, local authorities, corporate business etc does not bear some weight of responsibility. 
They do. 
But so do we.
We can't do everything but we MUST do something.
If we began, each of us, to say that is my problem, how can I fix it, imagine what a difference we could make.
What small decision could you make today that begins to take ownership of a problem you see?
Pray with me a version of Nehemiah's prayer and then ACT.
 "I confess the sins we, including myself and my family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly towards you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave us.
Here I am Lord send me"

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 2 July 2012

Guard your heart

Over the past few weeks I have been preaching on the subject of Healthy Relationships. Having the right people around us (and being the right people) is crucial to our growth in our walk with Christ.
Proverbs 4:23 tells us "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" Our heart is shaped by the people that we allow to speak into it. Saying "Above all else..." means it is a priority. Our heart needs to be protected from unhealthy relationships which would misshape it, so why do allow the wrong people to shape our hearts?
Imagine that you are incredibly hungry.
For some reason you haven't been able to get any food or you have been sick and not able to keep any food down.
You have no food in your house.
What do you do?
 When you are this hungry and have no food to satisfy your hunger. Where would you go?
  • To a friend who is also really hungry and has no food? It makes sense to go there because he understands how you feel when no one else can.
  • The people that have food are annoying because they don't realise how hungry you are and what you are going through.
  • Your hungry friends won't judge you for being hungry.
  • They will reinforce that you’re ok to be hungry.
  • They will help you come to terms with your hunger.
  • They won't look down on you like your non-hungry friends might.
If this sounds just a bit ludicrous, why do we do this with relationships?
If we were hungry we would go to people who could feed us not those that are hungry as well. To be with the hungry we need to have something to feed them with.
If we are feeling low spiritually or relationally why do we go to people who are as hungry as we are?
Go to those that will feed us. That's what the prodigal son did.
Show me your friends and I will show you your future.
As someone tweeted the other day "Align yourself with people who match your destiny and not your history"
I want to be someone who shapes people's hearts in a godly direction. What about you?

Monday, 25 June 2012

The NCLC Foundation

First let me say how excited I am about the season that we as a church are in. So much has happened over the past few months and God is in it all. We continue to see people make decisions to follow Jesus week by week - and that is why we exist. It's our mission, our cause.

In the past year or so we have experienced some huge changes as a church community. We have changed venue twice, welcomed new staff to the team, added robust financial policies and procedures to take us forward into our future, and not least, we have settled into our offices.

The coming year is one which we have given over to increasing our health in four main areas: Spiritual, Physical, Financial and Relational. I believe this year will be monumental for us as NCLC, because as we know, healthy life grows. We are taking the Kingdom of Heaven into areas where we have not ventured before.

We are raising up young entrepreneurs with a kingdom mentality and heart.

We are also in negotiations to purchase our own building from which we can base many of our meetings and activities, including our Sunday services.

We, as a church, are on the edge of something significant in our history and future.

There is an excitement and momentum building within our community. I am very excited about what the future holds for us as NCLC, and that is why this year we are introducing the NCLC FOUNDATION.

The NCLC FOUNDATION is one of the ways that we believe can help us strategically advance and shoulder the financial burden of our God-given vision to impact our world with the Kingdom of Heaven.

Our current "world" of Tyne and Wear, Teesside and Mwanza City is home to over 2 million people, ready to be impacted with the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is a lot of people - and many of them are "ripe for harvest" (John 4:35).

The NCLC FOUNDATION will enable people to give strategically over and above their regular tithes to FOUR initial areas with a FIFTH to be added at a later stage.

1. Buildings Fund - this is to establish a building that we can call home. A place to base not only our Sunday Services but also many of the ministries of the church. This will initially be in the central Newcastle area, but will also establish homes for our other campuses (Haggai 1:7).

2. Missions - there is a lost and dying world needing the hands and feet of Jesus, before it will ever listen to the good news of the Cross. We have already established a campus in Mwanza, Tanzania. The Foundation will help fund this until it is fully established and financially viable. In time, there will be other campuses and churches to help plant and fund. There are also other overseas missions that we will be able to give to, including Compassion and A21 (Isaiah 61).

3. City Care - this is the local arm of our mandate to bring justice and relief to the poor. This funding will help expand Servolution and CAP but also establish our food and clothing banks (Micah 6:8).

4. Humanitarian Relief - over the past few years the world has seen some catastrophic disasters. We have been able to stand alongside many other churches to help meet the needs of tragedies such as the Haiti earthquake. We want to not only receive an offering at the time of the event, but also add to that amount, because we have been good stewards and prepared for such a time. There will also be wells to be dug and houses to be repaired (Isaiah 1:17).

And finally, to be added as soon as we have capacity -

5. Legacy Investments - we are building a church not only for this generation, but for many to come. Wouldn't it be fantastic to be able to leave a financial inheritance for our grandchildren in their church building? (Provs 13:22)

I pray that this will whet your appetite for the financial future of our church. Don't despise the day of small beginnings for your own contribution. I believe that God would have us plan for, and invest in, our future.

We will commence our NCLC FOUNDATION offering on the first Sunday in July and then on the first Sunday of every month thereafter.

I want to thank all of you who faithfully give financially to God through this local church. We have grown from 9 people in Starbucks six years ago to around 500 people calling NCLC home today. We have been able to do this through all of us adding our resources together.

Let's continue to partner together to build, not just NCLC, but the church across the world through the NCLC FOUNDATION.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 20 April 2012

Where is my commitment?

The past six months have been pretty tough in many ways. This blog is not a "woe is me" moan but I do want to make a few points about what keeps me going. I have probably come closer to giving up and walking away from what I know God has called me to do than ever before. And as I write that last sentence there is a large clue as to why I keep going.

The Bible is not only the story of God's interaction and intention for mankind but it also gives great principles for our lives. Right the way through the narrative of God's word is a characteristic that is held in high honour but often given too little credence in our fast paced, easy-come easy-go world. That characteristic or virtue is commitment. The Bible will use the terms perseverance or faithfulness in similar contexts.

I look around and see that commitment is a virtue that is often found lacking. It is a virtue I have found lacking in my own life at times. How many times have I committed to losing weight and getting fitter, starting a project that lies unfinished, or even promising to take the kids somewhere and being too busy or too tired to fulfil my promise.

I don't know about you but a commitment is easy to give at the beginning or when things are going our way. Its when the going gets tough that commitment and perseverance are truly tested and seen. We are told that one of the outworkings of love is that it ALWAYS perseveres (1 Cor 13:7). We know that perseverance actually grows character in our lives (Romans 5:3-4).

Perseverance is actually hardest when we have a choice. If I am halfway home on my bike and the rain has soaked me to the skin, everything about me wants to quit but I know that I have no choice, I have to go on. Its much harder if its raining outside and I have committed myself to riding to work to get fit and save money but my car is sat in the driveway taunting me with how warm and cosy the drive will be compared to riding my bike.

What do we do when things don't go our way? Do we hold to our commitments and persevere in them or walk away?

Making a commitment means
  • I can't just walk away from something when it is not going well.
  • Its not so much about what I commit to but about it being part of my character.
  • That if I persevere in my commitments I am becoming more like Christ (2 Thess 3:5)
  • That I am walking in love.
  • If I fulfil them and they are in the will of God then I will receive what He has promised (Heb 10:36)

I have seen too many people not persevere in their commitments when things are not to their liking. I don't want to run away. Just because I feel like it, it doesn't mean that I will. Coming close is actually a miss. Coming close to quitting, in the words of Pastor Matthew Barnett is a good thing because it means we have something to quit from. Coming close to quitting is actually completely persevering in our commitments. So be encouraged if you have come close to quitting but haven't, you are on the right road.

So, to finish, what keeps me going in my role as the senior leader in NCLC?
  1. I fully believe God called me to start, grow and build this church.
  2. Just because things aren't as I want them to be right now, I know they are not what they were but are closer to what they could be.
  3. I have committed myself to seeing the lost become found and the found become disciples. Lives growing in God.
  4. God has given me so much grace that I have to pass that through to other people.
  5. I don't want to be known as a quitter.
  6. I fully believe God called me to start, grow and build this church.

I have a choice, I can walk away but I will keeping going. You have a choice, what will yours be?

Hope this helps.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Which crowd?

This week is Passion week. The days between Jesus entering Jerusalem to the adulation and adoration of the crowds, to being placed on trial for blasphemy and taken to the Roman death sentence of crucifixion.
The approaching weekend is probably the most significant few days in the Christian calendar. This time of year draws our attention to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us to bring us back into a restored relationship with God.
I have been contemplating some of the different crowds that have played a part in that week.

We have the crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with praise, palm branches and proclaiming Him the coming king. They were there because maybe they had seen or even received a miracle from Jesus. They wanted to be part of this movement that they thought would sweep the Roman invaders from their promised land.

Then there was the crowd a few days later at Jesus' trial. Led by the religious and societal leaders, they shouted "Crucify him." There were possibly those from the crowd a few days earlier that were proclaiming their king.

Then on the day we now call "Good Friday" there was the small crowd that stood at the foot of the cross. Standing with their dreams in tatters and their hearts broken as their Rabbi, teacher, friend and master hung from the cross. I don't just want to be part of the crowd that gets carried along in the praise and worship of Jesus but is unable to go the distance to stand at the foot of the cross. I love the passion and vibrancy of our style of praise and worship, but lets not have it stop there. We need to make our way to the foot of the cross.

This Easter make a decision to be in the crowd that will stand at the cross and remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Then also remember that He calls us to deny ourselves, take up our own cross and follow His way. When our dreams are seemingly dead and our hearts broken, when our marriage has failed, maybe our sickness is persistent or the notice of redundancy has come through- what do we do? Do we become part of the crowd that has moved from singing the latest Hillsong song loudly to proclaiming that God doesn't care or isn't listening or maybe even denying He is real? Or do we make our way to the foot of the cross and remember that even if we never 'feel' God's love again we know with every fibre of our being that He loves me because of Jesus' death. Do we deny ourselves and take up our own cross and follow Him?

Which crowd will you be part of this Easter?

As NCLC we will come together as our three campuses to worship and remember the sacrifice and the victory that Easter shows us. This is one of the great windows of opportunity we have to invite people from our world into our church community. Don't waste it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 16 March 2012

The Cry

Many of you who are from my home church NCLC will know that I have held little store in owning our own building as a base for our Sunday service venue. I could psychologise this as having moved around a fair bit as a child or just accept that maybe God wanted me to hold having a permanent base loosely in my heart.
That is up until now.
We have been moving around for the last six and half years. Last April we finally purchased our first piece of property- our offices in the centre of Newcastle. They are a very different setting from everything being run from what should have been our dining room.
We still have no home to base our Sunday services from and the many other ministries that I feel God has called us to impact our community with.
We have been looking for such a place.

Last week at our (too!) early prayer meeting we were praying for favour with the building and the local authorities in change of use. As we were praying I felt God impress on my heart the word "CRY". The building would be a place that evoke a cry.
The cry would be a cry from the broken.
A cry from those in anguish.
A cry from the desperate.

A cry that would change as people felt the presence of God in the building.

The cry would become a cry of release.
A cry of forgiveness.
A cry of wholeness.
A cry of gratitude.

How can a building illicit this?
Certainly not from a lick of paint or ambient lighting. A building can only see this response when it and the people who call it home are dedicated to welcoming home those in need and those who need to know the love, grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

NCLC, as a church will never be defined or confined by a building but a building that becomes a home can be an incredible tool. When we find a building that becomes our home, we will hear a cry that will resound across the North East.
Hope this helps you understand where we are heading as NCLC.
Love to hear your thoughts.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 27 February 2012

Why I am not Glyn Barrett.

A few weeks ago we had Pastor Glyn Barrett with us at NCLC. I have to say that I believe Pastor Glyn is one of the most phenomenal pastors in the UK at the moment. He not only has an amazing teaching capacity but also is a real strategic thinker and church builder. So we had a fantastic weekend with Pastor Glyn and I feel that we grew because of his visit to us.

I feel we grew as a church but I also feel that God challenged me in a very specific way. As Glyn told the story of where they had come from and where God had brought them to, I began to slip into an old way of thinking. I was surprised that it was still there as it hadn't shown it's ugly head for quite some time. I began to compare myself with Pastor Glyn and compare our churches.
WOW! Where did that come from? 

Unfortunately that wasn't the worst of it. I then began to give reasons why I am not Glyn Barrett and why we can't have a similar influence and ministry as a church. In my head at the time they were reasonable. The problem was none of them held any weight or credence. They were not reasons, they were EXCUSES!

I haven't had the training he has had.
He has got more money coming in.

I could go on but the last thing you need to read is my whining in your head.
I hear people making the same excuses when they compare themselves to our church. We all have our insecurities and need to rely on God deal with them. Its not always a painless process. I was reminded of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Eustace had become the dragon and Aslan had to rip his skin off to make him human again. An extremely painful process. 

When God chooses to put his finger on parts of our life that we have not fully dealt with, it sometimes involves Him stripping away areas of our life that are so ingrained that it becomes extremely painful to remove them.

Comparison is one of those deeply entrenched ways of thinking in my life and God is not satisfied that it is still there. I am thankful that God's love for me extends to bringing discipline into my life, even if it does come through a Man City supporter. 

The process of becoming more Christ-like involves becoming less like ourselves. I am thankful that God has placed Pastor Glyn Barrett in my life and that I will continue to learn from him but Christ wants me to be like Him not make excuses why I am not Glyn Barrett.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 24 February 2012

Hotel or House?

I was listening to a message a couple of weeks by a fantastic Australian pastor Danny Guglielmucci. He threw out an off the cuff question to his staff team which really challenged me. Are we building a place of visitation or habitation for God. This will probably have me thinking for some time, but I thought I might throw a few things down to see where it goes.

There is a distinct difference between setting up a place for someone who is coming to visit and for someone who lives there.

1. Visitors- you want to create an immediate impression so appearances are vital.
Residents- the long term improvement is your focus.

2. Visitors- you are only concerned about visitors while they are with you.
Residents- even when residents are not with you' they are still in your thoughts.

3. Visitors- you are not always that worried if they come back.
Residents- You would be worried if they were not there for any length of time.

4. Visitors- they do not leave a lasting impression your house.
Residents- everything in the house will remind you of them because they have put their touch on the house.

5. Visitors- are not really at home because it is not really their home if they only visit occasionally.
Residents- it is where they live and feel at home.

6. Visitors- you do not have to have any significant relationship to welcome a visitor.
Residents- when you live with someone your relationship grows and develops. You get to know them more.

I don't want our church community to have a visitation from God, I want Him to find a place of habitation. I want Him to feel at home, that He is not visiting a hotel but knows He can do what He likes because He is the head of the house.
Anyway just a few thoughts. I'm sure there are many more.
I would love you to leave your comments and add some more differences.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Unfriendly fire

One of the things that the internet has had the misfortune to perpetuate is the whole area of what is called Online Discernment Ministries. These are Christians who feel it is their duty to pretty much pull everything to pieces that doesn't fit with their own personal views on scripture.
I have been loathe to write this blog for some time as the last thing I want to do is fall into their way of online sniping.
I was going to call the blog "Friendly fire" but then found out that it is defined as "... inadvertent firing towards one's own friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces..." What I am talking about is neither inadvertent or an attempt to engage enemy forces. This is an outright attack on a fellow follower of Christ. The excuses given are often that people are in error & the Bible calls us to point out heresy.
A favourite misquoted scripture is Acts 17:11
11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

I see nothing noble about the often vicious diatribe that is written and spoken. There is also no eagerness to see if the message is true, rather a cruel delight in quoting people out of context and trying to find where they can point out the smallest of errors.

Yes I do believe that we need to search the scriptures to check if what is being spoken or written is sound Biblical doctrine. As a pastor I want to teach people to think, not just what to think. I want to create forums where people can ask questions and explore scripture together. Where we can help each other move forward in our relationship with God and understanding of His word. I don't see that happening with the proliferation of the modern day witch hunters.

The sad thing is, like blood-crazed dogs, they often turn on each other. Somewhere in the lust for heresy hunting, the Great Commission has been lost. People have turned from playground bullying to intellectual & spiritual bullying. A recent example I heard was of a street "preacher" bullying a young teenager because of the church he goes to????

This is not bringing people back to the cross, it is not making disciples or being salt & light to a dying world.
No wonder the world laughs at us. They can't hear the gospel because of the sound of unfriendly fire.
A Christian should be someone who reminds others of the personhood of Jesus Christ. Nothing in this reminds me or points people in my world to Jesus.
Ok rant over. What are your thoughts?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Back to basics 1

Being in Tanzania back in December reminded me yet again what is important to us as a church. 

It is fantastic seeing the beginning of another campus for NCLC. As with a baby, the 1st few years are vital for the continued development and growth of church. The more we get right at the start the less damage control we have to do later on.
Having received the blessing of Judah Caleb Cook into our family 17 months ago the basics of having a baby are fresh in my mind. Babies are thoroughly dependent on their caregiver and expect certain things from them- food, shelter, protection, love and not forgetting clearing up the mess they make. Planting a church or a campus is not too dissimilar.

As leaders we need to feed the church community, provide shelter & protection, give it love and clear up the mess that they make. When you haven't done it for a while you can forget the sleepless nights, the worry of getting it right and the cost of a newborn. Our NCLC Tanzania campus has reminded me of all this. The team of the Cotteys and the Hintons are doing a phenomenal job in getting things started but those of us who are parents all know how much easier life is when you have the support of our community around us. We also know how draining it can be when we feel we have to go through it alone. The UK NCLC campuses need to make sure that this baby and her parents over here not only know intellectually that they are connected and supported by us but also practically.

A couple of months ago Dee and I had the privilege of being in the USA and regularly phoned our kids back home. It was so good to hear their voices. Whilst in Tanzania I have Face Timed or Skyped home. The difference of not just hearing a voice but also SEEING a face has been unbelievable. Technology has made life apart so much better. The old saying "Out of sight, out of mind" is so true. The reverse is also true. With people in our view, whether in person or via technology, they are always fresh in our mind. When we connect let's try to connect with the team there visibly. They are bringing up a newborn and she is growing quickly.

Let's stay in touch with every method possible. 

My next blog will begin to look a bit more closely at how to raise a healthy baby/church community.

Tell me how you will keep the Tanzania team in sight and mind. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Hopelessly devoted to you.

Hopelessly devoted to you.

Today I was listening to some classic tunes from the film Top Gun. It brought back some great memories of years gone by. In the weird way my mind works at times, I ended up humming the classic Grease song by Olivia Newton John "Hopelessly devoted to you." It was sad I know but we have all done something as equally cheesy.

Anyway with those the only four words of the song that I know they began to go round in my head. I began to think about the words I was singing. 
What am I devoted to?
Is there a hopelessness about my devotion, an unrequited love.
Or is it a devotion that brings hope?

As we move into a brand new year I need to check-
  • The direction of my devotion
  • That my devotion level is high.
  • That my devotion is filled with hope.

Direction of devotion

What am I devoting my life to? Not just the grand ideas and values that I have but how does that translate to my everyday life. To my time, my finances, my language & my emotional buy-in.
The direction of my devotion must always line up with the Word of God, our plumb-line. What does the Bible tell us that our life should be devoted to?
Firstly it should be given over and devoted to God. There should be no thing and no one that comes before him. When God asked Abraham for his son God didn't want the sacrifice, He wanted to know of Abraham's totally obedience. Who was higher in Abraham's devotion, his son Isaac or his God, Yahweh. God asks us the same question. Who receives your devotion?
There are other people or things that need our devotion. Are we devoted to our spouse? Are we devoted to them above our children. Tough question but a Biblical principle. 
Acts 2 :42 informs us of what the early church community devoted themselves to.
The teaching the apostles had reached from Jesus
The fellowship- not just fellowship, but THE fellowship.
The breaking of bread- keeping what Christ had done  for them at the centre of their thinking.
Prayer- close, intimate, regular communication with God.

Does our life follow similar patterns?

Devotion level

I'm not really sure if you can measure the level of devotion. Are we just devoted or not? Whether we can measure it or not, people around us should be able to look at our lives and be able to see that there is something slightly unbalanced about our lives as devoted people are never balanced people.

Hope filled devotion

Does my devotion cause my life to be filled with hope whatever the circumstances around seem to show? Hebrews 11 shows us a group of people who were devoted to someone that caused their lives to be filled with the actions of faith and the certainty of hope. 
Lately, probably more than ever, I am filled with the hope of what Christ is doing and where He is leading us as a church. Circumstances would not seem to show this. In seven Sundays we will be without a venue, finances are incredibly tight and we are still in the grip of a global recession. 
So my hope cannot come from circumstances. My hope MUST come from someone that is bigger than my or even world circumstances.
The only way that our devotion can be hope-filled is to place it on the rock of ages, the God of eternity, the healer of the sick, the provider, the grace giver, the releaser of the captives, the forgiver of sinners, the lifter of the downtrodden, the home builder for the homeless, the only giver of hope who is totally worthy of our devotion

So my question is how will your world see the object of your devotion today?

NCLC New Year's day message 2012

New Years Day message from Andrew Flewers on Vimeo.