The world is on your doorstep – will you let it in?

You don’t need to travel to be a global minded person.  Here’s a few ways Global Connections suggest we as Christians can be global-minded and share God’s heart for the nations:

  • read things written by Christians in other parts of the world, cultures (not just western ones), classes (not just middle class ones) and backgrounds
  • invite such speakers to speak at our conferences

For the original:

http://www.globalconnections.org.uk/churches/global-mission/learning-from-the-global-church

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The world is on our doorstep…will you let it in?

What you miss out on, Christian traveller: joy!

In a previous post I’d argued that the Christian who spends much time away from their home travelling, is one who doesn’t so much gain, as miss out on all God has for us, and the ways in which God chooses to work in the world.  But as well as this, I think the Christian traveller misses out on something else.

I wonder what you felt when you first came to faith and understood what you had in Jesus?  Oh how sweet moments like that were – when you grasped that you were no longer condemned.  When you grasped that sin had no hold on you.  When you grasped that you had everything in Christ Jesus and needed nothing more.  When you dreamed of what lay ahead in the heavenly realms with His people from all nations.  A joy was yours that would equip you, despite the suffering that lay ahead.

Next to it, I wonder whether you’ve had the joys of leading someone else to a genuine faith and seeing them grow over the years?  You get to re-live the great joys that you experienced all over again, as you see all these things dawn on them.  As you see them drink in the Word and respond to Jesus’ words as if hearing them for the first time.  Beautiful!

And even for those who came to faith like I did, at such a young age that there wasn’t “a moment” like this, I’m sure you can still relate to it, as I can.

The ecstasy of knowing people join the Heavenly family, and the party that follows (Luke 15, on a sidenote, started by God, not just his angels) is one worth going after, not just for God’s glory but at the same time for our enjoyment in that too.

And so if you spend most of your free holiday time travelling, not only do you miss out on Christian family, community and your own transformation through God’s chosen means for that, but you also miss out on those long-term relational links you have to non-Christian communities.

Sure, I’ve seen folk come to faith as I’ve been pleasure travelling. But it’s a rare thing rather than the norm, and it’s always been harder to see them plug into a church, given that the Christianity modelled to them is an itinerant, individualistic one.  More often than not, I’ve seen most students forsake the regular meeting up with people who are different to them at home, and make pleasure travelling the “bushel” that covers their “lamp” (Luke 11:33).

We think we’re getting the best the world has to offer and even put it in religious “seeing more of God’s creation” language.  Instead we’re walking away from Jesus’ purposes for us in the world and from His glory.  Perhaps this hymn might help us reflect if it may be true:

1 O for a closer walk with God,
a calm and heavenly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!

2 Where is the blessedness I knew
when first I sought the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
of Jesus and his Word?

3 What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
the world can never fill.

4 The dearest idol I have known,
whate’er that idol be,
help me to tear it from thy throne
and worship only thee.

5 So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.

(William Cowper)

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Neither poverty, nor riches…

My last student summer ever before starting work at the end of August and I’d 6 weeks to fill.  A few of them were for volunteer teams, I’d to make a call with my family at some point for a bit, but the rest was free.  What to do?

As usual, browsing facebook would turn out to give the answer (!).  The Warden of Tyndale House (the evangelical theological faculty at Cambridge University) posted up on his status about needing someone to drive a few guests round England for a week.  Knowing the type of people who visit Tyndale, I thought this could well be someone very interesting in the Christian/theological world, so dropped him a line.  And that week was to change my thinking a lot.

It turned out that this was an older couple from the US, who were big names in the evangelical Christian scene, but who also lived next to an ex-president of America, and were used to living with such people in their every day lives.  They were old enough that they didn’t fancy driving on the “wrong” side of the road, and so had asked me to drive them round, join them on their holiday and look after a disabled relative that they’d with them.  Having not driven in 2 years since I passed my test (apart from a big white van that I managed to scrape the side of, and also nearly topple on the motorway), I probably should have informed them that driving the poshest car that I’d ever been in, was not the most sensible on this occasion.

But not only was it the poshest car I had ever driven, we stayed in the classiest 5* hotels that I’d ever been to.  Michelin star restaurants where meals were crafted to order, based on the customers desires.  Rooms with gardens and pools that you’d happily stay in all day.  Bathrooms with heated floors, LED twinkling lights in the ceiling, jacuzzi tubs and a drinks bar.  And concierges employed as much to just keep guests happy and chatting away.  One click of the finger, and anything was mine, at no cost to me.

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I’m quite glad that I actually have little desire for 5* hotels…the real things I chase after are scenes like this one in North Africa, where I was visiting friends the other week!

But I had a dilemma.

I’d just come off a year of volunteering with the Christian Union (university) movement in the UK, which was self-supported.  Frugality was a way of life, and I’d got into the mindset that it was Godliness.  This holiday however for me, was the most spiritually sapping thing I’d ever had.  Everything at my finger tips, and no need of anything or anyone else.  To me, this was anti-gospel (the gospel being the thing declaring we are very needy people, in need of God, and of others).  Yet here were some of the richest people in the world, claiming to be mature Christians and heralded by many, throwing cash at anything that moved.  I was baffled and struggled all week, while trying to enjoy this.

But the more I reflected on my trip, back on a summer volunteer team (sharing a shower between seven, basic meals and a budget of around 70 euros a week to cover accommodation, food, resources and freetime), the more I saw that yes, perhaps you could live a Godly life whilst being rich.  And maybe even further than that, we need Christians who are living out this existence, mingling with US Presidents and influential circles of every type.  Now don’t get me wrong, you could be doing all of these things from bad, ungodly motive, but I don’t think these folk were.

Their generosity to me and to Tyndale House was huge.  They’d shaped their holiday round visiting something that they’d support financially that would massively shape British Christianity.  They’d had me there to help their disabled relative, which was also a large part of why they’d had to travel 5*.  Apart from the misunderstood clash between American consumer culture and reserved British five star culture, their behaviour and lives were incredible examples of dependence on God and Godly character.  And just because I’d found it hard spiritually, didn’t mean they weren’t vibrantly living out a sacrificial life.

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Sunset over Paris, the other week (see pic below for explanation)

Here’s just a few reflections that travelling with them helped me to see:

  • Godliness need not have any correlation to wealth (Proverbs 4:23 – it’s what comes from the heart that matters, not necessarily the outward appearance).  I can rejoice in my Father’s goodness to other believers in giving them wealth, and weep with my fellow believer who is struggling to make ends meet.
  • That in Christ, is all richness found.  He is better than gold (Proverbs 8:18-19).
  • That in all God gives me, I should honour him with it (Proverbs 3:9).  Given I (and probably you reading this too) are in the top few percent of richest people in the world, given our ability to travel (even on a budget), we must not think ourselves as the poor.
  • It is very hard not to forsake being needy when you have everything, and very easy to get bitter when you have nothing.  Therefore, I will make Proverbs 30:8 my prayer: “give me neither poverty nor riches, but only give me my daily bread”

Before I book any travel, my prayer is that I stop for one evening to sleep on it, pray for guidance, and remember these things, amongst others.

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Paris, the next destination for my US friends, who offered me the trip free of charge again – so tempting!  But I felt not appropriate this time.  Thankful to another friend who gave me a free hotel this year in Paris, with him.

Sacrifice vs enjoying the world

It’s the tension soo many Christians feel when coming to think about travel.  We want to travel and enjoy the world but we feel guilty that there are more selfless things to spend our time and resources on.  Lindsay Brown (IFES Europe) quoted someone (but many have said it) this last week saying:

“How to get round the tension between sacrifice and enjoying God’s good gifts?

Hold them in the palm of an open hand”

Enjoying all the good gifts that have come to us from our Heavenly Father should be done without clenching at them as if they are ours, but with open hands, ready to enjoy and use them for Him.

The image made an impression on me, given it’s a question in every seminar I’ve led!

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A prayer for the traveller

Fountain of all goodness,

As we gaze at our Instagram feeds, we come and marvel at your Fatherly provision,

As we wake to another day of exploration, we delight in the sustaining hand of your Son,

As we consider your creation, we revel even more in the overflowing being of your Spirit within us.

We forsake any feeling that our travels are ours by right, because of any of our goodness, common-sense, self-discipline or ability.

And we pray that all our travels today would be done in the light of being united to your Son, by His sacrificial life, death, resurrection and ascension.

May our thoughts rise to you, our words point towards you and our actions be shaped by you, as we journey towards our goal in Christ Jesus together as your travelling people from all nations, en route to our true home in an infinite new heavens and new earth.

In His Name,

Amen

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Barmouth, Wales (copyright mine)

More from the east…

I’ve already mentioned how little I know about eastern worldview and culture.  And so I’ve been seeking to learn from the experiences of those who hail from there, and those who have travelled there.  Here’s one blog from a colleague of mine who spent a year travelling in the east before coming back to Ireland to work.  Some of their insights are fantastic and I may reblog them over the days ahead:

Two Happy Tramps

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Will the world burn?

Sadly some days of holiday are spent doing more mundane realities than travelling.  And today’s been one of those – cleaning and clearing up the house.  But I do love some of the trove of things I find when cleaning that I’d forgotten about.  This one a page of notes from some book I read, that contained a chapter on why they didn’t think “2 Peter 3:10-12” meant the world would burn.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.[a]

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[b] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. (NIV)
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But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,  12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (KJV)

Why does it matter?

Well, it you believed the world was just going to burn anyway, it would be easy to fall into a carelessness about looking after creation (it’ll burn anyway) or it might be easy to pay little attention to anything in this world (why care for the finer details, hobbies and beauties of the world, if it’s going to burn?  Let’s just do evangelism).

I mean, if you believed the world was going to burn, you wouldn’t necessarily fall into that line of thinking (you’d hope you still would believe that commands around Genesis 1 and 2 to do with creation would still apply, or that Christ’s Lordship would still free you to enjoy this world), but sadly it’s often a first brick that people start to base a lot of thinking round.  And then they start to doubt even some of the rest (care for creation, the extent of Christ’s Lordship etc).

Because those verses are soo obvious, right?

Or are they?  Let’s take a look at 5 reasons 2 Peter 3:10-12 may not be so obvious.  And if someone can tell me what book I was reading, you get an Easter Egg if you’re within distance.

  1. In v.6 the word “perished” is used to describe the world after the flood (Genesis).  But we all know the world didn’t perish at all.  The perishing somehow was a figurative sense.  And so it suggests to me that v7 and v10 are also not meant to be literally burning and dissolving.
  2. In v.7 we’re told that ungodly people will be destroyed.  But elsewhere in scripture it’s made quite clear that there will be a never-ending conscious punishment for those that chose to cuddle up to God’s judgement and not His love.  And so if this is true (and I’m not starting a debate on it now), then any “destruction” cannot be an extinction of their being.
  3. v13 seems to speak of renewal, not extinction
  4. such a passage read in those terms seems to directly contradict Romans 8:20-21 and Revelation 22:3 which speak of a removal of a curse, not an extinction and recreation.
  5. Romans 8:22-23 would suggests a redemption to come of human bodies.  And if this human microcosm of redemption is true, wouldn’t that cause us to imagine a macrocosmic redemption, where the whole world is reconciled to its Maker?

And so what difference does this make to travel?

Well lots.  I’ve rarely (if ever) met passionate travellers who have a heart for exploring the world, who think the world is going to burn.  Because such a belief automatically makes you want to live in a different way.  Whereas those who think there’ll be greater continuity with this current world, will be given greater motive to preserve, to redeem, and to restore what we have been given by the Great Redeemer, the Great Restorer.

Does continuing that line of thinking mean that atheists are in an even better position to look after this world and explore it?  I’ll come back to that thought in due course.

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Budapest, 2016

Arrival and journeying in Hebrews

In my “quiet times” (times set aside each day to spend with God, not opposed to the constant communion with Him each hour), I’ve been looking at Hebrews recently.  In “The Perfect Saviour” (Griffiths, IVP, 2012), Peter Walker notes that Hebrews is filled both with arrival terminology (something has already happened) and journeying terminology (something keeps on happening).

Certain Christian theologies have a tendency to focus on one or the other, but here in Hebrews, the author deliberately alternates between the two to keep motivating the believer, as well as giving confidence to the believer in what has already happened.  Like so much of the Bible it’s a paradox.  A tension that needs held in correct proportion.

Words of Comfort             Words of Challenge

1:1-14                                     2:1-4
2:5-18                                     3:1 – 4:13
4:14 – 5:10                              5:11 – 6:8
6:9 – 10:25                              10:26 – 31
10:32 – 11.40                          12:1-21
12:22-24                                 12:25 – 29
13:1-8                                     13: 9-14
13:15-25

(taken directly from page 110)

I think there’s a richness in this tension.  The beauty of coming in a posture of learning and growth at all times.  The joy and confidence in coming to a finished work that has already happened.

I hope you can revel in both too, both individually and as the community of believers around you.  May we learn to dive deeper into both sides of this paradox.  Happy journeying!

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An object of journeying that has arrived, spotted along the Copper Coast last week.

 

Intentionality, spontaneity and living in the moment!

Alain de Botton’s book, outlining the secular way to travel, is fascinating, partly because he tries to free us from long-term intentionality in some ways (we’re born to die, so get on with it), yet suggests we should take great interest in learning and intentionally progressing ourselves in other ways.

This video, seemed to say letting go and seeking pleasure, was the only intentional thing worth doing.   As comedian David Mitchell outlines, living in the moment is not as easy as it would sound or seem:

 

It can be easy to think that being intentional about everything in life would be exhausting.  But if you love something, there’s only a certain amount that it feels like effort.  Most things flow from what our heart’s love (our worldview), and the rest takes hard work to cultivate a love in our hearts.  And so even living in the moment will be hard, if you do not love it.

So people ask me, is always having a secondary (or primary) purpose in your travelling not exhausting and robbing you of the very fact you’re enjoying travelling?  And quite honestly for the most part, the answer is “no”.  If it’s my love (loving God, loving others), then it will come increasingly naturally to me as I journey on in my Christian faith.

And for the moments that it doesn’t?  Well as David says, it’s “chores now for jam tomorrow”!  And don’t think for a moment that hedonistic, secular travel is any less chore-some or rewarding!  The glossy travel brochure paints you a false reality.  The 3min youtube video doesn’t show you the hours of bookings, cancellations, mishaps, tensions in relationships, sickness, rainy days and mishaps, not to mention the hours perfecting video footage to make it all seem amazing.

Intentionality can be exhausting, but being intentional for Jesus, is being intentional for a master whose “yoke is light and burden is easy” and who desires us to enjoy the “rest” of a home-coming.  Imagine the feeling of safety; comfort; the buzz as your wifi connects to your home network and messages from friends and family come in; the smell of coffee; and the warm embrace of a housemate.  It’s what coming home is.

But this coming home, can be a finding of yourself, and who you were created to be.  And it can be done on the road, far away from physical home, while you’re living for the moment!  Or it can be done in regular hum-drum rhythms of normal working life, getting up in the same bed as you always do, going downstairs to the same situation that always greets you.  It’s a coming home to your maker, and a realising that it is only living with Him, that will make life fully free-ing.