A year on, and a return to the other country

A year on, and a return to the other country January 13, 2011

I have had the pleasure of traveling fairly widely thanks to my job. I travel so often, and at times for such short periods, that I don’t always mention on the blog when I am away. But there is one country that I tend to look forward to visiting more than almost any other. I am of course talking about the USA, often referred to affectionately by us Brits as “the other country”.

I look forward to my trips to the USA because I feel so at home there. I have so many friends there, and so many American Christians from different backgrounds have been kind enough to read my blog.

A year on from my longest trip to the USA and by the time you read this I will be in the air on my way across the pond for just a long weekend. It is going to be a great time, and I am looking forward to traveling with my friend and pastor Tope Koleoso, and to attending the Newfrontiers Mobilise USA conference. This time last year I got to know a number of my Newfrontiers USA brothers and sisters and I am looking forward to seeing them again, and to meeting some more. If you will be there, do come and say hi!  Being part of the body of Christ means you have family on every continent. Being part of a family of churches with a shared spiritual DNA only strengthens that feeling.

A lot has happened over the last year, and I am very grateful to God for it. But I start 2011 excited about the future. It is going to be a good year, of that I am confident. May God bless you richly in it, and may he be close to you, and may he use my blog as one of many means of encouragement in your life.

I start the year with three words ringing round my head: favor, breadth and depth. May these three words be true for me, for those I love, and for each of you as well.

Favor – May we know in the large things as well as the small the good hand of our God upon us. May he find us parking spaces when we need them, and open the big doors of opportunities when we need those. May we experience the carrying power of the Holy Spirit. May our lives hum with the efficiency that can come when we are doing exactly what God intended us to do. May we spread the fragrance of Jesus. May others be blessed as their lives come into contact with ours.

Breadth – May our influence for Christ extend. May our churches grow. May many souls be saved. May backsliders return to Christ. May our words and writings encourage, comfort, strengthen and instruct many more than they have previously. May our careers advance. May we know, in short, great blessing.

Depth – Jesus said “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) We could add to that, ” . . loses his family.” 

Over this blogging break I have found myself feeling closer to my delightful wife Andree than ever before.  I am enjoying married life greatly.  We can’t quite put our finger on what it is that has prompted this, but be very clear, if too much time blogging puts that in any way in jeopardy expect more blogging breaks this year.

There really is nothing to gain for me in being some kind of success outside of the home (and how fleeting and relative any such apparent success truly is!) and a failure within it.  I want this year to deepen my love for my family, for those closest to me, and for my God.  Without deep, deep roots, any blessing God sends in the “breadth” department risks actually being damaging to the soul.    I want to become more Christ-like this year.  I want to know God more in order that I can make him known. I pray that the same will be true for you.

How easy it has frequently seemed to me to neglect the quiet place before God.  How easy to busy myself thinking I am serving a God who I do not honor with sufficient of my time and attention. How easy to forget that my prime responsibility before God is to my family, and then to a small number of people he has put in my life.  This year, with God’s help, and by his grace, I will not neglect those closest to me in order to strive to help people on the other side of the world.

And yet, I am more convinced than ever, that if I do not neglect the hidden parts of my life, there will be an overflow.  We are supposed to put depth before breadth, and yet so often, as even in this list, we reverse the order.  I am more and more convinced that if we resolve to fulfill our private duties better, then grace will overflow and our public duties will actually benefit.

I often tell my children I love their mother better than them.  That seems to give them security.  And, I am sure that because such a statement is true, I am actually a better father to them than I would be if I was looking to them for my primary affirmation.  Putting Jesus first, above family, above church, above ministry, above career, does not rob those other things. For God is no man’s debtor.  If we seek first the Kingdom of God “all these things” will be added to us as well. I don’t pretend it will be easy, and I am sure that I will at times slip back into bad, lazy, habits.  But, will you pray for me as I am praying for you right now as I write this article: 

God please help us this year to put You first, family next, and then content ourselves to fulfill the assignments you have given us, so that we may be truly useful to others.

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