Biblical Manhood Conference, Cardiff

On Friday 3rd October my good friend Gavin Peacock is coming over from Canada to teach at 2 conferences for men that I am involved in organising. One is the Courageous conference on Saturday 4th October (more info about Courageous here). The other is a conference on Biblical Manhood that Acts 29 Wales is organising and that is being held at Highfields Church, Cardiff:

Biblical Manhood poster Blue

Be great to see you there.

Tough Mudder in Photos

Done!I DID IT!!!

Incredibly, I managed to complete the entire 11.5 mile course on Saturday, completing every obstacle (apart form the Funky Monkey bars, that apparently 60% of people fail!) What’s more incredible is that of those 11.5 miles I ran at least 10 of them!!! (The furthest I’ve EVER run before is 6 miles!) Though, I did run SLOOOOOOWLY at points :-)

In truth, however, I only completed the course because of the support and encouragement of the guys with me. James Richards, Nathan Davies and Andrew Gwyn were solid friends and invaluable getting me to the finish line. Of the 20 obstacles there were 3 that I physically couldn’t have completed were it not for the boys dragging, pushing and pulling me over. I’m going to post more about that in a few days.

For now, I am glad to rest my smashed up ankles, reflect on one of the most exhilarating and inspiring days of my life and celebrate the grace of God in helping me to raise over £1,200 for Open Doors.

Here’s some of the photos of the day courtesy of my good friend Mr Caleb Jones:

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How should we pray for Iraq?

iraqui-christiansRecent events in Iraq have affected me very, very deeply.

The brutality being unleashed by the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS) in northern Iraq is unlike anything I have ever heard of or comprehended. Children decapitated and cut in half. Women raped and sold into slavery. Entire families being buried alive in mass graves. Christians crucified. Property seized. Churches burned. Hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing into the deserts and hills to escape, many dying of thirst and exposure before ever finding safety.

It is sheer evil.

There is no other way to describe it.

Admittedly, not all who are suffering are Christians, as it seems that anyone who doesn’t hold to the same twisted ideology as IS is likely to be annihilated by the merciless Jihadists. However, many hundreds of thousands are Christians. They may look different, dress different, speak in a language I can’t understand and observe customs and traditions that are foreign to me, but they worship the same Jesus – and that makes them family.

Furthermore, the Bible tells us that when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer, compelling us to remember those who are suffering for the sake of Christ.

I have to confess that I have been struggling over recent days to know how to ‘remember’ them. I have had no problem remembering their suffering as it’s pretty much all that I can think about. The problem that I have is knowing how to remember them in prayer! Sometimes I am stunned into silence. Other times tears are all that I can muster! However, when I can bring myself to pray, here are some of the things I have found helpful to focus on:

1. Remember who God is
A phrase that I live by and that I have used to encourage others over many years is this: “God is good and He is in control.” I have to confess that when I look at Iraq right now I find it harder to believe those truths. But they are nonetheless true! God is good. And He is sovereign. The Bible proclaims these truths over and over again. The horrors of Iraq tell us more about the depravity of the human heart and the inability of mankind to make sense of, let alone a difference to, the chaos of this fractured world, than they do about the nature and character of God. So as you pray, do so secure in the knowledge that God is forever love and that He still sits on the throne. Nothing that is happening today is happening outside of His control or outside of His care. Remember also that we pray to the Father through Jesus – a Great High Priest who understands suffering, sorrow and slaughter from first-hand experience:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
(Hebrews 4 v 15-16)

2. Pray for our brothers and sisters:

The saints of Iraq need our prayers. Here are some important things that we should be praying for our brothers and sisters:

  • Pray that they would receive the protection and provision that they so desperately need.* (Psalm 18 v 1-6)
  • Pray that they would know the comforting presence of the Prince of Peace. (2 Corinthians 1 v 3-7)
  • Pray that they would be filled with inexpressible joy in the midst of unimaginable pain. (James 1 v 2-3)
  • Pray that God would fill them with supernatural love for their enemies. (Matthew 5 v 43-48)

3. Pray for the terrorists
The story of the Apostle Paul reminds us that God CAN transform the heart of a terrorist:

“I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15 v 9-10)

However, the Psalms also give us words to pray for God to deliver swift and decisive justice to perpetrators of evil:

“O God, break the teeth [of the wicked] in their mouths;
tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!”
(Psalm 58 v 6)

Therefore our prayer should be “Lord, Save them or stop them. Redeem them or remove them!”

4. Pray for the gospel to advance

We are currently studying the book of Acts in church and it is striking how the Lord so often used times of extreme persecution to spread the gospel further afield:

“And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria…Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8 v 1 + 4)

As we hear about thousands upon thousands of Christians being displaced by persecution, let’s be praying that the legacy would be the gospel preached more widely and more churches planted across the region.

5. Pray for global leaders

We really need to be praying for global leaders right now. Politicians both in Iraq, in surrounding nations and the western nations that are also involved in this mess. Pray that God would grant them both wisdom and courage:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1Timothy 2 v 2)

Pray also for the pastors and other Christian leaders on the ground in Iraq. Pray that they would shepherd God’s people well, that they would know epic grace as they seek to lead their small, suffering flocks through turbulent times, and that they would model King Jesus with their words and actions.

6. Pray with eternal perspective

This is so vital! We forget in the comfortable west that persecution and death aren’t the worst thing that can happen to Christians. While we should certainly not be happy to see our brothers and sisters suffering as they are, and should be crying out to God for mercy on their behalf, we need to remember that they are blessed.

Yes, BLESSED!!!

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5 v 10)

Those who are paying for their faith with their lives are being sent home to Jesus. As we pray, let’s remember that heaven is the blissful reality that awaits all true followers of Christ. In heaven there is no more sorrow, pain, death, tears or terrorism. That’s why Paul could write:

“to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1 v 21)

7. Pray without ceasing

Finally, let’s not stop praying about this. Prayer is hard and unglamorous. But let’s not jack it in. Rather, let’s take a leaf out of a persistent widow’s book and keep asking, seeking and knocking until our God responds:

“And [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
(Luke 18 v 1-8)

OK, that’s enough from me.

Let’s pray…

* If you want to become an answer to your own prayers and contribute financially to the persecuted saints in Iraq you can do so through Open Doors here. Alternatively you can sponsor me as I raise funds for Open Doors this coming weekend here.

Why I’m doing Tough Mudder

This post is gonna be a bit all over the shop, so let me give you the headline first, then try to unpack it a bit:

I am doing Tough Mudder On 16th August in order to raise much-needed support for persecuted Christians in Iraq – and I want your support!

nx_MiGVN_400x400As many of you will be aware from recent news reports, there is a militant Islamic group called ISIS who are currently unleashing hell in Iraq and Syria. Christians are being raped, beheaded and executed by ISIS (and it’s not only Christians either). Last weekend it was reported that Christians in the city of Mosul had their homes tagged by militants with the Arabic letter ‘n’ – which stands for ‘Nasrani’ – Christian). They were then given an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay an extortionate tax…or die. Many have since fled, but the terror and misery continues for countless Christians across the region. (Please read this article to get a grasp on the scale of the crisis).

So what can be done to help?

There are people in the region who are providing aid, including Open Doors. Open Doors are an outstanding Christian ministry who work on the ground with persecuted Christians, including many of those who have been displaced in Iraq. I want to raise a load of money to assist Open Doors in their work, and I’m going to do it by doing Tough Mudder.

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“So what is Tough Mudder?’ I hear you ask. Well, in a nut-shell, Tough Mudder – a 12 mile assault course that involves ice cold water, fire, electricity, tunnels, walls, heights…and LOTS of mud! It makes the bold claim of probably being the toughest event on planet earth (which is obviously ridiculous, because EVERYONE knows that getting 4 kids to church on time on a Sunday morning is the toughest event on planet earth!) However, it’s probably fair to say that for an out-of-shape 37 year old pastor with severely arthritic ankles (that I’ve just been told need surgery) – it still looks flippin’ hard:

About half a year ago the Fight Club guys talked me into signing up for Tough Mudder. However, about 3 months ago I twisted both my ankles on a training run and was unable to run for a couple of months. I saw the doctor who told me that I probably need further surgery on my ankle, so I decided to knock Tough Mudder on the head.

But then I heard about Iraq – and that changed my mind!

Despite what it might look like, I know my heart and I promise that doing Tough Mudder is not a macho thing, neither is it a mid-life crisis.

IT’S MY RESPONSE TO AN EMERGENCY!

In all honesty I don’t even know if my body will hold up to the challenge, but if it raises money for my persecuted brothers and sisters in Iraq then I’m willing to give it a flippin’ good crack!!

But I need YOU to make it worth my while.

The target I have set is £1000, so please visit my JustGiving page and sponsor me if you possibly can – whether it’s £1, £10, or £1,000 – every bit will help.

Thanks and God bless you.

Dai

 

If I was going to plant again… (Part 1)

hero-planting

It’s almost 7 years since my family and I moved to Trevethin to plant Hill City Church – and it’s been a roller coaster of a ride! In many ways the church that I now lead looks very different to the church that I dreamed of as a young inexperienced, arrogant gospel ranter.

That’s not a bad thing by the way!

However, for various reasons I’ve been thinking a lot recently about leadership and church planting, not least because I am being increasingly asked about it by other pastors and church planters. And what I have concluded is this – if I was going to plant again…I would do a lot of things very differently! So I’ve decided to write a series of blog posts to expound on this further. Please know that I am not writing these posts from a place of guilt or regret – I have repented much and received much grace for the many mistakes I have made. Rather, the purpose of these posts is to share some of the hard lessons I’ve learned along the way, in the hope that it might help others to not make the same mistakes!

This series will by no means be an exhaustive list, but for what it’s worth…

if I was going to plant again…

1. I wouldn’t do it on my own!

I think the only reason that God allowed me and Michelle to start a church on our own (it was 5 months until ANYONE else joined us!) was so that I could tell others what a STUPID idea it is! If I’m being honest, I know that my motive was a dangerous combination of pride and fear. Pride – because I honestly thought I could do it alone. Fear – because I couldn’t face the thought of the church plant failing! I honestly went into the church plant with a mindset than if it was just the 2 of us, then barring death or divorce the church could only grow!

I have since come to realise that the New Testament model of church planting is missional teams, not maverick hot-heads. Jesus never sent His disciples out in anything less than pairs, and it seems that more often than not Paul was either on mission with, or in jail with at least one other brother!

God graciously didn’t allow me to blow up or die alone in the trenches, but going it alone was neither wise or godly and I definitely wouldn’t do it again!

2. I wouldn’t be the guy who does everything

As I mentioned above I recognise that pride was a real problem. In the early stages I was the guy who did everything – the stuff you’d expect a planter to do like preaching, outreach, pastoral care, writing prayer letters etc., but also most of the other stuff too – making coffee, designing leaflets, setting up bank accounts etc. This was probably partly due to the fact that I was stupid enough to start with no other help (see above!) but also because I wanted to be wanted, or perhaps more truthfully – I needed to be needed! The root of this is pride.

One of the things that I find most compelling about Jesus is that He was committed to involving others in His ministry, like the time when His disciples were flapping because they were surrounded by 5000 hungry mouths. Jesus’ response: “you give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14 v 16) Sure, Jesus did the miracle, but He didn’t need to be the guy dishing out the loaves and fishes.

If Jesus didn’t need to be the guy who does everything, neither do I!

3. I’d be far more intentional in raising up leaders from the start

For several years the thought of releasing others into leadership didn’t even cross my mind. This was partly because I wanted to be the guy who does everything (see above) but also because I merely viewed others as a being a means to fulfilling my ministry, rather than seeing my ministry as existing to empower and equip others to be all that God has called them to be. How shameful! And how different to Jesus who, within a few verses of starting His ministry, was trekking down the beach calling others to follow Him on a mission to change the world (Matthew 4 v 18-19).

We are now seven (humbling) years into the Hill City adventure, and I am privileged to lead alongside 2 fantastic elders whose skill-sets and convictions make the church’s leadership far stronger than it ever would have been with just me at the helm. Similarly there are several other men and women in the church who are simply more gifted than I am and are now involved in serving in various leadership roles. I now see how vital the task of raising up leaders really is.

We’re getting there now…but we should have got there a lot sooner!

4. I’d place a much greater emphasis on prayer

At Hill City we have recently sought to ramp up the prayer life of the church. As the man who planted Hill City I was responsible for establishing the vision and values and setting the tone for the church. If I’m being brutally honest I don’t think I dug the foundations of prayer deep enough at Hill City in the formative stages. Rather than prioritising and persevering in the anonymous and unglamorous work of prayer, I was preoccupied with doing other ministry stuff that was tangible to others and that I thought would deliver immediate results. This was a prideful, stupid mistake.

In Mark 1 v 35-39 we see Jesus getting up early to pray before a busy day of ministry. His prayer life was such that His disciples were provoked to ask Him “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11 v 1) And as He contemplated the horrors of the cross in the shadows of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed (Mark 14 v 32). Incredibly, He was even praying as they crucified Him (Luke 23 v 34). After His ascension, Jesus’ disciples gathered to pray (Acts 1 v 14). The Holy Spirit came, the church started to grow and as persecution arose – the Apostles headed straight to a prayer meeting! (Acts 4 v 23-24)

If Jesus and the early Spirit-filled church needed to pray – how much more does a flawed little valley boy trying to plant a church?!

A prayer-less church is like a Ferrari without an engine. It might look good from the outside, but it ain’t going nowhere!

 

These are just some of the things I would do differently.

Stay tuned for If I was going to plant again… (Part 2)

Share your self-control story…

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Ladies, I’m afraid this post is exclusively for the fellas…

Brothers,  but I need your help!

Last month I put the finishing touches to the manuscript for a book that I have been working on for the last year or so. Like my previous book, this one is again aimed at men and it addresses the issue of self-control. The title is “A Man’s Greatest Challenge: how to build self-control that lasts” and it set for release by The Good Book Company in September. As you’d expect, I’m really excited about the book and am praying that it will help and encourage men of all ages in their battle for self-control.

But here’s where I need your help. My editor thinks that it would be really good if we could supplement each of the chapters with real-life testimonies of men for whom self-control is / has been an issue. (By the way, this isn’t just a book about how blokes struggle with porn – it covers ALL aspects of self-control – anger, time management, finances, technology etc.) What we are looking for is men who would be willing to write 250-300 words of frank and honest testimony about their experience from just one of seven different angles of conquering self-control.

Could that be you?

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Jesus was inclusive…wasn’t He?

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“Jesus was inclusive!”

Man, I hear that a lot these days, both in conversation, and also on various blogs and social media sites.

It’s usually aimed at Christians who express concern about various issues that we sincerely feel contradict scripture (the most recent being the gay marriage debate). The playing of the ‘inclusivity card’ usually goes something like this:

“Who are you to question my lifestyle or the lifestyle of others? Jesus didn’t judge people. He was totally inclusive and He loved people whoever they were! You need to be more inclusive like Jesus”

The difficulty with this phrase, of course, is that while it is true, it is not the full picture. Having heard the phrase one time too many this week I have decided to write about the claim that Jesus was inclusive, and I essentially have 2 points to make: Continue reading