Religious and Indifferent in Sardis

In this talk we look at the Letter to the Church in Sardis, Revelation 3:1-6. There doesn’t seem to be much good said about the church in this once thriving city. We examine what it means to be truly alive and truly a follower of Jesus. Even thought this message is hard, it contains some fantastic encouragement. We can walk with God into eternity proud of what we have achieved here. For those of us who struggling, maybe even dying spiritually, we can be turned around so that we can live. No-one is ever beyond hope.

Click below to listen to the talk audio

Download the Powerpoint Notes for the talk below

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This podcast was recorded at South Church, Mkushi, Zambia 4th September 2016.

© Copyright, Jon Paul Witt, 2016

© Image Copyright “Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland.” Jon Paul Witt 2016.

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The 10×10 Challenge

A few weeks ago Ethan and myself travelled down to Bernard’s village to make a video for Dignity. Ethan did the filming, I did some scripting and then Bernard and myself took an inordinate amount of time getting it right!

We need to fund a huge expansion in the village work of Digntiy in Zambia. To do this, we need your help!

Please, please watch the video below and share it. We need 100 people to do the 10×10 challenge. Maybe you and your friends could be some of the 100?

Enduring in Smyrna

This is a guest appearence by my wife Judith Witt.

In this talk we look at the Letter to the persecuted chruch in Smyrna, Revelation 2:8-11. Endurance and overcoming fear are key messages to the church in Smyrna, that was not only poor but also persecuted. We can learn important lessons from their example today.

This podcast was recorded at South Church, Mkushi, Zambia 14th August 2016

© Copyright, Jon Paul Witt and Judith Karen Witt, 2016

Mission for Everyone

This morning I’ve been for a walk in the what some would call, “the freezing cold wastelands of North Wales”. Yet it has snowed, it is icy and I love it! There’s something about the clarity and deadness of sound that fresh snow brings. You can see for miles and the snow deadens the noise of the world so everything seems pristine and tranquil. I can really think and see clearly!

I’ve been off for a few weeks and as well as getting on with some things other than ministry, I’ve been thinking and praying about what the future holds. I don’t know about you but I need threads, ideas and facts upon which I can base my future actions and movements upon. God understands this too. Faith is often not blind faith, principally it is faith in the one who calls us. He is totally reliable. In my experience faith is often not unrelated from the present either. The God who beckons us forward is the same God who has been preparing us, shaping our circumstances and leading us to the point where we may make a leap of faith or two. We notice the leaps but we seldom notice the quiet movement that the Spirit has been making behind the scenes for years.

There are all kinds of exciting ideas that I have looking at the future of Dignity, most of them are significant upgrades and developments of existing work. Yes there are some new leaps of faith as well. The one concept that we have always been about is that mission is for “everyday people”, wherever you are. We know the poor can be used mightily by God, how about everyone else? Over the years I’ve become experienced in cross cultural, rural and community based mission. Maybe it’s time to use some of these very hard learned lessons in equipping others and reaching others.

I do believe that God is moving anew in his people. Some of the ideas we have worked with for years are gaining traction in wider circles. There’s a revolution coming that doesn’t base itself on superstars in the faith, but on the church, a people, a mission for everyone. Whoever we are, wherever we are, we have a calling to serve, to reach out, to be Jesus to everyone we come across and to seek out those we don’t come across. We need to up our game in the forgotten and rural areas of this world. We need to reach more people and equip more people to reach others also. Simple really 🙂

Dr RT Kendall recently at The Evangelist’s Conference got all prophetic. Of course it was very biblical, he is a renowned theologian. However the sense of now-ness of what God is saying really spoke to me. “God will work through the faceless”. That phrase resonated with me powerfully. You can listen to the whole talk here.

Heidi Baker again not so long ago spoke about similar themes at a conference here in the UK.

Here’s an example of a call to action about mission and what God is doing from the leader of Ivy Church, Anthony Delaney. Ivy are the church that send Jude and I out on the ministry we have. Again, we are all needed and it’s about redoubling and focusing our efforts on the lost, together.

Whatever you think of the prophetic elements there’s one element that speaks to me loud and strong, God will move through ALL of his people. The Spirit will empower us to do this. The future of the church is for everyone to fight together in unity. For those of us who get a little twitchy at the sound of prophetic words and anointing let me remind you of something very rooted in the word. Isn’t that the point of the Body of Christ? We are meant to move together with Christ as our head. At the moment we have limbs all over the place. Arms flail in different directions, parts of the body who don’t know what they should do, everyone thinks they are the head…. it won’t do and I do believe God is calling time on this. What God will do is not new in the sense that we have not seen it before, but it will be in out time, in our generation, because let’s face it, his world needs it.

Are you one of the faceless? A person that has never been a superstar? Never called to the spiritual heights? Well that doesn’t really matter because God has a role for you, in his mission, in his plan to reach this world. That’s the move of the Spirit that’s coming.

If you need a few threads upon which to base your future, there’s some for you.

Don’t we understand? It’s a mission for everyone.

So if all I have said is true I wonder, what will our response be? Answers on a postcard please……

Don’t be a fool

No FoolsIt can be quite jarring how life’s priorities can be turned upside down in an instant. There I was just thinking I was coming out of a malaise of activity with no time to think. I felt that I was beginning to be able to breathe again. New plans were forming in my mind, new directions were taking shape and BANG! they all didn’t seem to matter.

My wife, Jude, fell down a 6ft car pit and seriously injured herself. Both of us, a long long way from the specialist care she required. Thank God she is OK and definitely on the mend. However there were a few, seemingly long moments where I thought she may not make it. She shared the same thoughts. They are humbling moments.

Our kids left at our place in Zambia not really knowing what had happened. I’m left in a maelstrom of thoughts, emotions and activity, desperately trying to get those first few hours sorted out. Every love and passion you hold falls into insignificance. It’s true place in your life cruelly exposed for the unimportant sham and it really is.

Mortality has a way of grabbing our attention like nothing else.

Many people have re-assured me that God was there. To be honest, I feel that some of those people are simply re-assuring themselves. An agreement from me, re-enforces what they hope to be true. Such a jarring, shocking event doesn’t simply shock those directly involved, it shocks all around. Maybe that is why I have written this.

Let me tell you something. I know God was there. I’ve been there before. I’ve been in deep trouble that I am powerless to defend myself against, usually in the continent of Africa. You learn to see the signs of His presence. He mobilises people, help, intervenes in the situation. In the middle of the night, people came to give blood, the insurance company didn’t play up, thousands (literally) of people prayed and Jude lived. I know that the story could have been very different.

We don’t fully understand why bad things happen in this world. Maybe we never will. We are however given a choice. Do we have no hope that we are on our own, abandoned in this wide universe? Do we believe there is someone who gives everything sense, direction and security? It’s very easy when life is well to say we don’t believe in God, to say that religion it’s a crutch. It is another thing entirely when the chips are down, maybe you will die…. it’s quite another thing to not believe in God then. You need a crutch then, you will do anything for one. We see and understand just how weak we really are.

Both Jude and I are indebted to the thousands of people who prayed for us, and especially prayed for Jude. We are indebted to the many people that have helped us with practical details in the last two weeks. Sometimes we feel out on a limb when we are in Africa, maybe the last two weeks have taught me just how much the family of God means to us. There are people out there, who if we are in trouble will go to the end of the earth to find us (you may have to one day!). I also never lose my sense of wonder at how God mobilises events and people when it really needs to happen.

Jude is still healing up and will be for a while. It still hurts her to even breathe. Both of our emotions are occasionally a little raw, but we know God is around us, helping us and we will definitely live to fight another day. We are not that easily put off. 🙂

In such times, there are precious viewpoints to be reflected upon. Such events do not come along often, we thank God for that. However, when they do, they give you a viewpoint of your life, your love and your relationships like nothing else. They help you appreciate your place in the order of all things, and the place of the God you say you have a relationship with.

The Bible says such troubles are light and for this moment. How can the Bible say that? In the light of all things, from the beginning till the end of time, they probably are. Yet they are up close and personal and the pain can be searing. Yet that same pain teaches, gives wisdom and helps us to live better. The viewpoints suffered achieve wisdom and correct perspective in life. Evil is somehow turned for our own and this world’s good.

It is the fool that becomes bitter at God at such a time for they ignore the source of life and healing. I don’t intend to be a fool and whatever your pain, maybe you shouldn’t too….

We have all the time in the world

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The date of October 16th 2012, would maybe not strike you as an auspicious occasion. It was my 37th birthday. My life is rapidly (well no more than it used to) engaging with what is known as the “late thirties”. Myself, I would still say mid thirties…..

Where does the time go? Older people tell me that time goes faster as you get older. Is this true? Is it like some kind of theory of relativity? The older you get the faster time goes? Opinions please…

What was significant about this year for me, is that I have been a Christian for 25 years. An entire quarter of a century, following and trying to know Jesus. For those reading this who are not Christians, I realise even that phrase will seem a little odd.

However perhaps it shouldn’t? Every person I know, all of us, are trying by various means to answer life’s great questions. Where are we going? Who are we, really? What will happen when we die, if anything? Whether we bury our heads in the sand, work ourselves into a lather, or embrace them, the questions remain, they never go away.

Over the last 25 years, I have blown hot and cold. Sometimes I have felt really close to God, other times, a very long way away. I’ve got many things wrong, there are many actions I have made that quite frankly I regret. I wish I was stronger. However, I’ve never known God to leave me, to forget about me and even when I am in the darkest hole, He has never ceased to inspire me. He has been constant. There have also been great triumphs in that quarter if a century, and I have changed from a rather shy and frightened 12 year old into what I am now, a missionary in Africa via college, university, software engineering and church leadership.

I must admit there is a growing hunger in myself to make the next 25 years (if indeed I have them) count for more than the last 25. The fact is none of us know do we? We don’t actually know how long we have. We have a need to make the most of everyday that is presented to us.

How do we do that? Is it by accomplishing great exploits; making lots of money or something other equally impressive? For many of us, working everyday, struggling with getting the bills paid, wandering if we are a good parent, these impressive showy, life affirming exploits are simply not within reach. How do follow an inspiring path when you are bleary eyed in the bus to work or all day in your office?

God has planted eternity in the hearts of all people. We have a yearning for something more, that this world cannot fill. The answer is something to do with our orientation to this truth? If we embrace something or someone eternal and seek to live our lives by these values,then our life becomes ‘full of meaning’ and direction wherever we are.

25 years ago I was introduced to this man Jesus, whom I was told at great cost to himself had shown and demonstrated Gods love for me. Embracing that love, giving your life to study, follow, understand and more importantly know it, is the most freeing, dynamic and courageous thing I have ever done.

25 years is a long time. However, in the context of living forever, I am only just beginning, not even a millisecond has passed. I literally have all the time in the world, to know God, His Love, His meaning and His power, forever!

The only pressing concern is that I have a short finite time to share this with people
like you reading this post, wandering where your life is headed. Maybe you too should give Jesus some time, he literally has all the time in the world to give you.

On His Majesty’s Secret Service

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Now I am not likening myself to James Bond here. I may have the piercing blue eyes of Daniel Craig, but that is where the likeness ends. I’m sure if it had been my bare torso emerging from the Blue Mediterranean in Casino Royale, the headlines would have been different to the cries of adulation that greeted Mr Craig.

Ian Fleming’s fictional character James Bond, the secret agent 007 worked for a power higher than himself, the British Government. Likewise, so do I, but a government infinitely higher than that of my home country. I as a Christian stand for the government of God in this world. The Bible talks of Christians being Christ’s Ambassadors, carrying authority of God’s government with them.

I’ve always found one passage of the Bible intriguing. It’s the passage in Matthew 21 where Jesus asks his disciples to go and get a donkey for him to ride into Jerusalem. He tells them where to go and what to do. His disciples ask, “what should we do if anyone asks what we are doing?”. Jesus replies to them, “tell them that the Lord needs them and they will send them straight away”. Some people believe that Jesus owned the donkey anyway, and that the disciples were simply fetching it. I don’t believe this is the case at all as Jesus really didn’t own much at all. A donkey was a valuable commodity.

Why could Jesus simply obtain the donkey that obviously wasn’t his own? Imagine if I walked into a bank and stated, “Please give me £10000, it’s for the Lord”. I may not end the day as a free man. There is something of God’s will and organisation going on here.

We have been living, somewhat squatting in a house owned by a company here in Mkushi. The company have been very lovely and hospitable and we are very thankful to them. In March just before travelling back to Zambia, there was a moment where we only had somewhere to live for the next 3 days, then this house came up.

The initial plan was to stay for 2-3 weeks. However some other arrangements had not happened regarding our building, making our situation very difficult indeed. The person coming to work in Zambia and live in the house then announced they were not coming anymore and we could stay for a while longer. Why did that happen?

Yesterday I was discussing with Jude when we should move over to our site. The campsite is virtually done, a garage half up and the roof is nearly ready to be constructed onto the house. Still a lot of work to be done, but there is running water and even a toilet and hot shower! We decided upon a week in August. This week just happens to be when the company need us to move out. I only found that out this morning.

Last night I felt God share with me the story of the Donkey in Matthew. I guess he was saying, “what you require will always be there Jon”. That doesn’t mean everything is easy, but what you need will always be there. Working for God means you often see circumstances move before you and around you. I could tell many such stories of God’s provision and faithfulness.

The thing is you only see them when you are on active service. If you are too busy making your life comfortable and providing for yourself, God has no need to step in. When everything has hit the fan and you have put yourself in a difficult place on active service for God, you see him step in.
It sometimes is truly mind blowing how God does this. I wish I could get it into my thick skull that God always makes a way. I’ve seen it so often but often I get full of fear or worry at the first sign of trouble.

Maybe we should all remember that we enrolled in His service and that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Well always be able to grab a donkey when we need one.