Month: March 2010

Who’s The Daddy? Erm…Me…Twice!





Went for our 12 week scan yesterday (at Panteg hospital where I was born) and we were well excited to meet the new little jelly dude growing in Michelle. However, we literally weren’t ready for what happened next. Here’s how it went down…

After politely laughing off the fact that the 2 medical ladies (don’t know what their job titles are) found our surname hilarious, I was just getting settled into my chair when Michelle started laughing hysterically. Perplexed and nervously excited I asked “What is it a boy? Can you see his pecker?” (I admit it wasn’t the most dignified question – but I was excited and I’m just reporting the facts!!) Upon being told it wasn’t a manhood that had caused such hilarity, I asked what the dickens was going on. I was encouraged to take another look and this is what I saw:

Admittedly, it’s not the clearest picture, though Michelle’s inability to stop laughing with joy didn’t help capture the miracle! But the upshot is this – there wasn’t one little jelly baby on the screen, but two!

Come on!!!

We know they’re not identical twins as they have their own liquid sleeping bags and placenta drinking straws! However, they were both wriggling for Wales – full of life and developing very well by all accounts!

And trust me – we’re buzzin!

The question we are getting asked is are we freaked out by the prospect of going from 2 kids to 4.

Answer – No!!

We believe that all children are a gift from God:

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” (Psalm 127v3-4)

Furthermore, God wouldn’t have trusted them to us if He didn’t think we’d be able to cope. We feel more overjoyed than overwhelmed, though we do take solace from the truth that His grace is perfected in our weakness!! Elen and Josiah are already well excited about having:

a) 2 new brothers
b) 2 new sisters
c) a new brother and a new sister

(God only knows!!)

I need to state publicly what an absolute babe, blessing and soldier my precious wife is too! I love how much she loves her kids and thrives on doing family the crazy Hankey way! She’s amazing! However, please do pray for her – carrying twins whilst also looking after 2 little nutters and keeping me in line is no easy task!

Just want to close this post by praising my gracious God – the giver of all good gifts!

Thank you LORD for this incredible blessing – may all my children grow up to love you, to embrace your gospel and to live for your glory! Amen.

Impatiently Learning Patience

I hate waiting for stuff.

Always have done.

To say that I am hard-wired to be impatient and impulsive would be a massive understatement! Clothes, food, bikes, cars, relationships…I have made some stupid, dangerous and destructive decisions throughout my life because of my unwillingness to wait, to think and to trust God.

I don’t think I’m alone in this either – I think it’s fair to say that it’s the curse of my generation as a whole. We’re very much the ‘Now Generation’ – fast food, quick cash, speed dating, buy now pay later, crash diets and worst of all – instant coffee!! Come on when was the last time you were chuffed that your meal in the restaurant took an hour to arrive, or you rejoiced that the traffic lights you stuck at were on permanent strike? We can’t even cope when lose our mobile signal or our internet connection.

We’re just too busy and too impatient to wait!

I struggle with this in pretty much every area of my life. I’m not the man I want to be – I want to be a better disciple, husband, father, pastor and friend. But the process is taking longer than I’d like! A LOT longer!! Similarly, I have such a huge vision and hunger for the church, the community and even the nation that God has called me to serve. But things don’t always happen as quickly or as smoothly as I’d like. And don’t even get me started on the pipe-dream of waging war against my middle-aged spread!!

I just don’t like waiting for things to happen!

Which is why preaching through Joseph recently has been incredibly challenging for me personally! The story so far has gone something like this:

God gave Joseph a glimpse of his destiny when he was just 17 years old, and Joseph, suffering from the same impulsive & impatient disorder (IID) that I suffer from, thought it was going to happen instantly and pretty much told his brothers “get on yer knees now!” Obviously they didn’t, but rather they gave him the kicking of his life, considered murdering him but opted to i-bay him instead! (The ‘i’ is for Ishmaelite by the way!!)

What followed for Joseph was 13 years of slavery, sexual temptation and ultimately jail!

That’s an incredibly long time to wait! And even when he got set loose from jail there was still another 9 years until he actually came face to face with his brothers and saw his dreams become reality!

22 years!!

That’s long!

Like 22 years ago I was 11! I can’t even remember what was going on in my life when I was 11, though it probably involved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!!

So why did God make Joseph wait for 22 years?

Well, for what it’s worth, God has used the story of Joseph to teach me that God is far more concerned about changing our character than he is about changing our circumstances! What Joseph went through was rough, but it also served to expose serious flaws in his character that, if they had not been dealt with would have destroyed what God had in store for Joseph, as well as dishonouring the God he claimed to trust! The beautiful truth is that when Joseph emerged from jail all those years later he was the real deal! Sin – purged! Rough edges – polished away! Integrity – intact! Ready to use – now!!

I love that! I love that God’s not impatient like we are. Time is not God’s enemy. Rather it’s a tool that He can and He will use for His glory and our joy! His timing is perfect. Just ask Joseph!! He never lost sight of the vision that God had given him. He just had to wait for it! Simple as that!!

Interestingly one of the Hebrew words for ‘wait’ (qavah) can also be translated as ‘hope’!

As Christians – we should wait differently to those who don’t have Jesus.

Rather than getting disillusioned, distracted or destructive when things aren’t happening as quickly as we’d like, we should rather focus on the promises of our loving God and be faith-filled, hope-full and courageous! Secure in the knowledge that He hasn’t forgotten, abandoned or lost hope in us, but is rather refining us so that when the time comes – we’ve got what it takes to do the business in a way that gives Him maximum glory!!

So perhaps, next time you’re getting vexed because things aren’t happening when or how you’d like – use it as a reason to hope! To trust faithfully and unswervingly in the wisdom and the good purposes of a sovereign God who knows what’s best for you, and is 100% committed to making you the man/woman that He’s called you to be.

Why not join me on the painful, passionate journey of impatiently learning the art of patience!

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2v3)

If you’d like to follow the Hill City teaching series on Joseph, you can do so here.

Dai Bingo

Had a great time at Ignite last night – I got to rap, I got to preach the gospel and I got to see young people get saved. I also got to eat a shed-load of meaty pizza beforehand – which always makes for a good night!

However, I wasn’t quite ready for what happened after the event had finished! I was surrounded by a bunch of grinning techies, each gripping a small piece of paper.”Neil won!” I was informed as they each handed me their slip of paper. I looked at one of the sheets and was surprised to see the words “Dai Bingo” printed across the top. Below that was a grid full of words and it didn’t take long to clock what this was all about. As I read words like “BUZZIN”, “PUTS ON CHAV VOICE” and “MENTIONS ELEN” and saw that some of these boxes had crosses or ticks in them, it became clear that while I had been preaching my guts out for the glory of Jesus, these guys had been keeping scores on my catch-phrases, mannerisms and predictable points of illustration. In fairness, I’ve known them and worked with them so many times that they probably know how I preach better than I do! And I must confess I found the whole thing hilarious!!

To be honest I was glad that while my family, my church and my estate were things that I apparently talk about a lot, there was also nothing rude or inappropriate on there!! But it did get me thinking because for better or worse, these guys had been around me enough to be able to observe what I’m about! My words and ways had clearly been noted and given them a window into my life! One of the things that Jesus taught was that “Out of the overflow of [the] heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6v45). Or simply put – our words reveal the truth about who we really are. Furthermore, Paul wrote that we are all “living epistles” (2Corinthians 3v3) – meaning that our lives are literally letters for the world to read!

So what if people played “[Your name] Bingo” every day? What habits and sound-bites would they attribute to you? What would people learn about you from your words – both what you say and how you say it? What would your life teach others (if anything) about you and your God?

It’s challenging isn’t it!

My prayer is that my life and my language will only ever give glory to God and grace to my world.

I pray the same for you too!

Why Theology Matters

I’ve taken a lot of heat recently for my conviction that theology is important and that it’s crucial for Christians to know exactly what to believe about God. So when I stumbled across this video the other day I felt that it was something I should stick up on the blog as it explains in very simple terms exactly why theology matters.

God Is At Work

Last night was awesome! It was one of our prayer-focussed HomeGroups, and I have to confess that after a ridiculously busy day I hadn’t really done a great deal to prepare for it. In fact it’s probably fair to say that the only thing that I did do was ask the Holy Spirit to turn up and lead us.

And I’m so glad that He did!!

First of all He lead me to Psalm 103v2:

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits”

This led us to an impromptu time of intentionally focussing on the goodness of God in our lives and worshipping Him for it! That in itself was profound as for all present it caused us to lift our eyes to God and our voices in praise. This very naturally led into a time in which we gave space for one another to share stories of how we’d experienced the grace of God and the power of the gospel in our own situations.

This was the bit that just blew me away.

The first story was that of a lady who testified to the victory that God had given her over a smoking addiction and the battle with temptation to drink too much alcohol. This was followed by stories of answered prayer from previous homegroups in issues such as health, finance and gospel witness in the workplace. We also heard several people confess that they had just known a deepening in their walk with God and growth in their character. I was especially excited by 2 other stories. The first was of a bloke who had simply told a colleague that he would pray for a tough situation he was facing, only to see his prayer answered and his colleague acknowledge it as answered prayer. This opened a door for the gospel for the first time. The second was another answered prayer of God’s grace to a lady who has just had a second baby and had been feeling quite overwhelmed. The answered prayer came in the form of renewed joy and fresh energy that manifested itself in the form of a spring in the step and all the washing getting done!

Now I know for some that some of that stuff might not sound that dramatic or exciting, but for me – it was both beautiful and inspiring! I loved it because it said that God’s at work in our midst! I think we often get so focussed on the big, flashy and unmissable moves of God (and there’s nothing wrong with all that) that we can overlook the simple, daily evidences of God’s grace to us! God does save, heal, deliver and transform, but let’s not miss the ‘smaller’ miracles of answered prayer, spiritual growth in a believer and a pile of freshly washed clothes!

I’m hungry to see God do so much in and through this crazy young church, and I’m more convinced than ever that God is on the move in our midst!


In Memory Of Mam

So as my first Mother’s Day since losing mam to cancer draws to close, I thought I’d just take a bit of time to reflect on some stuff. I have to confess that I found today a lot harder than I thought I would, with tears flowing freely as my kids jumped on their mammy this morning, and then again in church as we sang ‘Faithful One’ and I recalled just how faithful God has been to me since mam died in October.

Truth is that God blessed me with a fantastic mother for 33 years of my life, and while the pain of her death still hits me for six at times, I thank God for the gospel guarantee that she’s chillin’ with Jesus in paradise right now. I also thank God for the inspiring example of faith, grace and eternal hope that mam was and for the numerous invaluable lessons that she taught me throughout my life. I was especially encouraged recently as I read Proverbs 1v8-9:

“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.”

I suppose the best way to honour and remember my mam is to never forget the things that she taught me by both her words and her life:

  • That God is completely good, even when things like cancer enter the equation.
  • That the Bible is God’s Word and completely trustworthy.
  • That prayer is both powerful and crucial.
  • That the love of Christ is irresistible.
  • That we can ALWAYS come back to the cross and find grace.
  • That no one is beyond the merciful reach of God.
  • That family is special.
  • That commitment to local church is important.
  • That creation reveals the majesty of God in a profound way.
  • That heaven is a reality that becomes more and more visible the closer that death gets.
  • That in Jesus we always have a reason to smile, to sing and to celebrate.

She obviously taught me loads of other cool stuff too, but that’s what comes to mind tonight. I thought I’d finish off by posting a rap that I performed in church this morning. It was written right in the middle of mam’s battle with cancer and is dedicated to her and to the two other precious girls in my life, for whom I am incredibly grateful to God for, my wife and my daughter.

Thank you Jesus for my mam and my girls!

Truemcee: My Girls

Face Lift

The last week or so has been very, very tough for me personally.

Not only because my dog had to have a lump removed that turned out be cancerous. Not just because my kids have recently decided that pre-6am is the best time to get up, get loud and get the rest of us up as well! Not only because some of my mates are really going through the grinder at the moment. And not just as Mother’s Day fast approaches and for the first time in my life I don’t have a mother to hug and make a fuss of!!

No, on top of all that there have been a lot of pressures and strains that have come hand-in-hand with being both a Pastor and a pioneer of a young church plant, and while it would be completely inappropriate to go into details here on the blog, rest assured the events of this last week have sought to rob me of my joy and deprive me of peace! At times, I guess it’s fair to say that I haven’t been the happiest bunny in Rabbitland! Which is why I loved reading this verse this morning:

“A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” (Proverbs 15v13)

It reminds me of that old Christian chorus:

“With Christ in the vessel we can smile at the storm…”

Now I’ve got to say that I completely DO NOT endorse fake Christianity! I think Christians who walk round with fake smiles, fake “I’m fine!”s and fake hope are doing themselves, their God and their world a disservice! However, I also believe that we DO NOT have to remain in a place of sorrow and a crushed spirit. There is a third way! It is possible to genuinely smile in the face of adversity – to smile through the storm!! So what is that third way?

Read that verse again.

The key to joy is not changing our circumstances, but refocussing the eyes of our heart!

So how exactly do you do that? It’s at this point in the blog that I feel the need to just go off on one! This isn’t going to be a deep, considered, structured and well thought-through theological framework for where my joy should come from. Rather I’m just going to go nuts and rant about a load of stuff that I’m thankful to God for right now, and that hopefully will cheer my heart and write a big, fat smile across my chops.

So here we go – a bunch of reasons why I should rejoice:

  • The God of the universe loves me with an everlasting love
  • Jesus died for me
  • Jesus rose for me
  • I’m saved by grace
  • I’m forgiven forever
  • I’m heaven-bound
  • I’m no longer hell-bound
  • I’m no longer a slave but a son (Galatians 4v7)
  • I’ve heard God’s voice through the Bible this week
  • I’ve seen direct answered prayer this week
  • I’ve had the privilege of teaching the Bible this week
  • ALL God’s promises are always true
  • God is with me (even when it doesn’t feel like it!)
  • I love my job!
  • God is at work in my life
  • God is at work in my church
  • The prodigals are coming home
  • My wife is a babe!
  • Seriously, she is!!
  • My kids are a precious gift
  • I have a warm home
  • I have eaten food every day this week
  • My bills are paid
  • I have some fantastic friends
  • My family haven’t fallen apart since mam died
  • My mam’s in heaven
  • My dog’s not dead
  • The sun is shining
  • I can still see some snow on the mountain opposite (I love snow!)
  • God is good and He is in control!!

Straight up – I genuinely enjoyed the process of writing that! I honestly feel elated. In fact I’m buzzin’! Thank you Jesus!!

Whoever you are reading this and no matter what your circumstances, I want to encourage you to focus on the glory, the gospel and the goodness of God, and see if your heart doesn’t start to glow and give you a God-given face-lift!

Lord, thank you for all these gifts that have blessed my heart. I pray that as I step out now into the rest of the day – my face will tell the world how good you are and how thankful I am!

New Look Blog

Well they say a change is as good as a holiday and seeing as I’m not going anywhere anytime soon I thought I’d take advantage of an unexpectedly quiet evening and redesign the Sanctified Rant.

Hope you like it. Let me know your thoughts!

God bless.

The Sweetness & Security of God’s Sovereignty

So we’re 2 weeks into our Joseph series at Hill City Church and already 2 things are happening.

Firstly, by God’s grace the messages seem to be hitting the spot for many of the congregation. I never go hunting for people’s praise when I’ve preached as such behaviour generally leads to smug arrogance or paranoid anxiety – both of which suck. However, I’m not so falsely humble that I can’t cope with it when people who, of their own accord, say what a blessing the sermon’s been. So long as God gets the glory (cos it’s Him who speaks!) then it’s all good!! And it would appear that God has been speaking and challenging the saints in Hill City – and I’m buzzin’ about that!

The truth, however, is that I’m not surprised that the story of Joseph has been blessing people as it’s been completely blowing me away too! I’m personally getting more out of prepping this sermon series than I think I have done with any other series I’ve preached. Last Sunday’s message in particular helped me immensely…

The title was ‘Broken Dreams‘ and essentially charted Joseph’s betrayal, beating, attempted murder and sale into slavery at the hands of his twisted brothers in Genesis 37. The parallels with the salvation story of Jesus were too blatant to overlook, though it was the miracle of God’s sovereignty revealed in this part of the story that really got my blood pumping! In a nutshell the teaching went like this:

God is sovereign – which essentially means that He does whatever He wants!

The reassuring thing about this characteristic of God is that He is also good and He knows best!

This is modelled for us perfectly in this story. When Joseph woke up that morning, he had absolutely no concept what kind of day he was about to have. He woke up healthy, strong, richly robed, secure in his father’s care. By the time the sun went down he was beaten-up, exhausted, naked and fatherless. As he was sold on the cheap and led away in shackles to face an uncertain future, his dreams of future greatness could not have seemed more unlikely or impossible.

Yet all of this was not just permitted, but actually planned by a sovereign God who sees everything, knows best and loves His people in ways that are higher than we can ever fully understand. God’s plans are always to ultimately prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and bright future (Jeremiah 29v11) We all know how Joseph’s story ends – governor of Egypt, saving his nation from death, vindicated before his brothers, reunited with his dad and preserving the family line of Jesus!

This was God loving Joseph and keeping His promises. But boy did it hurt at the time!

And this gives me such hope for my life and the lives of the saints I love at Hill City Church. The painful, unjust and seemingly hopeless situations that we face are part of the master-plan of a loving sovereign God, and while we may never really get our heads around just how He is at work, we can still be confident in this:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8v28)

This is the sweetness and the security of trusting a sovereign God!