Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Minor revelations

Like many Christians across the world I have been chasing days to read my ‘bible in a year’. On 14th December I calculated I had 191 chapters to read before the end of the month.

To be honest I liked the challenge because of the huge upside of reading big chunks of the minor prophets & the tail end of the NT.

I crossed the line this morning and I’ve come to a conclusion - we are not mad in believing the bible.

I had forgotten quite how rich the minor prophets are in prophecies about Jesus. The book of Revelation gives such hope in Jesus and His return that current challenges slot into their correct significance.

I don’t know what your year has been like - maybe like me you seem to be chasing stuff that refuses to stand still. It’s good to remember that through it all is 'God’s big story' about Jesus and the cross, about a garden and a city, and about His glory and His grace.

We are recipients of amazing grace, predicted by prophets 100’s of years before Jesus was born, how cool is that?

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Something worth saying

Jesus.

Jesus is.

Jesus is the.

Jesus is the Son.

Jesus is the Son of.

Jesus is the Son of God.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God (1John 4:15)

Monday, 15 December 2008

Are we there yet?

On today's ironing marathon I was accompanied by Driscoll on stewardship. We all need to keep training our heart on this issue!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

WW2 and my Grandad

Joshua is doing a school project on WW2 and he interviewed my Grandad about his experience. I found it fascinating and learnt some new things about him! I have posted the transcript below:

Joshua: How old were you when war was declared?

Grandad: Seven.

Joshua: Where were you when you heard that war had broken out?

Grandad: I was at home with my mum & dad and my two sisters. We had a wireless which ran on an accumulator and a large battery. We were told to be quiet while the Prime Minister broadcast we were at war with Germany.

Joshua: How did you feel when you heard about the war?

Grandad: I didn’t know what to expect. I think I knew mum & dad were worried. All the young men in the village were called up for the forces and all the teachers at school were women as the men had to go in the forces.

Joshua: What parts did your parents play in the war?

Grandad: My father was a coal miner in the Kent mine called “Chiselet”, sunk in the Isle of Thanet (Kent) where we lived. He also was a member of the Home Guard and did night watch guard on the cliffs of Kent. My mum was a house wife who looked after the family feeding and clothing us, she was excellent.

Joshua: How did your life change during the war?

Grandad: My life became very exciting. Air raid sirens sounded every day and at all times. German bombers flew over head on formations of 100 plus, anti aircraft guns blazed away. At night search lights went on to illuminate them. I watched Spitfires shooting some down and fighting with German fighters, planes crashing everywhere, parachutes coming down with English and German pilots attached.

Joshua: What was it like at school before the war?

Grandad: It was very enjoyable and quiet and a pleasure to go to school. I was in the second form after starting school and I was 4 ½. I had good friends and we played marbles and conkers and chased the girls.

Joshua: How did school life change because of the war?

Grandad: School life became a constant upheaval. We had an air raid shelter built in a square under our normal play ground, everyday the sirens sounded and we all filed down steps (about 15-20 steps) and kept in class order sitting on benches and had our lessons down there. There were toilets down there at each end but they were horrible. Sometimes we went home late because they had to wait until the ALL CLEAR siren was sounded.

Joshua: How did your family cope on the rations?

Grandad: Mum was an absolute heroine, she cooked wonderful dinners all the time for us kids, although she went without herself. We all had ration books and mum went to the butchers shop every other day to get what was available. We had a veggie garden and we kept four chickens for eggs and dad would come home with an occasional rabbit and mum would make pies and stews. We also received on a regular basis food parcels from Canada. Mum would buy dripping as well which we enjoyed on toast. We could always go scrumping.

Joshua: Do you have any other memories of the war?

Grandad: My memories were exciting, watching planes shooting each other down. I never realised the hurt it was causing others. We would collect bullets and souvenirs from these planes before the authorities got to them and told us to clear off. I went to school in Canterbury after winning a scholarship and caught the bus every day. One day coming home a Messerschmidt machined gunned a bus and two girls were killed. I once was caught with ten others boys pinching ammunition from an army ammo dump. We all had to go to court and my dad was fined £1-10 shillings … he wasn’t happy! We had a German POW camp in the fields at the back of the village, they used to be taken to work on our farms. They were friendly towards us. D day was exciting for everybody and Victory was a blessing.
Our life at home was an upheaval every evening before sunset, we had to fit blackout frames to our windows so we didn’t show any light. We all slept in a “Morrison Shelter” which was a big solid metal caged table with a mattress and blankets. We ate off the table which was fitted in our kitchen. We lived with candle light and the toilet was out I the yard. We were a lucky family Joshua because we all survived. But my dad was worn out and died before he was 60.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Church budget 2009

The church financial year runs from January to December so right now Karen & I are day tripping to 'Spread Sheet Land'.

I REALLY like being in 'Spread Sheet Land'. I like the challenge of understanding what has happened over the past financial year. I like tracking and trending and trying to figure out forward costs. I like bringing faith to actual figures on a spreadsheet.

And our church are incredible givers. Somehow, against the odds, we might break even this year (at least within 2%).Clearly our God is not in recession.

The fun, then, comes in what to believe God for next year whilst being wise in the current climate. Next year the lease on the church offices expires and we do need a Sunday venue closer to the town centre. We want to do even more ministry than we have this year. We want to handle our money with faith and generosity and wisdom. We want to show Reading how to thrive in recession, thus pointing them Jesus.

One of the things that boils down to is this - how much of an increase in giving are we believing God for next year. I love the way Kingdom life often runs counter intuitive.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Jack - a soldier's story

Last night I watched a documentary about 24-year-old Lance Corporal Jack Mizon. Mizon was involved in full-on fighting in Afghanistan, and saw his friends die and get injured. He was honoured for his bravery. He seemed a regular guy, doing a job he loves for £19k a year.

But back home he struggled to adapt and unsurprisingly gets into trouble (assault, GBH & goes AWOL) . The contrast between the footage of him fighting for his life in Afganistan and then on guard duty in Aldershot is stark.

Through it all he seems like the boy next door who you always want to be on your team. And yet I was left feeling we have failed him. Are we really surprised he struggled to adapt? He clearly can't go around punching people to the ground when he gets angry but what else could we expect?

Give it a watch on the BBC iplayer here ... but it expires in 6 days.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Breaking the ice

On one of the coldest Sundays mornings for a long time, we filled our baptism pool with 1000 gallons of water straight from the fire hose at Reading Girls.
Mike Dix, who became a Christian 4 weeks ago after the men's breakfast, stepped resolutely into the cold water and got baptised.

Mike's story is wonderful. In just a few short months he has moved from being married to a Christian to following Jesus himself. This is what we are about as church - making disciples. Mike is a lovely guy who has met our beautiful Saviour.

This coming Sunday we are baptising three more people, I just hope it will be above zero degrees this time!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Preaching is the 'new' sex

Today whilst ironing I listened to Dave Bish's latest sermon at Arbofield Church. I really like Dave's style and insight ... and the parallel he draws between Genesis 2 & Acts 6 is provocative. It's only 25minutes and well worth the time ...

Thursday, 4 December 2008

RUCU & Romans 8

Tonight I am speaking at Reading University Christian Union . They are working through Romans and I have been asked to do Rom 8:18-32. This term they have exploded with overseas students and so they are asking speakers to keep things simple and accessible - I love the heart behind the request.
I have broken the passage down to three areas:

Sin has ruined - the bible worldview is traced to Gen 1-3, the effects of which we live & experience daily.

Hope is secured - the bible worldview is that Jesus will come again and usher in an eternal age and His glory will be revealed in us. AND new pleasures in God will be discovered and enjoyed eternally.

Help has come - the bible worldview is that the Holy Spirit is a grace gift to us from God the Father. The one who Jesus said was ‘Just like me’ helps us live out our lives as Christians.

I have enjoyed the rigour of handling v28 but am won by Douglas Moo's overall postion :“The promise to us is that there is nothing in this world that is not intended by God to assist us on our earthly pilgrimage and to bring us safely and certainly to the glorious destination of that pilgrimage”.

I am planning for it to be a Jesus centred evening!

BlackBerry helmet

Gotta get one of these:

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

My first BlackBerry

Today I joined the company of people who get email delivered straight to their mobile phone. The sense of connectedness I now feel is palpable.

The device in question is a BlackBerry Bold 9000, and it is pretty funky. I do need to figure out a bible application to load onto it but apart from that it seems to have all I need.


On the down side, I am told that most people become enslaved to checking email / SMS, but I am convinced that won't happen to me! Liz has wisely given me a weeks grace before we agree my 'blackberry boundaries'.

My next step is to post a blog from the device ... just because I can.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Another RFC hero

In the summer Lucy Thomas met a Czech lady in a local park and they got chatting. It turns out she has other Czech friends with toddlers and they would love a place to meet and spend time together.

So began a journey that has resulted in a Czech Playgroup meeting in our offices on a Monday Morning. I popped in this week to find the mums & children singing songs in Czech whilst Lucy & Helen Forster were tidying stuff up.

Lucy is a true RFC hero. She has reached out to a community in Reading that we didn't know existed and has helped us use dead time in our offices to serve Czech mums in our town. Everyone wins.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Ben Davies @ RFC

In September 1992 I went to church at the Kerith Centre in Bracknell and walked into the life of Ben Davies. He was passionate for Jesus. His honesty was scary. And he immediately loved me.

There began our 16 year friendship.

I have travelled with him, was married by him, been rebuked by him (more times than I want to remember!). But most importantly, I have grown in my love for Jesus because of him.

I think everyone needs to spend some time with him. Ben is preaching with us this Sunday morning. And if you ask me nicely, you can come back to our house for lunch and meet him personally.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Highlights from elders & wives weekend

  • Time with Liz without the children.
  • Getting lost in Milton Keynes with Pete Cornford navigating.
  • Meeting with God in the worship times.
  • Saturday night's meal with old friends round the table.
  • Ikea on Saturday afternoon (Liz's chosen activity).
  • Running with Tony Thompson (he's a sub 3 hour marathon boy).
  • Seeing a warehouse being used as a church building.
  • Steve Tibbert teaching on 'rest' and Stef Liston on Joshua 1.
  • Richard Walker texting me at 8:30am Sunday morning about RFC ... hmmm
  • Liz's dad driving Joshua to football all the way from Oxford (and Joshua scored!)
  • Meeting so many dear friends and hearing their news and sharing ours.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Driscoll on spiritual warfare

I watched this whilst doing the ironing this afternoon, it's 62 minutes and hugely practical:

Friday, 21 November 2008

Vesper

A few nights ago I re-watched Casino Royale (CR) ... having recently seen Quantum of Solace (QoS).

In CR, M implies Vesper Lynd loved Bond because she agreed to deliver the money in exchange for Bond's life. (Just thinking about the 'chair with no seat scene' still make me shudder). In QoS it seems as though Vesper was also being played by her old boyfriend (who gave the necklace).

So here is my question: In CR, what control did her old boyfriend have over her? Was he working for Quantum? Why did she drown herself and not let Bond save her?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Lead elders & wives weekend

This weekend Liz and I are off to Milton Keynes to join other lead couples from newfrontiers churches in the UK.

We had always thought of this weekend as 'the last fuel station' before we headed off to Amsterdam in December. All that has now changed and we are going on a very different footing.

Part of the weekend will involve telling friends our story, which in turn will help me process how I feel about the past 9 months (the fullness of which will only come out over time). Right now we are both still very comfortable with our decision to stay in Reading.

Quite how we try to condense our news to 30 seconds whilst talking to people in coffee queues remains to be seen!

Back in Reading, Scott & Barbie have the weekend off and Sitho is preaching on 'living with change' ... one sermon I WILL be down loading next week!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Ortberg on leadership

I was reading some articles on leadership last night and thought I would post the most helpful insight:

"One of the things I believe deeply is this: Leaders ought to be the most self aware people in the room.

I'm talking about the kind of self awareness that makes you comfortable in your own skin. You know who you are and who your aren't. You lean into and lead out of your strengths. You have words for your brokenness, and while you may wish you had none, you know you do and you know what they are. And you know that other people know. You wouldn't have it any other way." - Nancy Ortberg

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Keep the faith engines revving hard

One of the things I am becoming aware of is the challenge of keeping my faith engines revving hard.

We had planned to move our family to a new country, put our children in Dutch schools, and start a new church. We were planning on leaving our identity as a lead couple in a growing church. We were planning to leave the financial security of an established church. We were planning to leave the emotional support of established friendship networks.

All that forces you to pray hard and fuel your faith engines - ours were revving hard.

The challenge now comes to keep these engines revving as hard but in familiar surroundings. We need faith to stay and build. Faith is required to see RFC growing through 200 and meeting in a new Sunday venue.

Faith is required to see the church planted in Amsterdam and us not having regrets. Liz and I need to keep our faith engines revving hard.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Amsterdam Day postponed

The last 9 months have been an unforgettable journey. In April of this year, in light of Romans 12v1, Liz and I decided to move our family to Amsterdam to plant an international church. We put our house on the market, accepted an offer, made plans to move this December and transition out of leading Reading Family Church.

Yet through all this I found I had an underlying heaviness of heart. However, my head was clear on the subject (after all it is a very reasonable thing to do) so I resolved to keep moving forward expecting my heart to catch up. Yet the lack of connection between my head & heart troubled me.

In October we were asked to delay our move to allow further time to build the core planting team. This delay was unwelcome but it did further expose how my heart felt. I chatted these feelings through with David Stroud who gave me good advice on how to further explore them.

By then I was interacting with potential church plant team members and was finding it hard to encourage others to come (given my own lack of consistent joy in going). This reached a climax this week with the onset of the Amsterdam Day Sunday 16th.

I have discovered I don’t feel a unique, robust calling that gives joy, that I can lean into. After talking all this through with trusted friends, Liz and I concluded that we should call it a day. I have chatted this through with David and he graciously released us from leading the church plant.

So we will not be moving to Amsterdam. I will continue to be involved in the plant with Tony Thompson, we still plan to go there in 10 days time. Tony will take the lead on the plant, supported by myself. We intend to keep the face book group active and the www.newfrontiersamsterdam.nl website running (although it will need editing!).

In it all Liz and I are disappointed but at peace. We met some good people, Gerke and Maxine in particular, and had great fun meeting the Dutch churches. We feel we ran at it with all our might but I can’t manufacture a head & heart connection.

I will contact each person who has registered for the Amsterdam Day to ensure they don’t travel to Reading next Sunday. Tony plans to reschedule the day when things are clearer.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Fog & Hybels

This morning I got up at 3:30am to drive to Luton airport in order to sit in a steel tube from 6am to 9:30am whilst being firmly rooted to the ground...

Apparently fog in Amsterdam shut Schiphol airport down, so our flight got badly delayed. By half past nine we had the option to get off the plane and Tony & I headed back to his house to finish our planning meeting. We have booked to go again in two weeks time, fog permitting.

Tomorrow, Scott and I are heading off to a London to spend a day with Bill Hybels. I attended a similar event last year with approx 50 other leaders - it was a magnificent. The event tomorrow is the same format; Bill gives a 5 minute introduction and then opens the floor to questions.

It's a day with a leadership giant.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Amsterdam with Tony T

Tomorrow Tony Thompson and me are off to walk / bike / tram the streets of Amsterdam for a day. I don't know the city that well but I've got a map and "in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king".

I am hoping we meet up with Daniel who is from a Newfrontiers church in Mexico and is currently working with YWAM, based in the 'Jesus loves you' building by central station. It would be great to hear his views on the Christian scene there.

A key part of the day is to agree a strategy for the church plant - it will be helpful to sit in a cafe (NOT a coffee shop!), having spent time in the city, and flesh out some details. That's the part that is exciting and scary ... but facts & details are my faithful friends!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Wassenaar, Berkel & Amsterdam

Wassenaar - we stayed in a mobile home on a theme park with a huge indoor water complex (Never stay in a mobile home in Autumn half term - it was freezing). When it comes to rides, it seems our Dutch friends have a different concept of 'safety' and they clearly assume people have common sense. This results in rides that are self regulating, fast, and worrying easy to get hurt unless you sit very, very, still. The water slides were no better, insanely (and irresponsibly) steep - one ended with a 3m drop into a pool. Some were so fast that I couldn't face repeating the experience!

Berkel - we visited the newfrontiers church on the Sunday and met up with family Geurts. It was fun to worship with Dutch songs and listen to a sermon via translation headphones. Afterwards we went to Gerke's parents house for a typical Dutch lunch. There was a shocking disregard to well established traditions of savoury food followed by sweet food. It seems they are happy to mix it all up throughout the meal - which Gerke again demonstrated a few days later in a pancake house. Shocking.

Amsterdam - We visited a school that has offered to take our children and we were shown around and 'sat in' on various classes. Our children bravely attempted to understand what was being taught in Dutch whilst also trying to pick out potential friends. Half the class were non white, non of them spoke English. It was in an urban setting over 4 floors - not the leafy, low buildings and playing fields of suburban Reading.

It was a good time in Wassenaar, Berkel & Amsterdam. We have some more good Dutch memories and a clearer picture of our future lives there. My back is still sore from those rides but that is all part of carrying my cross for Jesus!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

A&E, the sop & grace

It has been a busy morning. Joshua’s ankle ballooned overnight after a crunching tackle at football yesterday. It got so painful we took him to A&E at 7:30 this morning.

Meanwhile, my bible in a year took me to John 13. Here Jesus showed the full extent of his love and foreshadowed the cross by washing the disciple’s feet. Immense.

Jesus then goes on to predict his betrayal by the one He gives the dipped bread to (the sop). Don Carson writes: “Judas received the sop but not the love. Instead of breaking him and urging him to contrition, it hardened his resolve.”

Life can be manic. A&E visits are unplanned and spin you into organised chaos. Our holiday will be interesting with hop-along boy (thankfully it’s only badly sprained). But over all this is the banner of Jesus’ love for us – by grace he has chosen us (v18), by grace we will keep feeding on him, and by his grace we are not doomed to destruction (Jn 17v12).


I like being a follower of Jesus.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

'No God' slogans for buses

I'm sorry but I do find this funny ...

BBC website: Bendy-buses with the slogan "There's probably no God" could soon be running on the streets of London. full article here

The fool says in his heart ...

A Delay, Wassenaar & 16 Nov

Delay: Liz & I recently met with our church planting coach Tony Thompson to talk through our plans and current status. To cut a long story short, Tony advised us to delay our move by 6 months in order to build a bigger planting team. At present the team is two families (Geurts' & Greens) and a single guy, so we need at least another 7 adults to get to Amsterdam by next summer.

Wassenaar: On Friday, our family is heading off to the Dutch North Sea resort of Wassenaar for a week. Whilst there we are meeting up with Gerke & Maxine Geurts and their children for some Netherlands Fun. We Greens will also be visiting a school in Amsterdam and spending time in the city. I am sure it won't rain much or be very windy ...

16 Nov: Amsterdam Day - UK. Part of the plan to build a team is to host a day both in the UK and Amsterdam for those interested in the church plant. If your are in the UK and are interested in joining the plant please come along on the 16th and let me know you are coming. A 'Dutch Lunch' is planned and involves 'bitterballen' en 'kroketten' and I will be outlining the vision for the church. A similar day is planned to be held in Amsterdam in March 09 - details to follow in the next month.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

RFC heroes - James & Jess

The Race - 'I get it wrong'. First single from their forthcoming album 'In My Head It Works'.

James and Jess not only serve faithfully on a Sunday morning in our PA team but they are also the guitar geniuses behind the Race. Great music and you can spot the Reading land marks!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Worship day @ RFC

Book this day in outlook / PDA / phone / diary / wall calender!

A day to inspire us in our private devotions and when we meet together. There will be sessions on singing in the Spirit, creativity in worship, song writing and arrangement.

10am - 4pm on Saturday 1st November @ RFC Office, 87 London Street.

Contact Karen at the office to register.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

A 'chance' encounter

Yesterday a young Turkish woman came to the church offices responding to a poster we have on our front window (about the Christian crisis pregnancy centre across the road). I emerged at the door, on the phone, mind engaged with the caller. Not a good start.

She asked about help with her pregnancy, specifically how to end it. She was very clear on that. She thought we provided abortions, she had mis-understood the poster. I didn't know what to say or do. We walked across the road but the crisis pregnancy centre was closed - short staffed I guess.

This dear women was looking for some tablets to end the pregnancy (the baby is under 12 weeks old) . I didn't plead with her not to. I didn't prayer with her. Her mind was made up and I was too polite & aware of her anguish to suggest otherwise. She asked me where to get an abortion. I said nothing, and she walked away.

Rubbish.

Sin is messy. Anxious mums must be loved. The unborn protected. And I need to be changed by this 'chance' encounter.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Wisdom from a Teddy

When Teddy Roosevelt was president of the United States, he and his friend would routinely go outside after dinner and look up at the night sky. They would locate a faint spot of light on the lower left hand corner of Pegasus and recite the following:
"This is the spiral Galaxy Andromeda.
It is as large as our Milky Way.
It is one of 100 million galaxies.
It is 750,000 light years away.
It consists of 100 billion suns, each larger than our sun."
Roosevelt would pause and grin and say to his friend "Now I think we feel small enough! Let's get some sleep".

Monday, 6 October 2008

Wisdom from a bear

Bear Grylles' favourite life quote:
'Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, covered in scars, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'yahoo!', what a ride.'

Sean Green quote 'Let's change the world, one email at a time'

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Part time or Full time?

I have just spent two days attending the Willow Creek Leadership summit at Bracknell. It was excellent.
It is very different from the newfrontiers conference Together on a Mission, which for me is about leaders in the movement gathering together and has an obvious feel of family. In contrast, the Willow conference is laser sharp on leadership skills, and the caliber of the speakers is impeccable.

Bill Hybel's first session was hugely insighful, and both Wendy Kopp's (Teach for America) & Catherine Rohr's (Prison Entrepreneurship Program) leadership drive made a huge impact on me.

But it was a throw away line by Craig Groeschel that has been bugging me tonight "Are you a full time pastor but a part time follower of Christ?" How can you answer that question without much soul searching?

I have always pursued a passionate relationship with Jesus. I have endeavoured to put him first as best I can. But there is something about being 'full time' that can blur things and drain down my passion for Jesus. To be very honest, at times building a church blurs and messes with knowing Jesus.

Worse still, I now realise that there have been times when I have had a devotional time simply to 'get it done'. That is horrible. That is miles away from 'a response to grace' that I want my life to be...

It was worth two days if only to realise this afresh. God is good and full of grace and I can go to sleep tonight knowing His grace is sufficent to keep me on track being full time for Jesus

Thursday, 2 October 2008

How am I?

Since returning from sabbatical numerous people have asked 'How yer doing Sean?'. Each time I have needed to pause and reflect. My normal pre-answer checklist (that plays into the answer of how I am) has grown considerably.
  • How are the children coping with the move to Amsterdam?
  • How are Liz and I coping with leaving Reading?
  • How is the church now we are back?
  • How is the church coping with the pace of change?
  • What are our trusted friends and family thinking about us going?
  • Am I leading all this well?
  • Where will we live, kids go to school, make ends meet, build a team?
  • Is there a God, is He in all this?
On some of these points I score high, others low. But, I have been able to honestly say "I'm good - on balance, we are fine". Primarily because Liz and I know God and our hearts are for following Him.

That said, I do wonder whether they only expected to hear an immediate 'fine' ... but I just don't work that way!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

A12 to Heaven

I knew it was going to be a hard book to read ... how could it not be?

To lose two teenage daughters in a car crash, to drive past the crash scene on the way to the hospital, to return to your home and mourn with your other two children & family & friends.

To know the love of God through it all ...

I can't remember EVER crying all through the first chapter of a book. Not a classic easy read. Phil Stoddart's honesty & language & engaging style is disarming and powerful and deeply moving.

Some books simply need to be read - and this is one of them. But choose the right time when you read the first chapter ...

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Too busy to blog

Its good to be back in church life. The weekend was a wonderful blur of activity, quite simply it was a wall to wall, people-tastic, 48 hours.

Monday was spent with Ben Davies and other pastors talking all things leadership (actually Ben did most of the talking). I even got 90 minutes alone with Simon Benham & Ben which was a tonic to my soul. Last night was Alpha at the Glo bar and the edgy 'who will turn up' gut wrenching feeling was exhilarating!

It's good to be too busy to blog. I like blogging but I much prefer meeting with people, preparing to preach, leading, and generally being out and about.

The caged tiger that was 'Sean Green on sabbatical' has been let out again and I still have plenty of pent up ministry fervour to discharge! (Remind me I said this in December when I prefer blogging to being with people!)

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Sabbatical Reflection #1

This is the first of my reflections, grouped around my personal life:

Fatherhood - I have realised that when my children ask me for something, in my mind I often start with a 'no' and then figure out if a 'yes' makes better sense. A small detail, but when under pressure / grumpy I find I don't progress past my starting point. I need turn that around, in my mind to start with a 'yes' to their request and then figure out if a 'no' makes better sense.

Intensity - I am an intense & intentional person, which I like, and I don't do 'laid back' about much. The problem is that my intensity has seeped into too many areas of life and that is exhausting & can make me way too serious at times! I need to channel my intensity into certain activities and then chill out about everything else.

Well done - I can focus too much on my failures & sinfulness and miss what God's grace has done in my life. Independent of my perceived achievements, I need to enjoy the 'well done' of God.

Fruitfulness - I need to dare to believe I have been fruitful, that I have stewarded my talents, time and treasures well. I have been fruitful for Him because He has been at work in me - and I need to celebrate that.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

1 in 10

This morning I preached on the small, throw away line in Nehemiah 11v1. It's a verse about how Jerusalem was re-populated after Nehemiah had finished the walls. 1 in 10 of the population were 'chosen by lot' to move into Jerusalem.

These people already had stories of great faith, albeit a few years old, for they had returned from exile in Babylon. And yet God was calling numbers of them to go again into new faith adventures by starting over in Jerusalem, which would be a risky place to live.

Given God's big story of mankind's redemption, moving your family again a few miles down the road, makes perfect sense to us. But for them it must have felt like being cornered.

Kingdom life involves movement. Be that literally or metaphorical, physical or spiritual we are to be always on the move. When God calls us, by whatever means he chooses, we need to ask for the grace to 'pack our bags and head to the city'.

Many of us are 1 in 10 people - our 'big faith stories' are years old but now God is asking us to 'go again'. It may be pursuing new levels of holiness, it may be stepping up to new responsibilities, it may be joining us in Amsterdam. Whatever it is, Jesus is worth it.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Back in the office

It is a strange feeling to be back in the church office after 10 weeks out.

There is clearly momentum to the Autumn term that I need to catch up on - Alpha at the 'Glo' bar, week of prayer, Worship day and Marriage Course. The Czech & Slovak toddler group and our partnership with the residents at Purley Park are two new initiatives this term. Andrew, Hanna & Sam have started their year team and Nathan Bailey will be the youngest person we have ever bapitised.

It's a strange feeling stepping back in to all this. On the one hand I am thrilled that the elders and deacons and everyone else have gotten on so well without us. This is what we want, have built towards and expected.

But to be honest is does all feel slightly un-nerving! Not being involved and having to catch up on all that has happened... and all without us!

However, life is change. And I guess how you respond to change defines so much of our outlook. All this momentum certainly builds confidence in Liz and I as we are sent out to plant again.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Rubbish - but not a crisis.

Today our house buyer pulled out. Apparently, whilst trying to exchange contracts on their own house, the offer was dropped by £30k. They have subsequently withdrawn their offer on ours.

Rubbish.

This morning I arrived at the following verses in my bible in a year:

Hebrews 1:2 In these last days God has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Isaiah 32:17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace, the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.

Psalm 105 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he had done.

God is able to order my daily bible reading to help me through unwanted news. God is good & able & in control and therefore we are not in a crisis ... (although it still feels rubbish!)

Monday, 15 September 2008

Just like us ... but Dutch

On Saturday Liz & I flew to the Netherlands to meet with people from the newfrontiers churches there. Everyone seemed very normal and wonderfully Dutch.

They were friendly, loved Jesus and sang the same songs (but in Dutch ... mainly). They laughed at jokes, drank coffee and food seemed to be at the centre of most meetings. They had an offering at their celebration meeting (I felt very at home!). No-one wore clogs or a 'bonnet' or carried armfuls of tulips.

Liz and I were warmly received, honoured and made to feel very welcome. No-one said we were mad planting into their capital city - and once we are there I am sure many will join us. Above all, we both felt we would easily love these people and their nation.

We return next month with our children for a week of house & school hunting and having more Dutch fun. Meanwhile it's back to life at the RFC church office.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Fear

My son is currently on a school trip and yesterday overcame his fear of heights and did the 'leap of faith' - he even got a special mention on the school trip website!

Apparently, psychiatrists believe we are only born with two innate fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. That means every other fear is 'learnt' and this week I seem to be swimming in a lot of my 'learnt' fears.

I have been swimming in the fear of moving to Amsterdam and then my kids being in terrible schools and they struggle.

I have swum in the fear of the financial pressure that comes with a church plant and isolation from close friends.

I am wading in the fear that RFC may falter and then my friends feeling I let them down.

I have occasionally paddled in the fear of failure - yes looking stupid, but mainly that I am leading my family into something we won't be able to do.

And in truth, all my fears are well founded and could come to pass.

But Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. What I fear could happen, however the root issue is this: who do we believe our God to be and what has He asked us to do?

The fine details of our future as a family are hazy but Liz and I are certain of what we see: our family thriving in Amsterdam, RFC powering on and a new church established, and the gospel going to the nations.

So like our son, we are going to make our 'leap of faith' knowing it is our heavenly Father at the end of the safety line.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

The God particle

BBC website today - The Hunt for the God particle begins today at the European Centre for Nuclear Research or CERN (full article here).

There is a fine line between scientific endeavour (which I applaud) and the arrogance of man as shown at the Tower of Babel.

I love mankind's desire to explore, discover and understand. I love huge engineering task that display our collective learning and achievements and advancement.

But science can be a religion - the CERN complex one of it's cathedrals.

Theoretical physicists may well be 'bracing themselves for a revolution' and experiencing 'palpable excitement'. I however am looking forward to hearing more about how God has wired up this universe that He spoke into being ...

They are not looking for 'Higgs Bosun' - they are looking for Jesus.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

In full view - Rom 12v1

Today I went walking with Scott in the Chiltern Hills. It was raining, it was muddy, and it was fabulous. We walked along the Ridgeway which has wonderful views of rolling hills & fields ... and we had space to think and talk. And every so often we had to stop and admire the view.

Admiring the view is becoming a habit of mine these days.

I grew up on a council estate in Portsmouth with a violent, alcoholic father who had to be removed by the court system. My mum did all she could working late shifts to make ends meet, but it wasn't enough. State benefits clothed us, paid for school dinners and our rent, but could not connect with the insecure boy that was me.

By the time I was 21 I was becoming my father; when sober a lovely guy but also one who abused alcohol and was growing in violence towards my girlfriend. I was deeply insecure and very unhappy.

Then I met with God's mercy. I met Jesus, the friend of sinners, and my new life began.

I thoroughly enjoyed my walk today - the views were magnificent. But it pales to insignificance when compared to this walk of faith and the glorious views of Gods mercy it provides. So I want to offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to Him - this is my reasonable act of worship.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Trent Vineyard

Yesterday we visited Trent Vineyard in Nottingham, and it happened to be their 12th birthday and the first meeting in their new building extension.

The building is fantastic. It's a warehouse that has been converted and extended, the aesthetics' and art pieces were beautiful. The worship time was of a different style and the welcome & info presentation was relaxed and very informal.

The message by John Wright was a short refection on the past 12 years and then he introduced 5 people who had joined Vineyard recently. Their stories were very moving and illustrated his points succintly.

And then came the brilliance of the meeting. At the end, words of knowledge were given and people were invited to respond. Liz said the maturity and care of ministry team was excellent.

I would have wanted more songs about Jesus, contributions during worship and a 'proper' expository preach by John. But I am not leading that work and God was there, is there and will be contine to be at work there, regardless of my views!

It was an inspiring morning because God is also with us at RFC and will be with us in Amsterdam. And He is able.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Out and about

With our sabbatical drawing to a close we still have a few fun things to do:

Tonight we are travelling to Bracknell to have dinner with Simon and Catrina Benham who lead Kerith Community Church - we got engaged in their kitchen so who know what will happen tonight!

Over the weekend we are going to Nottingham to visit Trent Vineyard. The church was planted 12 years ago and is thriving.

On Tuesday I am spending the day with Scott walking in the Chiltern Hills whilst planning our transition in the Autumn term.

On Wednesday I am travelling up to Birmingham to meet with Jonathan Bell who planted and leads churchcentral. Jonathan is a great friend and thinks very different from me!

Next weekend we are travelling to Harderwijk in the Netherlands and staying with Henk & Eunee Kersten . On the Sunday we will be attending a newfrontiers celebration meeting in Voorthuizen where all six of the Dutch churches are gathering.

And then on Tuesday 16 Sept it's back to the church office for the 9am team meeting - and it will be good to be back at RFC!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

My 'dash' #2

Sean Green, 20 August 1967 - ?

I've been thinking more about my 'dash'. I find it intriguing to see my life represented by such a small mark. Its not that I mind my life being represented by a dash, I just don't want it characterised by a small mark.

As a christian I've always wanted to be like a BIG DOG i.e. I would not be easily shaken off when I have my teeth into something for Jesus. I want to have a big dog's prescience, ferocity and 'bite' that advances the kingdom of God.

And I want to love and know and obey my masters voice. I want the 'dash' between my birth and death to be characterised by a man who knew and loved and obeyed the great friend of sinners ... and who also look as good as this as Alsatian!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

My 'dash'

Sean Green, 20 August 1967 - ?

I have just finished reading John Ortberg's book 'When the game is over it all goes back in the box'. In chapter 16 he asks you to fill out your name and add your date of birth. There is then a 'dash' and 'question mark'. He says one day someone else will fill in the date of the question mark.

Ortberg reminds you that we don't choose our birth or death but we get to work on the 'dash' (it's sobering to see my life as little more than 'dash' between two dates). The book outlines, in his usual readable style, how we can make the most of our lives.

Like many, I want to my life to count. I want to have a legacy that the world was a better place because I did what God had for me. And like many, fear, comfort, fitting in, laziness and settling for less, all fight to reduce the lustre and depth of my 'dash'.

Ortberg's book is a great, easy read (and his illustrations are both funny & poignant) and if you can make the time to read it, I am sure it will stir you too.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

A dress rehearsal

Our family gathered this morning for worship in our home. Zoe gave a warm welcome to us and we then all wrote down on a big piece of paper some of the cool things we have done over the summer. This became the fuel for our worship as we made up new verses to fit their favourite songs!

Liz gave each of us verse to read which declared God's heart for the nations. It was good to hear the kids reading out these great truths. Then came the revealing part - we each had to write our prayers for Amsterdam on post-its and stick it on a map of the Netherlands.

The phrase 'a family together on mission' was played out in our kitchen. Liz and I decided to stay at home this Sunday morning and have a dress rehearsal of the first few months in Amsterdam. We want our kids to be confident to welcome strangers into our family worship times, so we are practising it now.

It did feel strange meeting like this given RFC were gathering just a few miles away ... but Jesus said 'go to the nations' and go our family will.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Under offer

Yesterday we accepted an offer on our house, paving the way to sell it in the Autumn .

Today has been one of mixed emotions. To get an offer agreed, so relatively quickly given the current housing market, is a real answer to prayer - you might say a 'great confirmation of our calling'.

And yet it has exposed a side of my British mindset that is un-nerved. We British aspire to own bricks & mortal ... British bricks and mortar. To leave my home country with no 'roots' feels very unsettling. To jump out of the UK housing market, given we expect to return at some point, also feels unsettling.

And yet we both sense this is the right move. To rent for a year in Amsterdam, then consider buying, is our plan. I suspect I have far more security in being a home owner than I ever realised. I praise God He is using all this to ensure I am building on the rock and not the sands of UK bricks & mortar

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

'Pain au chocolat' & other stuff

To say it is has been eventful few weeks is an understament:

Newday was fabulous on so many levels: being with RFC people, the food, the weather and seeing Joshua doing his first drop-in on the 1/4 pipe at the skate park. But it was fabulous mainly because God was there. Being with 1000's of His people, worshipping Jesus and seeing evidence of His work was inspiring.

Our two week family holiday in France was a great follow on activity. We came 4th in a Family Olympics Competition (narrowly missing a trophy) but almost last in a fishing competition in a lake (we only caught 6, the winners 116!). We discovered beautiful sandy beaches, enjoyed french wine & cheese, cycled, swam in lakes, and walked in forests. The 'sea & surf' was cold but refreshing and the french roads a pleasure to drive on.

And all through these three weeks we rejected 3 offers on our house, met prospective Amsterdam team members and heard from those who now don't want to go come with us. We also filmed a short video invite for the Amsterdam day and worked on getting the website done.

Not all classic holiday activities but kingdom life is very joined up! I will try to post a few holiday photos ...

Friday, 1 August 2008

Groovy Green's summer fun

Tommorow we are off to newday along with 7000 other people ... can't wait to queue for the toilets! We are acting as camp parents for the youth, not that we will have to do too much! The youth are a great bunch and the youth team are 'as mad as hatters' so it will be a lot of fun. I am also praying that our own children meet with God in a powerful way to prepare them for their future adventures!

We get back next Thursday night in order to celebrate Joshua's 10th birthday on the Friday (and wash everything!). On Saturday, we then load up the car and head to the Vendee (in France) for two weeks. We have a chalet on a beautiful camp site with superb facilities and WE WON'T BE CAMPING!

This will be my last blog for a few weeks, so ... groove yer later!

Thursday, 31 July 2008

It's all about Jesus

This week I have been working through the Vineyard manual on 'Coaching Church Planters'. It is hugely helpful and practical and obviously the source of much I have been taught about church planting. I found my excitement rising as I considered again planting into Amsterdam!

However, it wasn't until I got half way through the manual that I realised that Jesus hadn't been mentioned at all. At first I thought it was a stylistic thing but even in the second half of the manual there is only scant reference to God or the Lord.

This in no way reflects my respect and gratitude to the authors but it does highlight an issue.
Church planting must first & foremost be Christ focused. Vineyard clearly understand this but somehow it hasn't translated into this enormously helpful 'how to' manual.

The lesson for us? You can't talk about Jesus enough. A timely reminder for all of us, no matter what you are doing today.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Two book reviews

I occasionally like to read business management books to glean fresh insights for church leadership:

Good to great - why some companies make the leap ... and other don't. Jim Collins spent 5 years researching the question 'Can a good company became a great company and if so how?' His insights are very illuminating if not both surprising and encouraging.

I read the book asking the question 'Can RFC (a good church) become a great church and if so how?'. We seem to have many of the elements already in place but would need to make some adjustments in others areas. I will encourage the eldership team to read it but give it a read and let me know what you think!

The Starfish and the Spider - the unstoppable power of leaderless organisations. Apart from the title tag line (that made me want to burn the book) it is a very provocative and easy read. In essence it look at the power of decentralisation in the right environments. Cut off a spiders head and it dies, cut off a starfish leg and it grows into another starfish.

I read the book asking the question 'What areas of church life should be held in a open hand (that members can shape & innovate & pioneer) and what should be in a closed hand (where elders define & govern & lead)'
. It gave me a whole new framework for discussion and reflection on these issues as RFC enters a new season.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Six held over honeymoon killing

Six people are being questioned by police over the murder of a British doctor shot dead on the last day of her honeymoon in Antigua. Her husband Benjamin, also 31, is in a critical condition in hospital after he was also shot. (see article here)

My readings this morning took me to Job 24: "Why does the Almighty not set times for judgement? Why must those who know him look in vain for such days?"

Job voices one of the great questions in life. How does a loving, righteous, all powerful God, tolerate injustice and sin?

The answer must lie in the wisdom of the cross. The glory of God and the wonder of the age that is to come, must somehow eclipse the horrors of mankind's depravity in this age. Only God's big story can offer a path of real hope when a woman is murdered on her honeymoon.

But this , I agree, is of small comfort to those who don't yet know Christ.

So we have some work to do. We must prayer for Benjamin's recovery and for their family and friends as they take stock & grieve. I think we should pray for justice to be served. And we must continue to call upon our God to change the hearts of men & women across the nations, that they turn 'to Him who will one day judge them'.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Keep receiving Him well

Luke 20 records how men tried to trap Jesus and hand him over the the rule and authority of the governor. On face value this seems crazy and foolish and arrogant. Their hearts were hard and they thought the best response to Jesus was to try to get him out of the picture.

The thing is, on reflection, I wonder how many times I do the same thing. There is something in all of us that wants to run our own lives. We are more sophisticated in our methods (as good Christians we don't try to trap him with questions) we simply avoid including him in certain areas of our lives... like what really defines who we are, who is really in control, etc etc.

The remedy must surely be to know Jesus better. Surgeon encouraged me this morning to 'Throw open the portals of my soul to Jesus'. And as I get to know Jesus better, I know I will find more 'portals in my soul' to throw open.

I really do want to keep receiving Jesus well, into all the areas of my life (and I do find that a little scary). I don't want to keep Him at a distance or out of my picture. And God's grace is sufficient for me to press through on this and to keep on receiving his love and joy and peace.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Kerith Community Church

This morning I travelled to Bracknell to spend time with Simon Benham and some of his team. Although the church has a new name (formerly Bracknell Family Church) and a new senior pastor, it stills beats for mission.

Simon has been leading now for about a year and is building them to be a church of 2000 (they currently gather around 650 over a Sunday). It was good to hear of their new initiatives and ministries and to see where they are investing their time and energies.

Growing a church to 2000 brings unique challenges: growing a staff team to around 100, multiple services, back-office infrastructure, car parking and meeting rooms to name but a few. We also chatted around their 5 year planned partnership with Tearfund to help combat the effect of HIV AIDS in Zambia.

Simon thinks out of the box and swims in a wide pool - what I mean to say is he going to put all his efforts into what God has called him to. And I for one will keep cheering him on and reading his blog.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Fishing, Fossils & Footpaths

A big part of our sabbatical is the re-charging of our emotional batteries and for me that is being in favourite places with favourite people. I have just spent two nights camping on the Dorset coast with Joshua. We camped near Swanage which is the start of the Jurassic coastline and it didn't rain at all ... unheard of for the Groovy Greens!


We hunted for Fossils at Kimmeridge Bay (and found some corkers), fished at Dancing Ledge (and caught nothing) and marvelled at the chalk cliffs at Old Harry Rocks (and pretended not not be scared). I am not sure who was more exhausted when we returned today, but I suspect it was me.


I could almost hear the 'dripping' as my emotional tanks slowly recharge. It was so good to be in God's creation, to be able to share it with my son and talk about how great God is. We are deeply grateful to all at RFC allowing us this sabbatical period.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

So much more ...

As ever my bible in a year programme has served me well. I read this morning Job 9 where Job is answering his friends and voicing his desire to argue his case before God. However, he is keenly aware that God it too holy for him so he says "If only there was someone to arbitrate between us ... someone to remove God's rod from me ... then I would speak up without fear of him.' v32-35

Job is looking for someone to testify to his innocnce before a Holy God.

Job had a man in mind. The bible has a God-man in mind, Jesus. And how much more is Jesus than Job's hoped for mediator. Jesus is not just a qualified mediator but he is our redeemer and has become our righteousness. He is not just a man of wise words to represent us but a God-man whose blood has bought us life.

Spurgeon put it like this: "Jesus received sinners so that He might pardon their sins, justify their persons, cleanse theirs hearts by His purifying Word, preserve their souls by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and enable them to serve Him, to show forth his praise and to have communion with Him".

So much more than Job could have dreamed of!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Christchurch, London

Yesterday we travelled into London to visit Christchurch which Dave Stroud has planted. They met in a theatre just by the Embankment tube station, a short walk from Covent Garden and the Houses of Parliament.

It started at 4pm and, given the complexity of their set-up, that must have followed a huge amount of hard work! The band was very competent and our children really liked the smoke machine throughout the sung worship! A couple did a teaching slot on lifestyle evangelism and how that can fit into a busy London schedule.

There are many many things they did well: They seem very intentional on creating opportunities to meet people; The kids work was small but effective - Lucy remembered her memory verse this morning; They also clearly had a passion for the people of London and effecting change in their city.

But the biggest thing for me was the evidence of an underlying strategy that was shaping all that they were doing, for the glory of God. They have a team who have 'set there faces' to work this out and by God's grace they are going to do it.