Thursday, 31 January 2008

God is at work!

I am currently working through CJ Mahaney's helpful book Humility - True Greatness, and this morning got to Chapter 8. He reminds us to look for evidence of the grace of God in our life and also in the lives of those around us.

The truth is I find it easier to see sin at work in my life than to see the evidence of God's sovereign grace in my life! I need others to help me see what God is doing and has done in me. I guess you are the same, we all need help to see the fruit & gifts of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

We also need the same approach when we consider the church. Often we can see her warts and failing and are slow to catch sight of the work of God amongst us as a gathered people. Lets be those who primarily see God at work and affirm & encourage one another of God's grace. We need to do this daily!

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Wonderous Signs!

Imagine my delight when I get an email from Dave Burt who is apparently consumed with us heading towards 400!

"I've been thinking about how to press on towards 400 this year, and I think I've finally cracked it! We need new signs at the front of the car park guys! What do you reckon?"

Thankfully there's no line item for new banners in this year's budget!

Monday, 28 January 2008

Another great prayer meeting

Last night's prayer meeting reminded me again why I love being part of this church. I am stilled mildly surprised how many people turn up to seek God's face & favour on behalf of the church. My surprise stems from comments from fellow pastors who bemoan their prayer meeting attendance & atmosphere. Ours however, by God's grace, seem to be in a season of growth and faith.
Last night we spent time praying into some of this year's challenges and we were led into focusing on this summer's 'Facilities' challenge. Effectively we can't meet at the school for 5 weeks. But in the midst of a prayer meeting, a Facilities issue can become a training opportunity; no venue could mean an opportunity to go multi-site for 5 weeks (in 2/3 different venues simultaneously). This would open up fresh ways for more people to serve. We do need to prayerfully review this solution, as it creates all manner of logistical challenges (multiple set-up teams, preachers, bands, PA etc). But what I love is the faith-filled flexibility that comes from ideas shaped in a prayer meeting. Actually, it is God's problem to solve and prayer meeting are a great place to seek and hear His solutions. So yet again, I have to state, it was a great, faith-filled, flexible thinking, prayer meeting.

Friday, 25 January 2008

It's OK for me to cry ... sometimes

So this morning's devotional time was 'a good one'. From the first two chapters of Exodus I was caught up into God's big story. With Jacob's & Joseph's stories still fresh in my mind, I was swept into Moses, then David and finally to Jesus. And then there was me, in my bedroom, alone with God, full of Joy because Jesus was present and His arms were around me. And I cried.
I do Triathlon because no-one cries (if they do its because of pain) and no-one hugs you. I do Triathlon because there is pain, endurance, kit, a sense of achievement, but no emotional tears. I do Triathlon because no-one tries to hug me.
But when I encounter Jesus, I melt and am released from all my junk. So I cried this morning, alone, in the presence of my wonderful Saviour, with His arms around me. So I have concluded it's OK for me to cry .... in my devotional time. A small breakthrough, but a breakthrough none-the-less.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Failing but not a failure

I am still walking with my good friend Mr Jerry Bridges. Today he reminded me not to be discouraged by my failures (which can seem many and often) and that there is a vast difference between failing and failure. We become a failure when we give up - when we stop trying. But as long as I am working on my sinful habits, regardless of how often I fail, I have not become a failure. And I can expect progress.
Pursuing holiness can feel like an uphill struggle but at least it is not me doing it in my strength alone, the Holy Spirit is working within me. Yes I fail, but by God's grace, I am NOT a failure. What a gospel! What a Saviour!

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Vision Morning 2008

Well, it was all that I hope the day would be. Kat's new song was fantastic and faith rose each time we sang out those wonderful words! I sensed again our joy in Him and also God's pleasure in us, as we gave thanks for all that He did in us throughout 2007.
I also enjoyed the atmosphere of Sunday night; the expectation, the fun and seriousness of our mission, and the sense of our unity.
If you couldn't make Sunday morning please do listen to the sermon on the website. If you weren't there in the evening, I thought it would be helpful to add a summary of the evening Members' Meeting.

Challenges of 2008:
  • Staffing & ministry leaders - Ed moving on, my sabbatical, future year teamers, and the leadership opportunities for Alpha, Creche, Kids church & Students.

  • Finance - 21% YoY growth for 2008.

  • Back pressure of growth - Adding new people, Values caught rather than activities copied, Serving & Giving.

  • Facilities - Reading Girls' School availability over the summer & our facilities needs assessment document.

  • Discipleship - Cell life, membership, Foundations, Freedom in Christ, Brighton Conference & church weekend away.
There really isn't another place I want to be other than with you guys, as we endeavour to display the multicoloured wisdom of God to the heavenly realms as Reading Family Church.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Hooked on Jesus

Last Sunday, whilst preaching, I rashly suggested I would proudly wear a cap with Jesus emblazoned across the front. Although I don't actually own one yet, I have been deluged with suggestions. The one opposite seems the 'coolest' yet (the others were too full on, even for me).

This also spawned multiply T shirt suggestions, the most amusing, if not slightly confrontational, I have linked below (you don't know jack). There seems to be a veritable feast of clothing options to help me annouce my alligence to Christ.

But for now I think I will rely on my trusty checked shirt, and see what Sunday brings in terms of headwear.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Mr Friendly Weirdo PART 2 - HOORAY!

Hooray! because I saw the blind girl at the traffic lights this morning.
Hooray! because it was easy and natural to help her.
Hooray! because we remembered each others names.
Hooray! because workmen are digging up the road, hopefully to upgrade the traffic lights.
Hooray! because I have grown to be more like Jesus by joyfully interrupting my day to help someone.

Monday, 14 January 2008

A tricky email

I got into the office today (as I am taking Thursday off instead) and I opened an email from one of the deacons. I got a bit stuck on quite how to answer it, I have copied it below:

Now that we're at the start of a new year and this Sunday is the vision morning, I was wondering if you had heard from God regarding the current season we're in, or if you felt God leading us in a particular direction.
How should I answer this sincere question? I am aware of some of the challenges we are facing in 2008 (facilities, leadership, finance, volunteers, etc). I am also aware of the many breakthroughs we want to see this year, not least to see us grow in spiritual maturity and smash through 200 on a morning. But what is this season we are in, in what direction are we going as a church?

My gut reaction to the question of season is easy; we are in a season of being 'refined' ... by fire ... by pressure ... by our response to both success and failure. And to be honest, it's a great season to be in. If we were living a solitary Christian life, I admit a season of refining would be rubbish. But we are part of the body of Christ. We are set in a family. And when pressure comes, we should all feel it, help carry it, and it should force us together. Refinement is life and health to us, but it is not without it's pain.

So, we are in a season of 'refining' ... as to where it is definatively all leading - now that part I have less clarity on this afternoon!

Sunday, 13 January 2008

The Pursuit of Holiness

I am currently working through Jerry Bridges' excellent book 'the Pursuit of Holiness', a chapter a day as part of my devotionals. Chapter 4 ends with this brilliant paragraph:

In the words of 19th century Scottish theologian John Brown "Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations, enthusiastic fervour or uncommanded austerities; it consists of thinking as God thinks, and willing as God wills". Neither does holiness mean, as so often it is thought, adhering to a list of "do's" and "don'ts", mostly "don'ts". When Christ came into the world, He said "I have come to do Your will, O God" Hebrews 10:7. This is the example we are to follow. In all our thoughts, all of our actions, in every part of our character, the ruling principle that motivates and guides us should be the desire to follow Christ in doing the will of the Father.

Of course typing it out is far easier than living it out ... but none the less I plan to have a crack at this kind of thinking. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Mr Friendly Weirdo needs to visit more often

Yesterday on the way to the church office I got caught at the traffic lights on Shinfield road (by the university). As I waited for the the lights to change, I noticed a girl with a white stick looking confused and agitated. The lights went green and I was faced with a dilemma... do I head off to the office and get on with my day? Or risk appearing as Mr Friendly Weirdo and asking if she was alright? Thankfully I chose the latter and ended up helping her across the road.

She was a first year engineering student, blind, and the traffic lights don't have an audible signal to say they have changed. She has contacted Reading Borough Council but as yet they haven't upgraded them. Meanwhile she has to run the gauntlet each day ...

As I got back on my bike, tears welled up in my eyes as I realised that yet again I was so focused on my agenda that I nearly missed the needs of another person made in the image of God. The thing is, I suspect that often I am too busy to notice peoples needs or I am more worried about being Mr Friendly Weirdo. The thing is, I spend most of my time rushing from one thing to the next, insulated from those around me by a schedule that has little room for interruptions by strangers. Jesus, however was the opposite of this. He was regularly interrupted and also interrupted people in distress (roof destroyers, widow of Nain, etc). His example is the one for us to follow, after all, he too had a lot on.

Mr Friendly Weirdo needs to visit more often, assuming of course, we want to be more like Jesus.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Finding Joy

Ed Goode passed on a book to me just before Christmas and I took it home as a bit of an after thought. I am so grateful to God I did. The book is entitled 'Finding Joy - a radical rediscovery of grace' by Marcus Honeysett. There is something about God's grace that is moreish and Marcus gripped me with his biblical richness, his passion for the church and his clarity regarding reigning in life through grace. I had to limit my reading of the book, I felt I was greedily devouring each page and not chewing it enough. Somehow I managed to stretch it out over three days ... his final chapter gives a great summary:
  • Romans 6:1-14 BELIEVE that you are dead to sin, having died with Jesus. Believe you are raised to life with Jesus, Believe he is your new master and that he is without sin.
  • Romans 6:15 - 23 BEHAVE as someone who is a slave, not to sin but to God. Obey all he says in the bible. Determine that every one of your actions, as far as possible, will be offered to righteousness and not to sin.
  • Romans 7:1-7 RELATE to God as someone engaged to a new bridegroom - Jesus Christ! Relate to Jesus in love, in affections, in will and in delight for having such a perfect heavenly bridegroom.
  • Titus 2:11-12 RECEIVE grace. Grace teaches us to say no to sin by replacing it with a stronger desire for God. Pray for it every day. Give thanks for it. Yearn to know more of it. This is reigning in life.

The place we go for our life, growth and sanctification is not the law but the gospel. The death of Christ and the work of the spirit are not meant to provide the power to go back to the old list, only this time getting it right. They free us from the old list to live by the Spirit.

Toptastic ... just the reminder I needed for the start of a new year.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Rockets in Windsor & heading towards 400

Well 2008 is under way and already I have been in trouble with local authorities. Apparently you are not allowed to fire rockets in Windsor Great Park ( I did, however, manage to fire one off before being reprimanded). I am hoping that this minor infringmenent may in one sense, be a foretaste of things to come.

Us working to double our church will inevitably create a stir and bring us into confrontation with spiritual powers, authorities and rulers (Eph 6). Seeing hundreds gather for the glory of God will not always be understood, appreciated or unopposed. But unlike the rocket episode, we must have no intentions of being compliant, rather to continue on our planned activities that build the church! There is something about the glory of God and His kingdom advancing that propels us towards growth and subsequent conflict with darkness. Our victory has been won, our righteouness secured, and the harvest fields are ripe.

On Sunday 20 January we have our vision day. I am preaching in the morning on what God has called us to, and in the evening we will be looking in detail at church finances, facilities, staff and a few more things. Do plan to get along to both meetings, it will be a key day for us!

You never know, I might even launch another rocket ... check them out