Friday, 29 February 2008

Hacked off.

Sometimes I get really hacked off by human nature.

A girl who has recently started coming to our church gets paid £4 an hour to clean a kitchen in a restaurant (well below the minimum wage). If she misses one shift she will get docked a month's salary. One months salary. She badly needs the money and if she doesn't work there, someone else will, so she does. Her plight is being exploited and I guess that her story is just the tip of the iceberg in Reading. Exploitation really hacks me off.

Last night, during a church meeting, 3 cars got clamped because they were parked on private property. Annoying, but they were parked on private property. But what hacks me off is that they had to pay £325 each to release the clamp. A fine of £40 makes a point. A fine of £325 is an abuse of power. Again, this is exploitation and it really hacks me off.

Proverbs 29:7 The righteous care about justice for the poor.

Hab 2:6 Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion!

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Its only 13.1 miles ...

So the Reading half marathon is just a few days away and I am like a finely tuned veteran athlete ... kind of. This is my first half marathon in 18 years but at least I get to run it with Liz. I have this picture in my head of us crossing the line hand in hand, punching the air, followed by a victors embrace. All very romantic. The reality of course will be quite different but then where is the fun in picturing that?

This is all a fore runner of my primary objective of the year - the Royal Windsor Olympic Distance Triathlon in June. I have two shorter sprint Triathlons in March & May to help the build up, so its all looks good on paper. My bike is running so smoothly it really is a joy to ride (it's a guy thing). The Monday night 'swim-gasp-a-thon' at the Tri club is really improving my swimming - even if I can't sleep after all that adrenalin is released.

All that remains now is to wait for Sunday, then keep up with Liz, smile and keep telling myself it is only 13.1 miles ....

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Dramatic rise in abortion rates

"MORE than 400 women had abortions in Reading last month, up 16 per cent from January last year. The dramatic rise was three per cent above the national hike of 13 per cent, in a month that is particularly busy due to casual hook ups over the Christmas and New Year period. Claire Townley, manager of the Marie Stopes Centre in London Street, Reading, told the Evening Post: “Something is not working.” (Full article here).

Claire is right - very right. Whitley has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the UK, and the UK is the highest in Europe.

But the church is not without a response. On Thursday, together with Whitley Community Church , we have been invited by John Madjeski Academy to give a pilot lesson equipping the students to make good decisions regarding their sexual relationships. Let's pray it is received well and rolled out across all the year groups.

Please pray also for Reading Lifeline - Lis and her team want to be part of the solution to give women with a crisis pregnancy love & support and an alternative to an abortion.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

5 reasons why I want the church to double

After a great Sunday morning meeting it seems only right to say again why I want to get to 400 as soon as possible!

#1 Because 400 voices give greater depth to the glory of God.

#2 Because 400 stories of God's grace will each contain hope, restoration and a future in Christ.

#3 Because 400 missionaries is another step towards, and can better cope with, winning a town of over 250,000.

#4 Because 400 followers of Jesus can better hold the nations in their prayers.

#5 Because 400 people can exhibit a greater influence for good.

I don't have time to talk about how much more money we could release for God's kingdom, or more people we could send / support overseas. Let's just say we need to get to 400 sooner rather than later!

Friday, 22 February 2008

Our friends in Zim

Many of you should know that we are supporting Farayi and Cora (both medical doctors) in Zimbabwe so that they can work with the new church plants in Harare (planted from Mount Pleasant Community Church - which Sibs Sabanda leads). They have sent an email update:

"Thanks to your generous gift, we have been able to send over 30 children (all of whom have lost one or both parents) to school. But wait there is more...5 of the older children ( 18-23years) will be starting college to pursue their various dreams (ranging from interior decorating to hair dressing). This is AWESOME!!!"

"The total sum for the school and college fees for the 30 children came about 1,5 billion Zim dollars...which is just over £93 pounds. Incredible isnt it? The education system is struggling with teachers leaving for greener pastures mainly in South Africa. Text and exercise books are in short supply, as schools simple cannot afford to buy new ones. Ok, thats it for now, i just wanted to give you some insight into the areas in which you have partnered with us."

It is so good to be part of something bigger. We are sponsoring them for 8 months to see the churches established, and meanwhile they are helping people we will never meet. I love being part of our church!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

It's thinking Thursday!!!

This morning, whilst speaking on the sovereignty of God, Mr Tozer gave an interesting illustration for his understanding of 'the sovereignty of God and man's free will'.

"Consider an ocean liner that leaves New York and is bound for Liverpool. On board the liner are scores of passengers. These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move around as they will. They eat, sleep, play, read & talk together as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onwards to a predetermined port. Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict eachother". So writes the mighty Aiden.

Does this illustration help you? Have you ever thought about this stuff? Does it fit into Jacob Arminius or John Calvin's thinking (for the keenies!)? Personally, I have some concerns but your comments please!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

People like Thomas

Tomorrow night I am speaking at Surrey University on John 14:1-14. It's the last supper and Jesus has washed feet and predicted both His betrayal and also Peter's denial. He then comforts his disciples by saying that He will go ahead to his Father's house to prepare rooms for them and then come back and take them to be with Him. It's a sublime teaching moment; the lights are low and the atmosphere 'troubled'.

And then Thomas pipes up "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"

I like Thomas. He asks honest questions and makes honest statements (see also John 20:24-29). He readily admits to not following the plot. But John 14:1-14 is not about Thomas; it's about Jesus. Jesus calls people like Thomas. And Jesus allows people like Thomas to say 'I don't get what you said'.

We don't always understand everything Jesus says - but we can ask Him and not be rebuked - and that is very good news for people like me.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Adultery, hovercrafts & dorky dads

It's been a full day.

As a family we are working through Proverbs over breakfast. This morning we arrived at Proverbs 5:1-6, the first of many such warnings about adultery. I am not sure how much our 3 year old took in, nor am I sure how much our 9 year old should understand of the horrors of adultery. But I am convinced children need to be exposed to the whole counsel of God and if that makes for uncomfortable questions over porridge, then so be it.

We then set off for the the Isle of Wight - crossing the solent by hover-craft which was fantastic! The cherry on the cake was coming back, the tide was out at Ryde so we had the first mile on sand before we hit the sea!

Whilst at Ryde we visited the Ice Rink where I joined the ranks of dorky looking dads trying to keep up with their kids (and not look dorky). Had I not been so concerned with messing up and falling over, I am sure I would have enjoyed it more. Here then lies the lesson - the older I get the more concerned I am with the consequences of failing and the less fun I have. I didn't fall over, not once, but then neither did I leave the rink having had as much fun as my kids did. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions as to what i will do differently next time.

Friday, 15 February 2008

This Sunday

Well the sermon is done and sitting on my desk. I plan to teach that we have a God of second chances; what repentance looks like; and that Jonah was an example of hearing God. What I need now is Holy Spirit annointing so that we saints get built up and sinners get saved. Please pray!

The children will be looking at Jesus and that He is the giver of life. The children's ministry makes up 25% of the gathered church, so we must keep praying that they too meet with God and their lives are forever changed.

We will also being having communion together; we need to do this more often, all together and in our homes with one another.

On Sunday afternoon the RUCU mission team ( are meeting in our offices and then joining us for a joint prayer meeting at 8pm. Please do check out their website and get praying for all the events happening on campus next week.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

George Whitfield rebuked!

I read this morning of a conversation between the mighty George Whitfield and a Puritan minister called William Tennent. Whitfield was speaking on the burden of his labours and his consolation that in a short time he would die and be with Christ.

Whitfield turned to Tennent and said: "Well brother Tennet, you are the oldest man among us, do you not rejoice that your time is near at hand to be with Christ?"

Mr Tennet answered "I have no wish about it".

But George Whitfield pressed him on the issue.

Mr Tennet answered "No Sir, it is of no pleasure to me at all, and if you knew your duty it would be of none to you. I have nothing to do with death; my business is to live as long as I can - as well as I can - and to serve my Lord and Master as faithfully as I can, until he should think proper to call me home."

Good answer! I now feel fully vinicated on my desire to get to 100 years old!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

I'm beginning to realise again that God is dreadful

What can I say? My eyes are being opened ever wider, to realise how awesome and dreadful our God is. The closer I get to seeing how big & uncreated He is, and how holy & powerful He is, I do get un-nerved. He is VAST. He stands apart in unapproachable light. He is unknowable (but makes himself knowable). God has never learned and will never learn. Distance and time and magnitude have no meaning with regards to Him. He can do anything as easily as anything else. There is no-where where He is not. And He is Holy. He is infinite in that He knows no bounds. He is not tame or tame-able or in need of us. He is THE proper, one off, God.
And alongside these truths, through Christ, I can know Him as Father - what a gospel! What a God! Our God is awesome and that will breed a healthy sense of fear & dread, and rightly so!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Jonah 3 - a big fish & a big question

This Sunday we are back on track with Jonah and I am covering chapter 3. Jonah is vomited out of a big fish and I find myself asking a big question. You see, I think Jonah is dumb because he ran away from what God asked him to do. If God clearly tells you to do something, who in their right mind would disobey? No-one (except fools).

But the question I find myself asking is 'But how do you know when God has asked you to do something?'. I want to look at this because a fundamental assumption in the book is that Jonah knew that God had told him to go to Nineveh.

So what I need to hear is: #1 How has God clearly spoken to you in the past? #2 What are you questions regarding 'How can God speak clearly to us today'? It is time to post those comments!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Sunday's heroes (some of them)

After another great day as RFC gathered, I think it only right to call out some of the unsung heroes that served the church so well today:
  • David & Joy Simkin on 'Tea & Toast' - a perfect cuppa!
  • Chris Pearson - studies in Southampton but turned up at 8:45 for set up.
  • Ruth Preston - her first time on the PA team.
  • Martin & Becca Craker - cooking for 30 for the deacons lunch.
  • Gary & Kay Watkins - their foster child's second Sunday with us.
  • Josh John - spent year at worship school but was happy to be hidden at the back of the stage.
  • Helen McCredie & Jenny Thomas (KC1 team) gave my daughter a great morning!
  • Everyone who spoke to the guys from Yeldhall Manor & the other visitors.
  • Mike Thomas who worked so hard on set-up and never stopped smiling!

I know I have not mentioned everyone, but these guys and the serving teams they represent, epitomise why I love being part of this church!

Friday, 8 February 2008

This weekend with Ben Davies

I read this morning that 'God needs no one, but when faith is present He works through anyone'. Such an 'anyone' is Ben Davies - a man of faith and a man through whom God has / is working.

After 43 years pastoring the same church there must be countless stories of how God has used Ben. Mine is simple, Ben is my father in Christ. I know him. I trust him. I love him. And I want you to catch something of his heart for Jesus and seeing thousands saved. He is speaking at our leadership school on Saturday; preaching Sunday morning; and speaking again at our elders & deacons lunch on Sunday. Let's press in to receive something from God through Ben.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

newfrontiers Prayer & Fasting

As a staff team we have just returned from two days of prayer & fasting in Peterborough. Essentially, we gathered with leaders from across newfrontiers churches in the UK to worship, pray and fast. Below I have outlined some of my highlights:
  • Being with our team amd meeting up with friends.
  • Praying for peace and stability in Kenya.
  • Hearing the guys from India and praying for their nation.
  • Praying for the church to be revived in our nation - ours included!
  • Praying for churches in rural areas / small towns.
  • Hearing again the vision to train leaders through the Leadership conference, Mobilise & Newday.
  • Pressing on to make Jesus famous.
  • Terry's input and his book recommendations!
  • Hearing stories of faith and breakthroughs and setbacks.
  • Getting prayed for and powerfully meeting the Holy Spirit.
Most of all it was a sense of the presence of God and being part of something bigger - a great two days!

Have you met Aidan?

I have recently been introduced to a certain man called Aidan Wilson Tozer.

This morning he said this: "Sin has many manifestations but its essence is one. A moral being, created to worship before the throne of God, sits on the throne of his own selfhood and from that elevated position declares 'I AM'. That is sin in it's concentrated essence".
- The Knowledge of the Holy, chapter 5

Wow - and that was me! I still feel relief when I revisit aspects of what I have been saved from i.e. me on the throne of my life (although I can still sometimes feel it is a nice place to sit - that is until I consider our Holy God!). Thankfully the gospel has lifted me out of the total mess of my original condition and thinking.

I think I am going to enjoy listening to my new friend Aidan ...

Sunday, 3 February 2008

I am a saint!

As I blogged earlier, I found CJ's book on humility really helpful. He is a christian leader I hugely respect and give honour to. BUT, the challenge of engaging with his book is that the subject of your own sin is constantly before you. As I read each chapter, I became increasingly aware of my own sin, matched by a growing desire to stop sinning. And here lies the subtle danger of such a great book: by being made more aware of my own sin, I could fool myself into thinking that because I sin, I must be a sinner. But I am not.

The bible says when you believe in Jesus you become a new creation. I am now clothed in Christ's righteouness. I am now seated with Him in the heavenly realms. I am now blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessings in Christ. I am now marked in Him with a seal, I am now a child of God; justified, redeemed, adopted, positionally seated with Christ (You must read Eph 1 & 2).

Yes I sin but my indentity is no longer as a sinner, my old 'sinner' self died and was buried with Christ. I am now a new spiritual being, in fact the bible uses the word 'saint'. I am now alive to God in Christ Jesus (Roman 6!), I am a saint. A saint who sins, but a saint nonetheless. Now that is worth blogging about.

Friday, 1 February 2008

This week's top 10

  1. The Alpha course had 6 guests - we nearly cancelled it two weeks ago!
  2. The Foundations course started with 4 people
  3. 6 people were on the Joining the Family course, half of which were from other nations
  4. A church member who has addiction issues got in contact after 5 months absence
  5. Tom Riches & Chris Poston got new jobs
  6. I finished my sermon prep on Thursday afternoon!
  7. 12 youth leaders from Newfrontiers churches met in our office (I oversee the team)
  8. Nicola & Rachel finished a piece of their course work, almost...
  9. 'Actual giving' nearly met 'budgeted giving' for this month - what a great start!
  10. It's Friday afternoon and it is not raining...yet.