Friday, 29 May 2009

A day with the Hensons

Liz and I first met Dave and Hanna in September 2000 on the first year of Church Planting school. So began a great friendship as they planted into Loughborough and we into Reading.

They have since handed over the church in Loughborough and now live in St Petersburg where they are learning Russian language & culture. Their plan is to plant a Russian speaking church in that city, as well as strengthening the churches relating to newfrontiers in Russia.

On Sunday 5 July the family Henson will be joining us at RFC. Dave will be preaching that morning and there will be a lunch at the offices for anyone who wants to get to know them better.

Please let me know if you want to join us all for lunch, it is a great privilege to have them with us.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Jesus & marmite

This story is from the BBC website ... sadly the Reading Chronicle hasn't picked it up yet!

It may not be immediately obvious to everyone, but one family are convinced they can see the face of Jesus on the lid of a jar of Marmite.

Claire Allen, 36, said she was the first to notice the image on the underside of the lid as she was putting the yeast spread on her son's toast.

"People might think I'm nuts, but I like to think it's Jesus looking out for us".

Full story here

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Chronicles of Reading - Carnival!

Reading Chronicle, Page 2, 'Bank Holiday carnival'

Our town has a large Afro-Caribbean community and for 32 years they have staged the Reading Community Carnival. As a community they are unashamed of their ethnic roots and cultural identity. They’re vibrant, joyful, authentic, consistent and on the streets … and we can either join in the party or wait until it passes!

What we love about the Afro-Caribbean's is that their community is out on the street giving it large for their cultural identity and we all love them for it. The church also is to be a called out community of people, a royal priesthood who belong to a heavenly kingdom (1Peter 2v9-12).

How much more so should we be amongst the people of Reading displaying our true identity … that of ‘being found in Jesus’. As a church we need to be happy to make some noise, add some colour, to bring joy and be a blessing, and be AMONGST the people of Reading. Sadly most of the town don’t know we exist, we need to change this!!!

The world is going through a depressing time but in Reading we’ve got the opportunity for one day of merriment and fun” Tony Vickers.

Without a doubt the world is going through a depressing time (global recession, HIV/AIDS pandemic, terrorism). The Reading Chronicle also had some depressing stories (3 men arrested on suspicion of indecent images of children). However, for one day the carnival offers merriment and fun, against a backdrop of global & local gloom.

But when the steel drums are finally packed away and the last joyous photos downloaded onto hard drives, Tuesday morning will come crashing in. And so we need to be a people who are still displaying good deeds, that glorify God, as we live good lives amongst the people of Reading.

The Christian life is often misunderstood so we shouldn’t be surprised by any hostile reception or when accused of doing wrong. This shouldn’t deflect us; rather we are to consider it an honour to be treated like Jesus was. His message is one of enduring hope and we must proclaim it to the people of Reading. His message is to be demonstrated by a church that in seen and known and part of the fabric of life here.

The Reading Chronicle carries news to the people of Reading every week for only 60p, and it’s a good read. But news quickly dates and so the news desk at the Chronicle is constantly looking for new stories. We have our story and it is the old, old story of the rugged cross. We must be a community of people who clearly proclaim the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to the people of our town.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

War & Sin

This morning I had a few hours to myself so I indulged in a movie and a book.
Saints & Soldiers is loosely based around the WW2 massacre at Malmedy. It follows a small band of American soldiers as they try to evade capture and return to their lines. The horror of war is mixed with honour and morality. One of the principle figures is a Mormon, which makes for a fascinating interplay of faith and duty. What is overriding is the brutality and violence that man metes out under the auspices of war.

I then read the first few pages of chapter 4 in the Cross of Christ by John Stott. In this chapter he asks "Why doesn't God simply forgive us?" to which he answers "because we haven't fully considered the seriousness of sin and the majesty of God".

Saints & Soldiers vividly portrays the carnage & destruction caused by the effects of sin amongst men. I suspect Mr Stott will portray, with literary 3D, the far reaching and damning effects of our sin against God. It will be an uncomfortable chapter in the book, but deeply helpful in my appreciation of Jesus.

Facebread - a new social networking utility

On Sunday we had Tom Riches' Lifegroup back for lunch. Unknown to me, Jonny & Nicola were running a competition to see who could homebake a bread that most looked like me.

Nicola's offerings were very tasty but she obviously hadn't made any effort to capture my finer qualities. The clear winner was Jonny Joslin, he even manage a small quiff ... and he assures me it was the first time he has ever baked bread!

A very talented bunch and who are great fun to be with, and boy they can bake!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Chronicles of Reading

This Sunday I am starting a new six week sermon series entitled 'The Chronicles of Reading'. Each week, I plan to preach into one of the Reading Chronicle's top stories (and yes please get hold of a copy and try to figure out which one it will be!).

As a church we need to involved in the life of the town and also be equipped to speak into what is going on - hence this series. I won't be spending all my time pointing out what we are against, rather to help us think clearly and be blessing to our town.

Please do pray for me this week as I prepare, not least that I feel much better than I do right now!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

love the church - Sat 20 June

I have asked my good friend Dave Bish (blue fish project ) to join us for the weekend next month. Dave has worked for UCCF for many years (he was based in Reading where we met) and is now in Exeter. Like me, he has a passion for the local church and is currently on a 3 month writing sabbatical.

On Saturday 20 June @ church offices, Dave will be exploring the centrality of the church in the purposes of God and will continue this theme when he preaches on Sunday morning.

RFC has grown so much over the last few years and I sense that this day will be really helpful in relaying / reminding us of this key foundation in our Christian lives.

Loving the church should change the trajectory of your life ... I really encourage you to come along and be inspired.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Spot the ball

One of our best kept secrets is the Reading Family Church football team, led by our very own player/manager Tim Jablonski.

When Tim isn't deaconing or decorating his new house or preparing to get married, he is guiding our team to football glory. Tomorrow we play Kerith Community Church FC in the final of the Philmar Plate at 1pm at Reading Town Football club (RG30 6AY).

Tim is quoted as saying "It will be one of the most exciting events in the sporting calender" ... I just want us to win!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Friday night @ RFC

This Friday we are gathering at the church offices from 9pm until midnight to pray. And there is a lot to pray for:

The Hensons (In St Petersburg) have sent through a prayer list as long as my arm; 9000 flyers have been put through doors in Whitley advertising Sunday's Healing Meeting; and we need a new Sunday venue.

Hannah Burnhams will be talking about her time in Rumania and I will be feeding back about Zambia; Many of our new initiatives need a burst of prayer (Czech playgroup, Mum & Toddlers & our language school).

And we all need to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we will be a company of dreamers and visionaries. It's going to be a busy night of prayer, so make sure you arrive early, full of faith & vigour for praying!!!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

No Mr President (human life is awesome)

I picked this up from my good friend Ed Goode who now lives in the US ...

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

4 days of prayer @ RFC

Today is the start of our 4 days of prayer and I am going back to the old fashion practice of 'solitude'.

I am at a Christian retreat centre in Oxfordshire to be on my own for the next 2 days (my room overlooks trees and I can make tea using a teapot - outstanding!) I enjoy solitude and will spend time reading the bible, praying, thinking and journaling. I have also brought a copy of 'The soul winner' by Charles Spurgeon to encourage my appetite for seeing people in Reading trusting in Jesus!

I won't be at the prayer meeting tonight but will join you all on wednesday evening and the Thurs/Friday prayer meetings. Do press in and seek God's face over the next few days, He is a wonderful Father to us.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Zambian thoughts

On Tuesday night I arrived back home after a 9 day trip to Zambia. I travelled out there with a small team from Kerith Community Church who have partnered with Tearfund as part of their response to the HIV/AIDs pandemic.

In essence, their 5 year project plans to support several rural communities in Zambia through micro farming projects, assisting with vulnerable children's school fees, improving education facilities and the training of pastors in HIV/AIDS awareness, leadership skills, etc. They are also trying to foster links with organisations in Bracknell with those in Serenje (schools, hospitals etc).

In many ways in was a typical African experience: way too hot, very friendly people living in dire poverty, little or ageing infrastructure, entrepreneurship abounded and enormous amounts of time was spent greeting one another.

Yet this trip was different. It was seeped in the power of a God given 'Vision' to do something. A vision of one local church to pour in £500,000 over 5 years into a community of people in a far off land. A vision to respond to the worldwide HIV/AIDS pandemic over the long haul (not just a one off offering). A vision to support a village who were predominantly Jehovah Witnesses and who's children are equally vulnerable, hungry & illiterate as the predominantly Christians village next to them. The vision to 'risk' partnering with local pastors, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia and Tearfund.

And this vision is already touching people - people who probably don't have a passport or ever need one. I met children whose situation was miserable but they now had an advocate and meal security. I shook hands with a widowed dad as he held his young child (himself suffering from AIDS) and wondered if he would survive this year yet grateful his pastor was now able to help him. I walked away from many joyful, hope filled Christians who loved Jesus and they sang and sang without needing SongPro. I walked away from pastors who really cared about the people in their district and had a God given vision to do something.

In many ways I came back with more questions than answers. As a pastor I wondered about what sort of foundations the churches were built on; I wondered about how they were guarding against nepotism in the allocation & distribution of help; I wondered what does God's timeless truth look like as expressed in their culture. These however, were all peripheral concerns when compared to the obvious relief being demonstrated.

But one thing was very clear. One church can be a huge force for good, an agent for change, a vehicle for hope. Simon Benham, who leads the Kerith Church, mentioned that he wants to be like an investment banker church, to invest in risky start-ups for the glory of God. From what I have seen after 9 days there, there is going to be huge returns on this investment.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Proverbs 31

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value (v10)

By God's grace I have found such a wife. Liz's character has always been something that has attracted me to her. Yes she is a fox and loves Jesus, but her inner beauty is by far her most attractive asset.

Liz often reads to cultivate her character and one book so impressed her she passed it on to me to read ... and it was inspiring.

'Feminine Appeal' by Carolyn Mahaney looks at the seven feminine virtues outlined in Titus 2. It is an easy yet challenging read, and paints a compelling vision. Her closing chapter entitled 'Margaret's Story' makes sense of the whole journey and is very moving.

So it seems fitting to end this series of blogs in the same manner proverbs finishes ... by declaring that 'I have every confidence in my wife' and that because of her 'I too lack nothing of value'.