Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Mourning

On Sunday I concluded our series on Chronicles of Reading by looking at how we can help our friends mourn.

I mentioned the sermon preached at Jade Goody's funeral - to read the full transcript, click here.

I also read Georgie Wallace's advice on helping people grieve. Georgie is a member of our church and her husband died 13 years ago. I have listed it below:

Don't be afraid to talk about the person who has died and let them talk about them too.

Don't be afraid you might remind them and make them cry...crying is good and it's never off their mind.

Stick with it for the long haul, there will be plenty of support in the early weeks, you need to help see them through that first awful year. A phone call, a visit or a card means so much.

Don't set them a time scale in which to recover, it makes them feel like they're not doing very well. Let them take their own time, everyone experiences grief differently and recovery takes longer for some than others.

Do pray for them, or with them if they want you to, people can be more open to God at a time like that.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

RFC in the news

This is an extract of the online version of the article which was on page 2 of the Reading Chronicle.

A CHURCH congregation is hearing the word of the Lord...according to The Chronicle. The pastor of Reading Family Church is basing his Sunday sermons every week on a story from our pages.

Pastor Sean Green, 41, said: “Reading the paper and having the sermons is a good way to see what is going on and think, 'How can I play my part?’. It is about trying to encourage people to get involved.

“We are living in a vibrant town and the church historically has always been involved in the town and society. But increasingly we are all caught up in our own lives, isolated and not getting to grips with the issues going on around us.


“There is loads going on in the town and Christians need to be engaged with it.”
Full story here.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Prostitutes take trade to suburbs

I preached on the prostitution trade of our town a few weeks ago ... we must continue to pray for the sex workers and punters of Reading:

"PROSTITUTES are taking their clients to leafy suburbs and rural beauty spots to evade police arrest.

Council workers and police believe that when they are picked up by their clients in Reading’s notorious Oxford Road area they are being driven into Caversham and crossing the Thames into Oxfordshire to find peace and quiet.

They also think Reading is establishing such a reputation in the vice trade that the town is attracting an influx of prostitutes from other areas".
Full story here

Friday, 19 June 2009

Terry Virgo this Sunday

This Sunday is many things: Fathers day, the longest day & Dave Bish day! But it is also a day when we all can get involved in apostolic mission through the giving of our money.

We are part of a church movement called newfrontiers and I am so grateful for Terry Virgo who has fathered it. We really don't want to be an isolated church and newfrontiers helps us to be plugged into something much bigger which brings vision, security and direction.

I personally know Terry; Scott & I have been to his house; He has preached with us; And we have given our hearts to him.

Please do come prepared to give this Sunday, it is a real privilege to be able to give our money and lay it at the feet of apostolic teams.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Practicing what I preach

On Sunday we continued our series 'the Chronicles of Reading' and looked at Jesus' politics. I encouraged everyone to write to their MP thanking them and telling them we are praying for them. If you don' t know your MP's contact details here they are:

  • Rob Wilson is the Labour MP for East Reading: Mr. Rob Wilson, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. robwilsonmp@parliament.uk
  • Martin Salter is the Labour MP for West Reading: 413 Oxford Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG30 1HA. salterm@parliament.uk
  • John Redwood is the Conservative MP for Wokingham: 30 Rose Street, Wokingham, Berkshire, RG40 1XU. redwoodj@parliament.uk

My MP is John Redwood so I emailed him yesterday:

Dear Mr Redwood – I wanted to send a short email to say thank you for you service to us through these difficult days. There appears to be so much cynicism towards MPs at present that I wanted to add a voice of support for you. As a pastor of a growing church, I know something of being a public servant and also what it is to make mistakes in the public domain. Thank you for being open about your expense claims and making amends.

Please do continue to keep to the business of a MP and not be side tracked by the interest of the media. In these times especially, our country needs leadership and our democratic system operates best when we have a vibrant opposition!

I will continue to pray for you and have asked my congregation to do the same. Yours sincerely, Sean Green
And his reply, within 3 hours, was: Thank you for your email. I am planning to stand again, and am making no claims for second homes.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

We dont want a Cappuccino Church

A Cappuccino Church is one where there are blacks & whites but the whites are on top. We don't want to be like that.

16% of our town aren't White British and yet approx 20% of our church community aren't White British, 20% of our eldership aren't White British and 40% of our worship leaders aren't White British. These stats puts a smile on my face.

But 0% our deacons aren't White British and only 8% of our Life Group Leaders aren't White British. Work to be done here.

Without getting into a long theological discussion on why White British culture does not fully express Kingdom culture, it is worth remembering that the church is to be a gallery displaying and celebrating 'redeemed' cultures. A church with multi-ethnic leadership at all levels will better display the glory of God's wisdom!

This is why I have been badgering / inviting those of our church community who aren't White British to come this Saturday to 'Love the church'. I want us to continue to buck the trend in Reading and show how we increasing enjoy our unity as God's people because of His grace.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Ecclesiastes 12

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (v13).

On this cheery note, so finishes the book of Ecclesiastes.

Finishing on fear and keeping commandments is not exactly helpful. Fearing God can get you so far when it comes to obedience but it can never be enough to keep you on track.

Jesus really did have good news. Yes, we are to fear God and keep his commandments but my righteousness is found in Jesus, not in my law keeping. Sin no longer has a hold over me and I have the Holy Spirit within giving power to live for God's glory.

I still get a thrill writing this out, reflecting on the new covenant brings a smile to my face. Can it really be that I am accepted because of my faith (and that a gift) in Jesus alone?

The new legalisms of blogging each day through Ecclesiastes or keeping up with my Bible in a Year readings (now 2 days behind) add nothing to my standing before God.

That said, reading the bible cover to cover really helps you grasp the goodness of God! Fear and commandments aren't the last words, it's 'the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen'!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Cloudy Days in Summer

Cloudy Days in Summer – it happens, so let's talk about it.

Many Christians suffer from mental health issues, such as depression, yet there are few occasions where it can be discussed.


In November we are hosting a day that aims to give people both a framework and permission to talk about following Jesus whilst living with depression.

Places are limited to those either suffering from, or supporting those with, depression. Please contact the Church Office to book in (There will be a small cost for the day).

Saturday 7th November 2009, 10am-4pm @ the Church Office.

Ecclesiastes 11

Give portions to seven, yes, to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.

Unforeseen downturns & economic pressures are a fact of life and we can adopt various schemes to mitigate their effects.

One such scheme is to save for that 'rainy day'. The challenge is figuring out quite how much to save, as enough never seems to be enough when it comes to covering all our bases.

Jesus picked up on another approach in the parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16). The manager was commended for wisely using money to win future favour with people (after he had lost his job).

Solomon's approach is 'be generous whilst you can'. The heart of this is more than just a pragmatic 'win friends whilst you can', it must be a trust in God's economy. God is able to respond to our faith filled generosity by meeting our needs through those we have helped. This is true equality & economic community, the 'haves' meeting the needs of the 'have-nots'.

2Cor8v14 Your plenty will supply whay they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Ecclesiates 10

A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything (v19).

Humanly speaking, money is the great answer for most, if not all, of life's problems. We can buy healthcare, lifestyles, friends and even love (to some degree). But the phrase 'money is the answer for everything' needs to be looked at seriously, after all, it's in the bible! What does it really mean?
  • Is this a wry comment on human values?
  • Is this sober advice to earn a good living rather than have a good time?
  • Is this stating the great versatility of money?
Money is morally neutral but Jesus is very interested in our attitude to money and how we use it. After all, it's His money that is the answer to everything.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Marriage & the Gospel

Because of the gospel…from ‘Love that Lasts' by Gary and Betsy Ricucci
 
Because of the gospel, Christians have become new creations (2 Cor 5:17).
Therefore in our marriage, our past does not define us, confine us or determine our future.

Because of the gospel, we are forgiven (Eph 1:7)
Therefore we can live free of all guilt and condemnation for every sin, and we can trust that God, in his mercy, will be gracious to us.

Because of the gospel we can forgive, just as Christ forgave us (Eph 4:32)
Nothing done against us compares to our sin against God. Therefore all offences, hostility and bitterness between Christians can be completely forgiven and removed.

Because of the gospel, we are accepted by God (Rom 15:7)
Therefore we are not dependent on a spouse for who we are or what we need

Because of the gospel, sins ruling power over us is broken (Rom 6:6,14)
Therefore we can truly obey all that God calls us to do in our marriage, regardless of any circumstance or situation

Because of the gospel, we have access to God through Christ (Heb 4:14-16)
Therefore we can at any time take any need in our marriage to the One who can do all things.

Because of the gospel, we have hope (Rom 5:1-4)
Therefore we can endure any marital difficulty, hardship or suffering, with the assurance that God is working all to our greatest good (Rom 8:28)

Because of the gospel, Christ dwells in us by his Holy Spirit (Gal 3:13-14)
Therefore, we are confident that God is always with us and is always at work in our marriage, even when progress is imperceptible (1 Thess 5:23-24)

Because of the gospel, we have power to fight and overcome remaining sin, which continues to dwell and war within us (Rom 7:19-21, 24-25)

Ecclesiastes 9

The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all (v11).

Life can appear random at times. Being in the right place at the right time can change the trajectory of your life.

8 years ago, I was working for Dell Computers in Bracknell but hoping to start Sunday morning meetings at RFC. Out of nowhere, I was able to apply for redundancy, was accepted, and left with six months salary in redundancy money!

Simply time & chance at play?

The seasons of our life are in God's hands. The race is not won by the fastest runner, or the battle won by the strongest army, but time and chance happen to both.

I prefer time & 'providence', God's Providence. Our life story is penned by His hands and the outcomes of each chapter are crafted by a loving, wise and all powerful authour.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Love the Church Promo

Ecclesiastes 8

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad (v15).

Eat, drink and be glad. This phrase both thrills me and leaves me nervous.

I love the fact that it a grateful response to God's provision. It's thrilling because I can let my mind drift to great meals with good friends. It's thrilling because my mind inevitable moves to that great feast to come, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!

But I am also nervous of how shallow "eat & drink & be glad" sounds. I am nervous of allowing hedonism or fatalism any room in my life! Can we as Christians really follow Solomon's advice on this one?!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Ecclesiastes 7

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyman; the living should take this to heart (v2)

I have been to enough funeral wakes to know that they are somber and reflective events. When my Nan died a few years ago it was sad but she was 83 and had lived a full life. My friend's daughter died a few days before her first birthday, and her wake felt very different to my Nan's.

I hope to live to 100 years and see my great grandchildren get married (maybe even preach at the wedding!). But one day I will die for death is the destiny of everybody.

This may seem very depressing, especially after such a fantastic day at RFC. But UK culture has sanitised and distanced death from everyday life and we miss the lessons that come when faced with our own mortality.

When we understand that 'When the game is over it all goes back in the box' (a great book by John Ortberg) our perspective on how we live our life changes for the better.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Ecclesiastes 6

All mans efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied. (v7)

Our can hunger instruct us. We are creatures, finite beings with needs (like food). God is uncreated, infinite and without needs.

Despite my continued efforts to feed myself, I am often hungry again within hours. It is an endless pursuit. This cycle can be used to remind me of my dependence on a God who is not like me. That helps me with humilty.

However, when my focus has shifted, the constant repetition of life feels tiresome and unending. I think this is where Solomon is when he's penned these words, he's lost sight of his great Provider.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Ecclesiastes 5

When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work - this is a gift from God. (v19)

When God enables us to enjoy our wealth and possession that is when the blessing can bless. Wealth is delightful when it is rooted in a attitude of stewardship and favour and joyful generosity. This is a gift from God.

When God enables us to accept our lot in life and our roving eyes settle on our current horizon with faith & gratitude of heart, this is a gift from God.

When God enables us to be happy in our labour and the dignity of work restored, this too is a gift from God.

When God gives these gifts, we will seldom reflect on the days of our life because God would have kept us occupied with joy in ours hearts.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Ecclesiates 4

And I saw that all labour and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbour. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (v4)

Envy, like pride, has a thousand faces. I can find myself envious of lifestyles, opportunities and backgrounds. Envy can often drive us to make decisions we later regret or fuel an attitude we find difficult to shake.

But this passage is speaking of more than simply 'coveting your neighbours wife or setting your desire on his house, land, ox or smartphone' (Deut 5v21).

This passage is speaking of the futility of labour & achievement that spring from envy. Envy that results in 'wanting what others have' is never satisfied by getting what they have. Envy can be like chasing after the wind.

Envy is diminished when you come to terms with what you have right now, is God's economy for you, right now.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Ecclesiastes 3

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. (v1).
When I was a child, I played and dreamed and painted my bike.
When I was a student, I studied and slept and was surrounded by 'Me's'.
When I met Jesus, I surrendered and danced and started to change.
When I left Uni, I earnt and travelled and bought 'Big-Boy Toys'.
When I got married, I laughed and planned and delighted in my wife.
When I became a dad, I dozed and 'burped' and delighted in my children.
When I became a pastor, I gathered and led and have never looked back.
Life is about times and seasons. We need to have an idea of which one we are in and ask God for the grace to enjoy it.

A Grand Day Out - Shanklin IoW

car - hovercraft - train - BEACH - train - hovercraft - car

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Ecclesiastes 2

Then I thought in my heart, "The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?" I said in my heart, "This too in meaningless." v15

At then end of his life, Solomon, having denied himself no pleasure, having undertook great projects, having amassed vast amounts of wealth & knowledge, awaited the fate of a fool.

No-one escapes Death. Death has no respect for age, wealth, education or accomplishments. The wise and the fool will both walk through this door.

Human wisdom & endeavours rarely results in an inner, lasting peace & quietness of spirit. We intuitively feel, that how we live our lives should make a difference.

Isaiah gives hope "The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever". Is32v17

Monday, 1 June 2009

Ecclesiastes 1

"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

With such a cheery declaration, so begins one of my favourite books in the bible. The basic thrust of the book is that 'all of life is meaningless, useless, hollow, futile and vain if not rightly related to God' (NIV study bible).

So Liz is ironing yet again and the dishes have been washed up, again. Zoe's school shoes were beautifully polished this morning, and now they need to be done again. I have spent today decorating, knowing it will all need doing again, much sooner than I would like.

Ecclesiastes talks about and makes sense of life's constant repetition.

Yes, we want kids growing up in a tidy home and for them to look presentable. But the routine and the mundane of life only makes sense when you consider who it is we serve.

Highlights from Sunday

  • The sunshine.

  • More new faces.

  • Our faithful volunteers.

  • Our first morning running a 'T' loop for the deaf.

  • Rob playing the new Jembie - it sounded fantastic!

  • Preaching - I really enjoyed myself this week.

  • The International Lunch ... next time Goat is on the menu!

  • Meeting with the 'Emerging Leaders' group - the future is bright.

  • The Prayer Meeting - focusing on the nations always stirs me!