Friday, 28 May 2010

Building community @ RFC

One of the challenges of two congregations in different parts of Reading is ”How do we express our sense of community and identity, given we are growing & geographically dispersed?”. Essentially, this demands we become more intentional about creating moments where we gather altogether to have fun, build memories and enjoy being one church. On that basis here are a few dates for next month:

On Fathers’ Day (20 June), after the morning meeting at Reading Girls’ School we plan to have a BBQ, and a ‘Students v Everyone Else’ football match. We have also booked a climbing wall to add a fear element to the lunch time proceedings. Everyone is invited to this lunch time event.

We will also screen the England games at the church office (12 & 18 June @ 7:30, 23 June @ 3:30) so we can 'cheer' & 'boo' with other RFC fans! Bring your friends & snacks ... and be sensitive in what you drink.

Let’s have some more fun & intentionally express our unity as one church.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Salvation, Healings & Sermons

Healing Meeting: It is difficult to capture in words the morning but words like expectant & joyful, exciting & normal, excellence & easiness, edgy & safe, delightful & Holy, all help to express the meeting! To see a 87 year man and a 6 year boy respond to the gospel was thrilling. In total, 7 people responded for salvation after Chris Kilby's message. Four people testified to instant healing; Hannah May's description of her throat constricting and then be released was amazing. I so enjoyed the ministry time at the end; it spilling into the pack up; people not wanting to leave their seats was a Holy, safe, wonderful mess!

Sermon Sunday:
It has been a while since we have done this and given the quality of the evening we must do this again this year! As hoped, we had five 7-minute nuggets of God's wisdom. If you weren't there on the night, do listen to them by clicking on their names: Rachel, William, Tom, Keith & Frank. At lifegroup this week, we shall be looking at what they said and how to further apply it to our lives.

New Sermon Series: This Sunday we start on our new series in Romans 6-8, and I expect this to take a few months ...

Friday, 21 May 2010

Church-tastic weekend

Just a quick reminder of what RFC are upto this weekend:
  • Tonight - 1/2 Night of Prayer at the church offices

  • Saturday - FrontEdge Conference in Woking - to register click here

  • Sunday morning - Healing Meeting, 10am @ Reading Girls School

  • Sunday Evening - Sermon Sunday, 6:15pm @ South Street Arts Centre
It's a busy weekend but come Monday morning, I'm believing we will have a lot to thank God for!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Why Pray & Fast?

To help us in our 3 days of Pray & Fasting (Matthew 6v5-18)

When you pray - Jesus assumed his followers would pray all manner of prayers; requests for ourselves or others, confession of sin, adoration, praise and thanksgiving.

But why does God want us to pray to him?
  • God the Father wants us to pray because it expresses our trust in Him and indicates that we are genuinely convinced of His wisdom, love, goodness and power.
  • God the Father not only wants us to trust him but also to love him - prayer brings us into deeper fellowship with Him who loves and delights in us.
  • God the Father allows us as creatures to be involved in activities that are eternally important.
  • God the Father changes the way He acts when we make requests of Him (Lk 10v9, 2Chron7v14 & 1Jn1v9).
This last point can be confusing; The God of the bible is Sovereign (the right to do as He pleases), Omniscience (perfect wisdom & knowledge) and is Omnipotent (all powerful)... yet we get to change how He acts! Yet this is what Jesus taught (Luke 11). Prayer then is a communication in which God the Father will change the way He acts because we ask in prayer (without violating His nature or what is the very best for us). Sometimes we ‘have not’ simply because we ‘have not asked’ - prayer is a dynamic relationship with God.

Praying on our own - Jesus said we should pray on our own (Matt 6v6) and modelled this (Luke 5v16). The solitude would have helped him to remain focused and un-distracted by the presence of other people.

Praying with others - Jesus also said we should pray with others (Matt 18v18-20). Even Jesus’ teaching on prayer speaks of a congregation setting (us, ours Matt 6v12,13). The early church in Jerusalem lifted their voices together to God (Acts 4v24).

When you Fast - Jesus connects prayer with fasting (Matt 6v16)b which is a regular theme in Scripture (Neh 1v4, Dan 9v3, Lk 2v37, Acts 13v2). So prayer & fasting is a biblical thing to do with several benefits to us when we fast:
  • It increases our sense of humility and dependence upon Jesus.
  • It allows us to give more attention to prayer.
  • It reminds us that, just as we sacrifice some personal comfort for Jesus (by not eating) so we must sacrifice all of ourselves for him!
  • It is a good exercise in self discipline.
  • It can heighten our spiritual alertness and sense of God’s presence.
  • It expresses the earnestness and urgency of our prayers.
Though the New Testament doesn’t specifically require us to fast or set times when we must fast, Jesus certainly assumes we will (Matt 6v16 & 9v15).

So why do we Pray & Fast?
Well, Jesus assumed that His followers would pray to his Heavenly Father:
  • We pray because it acknowledges our dependence and trust in God the Father.
  • We pray because we are invited into the eternal fellowship of Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
  • We pray because we can change the way God acts even though He is Sovereign, Omniscience & Omnipotent.
  • We pray on our own because Jesus did, and he told us to do likewise.
  • We pray with others because Jesus taught us to, and this was the practice of the early church.
  • We pray and fast because Jesus expected us to and it is a grace filled means of expressing our earnestness and trust in Him.
  • We pray because we get to come to God the Father and experience His joy for us as ‘those hidden in His Son’.
  • We pray because it honours our Heavenly Father and it does us good!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Modesty @ RFC

When planning the Women's Breakfast, the girls wanted to look at the Biblical value of Modesty and how to apply that to women who follow Jesus. Liz was given the task of speaking and so began the long journey that ended in this talk.

But of course, the issue of modesty is not limited just to women. Please do listen this talk, regardless of your gender, we need to be those who think clearly and wear our clothes for the glory of God! It is 40 minutes long, to listen to it click here.

And guys, for the record - I really don't want to see your pants, however trendy they may be! ;o)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Sermon Sunday

We are in for a cracking Sunday at RFC.

In the morning at Reading Girls, we have Chris Kilby with us at our Healing Meeting. I have known Chris for quite a few years and God is using him mightily in healings and Gospel responses.

In the evening at South Street, we are hosting a 'Sermon Sunday'. After our time of worship, 5 people from RFC will be preaching for 7 minutes each. To whet your appetite here is an introduction to them:

Frank is married to Kathy and they have been involved in disaster relief in various parts of the world (To read his response to the earthquake in Haiti click here). He currently works as a mechanical engineer for a local company but travels extensively.

Rachel was an intern here at RFC a few years ago and her project was children's work (amongst many other things). She now works in further education and leads a lifegroup.

William works for Vodafone and he leads the team that hosts our international lunches. He has recently started leading a lifegroup and if you ask him very nicely you may be able to call him by his Ghanaian name!

RFC started in Keith's & Leslie's home and they lead HOPE (our ministry to adults with learning disabilities). Not only does Keith enjoy scuba diving but he is growing his preaching gift through speaking at HOPE.

Tom is an online travel writer as well as being a deacon at RFC. Not only does he enjoy ice cream but he studied International Politics at Uni so has been fascinated by all the goings on at Westminster!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Sunday's coming

A great 'satire' video to help check our motives - I've been tracking Andy Stanley through Willow Creek Association for some time, and his church has created this video ...

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Prayer & Fasting - Day 2

I am not one who often cries but this morning was one of those exceptions. A potent combination of gospel preaching, fasting and outstanding times of worship did the trick!

Last night I was delighted to listen to Matt Chandler as he gave a refreshingly clear presentation of the truths of the gospel (we RFC elders are attending a conference on Saturday where he is the speaker).

Rhys Scott from Christchurch London led worship this morning with songs such as 'Happy Day' and 'I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene' (their lyrics work for me!).

Given it was day 2 of fasting, and the wonder of the gospel was still fresh in my mind and the musicianship was excellent (as was the thumping bass) I couldn't help but cry tears of worship and thanksgiving.

It was glorious!

We have a great God and a confident hope - more from these two days on Sunday when I preach.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Newfrontiers Prayer and Fasting

Scott and I are with 550 other leaders from newfrontiers churches across the UK.

It is such a privilege to join with them to worship, pray and enjoy God's presence. To be part of something that is biblically based and therefore mission orientated is so stimulating. The prophetic songs and contributions are very stirring, as is the venue here at KingsGate, Peterborough.

Terry Virgo is speaking tonight, so am looking forward to that (as well as eating again sometime tomorrow!)

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Have you voted?

I have just cast mine.

I realize many of RFC aren't UK nationals so not eligible to vote, but for those of us who can, please do play your part and vote today.

Its going to be a fascinating 48hours!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Jesus, Politics and Me - Immigration.

Since 2005, an extra 1 million people have come to live in the UK. Some believe that this boosts our economy; whilst others feel this puts greater pressure on employment, housing & public services. As followers of Jesus, we want a biblically informed view of immigration.

The bible is full of immigrants who love God and their journeying is an integral part of His plan for their lives (Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Jesus & the migrating apostles). Jesus was the Immigrant Par Excellence, the unique sojourner from heaven. Scripture also portrays Him as an international, political refugee - Jesus the Asian, was taken to the African continent, when his life was in danger.

There are also many bible themes relevant to immigration:

  • Christians are aliens & strangers (Heb. 11:13). This should form the basis for our attitudes and responses towards fellow immigrants.
  • Our material possessions do not really belong to us. As recipients of God’s graciousness and generosity, we need to guard against selfishness and possessiveness.
  • The cause of the foreigner. As non-citizens, immigrants can be rendered powerless and vulnerable to exploitation. Christians should recall our roots and identify with their plight (Ex. 23:9).

We need to think biblically and clearly about immigration as we consider what is going in the UK today:

  • EU immigration - None of the three main political parties is talking about revoking this right - this is the world in which we live & it isn’t going to change anytime soon. The majority of the 1million legal immigrants are from the EU.
  • Refugees – unlike economic migrants, refugees leave their home because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted. It’s important to remember that the poorest countries look after most of the worlds refugees, not the UK.
  • Asylum Seekers -In the 1950’s, the UK signed up to the newly drafted UN charter which dictated people seeking asylum are assessed on ‘merit’ not on ‘quota’. In 2008 figures show that there were 25,600 applications for asylum in the UK.
  • Illegal immigrants – according to a recent report, it is estimated that there are 1.1million illegal immigrants living in the UK, but by definition this is hard to verify. These are made up of people who have been smuggled in; stay beyond their visa, Asylum seekers whose cases fail but who stay on in the UK; Children of the above.

These are real issues, that bring real pressure, and real anger. We must identify with the family waiting for a council house only to see an immigrant family with more children being offered a home first.

Christians and churches should campaign for wise Justice for the immigrant. But the first step for many of us, is trying to understand our own attitudes and motives when it comes to immigration:

  • To what extent are our attitudes towards immigration shaped by fear or racism?
  • To what extent are we attempting to protect the cultural roots of Great Britain from corruption by “foreign” cultures?
  • Are we saying that other cultures only detract from our culture?
  • Does our ‘cultural identity’ take precedence over our ‘Christian identity’?
  • What is the theological basis for acting as though the UK were our property?
  • Are we being overly possessive of our lifestyle or standard of living?
  • Are we more concerned with the pursuit of affluence than we are in meeting the basic human needs of all human beings?

We must avoid developing a “We’d be alright if it wasn’t for Johnny Foreigner” mentality whilst acknowledging the very real pressure & complexity that immigration brings. As Christ followers, we must hold our nerve and proclaim the great themes of “loving our neighbours” and “upholding the cause of the alien amongst us”.

Ultimately, immigration is not an abstract political issue; it is about Jesus and families and hopes and dreams and justice for our fellow ‘aliens & strangers’.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Joe & Claire in Romania

This morning Claire and Joe flew out to Romania on a short term mission trip as part of their training program.

They weren't too sure as to what exactly they would be doing, but seemed pretty relaxed about it! They are part of a team made up of fellow interns from other newfrontiers churches in our region.

Please do pray for them over the next week as it will be a great experience but also a challenging time. Pray that they might grow in their love for Jesus and be used by Him in a foreign culture.