Tuesday, 26 January 2016

New sermon series

This Sunday we start our new sermon series in 1Corinthians and I anticipate we will spend all of 2016 working our way through it. 
The church in Corinth was embroiled in many controversies: divisions over apostles, lawsuits amongst believers, sexual immorality, drunkeness at church meetings and attending feasts for idols, to list just a few. In fact, the best Paul could say about this church in his opening remarks was that they were recipients of grace! 

Unsurprisingly, we have much to learn from this letter. 

Do consider investing in a commentary to help you track the series, Tom Wright’s 'Paul for Everyone - 1 Corinthians’ is a good starting point and can be ordered here.

Vision Sunday ...

Andy Dickens: On the basis of your feedback and the reflections of the elders & deacons, we would like to formally propose that Andy Dickens be recognized as an elder. If you agree with us, or you have concerns, please could you also let one of the elders know.

Our Purpose & Culture at RFC
We have a clear sense of our God given Purpose: To be a growing, Jesus centred community; bringing God’s kingdom to Reading and beyond.
To be a growing: We believe history has a destination and our lives are part of that forward movement. Just as a mighty oak grows and provides shelter & structure, so we want to increasingly become a landmark community of solidity & shade

Jesus centred community: We desire to grow in our heartfelt worship of Jesus, aligning our lives to His teachings, whilst helping others to do the same. We dream of being a people who know, accept and care for each other; where no-one has to stand, suffer or celebrate alone.

Bring God’s kingdom to Reading: We want to play our part in meeting the needs of our town; helping create footprints of justice, mercy & hope. We want to bring joy, peace and transformation wherever we find ourselves mid week.

And beyond: To be those who joyfully share our time, talents and treasures to further God's kingdom beyond our horizon.

How we journey together is a vital part of our story. the culture we are building here I can be summed up by the acronym GRACE:

Generous: Like Jesus, we want generous hearts  & spirit, attitudes & words; generous with our favour, time, money and our skills. We believe generosity has everything to do with our sense of identity.

Real: Like Jesus, we want to be real about who we are and what’s really going on in our lives. We are ambassadors for Christ, and want to live accordingly.

Accepting: Jesus was a man for all people but was most often found with the last, the least and the lowest. We too want to learn to accept people as Jesus did, to speak God’s word and express God’s love without distinction.

Courageous: Jesus courageously set out for Jerusalem so that lost people could be found. We too want our journey to be marked by a 1000 acts of courage: the big & bold, the small & hidden, the physical & morale.

Enduring: Like Jesus, we will patiently endure despite to receive the promise of God for our church and the people of our town. We will endure with faith and joy and fruitfulness, as we build for the long haul.

Grace isn't a concept; grace is a person, Jesus. God’s unearned, unmerited, unending favor is personified in Jesus. But if we demonstrate these values, without being able to say how Christ is the source and meaning of them, we will have failed.

Prophetic word read on Sunday
I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. Isaiah 45:3

As I first read this, the first question God asked me was “Why do my people always look for the treasure the world thinks is treasure?” What I believe God meant by this is that we are quick to ask God and expect our lives to fulfill what the world views as ‘success’ (good job etc).

But what I believe God wants to stir in us is a desire for that which God views as one of the highest treasures, the souls of those He has created. The people that are right now lost in darkness. He has placed His people, His bride, to be a beacon of hope that penetrates the darkness and snatches those out of the fire.

And so what I felt for the Church was that people needed to realign their perspective, to see and fight for that which God sees as undeniably precious. But I knew that these people, these secret hoards were deep in darkness. And it was going to be the miraculous power of God that was what was going to bring them out. And what God wanted to say was that “I know you think those people are so enslaved, so deceived, that there is no way they will ever get out. But I AM THE LORD. I will seek and save, and THAT is how you will know and understand that I make impossible things HAPPEN. In partnering with Me in my plans to rescue, you will see the miraculous power of God in your life, and your skepticism of Me shall turn into the deepest awe and gratitude. So reach out, in faith, in prayer, in earnest desire, to first see as I see, then to see Me for who I am, the redefiner of impossible. It’s time to delve deep, to receive what I have already given you.”