Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Silver Rocket

Saturday rides are back on track: up at 6, meet the lads at 7, ride hard, back home by 8:40. Job done.

The job is done but the enjoyment lingers.

It's fun riding with my friends Kirk & Richard & Craig. We enjoy riding in a group and chasing down any break-aways one of us might attempt. I enjoy the chat about the same stuff each & every week (timings & pain & kit & races).

And I enjoy the Silver Rocket. The bike was unexpectedly given to me after I gave away my 'bike fund'. It makes my whole attitude to the bike the sweeter. Last Saturday I spent time cleaning, lubricating and adjusting my bike, and today it rode like a dream.

The silver rocket is not only fun to ride but it is also a testimony to my God's faithfulness.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Jesus is for life

This morning I looked on as Moses committed murder and then met his wife (Ex 2). I listened to Job as he responded to his friends and pleaded his case (Job 19). I watched as Jesus called his own, healed a leper and then ate with sinners (Luke 5). Finally, I winced as Paul reprimanded Christians about disagreements and avoiding sexual immorality (1Cor6).

I then prayed for people in our church; For those battling cancer and those with new born babies; For those who have jobs at risk and the many who are looking for work; For the few getting married and the few recovering from broken relationships.

And I was reminded that through all this life 'stuff' Jesus both towers over and kneels to embrace. He both sympathises as one knows and encourages as one who has endured.

Jesus is for life, our everyday life and for all of our life. It's good to know Jesus.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Saving Money

Last week I received an email from a family where dad’s job in under threat and they asked: Is it diligent for us to save extra (as Joseph did when he stored up grain in advance of the famine), or should we give extra instead?

To answer this question we need to read and apply Jesus' teaching on the the rich fool as recorded in Luke 12:13-21.

#1 Saving money is not wrong but ‘Hoarding it’ is: It’s not that the rich man was foolish because he saved up grain, rather he was foolish because he hoarded it for his own use. Hoarding is an attempt to completely cover our bases such that trusting in God is made unnecessary. Saving money is not wrong, hoarding money is - Jesus taught we are to be channels of His money not storehouses of His money.

#2 Saving money is not wrong but ‘Greed’ is: Jesus told this parable to ‘guard against all kinds of greed’ (or covetousness). ‘Greed’ is an excessive desire for wealth and possessions. Greed is obsessed with I & me & mine & self. In this case the man is condemned storing up for himself alone and not being rich towards God - Jesus warns us when saving money we must guard against all kind of greed.

#3 Saving money can be Wise: Saving money can be wise, so long as our attitude is soaked in Jesus’ teaching on money. It is wise to assume that we will have unexpected expenses as well as unanticipated opportunities to give to others. Saving money allows us to respond to these needs. Sadly, many in the UK (and the church) are pursuing self indulgence and a presumption that others will meet unexpected needs. Saving also demonstrates and develops our authority over money. It is both wise & appropriate to save money … although Jesus has much more to say about giving and meeting the needs of others (motivated by our faith and trust in God).

#4 Saving money can be dangerous: Saving money can be dangerous in that a good and wise thing can become a functional ‘God thing’ in our life - Savings can take the place of Jesus. Once you start saving money it can become untouchable – even to God. All of our money should be available for use, especially Jesus’ use.

In conclusion: Should the couple who sent the email diligently budget & prepare for a famine or give more whilst they can? Jesus said that their hearts will follow their treasure. They need wisdom, which is always rooted in faith in Jesus and His provision and care for them.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Another new initiative

This Sunday we are starting a monthly lunch to help those from other nations connect into church life. William Offei and his team have asked over 30 internationals to bring their traditional food for a pot luck lunch at the church offices.
Approx 20% of the congregation are from other nations and we want to do our very best to help them get into small groups & serving; so that together we can build a vibrant and colourful church here in Reading.

If you know of anyone who should be there, take them along for the lunch and then invite them to your midweek group!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Sticky for Jesus

On Sunday, as part of my sermon on being stewards for Jesus, everyone was given a sticky label on which to write JESUS' and then stick it to their wallet / purse / credit card / cheque book. I received this email from a dear friend today:
'I have just removed a sticker from my wallet which said "Jesus' money" on it. I left it on my wallet after Sunday's preach to remind me of the content of the preach, which was once again a provocative in a good way.

In removing the said sticker, I now have a sticky residue about 3"x1" on the leather of the wallet which has been left due to the poor quality of the sticker ... I have tried rubbing it up and down on the floor to remove the stickiness, but rather than remove the sticky mass, it just sticks fluff to the wallet.

I also have sticky hand now ... and the wallet is currently stuck to the inside of my pocket and is depositing a sticky residue on my trousers (and fluff).

To complete the irony I am now faced with the prospect of having to steward some money in the direction of a new wallet and a cleaning bill.

Good preach apart from that though, Love Craig'.

7 out of 10

Check out this quiz on the BBC website. I had to guess quite a few, English Literature isn't my forte!

click here for Bible quiz

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Highlights from Sunday

Testimonies of God's healing from last Sunday's meeting.

The blind couple and their two guide dogs!

Nicola Abrams on her debut 'offering and info' slot.

Kat Starling and Kat LaFontaine becoming deacons.

Terrys Chocolate Orange segments for the 'chocolate chat' slot.

8 of the 33 people at the prayer meeting were internationals.

Even more visitors!

Friday, 13 February 2009

Last night

It all started at 18:15 ...

I prayed with a dear friend who is battling cancer, who 2 hours before had her hair shaved off because of the effects of chemotherapy (she is having her second session as I write).

At 19:00 I spoke at RUCU on James 1v1-18 on how we are to think clearly when under pressure (to endure trials well).

Meanwhile Thameside Church used our main meeting room at the church offices for training their leaders.

Liz led cell group at our house and even though it was our first meeting since multiply, our lounge was nearly full!

At 22:30 I met Dave Henson at the T5 Travel Lodge to catch up (he is returning to St Petersburg today). We also met to figure out how RFC can best support their fledgling church plant in Russia's second biggest city.

I got home at 00:45, tired but thrilled to be in the thick of so much kingdom activity.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

RUCU

Tonight I am up on campus speaking at Reading University Christian Union ... and I am really looking forward to being with them. As a church leader who loves planning & order, I find a few aspects of the CU meeting slightly irritating ;o). For example they RARELY start on time or have slick / brief notices. And at some point in the meeting no-one will really know what is supposed to happen next!

But 'these light and momentary troubles' are vastly eclipsed by their love for Jesus, their passion for mission and their commitment to the Bible.

I know when I leave tonight, I will be greatly encouraged about the future of the church and our nation given the spiritual health of RUCU.

I also know I need to nail my preach for tonight and need to close my browser & outlook, and move the Blackberry out of sight.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Who's your daddy?

Given the current economic climate everyone has something to say about money but Christians need to be clear about what Jesus has to say about it.

Jesus said “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" Matt 6v24.

If we know who we serve then we can know what we can expect.

Money as our Master. Money itself is morally neutral but the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Money can become the functional God in our lives even if we say we love Jesus. Money will define our values, sense of security, motivation and our identity. If Money is your master then your primary sense of security is in savings, pensions, equity, earning potential, inheritance or financial stability.

If Money is your master, your mind keeps turning to Money issues because slaves have to keep showing up to their masters. Money is a terrible master, not least because it is a false God. You can put Money in the place of Jesus but it is infinitely inferior to Him. Money has a bad habit of falling on its face just when you need it most (like Dagon in 1Sam5). If Money is your master then your finances will most likely be without control, restraint or accountability – we don’t control our God.

Jesus as our Master. What does being
devoted to Jesus look like with our finances? Can we endeavour to earn more Money? Yes, faithfully. Can we trade up on our house? Yes, thoughtfully. Can we save & budget & plan for our futures? Yes, diligently. Can we live below our means and meet the needs of others? Yes, joyfully. Can we enjoy our Money? Yes, with thanksgiving. Will we be blessed financially? Maybe, no guarantees. Will we be rich in God’s eyes and receive a great reward? Yes, by God’s grace!

Jesus told a story (Matt 25) about a man who went on a long journey but entrusted his servants with his house & assets. The master returned and asked for an account of the resources entrusted to them. Like them we also will have to give an account to God how we stewarded His Money.

If we are devoted to Jesus we need to be constantly re-evaluating our spending: What do our spending patterns show us about our hearts? What changes do we need to make? Is God asking us to do things differently? Are we consuming wealth or stewarding wealth?

In summary. Jesus has drawn a line in sand and asks “Who’s your daddy?” On one side of the line is ‘Daddy in the dust’. Those who stand here have Mammon as their daddy. But Mammon, like the false God Dagon, has fallen over and his followers are having to figure out how they can haul him back up again. Those on this side are devoted to a false, unreliable, ‘functional God’ (infinitely inferior to Jesus), who will let them down.

On the other side of the line towers Jesus. Those on this side of the line are devoted to serve him and that includes their Money. Here they are reminded and alerted to the dangers of switching allegiance to the false God of Money. Here, they know ‘their Money’ is ‘His Money’ and they desire is to steward it well for the everlasting father of Isaiah 9; to store up treasure in heaven as He instructed.

Jesus said you can’t stand on both sides of the line ... so who's your daddy?

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Money Management Course dates

I really enjoyed this morning's meeting: the sense of the Holy Spirit's presence, praying for the sick and bringing so many people into membership of the church!

This morning was also the start of the 'Jesus, Money & Me' sermon series and I mentioned a three week Money Management Course we are running. In case you didn't get to write the dates down, here they are again:
  • Tuesday 24 February, 8-10pm

  • Tuesday 3 March, 8-10pm

  • Wednesday 18 March, 8-10pm
There is no cost for the course but it is limted to 20 people. It will run at the church offices, contact Karen Dwight to enrol.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Popcorn Breakfast

This morning it was too icy for the rocket bike and Joshua's football was cancelled, so Liz planned a 'Popcorn Breakfast'.

We generally eat breakfast together but today was different. By 8am we were eating popcorn (sadly it was salted and not toffee) and watching WALL.E (which is a great family movie and works really well for thoughtful adults!) Then came the cooked breakfast ... I was so full I even let Zoe have my croissant!

The children are growing up so fast. I suspect the days of getting up early on a Saturday to eat popcorn and watch Disney are numbered. Thankfully they are not over just yet ...

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Jesus, Money & Me

When the God of money falls on it's face, many people get shaken. Reading based jobs at Microsoft, Thames Water & Bank of Ireland are at risk and unemployment in the town is on the rise (full details here).

This Sunday morning we are starting a new sermon series entitled 'Jesus, Money & Me'. In the current economic climate there is a real danger of living with financial fear. However, Jesus' teaching will guard our hearts against worry and allow us to be a support to our friends who don't yet know Him.

One of the 'Chocolate Chat' questions from Sunday was "What one question would you like answered during this series?". Please do send me your questions or post them as a comment.

I also plan to host a 3 session Personal Money Management course here at our offices, to complement the sermon series. This will be run (hopefully!) by our friends from CAP based at Kerith Community Church. I will post the dates up when they are agreed.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Fanatics? Maybe

Yesterday morning we baptised Emma and Sam. The air temp outside was -1 and I can only guess how cold the water was (it's not heated).

Before the meeting I was asked by a dear friend if people might think we are a bit fanatical... wouldn't it be better to wait until it is warmer?

I answered, sheepishly, that they both asked to be baptised and that they didn't want to wait around ... they were young & healthy, so on balance, why wouldn't we do it today?

Admittedly, I was quite happy not being one of the baptisers, Chris & Alex did a great job of not looking too cold! But I was even happier that we are helping people to cut across their personal comfort in their pursuit of Jesus.

So hopefully, we are becoming fanatics, but about the right things.