Wednesday, 30 March 2011

An intro to RAHAB project

From our friends at the RAHAB project:

"The Rahab project offers support, befriending & advocacy to anyone who's been exploited in the sex industry in the Reading area. We are hosting an introduction to the RAHAB project on Saturday 7th May, 7-8:30pm at St Laurence’s Church, Reading. There will be a short presentation, then you can wander amongst the tables and chat with staff and volunteers on subjects like volunteering, night outreach teams, lobbying, prayer support, day time support work and much more! We are suggesting a donation of £2 per person, to cover the costs of the beverages and dessert. If you can’t make it, but would like to make a donation (or a dessert!), please get in touch or go to our website and click on the Gift Aid Form". Lorraine Joslin, Project Manager

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Zdenko & Ivana in Croatia

At the weekend I travelled to Croatia with Martyn Dunsford and Ken Bothamley to meet a young couple who are planting a church in Varazdin (approx 80km north of the capital Zagreb). Ken's blog captures the weekend well and has some great photos!

and Ivana are an excellent couple who have spent the last 18 months gathering people on a Friday night and Sunday morning. The church they are planting really reminds me of the early days of RFC ... they love Jesus and want to see Him change lives.

We stayed at their family home (which they share with his mum and dad), drank coffee, ate a lot, played pool and met most of the church.
I really enjoyed the times of worship, even though it was all in Croatian.

It is so exciting to travel to another country and meet like minded people who open up their hearts and homes.
God willing I will get to meet Zdenko and Ivana again ... it would be great to see them at RFC!!!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

mp3 of RFC on BBC Radio Berkshire

In case you missed it last Sunday, you can listen to the 3 interviews and the start of our meeting here. It's just over 8 minutes long ...

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Catford & Croatia

One of the ways I learn is through observing & interacting.

Tomorrow I am off to Kings Church, Catford for two days of coaching to improve my skills as a lead elder. Steve Tibbert hosts the sessions and he has asked John & Debbie Wright (Trent Vineyard) to speak, so it should be a superb time. The guys at Catford are now multi-site so hopefully I will also get to see each of their 3 campuses.

On Friday I am travelling to Croatia with Martyn Dunsford and Ken Bothamley for the weekend. We are visiting a church that is considering joining newfrontiers and I've been asked to speak on Saturday night. I am really looking forward to being around Martyn & Ken and am sure I will learn much / catch something of their pioneering spirit.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Reading Half ... oh for 1 second!

So after 35 training runs covering 260miles, I ran the Reading Half in near perfect conditions and hit my target time of 1:30:00 ... I'm really chuffed.

My race mantra was "Pain is your friend" and "I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering". It worked for me!

However, had I been 1 second faster it would have been sub 1:30 and that feels like a whole different level.

Here then is the paradox of running - I ran 3mins 40 seconds faster than my previous best & achieved my target, and still it isn't quite enough... hmmm

That said, Liz, Joshua, Lucy & Zoe ran the Green Park Challenge beforehand and our son came in 17th out of 1200, which has no such bitter/sweet aftertaste.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Change of plan for this Sunday

Given that 3 catastrophes are playing out in Japan (earthquake, tsunami & nuclear accident) and there is civil unrest & war in the middle East, we won't be starting our new sermon series in 1John this Sunday.
Instead Scott will be speaking from Matthew 24v6-8 with the aim of helping us think clearly, so we in turn can help our family & friends.

Given the challenges of getting to Reading Girls' School because of the 1/2 marathon (details of road closures here), you may want to consider coming along to South Street in the evening, which starts at 6:30.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Healing Meeting with Paul Brown

A date for your diary, Sunday 10 April - flyers available next week ...

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Parenting in community

My sermon outline from Sunday. It was great to see the morning meeting packed out ... and I don't think I said any too dumb when interviewed by Radio Berkshire.

Read Mark 10v13-16

A hint of our today
- For a short time, albeit unknowingly to those involved, this crowd became a picture of our today, a group with Jesus in its midst, with Jesus as it’s central focus. Yet Jesus’ disciples tried to keep the children away (presumable they could sense Jesus’ anguish as he anticipated the cross and they tried to protect him?). But it was ‘at such a time as this’ that Jesus made time for the children. He was the kind of person who cared for children, and the type of person children cared for. He must have smiled easily and laughed joyously. Kids like that. It has been said that “We are not to believe in a man’s Christianity if the children are never to be found playing around his door”. And so for the briefest of moments, this 'hint of our today' formed and then dispersed, having had their children blessed by Jesus’ unmerited favour.

Parenting is hard - Parents know all too well the value of support from networks of people (family, friends, special needs groups). All of these networks can offer real & valuable support in areas of raising their children. But there is one community that is unique in its holistic scope and approach … the community of people who are Jesus centred, the church. When people focus their attention off activities or situations for its sense of identity and onto the God/Man Jesus, everything changes. When Jesus is the central focus of a community, Children are highly treasured & valued but they aren’t central to family life, Jesus is. Parenting is hard but being part of a Jesus centred community that can support and learn from one another in all areas of life can be a real asset and a gift from God to us.

God’s grace - Jesus freely took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. There is no mention of any sort of qualification; Jesus blessed them on the basis of His willingness to give and their willingness to receive. They received that blessing in their weakness, helplessness and trust. So it must be for those who follow Jesus. We can’t earn or deserve or merit access into the kingdom of God, we can only accept it as a free gift from God, through our faith in Jesus. God’s grace is sufficient to meet all our needs, just as it is sufficient for us to trust in his Son Jesus for us to belong in the kingdom of God.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

BBC Radio Berkshire @ RFC

On Sunday morning we are giving thanks for 6 children and BBC Radio Berkshire will be with us. They saw our website and asked if they could come to record some interviews for their Faith Show.
If should be a great morning. If you are a regular, please remember to park at the back and sit at the front!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


On Sunday we proposed 8 new deacons to work alongside the elders and existing deacons. In case you weren't there, here are our proposals:
Martin & Becca Craker - Pastoral Care
Ian & Judy Anderson - Pastoral Care
Keith & Leslie Holland - HOPE (Ministry to adults with learning disabilities)
Edd Rundell - Host Team
Andy Twine - SUPA Team (Set Up & Pack Away)

We have asked you to prayerfully consider whether you think they are biblical qualified to lead as oultined in 1Tim3v8-13. To furthur help you, I have included an earlier blog on my thinking on the biblical office of deacons...

A local church has two distinct leadership offices who work closely together: elders and deacons (Phil 1v1). To understand the role of deacons it is helpful to see how these two leadership offices compliment each other.

Elders: Elders are a team of men who are set apart by God to shepherd the church, the bible refers to these men as bishops or overseers or elders (terms used interchangeably). They have a biblical qualification as outlined in 1Tim3v1-7, Titus 1v6-9 & 1Pet 5v2-3. Functionally, I like to break what they do by the 4D’s:
Doctrine – elders govern, set, teach & guard the doctrine that the church holds to.
Direction – elders seek to shepherd the church in the direction that God is leading them.
Discipline – elders seek to ‘discipline in love’ wayward church members to win them back to repentance and restoration.
Display – elders seek to display a Christ-like character as an example to the flock (1Peter5v3).

Deacons: As a church matures so the two separate leadership offices of elders & deacons will emerge. The letter to Philippians was written to a church approx 10 years old and by then these two offices were in place. Deacons differ from elders primarily in that elders have preaching and teaching responsibilities. Deacons are a team of men and women who are set apart by God to serve alongside the elders to oversee areas & ministries of church life.

Deacons have a biblical qualification as set out in 1Tim 3v8-13. I don’t see age as a biblical qualification or marital status. The primary biblical qualifications centre on character. However, it is imperative that they can carry ministry responsibility which is the root of the word for deacon.

Both men and women can serve as deacons – I have found Grudem & Driscoll helpful on this and have listed the most helpful pages in the further reading. To keep the post short I won’t add my reasoning but will quote Grudem: ‘If deacons simply have delegated administrative responsibility for certain aspects of the ministry of the church, then there seems to be no good reason to prevent women from functioning as deacons’

Acts 6 may well be the appointing of the first deacon team, certainly they functioned as servant-leaders freeing up the early church leaders. Once the seven were in place the church powered on ‘So the word of God spread. The number of disciples increased rapidly …’ Acts 6v7. A great progress report and one that is linked to the appointment of the seven. (That said, when I align myself against these mighty men, I wonder if I am quailified to be an elder!).

It is equally important to honour the biblical office of deacon as it is to honour the biblical office of elder.

I have no concerns that those mentioned above meet the biblical qualifications for serving RFC in those areas as deacons. I unreservedly recommend them for your prayerful consideration to join our existing deacon team.

Further reading on deacons:
The world needs more elders p50 – PJ Smyth
A book you might actually read On Church Leadership p50 – Mark Driscoll
Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth p263 - Wayne Grudem
Systematic Theology p918-920 & p944-945 – Wayne Grudem
Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood p219- John Piper & Wayne Grudem
Biblical Eldership p36,174-176, 283 – Alexander Strauch

Happy days

On Sunday 6 families will be giving thanks to God for their children. I am speaking and have found the following (funny but instructive) video clip but am not sure whether to use it! Let me know your thoughts ...

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

God our Father

I spoke on Sunday about our need to keep adjusting the lense through which we see God our Father (click here to listen):

Read Ephesians 1v1-12 Paul reminds them that God the Father has lavished his unmerited favor upon them with all wisdom and understanding; they are His adopted children! As followers of Jesus, we have the same good, loving and benevolent Heavenly Father.

However, our emotional history often affects us more when relating to God the Father than when relating to God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. This because all of us have had has less than perfect earthly fathers.

Less than perfect Fathers - Most of us would also be able to identify a gap between 'our dad' and a ‘perfect dad’. Mark Stibbe talks about 7 negative father types:
Absent Father - When our natural father is physically absent.
Apathetic Father – He's emotionally distant, a singular drive for his own interest.
Addicted Father - His life controlled by substances or a desire.
Achievement Driven Father - Child's success pushed too hard.
Authoritarian Father - Over strict, harsh & unfair.
Abdicating Father - Fails to keep promises or defer responsibility to others.
Abusive Father - He was the one who harmed us.
All of us have lenses through which we view God as our Father, and most of us need to adjust these lenses (because of our imperfect earthly fathers).

A better plumb-line. What the bible says about ‘God the Father’ is a much better plumb-line to know 'God as Father':
Is God the Father’s love based on what you do? No! Read Rom 5v8.
Is God the Father quick to make decisions against you? No! Read Ps103v13.
Is God the Father unreliable? No! Read Proverbs 3v5.
Is God the Father cold & aloof? No! Read Zep 3v17.
Is God the Father inclined to find fault? No! Read Eph 3v12.
Is God the Father distant? No! Read Psalm 121v8.
Is God the Father dishonest? No! Read Titus 1v2.
Is God the Father abusive? No! Read Prov 2v8.
Is God the Father unforgiving? No! Read Psalm 103v12.
Is God the Father stingy, or reluctant to give? No! Read James 1v5.

The wayward son & the perfect father. Jesus told a parable about a wayward younger son and a remarkably perfect father (Luke 15v20-24).This loving 'prodigal Father' restores the boy to his place in the family and throws a party for him. Jesus was revealing the heart of His recklessly extravagant, spendthrift Father in Heaven. God the Father has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ and He wants us to hear His voice of love & grace saying: Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found'.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

A proud dad

Today Joshua and I travelled up to Birmingham so he could represent Berkshire U13 boys.

It was the UK Inter County Cross Country Finals and 42 counties were represented.

It was a great event to be part of - Sky Sports were filming each race using a quad bike so you may well see Joshua ... albeit briefly before he was lost in the field of over 300 runners.

He did well to qualify and he ran hard today... I am so proud of my son.

Friday, 4 March 2011

we know & we love

New sermon series working through 1John ... we plan to start this on Sunday 20 March.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Honouring the prophetic

In January, Julian Adams was with us and he had a number of prophetic insights for many in our church. Numbers of people commented on both the remarkable accuracy & resonance of what he said to them.

Julian also made an number of 'prophetic comments/words' for us as a church. I have listened to them a few times since and on Tuesday the staff team listened & prayed into what Julian said.

Over the course of the coming months, could you also prayerfully revisit what Julian said to us as a church. Let's NOT be those who treat prophesy with contempt (1The5v20).

For the mp3 file (8mins) and a full transcript of this, click here.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Dwell Deep - Generosity

On Sunday we concluded our 'Dwell Deep' series, here's the sermon outline:

The bible has much to say on generosity (Prv 11v25, Psalm 112v5, Prv 22v9, 1Tim 6v18). On Sunday, I reminded us what the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the Macedonian church .

Read 2Cor 8v1-9 - Paul has just taken a collection in Macedonia on his way to Corinth and they have been unbelievably generous "their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity" even to the extent that somehow, "they gave beyond their ability"! Now, rather than questioning their wisdom or rebuking them for recklessness, Paul actually holds them up as an example to follow. The Macedonians had a clear grasp of God’s grace & generosity towards them.

God’s grace & generosity - The Macedonians would have known God as the ‘uncreated Creator’, and that mankind had rebelled, and so God’s perfect creation was spoiled, tainted & corrupted by sin and rebellion. Bildad Shuhite was right when he referred to Man as a maggot (Job 25v2-6). And yet this is not the full picture of how God see us; David captured this better in Psalm 8. God not only ‘set His love upon us’ but he also ‘sent His Love to be amongst us’ in the person of Jesus (Jn 3v16-17). Those who once were little more than unholy, rebellious maggots, have through their faith in Jesus, encountered God’s unmerited favour and generosity (Gal 4v7; Eph 1v3, v5, 2v10; Col 3v3; Rom8v1&28)

The Macedonian response - The Macedonia seem to have God’s grace & generosity burned into their hearts and souls, it shaped them to their core. Presumably they would have had access to the OT and were aware of the elaborate obligations to help the Jews be big hearted and open handed reflecting their trust in their generous God. But expertise in percentages of tithes and offerings didn’t seem to be in the Macedonians thinking. They seem to be pursuing reckless, “beyond their means” giving and meeting the needs of others. Because of the cross, they had a carefree concern for their possessions.

Our response – We aren’t perfect at RFC but we do many things well … let’s also ‘excel in this grace of giving’ (2Cor 9v6-8). Dwelling Deep in Generosity is not so much about giving to RFC as it is about knowing and imitating the very heart of God. Dwelling Deep in Generosity is not so much about stewarding Jesus’ money for the benefit of others, as it is living a life of trust and worship to our generous God. Let’s chose to be those who ‘Dwell Deep’ in generosity.

It may be you have never known a generous heart – ask God for help to trust in the generosity the Father.

Have you lost ground & stopped giving/ being generous? Repent of your independent attitude and decide again to follow Jesus on this issue (Acts20v35).

Are you losing your joy in generosity & giving? Ask God that you would know again the Macedonian joy of giving in all circumstances.

Are you doing well in generosity & giving? Ask God that you may excel even further you may bless many more whilst storing up even more treasure in heaven.

Let’s chose to be those who ‘Dwell Deep’ in generosity.