Thursday, 31 July 2008

Rachel moving on to pastures new

So after Nicola leaving last week, today we saw the last day in the office of Rachel Green. Rachel has been a fantastic member of the team this year. She has worked extremely hard and has also brought us many laughs. Her compelling review of her trip to Romania when she recounted meeting many different people was one o the high lights pof the year. Also seeing her grow in confidence and presence through out the year, knowing that she is loved by her God and that she has a part to play has been brilliant.
Like Nicola there have been some Rachelisms:

1) rrrooowww (pronounced r-ow: used when surprised)

2) Boomb!!!

3) Yowsa

4) Yum! Spinach leaves again!!! (She didn't actually say it but she could have done.)

I'm sure I will be able to add to this or maybe you can help. What I do know is that we are going to miss her, but look forward to hearing stories as she starts work at Huntercombe. She will be a great asset to them.

More gems from Humility

Humility continues to be a book that touches me. I have been reading it very slowly and not everyday as I meditate on certain aspects. I have been reading the two chapters on the practical strategies of working towards a humble life - As Each Day Begins and As each Day Ends. These are the things that CJ Mahaney suggests:

At the beginning of the day-
-Reflect on the wonder of the cross
-Acknowledge my need for God
-Express gratitude to God
-Use any travelling time wisely (to work)
-Cast my cares, worries and burdens upon him
-Ask for Holy Spirit Annointing for my day

At the end of each day:
-Give God the glory for everything you have received and acheived
-Receive the gift of sleep from God and acknowledge it's purpose, sleep is a picture and parable of what it means to be a Christian. Our bed holds us up and takes our bodily weight as we relax; our Saviour holds us up and takes our sin and sustains us as we relax into him.
None of this is brain surgery, but seeing it written down and assessing what my quiet ties currently look like is helpful. It is changing the way that I come to God at both the beginning and the end of the day.
You can read a great reveiw on the book on Phil Whittal's Blog.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Dinner with friends and co-workers

Eating with friends is excellent. Last night We ate with my cousin Terry. Terry was my best man and has been one of my closest friends of all time. He travelled all the way from Dartford on a Tuesday afternoon, to take B and I out for a curry. We had a good time catching up on family and old friends and then ate a huge dinner. although all three of us were tired, we had a wonderful evening in each others company.

This afternoon, I had lunch with another local pastor, Pete Lowman. We went to a chinese restaurant which had a special meal deal and we shared stories about church life as well as discussing things such as evangelism, prophecy, healings, spiritual warfare and men being men! It was great to spend time with a man who has had such a diverse range of experiences in his ministry and someone who is from a different style of church to our own. Eating with someone who loves Jesus and longs to see the advancement of the gospel was really refreshing.

I can't get away from the fact that Jesus ate with people, both those who followed him and those who did not yet follow him. He ate with tax collectors and he ate with his disciples. He used one of the everyday functions of every man woman and child and turned it in to times of friendship, teaching and impartation. We are a bit odd as Christians because we do invite people to our homes for dinner or out for a meal without there being a special occasion, but if it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

A long, fun packed, God lead weekend

What a great weekend just gone. Every one of the last three days has been packed with plenty to thank God for, not least the beautiful weather.

Saturday: Dan and Becki Chard's wedding day was fabulous. The anticipation was huge, B and I had done their marriage prep and so for us it was really exciting to see them walk down that aisle as man and wife. The reception was lovely at Cantley House Hotel in Wokingham. I would highly recommend this as a venue. There was giant Jenga, horse shoe throwing, boules and croquet. This was the first taste I have ever had of this seemingly upper class past time, but I can say that I would love to play it again. I wasn't particularly good, but it was fun. In all it will be a day to remember for the food the friends and the fun that was had!

Sunday: We had our first meeting in South Reading Youth and Community Centre. It was fantastic. From 8am when the equipment was picked up, until the meeting started at 10am, there was a real buzz. Many of the church lended their hands to setting things up, working through new chair layouts, having the projector screen central, working out which way round the tables should be for tea and coffees. The car parking and welcoming team were superb, teas and coffees were served as diligently as ever, the worship team did an excellent job of leading us into our sung worship AFTER the preach. There were visitors there for the first time including Steve Smith who is pioneering a work with his family in Cambodia. The Holy Spirit came and met with people as they came forward to encounter Him. In all the morning was a resounding success. I would like to think it was because of careful and diligent planning, but it was actually because God is in control. I look forward to seeing what he does with us over the next few weeks that we are there.

Monday: From church on Sunday B and I went to Brighton to spend time with her her sister Cathy and her husband Steve. We had a very relaxing afternoon/evening sitting on Hove lawns, chatting, swimming, laughing and enjoying much BBQ food. We then returned to their flat which overlooks the lawns and enjoyed several games o table football - which I won - how cool! B and I then spent the day in Brighton yesterday, in the town, on the beach, eating at Donatello's and Harry's and generally spending time with just the two of us - utter bliss.

After that weekend I now look forward to this week. There is much to do, but I know that God is in control and I know that he equips us and prepares us for all we need to do. Speaking on Sunday from Gen 37:1-11 on Joseph and how he faced rejection, just makes me more determined to be someone who stand in the face of rejections, disappointments and fears and trusts that God knows what he is doing. I know that I am clothed in a robe of righteousness and I for one want to wear it publicly!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Nicola finished today

Today was the last day of Nicola's tenure as an impact student for RFC. It basically meant she took a year out of her life and paid the church to work for it. She has proved to be an outstanding asset to the team. She has shown great creativity, teachability and sensitivity in all that she has done. She has worked hard and has also brought much fun to lunch times and coffee times and many times through out the day times. She has also given us some memorable lines that I think will coninue for a while after:

1) Good thinking Bat Rachel!!!

2) Lit-er-rall-y

3) The _______ hates me! (Insert computer, microwave, tap or any other thing that doesn't work properly)

4) Get off _______ (Insert anything or anyone that someone might be knocking!)

Nic will be greatly missed on a day to day basis but she will still be around the church and leading Alpha, as well as other bits and pieces. She is truly an inspirationing RFCers.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

West Reading Badminton Tournament update #6

Another week, another go at the medal. Richard arrived on court this week with medal proudly placed around his neck. He was not going to let it go without a fight! The greatest fight however was against the conditions. It was incredibly humid within the hall and stepping outside to get some air didn't really help. Water was consumed, towels were used and I even ate a small banana in between the second and fourth games.

it is embarrassing to say, but factual, that I won all six of the games that were played last night. It was one of those one off evenings when everything just seems to go right. The cross court drops, the smashes and the low serves. When usually the shuttle would go fractionally out, they were hitting the lines, that sort of thing! Richard, Nev and Kim all more than played their parts. Particularly Kim. His instinctive reactions keep us all on our toes. When he is on form at the net it is almost impossible to get anything past him. The same can be said for Richard, particularly if you put it high. He has an excellent kill that is impossible to return. Nev is the back court boy who can change angles at the drop of a hat and smashes with venom. It is hard to think that any of us win because I think that we all play at a similar standard.

Still I shall enjoy the fact that for this week I can genuinely say, I won every game and the medal is back in my possession!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

A youth group with evangelistic promise

Last night I was invited to speak at one of the youth groups at Open Door Church, Sunbury. 15 of us meet in a living room. They were a welcoming bunch who were evidently good friends. we had a game and some time of worship and then came to discussing sharing our faith (this was the remit I had for the evening.)

I shared a little of my story, introducing B as the person who introduced me to Jesus. Her witness to living a Christian life and her love of Jesus got me interested and the Spirit did the rest! The point I made was that although B would never call herself an evangelist, I was saved as a result of meeting her. This opened up the floor to share stories of opportunities to talk about church, Jesus or anything else to do with our faith. It transpired that this group of teenagers had all pretty much had opportunities and had taken them!

We then talked about salvation belonging to God and therefore our responsibility isn't to save people, we can't do that, but to tell the good news of what He has done in our lives and pray. From there we got caught up in the bigger picture, seeing that we are actually on Jesus' mission of salvation - fulfilling his great commission. We are not alone in our endeavours, but continue the work of Jesus - how, by the power of his Spirit.

Toward the end of the meeting we had a time of ministry, where each of the youth were prayed over. The Spirit came and the words that were given were pretty much all applicable and apt for each situation.

I came away excited for this group of fledgling witnesses. I felt that they had met with the Spirit and any commissioning that had been done was by Him. I lok forward now to hearing stories back from them and I will pray that they will bear much fruit for His glory!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Courage not cowardice

Whilst reading through the chapter called 'Summoning Courage' in The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, I came across this:

"(Martin Luther) King was well aware that the alternative to courage was cowardice, and he was not afraid to name it. In fact, there is power in naming these opposites, courage and cowardice, and then determining to choose the first.
Said King, "We must constantly build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear."
King led with enormous courage, though he surely felt 'the flood of fear.' "

We may not face the same things that Martin Luther King Jr faced, but we all face battles. We all have to confront things that we would rather not. To take courage is to defeat cowardice, I want to be a man that builds 'dikes of courage', a man who continues to face my fears and embrace them as ways of growing in Christ and in leadership.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

6th wedding anniversary

10 years ago this October I met a young lady called Barbie Lebaigue. It is now 6 years to the day since she became Mrs Barbie Taylor. Since that time I have learnt a lot about what it means to put someone else before yourself. When we first married, I thought that I should love B as i liked to be loved. I thought that gifts and the physical side of the relationship would be the ideal ways to show her my love, however I soon worked out that that was not the case. I found out that B felt loved when we spent time together, especially if we were doing housework or shopping.

I also discovered that communication was imperative. B loves to chat, she loves it when we sit and have conversations about the future, about how we are feeling about life, in fact she just loves it when we sit and talk. I don't always find this easy, but I know that this is how I can show my love for her.

In the short time that we have been married I have seen that the biblical mandate for man to love his wife as Christ loved the church is not an easy thing. I have found that the best way to do this is to become a student of my wife. I need to know what she likes so he can surprise her; I need to know what she doesn't like so I can steer clear of it; I need to know when to talk and when to listen; I need to know what makes her feel special; I need to know how to best care for her in a way that releases and encourages her in the gifts that she has.

I for one have enjoyed the past 6 years of studying B. I am only right at the beginning and I know I have a long way to go, but I know that my want is to know my wife more deeply and understand her more fully.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Staff nights out and basketball

Last night, B and I went to her end of term staff do. It was a lovely evening spent chatting with a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds. Such a diverse group all coming together for one purpose, to educate a bunch of kids over on the Dee Road estate.

This morning saw me playing basketball with four big Zim men. As I approached the court onlookers could have been forgiven for thinking ' what on earth is he doing?' They are all brothers, spread across the nations at the moment but brought together for one weekend.

I felt privileged to have been invited to play with them and a little embarrassed that I showed them all how to play (only joking). They are a group of brothers who obviously love each other in a manly no nonsense sort of way, they are guys who love Jesus and they are guys who open up their family to let others come and be part of it.

Following on from my post yesterday I once again saw the joy of being part of this world wide family that is the family of God. In a small way, B's school reflects the diverse nature of the church, people from all backgrounds and experiences coming together for one purpose, only our purpose is to worship Jesus Christ.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Family ties

As I prepare to send out the final run order for Sunday I cannot help but be excited. What looks on paper, is a reflection of us as a family. We will have 9 children from Chernobyl with us on Sunday, part of the great work the Sue Butcher-Bigley is doing. We will be giving them bibles in Russian and generally making a bit of a fuss of them because we want to express our love for those who are in tough circumstances.

We will be baptising Steve and Jenny, each will give a short personal story and then we will baptise them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as they make public that which has happened internally. At the same time we will bring Steve, Nitin and William into membership; they are declaring that they want to be loved in this local expression of church and are saying that they are totally on board with the vision of its leaders.

Our brother from Zimbabwe, Sibs Sabanda is then going to preach from the word of God. Last time he gave us a word which was at a mid week meeting, it was a prophetic word for us as a church and so I am in anticipation as to what God will do through him.

During the morning we will be focusing on Jesus; our Brother, our King our Saviour. We will worship him in song and in the giving of our money. The only reason that there is so much to get through on Sunday morning is because we are family. Not humanly but spiritually. I have a wonderful earthly family, but I also have a wonderful spiritual family that is not just confined to the borders of Reading. This time next year, Sean and family will be in Amsterdam; Dave and Hannah Henson are now back in St. Petersburg; Pervez is back home in Pakistan; Sibs is over here visiting his family from Zim and will be with us on Sunday morning; Pastor Paul continues to do great things in Kampala, Uganda.

The family I feel part of and that we should all feel part of, is the universal church of Jesus Christ, expressed through the local church we are a serving, giving, loving part of in the town in which we live.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

West Ham today...

Well as the Ronaldo to Real Madrid story continues and Ronaldinho looks to be unveiled by AC Milan, the mighty Hammers continue their rebuilding with an other 17 year old. Now this is still to be confirmed on the official site but Skysports tell me that we have signed a young Hungarian striker who has had trials with Inter Milan and Lazio - his name? Balint Bajner (pictured right). You can check out the link here if you are interested in knowing more (which is probably only if you support West Ham in any capacity!)

The other interesting thing I read today about West Ham was on the BBC. In a Summer where once again Man City spend big and the likes of Portsmouth seemingly being able to conjure money out of thin air, West Ham have had to shed some players - three so far! However when I read this article I was a little more heartened. I don't know the source but it does sound a little more encouraging than all the doom and gloom speculation that I have read already. The fact is there is a world wide financial problem and football clubs are not exempt.

Our owner is a banker and that means that if we have to shorten our wage bill due to the fact that money isn't going as far then so be it. I just hope that we keep enough of the team to at least be in the top half again this coming season. It's great to see us getting pre season under way with a 4-2 win with the likes of Ashton and Bellamy combining up front. Also good to see thateven with Sears and Tomkins playing for their country in the U19 Euros, we still have other youngsters coming through - Reid, Spence, Widdowson, Stanislas and collison amongst them. Click here to read the report.

I think the future looks bright as long as we don't go under financially and we keep developing the brightest talent in England!!!

A servant hearted family

On Tuesday evening the cell leaders, deacons and elders gathered together for a social event at the home of the Butcher-Bigleys. As we arrived up their street we were greeted by Ben and his friend who were ushering people into parking spaces along the road, with little white paddles. It was like something out of the movies as they went about their job with great precision and politeness.

Getting to the house we were greeted by Kelly Sue and Danutia dressed in black and white and asking us what we would like to drink. The rest of the family were also in black and white as they served us drinks and canapes. The garden had been dressed beautifully for us and the food was a fantastic buffet of various meats, salads and bread. Pudding was one of the best banoffee pies ever and/or a white chocolate cheesecake - coffee and biscuits followed.

The evening was a great success with the opportunity to talk to friends that you otherwise don't get the chance to due to the business of life. This was greatly helped by the outstanding service of the Butcher-Bigley family. It was literally like being at a hotel or function venue with their care and attention to detail. A family of RFC heroes.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

West Reading Badminton Tournament Update #5

Back to it tonight at Rivermead after a weeks break. last week saw Nev win the meal although it was in a play off with Richard AFTER Richard had already played one singles match!!! Still, that's the rules!

Tonight, Richard obviously wanted to make amends because he walked away with the medal after winning 5 out of 6 games. His general play was to his normal standard, but once again he went on some extraordinary serving runs. Ben was also worthy of mention tonight. Ben is Kim's son who usually plays and he has a rocket of a smash. However, this evening it was not his smash that impressed but his ll round court awareness. Nev and I both played well but couldn't keep pace with Richard. Still there is always next week.

God speaks through... Red Kites!

I dropped B off at work this morning at about 7:45 and then decided to take a drive out through Pangbourne - bizarre I know. I ended up driving through the beautiful countryside of Oxfordshire listening and singing along to a Sovereign Grace Ministries album - Come Weary Saints - kindly given to me by Dave Bish. It was wonderful to see observe the Fathers wonderful creation, with rolling hills and magnificent trees, but as I came around a bend heading toward Goring, God arrested my attention.

Soaring high above were a pair of Red Kites. These birds, although quite common around our area, are so beautiful that they always capture my gaze (I did slow right down). As I watched them momentarily I was reminded of Isaiah 40:28-31:

"Do you not know? Have you not Heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no-one can fathom.
He gives strength to the the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

God has been speaking to me about trusting in Him and this morning He reminded me that I can trust in Him for my strength, my physical, spiritual and emotional strength. A Red Kite may not be an eagle, but it was enough for God to let me know that He is there for me and He is in control, if I will just let Him be.

Monday, 14 July 2008

More than just badminton!

Karen, Tom and Pete all joined me for badminton tonight over at Meadway Sports Centre. It's a night that I will probably want to forget in terms of my playing capabilities but I will remember the fact that each of the guys that came with me are worthy of mention. In conversation with one of the club members, she commented on the fact that we have a quality bunch of people with us at our church. She is right, we do.

I was so proud of them when I heard her say that. My friend at badminton now has a favourable view of our church because these ambassadors of Christ are living in such a manner that they are finding favour in the circles that the are socialising with.

They are gracious in defeat but more importantly in victory; they encourage their team mates and congratulate the play of the opposing team; they are friendly and interested in having conversation with other members of the club. When frustrated they do not take it out on anyone, they show self control and gentleness. Although they want to win, they don't consider winning more important than people.

They probably will never know what impact they are having, but those at the club are enjoying having them around and who knows what God will do. It feels a bit like just walking across a room (see book by Bill Hybels in case you are wondering!) I don't go to badminton to convert everyone (that's not my call) but I do go to enjoy playing a game that I love and I go to display Christ in that arena. The guys who come with me from church are most definitely doing that.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

He Saved Us!!!

This was the title of Craig's message this morning - link to come later. He spoke from Titus 3, concluding our series in this the third of the pastoral epistles written by Paul. Craig didn't take us through expositionally as such although he did deal with verses 4-7 comprehensively. He basically said there were 7 ways that God had saved us -

1) God has saved us by his kindness (v4) - this kindness meaning that he has concern towards people

2) God has saved us by his love (v4) - this love is that of strong affection and he displayed it through his Son Jesus

3) God has saved us by his mercy (v5) -we make no contribution to our salvation. Our salvation is a gift

4) God saved us by his regeneration (v5) - we are born again (see John 3, Romans 6:4)

5) God saved us by his Spirit (v5) - God's Spirit is at work in us!!! (see 2 Cor 5:17)

6) God saved us through his Son (v6) - this is the ultimate, God saved us through his predetermined plan - Jesus. Justice had to be satisfied and only Jesus could do that as the Son of God

7) God saved us by his grace (v7) - IT'S BY GRACE THAT WE ARE SAVED - this is wonderful, outrageous truth. It's not what we do that makes us right with him, that allows us to be found righteous, but it is what Christ has already done. It's lavish and unfathomable, but God by his grace saves us and calls us into his family. It is totally without merit and is totally undeserved.

The message this morning was on the back of what we are saved from: SIN - the power, penalty and pollution of sin. We are saved from hell an eternity without God. We are saved out of danger and placed in safety and glory (by this he did not mean that we do not suffer persecution or suffering of any kind, but we are saved from the danger of facing him on the final judgement day and confronting the wrath of God as we deserve, because Christ pays that price for us).

It is so good to come back from the conference, where I was constantly thinking how does this apply and what do I need to initiate and follow through on - to be confronted with Jesus so boldly and wonderfully. A simple message preached with passion and authority - it is the message I needed to hear today. Click here for the audio link to the message.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Team of Euro 2008

I said as the Euros closed that I would put up my team of the tournament. I have not chosen players who are necessarily obvious, but those who I feel would be great additions to the West Ham squad, in the hopes that one day Mr. Curbishley may just look at this and agree!!! (Yeah right!)

I have not gone for anyone like Arshavin or Sneijder because I know that they are players that are not affordable to us, so I looked back through my blog posts to see what names I had mentioned.

GK - Boruc (Poland)
RB - Anyukov (Russia)
LB - Balta (Turkey)
CB - Marchenas (Spain)
CB - Kolodin (Russia)
RM - Harnik (Switzerland)
LM - Arda (Turkey)
CM - Roger Geurriero (Poland)
CM - Engalaar (Netherlands)
FW - Mutu (Romania)
FW - Pavyluchenko (Russia)

Not surprisingly Russia had the most players in my team, I was not silent on the fact that I favoured them as the tournament progressed. I know that this is just a bit of fun, but there are players here who I believe will go on to be top quality players in world football.

There is only a few weeks to go until the Premiership kicks off, lets see who the Hammers actually bring in other than the exciting young Icelandic defender Eyjolfsson. With the likes of Zamora and Pantsil looking to be off, I hope we do replace them with players of a better quality.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Home from conference...

I am now home after 4 great days in Brighton and there is so much to reflect on from the week. I am very tired and feel spiritually full. God really met with me at the end of the last session and reminded me once again of the wonderful sacrifice that Jesus made on my behalf. It's incredible to think that he would pour his life out for someone like me. As tears trickled down my face I couldn't help but be filled with joy.

There were many highlights, including a memorable session yesterday afternoon, which should be downloaded from the resources page of Newfrontiers (link in the side bar) by everyone who is part of Newfrontiers. Other highlights include seeing people of Reading Family Church visibly growing in the Lord before your very eyes; having a team of 30 men and women from the church with Sean and I; as always worshipping Jesus with dance and song and praying for the nations was magnificent last night and something in the region of 1.1 million was raised in the offering to support the work with the poor, the building of church plants and the ministry of the apostolic teams.

I'm sure as the days go by and the dust settles, God will show us what it is that we need to be taking on board for us as a church. However what I do know right now is that I have been instilled with fresh faith for the days and months ahead and that God wants our church to continue to grow and reach the town of Reading in which we live.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Energy expended

There is nothing to say this week regarding badminton as I am in Brighton. Usually Wednesday would mean that I try to retain the West Reading Badminton medal, however yesterday was very different. Instead of expending energy running around a court I expended energy by:
  1. Keeping up with the 30 plus people we have down here from RFC at conference. We don't want any left behind and feeling alone in the crowd!
  2. Supporting Sean at his special interest meeting for Amsterdam - this meant wearing a t-shirt and pointing people in the right direction as well as helping people catch up with the news
  3. Worshipping our King to some of the new songs that have been written over the past year as well as some old hymns set to new rhythms
  4. Listening to very fine preaching from David Stroud, David Devenish and Mark Driscoll. All three were challenging but Driscoll's had my mind racing!
  5. Meeting with Steve, my brother-in-law, after the last meeting to catch up

In all I the energy I used yesterday was very different to that of rushing around a badminton court, but I felt stimulated, enriched and of course just as tired!!!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Together on a Mission

I always see the Newfrontiers Leadership Conference as something as an oasis in an otherwise busy year. It's a time where I am able to come and enjoy great teaching from the Word; be refreshed by the power of the Holy Spirit; enjoy fellowship with people from RFC, across the nation and the nations. I find that what God does in me over these 4 days leaves me hungrier than ever to know more of him.

The conference started yesterday and already it has not disappointed. Although the guest speaker this year is none other than Mark Driscoll, from Mars Hill Church, Seattle, there are also high calibre guys who will be teaching us. Stephen van Rhyn from Jubilee church, South Africa spoke magnificently from Daniel 1. The overall theme of his message being that God is in control and what our response should be to Him. I realised how much I still try to do things in my own strength and how much I think things are actually my bright ideas when, in truth, the Lord our God is Sovereign.

Mark was quality and Terry was excellent on Stephen; you can find out more about these on Adrian Warnocks Blog as he will be covering the conference in details and having exclusive interviews.

This morning I am in anticipation of where Mark will go with his message this afternoon; of what David Stroud will have to say; but especially what David Devenish will have us feasting on this evening (He was last years highlight for me!) I have just done an interview with Dave Bish which you can here on his blog.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Together for the Nations...

Sundays don't come much better than they were yesterday. We had the honour of having Pervez Sohail with us and his family. He preached message encouraging us to grow in faith, faith that cries out to God regardless of circumstance. It was special in its content but also in it's delivery. It is the first time that we have had someone speak in their native tongue and have it translated into English, his daughter Ruhama did an outstanding job.

Anthony led worship well and we had several contributions all with the same message of God's love for us irrespective of our sin or situation. There were many people responding to God from where they stood/sat, it was evident that the Spirit was working amongst his people.

In the evening we went to Camberley for Together for the Nations. This was a regional event organised by the Beacon Church, Camberley. There are many nations that are supported by churches in our region and there are some of the leaders from those churches across the world over this week for the Leadership Conference in Brighton. Last night saw us hear some of what is going on in those and nations and then praying for them. We also had the joy of having Evan Rogers from South Africa, lead worship.

We dropped Pervez off at about 9:30pm after a wonderful 13 hours with him. I am discovering more and more what it is to have a desire to see our church reach the nations and have the nations amongst us. This weekend had been a weekend spent with people from other cultures and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

An African Wedding

I had never been to an African wedding until today. As expected the detailed summary of the day that I had received meant little in terms of times, but hey that doesn't actually matter when you are around the vibrancy and God centredness of these two wonderful families.

Connie Makasi, a young lady who has been with us in Reading for over 2 1/2 years married Cassius. Cassius is a gentle but strong godly man. Both are from Zimbabwe and have settled here in the UK. Connie is a young lady that B and I have grown to love as a little sister and to see her marry today was a bit of a tear jerker!

I have heard about African weddings before but I must confess it surpassed all expectation. It was a joyous occasion filled with laughter, very loud music and copious amounts of dancing. I was blown away by their generosity toward the couple with both money and gifts. The food was traditional African fair - other than the trotters and the tripe, I did try everything and very nice it was too.

I had the privilege of officiating over the cake cutting during both the official ceremony and the reception. This was interesting as it is something I had never heard of, but I felt my way through it and got quite into it by the end of the second time around.

It has been a day of new experiences and spending time immersed in another culture. I feel that I have grown through being at the wedding. There is so much us Brits need to learn about enjoying ourselves and celebrating. The bible says rejoice with those who rejoice. There was definitely lots of rejoicing and I am sure the party is still raging on as I now sit at my computer reflecting on a wonderful occasion.

Friday, 4 July 2008

An inspirational couple...

I am so grateful to God for the great church that he has put me and my wife in. To have the privilege of knowing great people who love Jesus with all they have is fantastic. I know that Sean on his blog often speaks of RFC heroes but I have just sat and had a cup of tea with two more, Gary and Kay Watkins.

They are an incredible couple. They have become foster parents, which is no mean feet. They had to go through all sorts of interviews and form filling in order to have the task of caring for children for as long as they need to be cared for. Fostering means that there is a time when the children may well return to their birth parents or indeed may move on to another foster home. This means building relationships with kids, giving them your best, loving them and caring for them no matter what they throw at you - all with a view that they will leave at some point.

They have had two children so far, so they are still at the early stages, and are still learning and findingv their feet. One has just returned to his mother and one is still with them. Both of them are great children, full of life and energy. What this couple have provided is stability, love, boundaries and fun, in young lives that are desperate to be nurtured.

I for one know that as I look at what they are doing, I see the reflection of Jesus. This couple are showing me what it is to love for loves sake. They are not just running social commentary on the world, they are rolling their sleeves up and saying we want to make a difference one child at a time. Jesus takes each of us as we are and loves us and cares for us. He brings stability to our lives by showing us what the safe boundaries are. He brings fun to our lives as we learn to trust in him and go on adventures for him and with him. Yes that means life will sometimes be hard but we know we have someone who is there for us regardless of our circumstance.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Team fun

Proverbs 17:22 says:

''A cheerful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.''

Harold Myra says in The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham:

''When one hears laughter in the halls of an organisation, when humour and good spirits enliven the breaks, when serious discussions are broken up by humour, it's a very good sign the enterprise is healthy. Teams that emphasise fun and good spirits lift effectiveness.''

I can say that this is true. This last year has seen the largest team working for the church on a full time basis. We have all worked hard to strengthen the church in the various areas that we are responsible for. We have worked hard at communicating with each other and keeping an air of openness. We have shared difficult times together, standing alongside each other in prayer.

One of the things we have done really well is we have found the time to laugh together. There have been lunchtimes when I have literally had tears of laughter rolling down my face. I believe that this sense of fun mixed with the seriousness of seeing the gospel advance has made for a team that has proved to be greatly effective.

Myra goes on to say: ''Although extremely serious about their mission and the eternal stakes, the team could laugh together and play together." That's the sort of team I want to be part of.

West Reading Badminton Tournament update #4

A slightly different four last night. Kim was unable to be there and so his son, Ben, ably filled in for him. The evening started brightly for the experienced pairing of Neville and Richard and they made short work of beating Ben and I. The next two games saw my game improve slightly and when paired with Nev and Richard I was able to get 2 wins under my belt.

Game 4 was the rematch of the first game. Ben and I resolved that this was going to be a win. Ben hadn't quite got a win and so this was to be his game. However Richard and Nev had other ideas. They took an early lead but we kept within striking distance. At 20-18 it looked like experience had the won the day again, but two wild returns of serve from Nev and Richard respectively (and somewhat unusually!!) meant that the game went to 20-20. Ben and I then lost serve - score now 21-20. Advantage, as it were, once again back in the other court. A short rally and we were back in it as the shuttlecock flew into the net. 21-21.

Ben and I managed to serve out for the match and Nev and Richard both provided me with 2 more wins to ensure that the medal, for the fifth week, stayed with me. Next week I will be in Brighton at the Newfrontiers Leadership Conference, Together On A Mission, and so I shall miss the games. I therefore will officially lose the medal next Wednesday. At the moment I lead the table with 8 wins, but now I will have to try and win back the medal. However if I know Nev, Richard and Kim, whoever wins next week will not be quick to give it up!!!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Saying 'no' to pride

"Pride also brings down leaders. "Pride ruins pastors and churches more than any other thing," Mike Reinhan has written. "It is more insidious in the church than radon in the home." When you read about the next public figure to fall, remember Proverbs 16:18 - "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." That person's situation might appear circumstantially complicated, but at root it's not: Pride goes before a fall."
C J Mahaney, Humility, page 35
I want these words to haunt me, to be there when I am tempted to think of myself better than I ought. When I am tempted to think that my way is the only way. When I am tempted to think that somehow I am achieving things without the help of my Father. It is only by God's grace that I can say no to pride when it arises in my life and only by his Spirit that I can live a life of humility in submission to him.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Johnny Cash

I'm sitting listening to Johnny Cash - some of his later stuff on his album 'American V - A Hundred Highways'. It's incredible to think that this man who lived for rock and roll, drugs, alcohol and women, became a man that played for nothing in prisons. He was prepared to mix with people that the rest of the world wanted to forget about and to tell them about the love of Jesus.

The film of his life, 'Walk the Line', is an excellent film, it is however sad that the story kind of ends before we see the fruit of his conversion. Cash became a good friend of Billy Graham and they made a film together call 'Jesus, the Gospel Road'.

Johnny Cash is just one of millions that God has graciously chosen and accepted into his family, he may not have been a Billy Graham, but he was totally transformed by the love of God and he spent the rest of his life telling people the good news of Jesus through his music.