Saturday, 30 August 2008

What a great Olympics

Well I was away from a computer for the whole of the Olympics pretty much so I didn't have the joy of day to day analysis - however I though I would just put on a brief post to say Wow - what a great time we had.

Sport watching doesn't come much better then this. The British guys winning medals left right and centre, Olympic records broken all over the place and World records being smashed that we didn't think would ever be caught. It was two weeks of really exciting stuff.

Highlights for me were the obvious ones really - Rebecca Adlington doing things we didn't think female British swimmers could do; Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton, Rebecca Romero and the rest of the team ruling in the velodrome; the rowers and the sailors. But number one has to be Usain Bolt. Whether a so called freak of nature or the beginning of a new style of sprinter, this guy was immense. you sensed that whenever he got to the track that something incredible was bout to happen and he didn't let us down.

I didn't see the opening or closing ceremonies as this isn't my sort of thing, but what I do know is that London is now the Olympic city. We hopefully wont try to compete with Beijing as I don't think I can afford to have to pay more taxes to pay for sport, but I do thin k we will do a great job of doing it our way.

As far as I am concerned we have to start getting behind our sporting teams. We are so fickle as a society - we build people up to super star status only to shoot them down when they don't always come up to our unrealistic expectations. We have just destroyed the South Africans in one day cricket and the players are hailed as heroes, but if we lose the next one I know they will be calling for this player and that player to be dropped. Freddie Flintoff was supposedly past it, but he's now once again number 1 in the world as an all rounder, I suppose he's got it again!!!

I for one will continue to support our British sports men and women and our England teams as well as my beloved West Ham with a more realistic expectation than I ever have. I don't want to make sports men idols, I want to celebrate their victories.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Looking forward in anticipation

It's been great to get away and refresh a little, but I'm now excited to back and raring to go. This is a big term starting next week with the arrival of three new year teamers. You will no doubt hear the names of Andrew, Hannah and Sam (Samantha) over the coming months, but just to say they are all quality people who we are looking forward to having on board.

This term will also see us running Alpha again (more details in a later post), foundations and for the first time, the marriage course. We will hopefully be partnering with Reading Girls School to put on a carol concert at the school as well as meeting for Christmas day in the church office.

The preaching series this term will be Gathering and Going which will see us teaching into what it is to gather as a church in different contexts and then subsequently how we are to go into our local community and the nations. This will, as always, be based in scripture and will build towards Sean and Liz moving to Amsterdam to start the church.

There will be people At RFC that will hear the call to go to Amsterdam with Sean and Liz and we will be taking up an offering to support Sean and Liz in setting up the Church Plant as a gift to them.

Sunday mornings will be back in Reading Girls School from the 14th September when the children's work will all start again. There will be some recruiting of personnel going on between now and then, no doubt, particularly in the area of creche. The students will return at the beginning of October which will mean a return to student lunches each week.

We will be having Ben Davies, Tony Thompson and Mark Landreth-Smith come and visit and preach with us. We will see Richard come into eldership and the church leadership handed over.

there is so much happening this term that it could be easy to take our eyes off of Jesus. We must be those in the coming weeks and months, who, regardless of what is happening around us, must look to the cross and know that we are Christians not for our comfort but for his glory. We as a church are not gathered to be a cosy community, but a radical community who live for something other than ourselves. In this busy time lets remember the author and perfecter of our faith and run hard for him. My prayer is that no one will be left behind in all the changes; that we will all be caught up in this great mission of starting two new chapters, that God has called us on.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Jesus saves us from sin

I'm sitting here on the first morning of a two week break. I am catching up on the Olympic news, feeling proud that we've got another gold and a bronze, howveer you would think that we had actually won the Olympics. Adrian Chiles has just left the studio saying that he will need to lay down because of the emotional energy expended.

As I sit here enjoying this symbol of unity - the Russians diving alongside the Americans and Chinese - the news comes on and the first piece is on the trouble in Georgia. How can it be that on one hand the nations all join together in something as futile as sport but elsewhere there is death and destruction as bombs get dropped and people are killed?

It's the proof of the fall. The only thing that explains it is the gospel. The fact that mankind is born sinful and as much as we try to be 'good' we still have this prepencity to hurt, maim or kill each other. We cause injury through our words and through our actions. This sin also means that we are against God, we are in rebellion against him. Jesus came not so we can have Christmas and Easter, but so we can have forgiveness for this sin. Jesus came to pay the price for for our rebellion against God. He died so that we may live.

I pray that the situation in Georgia will be over quickly and that there will be limited bloodshed. I shall be back in a couple of weeks.

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Bridegroom and his bride

Well this is wedding season. B is off to another wedding tomorrow that I cannot go to because I am on the stag do of another friend who is to marry in a couple of weeks time. I must confess I can be a bit overwhelmed when this season comes around, but on reflection it is fantastic. These are young men and women bucking the trend and marrying before they have moved in together. They are those saying we want to do it God's way.

One of the ways that Jesus is described in the bible is as the bride groom of the church. The one who is in anticipation of his beautiful bride. The one who has sacrificed himself for her. The one who nurtures and cares for her; the one who provides for her and releases her to be all that she was intended to be. He doesn't stifle or hold her back; he does not heap condemnation on her or put her in her place. He is gentle and loving and sets the pace at which the relationship is to go.

A marriage is so much more than a man and a woman saying some stuff and then working it out. It was instituted by God to show us the relationship Christ has with his church. The wife being loved by the husband as Christ loves his church and the woman loving the husband back in gracious and thoughtful submission as the church submits to Christ.

I pray for these couples who are marrying and those who have married recently that their marriages will reflect this mytsterious but wonderful relationship, and that our marriage will be an example to follow.

One day Christ will be united with his bride, on that day there will be a banquet and all those who have followed Christ will be invited, and he, like so many of the bridegrooms I have seen recently, will look on in extreme joy, love and adoration as he receives his prize.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Newday musings

Yesterday saw, B, Nicola, Beckie Chard and I travel to Uttoxeter racecourse to visit the youth for the day. We arrived at about 12:00, just in time to wave the youth off as they went to serve in a park in Derby clearing paths for the local community. What I loved was seeing that our youth is made up not just of church kids but of children from the local estate here in Reading, who are regulars at our Friday night youth meetings. The way they had bonded was excellent and a joy to see.

As the afternoon unfolded there was a chance to shoot some hoops with Sitho and some lads who were far younger, fitter and more talented than we were. B and I spent some time meeting old friends and making new ones and I went for a walk with Andy Martin, a man I respect greatly. This was all wonderful stuff.

However the evening surpassed it all. The evening meeting started with high anticipation as to what God was going to do. 5000+ people jammed into the big top to worship God and hear the good news of Jesus preached. During the sung praise time, Adrian Holloway got 4 guys who were healed last year to bring their story and then he prayed a prayer of healing. Straight away people were healed, I could see one girl near us burst into tears and jump up and down controlably, seemingly any pain that she had had was eradicated by the miraculous healing power of the Holy Spirit.

Adrian then preached the gospel. He used many props and made it extremely relevant. He is an outstanding communicator and story teller. When he uncovered the full size guillotine there was a general hush over the crowd - his point being, this was the sort of instrument of death that Jesus died on, not what we now see as our gold and silver crosses that are worn whether you are a Christian or not. (He of course made the point that Jesus did die on a crucifix not a guillotine!!!) His presentation was powerful, and was then followed by the now slightly famous dance drama set to the music of Lighthouse (see here for a you tube version).

Once again an hush descended as people watched the dance and many were moved, including myself. Then Adrian made the call. Kids from all over the big top came streaming forward including two from our youth. They were going forward to accept the invitation to follow Christ, to make him the number one priority in their lives, to seek him for forgiveness, to look to him to be their confidence. It was an incredible sight. As I have read the Billy Graham book listed to the side, I have wondered what it would be like to be in a context like that of the New Testament where it's not just one or two committing their lives to follow Jesus but hundreds - last night I caught a glimpse of it and it was beautiful.

I am overwhelmed with joy at the fact that I am going to be a father. As Father God looked on last night he must have been elated to see so many new Christian births, people coming to him and saying daddy I want to follow you.

I want to see more of this; as I wept last night watching everyone flowing forward I realised that I wasn't just full of joy, but also of sadness at all those who didn't respond; I know now on reflection that my tears were also a stirring of hatred once more of sin and the Devil and knowing how some will never see the truth. My tears are to remind me again that the job is only just starting here in Reading. There is a town here who predominantly do not know Jesus and it is our responsibility, privilege and joy to be able to let them know, through friendship, Alpha's, marriage courses, cell social events, cell cluster events.

Jesus is alive, he will return and all will be judged. Let's find as many of God's elect as we possibly can, by telling as many people about the good news of Jesus as we can.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

God is in control

As a busy week unfolds, including: a trip to Newday, the Newfrontiers youth camp at Uttoxeter race course; a membership interview; and the joy of preparing a sermon for Sunday looking Gen 39 v 1-20; it's so good to remember that God is in control. Those words continue to ring in my ears. It is the major lesson that I feel that I have been learning for about 6 months now. There is nothing that I can do aside from what he wants me to do. He is totally sovereign. Yes he has given me free will and i can make mistakes, but even through those mistakes he uses them to bring about his purposes.

The fact that I will be leading the team from the end of November, Sean and Liz leave in January and we have a child in February is all in God's timing not mine. He is in control and he knows what his plans are in all of these things. In this week I know that I want to lay myself open once more to him declaring 'speak Lord your servant is listening' and 'here I am send me'. I want to be full of his word and his Spirit that I may live a life that honours him. I want to give him my fears and my apprehensions and learn to lean into him as my rock and my fortress, knowing that at times there will be bumpy roads ahead.

Philippians 3 v 17 - 4 v 1:

" Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!"

Monday, 4 August 2008

I'm going to be a dad!!!

After a great weekend meeting with God and his people, watching West Ham play live and going to yet another wonderful wedding, the best was waiting to be revealed.

B and I went to the hospital today to have our 12 week scan. We are officially going to be parents. The Lord has blessed us with this great news after 20 months of trying. It has been a time of digging in with God and trusting that he knows best. We have had to persevere and lean into him knowing that he is totally in control of all things.

It was absolutely incredible to see the movement of our baby for the first time and to remember the words in Jeremiah that God knits us together in our mothers womb. Our BT (baby Taylor) has arms and legs and of course a head, we saw BT's spine and which we saw as he/she proceeded to stretch, turn over and go back to sleep.

I should imagine that I will be keeping up to date over the coming six months as to what is happening regarding the pregnancy, but all I know now is that I am both relieved and ecstatic that all is well and I am so grateful to God for all his amazing blessings.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Off to see the boys...

Very excited today. I get to go off to see West Ham play in their pre-season game against Southampton. I haven't seen the Irons play live for over a year. I will be travelling down with Simon and his Dad. I am looking forward to seeing the likes of Ashton and Bellamy as well as some of the youngsters, Sears, Hines, Stanislas, Reid etc. I am particularly anticipating the performance of our only senior signing of the Summer so far, Valon Behrami. He joined from Lazio a week or so ago and apparently played very well against erm... Peterborough - well you hope that he would really!!! Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how well he does against some tough championship opposition.

I don't know whether we will sign anyone else. There is talk of us loaning a keeper to cover for Rob Green, which will be useful, however we do have the young lad Marek Stech who looks like he is going to turn out to be a quality keeper. I still think we could use a striker because as good as Coley is at assists, I just don't see him weighing in with the goals to supplement Bellers and Ashton. I would love him to prove me wrong however because he seems to love playing for the club. Gutted to see that my favourite player of Euro 2008, Roman Pavyluchenko, is going to probably sign for Tottenham. Poor lad, he will probably sit on a bench and lose all credibility (Rebrov, Defoe, Bent to name but a few.)