Thursday, 17 December 2009
However we have done some community things. The Whitley cluster once again helped out at the North Whitley Residents Association Christmas party for the over 60's in the local area. It was a great success with 84 of our older neighbours coming out to enjoy food fellowship and fun. Phil the singer provided entertainment and an array of sandwiches the like of which I have never seen before, where devoured by the partying matriachs and patriachs of Whitley. It was great to have conversations with them and enjoy the richness of their experiences. There was an man who hadn't left his flat for 15 years, telling the organisers that this had changed his life, plus another lady who found that a friend from 20 years ago was still in the area and a friendship was reunited. It was truly a privilege to be there.
Another group went to Douglas Court - a residence for the elderly in Early. Sean and the team had a fantastic time singing carols, and talking to the residents. (Read here for more details.) Still another group went carol singing around Earley on Saturday afternoon. They went to some 35 houses and gave out mince pies at each after singing a verse of a carol.
We are going into this Christmas time taking opportunities to meet with our local communities and being good news to them as well as taking opportunities to share the good news with them. As we head into 2010, we can build on this momentum and we can become more involved with the areas in which we meet and live. this will, God willing, mean areas like the Oxford Road and Lower Caversham as we continue to see people coming from those areas. Who knows we may be even doing some town centre things as we embrace new people as a result of our Sunday evening meetings. Whatever God has in store for us we will be faithful with the message that he has given us and continue to seek to be good news to the town that we have been called to.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
What then happened was, that she got involved into the social fabric of the church. She found that people just loved and accepted her for who she was. No hidden agendas or ulterior motives. She asked many questions and posted many objections. However over 5 weeks, her confidence was growing both in herself and in her new found friends. Twice she came close to accepting Jesus but something just held her back.
Then last night 0n the walk back from the coffee bar, she said that she wanted to follow Jesus and she wanted to commit her life to him then and there. We got back to the office and stood with her as she prayed a prayer of commitment and then we prayed with her. Following this the bell was rung to celebrate once again with the heavenly realms as one sinner repented and turned to Him.
Let's continue to pray that we will have more stories like this - not just through Alpha but also through our own personal contact with people.
Friday, 30 October 2009
I know that Ascot Baptist are a great church who are working hard to share the gospel in it's purest form by being as relevant to the town that they live in. Phil Rogers who leads the church is a man who has trusted God for many years and is now seeing some breakthroughs in terms of salvation and healing. I love his faith and I love his zeal and I know that I have much to learn from men who have walked the walk for a lot longer than myself.
Sunday I trust will be an immense day once more, as God shows up and does what only He can - heal and save - and I know that we will once more look in in awe and wonder knowing that we do worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Please pray for me as over the next day or two that I will speak clearly and that I will hear from God with regards to words of knowledge.
I hope to bring news of what God has done when I return from holiday in a weeks time.
Friday, 23 October 2009
There is a whole theory that the Bible has been proved to be false because when you look at the ratio of the seas diameter to it's circumference, the result is not pi but 3!!! Pi being calculated by dividing the circumference by the diameter.
To counter this there are several apologetic websites (the best of which I have linked here) that argue the fact that cubits were not precise readings, with decimal places, they were in fact the measurement between a man's elbow and his fingertips.
I couldn't help but find this a little amusing that people so want the bible to be objectionable that they will scour the words to find these sort of alleged imperfections.
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Within the next 24 hours our baby girl entered the world. 8 months on and I am totally blown away, on a daily basis, at the privilege and the responsibility and the joy it is to be a father. For sure, it is not all plain sailing. There is much about me as a person that has had to change - I have become more of a morning lark than a night owl for instance - why? because making precious time to spend with my little girl is priceless. I will get other sleep, these moments will go.
It is as I have pondered on this first 8 months that the wonder of being in God's family has once again excited me. I am His child and He looks on me with even more love than I do Rachel. I know that He takes joy in the fact that I am His son. I know that no matter what I do wrong He will love me anyway. I know that my love from Him is unconditional, unfading and unfailing; it is for now, for the future and for eternity; it is high and wide and deep; it is free, unmerited and without strings.
My Rachel knows that if she topples over and bangs her head, then i will come and gather her in my arms and although unable to take the physical pain away, I can carry her until she is once again ready to try and crawl again (most of the time that is a very short amount of time!) She knows that if she cries out for long enough I will come to her. Our God is the same. He picks us up and carries us when we fall, if we let him, and He hears us cry out and responds at the time that He considers right.
This time tomorrow I would have been a father for 8 months; I am so enjoying my relationship with Rachel, and I am so thankful that through this little girl I am also growing in my relationship with my Father in Heaven.
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Why do I record this? As I reflect on the gift days coming up at our church on the 8th and 15th Nov, I realise how far I have come in my understanding of God's grace. When I first started the journey in 1998 the very thought of putting even a handful of change in the offering basket was a bizarre concept. Why did the church need my money? (the emphasis being my money). I would get cross when I considered the pastor was speaking too much about giving, after all didn't he know that I was in debt and didn't he know that I needed to eat and didn't he know that I was only on an entry level teachers salary. I had so many reasons to be cross that I felt totally justified in not giving money.
Then God broke in and He impressed upon me an amount to give. I argued with Him and I tried to ignore this nagging amount that I should put in. In the end I relented. I put the cheque in the basket as it passed me by. It wasn't the easiest thing that I had ever done. I was a new Christian, just knowing that I wanted to follow Jesus. The money I had put in meant I went deeper into my overdraft by the end of the month and there was part of me that was totally reluctant, but deep down I knew that I would be okay - if Jesus died for me to take away my sin, and I had trusted him to do that, I could trust him in money, right!?!
Indeed I could. At the end of that very meeting, the pastor of the church invited people with debt problems to see him afterwards. I did so and I met with him the following Saturday. We went through my budget and agreed on various cuts and caps on spending and at the end of that meeting he graciously and mercifully offered to clear my overdraft. This amounted to just over 10 times what I had put into the offering. To this day I have not needed an overdraft and I know that that is because of God's grace and mercy, not the grace and mercy of one man.
It is stories like this one and countless others that have left me knowing that I can trust God in the financial areas of my families life. B and I now have one salary and a baby girl to look after and as a husband I am starting to increasingly feel the weight of this. When the weight sometimes feels too much, I need to remind myself of God's faithfulness and ask myself the question: Who's money is it anyway? It was this question that was answered as a result of the story I have told. I came to the awareness that all I had was his anyway and when I am full of faith, He is faithful. This is no way a prosperity article, I want to make that clear. My giving does not obligate God in any way, it's not a formula, but there is something in trusting God above and beyond our means that enables Him to work miraculous things into our lives.
I for one, am looking forward to the gift days - not because I enjoy saying no to all the other good things I can spend money on - but because I enjoy seeing God in me and amongst his people. As I joyfully drop my money in on 15th Nov, I know that I will be joining together with brothers and sisters whom God is also stirring to trust him. If you are part of RFC then join with my family and I as we continue our faith adventure in this area of giving.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
We need to remember:
We are rebels against God, literally sinners, living with us at the centre of the universe
God knows this but sent his son Jesus to die for that sin so we don't have to pay the price
He does this becasue he loves us
He then allows us to receive this great truth, not because we do anything that earns it but just because!
Jesus did it all, does it all and will do it all - by grace!
This song helps us see it again a fresh.
Friday, 9 October 2009
I have already had the joy of meeting with one of the guests on a one to one basis to just talk through some wider issues and am looking forward to meeting with another next week.
In all of this I know that my confidence is not in me but is the One who has called us into His mission of bringing a people to Himself. The Alpha course is not about making people Christians, but it is about helping people have a greater understanding of what Christianity really is.
I do however pray that we will once again, as a church, join with people as they celebrate accepting the invitation to follow Jesus and all that entails. Please join me in prayer that all those on the course will know something more of Jesus and that ultimately they would know the greatest joy of being a child of the living God.
Friday, 25 September 2009
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
This term will see Alpha once again run at Coffee Republic. This is one way in which we will corporately be involved in sharing the good news of Jesus. However for this to be successful we must all be taking the responsibility as individuals to be witnesses to who Jesus is and what he has done in our lives. We have the invite in our hands to give to our friends in order that they may know this Jesus and the hope that you have in him. Without our friends, work colleagues or family members, the Alpha course will comprise of a few Christians who already know about Jesus gathering to rue the fact that we didn't invite anyone!
This Sunday we will be looking at what it would be like to be in a church where we are seeing people who are being saved, added to us daily. We will also be putting an invite to Alpha on every chair. It is my prayer that both of these things spur us on, not just to invite to Alpha, but to continue to grow into a company of campanologists who are ringing the bell on a daily basis as we see those we respect, love, care for come to know the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ through us living a life that reflects Christ in thought, word and deed.
Thursday, 3 September 2009
Friday, 28 August 2009
Joe will be involved in students, film media and youth, whilst Claire will be doing the day to day media, worship and administration. They will both be extremely busy, have no money (it is in fact costing them money to do the year), and will need lots of support and encouragement.
I know that these two will have a massive impact on the church as they are both hard working and full of the Holy Spirit. They both love Jesus and want to do all they can to grow in Him. Please pray for them and maybe even consider supporting them financially in this coming year as they embark on their newest adventure in God.
Also let this be a timely reminder to us all that we are all on an adventure. Ours may not be volunteering for the church for a year, but it may be starting a new job, a new hobby or maybe starting a family or seeing the last of the children leave home. Things in life are always changing and we can embrace these changes with the knowledge that God is in control and although the adventure maybe harder than we thought, we can count on the fact that He is there for us. Alternatively we can shy away from the changes, reject them and stay in the status quo. Who ever grows in the staus quo? What adventure are you embarking on in this coming term?
Thursday, 27 August 2009
As an icebreaker, we played a game trying to guess what the 10 most searched verses are on biblegateway.com. Unsurprisingly John 3:16 was top! This proved to be more fun than it may sound, with people bringing up all sorts of obscure verses with different rationales for their choices.
During the worship time there were specific words for individuals and there were pictures and bible readings that really spoke to people. As we prayed for each other in response to these things you could really sense the presence of the Spirit. It was great to be part of it.
Tom and Nicola then divided the group in two and lead us in the word - which they did with skill and obviously lots of preparation. Finally we caught up about the fun day and had some feedback from Chris who had been on the organising group and we also prayed that we would be those who invite our friends on Alpha.
The evening was a great success and I enjoyed it immensely. It was refreshing to meet with people you wouldn't usually meet with and to worship Jesus in a bigger group of people outside of Sunday morning. As I looked around the room last night, the nations were represented, we had people from different age groups and people who ranged from being currently unemployed in the workplace, to being mums, to being IT people. A diverse group of people drawn together by one man, Jesus.
Me thinks we shall plan another evening like this at some point in the not too distant future.
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
In what world does hooliganism on any scale seem right? That world is the world we live in. Somehow the bitter rivalry between the two teams 'firms' was such that they didn't spare a thought for the actual reason that the two sets of fans would be at the ground - a football match. These guys were not interested in football and cannot call themselves followers of football. You are not a more passionate supporter if you fight with the oppositions supporters or invade the pitch - why, because you bring the club into disrepute. You show no affection to the club whatsoever.
Hooliganism is selfish and shows one of the ugliest sides of our sinful nature. The sheer tribalism that these men would more than likely have shouted off about when the Kenyan elections went so disastrously wrong, is exactly what they are involved in. Only this could be deemed as even more mindless as they were just rioting for rioting sake, not to try to seize power or demand that things are done fairly.
Men ranging from early teems to mid fifties, becoming like our barbarian ancestors all in the name of a sport that condemns it. Actually our country has not only condemned it, but has also become the world leader in tackling it. My guess would be that most of those involved in last nights trouble would have been those who had previously be banned from grounds for many years, rearing up only because it is Millwall against West Ham.
As you can see this has struck a nerve with me. I hate the fact that football hooliganism happens at all, but when it happens at my club, it frustrates me. Two young lads who have been brought through the academy at West Ham played their hearts out last night and scored the goals that saw the team through to the next round of the cup. That will not be remembered. A great last breath comeback which wold have been hailed as a great achievement in different circumstances, will not be reported on. Only the actions of these mindless few who heap slander on all football fans. I pray that we will not see scenes like these again and pray that justice will be served.
Christs light is the only thing that will serve to transform the lives of men who are otherwise determined to damage each other all in the name of football, but actually it's in the name of violence and hatred. The rage shown last night makes me resolve in my heart all the more to stay hidden in Christ and endeavour to constantly choose to put off my old self and clothe myself in the Spirit of God and the Gospel of peace.
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Thursday, 13 August 2009
Since, B and I spent the week at a youth camp, joining with Newfrontiers churches around the country. We saw young people inspired by hearing about their God and seeing him at work, as well as going out and helping local churches in their communities. As a church we took 12-16 year olds with us and saw three of those respond to the invitation to follow Jesus. We also saw three of them healed of varying ailments. What a joy it is to see 350+ youth respond to the gospel, especially knowing that 3 of them are people you can share the moment with.
However God is not constrained to do things just at big meetings. Even yesterday, Darren, a new friend of mine from the last Alpha course came in to the office and committed his life to Jesus. He rang the bell with the understanding that his God was rejoicing at his turning to follow Jesus.
It may be the Great British getaway time of year, but God is not on holiday and He is still revealing his love and grace to people in Reading and He has a people here ready to respond in leading those he has chosen into a new life, birthed by the Spirit, lived for Jesus, to bring glory to the Father.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
Ben spoke for two and a half hours on faith for finance. He was speaking to a group of leaders and business people in the church here. As he spoke everything was seasoned with grace and faith.
In the afternoon we were invited to one of the elders 40th birthday celebration. This was held at Manna, which is the building the church have acquired (also where I am staying). It is a good size and has some land around it. It has a renovated room in an attic which serves as the meeting room for the summer period. It can seat around 150 people. There is still lot's of work to be done but that's what Ben is here for!
After eating and meeting people from the church we went into Klapida itself and walked with Solus and his wife.
It was a good day of meeting new people; seeing Ben right in the sweet spot of his ministry; and enjoying the fact that I can come to Lithuania and know that I can spend time with brothers and sisters who love Jesus and who are giving their lives to serve him, just as we are in Reading.
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Saturday, 25 July 2009
We talked about family and church, preaching and pastoring, influencers and annoyances amongst many other things. I spent much of my time soaking up the wisdom of a man who has spent his years building a growing church for the glory of God's name.
In the lead up to these few days I know that I had the irrational fear of saying the wrong thing and of being thought of badly. The main thing that Ben impressed on me yesterday was be yourself and let God take you where he will.
On arriving in Kaunas we were picked up by the church leader and one of his team. We went to a restaurant for dinner where I ate and drank traditional food and drink including acorn coffee! We then drove 200 km to Kleipeda (I shall check that spelling again!). This is to be our base until we return on Monday.
This is the town where City Church is and I am staying in their church building in a very nice room. It is a five minute walk from a beach which sits on the Baltic Sea, and that is where I watched the sunset on a tiring but inspiring day.
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Friday, 24 July 2009
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
There is only 11 weeks to go until the start of the next Alpha course. We are looking to build on the success of the last course and see even more people come along to Coffee Republic to enjoy coffee, chat and the gospel.
Sunday, 19 July 2009
Sean spoke today on fatherhood today at church. 6 months ago I would only have been looking forward to what it could be like to be a father. I would have been listening to Sean's talk and taking notes for the time that I would be a father.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
This meant it was different but just as inspiring and even more fun. The conference is always quite hard work in terms of the amount of information that you are trying to process in a small period of time. I resolved this year to try and take only one thing away from each of the preaches, but to be fair I am still trying to process what those things are!!!
Some of my thoughts of the week were these:
- Great to have the likes of Stuart, Mix and Dorothy and Becca with us, new faces from last year in our party;
- Great to worship with 5000 other people;
- Good to see new faces on the stage from within Newfrontiers;
- Good to be part of something so much bigger than Reading;
- Good to hear from Joel that being an armour bearer is really important;
- Good to sing old hymns with new rhythms;
- Great to hear what God is doing in nations that barely get any thought in my mind!
- Good to hear from Stef that childlikeness does not equal childishness!
- The call to be R.A.W. (take Risks, take Authority, be Wild) as Christians was refreshing from PJ.
- Great to see Mark, Gavin and Martin really going for it for Jesus in dance on the thursday evening.
Overall I enjoyed the week immensely and really appreciate the fact that we are together on a mission with people we will never meet, through the family of churches that are represented by the name Newfrontiers.
Friday, 26 June 2009
Since being back, there is the small matter of catching up on all the things that have accumulated over a week and there is also new things to be thinking about. The new Alpha course needs to be planned for September; the current Alpha course remains on track and still has a great turn out; the new interns for next year are coming in for a visit and the current interns are nearing the end of their time working in the office; there are weddings to be celebrated and people who are ill or struggling who need prayer and care. There are baptisms to be planned and a fun day to be implemented.
Life is busy and long be it so, but in the midst of all of this I hear the voice of God saying be still and know that I am God.
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
On May 21st I had coffee with a young Lithuanian guy in our church. For 2 hours we discussed Jesus and what it meant to commit to following him. After 2 hours we returned to the church offices where he did commit his life to Jesus and he was wonderfully baptised in the Holy Spirit. To see him ringing the bell then and at the prayer meeting was immense. There was so much genuine joy that I couldn't help but worship God!
The second story came only yesterday. As I was getting ready to go to Alpha last night I had a phone call from Elli, a student in our church. She was extremely excited and it soon became evident why. A friend of hers who had been asking Elli questions deckared to Elli yesterday that she wanted to follow Jesus. Following a conversation Elli had the privilege of leading her friend to Jesus
God us doing a work amongst the people of Reading Family Church and I for one am looking forward to more bell ringing escapades!!!
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Granted not everyone who is prayed for is healed but we are seeing people regularly healed of various ailments. The more we pray, the more God does through his people by the power of his Spirit. You would think that this would be enough to rejoice about. However the real rejoicing came when we rang the bell three times. There were at least three responses to the good news of Jesus on Sunday morning with three more still to be identified. Each time we rang the bell we put up a cheer to God not a short cheer, but a long sustained one, joining with the celebration of heaven over each of these three sinners saved.
Sunday night will sit in my memory for a long time. To hear testimony after testimony and to ring the bell three times felt like a glimpse of what God wants us to be as a church. A place where people can come to receive physical, emotional and spiritual healing.
Terry Hotchkiss spoke brilliantly on this on Sunday morning and would recommend you listen to it. If you were there on Sunday morning, then listen to it again and let the truth that he speaks change you and build your faith. (Link here)
Friday, 15 May 2009
This is a remarkable story and is just one of a few from these last few weeks. Two Sunday's ago, one guy was instantly healed of a painful headache and another ladies thumb was pain free and back to full rotation in an instant - both spoke publicly of what God had done. Following that meeting I had an email to say that an 8 year old lad who was prayed for was significantly better and the healing seems to be continuing.
God is alive, He is interested and He is healing in our day. I know this has been the major theme of my blog for a while now, but it is so important to keep reporting what is happening. I know that the Holy Spirit is at work, pointing people towards Jesus by healing people. In our culture which is very much one of 'show me the proof', Jesus comes and, as he did in his day, he heals to show that he is alive and he continues to do what he said he would through us - that is heal the sick.
This Sunday we have Terry Hotchkiss with us. He is a guy who has a proven ministry in seeing miraculous things happen. He is also outstanding at preaching the good news of Jesus. My prayer for this Sunday is that many are healed and that people turn to Jesus as a result. If you have not invited friends, it's not too late - if you are looking in and are not part of our church but need healing and are in the Reading area, come and join us.
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
"I tell you the truth, anyone who who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. They will see even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."
When he says these things he is saying, I preached the good news, laid hands on the sick and I cast out demons - go and do these things - yes do this with love and compassion, without compromising or watering anything down, but go and do what I have been doing. Why? So he can continue doing what he has been doing, but all over the place by the power of his Holy Spirit as we step out in faith.
This weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at Sutton Family Church. On the morning there were 5 responses to the good news - 3 recommitments and two unsure whether it was the first time or not. Whatever the details were, 5 people stood and aligned themselves with Jesus asking them to be Lord of their lives and to relinquish the hold they have on their own lives.
On that same morning several people were prayed for for healing. One lady's neck was healed even before hands were laid on or a prayer was answered. Another lady sent this testimony to the leader of the church in Sutton on Monday morning:
"I felt very strongly that I was going to be healed on Sunday morning. In fact I quickly realised that I could stand with very little pain during the worship. I was leading the Whiz kids class so I’d asked Colin and Mary to come and collect me when the time came. I went to the front and Mary, Pete and Scott all prayed for me. At the time I cannot say that I felt totally pain free but immediately I walked away I realised that for the first time in months I wasn’t limping or dragging my foot.
During the rest of the day I was fine – I was climbing stairs without relying heavily on the banister rail and even ran up the top flight of four. By bedtime I made a deliberate decision not to take my nightly dose of painkillers. I did not wake up in pain during the night and when I got up this morning I was pain free and mobile! I still am! I have told three people at work so far.
Praise God - I am so elated I can’t stop smiling! "
There were other stories of an older lady who could march on the spot where before Arthritis had subdued her movement. Another lady was overwhelmed by the Spirit and we are awaiting news as to whether her thyroid problem has been rectified.
I tell these stories because Jesus is still doing his work through his people by the power of his Holy Spirit. At his name, people are saved, they are healed and at his name demons do flee. We truly have an amazing God and as we build up now for Alpha starting next week and our healing meeting on May 17th, let's be praying that our God will do extraordinary things here in Reading.
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
The first was around 'windows'. The fact that women work with many different windows open, a bit like a computer, was in many ways revelatory to me. I knew that my wife multi tasked but hadn't thought about why. I know for me, that I have one thought processing at the fore of my mind at a time and will get to a place where I will close that window before having another one opened. It helped me to understand why B always has so many things to talk to me about at the end of the day - she is simply going through her windows. Also, when I haven't yet done something which she asked me to do, she will find it necessary to remind me because the window is still not closed for her.
The other useful thing on this was pop-ups. Another computer analogy (probably because as men we understand this terminology!!!) Just as computers have pop-ups (both helpful and unhelpful) so do women. Things can just pop up and that can affect how my wife feels at that particular moment. Since reading this, I have been able understand why my wife wants to talk to me about many things in the first 10 minutes that I get in and I have been able to ready myself for that in order to be a husband who is endeavouring to display my love for her. I have also been able to say 'was that a pop-up?' and have been able to help her close some windows just by doing the things she had expected me to actually do rather than procrastinate about!
The second thing was in the last chapter. The reminder to me that my wife needs to be affirmed of my love for her often. I know that I tell my wife I love her lots. There are even times when I will say it too many times and she will say that she knows that I don't have to keep saying it!!! After reading this chapter I will keep saying it, but I also realise that affirming my love for my wife is done in different ways and not just in words. I must keep helping around the house and with our baby daughter. n I must keep taking a lead spiritually and I must keep on tracking our budget, because I know these are all ways that she feels loved. I must also keep having conversation with her. I know she doesn't want that to be the same as when she meets up with her girl friends, but good time when she feels that she has my attention and that she feels heard and listened to. This helps her to know that she is the the only girl for me.
This is important to her. Just like when she was a little girl wanting her daddy's undivided attention, she now wants to know that she has my undivided love and attention. The second part of the chapter talks about the hammer that men hold that can shatter our wives; that being roving eyes. The whole thing around men and watching where their eyes go on a summers day walking through Reading, can destroy any of the words or even the gestures that have helped your wife feel she is number 1. This is sobering and has lead me to double my efforts in this area. I want to be like the basketball player who Jeff cites on page 174!
"In the mid-90's, Sports Illustrated did a cover feature, entitled, "St. David," on David Robinson, the MVP centre for the San Antonio Spurs. One segment described how Robinson, as a professing Christian, husband and father, in the midst of the NBA's intense temptations. For example, during television breaks, he would sit on the bench and stare studiously at the floor in order to avoid looking at the gyrating cheerleaders out on the court.
The article also mentioned that like all NBA players, Robinson was constantly approached by attractive women who wanted to talk to him...and were probably offering more than just witty conversation. Apparently, he would rather brusquely brush them off. When asked to comment on that seemingly "rude" practice, he said something like this: 'If any woman is going to get her feelings hurt, it's not going to be my wife.' A protector and hero in action!"
I want to see Robinson as an inspiration in my own marriage and make sure my eyes are only for my darling wife and I'm going to let her know often that that is the case!!! Now, with my marriage invested in, I turn my attention to Spurgeon's 'The Soul Winner," in an effort to not just be a man endeavouring to win his wife's heart day after day, but also to be a man that sees lost people won for Jesus.
Thursday, 2 April 2009
Stuart works in a multi national company. He speaks to people around the world in the course of a day. He has acquaintances as a result in India. One of those got into an instant message conversation. The upshot of which gave Stuart the opportunity to share the reason for the hope that he has. He pointed the lady toward passages in the bible which surprised her but also enabled her to say that she had been to church when she was younger but had 'drifted away'. He writes this to conclude his mail:
"We have since prayed for her in our Life Group that she would find calm, patience, and peacefulness and although she had a very difficult weekend (28th/29th March), she was able to find strength through praying which is something she never would have done before."
Carol and Mike are a couple who have just joined our church. They are a fantastic pair and have really started to get their sleeves rolled up. At the end of last week, Carol sent me this:
"This is just to tell you that this morning I have had a long talk with someone who has some extremely complex and difficult circumstances in which she lives. I have invited her to Alpha. At present she's not sure she could really even fit Alpha into life (as she has lots of responsibility for others). I talked about her needs being met and that she needs God to take on her burden and see her through!
I know her well and we have had talks over a couple of years ... but today's was the most direct, with reference to God in my life!
What a great email to receive!!! Carol is also going to be serving on the Alpha course!
Lawrence has been prolific this week. I have had three texts from him telling me of his exploits. The first of which was inspired by Karen's story that I told during my preach on Sunday morning (link here). He was sitting in the barbers chair and was able to tell his story to her. His second opportunity was to tell his geography admin lady (he's a student) what his mission trip to Poland was all about. He wrote this:
"The opportunities are there even though we think we don't make the most of them!"
Since those first two texts, he has also been able to share his story with a waitress and a ceroc dance instructor. He's on the front foot and loving it!!!
I share these with you as they have encouraged me to action this week. I made my first invite to Alpha in years on Monday night. There was no resounding "yes" but my good friend did say he would think about it. I am praying that he will come.
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
This is wonderful news. Jesus came to die for us, to set us free and to make peace between us and the Father. He did this because of love. That is now two people for whom the bell hath tolled this year. My prayer is that many others will come to know the saving grace of Jesus and respond to him.
We must be those who are loving and compassionate - looking for the lost as the Father looks for the lost - and to fulfill this we must be those inviting people to meet Jesus out of relationship, by showing them the real Jesus of the bible, by telling our stories or simply by taking every opportunity that comes our way.
Being bell ringers is what we are about, let's be expectant that we will all have that thrill!!!
Thursday, 26 March 2009
It resulted in some pictures, a poem and a page full of song lyrics that give honour to Him. There was a picture of an ocean; magnificent, enormous, full of life, with power in abundance, but the ability to soothe even the most troubled soul. A picture of dark and light, showing what we have been saved from and saved into, with a poem that said something similar. An easel with a picture being painted of the world reminding us that God did not create haphazardly, but he designed, he knew what it would look like; a picture of the cross already painted next to it, reminding us that the cross was always the plan. There was also a picture of lilies helping us to see that we should not worry but seek first the kingdom of God!
All these things helped us to concentrate and focus upon our wonderful Saviour. In the The Fruitful Life there is a chapter on joy and it reminds us that we are commanded to be joyful, not just be joyful when we feel like it. Jerry Bridges does unpack this and one of the ways that he says we can live this joy is to give thanks in all circumstances. When we consider all of the above, we know we have so much to be thankful for and it has challenged me to follow the command to be joyful - in all circumstances!!!
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Friday, 20 March 2009
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Friday, 13 March 2009
Thursday, 12 March 2009
The evening saw 45 of us gather with over half of those being guests. I have been told by members of our life group that the evening was greatly appreciated by their friends and that just the fact that people saw that Christians can have fun and can enjoy life was valuable. The other positive thing from the night was that a few have also shown an interest in coming to other events as and when they come along.
In short, the evening was a fantastic success and would be something I would recommend to any other life groups who wanted to use the idea.
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
However more encouraging still has been the fact that although only back in the chair for two days, I have already heard a couple of stories of conversations and opportunities people have had. I have just finished an informal chat with a student in our church. He was telling me about a housemate who is changing in her view of Christianity: she has come to realise that the philosophical questions that are often raised are nonsense when searching for a serious answer as to whether there is or is not a God. She is currently looking into the whole notion of Christianity because she doesn't just want to make broad weeping statements that cannot be backed up when sitting in a discussion arena, but she has also seen through this lad and others that Christianity is not a Sunday thing and is not a judgemental thing but is a lifestyle of love, acceptance and family, worked out through the loving parameters of the teaching of the bible.
Although this young lady is not yet a Christian, I greatly admire her for taking it seriously enough to at least explore what it actually means to live for Jesus and believe and trust in God. What ever the outcome, I know that this young lady will have good friends in the church who will love her and be part of her life for as long as she wants them to be.
I have also been invited to chat to another young lady on Friday morning with another student in our church. She has some questions around denominations and grace and law. I am so looking forward to this as I can talk about my favourite subject... Jesus, him crucified and resurrected!!!
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
On Sunday 15th February 2009, Rachel Ruby Taylor was born into this world. It is an incredible feeling knowing that we are now mummy and daddy; the elation of meeting her married with the overwhelming sense of responsibility. Everything that I had expected from the length of labour to the first night were completely misunderstood.
My two girls are wonderful, beautiful and a gift from my Father in heaven. I know that over the coming weeks and months we shall start to develop as parents, but right now we are just loving the fact that she is here and that she is well. THANK YOU JESUS!!!
Off now to help change a nappy!!! How life has changed!
Thursday, 12 February 2009
However, the bigger stories were awaiting me in my inbox. Jo, a girl in our cell, went home last night to invite her friends again to the quiz night. She ended up having an hour conversation about Jesus, where they ended up talking about the Alpha Course and expressing an interest in coming! This was an immediate answer to prayer as Jo had just prayed for them at cell!!! God is so good. She said:
"Am praying that we see that bell rung again!"
The second mail came from Tom Riches who was writing about the encouragement of his cell last night. Out of 11 of them almost all had a story to share about a conversation , an event or a new relationship that had been built. He said this:
"What was also really good about this was that some of the people seem to be getting close to accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour, obviously we don't want to be complacent but peoples' friends look to be searching for and seeking something and the cell seems to be on hand and very willing to point people in the right direction."
I love being part of a church who are so eager to love the lost and who are becoming more accustomed to putting themselves on the front line. After hearing the bell ring for the first time yesterday, as Ben rang it for his friend, I couldn't help but be excited; not because of a bell, but because we really are on a mission with Jesus to find lost souls and he is starting to use us again as a church to do that!!!
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
It's a bit like waiting for your birthday as a kid, only you don't actually know what day your birthday is you just know it's around this time.
I cannot wait to hold BT in my arms - please Lord, let it be soon!!!
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
1) A text message came in on Sunday afternoon for Ben Butcher-Bigley to come and ring the bell. One of his friends who has been coming regularly on a Sunday morning and to youth on a Friday night prayed a prayer of commitment and repentance on Saturday. After speaking with Ben and hearing his excitement and zeal, I cannot wait to stand with him as he rejoices with Jesus as this one lost sheep turns to follow Jesus at such an early age!!!
2) We have our first guest confirmed for the Alpha course, although the venue is still TBC. This is fantastic as it doesn't start til Tuesday 28th April and we are only in mid Feb!!! We have a such great news to tell and Alpha is something that God has used mightily to save many, that we really need to get behind this in a fresh way.
3) We are seeing people who do not yet know Jesus come on a Sunday morning, which should not be a surprise as we have been praying for this, but is great because they get to see the people of God praising him, they experience His presence and they hear the bible preached. Keep praying for us to have unbelievers amongst on a Sunday morning.
All these things have been wonderful encouragements and I believe are just the first signs of something that God wants to do with us as individuals, as cells and as a church this year.
Thursday, 5 February 2009
As the praying drew to an end, a bellowing voice cried out "Taylor Cell Group". Out stepped Keith backed closely by his cell group, quite an intimidating experience actually - Martin Craker, Tino Villa and Dave Simkin loomed large just behind the sturdy figure of Keith, as well as Joy, Leslie, Becca and Pamela. As he squared up in front of me I felt I had to call our cell over and so in the end we had a face off of the two cells.
What happened next was shocking but in line with gauntlets being thrown down through the ages. The leather glove in Keith's hand connected with first my right then my left check and was then thrown to the floor. Such scenes have never been seen in our offices!!! A reading of the challenge then followed, which in essence was to compete cell against cell in a quiz on March 4th.
The twist however was that 10 tickets had been printed up that were meant for our friends who are not yet Christians. Each ticket that was used would earn 10 extra points and each which was returned would see ten points deducted.
On hearing the challenge I turned to our cell and went to confer with them. Before I had the chance to even say a word, I faced a blanket of nodding faces with expressions such as 'bring it on' and 'we can do this' coming from their lips.
I stooped down and picked up the leather glove signalling our intention to accept the duel and the date is now set.
Why are we doing this? Is it because we are so competitive that we can't back down? Is it because we really enjoy doing quizzes? Well maybe a bit of the two, but mainly it's because we want to be a people who see building relationships with people as fun and entertaining. I want to invite someone (assuming everything is well with BT) because I enjoy spending time with my non-Christian friends and I know at least one of them who would really enjoy being a leading light on a quiz team.
Will we preach the gospel? Will there be an altar call? I don't think so, but we will have fun and we will be mixing with different people than we usually would and we will run the event in such a manner that will bring glory to God.
This seems like a good way to me of working together as cell groups to encourage, collect memories and stories and provoke each other to have a mindset that friends are friends and shouldn't be put in Christian and non-Christian boxes unhelpfully.
I shall tell the story of the evening in a few weeks, but until that time I shall be praying that this will be a door opening, fun filled, relationship building event, that all will enjoy and be encouraged by.
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
What about Sunday mornings? We want to ensure that a regular Sunday is somewhere that people who don't yet know Jesus will be welcomed warmly and will not be baffled by jargon that Christians in our church will understand but others will not. We will also be putting on Sundays that will lend themselves to us a as a church inviting our friends along: this will include Easter Sunday, a healing meeting (Front Edge) on May 17th and other events like it, but in all that we would love to see those meetings in particular busy with friends and family of those of us in the church.
What about Alpha? We currently plan to hold Alpha at Starbucks in the centre of town. We want to build on the success of using the Glo as a venue and meet in places where people would usually go and would be seen as mainstream. I went in today to speak to someone but the manager was not around, but my efforts shall not be thwarted I shall be going back!!! Pray for that eh!! Anyway, Alpha only works if we invite our friends along.
Alpha starts on Tuesday 28th April. Let's be praying this week, as we join together in prayer and fasting, as to who God would want us to invite and then go out there and do it!!! The worst that can happen is they will say no, but it could still lead to some great conversations. It would be great to have a course of 50 people and as we are not running Alpha this term it gives us a chance to spend times with our friends and get to a point where the next step is to invite.
It is great being in a church where stories are just beginning to fly around about the encounters that we are having as individuals, in workplaces, on campus, with neighbours and with pizza delivery men. Please keep stories coming in of conversations and opportunities that you have had. I have heard of two this morning and will post them when I have a bit more detail.
Let's be a church who are growing in our love and compassion for people who don't yet know Jesus, and let's invite them to be in places where they will hear the good news of Jesus and let the Spirit do his work in their lives!!!
Saturday, 31 January 2009
In December of 08 the cluster I am involved in decided that we wanted to do something for the local community instead of having some Christmas event. We had a couple of links with the North Whitley Residents Association and agreed that we would support them in putting on a Christmas party for the elderly residents. It cost us time. Kay Watkins did a great job in coordinating the cells and the local council provided funding to the association for food, venue and a singer (a very good crooner who was perfect for the job).
In all there were about 35 people in our cluster and only 7 of them were able to help out as it was during the afternoon. however the buy in was excellent. The people in the cells felt that they were all doing something to be part of the community whether in prayer or in actually being there, the residents association really appreciated the help, particularly the youthfulness and the one on one time that was able to be given to the people that came and lastly, the elderly people loved it, they felt warmly welcomed well served and many of them were full of praise for us as a church.
Why do I tell this story - because I want lots more like it. We are going to see a small restructuring of cell groups in such a manner that means that cells in Earley can cluster together and build bridges into their local community. The Whitley cells will continue to build bridges and work the links that we have already formed as a church in that local community and we will continually look to greet people and start new cells in other parts of town, so that we can be good news to the communities in which we live in this large town of Reading.
Many of these things will hopefully be long haul projects, but my prayer would be that we will start to see fruit as RFC grows in it's engagement with the town in which we live.
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
'Just before Christmas, a few people from work were meeting to have a few drinks for my manager’s leaving do. I was a bit nervous about going as I could imagine it being an evening of drinking and gossiping; something that I did'nt want to get involved with. In the end I decided to go. To my surprise, I ended up having a really good conversation with one of the managers. We talked at various times throughout the evening about all kinds of things and it turns out that he has a history in church. Since then we have had some brief conversations at work, but I was really encouraged by how easy it was and how interested he was. It reminded me that God can use us in any situation and that it’s never too small a thing to have those conversations with people. Who knows where it will lead...'
I love the closing statement that she makes (in bold), particularly about how easy the conversation was and the fact that it's never a small thing to take the time to have a conversation. I look forward to seeing if Rachel will be ringing the bell this year celebrating the new life of this dear man.
As a church we have always gathered together as cell midweek. It has been a strength of us growing in community and learning to love one other, by challenging and rebuking, laughing and crying and enjoying worship and prayer with each other. This is the firm foundation which we can build upon in this coming year. Our cell groups should now become a place where stories are regularly told of conversations had with friends who do not yet know Jesus; where we encourage each other to meet people who are not Christians or like us; where we prayer for those contacts we do have; where we practice telling our own story of when we turned to Jesus; where we do socials that our friends will actually come to; where we get behind Alpha and pray hard that our cell will have at least one on the course.
Cell groups have such a valuable part to play in us growing in our witness to Jesus and I feel that I have overlooked that in the past. As B and I start a new cell this week, I fully intend to have the witness section of cell as an important part of each week. There is a whole town out there that doesn't yet know Jesus and if our cell group can play a part in seeing at least one of those saved, we will do all we can to do that. Why?
Let's never forget that our motivation is to be the same motivation of Jesus - not to have a great tally of salvation at the end of the year, but because we love people enough to let them know that good news that changed our lives.
There are things that only individuals can do, but as a group you can strengthen and support each other and grow in campanology together!!! I am always available to support cell groups when it comes to thinking about what witness looks like and I would love to hear the stories that are shared in cell.
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
The first was from Tom - after Sunday evening he resolved that he wanted to be a bell ringer this year. With that in mind he went to work with the intention of asking some probing questions with one of his colleagues around evolution theory. He ended up having this conversation with a person who has a PhD in zoology! He wasn't threatening he just listened and posed questions and has left it in such a way that he is able to continue the discussion at a later date. For this woman her training and her world view is a big obstacle to her finding Jesus - Tom asking clear questions and gently getting her to question her own position is an outstanding way to start someone on their journey of faith.
The second was told by Andrew - the pizza man (that is the regular pizza man who now knows the family!) came to the door on Monday evening which started a conversation which both surprised Andrew and left him full of faith. The pizza man asked Andrew what he did for a living, Andrew was able to tell him of his work for the church and the fact that this is a year out for him. The conversation went from there culminating in the pizza man taking a way an RFC leaflet and asking if he could come back and find out more. A relationship built over time opens up to be an opportunity to help someone take the next step in their journey of faith.
These are two guys who are determined to be RFC campanologists this year. They desire to be those who celebrate what God has done in the life of an individual by racing to the church office and ringing the bell when they have the joy of leading someone to Christ. These two stories are replicable, we just need to be thinking this way on a daily basis.
Peter writes in 1 Peter 3:15:
'Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...'
We have a great hope, we have a great God and he has given us a great gospel. We don't have to know all the answers to all the hard questions - we can be like Tom and ask questions about why people believe certain things or we can be like Andrew who was willing to tell a bit of his story in response to a question - but we must be those who are willing to tell what we do know. Each person who is a Christian has a story to tell of how they came to know Jesus. That in itself is the story of a miracle and is a story worth practicing and telling.
There are 232,662 people in Reading. There are 120 churches. If 100 people on average are in those churches that adds up to 12,000 people going to church. If there are also 5,000 backsliden or non-church attending Christians in Reading, that amounts to 17, 000 people. In which case there are 215,660 (at least 2 were saved last year through RFC) in Reading who don't yet know Jesus. Among that number there will be people that God had written into the lambs book of life and we are to be like treasure hunters in trying to unearth those jewels. Like treasure hunters we will have many disappointments, but we will hopefully strike gold as we keep trying.
Whether it's a colleague at work, a delivery man, a neighbour, a friend you have made at a club you attend, the person who you often share pleasantries with at the check out, whoever it maybe lets love them enough to see their lives totally transformed by the cross of Christ.
At the outset of this year let's resolve to be individuals who will ring the bell this year as we see people of our town find the hope, love, peace, joy and faith that we enjoy.
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
What has got me thinking about this? Well I think that there are events that are really worth celebrating with a jump up and down type celebration, ones that allow us to become emotionally involved with the event that we just let ourselves go and reveal how we really feel. The death and resurrection of Christ is one of these and another is when one person turns to, and believes in Jesus. It's this second that has me buzzing. Last year we had cause to celebrate 2 such events that I am aware of. They are 2 fantastic trophies of God's grace, 2 who have a completely new life now, 2 that have hope, 2 that enjoy relationship with their Father in heaven. The only slight disappointment - only 2.
This year I want us as a church to be celebrating much more and on Sunday night I shall be unveiling one way in which we intend to do that.
Luke 15:3-7 say this:
"Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and losses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.""
I am praying that our lives will be interrupted this year by celebrations of salvation as we see friends, family, work colleagues, neighbours, old school mates, turn to follow Jesus.
Friday, 9 January 2009
This discovery radically changed my life. It wasn't something that I thought would be good to try for a bit as a self help system or something. I realised that if Jesus' tomb was empty (and no one had a credible reason as to why it wasn't) and that Jesus really did rise from the dead (all other explanations did not seem to make sense humanly) then Jesus must be someone that I should follow whole heartedly.
That was coming up for 10 years ago (Feb 3rd). My life was one of binge drinking and pleasure seeking for my own fulfillment, looking for ways of being liked and accepted, desperately seeking the approval of those I considered friends.
When I accepted Jesus' invitation to follow him on Feb 3rd 1999, I found the approval and the acceptance that I had craved. I found it liberating to be able to say no to the next drink in the round, to say no to the next dare. I started to have friends who liked me for being me and not for the amount I could neck in one drinking session. I started to let people speak into my life without being all defensive, because I knew that they were speaking out of love rather than trying to bully me or tear me down. I found that I could make mistakes and they were forgiven. When I got ill people would come and pray and would help.
I found my own attitude towards people changing. From being someone who would do something if there was something in it for him, I started to look for opportunities to help others, because they needed help. Church was not a place I had to go to once a week to somehow remove any guilt from my life rather it was a family of people who came together to give thanks and praise to Jesus, the one who made us a family through his sacrifice of love and had already removed the guilt.
The discovery of Jesus that I made in 1999 totally changed my world view, my self perception and my perception of others. Christianity isn't something I do, a Christian is who I am, I belong to Jesus, I'm his follower and I do all I do because he first loved me.
This year I would love to see more and more people have this same experience as me. The details will be different, but the essence the same. Helping people to discover the real Jesus amongst all the nonsense should be something that we as Christians strive to do at all costs. You know you really love a friend when you are willing to share the gospel with them because it is the only thing that will make sense of their lives.
I need to constantly challenge myself, in this my ten year anniversary of being a Christian, to introduce others to Jesus as Jesus was introduced to me.