Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Olympic Opening Ceremony!

There are now only 58 days to go!
The eyes of the world will be on London.
Dedicated sports people have invested countless hours of sweat and preparation to ensure that they perform at their peak.
Volunteers will have been trained and dressed ready to serve the spectators.
What a wonderful time to be living in the Capital!

Although I have no tickets to watch any event I am proud to announce that following 2 successful auditions earlier in the year I will be 'performing' as part of the opening ceremony.
I have 20 rehearsals between now and the 27th July. This weekend alone I will be practising all day Saturday and most of Sunday.
I hope that you will be looking out for me on the TV?

The amount of time and energy we invest in getting ready for something shows how much we care, what value we attach to the event or achievement: sitting exams, getting married, going on holiday or planning for retirement.

What are you excitedly planning for at the moment?
How much preparation have you put in for your biggest day ever: the one when you die and meet God face to face?

Monday, 28 May 2012

We're all in this together!

Lets be honest it is often easier to be partners, on a team, backing each other and 'all in it together' when things are going well. When the chart is up and to the right, when the goals are flowing and when target after target is surpassed - we can feel surrounded by supporters.

But what about when things are not going so well?

It was almost a year ago when our family was going through a very difficult time. We had decided to return from Australia at short notice. We had 5 suitcases when we got off the plane; no car, no home of our own, no school for our kids, no job for either Nicky or I. It is at a time like this you really appreciate those who are with you.

Sean & Liz Green and Reading Family Church have been absolutely fantastic: they helped us with some of the costs of returning home, have been there as friends, have prayed for us and demonstrated their belief in us through wanting to help us financially see a church planted in Ealing.
It was so good to be with the church yesterday morning and evening. These guys truly demonstrate grace filled and grace inspired lives. We will not forget your love and support. I hope your faithfulness and generosity rubs off on me and Redeemer.

Is there someone, maybe going through a difficult time, that you can express your commitment to?

Friday, 25 May 2012

Church in the Making

Felt I had to read this with the subtitle...'What makes or breaks a new church before it starts.'

Ben Arment is a witty, honest writer who seeks to help support the Biblical mandate for church planting despite nearly 80% of new churches failing.

Point 1: Good ground - what soil are you planting in? If is not receptive you need to cultivate it.
Point 2: Rolling Rocks - church is about people. Do you have social momentum?
Point 3: Deep Roots - vision must be birthed in local community. How do you meet their needs?

Please do not feel that I have summarised the whole book - there are many powerful challenges,  including:

'The church was never meant to be the point of the gospel, but rather then gospel was meant to be the point of the church.'
'Church planting doesn't have to be an isolating, solitary endeavour. It can be a band of brothers, a sorority of sisters, and fraternity of friends on mission.'
"Most of us are guilty of trying to initiate the work of God rather than join it.'

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

We are family!

Every Wednesday night since the start of January 2012 we have been gathering a group in our home - with the intention of starting a church called Redeemer.

This is not a service.
This is not a committee or just a meeting.
This is not a formal environment to do business.

The Bible describes the church as a family: God is our Father, we are literally brothers and sisters.

To me Wednesday night is a great chance to spend time with friends on an adventure together. We talk about what has happened in our lives during the past week. We celebrate another birthday. We plan another meal together. We laugh and cry with each other.

Maybe that's why I love Wednesdays!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Nasty Viewing

As a child I quite liked the idea of being a nurse when I grew up - the only problem being I could not bear to see people in pain.
I vividly remember one time seeing a guy very badly sun burnt and honestly thinking I was going to throw up.
Recently I collected someone from hospital following a major operation and though they said they were so much more comfortable than previously I had to have the car window down to prevent me from going green.
On another occasion I took my son Josh to hospital to have his cast removed after he had broken his arm.  Even watching them cut the bandage off got to me: I had to sit on the floor and instructed Josh that should I not be able to cope he could find me in the car park!

Today I volunteered to invigilate at my kids school whilst pupils were sitting one of their GCSE's: Why?

I was assigned to the Spanish vocabulary test. I stood in silence for almost an hour listening to a tape pouring out words that I had absolutely no clue what they were saying.
It reminded me of sitting exams when I was younger - the utter panic - why hadn't I revised more?!
Today I did not want to distract any student but I did try and smile to reassure them that although it might feel like it - passing Spanish -  is not life and death!

I used to be a teacher. I appreciate the importance of exams. Having said that I must be going soft.
I wanted to say a prayer for everyone before the test began. I wanted to high five them all as they left the hall declaring - 1 down only 24 more to go!

I love the fact that the gospel declares that we are loved, acceptable and right before God not due to what we achieve but because of what Jesus has done for us. I love when people recognise their need and turn to Jesus, being able to inform them they are as loved as they can be! I am so glad that I do not have to sit and exam to get into heaven but Jesus has guaranteed me a place because He died in my place!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Under Pressure

In the UK the school summer term seems to evolve around exams, exams and more exams.

I know that as a pupil myself this felt the worse time of year....despite it being sunny and all you want to do is play football you have to sit indoors trying to cram too much information into your tiny brain.

The season does not seem much easier being a parent of children sitting tests. At least we have tried to make it a family affair:

Josh is at home on study leave and taking his GCSE's.
Lois is taking 7 papers as part of her GCSE's.
Isaac has end of year 8 exams to determine which stream he will be in next year.

Nicky has helped each child write a revision timetable and checks to see what they are learning.
I am helping the school out by volunteering as part of the invigilation team next week (it seems wrong to offer to watch others suffer - but someone has to do it!)

I know that all of us face many pressures in life - getting a job, sick relatives, clearing debt, reaching targets. I am also aware that we must consider stress 'our friend' as it helps us achieve our best: I am sure many athletes will achieve their personal best at the Olympics under the spotlight of millions of viewers.

What has been your biggest test?
How do you cope with pressure?

I want my kids to know that despite being under pressure at this time they have a family rooting for them and a God who in His grace loves them unconditionally!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

HTB Leadership Conference!

I have just attended 2 amazing days at the Royal Albert Hall where Nicky Gumbel was hosting the HTB leadership conference....I am now trying to work through my notes as I am eager to retain and apply all the lessons learnt.

There were approx. 4,500 people there representing 964 different churches / organisations. It was great seeing such a spectrum of people gathered together.

Worship was led by such a talented bunch including Matt Redman, Martin Smith, Tim Hughes, Matt Maher, Nikki Fletcher and Ben Cantelon.

The seminar streams covered Commerce, Church, Community & Culture and had an extensive range of speakers including Glyn Barrett, Sir Paul Coleridge, Ken Costa, Patrick Dixon, Nicky & Sila Lee, Mike Pilavachi, Paul Scanlon, Graham Tomlin to name just a few.

Nicky Gumbel interviewed Richard Chartres the Bishop of London and also Tony Blair the previous Prime Minister. Both very insightful with interesting stories and powerful lessons passed on. There was also teaching from Christine Caine and Rick Warren.

My head is still spinning from taking in so much and my heart is pounding believing that now is a great time to be alive and see what God is going to do in this nation.

This was not meant to be an advert (though I know is probably reads like one) - however if you are interested they have already booked the Royal Albert hall for 13 & 14th May 2013 and have some confirm speakers: Patrick Lecioni, Steven Furtick and Bill Hybels.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Tremendous Teenager!

Today my youngest son, Isaac turned 13.... all 3 of my offspring are teenagers!

Isaac is very excited to be able to have a Facebook account and wants to get a twitter account - there seems no stopping his ability to make friends and influence.

I am very proud of how well he has settled into secondary school since we have been back in England. Due to the differences between this country and Australia Isaac ended up missing the entire first year of secondary school and he was late getting into year 8.
Even though we had to move Isaac out of his school in Perth due to being bullied for being English, he has had a very positive attitude to a new environment here and his enthusiasm has ensured he has settled in well.

I cannot believe where 13 years have gone: what were you doing in 1999? (Apart from worrying about the millennium bug!?)

I know it is so important not to allow difficulties in life to make me cynical and hope I can follow Isaac's example of believing for a brighter future and always trying my best.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

The Crown Church

Tomorrow we are joining others for a morning of celebrating that The Crown Church was planted 10 years ago.

I loved the privilege of being involved with others and seeing the new church established in the Borough of Hillingdon. It was thrilling whilst there to go from a group of 32 to 250 in 8 years!

We had Rambabu come on mission twice, the London Community Gospel Choir visited on 2 occasions  and we also had the 29th Chapter on a Sunday morning.

During the years that I was leading we had some outstanding folk do the Frontier Project for a year with us and always there was an army of dedicated volunteers making things happen from Sunday mornings, small groups, Alpha, youth and debt advice.
It was grew fun reaching out to the community by giving things way in the open air, going into school, step by step and hosting craft fairs.
The influence of The Crown reached to India where we supported Project Hope and also Istanbul through  a church plant there.

I had no idea that God would take us on such an adventure....I honestly believe that James and the church have so much more to do in chapter 2!

It also makes me very excited about what God will do in and through our next church plant: Redeemer over coming few years!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

School & the UoL

Today is my son Josh's last full day at Twyford School before his study break begins and he sits his GCSE's!
Due to moving to Australia for a year Josh has had to try and do 2 years worth of work in the last 2 terms: I am so proud of how hard he has tried.

I know this will make me sound sad and old but I am shocked - where the time has gone since I first packed him off in his shorts, new shoes and short haircut for his first day at Nursery?!

We counted up and realised he has been to 7 educational establishments:
St Marys Nursery
Camberley Infant School
Lady Bankes Infant School
Lady Bankes Junior School
Ruislip High School
Winthrop Baptist College
Twyford Church of England School

As a family we have moved around looking to put Jesus and the church first. I hope that my son makes it to sixth form and University, but whatever, I am proud of how well he has coped with all the disruptions and experiences he has handled from the 'University of Life'.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

No Place like Home.

My family is very very happy in our house in London.

I know that there are street lights outside so it is never pitch black.
I recognise that we live off the main Uxbridge Road next to the hospital so hear the two tones constantly.
I admit that we have a pub at the end of the road and can hear those staggering home and singing at the end of each evening.
I  confess that we live near Heathrow airport so are alerted to planes leaving and entering the country.

....But it is home.

Recently we had a wonderful holiday at a friends house in France. A farm house located in the Loire Valley hidden down a single tracked road. A beautiful spot with lovely unspoilt views.

The first night we were there I was soundly asleep until the peace was interrupted: Suddenly in the middle of the night my wife is shaking me, she is upset and in a panic keeps saying "I think I have gone blind!'
I reassured her that it was just dark and quiet because we were in the countryside - she had nothing to worry about.... sure enough the next day she was fine.

It certainly makes me realise how much I love living in London and believe that I get a better nights sleep despite all that is going on outside.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Real Marriage by Mark & Grace Driscoll

This year I will have been married for 20 years and I recognise that my most important friendship still needs investment. I aim to show my love to Nicky in a variety of ways: cards, texts, gifts, trips to the theatre, helping at home, listening, talking....
I also aim each year to read a book on marriage as I wish to grow and improve as a husband.

I have just finished reading 'Real Marriage the truth about sex, friendship & life together by Mark & Grace Driscoll.

Mark & Grace Driscoll are very honest about the pains and pleasure they have discovered in their marriage. I find their honesty inspiring. The book is very relevant to modern society and also biblically strong. I learnt about 3 types of relationships back to back, shoulder to shoulder and face to face. Each chapter is packed with wisdom.

I hope you catch a flavour of this book from the following quotes:
Marriage either gets better or bitter.
A friend is there person who walks in when everyone else walks out.
The longer we wait to repent the more damage we do.
Marriage is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.

I know that Mark Driscoll can be a bit like Marmite - you either love him or hate him, yet I dare to challenge your to buy this book - and read it - and I believe that it will strengthen your marriage.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The London Mayor

Today I went and cast my vote for the Mayor of London. I consider it a privilege to vote - and sometimes wonder if we should copy the Australians who can fine you for not voting (but I will try not to get on my soap box regarding the subject)

Sadly I feel many of us have got disillusioned with politics in Britain and either resign ourselves to align with 'the best of a bad bunch' or cynically opt out. What should be a day tinged with excitement about future dreams, promises and potential can turn into a day of cynicism - 'which will be the first promises broken?' or 'at least if they really mess up we have the opportunity to remove them in 4 years'.

I wonder if the national distrust of leadership resulting in apathetic non-voting creeps into the way we view church and God.

Rather than excitement about the future knowing God is in control and He wants to know us personally we take another approach:
Tell me why I should be bothered
Look after me or I will choose some else in the near future
You may try hard but you will not manage to change much because everything is 'political' and moves slowly

I appreciate that those over 40 who have taken some knocks in life and are reeling from past disappointments can easily become cynical.

I would rather choose to be full of faith.
I believe in a better future.
I believe the church is here to make a difference in society
I believe that God is real and wants to impact your life

I am not asking you to vote for me.... but do want to challenge you: Are you full of faith for God and the church and what He wants to do in the future?

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Keep it in the Family

This year I will have been married for 20years: I am Roger & Jean Stoakley's best son-in-law (Yes I am their only son-on-law!)

They have been up to stay this weekend: On Saturday they looked after the kids whilst Nicky and I went out. On Sunday they helped Lois with her school work. On Monday they cleaned the house, cooked the dinner and did lots of odd jobs around the place e.g. fixed the door handle, filled and painted knocks in the kitchen ceiling etc. Today they went home for a rest.

The great thing about family is that you know they are for you and they willingly help in any way that they can.

I love the fact that in the Bible Christians refer to each other as brothers and sisters; the church is pictured as a family.

I so hope that Redeemer is a church that has a family feel when it is small but the love and care continues even when things grow big.