Wednesday, 2 November 2011

This week I came across a beautiful word – “passionaries”. It’s a made-up word combining the words “passion” and “missionary”. If you think that “passion” indicates a warmth of feeling and that it is the name for Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, then this is a great word to describe people who are devoted to Jesus, have spiritual fervour, are willing to die to self, and they give themselves to reach a hurting world.
The opposite of a passionary is someone who is, in Jesus’ words, “lukewarm”.
In the seven letters to the churches in the beginning of the book of Revelation, many believe we have God’s warnings to the church down through the ages:
1. To the church in Ephesus – the danger of losing our first love.
2. To the church in Smyrna – the danger of fear of suffering.
3. To the church in Pergamum – the constant danger of compromising what we believe.
4. To the church in Thyatira – the danger of moral compromise.
5. To the church in Sardis – the danger of spiritual deadness.
6. To the church in Philadelphia – the danger of wanting to give up.
7. To the church in Laodicea – the danger of lukewarmness.
Today I would like to focus on the letter to the church in Laodicea. Please read with me from
Rev 3:14-22
Laodicea was not that far from Colossae and there seems to have been quite a bit of contact between the churches.
See Col 2:1 and 4:15-17
Laodicea was a thriving medical and trade centre. It was famous for the salve that it produced for ears and for eyes. In the temple of Asklepios in Laodicea was a famous medical school. Barclay says that “the eye powder of Laodicea was world-famous. It was exported in tablet form; and the tablets were ground down and applied to the eye. This powder was held to be a sovereign remedy for weak and ailing eyes.”
Laodicea also had a busy trade in black woollen cloth.
Such was the financial self-sufficiency of Laodicea that when they suffered a severe earthquake in AD60 and the town declined aid from the Roman government.
The river Lycus that ran past the town was apparently dirty and undrinkable. They used an aqueduct to transport mineral rich water from hot springs 5 miles away for their drinking. After its 5 mile journey, the water arrived at the town lukewarm and not very pleasant to drink as is.
The town was also well known for the worship of the god Zeus, described as the "Father of Gods and men" (Πατὴρ Θεῶν τὲ καὶ Ἀνθρώπων) [4] who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He is the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. Perhaps this sense that their god was over all the other gods is in part what gave them this air of superiority and needing nothing.
REV 3:14 ff
“The Amen” = As a title of Christ it indicates His sovereignty and the certainty on the fulfilment of all His promises….When Christ speaks, it is the final word, and His will is always affected.” [Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ.]
“The faithful and true witness” – this was in contrast to the fact that the Laodiceans were not being a faithful and true witness to God and to Jesus Christ.
The Laodiceans would have had the letter to the Colossians for at least 30 years when they received this letter from John. They would have read many, many times:
Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
This is one of the three states that a person can be in towards God.
1. A person can be cold towards God. The gospel leaves them totally unmoved and arouses no interest or spiritual fervour.
2. A person can be hot towards God. We’ve all probably heard the expression, “They are really on fire for the Lord.” Paul describes it as, “11 Never lacking in zeal, but keeping your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.” [Romans 12:11 (NIV)]
3. A person can be lukewarm. “This state refers to those who have manifested some interest in the things of God. They may be professing Christians who attend church but have fallen far short of a true testimony for Christ and whose attitude and actions raise questions concerning the reality of their spiritual life. They have been touched by the gospel but it is not clear whether they really belong to Christ.” So says JOHN WALVOORD.
This 3rd state is utterly obnoxious to God. It’s offensive to Him.
WALVOORD again says, “In the history of the human race no one has been harder to reach for Christ than the religionist, the one who is quite satisfied with the measure of his devotion to God…”.
“I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing…”
“You are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind (opaque/smoky), and naked.” This is the very opposite of what they thought they were.
“I counsel you to buy from me..” (18) All the money in the world would not buy us what Jesus is offering here. It comes by grace alone, to a humble and repentant heart.
“Gold refined by fire so that you may be rich,”(18)
Maybe this has to do with our faith standing the test of various trials.
1 Peter 1:6-9 (ESV)
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,
7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Maybe it has to do with what Jesus considers to be true riches. He counsels us to not be controlled in this lifetime by Mammon, that spiritual power that material wealth and things have, to demand our allegiance to a consumer lifestyle, but rather to use our treasures on earth to store up treasures for ourselves in heaven. We cannot take anything with us when we die but we can send it ahead of us during this lifetime!
Matthew 6:19-24 (ESV)
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Perhaps it also has to do with what we do for the Lord in our lifetime.
1 Corinthians 3:11-13 (ESV)
11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—
13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
“White garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen..” (18) This represents us being clothed in Jesus’ righteousness. This righteousness is imparted to us but it also shapes us to conform with that righteousness.
“Salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” In this last week or so, four of us from Thameside Church, including me, have had to go to hospital for objects to be removed from our eyes - seems remarkable to me. Is God saying something to us about seeing clearly: seeing ourselves as He sees us, and about getting our vision clear?
“Those whom I love I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”
“Reprove” can be translated, “expose, convict or punish.”
“Behold I stand at the door and knock.” – We can think that the picture here is of poor old Jesus wandering around out there, going door to door like a toilet brush salesman, knocking, hoping that we will have the graciousness to buy what He’s selling, and maybe even let Him into our house for a cup of tea!
No, this is the knocking of the master of the house on the door of his own house. It would be a good thing if the servants have the wisdom to open up sharpish, let Him in and be ready to serve Him. In Song of Songs there is a passage where the king knocks at the door and His perfume makes the latch fragrant but the peasant princess is already in bed and too lazy and comfortable to get up and let Him in. So He leaves, to her utter desolation when she does get up. She then goes wandering the streets to try and find Him again.
In Luke 12:35-37 (ESV), Jesus says to His disciples,
35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning,
36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.
37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.”
Someone called this “blessed condescension”, that the Lord of all creation and glory should knock at the door of His church and wait for us, His creatures, to open the door of His own house to Him.
G. Campbell Morgan wrote, “There is no other cure for the lukewarmness of the church than the re-admitted Christ.”

[Remember our quadrant – Relationship/Covenant is the vertical axis; Challenge/Kingdom is the horizontal axis. PASSIONARIES WOULD BE IN THE TOP RIGHT QUADRANT, LUKEWARM CHURCH GOERS WOULD BE IN THE TOP LEFT QUADRANT]

What does a church of passionaries look like compared to a lukewarm Laodicean type church?
In a passionary church, people are very intentional in their relationship with God. Like Jesus said, they are zealous and they repent. They also listen for His voice through the Scriptures and through prayer and throughout the day.
In a passionary church, people expect hardships and trials in their Christianity and simply endure through strong faith.
People use their worldy wealth to store up treasures in heaven rather than consume it on themselves. (I heard on the radio on Friday morning that senior executives in London companies were receiving 46% pay increases this year on already large salaries while their employees have 2-3% increases or none at all!)
A passionary does stuff that serves the Kingdom. They don’t just talk about it, they do it.
Passionaries “buy” white garments from Jesus. They are pure. They don’t give themselves to obey the passions of their flesh. They give themselves to God.
Passionaries go to Jesus to “buy” salve for their eyes so that they can see their own lives like He sees them, and so that they can have His vision for the world.
In a passionary church, Sundays are a gathering of friends on mission together. Not a small group of service-providers desperately trying to put on a good show and provide a good service in the hope that they will convince more lukewarm churchgoers to come and park their bums on the chairs and give their money to keep the show going.
Sundays should be passionate, visionary, and excellent. Not because we are trying to impress and keep people. Excellent, because we want to do all things well as Jesus did; passionate and visionary because we are on a mission together that is worth our all and demands our all.
We are a band of brothers and sisters, not individual customers of a canteen with no concern for each other and only intent on consuming a service.
In a passionary church, the church prayer meeting is not just another meeting that we kinda feel, “Oh, I should go I suppose”, but it’s a time when passionaries come together to serve others in love by interceding for them, where passionaries come together to birth things, passionaries come together to be in agreement in prayer in order to change the world.
I have a dream of a church passionate about communion with God, community with each other and mission in their everyday going into their world, that they turn the world of their communities and towns upside down.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Presence Of God - Eric Rutgrink

When preparing this message I felt God say, 'speak stillness - preach My presence'. So that got me started in unpacking exactly what His presence is and how we can experience it. You can listen to this message via the Thameside Church website.

We understand God’s presence most vividly when we experience the place without it.

Gen 4:4-14 The story of Cain and Able
God looked at Cain (his heart) and his offering (his gift) and wasn't pleased. This led to Cain, through anger and envy, murdering his brother Able. The blood of his brother Able then cried out to God - this was an evil sacrifice in God's eyes and therefore Cain was cast out of His presence.
Gen. 4:14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

Hidden from His presence - characteristics
• Restlessness - Suspicious of other people's intentions
• Insecurity – Cain tried to redeem himself from his wondering state by the activities of his own hand - building cities etc. How much of what we make and do are built over insecurity?
• Vengence – bringing retribution with your own hands. Gen 4:23-24 Lamech continued to live under the curse of Cain and a heart attitude of revenge increased in him. Out of God's presence we live in unforgiveness – 'Seventy Seven times he will avenge!'

Ps 16 King David was an old Covenant figure that foreshadowed the state we can all have as Christians of being in God's presence.

Found in His Presence – characteristics
• Satisfied – He has assigned me my portion
• Sustained and protected – He is before me, and at my right hand!
• Joyful – I like joy, but I like fullness better!
• Eternity secure – not afraid of death
• Knowing the path of life – The path of life is a path where His presence is. What helps keep you on that path?

Old Covenant encounters with God’s presence always involved sacrifice
New Covenant encounters with God always involve Jesus as God's mercy for us

1. Surrender: the encounter of His presence
• Rom 12 our acceptable act of Worship is Surrender
• Surrender is not doing nothing. It’s doing everything for a different reason
• John 15:5 To be grafted into the vine, our original source for life must be left behind. Without surrendering our individualism we cannot be united with Christ.
• Apart from Him I can do nothing – because I am not functioning from my old source of life - insecurity outside God's presence.

2. Worship: the language in His presence
• Rom 12 New English Translation (NET Bible) Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters,1 by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God2–which is your reasonable service.
• By becoming more aware of God in our daily lives and making mention of Him in our hearts before and after all we do, loving worship will become a natural language for our soul – Brother Laurence - The Practice of the presence of God

3. Mission: the action in His presence
• Our mission is Jesus’ mission. What are the attributes of God’s presence we see in Jesus?
• John 5 Jesus lived in relation to the father always - so for us to be near the father, we must be on mission with Jesus.
• John 15:9-15 No longer servants but friends – Servants are task driven, Friends are heart driven. Friends function from ‘presence’, Servants function from ‘commands’.

1 John 3:11-20
• Don’t be like Cain but like Able.
• As Jesus laid down his life…

Jude’s Doxology v24,25
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


This is a day of celebration.
What are we celebrating?
We celebrate that we know God as our Father.
Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “…much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” (Rom 5:15)
We celebrate that the Holy Spirit has poured the love of God into our hearts, but much more than that, He empowers us to live godly lives, He is a down payment of the life that is to come when Jesus returns; and not only all that, but we also get to be used by the Holy Spirit as He works His gifts through us in words of knowledge, prophecy, faith, healings and so on in everyday life situations.
We celebrate that we have been called out of the world and called together to be a local church with a presence in many towns and villages that surround Reading, and with two Sunday meetings, one here and the other at the Burnham Resource Centre, near Slough.
Today I am going to tell you something at the outset of this talk that is NOT going to seem like it something to celebrate. But I believe that it is something to celebrate and that it is something visionary (which is an important part of these celebration meetings).
What I am going to tell you is that Andy and Debbie and Eric are going back into the market place to find jobs. They are no longer going to be on full-time paid staff at the church.
When we shared this on Wednesday night with the leaders, Remus said that we could look at this and think, “Everything is falling apart.” But he went on to say, “Yet I feel in my spirit that we are on the right track, that there is something wonderful happening, and that God is in this.”
I’d like to try and explain why Remus would say such a thing at the end of our leaders meeting.
There are three reasons why this is a good thing:
Here are some slides of our finances for the last 2 years and 8 months. This first slide is our income for this period, averaged every 3 months. The straight line in this graph is the trend line that the spreadsheet puts in.

Over the last nine months:
Our avg. monthly income has been: £15 710
Our avg. monthly expenditure has been: £16 932
Shortfall: £1 222

This slide is of our Bank Accounts. The straight blue line in the middle is our building fund which we don't touch as it is designated giving and can only be used for this purpose. The ski slopes are all the other accounts!

Our Alms account: £5; Apostolic: £5; Building: £5580; Savings: £192
Current Account as of Wednesday this week: £ 8 080
With all projected Income and Expenditures this month, we are, as of Wednesday, £ 4833 short, with three Sunday’s offerings to come.
We are praying and trusting God for this month. Andy and Debbie’s notice period is three months, Eric’s, two months, and so we will be trusting God to provide for that time.
The obvious truth is that we cannot and should not continue like this. The Charities Commission make the strong recommendation that a charity function with three months finances in reserve in case of emergencies. We haven’t had that for a little while now. Not good.
As I wrestled with this decision, I believe that the Lord led me to research the concept of “famine” in the Bible.
Please turn with me to:
Genesis 12:10 (ESV)
10 Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.
Genesis 13:1-2 (ESV)
1 So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb.
2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.
Genesis 26:1-6 (ESV)
1 Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines.
2 And the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you.
3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.
4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,
5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” 6 So Isaac settled in Gerar.
Genesis 26:12-14 (ESV)
12 And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him,
13 and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy.
14 He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him.
Genesis 45:9-11 (ESV)
9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry.
10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have.
11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’
Ruth 1:1 (ESV)
1 In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
We learn two things from these passages:
1. When there is a famine where we are, God expects us to just do whatever is necessary. To move. To make a change.
2. When we do take the necessary action, but continue to trust in God, God does two things:
i. He not only takes care of our needs but actually prospers us, and
ii. He also uses our circumstances to work something wonderful for the Kingdom of God.


Prophetic Word from Dave Stroud at Churches Together at the Hayes 27/10/2010

Sean, I can see the Spirit resting on you and I can see that there is…I can see vision for you (you and I talked briefly last night in terms of you being in Reading) there’s fresh vision for you. You came with some things in your heart which have got lost over the last 10 years. The Lord wants to bring those things back and he wants to broaden them.
And I can see this river that has been flowing steadily but quietly, and then I can see rapids and I can see the Lord wanting to speed the whole thing up. And I can hear Him calling you. He’s calling you. He’s saying “My Son, I’m calling you to seek me at this time.” I even wonder Sean whether it may involve some fasting. One of the words I can see are “prayer and fasting”.
That you would seek the Lord, that you are not content with the slow steady pace of the river that is flowing. That you’re longing is for an increase, those rapids.
I believe the Lord says, as you seek me I will increase the rapids in your life and that will then open the door for the rapids to flow in other places as a result. Do not, do not, Sean, preconceive how I am going to work and what I am going to do but you’re to seek me my son and I will answer your own personal prayers for your own personal life that you have been asking me about and then I will take things on corporately as well but at this minute in time, my son, I want to meet with you, and I want to answer the prayers that you have been praying.
This new season is about fostering a discipleship culture throughout Thameside church, and being more missional as a church.

Let me try and illustrate what we are aiming at with a diagram.
Explain pastoral church as opposed to missional church.

I believe that in this change, part of it is a change in our staffing.
When staffing for a purely “pastoral” church, one tends to staff a little “top-heavy” to care for people, provide services, and hopefully to stimulate growth in an attractional church way.
With the emphasis on a discipleship culture and on being a “missional” church comes the ability, if not the requisite, to be “top-light” in staffing.

I also believe that there is a theology for church leaders to reengage with the marketplace in order to lead from the front when it comes to being missional. E.g. the apostle Paul, John Wimber, Chuck Smith (Calvary Chapel founder) returned to the marketplace for God reasons.


I am convinced in my knower that this is God’s best for us, and that it will be the best for the Crebas and for the Rutgrinks.
Please pray for them to find work locally and ideally suited to them.
Please also pray for the process as Thameside slowly changes into becoming a missional church as opposed to a purely pastoral church.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Church Garden

I sat looking out from an ordinary concrete flat into the morning light. The spring birds are busy while a cool breeze stirs gently. There's an array of vegetation; trees of various kind, grass, creeping plants, shrubs with small flowers speckling the mass of green. In the middle ground a dying tree stands, next to it a flourishing birch; elegant and tall.

Church and Christian community should be like this. A garden of acts of faith. A garden of dreams and visions. Some flourish, others may die - only to be taken over by the stronger areas of growth - or simply decaying to become nutrients for the propagation of new life. All in all the scene is a delight. It is seen in it's entirety and appreciated for it's variation both in shape and in stage of life and vitality. Who makes them grow? Who allows them to die? And, what would you rather be part of - the concrete structure; uniform and enclosed, or the living creation; vibrant, unpredictable and teaming with life?

Don't be precious about 'your' dreams!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


Dear Church,

Many people have asked for a copy of these ten principles so we thought we would post them on the web site.

Remember, it's not about rules or laws but about listening to God and doing what you think He is leading you to do through each of life's decisions. It's sometimes easier for us as humans to follow a list of rules rather than having to try and listen to God and live in dependence on Him. The down side of living by rules is that we begin to stop listening to God, and we begin to get proud because we think we are pulling it off.

Nonetheless, these principles (Not rules!), are helpful for reflecting on where we are at with regard to money and "things".

Richard Foster’s suggestions for Simplicity. (From "Spiritual Disciplines".)
1. Buy things for their usefulness [+ value and looks – Sean], rather than their status.
2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
3. Develop a habit of giving things away. De-accumulate!
4. Refuse to be propagandised by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
5. Learn to enjoy things without having to own them.
6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation. Discover afresh that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” (Ps 24:1)
7. Look with a healthy scepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes.
8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain honest speech. Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. Avoid flattery and half-truths. Make honesty and integrity the hallmarks of your speech. [Reject jargon and the breathless extolling of the ‘latest thing’ – Sean].
9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of stuff manufactured by child labour etc.
10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.

Simples! Tch. (Like the meerkat Alexander Orlov)