Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Best Manning for the Brand's

Last Saturday marked the wedding day of my good friends Tom and Natalie. I was privileged enough to be the best man!
Below is the speech I gave...

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I hope you are all well and enjoying this very special day. My name is Simon and I am the very honoured best man to Mr and Mrs Thomas Brand.

Until early 2008 Tom had described himself as a ‘bachelor to the rapture’. He was adamant that female companionship wasn’t for him…

And then there was Natalie. He came back from Bryntyrian, Wales to Brighton for the weekend in January 2008 with a glazed look on his face. Almost like someone had shot him with a tranquilliser dart. That dart was love. The shooter very skillful and still is as Tom describes her as the perfect woman (reminding me on several occasions not to read too theologically into that statement).

So I feel privileged to first be here with you as we celebrate the fruit of your love and doubly privileged as I get to shame you, Tom for a few minutes in front of 150 people.

I first met Tom at our church- Montpelier Place four years ago. I had heard about him previous to our meeting. He had caused quite a stir amongst the more mature members of the congregation with his ripped jeans and long hair. To quote one lady reflecting on seeing Tom from behind:‘I didn’t know if he was a boy or a girl’. And another commenting on his ripped jeans: ‘we must be in the end times’. In case you’re not familiar with the phrase, ‘end times’ refers to serious moral and spiritual decay.

Tom did change his look. He cut his hair (it looks very nice…) and decided to go to the other extreme with the jeans. Instead of them being baggy one pair imparticular looks very very tight… painfully tight… anyway let’s move on from Tom’s appearance to his brain…

Is Tom an intellectual? I can honestly say that in the years I've known him, no one has ever questioned Tom's intelligence. In fact, I've never heard anyone even mention it. Obviously that’s a joke. Tom studied theology at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST) achieving a 2:1 degree and he has definitely used his knowledge during his time working for the church this year. In a sermon on John 14:1 where Jesus says: ‘Let not your hearts, be troubled; you believe in God believe also in me’ two out of Tom’s four points in his sermon were ….bearing in mind that Baptist churches like three points, three simple statements or words starting with the same letter… perichoresis and consubstantiality. The note takers in the church weren’t looking too pleased with the choice of words…

Tom’s articulation and vocabulary are also impressive. Previous to meeting Tom I spoke not many words and bad pro-non-see-ation also it was that my grammar was like very…. like bad. Tom helped- and told wot I had to do to be a person who uses their mouth …like better. After gaining audible help from Tom my own spoken English has improved incredibly.

Natalie, firstly you look wonderful, and secondly I have for you five pieces of advice concerning Tom that I think you’ll find helpful for married life:

1) Expect unexpected requests
Tom once asked his mother if he could have a toilet placed in the middle of the garden so that he could watch the planes going past whilst doing his business…

2) Keep your jewellery secure
From the age of about seven Tom developed a habit for collecting women’s jewellery, nice stones and chains. He even had his own special little box to keep his collection safe. I haven’t seen the box but I have been told that it is very fetching.

3) By deceiving Tom you can gain a large Star Wars figure collection
Natalie, here is a tried and tested formula (tried and tested by his brothers) that should work in giving you a large Star Wars collection.

a) Get Tom focused on a single figure
b) Talk to Tom about the good points of that figure
c) Watch as Tom offers practically every figure in his collection to gain new figure

4) Encourage Tom to use conventional ways of opening doors
In the past Tom has been known to try and open his brothers door using a canon. As a seven year old he would batter Robert’s door down with his wooden model.

5) Avoid telling Tom off near waist-high walls
When on a family holiday one year in Sardinia; Tom exposed a bit too much of himself. Standing near a waist-high wall next to his brother and sister Robert and Sarah, whilst being told off by his parents; Tom decided to pull a moony at his siblings. They tried desperately hard to keep a straight face in front of David and Angela with Tom’s rear in view!

On a more serious note Tom, here is some advice from Matthew Henry on why marriage is not misogynism or feminism but equality:

‘Eve was not taken out of Adam's head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.’

Being a friend of both Tom and Natalie has enabled me to see how much Christ means to them as a couple. They are Christians. And they do not use this phrase lightly. I see in both Tom and Natalie’s life remarkable evidence that God is with them. They live in light of God’s love. They’ve realised the depth and the ugliness of their own and each other’s sin. But they don’t live in guilt or shame. Why? Because they know that there is a God who loves with such intensity it produces his own pain.
In that Jesus died for them. He was crucified. He took their punishment- He stood in their place. And God offers forgiveness through what Jesus did and hope to everyone in this room if you haven’t yet experienced it. He offers freedom from sin and life in Himself- real life.

This wedding has been and will continue to be a happy time. But it’s not the ultimate wedding. This wedding has been a day to celebrate the beautiful love that Tom and Natalie have for one another. The ultimate wedding will be bigger and better. It will be when Jesus marries His people to reflect His awesome love for them. Jesus invites you not just to attend this ultimate wedding, but to be the bride. Jesus welcomes us into perfect love and relationship with Him. I’m praying that we all would know and live in that love as Tom and Natalie clearly do.

I’d like to propose a toast ‘to the joy of love reflected in marriage’

Thank you

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Ways to stir each other up to love and good works

Hebrews 10:24 says 'let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.' When preaching on this verse the other Sunday I gave ten practical ways to obey this command. Here are the first five...

1) Get a prayer/accountability partner

Find someone who you have a good relationship with and arrange to meet with them every week to talk about your personal struggles and difficulties. James says that we should confess our sins to each other and pray for each other (5:16). Use this time to humbly acknowledge to the other person that you're a sinner in need of practical and godly counsel. Every member of the church has something to teach another member. Encourage each other and bear each others burdens (Gal 6:2).

2) Be an example for everyone
Paul tells Timothy to be an example for everyone despite age: ‘Let no one despise your youth but be an example to the believers in word in conduct, in love, in Spirit, in faith, in purity' (1 Tim 4:12). Live your life in a godly way to show other Christians that godliness is real gain (1 Tim 6:6). Christians are encouraged to live godly lifes when they their brothers and sisters displaying the happiness that comes from living in God's presence.

3) Acknowledge evidences of grace
Here's one I got from C J Mahaney. Go up to Christians you know and tell them about the grace you see God pouring out in their lives. If you see humility, acknowledge it to the glory of God. If you see patience in a friend, tell him or her. Change in a person is easier seen by others than by yourself. Encourage others by explaining how you see God changing them.

4) Acknowledge gifts
When Jesus ascended He gave gifts to all men (Eph 4). Everyone in the church has a gift essential for the proper functioning and life of the church. Tell people about how you see God using them. Explain to people what gifts their skills might dictate that they have. Stir up each others gifts and don't neglect the gift that is in you (2 Tim 1).

5) Suggest books for people to read
There are loads of great books to read that have had a massive impact on Christians of the past and present. Suggest books for your friends to read that have changed and challenged you. Encourage each other to read books that are full of deep doctrine and at the same time are written in a heart-felt way.

To be continued...

Friday, 17 April 2009

Gospel Community

Here's the structure of the sermon I'm preaching this sunday evening (God willing) at MPBC titled 'The Gospel Community'...

Hebrews 10:24-25:
'And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.’

-The gospel empowers loving consideration not neglect: ‘let us consider one another’

-The gospel empowers personal spiritual nurturing: ‘let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works’

-The gospel empowers commitment to people and a community: ‘let us consider one another… not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some’

-The gospel empowers Christians to lovingly challenge each other: ‘let us consider one another… exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the day approaching’

*Update: Direct link to the mp3 sermon here*

Thursday, 9 April 2009