Thursday, January 31, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 19 - Cultivating Community

Very challenging stuff today on the true cost of community. It's a price I often struggle to pay, but one that I long that we'd all be willing to pay, not only for our own benefit but for all the people 'out there' looking for a genuine, authentic, loving community they can be part of where they'll encounter a God who loves them. Even a brief look at some of the comments on the blog, the personal stories shared on Sunday night and stories I've heard this week convince me we're well on the way to being that sort of community - not a refuge from the world but a refuge for the world.

If you want to think about this in more depth can I recommend the book "No Perfect People Allowed" by John Burke which I recently gave to all our leaders and has changed my thinking on what genuine community looks like, and what it can achieve if we can really build it. The amazon.com review is here (no reviews on amazon.co.uk), although obviously you'll want to get it from The Kerith Centre bookshop on Sunday!

Have a great day, and keep those comments coming.

Simon.

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Community requires commitment!

“You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.” James 3:18 (Msg)

Cultivating community takes honesty. Real fellowship depends on frankness. In fact, the tunnel of conflict is the passageway to intimacy in any relationship. Until you care enough to confront and resolve the underlying barriers, you will never grow close to each other.

Cultivating community takes humility. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. Humility is thinking more of others. Humble people are so focused on serving others, they don’t think of themselves.

Cultivating community takes courtesy. The truth is, we all have quirks and annoying traits. But community has nothing to do with compatibility. The basis for our fellowship is our relationship to God: We’re family.

Cultivating community takes confidentiality. Only in the safe environment of warm acceptance and trusted confidentiality will people open up and share their deepest hurts, needs, and mistakes. Confidentiality does not mean keeping silent while your brother or sister sins. It means that what is shared in your group needs to stay in your group, and the group needs to deal with it, not gossip to others about it.

Cultivating community takes frequency. You must have frequent, regular contact with your group in order to build genuine fellowship. Relationships take time.


When you look at the list of characteristics, it is obvious why genuine fellowship is so rare. But the benefits of sharing life together far outweigh the costs, and it prepares us for heaven.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 18 - Experiencing Life Together

Some great comments on yesterday's blog on how people are being impacted by all that is going on in the life of the church. You can read the comments here - why not leave your own comment if you've got anything to add.

I wonder how you are stepping outside your comfort zone? Well yesterday Lisa Rutland was way outside hers as she went to court for the first time with a CAP client to try and stop them from being evicted - I'd have been scared witless! The bottom line was that the Judge ruled in the clients favour and they are no longer going to be evicted next Wednesday. The Judge said something along the lines that without the involvement of CAP the client would have been evicted. Isn't it great all that goes on under the banner of Kerith in the Community and that it's making a genuine difference in peoples lives. Take time to encourage Lisa next time you see her, and anyone else you know involved in our community outreach as sometimes it can be really hard work and they need all the encouragement they can get.

Hope you have a great time with today's chapter. I was looking at the message for Sunday morning today and reckon we're in for another great week next week with The Purpose Driven Life.

Simon.

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Life is meant to be shared!

“Each one of you is part of the body of Christ, and you were chosen to live together in peace.” Colossians 3:15 (CEV)

God intends for us to experience life together. The Bible calls this shared experience fellowship. “Fellowship” now usually refers to casual conversation, socializing, food, and fun. The question, “Where do you fellowship?” means “Where do you attend church?” “Stay after for fellowship” usually means “Wait for refreshments.”

Real fellowship is so much more than just showing up at services. It is experiencing life together. It includes unselfish loving, honest sharing, practical serving, sacrificial giving, sympathetic comforting, and all the other “one another” commands found in the New Testament.

The Body of Christ, like your own body, is really a collection of many small cells. The life of the Body of Christ, like your body, is contained in the cells. For this reason, every Christian needs to be involved in a small group within their church, whether is it a home fellowship group, a Sunday school class, or a Bible study.

The Bible says, “If we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other… If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves.” 1 John 1:7-8 (NCV)

The world thinks intimacy occurs in the dark, but God says it happens in the light. Darkness is used to hide our hurts, faults, fears, failures, and flaws. But in the light, we bring them all out into the open and admit who we really are. You were created for community.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 17 - A Place to Belong

For those of you who read the blog via the website rather than via email I hope you like the new layout - slightly more contemporary than the old one! I've also added a feed to our Kerith content section on You Tube. So far there's only the 'official' video of the Everything drama done by our youth (as opposed to the previous version recorded on a mobile phone from the balcony!) although I'm sure Jacqui Webber-Gant and the rest of the media team will be posting more of our videos up there as and when they get time.

Irene suggested I let people know how easy it is to leave a comment as she and Sandra are looking for more company on the comments section. Basically you just need to do the following:
1. Click on the 'comments' link at the bottom of the post you'd like to comment on.
2. Write your comment in the box that says "Leave your comment", including your name at the end as we'd all like to know who said what.
3. Under the "Choose an identity" section click on "Anonymous" and then click on "Publish Your Comment".
That's it!

Finally I wanted to mention the Hilltop Sparkly Party which I had the privilege of attending on Friday night before coming over to the prayer meeting. Hilltop is our wonderful ministry to adults with learning difficulties and the Sparkly Party is their slightly delayed Christmas party. There were 110 people sat down for the meal including Hilltop members, their helpers and church people hosting tables. Glynne Novelle and the team she leads did an amazing job organising the evening, along with a huge team of people behind the scenes cooking and serving the food. I'm so proud to be part of a church which is willing to put in such effort serving a group of people who so often are ignored and marginalised - fantastic. A great example of what the family of God can do when it is at its best. If anyone who was there has any photos which we'd be allowed to publish on the web let me know and I'll include them in a future blog.

Hope you have a great time with Rick Warren today learning more about this wonderful family. Don't forget to book your tickets and come and hear his wife Kay speak at the Positive HIV/AIDS Conference in March!

Have a great day,

Simon.

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You are called to belong, not just believe!

“You are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” Ephesians 2:19b (LB)

We are created for community, fashioned for fellowship, and formed for a family, and none of us can fulfill God’s purposes by ourselves. The Bible says we are put together, joined together, built together, members together; heirs together, fitted together, and held together and will be caught up together. You’re not on your own anymore.

While your relationship to Christ is personal, God never intends it to be private. In God’s family you are connected to every other believer, and we will belong to each other for eternity. The Bible says, “In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:5 (NIV)

The Christian life is more than just commitment to Christ; it includes a commitment to other Christians. The Christians in Macedonia understood this. Paul said, “First, they gave themselves to the Lord; and then, by God’s will, they gave themselves to us as well.” 2 Corinthians 8:5 (TEV)

You become a Christian by committing yourself to Christ, but you become a church member by committing yourself to a specific group of believers. The first decision brings salvation; the second brings fellowship.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 16 - What Matters Most

A great chapter for today (Tuesday) - the bottom line is love.

Why not try and think of one thing you can do today to practically express your love for someone in the church. A random act of kindness, done for no reason other than to express love to the person you do it for, perhaps even done in secret. Could be for someone in your LifeGroup, your partner or even someone chosen at random from the church directory! Doesn't have to be something huge - a bunch of flowers, a thoughtful note, a phone call to say hi, an offer of babysitting or an invitation to Starbucks. Decide what to do right now, who to do it for and then do it. If you are the recipient of one of these then why not add a comment to the blog to say what it was - a prize of a Purpose Driven Life keyring for the most creative one!

Finally please try and find a moment to pray for Kenya today. Just heard on the news about the increasing levels of violence and unrest there - I'm trying every time I hear a report on the TV or radio to use that as a reminder to pray for a restoration of peace and order. All part of our expression of love for our wider family in Kenya - particularly Edward Buria and the church in Meru and Michael Eaton in Nairobi.

Don't forget that random act of kindness now!

Simon.

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Life is all about love!

“Love means living the way God commanded us to live. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is this: Live a life of love.” 2 John 1:6 (NCV)

Because God is love, the most important lesson he wants you to learn on earth is how to love. It is in loving that we are most like him, so love is the foundation of every command he has given us. “The whole Law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love others as you love yourself.” Galatians 5:14 (LB)

Of course, God wants us to love everyone, but he is particularly concerned that we learn to love others in his family. Why does God insist that we give special love and attention to other believers? Here’s why - God wants his family to be known for its love more than anything else. Jesus said our love for each other—not our doctrinal belief—is our greatest witness to the world. He said, “Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35 (LB)

In heaven we will enjoy God’s family forever, but first we have some tough work to do here on earth to prepare ourselves for an eternity of loving. God trains us by giving us “family responsibilities,” and the foremost of these is to practice loving each other.

The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.

Purpose Driven Life - Day 15 - Formed for God's Family

It was great to be back at our Sunday's gatherings after being off ill for a couple of weeks. I particularly enjoyed Sunday evening where there was a chance for people to share what they got out of the week of prayer and are getting out of The Purpose Driven Life. Such a range of stuff that God has been saying and some incredible honesty about where people are at - very humbling.

Hope you're having a good day so far and you manage to make time today to look at day 15 as we spend a week looking at what it means to be in God's family.

Simon.

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You were formed for God’s family!

“His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.” Eph. 1:5 (NLT)

God wants a family, and he created you to be a part of it. The entire Bible is the story of God building a family who will love him, honor him, and reign with him forever. When we place our faith in Christ, God becomes our Father, we become his children, other believers become our brothers and sisters, and the church becomes our spiritual family. The family of God includes all believers in the past, the present, and the future.

Our families on earth are wonderful gifts from God, but they are temporary and fragile, often broken by divorce, distance, growing old, and inevitably, death. On the other hand, our spiritual family—our relationship to other believers—will continue throughout eternity.

The Bible says, “Jesus and the people he makes holy all belong to the same family. That is why he isn’t ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.” Hebrews 2:11 (CEV)

Let that amazing truth sink in - you are a part of God’s family, and because Jesus makes you holy, God is proud of you! Being included in God’s family is the highest honor and the greatest privilege you will ever receive. Nothing else comes close. Whenever you feel unimportant, unloved, or insecure, remember to whom you belong.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 14 - When God Seems Distant

Seeing as I sent out yesterday's entry late thought I'd send today's early to make sure I don't make the same mistake twice!

Today's message is so key, not allowing our feelings to define how we respond to God. It's been so exciting to hear from people this week this week how doing The Purpose Driven Life is impacting them - allow today's chapter to shape how you live the rest of your life.

Simon.

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God is real, no matter how you feel!

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” Job 19:25-27 NLT

It is easy to worship God when things are going great in your life—when he has provided food, friends, family, health, and happy situations. But circumstances are not always pleasant. How do you worship God then? What do you do when God seems a million miles away?

The deepest level of worship is praising God in spite of pain, thanking God during a trial, trusting him when tempted, surrendering while suffering, and loving him when he seems distant. How do you praise God when you don’t understand what’s happening in your life and God is silent? How do you stay connected in a crisis without communication? How do you keep your eyes on Jesus when they’re full of tears?

You do what Job did: “Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’” Job 1:20-21 (NIV)
And remember what God has already done for you. Jesus gave up everything so you could have everything. He died so you could live forever. That alone is worthy of your continual thanks and praise.

Purpose Driven Life - Day 13 - Worship that Pleases God

Sorry that today's entry is late but - well I forgot! Just to say that I was thrilled with the response to the week of prayer. Thank you so much to everyone who gave their time and energy to the evenings and the 24 hours - prayer is a huge part of us getting to where God wants us to be and I felt like we really broke through in a number of areas. Sunday night we're going to reflect a bit more on what God said to us over the week and pray some more.

Hope to see you tomorrow.

Simon.

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God wants all of you!

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” Mark 12:30 NIV

God doesn’t want a part of your life. God is not interested in halfhearted commitment, partial obedience, and the leftovers of your time and money. He desires your full devotion, not little bits of your life.

A Samaritan woman once tried to debate Jesus on the best time, place, and style for worship. Jesus replied that these external issues are irrelevant. Where you worship is not as important as why you worship and how much of yourself you offer to God when you worship.

The kind of worship that pleases God has four characteristics:
- God is pleased when our worship is accurate.
- God is pleased when our worship is authentic.
- God is pleased when our worship is thoughtful.
- And God is pleased when our worship is practical.

When Jesus said, “Love God with all your strength,” he was saying that worship takes effort and energy. It’s not always convenient or comfortable, and sometimes worship is a sheer act of the will—a willing sacrifice. When you praise God even when you don’t feel like it, when you get out of bed to worship when you’re tired, or when you help others when you are worn out, you’re offering a sacrifice of worship to God. And that pleases God.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 12 - Developing Your Friendship with God

Apologies to all I missed at the prayer meeting last night but I overdid it yesterday (solid meetings from 7am in the morning until late afternoon) which was very stupid and felt like if I went out in the evening I could be looking at another 2 weeks in bed :-( Anyway, sounds like another very good turn out and the two Ben's (Oliver and Davies) stepped in and lead it very well.

Feeling tons better this morning after a great nights sleep so really looking forward to today (and yes I will take it easier than yesterday!).

Hope to see you at some point over the 24 hours of prayer (off to lead the first slot in a minute).

Simon.

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You are as close to God as you choose to be!

“Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you.” James 4:8 (NLT)

Like any friendship, you must work at developing your friendship with God. It won’t happen by accident. It takes desire, time, and energy.

The first building block of a deeper friendship with God is complete honesty—about your faults and your feelings. God doesn’t expect you to be perfect, but he does insist on complete honesty. Every time you trust God’s wisdom and do whatever he says - even when you don’t understand it - you deepen your friendship with God.

We don’t normally think of obedience as a characteristic of friendship - that’s reserved for relationships with a parent or the boss or a superior officer - not a friend. However, Jesus made it clear that obedience is a condition of intimacy with God. He said, “… You are my friends, if you obey me.” John 15:14 (CEV)

There is nothing—absolutely nothing—more important than developing a friendship with God. Paul told Timothy, “Some of these people have missed the most important thing in life—they don't know God.” 1 Timothy 6:21a (LB)

Have you been missing out on the most important thing in life? You can do something about it starting now. Remember, it’s your choice. You are as close to God as you choose to be.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Slots for the 24 Hours of Prayer

As promised (although a little later than intended) here are the list of slots for the 24 hours of prayer starting this Friday at 8am. Please plan to be there for as many of the slots as you can, especially the less popular ones such as meal times! Sorry the formatting isn't any better but I haven't worked out how to do tables in the blog yet!

Hope to see you tonight or some time over the 24 hours.

Simon.

Time Theme Leader
8.00 am Open Prayer Simon Benham
9.00 am Life Groups/Freedom in Christ Ben Oliver
10.00 am Sparklers Dany Smith
11.00 am TMTL Bill Dick
12.00 am Open Prayer Hilary Hulme
1.00 pm KiCKonnections/Outreach Catriona Mitchell
2.00 pm Kids Work/K2 Rocks Karen Mehta
3.00 pm European Church Links Ken Bothamley
4.00 pm Open Prayer Ben Davies
5.00 pm South Africa/Kenya/Zambia Ben Davies
6.00 pm CAP Andy Jackson
7.00 pm KiC – Hilltop/Parenting/Deaf Catriona Mitchell
8.00 pm Open Prayer w/Communion Simon Benham
9.00 pm Youth Lee Layton-Matthews
10.00 pm Unique Catrina Benham
11.00 pm National Impact Jacqui Webber-Gant
12.00 pm Open Prayer Lincoln Osunkoya
1.00 am Men @ Kerith Mike Webber-Gant
2.00 am Revival Jon Hulme
3.00 am Alpha/Evangelism Pete Moon
4.00 am Open Prayer Ken Bothamley
5.00 am Money Ben Davies
6.00 am HIV/AIDS/Tearfund Alan Lander
7.00 am Wrap up and Communion Simon Benham

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 11 - Becoming Best Friends with God

Another great time at the prayer meeting tonight. We spent most of the night on surrendering to God as we worshipped and prayed around that whole subject. Great to hear prophetic words and readings of scripture coming in and affirming all that God is saying. We finished the evening looking at the parable of the sower from Mark 4 and in particular how the seed in the weeds was choked by a surrender to things other than God (the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things) whereas the life surrendered to God (those who hear the word and accept it) produce a crop of thirty, sixty or even one hundred times what was sown. Just thinking for a moment what even thirty times (which for Jesus is the lower limit on fruitfulness) would look like for us. We talk of being a church of 2,000 but that would look more like 18,000! Let's believe God that we might sow seed in good soil and produce the increase Jesus predicts.

I was at a lunch today encouraging other churches in Bracknell to get involved in Hope08 this Summer. If you haven't heard about it then have a look at the website. Catrina and I just booked our summer holidays to make sure we're back in time for the week of social action from the 25th - 29th August and the big event in South Hill Park on Saturday 30th. Please can I encourage you to do the same as I really believe this is going to be one of the most exciting things to happen in Bracknell church wise for years and I wouldn't want you to miss it.

Finally to say please plan to come to the prayer meeting on Thursday night and as much of the 24 hours from 8am Friday to 8am Saturday (finishing with bacon butties) as you can. I'll send out a list of the subject for each hour of the 24 hours tomorrow morning (I haven't got it here at home). On the Friday night there will be no parking in The Kerith Centre car park as Hilltop (our ministry to adults with learning difficulties) have their belated Christmas party but there will still be plenty of parking at K2 and in the surgery so don't use that as an excuse.

Have fun!

Simon.

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God wants to be your best friend!

“I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you … and here is how to measure it – the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends. You are my friends if you obey me.” John 15:12-14 NLT

Your relationship to God has many different aspects: God is your Creator and Maker, Lord and Master, Judge, Redeemer, Father, Savior, and much more. But the most shocking truth is this: Almighty God yearns to be your Friend!

Friendship with God is possible only because of the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus. The old hymn says, “What a friend we have in Jesus,” but actually, God invites us to enjoy friendship and fellowship with all three persons of the Trinity: our Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15 (NIV)

The word for friend in this verse does not mean a casual acquaintance but a close, trusted relationship. The same word is used to refer to the best man at a wedding and a king’s inner circle of intimate, trusted friends. In royal courts, servants must keep their distance from the king, but the inner circle of trusted friends enjoys close contact, direct access, and confidential information. Knowing and loving God is our greatest privilege, and being known and loved is God’s greatest pleasure.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 10 - The Heart of Worship

Just got back from the prayer meeting where we worshipped and then worked our way through 2 Chron 20. I felt particularly inspired by Jehoshaphat's honesty in verse 12 - "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you" - and then God's response in the prophetic word which comes through Jahaziel to be strong and courageous - echoes of Joshua 1 there. Thanks to everyone who was there and hope to see you on Wednesday.

I loved the message in day 9 of The Purpose Driven Life - I've been inspired all day to think what I can do to make God smile :-)

For those interested the four of us who went up to the national launch of CAP Money at HTB had a great time. There were lots of the christian and secular press there to report on it and about 80 church leaders from across London and the South of England - the CAP team seemed very pleased with the day. The guest speaker was Rob Parsons from Care For The Family. It's a long story but it was through Ben Davies that CAP and Rob Parsons got hooked up together - Ben's influence is everywhere! I also met up with the lady who oversees Alpha in the UK who had heard of our church via Willow Creek UK - I'm going to meet up with her some time in the near future. It always feels a bit scary being with the grown ups but I'm learning to bluff my way through it!

Hope you have a great day.

Simon.

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The heart of worship is surrender!

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?” Romans 12:1 (NLT)

In today’s competitive culture we are taught to never give up and never give in—so we don’t hear much about surrendering. If winning is everything, surrendering is unthinkable. We would rather talk about winning, succeeding, overcoming, and conquering than yielding, submitting, obeying, and surrendering. But surrendering to God is the heart of worship.

As Joshua approached the biggest battle of his life, he encountered God, fell in worship before him, and surrendered his plans. That surrender led to a stunning victory at Jericho. This is the paradox: Victory comes through surrender.

Nothing is more powerful than a surrendered life in the hands of God. “So give yourselves completely to God.”

Monday, January 21, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 9 - What Makes God Smile?

A great time at the prayer meeting tonight. Quite a few words about us being consumed by God and choosing to run the race, as well as reminders about exactly who we are in Christ and how much we matter to God - excellent stuff. It was great for me just to be out of doors, worshipping and seeing everyone.

Can I encourage you to come Tuesday night if you possibly can. We're going to pray our way through 2 Chron 20 so why not read it before you come if you get time.

I'm off to Holy Trinity Brompton (the home of Alpha) on Tuesday along with Andy Jackson, Lisa Rutland and Helen Dodwell for the National launch of the CAP Money course - I'm speaking briefly on how well the course works from a Pastors perspective - should be fun.

Another fantastic chapter in The Purpose Driven Life today. If we could truly get our heads round what it is saying our lives would be transformed. Do your best to make some time to study the chapter today.

Hope to see you at the prayer meeting tonight.

Simon.

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Day 9 - What Makes God Smile?

The smile of God is the goal of your life! “May the Lord smile on you …” Numbers 6:25 (NLT)

Since pleasing God is the first purpose of your life, your most important task is to discover how to do that. “Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.” Ephesians 5:10 (Msg) Five acts of worship that make God smile: - God smiles when we love him supremely. - God smiles when we trust him completely. - God smiles when we obey him wholeheartedly. - God smiles when we praise and thank him continually. - And God smiles when we use our abilities. You may feel that the only time God is pleased with you is when you’re doing “spiritual” activities—like reading the Bible, attending church, praying, or sharing your faith.

Actually, God enjoys watching every detail of your life, whether you are working, playing, resting, or eating. He doesn’t miss a single move you make. The Bible tells us, “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23 (NLT) Every human activity, except sin, can be done for God’s pleasure if you do it with the attitude of praise.

Will you make pleasing God the goal of your life? There is nothing that God won’t do for the person totally absorbed with this goal.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 8 - Planned for God's Pleasure

Well we now get to week 2 of The Purpose Driven Life and start looking at the first of the 5 purposes for our life - to worship God. As we go through the 5 purposes you'll realise they're the same ones we've been talking about over the last six months as being our purposes as a church - to reach up to God in worship, to reach out to others in evangelism and ministry and to reach in to one another in fellowship and discipleship. What a coincidence!

Monday night is the first night of the week of prayer and fasting. In keeping with this week's purpose we'll start the evening worshipping and then see where we go from there. Aim to be there ready to start at 8. I'm really hoping to be there which will be my first public outing for a couple of weeks - hope to see you there!

Simon.

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You were planned for God’s pleasure!

“You created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.” Revelation 4:11 (NLT)

The moment you were born into the world, God was there as an unseen witness, smiling at your birth. He wanted you alive, and your arrival gave him great pleasure. God did not need to create you, but he chose to create you for his own enjoyment. You exist for his benefit, his glory, his purpose, and his delight.

You are a child of God, and you bring pleasure to God like nothing else he has ever created. Bringing enjoyment to God - living for his pleasure - is the first purpose of your life. When you fully understand this truth, you will never again have a problem with feeling insignificant. It proves your worth.

Anything you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship. Like a diamond, worship is multifaceted. Worship is not a part of your life - it is your life. Praise should be the first activity when you open your eyes in the morning and the last activity when you close them at night. David said, “I will thank the Lord at all times. My mouth will always praise him.” Psalm 34:1 (GLT)

This is what real worship is all about – falling in love with Jesus.

Purpose Driven Life - Day 7 - The Reason for Everything

Well we're now at the end of week 1. I hope you've enjoyed it so far and are looking forward to the next 33 days, along with the week of prayer next week.

For those interested in my health I'm feeling lots better. It's been a really weird couple of weeks having this kidney infection and having no energy whatsoever. Just getting up and getting dressed left me exhausted. You do at points wonder whether you're ever going to feel 'normal' again or even whether it's all just in your mind and you ought to just get up and get on with it. I've so appreciated peoples concern, as well as wise words of advice from BenD and our resident GP John Stone. I am honestly feeling loads better but Ben advised me to rest this morning, miss church and get completely better. Feels very odd but I think he's probably right so I'm praying for you all this morning right now, that God will speak through Lee and that people will be saved and added. I'll hopefully see many of you at the first night of the week of prayer tomorrow night.

Simon.

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It is all for him!

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 NIV

The ultimate goal of the universe is to show the glory of God. It is the reason for everything that exists, including you. God made it all for his glory. Without God’s glory, there would be nothing.

The glory of God is who God is. It is the essence of his nature, the weight of his importance, the radiance of his splendor, the demonstration of his power, and the atmosphere of his presence. God’s glory is best seen in Jesus Christ. He, the Light of the world, illuminates God’s nature. Because of Jesus, we are no longer in the dark about what God is really like.

There are many ways to bring glory to God, but they can be summarized in God’s five purposes for your life. We bring God glory by worshiping him, loving other believers, becoming like Christ, serving others with our gifts, and by telling others about him.

It’s time to settle this issue. Who are you going to live for—yourself or God? Right now, God is inviting you to live for his glory by fulfilling the purposes he made you for. Real life begins by committing yourself completely to Jesus Christ.

If you are not sure you have done this, all you need to do is receive and believe. The Bible promises, “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12 (NIV)

Will you accept God’s offer?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 6 - Life is a Temporary Assignment

I love the eternal perspective that there's been in this first week of the 40 days of purpose. I also love the comments that are being posted on the blog - the challenge now is for a bloke to contribute. Go on men, get out of that cave!

I'm feeling quite a bit better today with the new antibiotics and all the prayer, although Lee is going to be stepping into the breach again and bringing week 2 of the message on Sunday morning - what a star he is! Please give him a huge round of applause as he gets up to preach.

Don't let the weekend derail your study routine if you've managed to get into one this week. If you haven't then it's not too late to catch up ready for next week.

Hope you have a great weekend,

Simon.

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Life on earth is a temporary assignment!

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away.” Psalm 39:4 (NLT)

To make the best use of your life, you must never forget two truths:
- First, compared with eternity, life is extremely brief.
- Second, earth is only a temporary residence. You won’t be here long, so don’t get too attached.

In order to keep us from becoming too attached to earth, God allows us to feel a significant amount of discontent and dissatisfaction in life—longings that will never be fulfilled on this side of eternity. We’re not completely happy here because we’re not supposed to be! Earth is not our final home; we were created for something much better.

In God’s eyes, the greatest heroes of faith are not those who achieve prosperity, success, and power in this life, but those who treat this life as a temporary assignment and serve faithfully, expecting their promised reward in eternity.

When life gets tough, when you’re overwhelmed with doubt, or when you wonder if living for Christ is worth the effort, remember that you are not home yet. At death you won’t leave home—you’ll go home.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 5 - Seeing Life From God's View

In today's reading (where today is Friday if you started on Monday) we read that life is to be viewed as both a test and a trust. I certainly feel like I'm being tested at the moment. I had to go back to the doctors today as I haven't been getting much better - I've got some different antibiotics now which hopefully alongside all the people praying for me will lead to a quick recovery. I find it so hard being ill! There are so many things I want to be getting on with and I so want to preach on Sunday morning. Trusting God can be easy until you find yourself in a storm, believing that God is in this and developing both me and us as a church through it. What are the areas where trusting God is an issue for you at the moment? Be honest!

It's encouraging to read the comments on the blog and hear from LifeGroups (housegroups as was) about how much people are already getting from The Purpose Driven Life. We're only at the beginning - can't wait for the next 35 days.

Rick's notes are below. Have fun!

Simon.

p.s. Slightly more sure about Kevin Keegan after Newcastle won 4-1 last night!

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The way you see your life shapes your life!

The way you view life is your life metaphor. It's your description of how life works and what you expect from it; it influences your life more than you realize and determines your expectations, values, relationships, goals, and priorities. To fulfill the purposes God has for you, you will have to base your view on the biblical metaphors of life. These are: Life is a test, and life is a trust.

Life is a test - God continually tests people’s character, faith, obedience, love, integrity, and loyalty. Character is both developed and revealed, and all of life is a test. When you understand that life is a test, you realize that every day is important. God wants you to pass the tests of life, so he never allows the tests to be greater than the grace he gives you to handle them.

Life is a trust - We are to be stewards of whatever God gives us. All we enjoy is to be treated as a trust that God has placed in our hands. If you treat everything as a trust, God promises three rewards in eternity: affirmation, promotion, and celebration.

“Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones.” Luke 16:10a (NLT)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 4 - Made to Last Forever

Reading through day 4 in the notes I had one of those "that's the opposite of what I've preached" moments of panic! You may have heard me refer to the line from a Red Hot Chilli Peppers song which says "This life is not a dress rehearsal" as I've encouraged us to make the most we can of the life God has given us as we don't get another go at it. Well Rick Warren starts today's chapter by saying "life on earth is just the dress rehearsal". Fortunately on closer reading I realised I'm not a heretic but Rick is saying that we are living a dress rehearsal for an eternity spent with God, and we must live our lives in the light of eternity.

Rick's outline for day 4 is below.

Please be thinking about the week of prayer and fasting next week and be planning which nights you can make and what slots you can do in the 24 hours of prayer.

Simon.

p.s. On a less eternal note I'm not sure about Kevin Keegan as Newcastle manager - seems a bit like a return to the past to me but time will tell. At least we might play some more exciting football.

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This life is not all there is!

“God has…planted eternity in the human heart.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

Life on earth is just the dress rehearsal before the real production. You will spend far more time on the other side of death—in eternity—than you will here. This life is preparation for the next.

You have an inborn instinct that longs for immortality. This is because God designed you, in his image, to live for eternity. Even though we know everyone eventually dies, death always seems unnatural and unfair. The reason we feel we should live forever is that God wired our brains with that desire!

Matthew Henry said, “It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our final day.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 3 - What Drives Your Life?

Hello and welcome to the notes for day 3 of our 40 Days of Purpose.

First up to say I've heard there's been some confusion over exactly what day people were supposed to start on the 40 days. Some started on Sunday, some on Monday and some have even managed to be on week 2 already! The original intention was for everyone to start on Monday but we obviously didn't communicate that very well - to be honest I'm not too worried as long as we're already vaguely in sync. However, I'll continue doing the notes assuming you started on Monday!

If you saw Tim's comment on yesterdays entry then you'll know that the first 7 days of The Purpose Driven Life are available online here, handy if you want to read them at work and you've forgotten the book. On the subject of comments it would be great if we could have some discussion on what people are getting out of the daily readings - just go to the end of the relevant blog entry on the website and click on the comments bit.

Today we're looking at "What Drives Your Life". This is such a key question for us as we have so many competing pressures on our lives and it's so important that that the primary driving force in our lives is the right one. Why not by the end of your 15 minutes today try and honestly identify what really drives your life.

Finally thank you to everyone who has been praying for me to get better - I'm feeling much better this evening so hopefully I'll be back to 100% soon.

Simon.

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Everyone’s life is driven by something!

“I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy.” Ecclesiastes 4:4 (LB)

What is the driving force in your life?

Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction, and events without reason. There are five great benefits of living a purpose-driven life:

- Knowing your purpose gives meaning to your life…
- Simplifies your life …
- Focuses your life …
- Motivates your life.
- And knowing your purpose prepares you for eternity.

Many people spend their lives trying to create a lasting legacy on earth. Yet, what ultimately matters most will not be what others say about your life but what God says. Living to create an earthly legacy is a shortsighted goal. A wiser use of time is to build an eternal legacy. You weren’t put on earth to be remembered. You were put here to prepare for eternity.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 2 - You are not an accident

Hope you had a good time looking at chapter 1 of The Purpose Driven Life yesterday. If you didn't manage it then don't go down the path of guilt and defeat and give up (as I've done so often before) but just recognise that you can't do anything about the past, repent and and read two chapters today!

It's so important we get our heads around today's message - that none of us are here because of some accident of biology, but because God wanted us here. For some of us if we could really get hold of that it would transform how we see ourselves and how we approach the rest of life. I've copied Rick's notes on this to the end of this blog.

Finally thanks to everyone who's asked about my health. I'm feeling quite a bit better today but must admit I hate being ill. I always want to look perfect and able to do everything so I find any sign of weakness like being ill very hard - especially when it's as public as someone else preaching in my place. Daft isn't it, but there it is! I suspect God is trying to teach me some things about both humility and admitting my weaknesses!

Have a great day.

Simon

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You are not an accident!

Your birth was no mistake or mishap, and your life is no fluke of nature. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He was not at all surprised by your birth. In fact, he expected it. God never does anything accidentally, and he never makes mistakes. He has a reason for everything he creates.

“Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love.” Ephesians 1:4a (Msg)

Why did God bother to go to all the trouble of creating a universe for us? Because he is a God of love. This kind of love is difficult to fathom, but it’s fundamentally reliable. You were created as a special object of God’s love! God made you so he could love you. This is a truth to build your life on!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 1 - It all starts with God

Well hello all. Those of you in church today will probably have heard that I've been ill for the best part of a week now with a kidney infection. Something I've had a couple of times before so I must have a weakness for it. Anyway, I'm on antibiotics now and feeling much better but was gutted to have missed this weekend with the "Whats' On" event and the start of the "Purpose Driven Life" which I was so looking forward. However, sounds like the "Whats On" event went really well, Lee did a fantastic job in stepping in for me on Sunday morning and the youth team did an incredible job with their drama at both events. There's a video of the drama posted by one of the youth on YouTube here and a podcast of the sermon and the sermon notes here.

So presuming you're reading this on Monday here is the first of the promised daily updates with thoughts on that days reading. Can I encourage you to prioritise finding 15 minutes today to read chapter 1 of Rick Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Life", if you've got children or youth talk through with them the workbooks we gave them on Sunday. Also to go to a Life Group (what was a housegroup) this week to discuss further the stuff we're studying.

So below are the thoughts on Day 1 - written by Rick Warren before anyone starts to give me any credit for them.

Hope you have a great week. Please pray for me to get some energy back as I still feel very drained but much better than I was :-)

Simon.

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It’s not about you!

“For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, …everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.” Colossians 1:16 (Msg)

“It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power.” Job 12:10 (TEV)

You were made for God, not vice versa, and life is about letting God use you for his purposes, not using him for your own purpose. Focusing on ourselves will never reveal our life’s purpose.

The easiest way to discover the purpose of an invention is to ask the creator of it. The same is true for discovering your life’s purpose: Ask God.

Andrei Bitov, a Russian novelist, grew up under an atheistic Communist regime. But God got his attention one dreary day. He recalls, “In my twenty-seventh year, while riding the metro in Leningrad I was overcome with a despair so great that life seemed to stop at once, preempting the future entirely, let alone any meaning. Suddenly, all by itself, a phrase appeared: ‘Without God life makes no sense.’ Repeating it in astonishment, I rode the phrase up like a moving staircase, got out of the metro and walked into God’s light.”

You may have felt in the dark about your purpose in life. Congratulations, you’re about to walk into the light.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

All Change in the New Year

Well a very good New Year to all of you. I hope you're looking forward to 2008 as much as I am. Just some of the proposed highlights of the year are the HIV/AIDS conference in March, hopefully lots of baptisms on Easter Sunday, Gordon MacDonald in May, Hope08 in August, the Willow Creek Leadership Summit in October and whatever we decide to do next Christmas.

I say proposed because you can never be quite sure what is going to happen, who will unexpectedly offer to come and speak or what will change last minute. You may know that we were hoping to have Andrew White with us this Sunday morning (see his excellent recent article in The Daily Mail here) but he's had to go to Iraq at very short notice - let's be praying for all he is involved in. We were also hoping to have Andrew White, J. John and Mahesh Chavda with us on their "Three Amigos" tour on Sunday 3rd February but Mahesh has had to drop out, although we still hope to have Andrew White with us on the evening of the 3rd February.

However, "in all things God works together for good of those who love him" and the upside of these changes is that we'll be able to do "40 Days of Purpose" on 7 consecutive Sundays starting on the 13th January, without having to have breaks for "The Three Amigos" and Mothers Day. I'll also be able to speak in more detail on our preparation for the 40 Days programme this Sunday which will be good.

A few people have asked what is involved in the 40 Days programme. There are three things we're asking people to commit to:
  1. Listen to all 7 of the Sunday talks, either live or via the podcast.
  2. Spend 15 minutes ever day studying the appropriate chapter of "The Purpose Driven Life"
  3. Commit to being part of a small group for the 7 weeks to discuss what you're learning.

I'll also do a blog post every day during the programme with some thoughts on what we're all reading together that day. If you haven't already done it why not sign up for the email updates so that you'll have them waiting in your inbox every morning.

Another exciting aspect is that all the children over 5 and all the youth will have their own age appropriate workbooks which match on a daily basis what the adults are reading, so hopefully whole families will be able to study the material together.

I'm hoping we'll have a real buzz as we all study the same stuff together and start to grasp in a fresh way God's purpose for our lives. Copies of "The Purpose Driven Life" are available from The Kerith Centre Bookshop at the reduced rate of £4.20 if you haven't already got one. We're also hoping to be selling keyrings with all the memory verses on if that would be a help to you.

Finally to let you we're going to be having communion together on Sunday evening. Hopefully that's a thing we'll be doing more regularly this year.

Hope to see you on Sunday,

Simon.