Friday, May 30, 2008

You ARE the Light of the World

Well God was with us again this Sunday. Inspiring times of worship both morning and evening, salvations in the children's work in the morning and amongst adults in the evening and an excellent response to the preach from Sola on Sunday evening.

My encouragement for you this week is from Sunday morning to realise that "You ARE the light of the world". It isn't something you need to try to be, or hope to be, but because of Christ being in you through being born again it is what you ARE. The question is not are you the light of the world but are you willing to take the bowl off that light and let people "see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven". What Sola preached Sunday night fitted in so well with that - catch it on the podcast as soon as it's uploaded.

I thought I'd highlight a couple of people in our community who are out there being salt and light.

First of all Ben Pocock. Ben has grown up in the church, and for years has had a passion to work in radio. For the past week he's been living out his dream doing Jewel FM every weekday morning from 7-10am. Apparently you can pick it up in Bracknell, on 87.9 FM although it's actually broadcasting from Maidenhead as part of the Maidenhead Carnival. Talking to Ben tonight he was saying that the feedback has been so positive that they are trying to get Jewel FM to continue after the 11th June. The next Chris Moyles is in our midst!

Secondly a newer member of our community, Aham Igobkwe. Aham has just been chosen to be a magistrate in the local area and is about to start three months of training before starting to serve - read all about it in this article in the Bracknell News.

I know that I could have highlighted many people involved in our wider community. School teachers, teaching assistants, doctors, nurses, school governors, people serving on boards of charities, carers, police officers, people working with the homeless, child minders, shop workers and people involved in a host of other ways. As well as all of out there as students, working in offices, meeting neighbours or seeing people at the school gate. Wherever you are take those opportunities to take the bowl off your light this week!
Hope you have a great week,
Simon.

Kerith Community Church Logo Competition

Those with good memories will remember that earlier this year we kicked off a competition to design a logo for Kerith Community Church. Well when we came to look at all the entries there were three we really liked, so we thought we'd ask all of you which one you like best. The official vote is taking place at church last Sunday and this coming Sunday so that people without internet access get a chance to vote too. However, I thought I'd post the winning designs here so that you can have a chance to look at them online. For each design we've shown it as a straight logo then as a vertical flag of the style which is very "in" at the moment.

We'll announce the winner at the Church Vision Night on the evening of the 8th June. Once we have a winner we'll do a bit more work on the winning design so it may change slightly from what you see here.
I might try and add some voting buttons to the site, although if I do the church based side will remain the official one. Feel free to leave comments on the designs here though.

Logo Design 1




















Logo Design 2




















Logo Design 3



Thursday, May 29, 2008

At the top of the World (or at least Wales!)

This Blog entry comes from me and Jacob at the top of Snowdon. One heck of a climb but the views are magnificent and the weather is great. For those interested we came up the Pyg path and are going back down the Miners path, having stayed in Pen-Y-Pass youth hostel last night. Its great spending time with Jacob - I love being a Dad - even though it does have its moments sometimes! On that subject be thinking who to invite to our Fathers Day morning guest meeting - Wii Love Dads - and whether you want to nominate anyone for funniest, most embarrasing or best Dad of the year.

Hope to catch you this weekend.

Simon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Well it was dry in the Peak District!

We had a great weekend camping in the Peak District with our friends Jason and Tina from Stockport. We obviously had the best of the weather as it seems to have chucked it down all weekend here. Whilst up there we caught up with Chas and Bindy Oakley and family (in the photo) who moved from us last year to join the church in Buxton. They're doing really well family, church and job wise which is great to hear.

We rang the bell in the office this morning as a girl made a first time commitment at the youth BBQ on Friday night and a number of children did the same in Kids2 on Sunday morning. I must go away more often! Let's pray for them all that they would know God with them powerfully this week.

We're on the way to my parents to bury Bowler, one of our rabbits, who sadly died at the weekend. I've then got a day away with the elders all day tomorrow, off to Wales tomorrow night to climb Snowdon with Jacob on Thursday then back for Russell and Kerry's wedding on Saturday and church on Sunday. Life in all its abundance!

Hope you have a great week.

Simon.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Thoughts on the Lakeland Outpouring

Before Pete Moon spoke on Sunday night I made some comments on what is being called the Lakeland Revival (or elsewhere on the internet seems to be called the Lakewood or Florida Revival). I thought I'd repeat them here for the benefit of those who weren't there on Sunday night and make some additional comments.

I want to be clear that I haven't actually been to Florida to experience what is going on first hand. My comments are based on having seen coverage of what is happening on God TV and YouTube, hearing from people who have been there and some very helpful comments made by Terry Virgo at the last Newfrontiers prayer and fasting.

Firstly I want to question the use of the term revival which is being used to describe what is happening. We need to be clear that revival isn't a term used in the Bible so we can't be pedantic, but revival in the historical sense (as Ben has been preaching over the last few weeks) is a move of God which changes culture. That would be true of the 1904 Welsh Revival, what God did through Wesley and Whitefield in the 18th Century or William Booth and the Salvation Army in Victorian times. What is happening in Lakeland seems to me much more similar to what happened in Toronto and Pensacola, where God poured out his Spirit in a fresh way, but has yet to develop into what we would all long for, a genuine transformation of first us as the church and then society as a whole.

Secondly I'd encourage us never to accept anything simply based on how it makes us feel or whether miracles seem to be taking place without measuring it against what the Bible teaches. One of the phrase that seems to be have been used in Lakeland is "let your brain get blown away" which simply isn't a mature or Biblical outlook. One of the key passages for me would be in Acts where we read "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true". This was people examining what Paul who wrote much of the New Testament had to say, so how much more must we be measuring what gets taught by people who don't have that pedigree - I want us to be a noble people too. Another key passage would be in Matthew where Jesus taught "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'. I believe with a passion that God still heals today, the gifts of the Spirit are for today and that miracles still happen today, but we don't go after those things at the expense of being people of the word as well as the Spirit.

Thirdly speaking to people who have been to Florida they said there were things going on there which they struggled with. Particularly a large emphasis being put on angelic visitations and not a huge amount of talking about Jesus. I think Todd Bentley, who is the main leader at the centre of all that is taking place, has a style we would struggle with if he came to The Kerith Centre! However, that has often been true of people God has used powerfully in the past. To take one example Smith Wigglesworth on occasions punched people to get cancers out of them, so let's not let the fact that someone is different and at times controversial get in the way of us hearing what God has to say through them.

But having said all that those I have spoken to who have been there have said there was an undeniable sense of the presence of God, and genuine healings on a scale they'd never seen before. They also felt they'd very much brought back with them some of what God had been doing there.

So for me my longing would be that we remain very much open to God breaking in amongst us in a fresh way. I've got a growing expectation that we're going to see an increase in God healing people, and I've got a renewed desire to pray for the sick whenever I get the opportunity. I believe that breakthrough is coming, although we must be prepared that when it comes it might not look how we expected it to look. I do long for something which is more than just an outpouring where we all get filled with the Holy Spirit and fall over, to something where we start to see people being saved and added in huge numbers and society being changed. Let our prayer be "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" - more heaven on earth is what we need.

Finally to say that all of this is my opinion and may not represent the views of all our other elders. We will be talking about this more as an eldership team as one of the responsibilities of the elders is to be the gate keepers of the church and decide what comes in and what gets left outside!

I hope that's been helpful - it's taken me a complete Champions League final including extra time and penalties to write so I hope it was worth it! Comments as always are very welcome.

Simon.

Canon Andrew White on ITV

Our good friend Andrew White is being featured on an ITV programme on Sunday night at 11.05, presented by Rageh Omar, called "The Vicar of Baghdad". The blurb on the ITV website says the following:

Rageh Omaar presents a portrait of Canon Andrew White, minister at St George's Church which stands a mile outside Baghdad's highly protected Green Zone and is the only Anglican church in Iraq. Rageh joins White, who is also the president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, as he meets security adviser Mowaffak Al Rubaie and delivers a sermon to senior US officers at the American Embassy.

We're going camping in Buxton this weekend, meeting up with our friends Jason and Tina Kapp who used to be in Bracknell but now lead the Newfrontiers church in Stockport, so will hopefully find time to watch it some time next week.

Several people have also commented to me on the Channel 4 Dispatches programme "In God's Name" which was on this week and 'featured' various UK based so called Christian Fundamentalists. I didn't see it but from what people have said it was all very negative, presenting Christians as people who are just against lots of things. I'd make three appeals in all this.

First of all that we don't get blown about by all that we see on TV, either getting up when something positive, which I'm sure the Andrew White programme is going to be, is on, or getting down when something negative like the Dispatches programme comes along. Our confidence for the future is in God and his power, not in how the media choose to portray Christianity.

Secondly let's remember Jesus words, that "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" and seek to build a community known for what it is for rather than what it is against.

Thirdly when negative stuff comes along you don't have to watch it, read it or listen to it. As Paul says - "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.". Let's fill our minds and meditate on good stuff - as Pete Moon so powerfully reminded us on Sunday night.

Sorry, that's been a bit longer than I intended so hope you made it to the end. If you have any comments on this then add them to the blog for others to see.

Simon.

ps I am still going to write something on the Lakeland Revival - hopefully later this week.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Prayer and Fasting

BenD and I had a great time together at Newfrontiers Prayer and Fasting. After a week of Gordon and Gail MacDonald being with us, which was fantastic but very tiring, it was a real privilege to have time away to pray, enjoy the presence of God, reflect on what God has been doing with us and hear about some of what God is doing outside of Bracknell. I'm also developing a growing network of friends within Newfrontiers which I'm finding really helpful and encouraging.

Terry Virgo very helpfully commented on what is being called the Lakewood Revival which has recently been heavily featured on God TV. Not having God TV (we're a freeview only household - much to our children's disappointment!) I hadn't seen any of it, although a number of people had mentioned it to me. Some of the guys at Prayer and Fasting had actually been to Florida so hearing their experience combined with Terry's wisdom was very helpful in terms of putting the whole thing in context. I don't really want to comment on it on the blog before I've had a chance to talk about it on a Sunday, but I'll write some thoughts here after Sunday evening when I'll say some stuff after Pete Moon has preached.

Sunday morning we're going to finish the "All You Need is Love - Love in a Broken World" series with Catrina and I answering peoples questions. We've got some really good ones so it should be a good morning - it's not too late to send in any extra questions you may have though.

Hope you're having a great week whatever you've been up to.

Simon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Goodbye to Gordon and Gail

Catrina and I said goodbye to Gordon and Gail MacDonald this afternoon. They're catching a train tomorrow morning to go up to London where they'll be met by Graeme Paris, who heads up Willow Creek UK, ready to go off to do a seminar for Willow Creek in Norwich. I won't be there to wave them off at the station as BenD is picking me up at 7am in the morning to go off to Newfrontiers Prayer and Fasting in Peterborough - those of you who know that I'm not a morning person will know what a sacrifice that is going to be for me :-)

It's been such a privilege to have Gordon and Gail with us over the weekend. I thought Gordon was magnificent at the Men's Day on Saturday - so much insight and wisdom on what it means to be men in the 21st Century. For us to look to build genuine relationships within the men in the church, to be willing to share our lives with one another and for us to seek to do well in every area of life.

Then on Sunday they took the whole conversation Catrina and I have been having over the last two Sunday mornings to another level in terms of their honesty and insight. Their Sunday talks should be up on the website very soon so try and take time to listen to them if you can.

As we spent a final bit of time with them today they were so complimentary and affirming of our church and our people. They commented on many things including the warmth of the welcome, the freedom and joy in the worship, people's honesty and openness, the way Ben and I are modelling succession, the quality of our leadership team and many other aspects of what we are doing as a community. It's always encouraging to spend time with leaders of the stature of Gordon and Gail who despite all the amazing things they have seen and experienced are still so excited by what God is doing in and through us.

Finally we still need more questions for Sunday morning. They can be on any aspect of relationships so if you have a question please either leave a comment here on the blog or email it into the office.

Have a great week,

Simon.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hot off the Press

Two pieces of news which have just come into my inbox.

First of all we've now completed the registration of Kerith Community Church with Companies House. That means we can now proceed with the application for charity registration. That may not sound much but behind the scenes a huge amount of work has gone on to get us to this point. Clive Challis is the primary unsung hero who has been putting in hours and hours of work to keep the process of the church name change on track - I'm so grateful for all that he's done and is doing.

Secondly the premises licence application to allow us to use the land in front of South Hill Park for Hope in the Park which is part of our Hope08 events has now been submitted. This time it's Ruth Buxton who has put in hours of work both filling in forms and talking to council and other representatives to make sure as many issues as possible have been dealt with prior to the application going in - well done Ruth.

So much of church life does go on behind the scenes - let's always be very thankful for people with gifts of administration and wisdom who are able to make all of these essential but unseen things happen which allow the rest of us to do what we do.

Simon.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

More Photo's From Ken and Ann

Ken and Ann have posted some more photos on their online album - I particularly like the one of Ken as a clown!

Gordon and Gail MacDonald were successfully met at the airport on Tuesday night - Jonathan Davies came to keep me company on the journey which was very much appreciated. We had a fantastic day today with Gordon and Gail with the staff - I'm really looking forward to the Men's Day tomorrow and then Gordon and Gail speaking morning and evening at our Sunday gatherings. Don't miss it.

Some of you will know that last Summer I walked Hadrian's Wall with my son Zak, which was fantastic on so many different levels. Well I've got two more walks coming up. First of all I'm taking my other son Jacob to climb Snowdon in the next half term. It seems wrong somehow to climb a mountain with a restaurant on the top but there you go! Then on the 21st June Zak and I are going to do the Yorkshire 3 Peaks walks to raise money for Christians Against Poverty. It takes in the three highest hills in Yorkshire and involves walking 26 miles in under 12 hours . I think a number of other people from our community are going to do it as well so why not take a look and see if it might be for you.

I mentioned in my last blog that this was going to be a really busy few days for me - well I'm doing well so far at taking breaks and have felt really energised by the week so far rather than getting tired which is great - thanks to everyone who has been praying for me.

I'm loving this weather - long may it continue! Hope to catch you over the weekend.

Simon.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Too Nice to be Indoors

Well it's Bank Holiday Monday and we're at Kew Gardens for the day with assorted members of mine and Catrina's families. Everyone else has gone off to watch Morris Dancing (not really my scene!) so I thought I'd post a couple of photos. The first is of some Bluebells - Catrina thought people would like that. The second is all the children on top of a very insecure log pile - great fun!
It's great to have a day to relax and reflect on Sunday - I'm so excited by what God is doing in our Sunday gatherings. For those of you there in the morning don't forget to be using the 5 love languages to express your love for someone else.

After the relaxation of today I've got a really busy week, picking up Gordon and Gail Macdonald from Heathrow late Tuesday night after a Reading Family Church trustees meeting and hosting them for a day with the staff on Friday, the Men's day on Saturday, church on Sunday and a day for selected leaders and their partners on Monday. Then on Tuesday and Wednesday Ben and I are off to the Newfrontiers prayer and fasting at Peterborough. Please pray for me that I'll find time to rest properly in the middle of it all.

For me I always find it quite scary hosting the leaders who come to us, whether it's Erwin or Kim McManus, J. John, Kay Warren, Rachel Hickson or any of the other leaders we've had in the last couple of years. My introverted side takes over and I'm terrified that I'll say or do the wrong thing! Yet at the end of the day they always turn out to be such nice and 'normal' people. I've met Gordon before so I know in advance how easy he is to be around so I'm not too scared this time!

Hope you had a great bank holiday too and men, hope to see you on Saturday!

Simon

Friday, May 2, 2008

Our East European Takeover

Well not one but two Kerith related activities going on in Eastern Europe to report.

First of all Ben Davies, Colin Boyle and Krystyna Lysakowska are in Poland this weekend doing a leadership training weekend for the church in Swidnica we partner with there. Ben is a seasoned professional at doing this sort of thing, but it's a bit of a new departure for Colin who is going to be speaking at one of the sessions. However, anyone who heard Colin speak on Sunday evening a couple of weeks ago will know he will be great. Let's be praying for them all.

Secondly Ken and Ann Bothamley are still out in Albania. Part two of their guest blog entry is included below. I heard separately that Ann hasn't been too well for the last couple of days so please be praying for them too. They come home in a weeks time - it will be great to see them both again.

Men, can I be encouraging you if you haven't already to get your tickets for Gordon MacDonald next Saturday - it's going to be a great day so don't miss out. Also Gordon and his wife Gail will be preaching with us the following Sunday morning and evening - we are so privileged with the different people we have coming to speak to us - let's never take it for granted but always be grateful for the people God sends to us.

Hope to catch you over the weekend,

Simon.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hi All!

We get to read Simon's blog at a local internet cafe and it is very encouraging to see peoples comments and know that people are praying for us. We have now been here two and a half weeks and life is getting busier. We have just celebrated our second Easter this year as last weekend was the Orthodox Easter. You wouldn't really know it as it seems low key affair other than the minibus driver gave Ann and me red coloured hard boiled eggs when we got on the bus. We had to ask as to why we had been given them?

Coming to the Internet cafe we see again buses with Dutch destination names like Rubenslaan or Utrecht. You think "No it can't be! Then it dawns on one that all the local buses have been bought (given?) secondhand from a Dutch bus company, but they still keep the original destination names. It has been odd not to have your own dustbin. No green wheelie bins here. There is one very battered metal bin in the street that several apartment blocks use, and gypsies and dogs pick over it. Recycling has not come to Albania yet so everything goes in.

Now here is a good one! Streets have no name plates and there are no numbers or names on houses or properties. So I asked the leaders at church How do you know your address? This brought a general round of laughter. It was explained to me that when you moved house you asked your neighbour what your address was and hoped they knew and you keep on asking neighbours until you find out. They also explained that whilst every house has an official address the reality is your house is known by a descriptive address. So, you live on the fourth floor of the apartment block round the corner from the Kastrati garage. Or you live down the road next to the Alpha Bank, two doors down from the hairdressers!. Good eh!? We have not seen a post man or postbox. Then it dawned on us no house has a letter box!! No wonder we don't see a postman. So how do you get mail we asked. This brought another round of laughter. The postman knocks on your door in the hope you are in. If not he delivers it to a neighbour. If all else fails they phone you up from the post office and tell you to collect your mail. It was not explained how the Post Office, (yes there is one, one for the city of 120,000) knows your mobile phone number! So when we go to the newfrontiers conference in Durres next week we do not know really where we are going!! The hotel apparently has no name and no formal address. We will call someone on our mobile when we are a mile away and they will give us directions over the phone. This is all quite normal for Albania. How the electricity company, water and income tax people deal with a hotel with no name and address I don't know but I am sure it will become clear.


People are recognizing us as we go to the bazaar to buy our fruit and veg and get bread from the local bakers. We have started entertaining people, firstly our landlord and his wife and two daughters, who have been very welcoming to us,and then also people from church. Ann has been putting her wonderful culinary skills to work, usually some version of mish pule=chicken, or mish vice=veal with potatoes,onions and peppers cooked in olive oil. The main meal time is 3 to 4 pm for a lot of people and that is taking a bit of getting used to.

I continue to meet with Festim the church leader each morning for a couple of hours when we talk about Elders meetings, planning Sunday meetings, church finances, handling new people to the church etc. Last Saturday they ran a Kids Club and had 150 children come and several of them came on the Sunday morning. It is exciting to see but also very challenging as the church lacks space and facilities. I spoke on Sunday morning and just so that people could take notes if they wanted I bought them all Biros. You cannot take it for granted that they all have pens and paper let alone a Bible. The Bible they use is the Good News version translated from Italian.

On Sunday our landlord and his family took Ann and me out into the countryside where his brother in law runs a farm and restaurant. It was wonderful to sit outside, see them catch small carp that we would eat and smell the lamb chops, that we would also eat, cooking on the BBQ. The setting was wonderful,wild flowers growing all round, no weedkillers here, and surrounded by mountains with some still snow covered at 2500 meters. Their hospitality is profuse and after a big meal we are then taken to yet another friend who is a baker and confectioner and I succumb to zupe, a dessert much like a trifle only it was e mathe= a big one! Then yesterday as it was a national holiday we had a trip into the mountains with friends from the church, along a very bumpy road for an hour and a half. I won't say what it felt like! Another big meal in a local restaurant this time followed by dancing, which is like Greek dancing all in a line.

Thursday and Friday will see us go to Korce, where we will meet with Edi and Artina, who lead a church there. I prophesied bigness over him last time I met him so I look forward to seeing what God is doing with him.

This Sunday I will speak to the church here in Elbasan on money and giving. Do keep praying for Ann and me as we endeavour very much with God's help to build up a church in a land in the midst of great change and challenge.

Thank you again for your love and prayers,

Ken and Ann