Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tim Keller

BenD and I have been to Westminster Chapel in London for the day to hear a guy called Tim Keller speak. He leads a big church in New York and wrote a book I recommended recently called The Reason For God.
The day was him pouring out his accumulated wisdom on preaching and on the church genuinely making an impact on society. Ben and I have both come away with pages of notes to look at, digest and act upon. Much of what we heard helped confirm what we're already doing, although there were some fresh things in there to think about too.
As always it was also great to spend time with Ben, and hear him tell the stories of when he used to travel up to Westminster Chapel once a month to hear Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones preach.

Simon.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday Night Footie

Rather than join in with the regular church footie at Bracknell Sports Centre tonight I've come with a friend to watch Wycombe take on the mighty Rotherham. It's 0-0 at half time so hoping for some goals in the second half!

Simon.
--------------------------
Simon's BlackBerry, BlueArc Engineering

Sunday Night Q&A

If you were at church on Sunday night you'll have realised I caused a bit of controversy in response to one of the questions asked during the Q&A, which was "is there ever a circumstance where an abortion wouldn't be wrong". I responded that I thought there may be exceptional circumstances where this is the case, in particular where having an abortion could save the life of the mother, but that these represented a tiny proportion of all the abortions which take place.

Personally I think it is really important that as a community we are able to debate issues like this, so I thought I'd post here a portion of talk (which I'd endorse wholeheartedly) given by someone called Peter Saunders which you can read in full on the Christian Medical Fellowship website. At the end of the talk he addresses "Deadly Questions on Abortion" and says this:

What about abortion to save the life of the mother? Usually when the mother’s life is at risk, the baby is viable and so can be saved simply by bringing forward the time of delivery. On very rare occasions it may be necessary to terminate a mid-trimester pregnancy in an emergency in order to save the life of the mother. Here we are not saying that the baby’s life is less important than that of the mother, but simply (since the baby will die regardless) that it is better to intervene to save one life rather than to stand by and watch two die. Even in these situations it is usually possible to deliver the baby in such a way that the parents can have some short time with it. In the UK only 0.013% of all abortions are performed ‘to save the life of the mother’ and it is even questionable whether many of these require such radical action.

which is what I was trying to say. However, he then goes on to say:

Ireland’s leading obstetricians stated in 1992: ‘... we affirm that there are no medical circumstances justifying direct abortion, that is, no circumstances in which the life of the mother may only be saved by directly terminating the life of her unborn child’.
This was not unsubstantiated. The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin investigated in detail the 21 maternal deaths which occurred among the 74,317 pregnancies managed in 1970-1979. The conclusion was that abortion wouldn’t have saved the mother’s life in a single case.


So although this is a possibility in theory, in practice it rarely if ever happens. I hope that helps anyone who may have been confused as to what I was trying to say on Sunday night, and will add to our debate as a community as to how we respond to the issues of euthanasia and abortion. Hopefully overall the message on Sunday was very clear, that both euthansia and abortion are wrong, that we as a community must do everything we can to give dignity to human life created in the image of God, and that we must create communities of hope and love where people who society would consider to be 'of no worth' can be cared for and loved, cherished and valued.

Hope you have a great week, and that you manage to make it to one of the prayer meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.

Simon.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Erwin is Coming

Erwin McManus is going to be with us again for a Willow Conference on Saturday 9th May. Loads more details here.

Those of you who were here last time he came will know what an incredible communicator he is, and how he is able to put the Bible and faith into a 21st Century context. This year because of the focus on the three Sunday meetings we've really cut down on what we're doing on Saturdays, the exceptions being this conference, a Christians Against Poverty conference and the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. So please don't miss this incredible opportunity to hear Erwin again.

There will also be serving opportunities which will let you get to hear at least some of the sessions for free. More details nearer the time.

Simon.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Catherine Rohr

Thought you might like to read this BBC article about Catherine Rohr who spoke at the Willow Leadership Summit this year. You can also listen to an interview with her here.

Inspires me again to try and live a life which makes a difference.

Hope to catch you this weekend as we look at Assisted Suicide and how we should respond.

Simon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Uncle Simon

I took a day off today to come up to London with Catrina to visit my sister Lucy and her three week old baby Ruby. I'm a very proud uncle!

Simon.
--------------------------
Simon's BlackBerry, BlueArc Engineering

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Prayer Meetings - Some Changes

Next week on Wednesday and Thursday night we have our monthly prayer meetings, and we're going to be doing things a bit differently. We'll still be starting off with open worship together but then before we pray we're going to do a couple of other things.

The first of these is to share communion together. We've struggled for a while to find the right context for communion, and although I still think the best place for communion is in LifeGroups we're now also going to share communion together once a month at the prayer meetings.

Secondly I'm going to spend time sharing some of the latest Kerith news. With the new three meetings format we aren't going to be having Church Vision Nights of the style we've had in the past, so this will be a chance to talk about some of the things we would previously have talked about there. There is quite a bit of news to talk about this time round including a new member of staff, details on the forthcoming preaching series and some other exciting developments, as well as a comment on some of the challenges we face.

We'll then be asking God to break into various areas of our community life.

I really want to encourage as many people to make it to the prayer meetings as possible. Prayer is a key to us growing to be a church of 2,000, and us individually and as a community flourishing in the current economic climate.

Hope to see you there!

Simon.

Dawkins Debate

Whilst doing research for the talk about Euthanasia this Sunday I came across a great article on a debate between Richard Dawkins (of The God Delusion fame) and a guy called John Lennox who wrote a book called "God's Undertaker: Has Science buried God" which is a Christian response to The God Delusion (which I've read and can recommend). As we said on Sunday let's not be scared to engage with these issues but instead be informed and able to give an answer for the hope we profess.

Simon.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Andrew MacKay

I had the privilege of meeting up today with Andrew MacKay, the MP for Bracknell. Although I've met him briefly at some of the functions he's been to at The Kerith Centre it was great to get to spend longer getting to know him. He was really interested to hear how we are reaching out into the local community in the areas of special needs, debt counselling and working alongside other local agencies. Talking to him you realise that he's dealing through his constituency work with many of the people and issues we are dealing with, so it was great to be able to discuss the church taking a real lead in some of those areas.

By a strange coincidence he's flying off to Zambia tonight, so we were also able to talk at length about our project in Serenje. He was really up for the vision of Serenje being an opportunity for Bracknell as a whole to link up with another community. For churches, schools, businesses, health care professionals and others in Bracknell to be able to link up with their equivalents in Serenje and to make a genuine difference there.

What really impressed me about Andrew (other than his slightly eccentric dress sense) was his willingness to get involved and use the influence he has when it comes to local issues. Andy Jackson was able to thank him for a number of cases where CAP clients had written to him asking whether he could help to get their benefit payments sorted out, and he's been able to do that. I was able to raise a couple of issues we are aware of in relation to housing and special needs provision which he's promised to look into.

Let's be praying for Andrew, and the other politicians who represent us at both a local and a national level. In particular that in the uncertain times we're living through God would give them wisdom to make the right decisions for the right reasons.

Simon.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin's Birthday

Today marks the 200 year anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. So what are we to make of his Theory of Evolution in the light of what God has to say in Genesis chapters 1 and 2? Is science as some would say "God's Undertaker", is Richard Dawkins right when he says that scientific understanding now makes it irrational to believe in God, or is there another way to look at all of this?

Come on Sunday when I'll be joined by one of the UK's top scientists, a lawyer and a Christian author as we try to answer these questions. A highly topical elephant if ever there was one!

Simon.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thought for the Day

I don't know how many other morning Radio 4 listeners there are out there (I only switch to 5 live in the evening when it starts being a sports channel!) but on Tuesday a lady called Anne Atkins did the "Thought for the Day" slot.  Often this slot drives me mad with some of the nonsense which (in my humble opinion) gets spouted, but the Tuesday morning realy tied in with what we looked at on Sunday. You can either listen to a recording of what she said, or read this transcript.

Simon.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mark Driscoll - Porn Again Christian

Every now and again I begin to write a blog entry and find myself asking the question "I wonder if this is going to get me into a lot of trouble"! I remember that feeling when commenting on the Lakeside Revival and some of what was going on there. Well I feel it again now. But I also feel that this issue is so important that I want to take the risk of getting into trouble rather than missing an opportunity.

If you were in church today you'll have heard me talk about the Elephant in the Church of Sex, and as part of that I talked about pornography. I felt there was a lot more I wanted to say on that subject, but given the limited time available suggested instead a booklet by Mark Driscoll which I'd like all the men in the church over 16 to read (and for all parents with boys under 16 to consider whether some of this would be good to share with them too). It's definitely written for men, so girls I'll leave it up to you what you do with it.

It might prove a bit controversial, so in order to try and limit the number of emails I get this week I'll make the following comments:

  • If you're not yet a follower of Jesus Christ then allow God to sort your heart out before trying to change your behaviour. I'm directing this at Christians who know Jesus and have had that heart change but still have  issues from their old way of thinking and living to deal with.
  • I realise that pornography can be an issue for women as well as men. However, this booklet is unashamedly aimed at men. I'm not aware of a female equivalent (if anyone is then please post a link to it), but if you're a woman and pornography is an issue which has affected you in any way, then I'd encourage you to find another woman you trust who you can talk to, or to contact one of the Unique Leadership Team who would love to help you. 
  • The booklet is written in a very blokey and "in your face" style - not at all what we'd be used to from most of our Christian literature. Choose to be challenged rather than offended. If you survived the talk Sean Green gave at the Men's Day at Oakwood you can survive this!
  • It's also written from a US standpoint (which might come as a welcome change to all our Americans). That means that some of the people mentioned probably won't be familiar to you, and in particular that the last chapter on the US military might seem a bit out of place, although what it has to say about prostitution is absolutely spot on.
  • Husbands, think about how much of your reaction to this you could share with you wife. In particular some of the Q&A section could provoke some interesting discussions! Having lead the Marriage Course I do think there's a real need for couples to learn to talk about what they'd like from their sex lives.
  • You don't have to agree with absolutely everything the booklet says - I'm not sure I did either but it still challenged me to my boots. 

You can find the booklet by following this link.

I do think we have a real choice, both men and women, as to whether we just want pseudo community where we wear our masks and play at being religious, or whether we want genuine community where we tear off the masks and choose to be real with God and with one another. Let's choose the latter.

Simon.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Elephant in the Church - Sex

Someone recently told me that when they included the word sex in a blog entry the number of people visiting their site went through the roof! Well I long ago stopped looking at how many people read my blog (I just started to get totally obsessive about it and do things like check the figures last thing at night) so I won't be able to tell you whether it worked for me!

But just to remind you that this Sunday we're looking at the "Elephant in the Church" of sex, and seeing what God thinks about it all. Even if you were here for the series we did on sex last year please come expecting God to speak to you and challenge you.

On Sunday morning I'll also be posting a link in my blog to a Mark Driscoll leaflet which I'd like every guy over 16 in the church to read (as well as any lads under 16 who get their parents permission). All related to what we're going to be looking at on Sunday.

I'm at Waverley Abbey again today, although looking out of the window at all of the white stuff coming out of the sky I'm not sure how much longer I'll be staying!

Hope to catch you Sunday,

Simon.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Days away

I'm away for two days on my own at Waverley Abbey praying, preparing and planning. It was a fun challenge getting here this morning through the snow, but the roads look a lot clearer now for the drive home. I'm back tomorrow to do some more of the same - especially thinking about what we're going to do preach on Sundays for the rest of the year. What comes after elephants?
Simon.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ethos in Lithuania (amongst other things)

Such an exciting weekend.

First of all a great time in all three meetings on Sunday. We've now done four "three meeting" Sundays and it feels like we're getting into our stride with it all. Numbers have been great at all three meetings, and the evening is really starting to develop its own identity which is what we wanted for it. 

Second I've had great reports back from Ethos (our youth band) and their weekend trip to serve at a youth conference in Lithuania. Check out the video below of them in action, or if that doesn't work for you follow this link (and check out some of the great comments people have been leaving).

And then to cap it all it snowed today. I know some of you might not like snow, but I love it! Maybe that's why I got the job of Senior Pastor from Ben. I got to go sledging the evening with Alice which was such great fun.

Hope you're enjoying the snow too and you have a great week.

Simon.