Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pat & Geoff - Radio Stars!

Pat and Geoff Hallett are being interviewed tomorrow (Friday) morning on Radio Berkshire between 9.30am and 10.00am. They'll be talking about the Foodbank and all the amazing things which are going on with that ministry. You can listen with an old fashioned radio on 95.4 FM or 104.1 FM, on a DAB radio or online here. You can also listen to it after the event here. Surely that must be enough options :-)

Pat & Geoff do a fabulous job of heading up the Foodbank, and I'm sure they'll do an equally impressive job of representing the ministry and the rest of Kerith tomorrow morning.

Simon.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sunday's Sermon

A number of people have said how helpful they found this weeks Sunday morning sermons, where we looked at what the Bible teaches about what happens to a believer when they die. However, several people also said that they struggled to get down all of the Bible references and asked whether I could include them in a blog - so here goes! Just to be clear that none of this will make any sense without the sermon itself, which if you're interested you can listen to here.

What happens to us when we die - Luke 23:43, 2 Cor 5:8, Phil 1:23
The Bible doesn't teach purgatory - Rom 8:1, Luke 23:43
The Bible doesn't teach "soul sleep" - Luke 16:19-31, Rev 6:9-11, Luke 23:43
The second coming of Christ - 1 Thes 4:13-18
Resurrection bodies - 1 Cor 15:42-29, John 20:19-27, John 21:11-15
Judgement of non believers - Rev 20:11-15
Judgement of believers - 1 Cor 3:11-15
New heaven and new earth - Rev 21:1-5

I also suggested people getting a Study Bible (I use the NIV, but there are lots of other good ones available - lots of my friends rave about the ESV Study Bible), Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology and commentaries on specific books of the Bible (for those new to commentaries I'd particularly recommend those by Tom Wright - I'm working through his commentary on Romans at the moment). 

I'd also definitely recommend listening to Canon Andrew White from Sunday evening too. I felt he served us so well in what he said. I can still smell the Smith Wigglesworth anointing oil on my hands (for those not there Andrew met up with Smith Wigglesworth's Great Grandson recently and he gave him the last known bottle of the oil Smith Wigglesworth used for anointing people).

Hope you're having a great week,

Simon.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Crowthorne C of E Primary School

Last Friday I went back to primary school. Not my old school, which would have been an enormous trek to Mickley Primary School in Northumberland, but to Crowthorne Church of England Primary School.

I went there for their year six leavers assembly, to give out prizes to children who had done well throughout the year but also to receive a cheque from the school. The school have spent this year raising money for Serenje. The children have spent the year not only learning about life in Serenje, but coming up with a whole load of imaginative ways of raising money. They've done everything from sponsored events to setting up small businesses to talent shows to a night at the proms.

They made me sit down when they announced the total, which was a good idea as I was totally overwhelmed when they announced that £4,779.28 had been raised by the children. That is a truly astounding total for a small primary school, and will make an incredible difference in the lives of children in Serenje. It will be used to buy things like books, pencils, rubbers and classroom equipment, as well as seed and garden tools so that crops can be grown to provide the children with a meal before they start school.

Our vision for Serenje was always that we would not only link our church with other churches out there, but that we would enable the community of Bracknell Forest to link with the community of Serenje. It's so exciting to see Crowthorne Primary being part of that vision come to reality.

I'd like to say a huge thank you to not only the pupils of the school, but also the teachers and parents who have worked incredibly hard to support the children in their fund raising efforts. In particular I'd like to recognise Mrs Gellatly, the Headteacher, who has been such a champion of the project, and our very own Ruth Jackson, the Deputy Head, who has been the link between the school and Kerith. Hopefully they and all the teachers and TAs will now get a well earned rest!

Simon.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Thanksgiving for Angharad

Just a reminder that the Thanksgiving Service for Angharad is going to be on Monday 2nd August at 2.15pm. We'd love as many people as possible to come to give thanks for Angharad's life - if possible please park in the town centre car parks so that we can leave The Kerith Centre car park for family, the elderly and disabled - more details here.

At the end of the service we're going to sing a fabulous song called "The One Who Saves" from the new Hillsong Album "Beautiful Exchange". We learnt it last Sunday, and will sing it again this Sunday, but you can also hear it (with subtitles) on Youtube here. If you haven't heard the album yet I thoroughly recommend it - I bought it a couple of weeks ago and haven't listened to anything else since.

Bill and Anne, Annie's Mum and Dad, have asked that if people want to give donations for the money to go to the Girls' Dormitory project in Serenje. This is a project to build a dormitory for 100 girls attending secondary school in the rural community of Serenje, where we already support a large HIV/AIDS project. At the moment very few girls complete secondary education as they have to live in a slum area where many of them get pregnant and become HIV positive. The dormitory will provide a safe place for them to live while they complete their secondary education and is going to cost around £125,000 to build. I can't think of a project which would better represent all that Angharad lived for, or which could provide a better legacy to remember her by. There will be a table with more information and baskets for donations at the thanksgiving, but if you can't make it and would like to give please send donations, payable to Kerith Community Church and marked for the Serenje Girls' Dormitory, to this address.

I hope you can make it next Monday, but if not please be praying for us and particularly for Bill and Anne as we say goodbye to Angharad and remember her life.

Simon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Praying For Our Young People

Karen Mehta emailed me yesterday to say that God had woken her up with a real conviction of our need to pray for our young people. To that end she's going to lead a prayer meeting in K2 on Friday night (23rd July) from 7pm for an hour. If you can make that time I'd really encourage you to go, but even if you can't make it please can I ask you to be find time to pray for our youngsters over the next few weeks. Things that would be good to pray for are:
  • The youth team fly off to Albania tomorrow (Friday) afternoon. Ethos (our youth band) will be playing concerts and Lee will be speaking in two different theatres on Saturday and Monday night, Lee will be preaching in Elbasan on Sunday and then the whole team will be leading a youth camp for 120 young people from Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia from Wednesday to Saturday. I'm so proud of our young people who will be leading all these events, as well as Lee, Liam and Ken and Ann Bothamley who will be trying to keep them all under control! You can get updates on their exploits on Ken and Ann's blog.
  • The Konnections youth and under 11's respite care days we will be running over the summer. In total we will be offering 400 places for special needs children to have a day of fun, either in K2 or offsite using our shiny new minibus (which was bought with an external grant). The play area down the side of K2, on the land which we are renting from the cricket club, is now ready and will be getting extensive use over the summer. Take a look at it on Sunday if you get a chance - it looks great.
  • Our young people are going to Rocknations in Bradford from August 4th to the 8th. Many of those going have never been to an event like this before - let's be asking God for changed lives amongst all those who are going. Let's also pray for safety as they travel there and back and in everything else that goes on.
  • Finally please be praying for the Thanksgiving Service for Angharad on Monday 2nd August. Let's pray that God will powerfully be with us in all that goes on there, that people will know God's comfort and that God will speak into people's hearts and lives.
Simon.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Canon Andrew White

Our good friend Canon Andrew White will be with us this Sunday evening, 25th July, at 7pm. For those of you who haven't heard of Andrew before he leads a church in Iraq, is affectionately known as the Vicar of Baghdad, and has been a key player over the years in the Middle East peace process. He's also one of the most remarkable men I've ever had the privilege of spending time with and always brings the presence of God with him.

When I spoke to him on Monday afternoon he said (with no prompting from me about our recent loss) that he was planning on speaking on Psalm 23 verse 4 - "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil". I suspect he may be about to bring a very timely word to us as a community.

Please can I encourage you to be there if you possibly can.

Simon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sad but Encouraged

It's been a very emotional few days. Thursday's prayer meeting, the Friday night LIFE event with over 400 young people there and then Sunday's three meetings - all against the backdrop of Annie no longer being with us.

It was so good to have Bill and Anne with us both Sunday morning and evening. Church should always be a place we run to rather than avoid in moments like this. Let's continue to lift up Bill and Anne in prayer in what must be an unimaginably difficult time for them and their family.

We will start this week planning the thanksgiving service for Annie, which will be at 2.15pm in The Kerith Centre on Monday 2nd August. Everybody is invited as we draw together to remember and celebrate Annie's life. There will be laughter and happy memories amongst the many, many tears - Annie would have had it no other way. Parking as always at The Kerith Centre will be limited so please plan to leave enough time to park in the town centre car parks.

A number of people have said how helpful they found Sunday's message. If you missed Sunday, or want to listen to it again, you can find it here. Please find time to get alone with God this week. I suggest meditating on either 1 Corinthians 15 or 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Finally let's continue to pray for Rory Allen. I spoke to his dad John on Sunday night and he said that Rory had the operation on his broken legs which went well, and that they had now removed all of his sedation and were waiting for him to come round. That could take anything from hours to days - let's pray that he comes round quickly and that there are no lasting effects from the accident.

Simon.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Next Steps

I've just spoken with Bill and Anne (Annie's Mum and Dad) who have been up to North Wales to identify Annie's body. They're now on their way back and hope to be with us in church on Sunday, which will be wonderful. Please continue to pray for them and the family, and please greet them warmly if you do see them on Sunday. Let's also continue to pray for Rory Allen, and all of the other people affected by this tragedy.

We've now got the dates for Annie's funeral, which I wanted to get out as early as possible as I know many of you will want to be there. For family and invited friends there will be a committal service at Easthampstead Park Crematorium on Monday 2nd August at 1.30pm. This will be followed by a service of thanksgiving for Annie's life at The Kerith Centre starting at 2.15pm. We'll give out more details nearer the time, but we would love as many people as possible to come to the thanksgiving and celebrate the life of this wonderful young lady. I'm told that black will be out and Cath Kidston will be the order of the day!

I've been so encouraged and moved by all the messages and comments on Facebook, email and blogs. In particular I was very moved by blog entries written by two of Annie's friends in our community, Ellie Jackson and Laura Webber-Gant. Just make sure you've got some tissues before you read them, or if you're a bloke at least make sure you're in a room on your own!

Last night close to 200 of us met to pray. It was an amazing time as our sense of grief collided with faith that God can bring many good things out of Annie's death. Jesus said "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24). We're believing for many seeds to come from the death of this precious, precious seed, just as the death of Jesus produced incredible seed in the lives of billions of people with changed eternities. Let's keep believing for that in these coming days.

Personally I'm still coming to terms with Annie not being with us any more. Last night I was washing up before the prayer meeting and it just hit me again as I cried into the washing up bowl. Praise God that in times like this we can grieve in community with the comfort of God and one another.

Simon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rory Allen

As we all come to terms with the death of Annie can I please ask you also to pray for Rory Allen. Rory was in the car with Annie and was airlifted to hospital after the crash.

Many of you will remember Rory's parents John and Louise. John was on staff as our youth worker for a time before they moved up to Sheffield to be part of a church there - they were very special friends to many of us. I spoke to John earlier on today. Rory is now in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital and is in a critical but stable condition. He is currently under sedation and the doctors are awaiting the results of a brain scan before they can operate on his right femur which is shattered and his left tibula and fibula which are both broken. He is breathing by himself and his vital signs are good, although he is currently on a ventilator to provide additional oxygen. John was very happy for me to share this with you on the blog.

Just as we are praying for comfort in our own community let's be praying for Rory as well. Pray for the doctors to do what they can do, and for God to do what only He can do. Pray also for John and Louise as they sit with Rory, talk to him and pray for him.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying today and sending in messages and texts of encouragement - it means so much. God is in all of this, even if we from our vantage point struggle some of the time to see quite what He is doing. His ways are indeed higher than our ways.

Simon.

We Have Hope

I guess we're all still trying to come to terms with last night's tragic events. I've found encouragement this morning looking again at Paul's words to the church in Thessalonica. I've copied out 1 Thes 4:13-18 below

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

I'm going to preach into this on Sunday, but in the meantime can I encourage you to meditate on Paul's words and what God is saying to you through them in this situation.

At tonight's prayer meeting we'll worship, share communion and pray into all that has happened. I'd encourage everyone to come if you possibly can. I know that lots of our youngsters are planning on being there - what better place to be as we come to terms with all of this.

The Friday night LIFE youth event is going to go ahead. Having read Annie's blog on the impact LIFE had on her it's hard to see what else we could do. Pray for Liam as he speaks into Annie's death and ministers to the hundreds of young people who will be there.

As I've already said on Sunday I'll be talking about how we understand and come to terms with Annie's death. Yvonne Scott has cancelled her holiday so that she can be with children, and will be sharing the news with them and in a way they can understand. However, please can I encourage parents to talk and pray with your children before Sunday so that the come prepared. We spent some of last night doing that with our three - it is so key that we as parents take the lead in helping our children and young people through this.

I spoke to Bill, Annie's Dad, this morning. He's travelling back from France today and then he and Anne, Annie's Mum, will drive up to North Wales tomorrow. Please pray for them both, and the rest of the family, as they come to terms with the loss of their beautiful daughter.

Hope to see you tonight.

Simon.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Angharad Clague

I got the devastating new tonight that Angharad Clague had been killed in a car crash. It's so hard to believe that she isn't with us any more - just writing this seems totally unreal.

Annie has been on the year team since last September working with our children. In that time we saw an incredible transformation in her life as God powerfully got hold of her - just take a look at this entry from her blog for a sense of how passionate for Him she'd become. I'm so proud to be able to say that I knew her and that she was a part of our community - I'm going to miss her immensely and I know many of you will too.

In moments like these we need to cling on to the promise of the gospel that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28). We know that Annie has gone to a better place, what Jesus described to the thief on the cross as paradise, and that because of that we don't "mourn as those who have no hope" but instead have great hope because of what Jesus achieved through his death and resurrection. Let's pray for Bill and Anne, Annie's parents, and for Annie's brothers that as they grieve they will know God's comfort and strength. Let's pray for our children, young people, and many others in our community who loved Annie so much - that they too will know God's comfort as they mourn the loss of a dear friend. And let's pray for good to come from this tragedy - that God will take this and use it for His glory.

I'm not going to talk about Reveal at tomorrow nights prayer meeting. Instead we're going to worship, share communion and pray about what has happened. Please can I encourage you to be there too, even if you didn't know Annie well, as we work our way through this as the family of God.

Simon.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reveal Revealed

At the prayer meetings this week (Wednesday and Thursday - 8.00pm in K2) I'm going to be taking some time to talk about the results of the Willow Creek Reveal survey which many of us took part in earlier this year. The information it gives is fascinating, and will serve as a springboard into prayer for the rest of the evening.

Please come along if you possibly can. I've just had a wonderful email from someone I prayed with on Sunday about a difficult situation at work which God has completely turned around. Prayer changes things, so come and be part of the change.

This morning I'm taking Leah into Crowthorne and Sandy Lane Primary Schools to talk with the heads and some of the children about Serenje. It's so exciting to be a part of linking communities across continents - something we've prayed for in the past.

Hope you're having a great week.

Simon.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Time to Relax

After a fairly crazy season with visiting speakers, baptisms, the Real conference and a host of other things going on we're going to take it a bit easier this weekend.

After the 11am meeting we're going to head over to Oakwood for a picnic. Please come if you possibly can. It's a great venue, a good chance to meet new people and catch up with friends, a chance for the children to have fun and an opportunity to test your nerve on the high ropes. The forecast is looking good (there's plenty of shade if it's too sunny) so please plan to be there, whether you're brand new to our community or have been around for years. More details and directions on our website.

Then in the evening we'll be watching the World Cup final at The Kerith Centre. Sadly no England (other than the referee - let's pray for no disasters there!) but pick your favourite from Holland and Spain, cheer them on and make some new friends. Doors open at 6.30pm and the game kicks off at 7.30.

I'll be there at both events, hope to catch you there too.

Simon.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Psalm 1 Meditation

I spent half an hour this morning meditating on Psalm 1 (one of our sessions at the Brighton Conference I'm attending was cancelled so I had a bit more time than I expected) and as I meditated I wrote down my thoughts. Hopefully for some of you who haven't spent much time meditating on the Bible before it might be useful to see some of where my thoughts went, not that I'm any expert on doing this stuff but if it helps you then great. If not then feel free to ignore my random ramblings!

All the way through doing this I was talking to God about what I was thinking and praying for people who came to mind too.

I didn't get to the end of the psalm after half an hour, but that's OK.

Simon.

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

Blessed – happy, content, satisfied, at peace, growing, flourishing, prospering, doing life well, growing in relationship with God,

is the man – God working in and interested in individuals. Interested in the whole man. Not one specific area of life (health, mind spirit, relationships etc) but in every area of life – God is holistic and is interested in blessing the whole of us – no secular and sacred divide.

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked – where do I do this? By taking bad advice? Not all advice from unbelievers is bad, any more than all advice from Christians is good. But I need to make sure the advice I am getting is rooted in scripture and the choices I'm making are out of a desire to please God and seek his kingdom.

or stand in the way of sinners
– I don't think “in the way” means getting in the way of sinners as in being a barrier to them, but being influenced by them. Jesus calls us to be in the world and be around sinners, but not to be of the world, not just conforming to what they would want us to say and do. Where is this happening to me?

or sit in the seat of mockers – I'm reminded of a lady Ben and I met in Singapore airport waiting to come home who spent a 15 minute conversation with Ben deriding the UK as a nation (and she was English). Mockers are people who drag you down, who are filled with negativity, who always have their cup half full, who take you down in their lift.

There is a progression here – walking to standing to sitting. Being around the wrong people can make me increasingly lethargic and lifeless and rob me of being a blessed person. Christians can do this to me as much as non believers. God put me around people who take me up in my lift and help me to discern and avoid being influenced by those who would take me down.

So what is the answer? What is the alternative? The psalmist says that it is to root myself in God.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord - God I thank you so much for the Bible. Thank you that it's freely available to us. Thank you for all the different ways it is now available – not only in print but on audio, iPhones and Blackberries – (and thank you for a good excuse to own an iPhone). Thank you for all the different translations which bring different aspects alive. Help me please to delight in it. Not that reading it should be a chore but something I delight to do, like enjoying a nice glass of red win, spending time with Catrina and the children or sitting down to read a good book. Something I look forward to and that I have a hunger for. Terry Virgo preached yesterday on the difference between our union with God (which is unshakeable through Jesus death on the cross and is never in doubt) and our communion with God (which is a relationship we need constantly to be working on). I don't spend time with God in order to strengthen my union with him (to earn his favour or his love) but in order to grow in my communion with him (to know him more and deepen my relationship with him).

And on his law he meditates day and night
– God let this be a living thing which I take into every area of my life. Let spiritual disciplines (or 'relational food' as I now think of them) be as natural as having a conversation with Catrina or phoning or texting her. And help me to prioritise carving out time with you out of the 'firstfruits' of my time, not giving you then scraps that are left over after everything else has gone, but the best bits.

And what is the result of this?

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.


God that's the man I want to be. To constantly be being refreshed with living water, not yesterdays water or last weeks water. To be getting fresh input, fresh strengthening, fresh understanding and fresh ideas every day. Not be relying even on the sermon from last Sunday, the conference I went to last month or that encounter I had with God last year but a fresh drink for today. I'm reminded of the Israelites in the desert who had fresh manna every day, and if they tried to keep it until the next day it was no good (other than on the sabbath). We need fresh input every day, not try and take such a great gulp on a Sunday that we can survive until the following Sunday – that's a receipe for death.

And God's promise is that whatever we do will prosper. People seem to try and spiritualise out the 'whatever' bit of that sentence, but I believe that when God says 'whatever' he means 'whatever'. But here is the key. Psalm 37:4 says it like this - “delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”. The key is that as we delight ourselves in God he gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36) and changes the desire of our hearts, so that our desires become his desires. Jesus said it a different way talking about material possesions “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

God help me not to live with a poverty or failure mentality. Help me to live with an expansive view of life, believing that you are going to prosper every area of my life, but that prospering will flow out of my delighting in you and your word and you shaping my longings and desires.

Church Coffee and the Pursuit of Excellence

If you do nothing else today please read this article by J. John. It so encapsulates the spirit of what we are trying to do at Kerith - let's continue to pursue excellence for the glory of God.

I reckon our coffee is pretty good by the way, although I long for the day we can do a decent Latte on a Sunday!

Simon.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

This Weeks Challenge

If you were around this Sunday in one of the three meetings you'll have heard me give out two very simple challenges for this week.

The first was to spend 15 minutes meditating on Psalm 1. Get a Bible, get yourself somewhere on your own and then for 15 minutes think about what God is saying to you through this psalm. What does it tell you about God, what does it tell you about your relationship with him, what encourages you, what challenges you, what is there to give thanks for and what are you going to do differently as a result of what you've read.

The second challenge was to spend 15 minutes on your own with God this week  talking to him and listening to what he says. Be real, be honest, be open and be thankful.

This is as a start to our forthcoming series on the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, solitude, confession etc (as and aside I've been trying to come up with a more encouraging name for "spiritual disciplines", "relational food" is the best I've come up with so far).

I'd love to hear what anyone comes up with as you meditate on Psalm 1, what God says to you in prayer, or even other names for spiritual disciplines.

Simon.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cath Kidston

Several people have commented on my reference to Cath Kidston in my previous blog, and even cast aspersions on whether there really was going to be a Cath Kidston style table in reception.

Well here is photographic evidence to silence all the doubters! I just want to be very clear that I have no personal interest in Cath Kidston products, and am only aware of what it all means through having spent much time in the Cath Kidston shop in Windsor with my beautiful wife Catrina (who would like to turn our house into a shrine to all materials spotty, stripy and flowery!). Jo Jones is the creative genius behind the table.

This is all part of the set up for the Real Women's Conference on Friday night and Saturday. The stage set and the rest of the building looks great too (if not a little pink for my liking) and the buzz in the building is growing. Lots of people are still booking in still so don't miss out - you can just turn up on Friday evening or Saturday morning if you decide to come at the last minute.

Simon.