Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No Meeting on New Year's Day

I hope you're having a great Christmas break. We've had a really nice mixture of 'full on family time' and chances to stop and just do nothing! I hope and pray it's going well for you too.

Just a reminder that there aren't any meetings on Sunday 1st January. 

We'll be kicking off again on the 8th January with our new series "Texts for Life". Each week we're going to memorising a different verse of the Bible together, starting on the 8th with Psalm 119:11 - "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you". 

Hope to see you then, if not before.

Simon. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Nearly Christmas

Hopefully I'll catch you on either Christmas Eve (3pm & 5pm), or Christmas Day at 10am, or at both. We've got the college for parking for both - get there in plenty of time as you won't want to miss the start of either meeting. 

Whether I see you or not, I want to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas, whatever you're up to, and to pray for you that 2012 will be a year where you know more of the love of God, the grace of Jesus and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

"Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." - Psalm 37:4

Simon. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Foodbank Request for Help

Our wonderful Foodbank team have asked me to see whether anyone would be available to help them between 11am and 3pm on Wednesday 21st December (which is tomorrow as I write this blog, but may be tomorrow or today when you get it!).

They've hit a bit of a perfect storm, with a number of team members away due to illness or visiting family, combined with what is expected to be one of their busiest days of the year as families get ready for Christmas. We know that for many clients this is a particularly tough time of year, with all the worries about how they are going to provide for their families over the next couple of weeks, so we want to serve them as well as we possibly can.

The team need help in a whole range of areas, from people able to drive food between the Kerith Centre and the store, people to weigh out food for and get it ready for clients, and people to actually welcome the clients as they come into the building. Whether you've finished school, are a student back from Uni, have already finished work for Christmas or are free for whatever other reason, if you are able to give any time between 11 and 3 I know Pat and the team would really appreciate it, and I know you'll have a great time too. 

Hope to see you there!

Simon.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Tim Keller - Generous Justice

I know that some of you will be looking for some Christmas reading. Well if you're up for something more challenging than a Dan Brown novel, I'd like to recommend perhaps the best book I've read this year, Generous Justice by Tim Keller.

Historically churches have split into two camps. On one side were Evangelical churches which have been passionate about the gospel, but which have viewed social justice as at best an add on, and a worst distraction to the 'real' work of the church. On the other were  more liberal churches, which were committed to practically demonstrating the love of God but more vague about preaching the gospel. Over the last few years Kerith, and many other churches in our nation, have been discovering what it means to be in both of the these camps, passionate about both preaching the gospel AND seeing God's justice worked out in the world.

Tim Keller's book is so important because it gives a Biblical framework to help us understand that it isn't a case of the gospel or social justice, but that a passion for justice should flow directly from our understanding the gospel. In fact he shows that if we don't have a passion for justice, it shows that we haven't properly grasped the message of the gospel. I'd personally like to insist that this book becomes required reading for everyone at Kerith!

You can get this book from the Kerith Centre bookshop, or on Kindle and other ebook readers. If you're still not convinced you can read the first chapter for free here.

Happy reading. 

Simon.

The Next Three Weeks

I really enjoyed speaking today on "O Come All Ye Faithful". Hopefully I didn't upset or weird out too many people with my discussion of what it meant for Jesus not to "abhor the virgin's womb"! My favourite thought from the day was that darkness is not the presence of anything, but simply the absence of light, and that if we want to deal with darkness in our lives then the answer is to bring the light of Christ into that darkness.

I thought I'd briefly let you know what is happening over the next few weeks.

On Christmas Eve we're meeting at 3pm and 5pm for family meetings looking at how Christmas is celebrated around the world. It will be lots of fun, but there will also be a very clear gospel message. Please be thinking about who you can invite to come along to either of these one hour meetings. 

On Christmas Day we'll be meeting at 10am for an hour to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is always a great time together as family, please get there if you can. Our offering on Christmas Day will be for Yeldall Manor, a Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre outside Reading which we are increasingly involved with - please be thinking and praying about what to give.

There are no meetings on Sunday 1st January - please take the time to enjoy New Year's Day with family and friends.

On the 8th January we're starting a new series called "Texts for Life". This series is going to run all the way through to Easter. In it we're going to be learning 12 different Bible verses together - there's more on this in the latest LinK magazine.

Finally to mention the finance prayer meeting. We'll be meeting at 6am this Thursday (22nd December), after which I've invited everyone who comes for breakfast down in town! On 29th December there is no prayer meeting so we can all have a lie in, then we'll kick off again on the 5th January.

I hope you have a great week in the run up to Christmas. 

Simon. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Looking Forward to Sunday

I hope you're going to be around this Sunday, as it's going to be a great one. We're going to be looking at the meaning behind the carol "O Come All Ye Faithful",  I'm going to give an update on the Serenje money, we'll be announcing where the Christmas Day offering will be going, and we'll all have an opportunity to gather together in God's presence, to worship Him and be changed by Him. The latest LinK magazine will also be available (it's the best one yet in my opinion) and you can pick up copies of the new CD if you haven't done so already.

I really hope to see you there.

Simon. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Reading #4 - Luke 1:1-25

One of the results of our fragmented society is that all of the different age groups get split up, and in many cases viewed with suspicion by people of other generations. So for instance the young would be portrayed as thinking of people older than them as boring, irrelevant or out of touch, and older people would be portrayed as seeing the young as lazy, ungrateful or violent. This results is each age group becoming separated and alienated from the others, with little real understanding of the hopes, dreams and fears of other groups.

We need to realise that kingdom of God culture is the exact opposite of this. We see that beautifully portrayed through the Bible, for instance in the wonderful story of Ruth and Naomi, with the spirit being poured out on both the young and the old on the day of Pentecost, and so powerfully in the story of Christmas. Not only do we have the teenage Mary giving birth to a baby, but as we see in this reading we also have Zechariah and Elizabeth, who are described as being "well along in years". And as the story goes on we read of this beautiful interaction between Mary and Elizabeth as the two pregnant share in the wonder of what is happening to them.

I take two lessons from this. 

First of all however old you are God is interested in you. You might be a teenager feeling the whole world is against you, or an older person worrying that life has passed you by, but God sees it all and is passionate about you. Don't believe the lie that God isn't interested in you - He is!

Second let's look to break down the barriers between the age groups. Let's have the young learning from the old, and the old being looked out for by the young. We are one church, one community, which has the joy of having both young and old. Let's learn to laugh together, cry together and build the kingdom of God together.

Simon.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This is Love - Free CD

Hopefully this Sunday you picked up a free copy of our latest worship CD - "This is Love". If not then next time you're in the building please pick up a copy for yourself, and copies to give/send to friends and family who you think would enjoy it. You can even give it away as a Christmas present if you're working on a tight budget this year! 

I'm incredibly proud of what our team have achieved, both in terms of the quality of the songs, the quality of the production and the Christ centred nature of it all. It's far and away the best CD we've done, and I hope will be a blessing to huge numbers of people.

For anyone not able to get to the Kerith Centre to pick up a CD, or who would also like MP3 versions of the songs, they can be found online here. Click on the little arrow next to the songs to listen to them, or on the musical note to the right of that to download them.

Enjoy!

Simon.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Reading #3 - Matthew 1:1-17

When I first started reading the Bible I used to skim through lists of names, rushing to get on to the more exciting bits! If I'm honest that's still true with some of the Old Testament lists, but it's no longer true with the genealogy at the start of Matthew's gospel

As you get to know the Old Testament you realise there is so much in those names. In particular it is fascinating that there are women mentioned in there. That was very unusual in a Jewish genealogy, and even more unusual when you realise who these women were. There is Tamar (v3) who tricked her father-in-law in to having sex with her so she could have a child, Rahab (v5) who was a prostitute, Ruth (v5) who was a Gentile, Bathsheba (v6) who committed adultery with David, and Mary (v16) who became pregnant whilst engaged to Joseph. As the ESV study Bible puts it "The lineage is comprised of men, women, adulterers, prostitutes, heroes and Gentiles - and Jesus will be saviour of all".

Why not follow the links above to read the stories of these women, and reflect that whoever you are and whatever you've done, Jesus came to be your saviour too.

Simon.

X-Factor Fun - Religious People Please Look Away!

Those of you who were here for the Ten10 preaches on the evening of the 4th December will have heard one of the most surprising openings to a Kerith meeting I can remember. Somehow Neil Taylor arranged for Peter Dickson, who does the voiceover for Britain's Got Talent and the X-Factor, to record a voiceover for the start of the meeting. You can listen to it here

It was a surprising start to what proved to be a superb, God filled, evening. 

Simon.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Reading #2 - John 1:1-5

I love the different ways the four different gospel accounts start. 
  • Matthew starts with his list of the ancestors of Jesus, and then takes us into the 'traditional' Christmas story".
  • Mark is so desperate to get on with the action (as he is with much of the rest of his gospel) that he takes us straight to John the baptist preparing the way for the ministry of Jesus, with not a word about the birth of Jesus, wise men, shepherds or inns which are fully booked.
  • Luke, in his historical fact finding style, tells us why he is writing his gospel and then takes us through the Christmas story. 
But John, again as he does with much of the rest of his gospel, takes a totally different approach. He begins with these words:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John deliberately takes us back to the very beginning of the Bible, echoing the opening of Genesis 1 - "In the beginning God created ......". He wants us to understand that the story of Jesus predates everything else. That Jesus was there in the very beginning. He was with God and He was God. That He was before the creation of Genesis 1. In fact that creation was only possible because He existed. 

The other gospels take us back. Matthew through his genealogy takes us back to Abraham. Mark introducing John takes us back to the words of Isaiah. But only John takes us back to before the creation of the world. Reminding us that when we get caught up in Jesus we become part of a much bigger story. A part of the story of which all other stories are merely a short chapter or a footnote. A part of a story which predates the creation of the world, and which will continue for all of eternity.

So this Christmas allow His story to become your story. Don't allow yourself to be stressed about whether the turkey is going to be ready on time, whether you got the right present for Aunt Agatha, about how much mess the Christmas tree is making as it sheds all it's needles or how much noise the rest of the family are making. There is a much bigger story, and if you're a follower of Jesus Christ then you're intimately wrapped up in it.

Simon.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Be Refreshed this Christmas

One of the bizarre things about Christmas is that although it's supposed to be this time when we focus on the birth of Christ and all that means to us, in reality all of the rush and activity can leave us feeling spiritually incredibly dry - that's often been my experience anyway.

I personally want to try and break that pattern this year. I want to get to the New Year spiritually refreshed and invigorated for all that 2012 is going to hold. One of the keys to making that a reality is making time to be with God. I'm therefore very excited that this month on Thursday 15th December we've given over the prayer meeting to having an open time of worship, where we can just spend the best part of a couple of hours enjoying God's presence.

By choice and by design our Sunday worship is pretty structured. That's partly the result of the numbers of people we have, and partly because we don't want to 'weird out' lost people who are with us. However, that doesn't need to be the case every time we gather. On the 15th we'll have the chairs arranged 'in the round', we'll have some song books rather than using the projector and the screen, and we'll have a single guitarist to start us off rather than a band. We'll start with me doing a few minutes teaching on using spiritual gifts in meetings, and then we'll just see where we go. Should be fun!

There's a phrase I love in Peter's appeal on the day of Pentecost, when he is encouraging the people to repent and turn to God. He tells them to do this so that their sins might be forgiven, and that "times of refreshing may come from the Lord" (Acts 3:19). I'm believing for some great times of refreshing on the 15th - hope to see you there!

Simon.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

This Sunday Ben Davies is going to be speaking at all three meetings on his favourite carol "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing". I know that as Ben goes through the carol it will lift it from being words we so often sing but have no real understanding of, to us grasping the amazing truth it expresses in a fresh way.

Personally I'm hoping to find out what the line "late in time behold him come" means. I have to admit that every year as I sing that line I'm left wondering "what is that on about?". Hopefully after Sunday I'll know!

Please be thinking about who you can invite on Sunday too, as it will be a very accessible way for people to understand the Christmas story in a fresh way.

Simon.

Foodbank on the Radio

On Friday morning Maggie Philbin (of Tomorrow's World and, more importantly, Multi-Coloured Swap Shop fame) is going to be broadcasting live from the Kerith Centre on BBC Radio Berkshire. The programme goes out from 7am-9am, and is all about the Foodbank. They'll be interviewing Pat and Geoff Hallett who run the Foodbank, along with other volunteers, clients and people from some of our partner organisations. Then at 9 they're going to IHS, a local company who are one of our Foodbank corporate partners.

This is a great opportunity for more people to hear about the amazing work the Foodbank is doing. Please be praying God will use it, and if you can listen in either live or later in the day via iPlayer (I'm not even going to begin to describe all the different ways you could do either of those things!).

If you enjoy it why not leave a comment to encourage Pat and her team.

Simon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hilltop Joint Carol Concert

On Wednesday 14th December at 7pm we're hosting a Carol Concert at the Kerith Centre for adults with learning disabilities. This is an extension of our Hilltop ministry, and is being run in partnership with two local groups called The Challenge Club and Cameo.

It should be a great evening. We've got a Salvation Army band leading us in our carol singing, readings, video clips and I'll be doing two 5 minute talks on the Christmas story. Please be praying for us, and if you'd like to come along and support the event you'd be more than welcome - if you are coming please park in town as parking will be limited. 

We'd normally have had an all church prayer meeting on the 14th December, but as we're going to need all of the car park for parking minibuses and getting people in and out of the building for the carol concert, we've cancelled the prayer meeting on the 14th and instead want to encourage everyone to come on Thursday 15th. I'm going to do a separate blog about that, as the prayer meeting on the 15th is going to be done a bit differently, which I'm really looking forward to.

Hope your run up to Christmas is going well.

Simon.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gordon Foulger

Many of you will have heard the sad news that on Monday 21st November Gordon Foulger passed away.

Gordon and his wife Kay were part of Kerith for many years before moving up to Cumbernauld in Scotland. Their sons Kevin and Duncan grew up in Kerith as well, and Kevin is still very much part of our community.

There will be a thanksgiving service for Gordon's life at midday at the Kerith Centre on Wednesday 14th December, followed by a burial at Easthampstead Park Crematorium. Everyone is invited to come and join with the family to remember and give thanks for Gordon's life.

Kevin sent me a link to an obituary for his dad, which is very interesting and which you can find here. A website has also been set up in Gordon's memory which you can find here.

Let's be praying for Kay, Kevin and Duncan at this very sad time for them all.

Simon.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Reading #1 - Isaiah 9:1-7

This was the first of the readings Ben Oliver suggested we read over Christmas - you can find it online here

I just spent 15 minutes meditating on these verses. That meant finding a quiet place (never an easy task in our house), closing the door and reading these verses again and again. If you're anything like me your days can be so full of people, of activity, of rushing from one things to the next, with a to do list that never gets done, that your soul feels like water in a whirlpool, rushing round and round and never stopping. Meditating on the Bible is, for me at least, the thing which most quickly brings my soul to rest. The most effective way to calm my inner being, to bring that stillness where I can hear God, where I can discern His still small voice.

So here's my challenge. Right now decide when today you are going to find 15 minutes today to meditate on these verses. You're going to find time to do many other things today, many of which are frankly deeply unimportant(!), so find time to do this. 

Start off reading all 8 verses through several times, even listen to the audio version on YouVersion. Then focus in on one verse which speaks to you, then on one phrase in that verse, then even on one word. All the time be talking to God about what you're reading, and how it's speaking to you. 

For me I ended up in verse 3:

You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; 
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, 
as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. 

I reflected that joy is one of the indications of God's kingdom coming, and one of the things most associated with knowing Jesus. And it's the joy which comes not as you're doing something but when it's finished. When the harvest has been gathered in and all the hard work of ploughing, sowing and reaping have borne fruit. When the battle has been won, the enemy has been defeated and you can stop and enjoy the victory. 

Although Isaiah is writing hundreds of years before Jesus is born, he writes of the joy which will come when his work will have been completed, writing with such assurance that he writes of this joy in the past tense. I thank God that I too can have that joy now, and pray that I'll be a person known for that joy this Christmas. 

I'd love to hear what you get out of your meditation on these verses.

Simon. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

More on Downloading Sermons

Following on from my previous blog about downloading sermons a number of you have contacted me about getting the sermons dowloaded to non Apple phones, which don't have the facility to make use of the podcast. It seems that the simplest and most reliable way to do this is to make use of the RSS feed (don't worry if you have no idea what that is, just try clicking on the following links and see what happens!). You can find a page with a link to the RSS feed here, and the actual RSS feed can be found at http://www.kerith.co.uk/Media/rss.aspx

Tim Felgate has also set up a couple of things which you may also find helpful. 

Firstly a twitter feed which sends a tweet every time a new sermon is added. You can find that here, or just follow @KerithPodcast

Secondly a Feedburner account, which you can sign up to so that every time a new sermon appears you'll be sent an email to tell you. Go here to sign up for this. 

Don't you just love technology :)

Happy sermon listening. In the midst of it all remember to be a doer and not just a listener!

Simon. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Better than Twenty20

This Sunday we've got not Twenty20, but the next installment of our Ten10 Sundays, where over the Sunday we have ten different preachers speaking for 10 minutes each. 

I personally love these Sundays as we get to hear the voice of so many different people in our community, and to hear how God has been speaking to them and working in their lives. This time the preaches will be around aspects of the Christmas story - all very topical!

The speakers at each meeting are:

   9am: Ben Weeks, Rob Plant and Becca Taylor

   11am: Melanie Watkins, Hannah Boyle and Rob Omakaro

   7pm: Krystyna Lysakowska, Rebecca Toy, Demi Riley and Joshua Richheimer


Why not plan to come to more than one meeting on Sunday, or come and join me and listen to all ten!


I'll also be announcing the total for the Serenje offering which will be very exciting too! 


Hope to see you there.


Simon. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Franklin Graham in Lithuania

Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, was recently in Lithuania, and Saulius had the privilege of translating for him. Here are some of his reflections on the event:

Lithuania has not seen such intense work toward an event where over 200 evangelical churches worked together to fill the Siemens Arena for two days. Lithuania has only 1,5% evangelical population and churches are very small, but this unity that we saw inspired many. We thank God for Billy Graham Association for making such a significant investment of time and money to our country. There were over 28,000 attending in two days. More than 1,700 made a commitment to receive Christ. All of them will be followed-up by churches. That is a huge number for us. We had great program too – 400 voice choir,  lots of bands including NEWBOYS. These guys were awesome. I got to eat a couple of times with them and here their stories. They are humble and devoted followers of Christ.

I got a chance to spend time with the Team of BGEA. I was very impressed to see that some of these men served together for 50-60 years. The official photographer Russ has been travelling with BGEA since 1956. He is 81 years old and still on the road.  Amazing. When Franklin worked with me at his hotel room to get the sermons ready I was very moved by his humble and gentle spirit. He said „I don’t understand, but when I preach a simple Gospel message all over the world, poeple respond the same.“ He just preached the Gospel to me and that was our prep time for the nights. These were sweet moments.

Let's pray for huge ongoing fruit from this event, and that we might know similar unity amongst the churches in the UK, for where there is unity God commands a blessing.

Simon. 



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Decorations

On Wednesday and Thursday nights this week the Kerith Centre and K2 are being decorated for Christmas. If you're free the team would really appreciate your help to bring Christmas cheer to both buildings. I got involved last year and we had a real blast, breaking quite a few health and safety rules along the way (don't tell anyone in facilities I said that!). It's not only a good opportunity to serve, but also great time to get to know other Kerith people amidst the baubles and tree lights!! Arrive at 8pm with a pair of scissors/wire clippers if you have them!!!

Meanwhile to get you in the mood take a look at the video below of Christmas lights set to the the angry birds music - absolutely classic!

Simon. 



Monday, November 28, 2011

Kerith Willow Member Benefits

Kerith is a member of UK Willow Creek Association. That not only gives us benefits as a community, such as being able to book people in for cheaper rates at conferences, but it also gives online access to a whole loads resources for any individual who is a part of Kerith. The online resources include:

  • Their Developing Courageous Leaders Programme
  • Some brilliant Defining Moments talks and interviews
  • A growing list of other online courses and sermons
To get access to all of these then you just need to email willow at jude@willowcreek.org.uk, and they will fix you up with a login. There really are some brilliant resources on there so please do it!

Simon.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Readings

Last Sunday Ben Oliver encouraged all of us to be reading the Christmas story over the next few weeks. Above is the reading plan Ben gave us. 

I'm planning on blogging on these verses with some observations and application through December, but can I encourage you to spend time meditating on these verses for yourself. Give time for the passsage to soak in rather than just rushing your way through it. I find it helpful to ask these three questions as I meditate.

  1. What did this mean to the people at the time? Actually try and put yourself in the story. Imagine being Mary, a shepherd, Zechariah, or Joseph and think how you would have felt and reacted in the same situation.
  2. What does this mean to me today? How does this store relate to my life as it is today. Where are there's similarities, what are the principles, commands or promises which I need to hear?
  3. What an I going to do with what I've read? Do I need to stop and thank God for something, repent of something, pray for someone, apologise to or encourage someone else, change an attitude, choose to trust God or something else? The Bible properly applied will always change us.
I hope you enjoy getting into the Christmas story this year.

Simon. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

British Sign Language Taster Course

The flier says it all really! If you're interested in taking some first steps in learning British Sign Language then this is for you. We have a growing deaf and hard of hearing community at Kerith, and it would be great for more of us in the hearing community to be able to communicate with them in their first language, even if like me all you can do is say hello and your name!

There will be a sign up table on Sunday, or you can send an email to the address above to let us know you're coming. 

Simon. 


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Serenje Car Wash

This Sunday 40 of our teenagers are going to be washing cars in the college car park during the two morning meetings to raise funds for the girls dormitory in Serenje. They'll be charging £3 a wash, although all tips will be gratefully received and will go to Serenje too!

Sunday will also be the final Serenje gift day this year (I promise!). The total raised so far now stands at just over £106,000, including pledges, meaning we've only got another £99,000 to go to get the money we need to fund year 4 of the project and build the dormitory. Please be thinking and praying about what you are going to give.

As if all that wasn't enough Lee Layton-Matthews will be preaching on Sunday on "Christmas, the Prequel". You won't want to miss it!

Hope you're having a great week. 

Simon. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lithuanian GLS

I thought you might enjoy these photos of the Lithuanian GLS which Saulius and his church in Klaipeda were instrumental in hosting. Saulius had this to say about the event. 

This past weekend we had the Global Leadership Summit. Last year we had 300 participants and this year 520. We closed the registration down two weeks before the event because we ran out of space.  We had to turn poeple down.  This conference is my dreaming coming true – church leaders, business and political leaders sit toghether and learn about the servant leadership. It is interesting to note, that many non-believering business found the most spiritual talks of GLS most invigorating and useful. It is becoming an evangelistic tool.  The Mayor of Klaipeda greeted all participants at the beginning of the event. The Chair of the prayer group of Lithuanian Parlament said that we should think about doing GLS in the Parliament and promised his full support in doing it.

I have never seen such diverse denominationals groups having so much fun together. The Holy Spirit worked deeply in the hearts of many. Many churches send their full elder boards and church boards. We laughed and cried together. That was very powerful. Over 100 of participants have already registered for next year’s conference. That is a very high number for Lithuania where most people don’t plan for tomorrow, let alone for next year. Praise God. Next year we are planning to do two sites – Klaipeda 16-17 Nov, Vilnius 23-24 Nov. 

It's such a privilege that we can partner with Saulius, and play even a small part in events like the GLS, and through it the kingdom of God, spreading around the world.

Simon. 



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Songs

One of my favourite Psalms is Psalm 40. It starts with these words:


I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.

There are many reasons I love this Psalm.  One of them is that when I became a Christian I was a big U2 fan, and it was only after I became a Christian that I realised that their song 40, which is on the end of their album "War", is these opening lines of Psalm 40 put to music. They used to finish every concert by singing this song, and I can still remember the only time I've ever seen U2 live being lost in a spiritual moment at the end of the concert, tears streaming down my face, singing Psalm 40 and thanking God that he'd heard my cry and set my feet on a rock.

Why, you may ask, am I telling you all this? Good question! Well it's because I think there is something powerful about new songs.  Old songs are great, but often new songs which are unfamiliar and fresh can help us engage with God in a way in which old songs can't. "Shout to the Lord" is an amazing song, but I've sung it so many times now that sometimes the words just become too familiar. And God is a God who is always doing new things, both for us as individuals and as a community, and we will need news songs to help us express those things.

So we as a community will be committed to singing new songs. Both great songs being written around the world, and great songs being written by the songwriters in our community. On Sunday we sang a new song, written by Dave Betts, based on King David's desert experience in Psalm 63 - you can read more about what caused Dave to write the song here. And for a real treat check out this acoustic version of the song "Drawing Near". We're aiming for our musicians to record two CDs a year of new songs, which we'll give away for free and put on the website. The next one of these, "This is Love", should be out around Christmas.

But I'm also encouraging our worship leaders to be singing what I call "old new songs". Helping us rediscover old hymns which many of us won't know, but which express some of the timeless truths about God in ways which will be fresh to us. Look out for some of those too in the coming months.

I pray that this week God will put a new song in your mouth!

Simon.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Listening to Sermons Online

Several people have said to me that they've been struggling to listen to Kerith sermons online. That's a real shame, as it's a great way to catch up if you've been away for the weekend, or just want to listen to a sermon again.

If you're on a PC then the easiest way to get to listen to a sermon is to go to our website, put your cursor over the word "Home" in the top section, then move the cursor down and click on Media. There you'll be able to find all the latest sermons, as well as media clips and songs.

If you've got an iPod, iPad or iPhone then the simplest way to get sermons is to got to iTunes (either on your PC or your device) and then in the iTunes store search for "Kerith". There are two Kerith podcasts there. The first is an old one which we need to get removed, but the second one should have all the latest sermons. The great thing about this is that new sermons will be downloaded to your device as they're added.

On a Blackberry, Android or Windows 7 phone I assume you're best off using the web browser and going to our website to listen to sermons. That won't work on an iPhone as it doesn't support flash (and the podcast is easier to use anyway) but should work on those other phones. Please leave a comment on the blog if anyone knows of a better way of doing it on these phones.

Finally to say a huge thank you to Geoff Hawke who week in week out edits and uploads the sermons to the website, often within a few hours of the meeting finishing. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Geoff, one of our many, many behind the scenes heroes.

Simon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Social Media Musings #5 - Be Where You Are

The rise in popularity of social networking means that each one of us can now have two different presences. We have our bodily, physical, presence. The place where you actually are with the people who can actually see you and touch you. But we can also have an online, virtual, presence. I can send a text encouraging someone in our community, and have a real impact in their lives. Or I can write a blog which gets read by someone I've never met, in a country I've never been to, which can take that person closer to God without me ever realising it.

Someone asked me this week which of these two presences, physical or virtual, is the more important. My immediate reaction was to say that our physical presence is the most important one. That we can always have a bigger impact on the people we actually physically spend time with, than the ones we interact with virtually. But having reflected on it I'm not so sure.

Take preaching. You don't have to go far back in history to find a time when preachers would refuse to be recorded, or to even have their sermons written down and distributed. Their belief was that preaching wasn't proper preaching unless the people you were talking to were in the same room as you. Yet we now live in an age where events such as the Willow Creek GLS reaches far more people through DVDs, podcasts and satellite links than ever experience it live in Willow's auditorium. Is the preachers physical or their virtual presence having a bigger impact?

Or go back further and consider the writing of Paul. He had an amazing physical presence, planting numerous churches, seeing untold people saved, and keeping the apostles in Jerusalem on the straight and narrow. Yet it is his virtual presence, through the letters he wrote, which have I would argue have had a bigger impact, both on the people alive at the time when he was writing the letters, and certainly since. If he'd given all his time and energy to just being with the people he was actually with, his impact would have been far more limited in terms of both time and geography.

So let's not underestimate the power of our virtual, online, presence. In the first of these blogs I wrote about not being afraid of technology, but grabbing it with both hands and making full use of it's potential. You might not be a preacher, you certainly won't ever write a book of the Bible, but you can use your online presence to take people up in their lift, to take them closer to God and to see his kingdom grow.

I'll finish this series of blogs with one more observation. You can only be in one place at any one time (brilliant I know!). You're either interacting with the physical world around you, or the virtual one online, but you can't do both at the same time. Even if you're a girl and can multi task! So at any point in time choose which world you're in.

I was sat in a coffee shop a couple of weeks ago. There were two ladies on the table next to me. One of them was pouring her heart out to her friend, but as she was doing this her friend was constantly looking at her phone, reading and writing texts and making virtually no eye contact. I've seen the same scenario on holiday around a pool, with children pleading with the parents to come and play with them, whilst their parents send just one more email. At Kerith I've had to ban certain people from having their phones in staff meetings, because all their attention is on the phone rather than the topic we're discussing. By all means take every possible opportunity to make the maximum possible use of your online presence, but choose when and where you're going to do that, and don't ever let the people in your physical world feel that you're more interested in your iPhone than you are in them!

Simon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Serenje Latest

I announced two Sundays ago that we are going to have two more gift days for Serenje on the next two Sundays (20th and 27th November), and wanted to let you know the latest Serenje figures.

We started out this year aiming to raise £205,000 for Serenje this year. £80,000 of that is  to support year 4 of the HIV / AIDS project we are involved with there, and £125,000 is to fund the building of a girls dormitory for 100 secondary school girls. You can find a brilliant video with details of the first three years of the HIV / AIDS project here, and another superb video about the girls dormitory here - please take the time to watch them both.

So far this year the giving has been amazing. We have:

  • £36,062 for the girls dormitory, raised by the youth through Project 125, Garth Hill College through their walk to school day and other direct giving to the dormitory project.
  • £35,242 given in the October Gift Days we have just had.
  • £29,814 which is made up of unclaimed Gift Aid, money left over from year 3 of the project and money which people have pledged to give over the coming year.
In total that comes to just over £101,000 - an amazing total, which leaves us with just under £104,000 left to raise. As someone who sees the cup as being half full, that is very exciting!

Somebody asked me this week if we should just go for the money required for year 4 of the project this November, and then look to raise the money for the dormitory next year. There's a lot to be said for that approach, but having been to Serenje and seen the conditions the girls have to live in, I'm desperate to get the money to build the dormitory raised as quickly as possible so that isn't what is holding the project up. I'm therefore encouraging every one of us to think and pray about what we can give over the next two Sundays.

Some may have already given all they can give, or want to give. If that's you then thank you so much for all you've already given, and please feel no pressure to give any more.
Some may have given in October, and feel stirred to give more. If so, that's brilliant.
Some may have missed the October Gift days completely and be giving for the first time, if so please be generous, even tend towards being sacrificial in what you give, but again don't feel under any pressure.

You can either give in the second offering over the next two Sundays, or you can give online. Some may also want to give a regular amount over the coming year, rather than, or as well as a one off gift. If so there are standing order forms available from reception to allow you to do that.

In all of this let's remember that God loves a cheerful giver, and that we will reap what we sow - we can never out give God.

Simon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Social Media Musings #4 - Be an Ambassador

Paul writes in Ephesians 5:20 that "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors". An ambassador is someone who no longer speaks only for themselves, but speaks on behalf of the government, the king or queen, the people and the country they represent. They have to think of everything they say and do in terms of how it reflects not only on them, but on everyone they represent, as an authorised messenger for those people.

Being an ambassador for a country is a huge honour, and carries with it great responsibility. But as ambassadors for Jesus Christ we have an even greater responsibility and honour, representing and being messengers for Him in all we say and do. We need to be aware of this in all of our lives, but I believe in particular with what we do online, as the things we choose to blog, tweet and put on Facebook are available for anyone to see, and once written are almost impossible to remove. That means they can leave an even more indelible mark than the things we say verbally.

So what does that mean for us practically?

First we need to make sure that everything we say online reflects well on God and honours Him, That doesn't mean that everything that we post online has to be bland, unquestioning, sugary or just plain "nice". It's possible to write about our doubts, worries, questions and fears in a way which is authentic but which still honours God - if you don't believe me just spend some time reading the Psalms! They manage to express some of the darkest human emotions, and biggest questions of life, in a way which still rightly recognises who God is. But let's focus on the incredible blessings of our relationship with God, answers to prayer, encouragements and verses which inspire us.

Secondly we need to represent our church, and other churches, well. If we have disagreements or questions about what is going on in church, let's not play out our disagreements in a public forum. And let's make sure we honour leaders in our community in what we say online (see 1 Timothy 5:17). There is so much positive going on for us to talk about, and so much to celebrate, so let's talk about those things, as people will be reading what we write online when making deciding what they think about the church. That's not to say we can't challenge other people online, especially if what they've made their comments publicly. For an example of how to do this well see how Dave Gilpin reviewed Rob Bell's controversial book "Love Wins", or take a look at what Vicky Beeching had to say about discussing theology on social media.

Thirdly let's represent one another well, always thinking the best of, and wanting the best for one another. Let's not pull one another down or criticise one another online, but choose to build one another up and encourage one another. And let's be aware of our audience when we write - there may be some things you'd be happy to say to an adult audience, but not to all the teenagers who may be your friends on Facebook.

The bottom line. As a Christ follower, when you speak you no longer just speak for yourself but you speak as a representative of God and His kingdom. That's an awesome privilege, but also an incredible responsibility.

Simon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I mentioned on Sunday that I've recently read a biography of the German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and that it has increased even further my appreciation for everyone who who fought to overcome Hitler and the Nazi regime, and added a deeper understanding for me this year in my observance of Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday .

I knew little of the life of Bonhoeffer before I read this book, but the more I read it the more I came to admire this incredible man of God. The author, Eric Metaxas, has managed to write a book which reads like a really good novel or a thriller, at each stage drawing you further in to the story and making you just want to keep on reading more to find out what happens next (don't start reading it late at night!).

I'm not going to tell you any of the story, as that could spoil it, but I will say that what you read of in this book is not some 'sinless saint', but a man who struggled with working out his faith, who wrestled with how to apply the Bible to his context, who was let down by the people around him, who knew both great joy and incredible sadness, yet through it all kept strong in his pursuit of God and all that God had for him to do, and showed incredible courage and bravery.

I've asked the wonderful team who run our bookshop to order some copies of Metaxa's book in, but if like me you're a Kindle devotee it is available on Kindle too. This book would also make a great Christmas present, perhaps even for people you know who have an interest in the Second World War, but wouldn't normally read a 'Christian' book. I think they'd find it very accessible and might open their eyes to an aspect of the war they've never considered before.

Finally I wanted to use this opportunity to apologise for the mistake I made at the 9am meeting this week. As I introduced the two minutes silence I spoke about our armed forces fighting in World War 2 against what the Germans wanted to achieve, rather than what the Nazis wanted to achieve. There were many Germans, like Bonhoeffer, totally opposed to what Hitler was attempting to do, and I would never want to blur the distinction between the people of Germany and the Nazis. I did apologise to two of the Germans in our community straight after the meeting, who very graciously forgave me. Please will those of you who were there extend the same grace to me.

If any of you do read the book I'd love to hear what you thought of it. Have a great week.

Simon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Social Media Musings #3 - Be Kind

Much of the potential of social media to do good is not in the big things we do or say, but in our quick personal interactions. Social media gives us the ability to encourage and lift one another up, even when we aren't physically in the same place. Yet so much of the damage which comes from social media also comes from these same interactions - from unpleasant, destructive or unthoughtful things which get texted, tweeted and posted.

In the past I've spoken about the concept of lifts. That in every interaction we have with another person it's as though we take them into our lift, and what we say and do will either take them up or down, will leave them either encouraged or discouraged. I believe that's as true in our online interactions as it is in our physical ones. Everything we text, tweet, Facebook or blog has the potential to take people up or down, to take them closer to God or further away, to make them feel more or less equipped to face the world.

On Sunday morning I spoke about this in terms of kindness. You'll have to listen to the podcast to get the full message (including the drama team doing their "real life" Facebook sketch), but the short version was that it is God's kindness which has made it possible for us to repent (Romans 2:4, Titus 3:3-7, Ephesians 2:1-10Isaiah 54:8), and that God now intends us to show others the same kindness which we ourselves have received (1 Corinthians 13:4, Galatians 5:22-23, Colossians 3:12,  2 Peter 1:5-8). In fact true kindness isn't possible until we have been transformed and made new creations as a result of God's kindness coming into our lives.

So seek to be kind in all of your online interactions. Here are a some thoughts about how to do that:

  • If you know someone is going through a tough time, send them a text to let them know you're thinking of them and praying for them (and make sure you actually do pray for them).
  • Be open to the Holy Spirit prompting you to encourage someone with a text or an email.
  • Write blogs and tweets which will take others up in their lift. If you have something negative to say to someone then have the courage to say it face to face.
  • Don't use Twitter or Facebook to gossip about other people, to say what a terrible boss you have or to moan about how awful the people who work for you are!
  • If someone is negative about you online then choose to forgive them, and don't retaliate online. As someone once said "unforgiveness is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die". Practice Matthew 18:15-20
  • If you wrongly offend someone online then sort it with them and apologise as quickly as possible.
  • If you ever write an email or blog which you're not sure about, particularly if it's in response to something unpleasant someone has sent to you, then save it in your drafts folder and come back to it when you've calmed down. I can't tell you how many times this has stopped me getting into big trouble.


Someone did point out to me that the 13th November is, believe it or not, UK Kindness Day. Let's be people who don't just practice kindness one day a year, but make it a central part of our lives every day of the year, both online and in the "real" world.

Simon.

Remembrance Sunday

This Sunday we will be having two minutes silence during our time of worship in all three of our meetings, to remember those in our armed forces who have died in the line of duty since World War 1.  Please can I also encourage you to buy a poppy in support of the Royal British Legion, they are available from the Kerith Centre reception if you haven't got one from anywhere else.

We've also got baptisms on Sunday with people being baptised in all three meetings, and a different preacher for each meeting. Please come and support those being baptised.

It should be a great Sunday - hope to see you there!

Simon.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Social Media Musings #2 - Watch What You Watch


There are many positives to the whole world of the internet, but one of the huge downsides has been how it has made so much that is negative, and in particular pornography, so much more freely available. There was once a time when you would have to go to a shop to get hold of pornography, running the risk of being seen etc, but now if you've got access to a computer then you can get hold of pornography without anyone else knowing.

Paul writes to the church in Philippi "Finally, brothers, 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" (Philippians 4:8). Meanwhile Jesus sets the bar incredibly high when it comes to Christ followers, setting a grace standard which takes us way beyond the law when He says "I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).

I know this is an issue which can affect both men and women, but I particularly want to speak to the guys in Kerith in getting us to set the bar high in what we look at on the internet or on TV. For the married men let's choose to delight in our wives, to honour them and cherish them in all that we look at. And let's have a generation of single guys who take purity seriously, and choose not to conform to the standards of those around them but are preparing themselves one day to be outstanding husbands. Sometimes this will take an active choice. I've said before that I've struggled in the past with what I watch on TV when I've been away from home staying in hotels, so I now make the decision that when I'm away in a hotel to put the remote control in a drawer and make the decision just not to watch it. I also hold myself accountable to the elders for what I watch and look at, and from time to time will ask the other elders how they are doing on this issue. You need to be in some similar accountability relationships, and if you're in a place where you're struggling right now you need to find a safe person you can share it with.

There are other ways the internet can pull us down. Simply wasting hours going from one YouTube clip to another isn't a productive use of our precious time. Similarly if you want to you can find huge amounts of negative stuff about pretty much any well known Christian figure you'd like to name. Don't rely on what some anonymous nutter has to say about Mark Driscoll, Bill Hybels, Billy Graham or anyone else out there - it's just a waste of time and will leave you discouraged.

So what is the alternative. Well make sure that you listen to and watch things on the internet which will build you up. Get the YouVersion app on your smartphone and sign up for a daily Bible reading plan, getting God's word into you every day. Listen to Podcasts, read Blogs and sign up for Tweets from some of the Christian leaders out there, and instead of reading what some nutter thinks about them make your own mind up. I recommend anything by Tim Keller, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, John Piper and Craig Groeschel, but there are loads of other people out there putting out great stuff. I particularly enjoyed this Q&A session between John Piper and Rick Warren - outstanding. Even some dead people like CS Lewis have Twitter feeds dedicated to them which are full of daily inspiration. And more locally you can follow my wife, our Act For Justice group, our CAP centre, Serenje developments, Ken and Ann Bothamley, Michael and Esther Ross-Watson and many of our staff on Twitter. Why not add some comments about who you've found it helpful to follow.

Tomorrow we'll get on to some stuff on how we actually use social media in terms of what we create, but before we can do that we need to be sure that we're taking the right stuff in. Hopefully this will have helped you to do that.

Simon.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Social Media Musings #1 - Don't be Afraid of Technology

I've had a lot of very positive feedback from Sunday's preaches on how we should make use of social media. For the benefit of all of you who couldn't make the evening meeting, I thought I'd do five separate blogs this week on the five thoughts I preached on at the 7pm meeting. I'd love to hear comments or thoughts on these, and experiences of putting them into practice.

So here we go with thought #1 - Don't be afraid of technology - use it! Historically Christians have been at the forefront of using new technology to spread the gospel and build the church. Whether it was Paul having a missionary strategy which depended on the roads the Romans were building, people like Tyndale and the reformers seizing the opportunity presented by the printing press or CS Lewis inspiring a nation with his radio broadcasts during the Second World War, our history is full of people taking 'new' technologies and using them to advance the gospel (OK I'm not sure the radio was that new in 1940, but you get the idea!). So let's not run away from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Podcasts, texting and blogs and the opportunities they give us. Let us as individuals and as a community grab hold of them and see that they are used for good rather than evil.

And let's make use of the opportunities technology give us to be creative. There was a time when the Christians were designing and building the most beautiful buildings, telling their story through breathtaking stained glass windows and composing and performing the music all of society wanted to listen to. Yet so often we are now reduced to taking pot shots at the output of Hollywood and MTV, or retreating into our Christian music / radio / TV cocoon. There was a time when without a book publisher, recording contract or backing of a TV or radio network your voice would never be heard. But now through blogs, YouTube and Podcasts, as well as the availability of incredibly cheap cameras and video editing software, anyone can be an author, musician, broadcaster or short film maker, and instantly have a potential audience of millions, all either for free or at minimal cost. We serve a God who is unbelievably creative, so as people made in his image let's unleash a wave of creativity using all of this new technology. I'm loving some of the creativity come out of Kerith at the moment. The magazine, the CDs, the videos and the posters around the building. But I believe there is so much more to come, especially as we see our creativity flow over into the secular world.

So get started today. I agonised for months over starting blogging. Would anyone read it? Did I have anything to say? Yet four and a bit years in it's been one of the best things I've ever done. If you have an idea for a short film get a load of people together and start writing. Start a blog and start blogging. Even just right now send someone you love an encouraging text - it can be as easy as that. This might even be the excuse to get yourself that iPhone you've always longed for (disclaimer - other brands of smartphone are available - they're just not as good!).
One final thought on technology. Let's be sure we are in control of it, rather than it controlling us. Don't be stressed out because you're checking your email from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Have times in the day when you turn it off and get a life! Why not even every now and again leave your mobile phone at home. You know there was a time not too long ago that you could actually go on a car journey without a mobile phone and everything would be OK - why not give it a go and enjoy some technology free time!

I'd love to hear comments on this - feel free to leave them on the blog, Twitter or Facebook.

More tomorrow.

Simon

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Social Media Musings

This Sunday I'm going to speak on how we can use technology, and in particular social media (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, texting, blogs etc), as tools for good and as something which enhances our lives. Often the opposite is true. I read recently that in the US Facebook is now the primary source of evidence in divorce proceeding (I doubt the UK is far behind) so it is vital that we properly understand how to use these tools for good.

Normally on a Sunday I'll preach the same thing at the 9, 11 and 7. However this week I'm going to split the preach in two. In the morning I'm going to talk about an aspect of God's character which I believe, if mirrored in our own lives, would transform our use of social media. In the evening I'm going to give 5 practical guidelines to using social media for good, as well as doing some Q&A. If you can't make both morning and evening then please try and catch the one you missed on the podcast.

See you Sunday!

Simon.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sam, Hannah & Project Tehila

Many of you will know the wonderful Sam and Hannah Fairs-Billam. They first came to Kerith after someone put a church leaflet through their door, and I first met them when they came on the Marriage Course, which Catrina and I were leading back then.

At the time Sam wasn't a Christian, but after doing the Marriage Course Sam went on to do Alpha and there became a Christ follower. Now a number of years later they have two daughters, Isla and Amba, and are firmly embedded in the life of our community. As a couple they embody God's heart for justice - Sam works with the homeless and Hannah has a job standing up for marginalised children.

Sam came with us on the very first trip to Serenje. They now have a plan to spend a year living in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, working for the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, developing a child protection programme which will be rolled out across the whole of Zambia. You can read the latest about what they're up to on their blog. They're going as volunteers, which means they're currently fundraising to raise the £30,000 they'll need to support themselves for the year. They're already nearly three quarters of the way there which is amazing, but I know they'd appreciate any extra help!

Tehila isn't an "official" Kerith project, but Sam and Hannah have the full support of me and the rest of the leadership team. Hopefully they'll have your support too. Their plan is to go in March 2012 which isn't too far away! Please take a look at their blog, be praying for them all, and consider supporting them financially.

Simon.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Michael Ross-Watson Preaching on Sunday

This Sunday Michael Ross-Watson will be preaching at all three meetings. Michael and his wife Esther are just back from their latest mission trip to Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia where God was powerfully with them. I'm sure on Sunday we'll get to hear some of the stories of their trip, as well as hearing God's word preached with Michael's fathers heart.

Please remember also that it's the last Sunday of our offerings for Serenje. We're aiming to raise £80,000 for year four of the project and £90,000 to get the rest of the money to build the girl's dormitory. Please don't be intimidated by the totals, or by the current economic turmoil, but let's give as the Macedonian Christians did - "Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability" (2 Cor 8:2-3). If you can't be there on Sunday you can also give online here.

Simon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley


Many of you will already have heard that Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley are going to be doing a one day leaders conference at the Kerith Centre on Monday 30th January 2012.

Most of us have heard Bill Hybels at the Global Leadership Summit. He is the most inspiring Christian leader I've ever met, not only through the way he speaks but also the way he lives his life has been an inspiration to me.

Andy Stanley is an outstanding communicator, as well as leading an incredibly dynamic and innovative church. His book "Communicating for a Change" is required reading for all the Kerith preachers, and my iPhone is full of his podcasts.

Getting these two leaders together on one day in the UK is amazing. If you're a leader in any capacity then please plan to be there.

You can book on the Willow website, £60 for WCA UK members and £75 for non members (which is amazing value - in my other job we were being charged £250 for a day learning how to use email!), but if you're part of Kerith you can get an even better rate of £30 for the day. To get that rate you need to go to the Kerith Centre reception and register there.

And if all that wasn't enough then the day after we're going to have a guy called Pete Scazzero with us. He speaks and writes on building emotionally healthy churches and Christ followers, and comes very highly recommended. More details here. Why not invest in yourself and come to both days.

Hope to see you there on the 30th and 31st - I'm excited about it already!

Simon.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rice and Beans

This week we're encouraging everyone to eat more simply, in order to identify more closely with the people of Serenje. I know some people are planning on eating rice and beans for the whole week, others are doing a day and still others a single meal. If you really can't face rice and beans then why not miss some other luxury, go without chocolate or skip your Starbucks Latte. Whatever you do please use the opportunity to pray, to talk about our friends out in Serenje, and to think about giving to the Serenje offering this Sunday.

Happy eating!

Simon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween

First of all apologies to those who are used to me regularly updating the blog. It's been a crazy, although fruitful, couple of weeks including the Willow GLS, the Serenje pastors being with us, Serenje Sunday and Monday and Tuesday this week in Lincoln with a group of UK leaders. I've struggled to find time to blog so sorry about that. I'm also taking a break for some of half term, but once that is over normal blogging service should be resumed.

This Sunday we're going to be looking at how we deal with the Halloween season which is soon to be upon us. Whether you're a parent deciding what to allow your children to do, a teenager deciding which parties to go to, or are about to have your front door knocked by lots of trick or treaters we all have decisions to make about how we handle Halloween. I'll give a bit of the history of Halloween and then outline a series of Biblical principles which should hopefully help each of us to decide how we are going to deal with it. The principles will also help us understand how we deal with similar related issues such as Harry Potter. Should be interesting!

Hope to see you there on Sunday.

Simon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Harvest Festival Season

It's harvest festival season, which means a seemingly endless stream of food from local (and not so local) schools, churches and other organisations being delivered to the Kerith Centre, ready to be transferred to our warehouse. We even had deliveries last Friday during the Global Leadership Summit - fortunately they came during the sessions, so they could be packed away before the delegates came out for their next break. It's amazing what goes on behind the scenes at events like this which most people never get to see!

It's amazing to see the generosity of our local community, and their support for what we do. Today I had the privilege of going into Garth Hill College to be presented with a cheque for £5,000, which they raised through a series of events including a walk to school day. All of that money will go towards the girls dormitory which is going to be built in Serenje. In addition we last week got a grant for £10,000 towards the cost of the reception works, and next week a team from GlaxoSmithKline will be giving up their time to volunteer in Foodbank. Amazing.


Sometimes we can have a sense that as Christians everyone is against us and develop a sort of siege mentality. Yet in the book of Acts it says "They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people" (Acts 2:46). Acts 2:42-47 is often quoted as a description of church at its best - let's believe that part of that will mean us continue to enjoy the favour of those around us.

Simon.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Walk to Church

This Sunday we're celebrating all that has happened over the last three years in Serenje, the rural community in Zambia we are partnering with, as well as looking forward to what our relationship there will mean in the future. As part of our identifying with the community in Serenje we'd like to encourage everyone who can to walk to church. It might not be possible for you to walk all the way, I know some of you travel a long way to get to us, but perhaps you could consider parking at the house of a friend who lives closer, or walking in from one of the local car parks. Go on, give it a go!

We've got a superb meeting planned, which will include:

  • A great opener - please don't be late for the 9, 11 or 7!
  • An update on all that has been achieved in the project so far
  • Hearing from Bishop Samson Kasele on how the whole project started, from a Zambian perspective
  • Hearing from teachers involved in the schools links
  • An update on the hospital links 
  • Updates on fundraising and planning for Project 125 - building a dormitory for 100 girls in Serenje
  • Hearing what Kids2, LIFE and Garth Hill College have been doing to raise money
  • Pastor Bernard Ngosa talking about what the future holds for our partnership
  • Matthew Frost, the Chief Executive of Tearfund, giving their perspective as our partner in the project
  • The chance to eat some Nshima, the staple food in Zambia
  • And most of all thanking God for His hand on all that we have attempted to do.

We will also have the first of three weeks of offerings, looking to raise £80,000 for year 4 of the project, and £95,000 to get the girls dormitory built.

We will also be joined by a number of leaders from other churches who are considering embarking on similar projects. Let's be praying that God will speak to their hearts too, and remember to make them feel incredibly welcome.

Hope to see you there,

Simon.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Please Do This :)

The funding of Kerith will always, I believe, come primarily from the direct giving of those who call it home. That was certainly true last year, when our overall income was just over one million pounds, over 90% of which came from direct giving (regular offerings, gift days and gift aid on that giving). But we will always look for other opportunities for funding, to allow us to do more. Just last week we got a cheque in the post for £10,000 as a result of a grant application to help fund some of the costs of the reception redevelopment.

I want to let you know about two things you can do to help us access more external funding.

Firstly our Konnections Ministry (providing support to families with children with special needs) is in the running for a £6,000 grant from NatWest. The money is awarded on the basis of which charity in an area gets the most votes. Please can I ask you to go through the voting process (which is slightly complicated, but not too bad), and to encourage everyone you know with their own email address to do the same. If everyone who reads the blog were to vote I'm pretty sure we can win. The details for what you need to do are as follows:


First follow this link.  

Then click on the “I accept...terms and conditions box and click on the “vote for us” box.

Click on the “register now” words in the red box.  This will take you through a short form to register your name and email address.  A confirmation will then be sent to your e-mail pretty instantaneously.

Once you have received your confirmation enter your email and password and log in
This will then return you to the Konnections screen and you once again click on the “I accept...terms and conditions box and click on the “vote for us” box.

You should see a screen confirmation that you have been successful in casting your vote.


Please do the above now!

Secondly for those of you who shop in Waitrose in Sandhurst, our Konnections Ministry is one of the chosen charities for the Waitrose community matters scheme for the month of October. There are three charities chosen every month, which get a share of £1,000 in proportion to the votes of shoppers in the store, which they indicate by putting a green coin in the appropriate bin at the exit of the shop. If you normally shop in the Sandhurst Waitrose then please be sure to vote for Konnections.

Thanks for your help with this.

Simon.