Monday, January 31, 2011

Old Testament Series

Next Sunday we're going to start a series on the Old Testament, the bit of the Bible written before Jesus was around. We'll be working our way through the story of the Old Testament, as well as looking at some of the fascinating characters who make up the story.

People sometimes think of the Old Testament as being boring or irrelevant. I couldn't disagree more strongly. The thread running through it all God's love and passion for mankind is breathtaking, culminating of course in Jesus ending up on planet Earth. You see humanity at its best and its worst, and learn so much about how to do life well with God.

We're going to start at the beginning, with Genesis 1 and 2, so if you want do some advance reading why not read those two chapters before Sunday.

Simon.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Prayer for Albania

Many of us will have heard the news of what has been happening in Tunisia and Egypt. Last Tuesday I got news of similar things happening in Albania from the leader of one of the churches we work with there - I've included his report at the end of this blog. Please be praying for Albania, and in particular for the churches we work with over there. I'm reminded of a quote from Martin Luther King's letter from Birmingham jail :


"In those days (speaking of the early church) the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores (the fundamental moral views) of society."


Let's pray for churches, both here and in Albania, which transform society.


Simon.
----------------------
Last Friday (21st Jan) the opposition organised a protest outside the PM's offices in Tirane. Many of the protestors started to throw rocks at the riot police, and to attack them with sticks.

The police initially protected themselves, but when things started to get out of hand they charged to push back the crowds. Water canons and tear gas were used. The area was cleared.

Angered protesters then set fire to various vehicles parked nearby (silly place to park!) and then returned to the PM's offices where they continued to provoke the police as before.

Some police began to throw stones back at the rioters. Some rioters then climbed on the wall of the PM's offices. The police allowed them to stay.

All this happened in 50 minutes...we watched it live on TV.

About an hour later...the protestors forced open the gates and tried to drive a Mercedez Benz through the concrete barrier. The national guard shot warning shots. Rioters continued to pelt the national guard with stones. 3 protesters were shot and killed and a journalist shot in the hand.

Many police are in hospital, as are many civilians...one from Lezhe is in a coma.

The PM has awarded all the national guard and police on duty 1 months pay bonus.

The chief prosecutor has suspended 6 of the nationl guard.....the police are refusing to arrest them...the PM has accused the chief prosecutor/attorney general of plotting to overthrow the government.

As I write the chief prosecutor has appeared at a press conference with the US ambassador, who seems to be supporting her.

The oppostion plans further protests on Friday.....the US ambassador has called for this meeting to be postponed until an inquiry is done. The ruling party has organised a meeting for Wednesday or Saturday...the US ambassador has also called for this to be postponed.

The PM has stated that his national guard will shoot again if similiary attacked.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Psalms

My readings this morning took me to Psalm 6. I ended up reading the introduction to Psalms, in the ESV Study Bible, where I read this:


These songs cover a wide range of experiences and emotions, and give God’s people the words to express these emotions and to bring these experiences before God. At the same time, the psalms do not simply express emotions: when sung in faith, they actually shape the emotions of the godly. The emotions are therefore not a problem to be solved but are part of the raw material of now-fallen humanity that can be shaped to good and noble ends. The psalms, as songs, act deeply on the emotions, for the good of God’s people. It is not “natural” to trust God in hardship, and yet the Psalms provide a way of doing just that, and enable the singers to trust better as a result of singing them. A person staring at the night sky might not know quite what to do with the mixed fear and wonder he finds in himself, and singing Psalm 8 will enrich his ability to respond.


I loved the phrase that the Psalms "shape the emotions of the godly. The emotions are therefore not a problem to be solved but are part of the raw material of now-fallen humanity that can be shaped to good and noble ends". Let's not be people who deny or hide our emotions, but take them to God in faith and with an attitude of trust and confidence in Him.

Simon.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ten10 this Sunday

This Sunday we're having another Ten10 Sunday, where ten different people get to speak for 10 minutes each across the three meetings. Every time we do these I'm amazed, not only by the quality of what people bring but also by how God speaks so clearly through each of the preaches.

At the 9am Beccy Oliver, George Barnett and Amanda Wolfram will be speaking. At 11am we've got Danny Smith, Nathan Evans and Janine Jackson. At the 7pm we'll hear from Emily Klitgaard, Gabriella Cox, Susie Powell and Jacqui Webber-Gant.

Part of our responsibility as a community is to help people develop their gifts and talents - Ten10 is one of the ways we are looking to do that. Please be praying for those who are speaking, and come expectant to hear God through them.

Simon.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cloudy Days in Summer - Update

The Cloudy Days in Summer conference on Saturday 5th February is fast approaching. There is more information and online booking available on our website. However, I know that a number of people struggle with online booking, so this Sunday you will also be able to book with cash, cheque or a credit / debit card at The Kerith Centre reception desk.

I doubt that any of us will go through life without being affected by the issue of mental health, either personally or through somebody close to us. It is so important that we know how to deal with this issue, both Biblically and practically. This day will be excellent at equipping us in both of these areas. It only costs £10 for the day which is superb value for money.

If you want more of an insight into the impact depression, which is one facet of mental health, can have on a person then please take a look at this blog of someone I know who lives with depression, and is a friend and occasional attender at Kerith.

Simon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Alpha Starting

Just a reminder that Alpha starts this week. The evening course is at 7.30pm on Wednesday in The Kerith Centre where there will be a meal, a talk, time to meet new people and an opportunity to ask any questions you may have. The daytime course starts at 10am on Thursday in K2 and replaces the meal from the evening with tea, coffee, cake and a crèche! It's a brilliant course for anyone who wants to find out more about Jesus and the Christian faith, or is looking to grow in their faith. You can just turn up for the start of either course, although it would really help us if you were able to let us know you are coming by either phoning reception on 01344 862699 or sending an email.

Geeks like me may be interested to know that there's a really cool iPhone app for Alpha. It contains the course manuals, links to the location of courses near where you are, space to write notes and a whole load of other great stuff. It's free from the app store. Sadly we're not able to give an iPhone to everyone attending the course (that would get attendance up!) so this time round we'll just be giving out paper manuals. I did see an article recently about a cafe in Croatia which has replaced newspapers with iPads, so perhaps that may be a possibility one day!

Hope to see you at Alpha!

Simon.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Christmas Day Offering

Christmas seems a long time ago now, but I thought you'd like to know that the Christmas Day offering raised £2,080. The elders have decided to make that up to £3,000 from the Mission Tithe, which means that £1,500 will be going to Daisy's Dream and £1,500 to our local branch of Cruse.

Thank you to everyone who gave so generously. Having spoken to people involved with these charities I know that the money will make a real difference to what each charity can do in the coming year.

Simon.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Justice Challenge

I know that many of us were challenged by Ben Cooley's call last week, that justice should be at the centre of what it means to be church, rather than just an add on to what we do (Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne - Psalm 89:4).

I'd like to challenge you all with some reading which will help us think further about what that really means. In April 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested and put in jail for 11 days in Birmingham Alabama, for taking point in a non-violent protest against racial segregation by the city government and local shops.

On the 12th April 1963 eight local white clergymen wrote a letter, titled "A Call for Unity", which was published in a local newspaper criticising Martin Luther King and the protests. You can read their letter here - I'd encourage you to click on the link and read it as I think their attitude of "wait and hopefully it will get better" wouldn't be out of place in many church settings today.

On the 16th April Martin Luther King wrote a response, which is just an incredibly masterly defence of his actions and the reasoning behind them (all the more incredible considering it was written whilst he was still in jail). You can read it here. Please take time to read it slowly and thoughtfully and follow his train of thought. Some of the quotes which really grabbed me:

We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."


So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?


I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, unBiblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.


 In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the morals of society. 

We are called to love God not just with our heart, soul and strength but also with our minds. I encourage you to stretch yourself a bit, read what Martin Luther King had to write and think about what he has to say for us tackling injustice today. I'd love to hear your comments.

Simon.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Luther on New Things

As I said at the start of the year, I'm planning on reading a lot more old books this year. I'm going to blog about the experience, in order to try and keep me honest in keeping it up!


I've just finished "Crime and Punishment" by Dostoevsky. It starts with a student who murders two people, and then tells the story of the fall out from that event. Dostoevsky was a Christian, and there a whole load of Christian themes which run through the story including the nature of sin, repentance and grace. I did really enjoy reading it, although it was hard going in parts. 

I'm now reading "Selections from the Table Talk of Martin Luther". Martin Luther was the priest and professor of theology who initiated the Protestant Reformation, affirming that salvation was by grace alone and re-establishing the unique authority of the Bible - a pretty key guy for us. He also translated the Bible into German to make it accessible to ordinary people, leading to Tyndale translating the Bible into English which then lead to the King James Version. 

But he wasn't just some dusty professor. He was also famous for his fireside chats, where students would come into his home and over a beer (his wife a brewer!) would discuss the Bible and related topics. The book I'm reading is a collection of these talks, which his students wrote down. The translation is a bit old fashioned but they're still incredibly fresh and relevant. Let me share one which amused me - if you remember I spoke a few weeks ago about our desire for new things - this obviously afflicted people in Luther's time too, even if for them it wasn't iPads and new TVs!

Before I translated the New Testament out of the Greek, said Luther, every one longed after it, to read therein, but when it was done their longing lasted scarce four weeks.  Then they desired the Books of Moses; when I had translated those, they had enough thereof in a short time.  After that they would have the Psalter; of the same they were soon weary; when it was translated, then they desired other books.

In like manner, said he, will it be with the Book of Ecclesiasticus, which they now long for, and about which I have taken great pains in the translating thereof.  All are acceptable, so long and until our giddy brains be satisfied; afterwards they let them lie, and seek after new things; therefore in the end there must come errors among us.


Simon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Prophecy at the Prayer Meeting

Last week, at a Newfrontiers regional meeting, I was given a prophetic word by a guy called Julian Adams. Julian has a recognised prophetic ministry within Newfrontiers, although I'd never met him before. The word he gave me was remarkably accurate in a number of details, and very exciting in what it says to us as a church.

Ben Davies has always taught us to "weigh prophecy and obey the Bible". Prophecy is exciting, but we must never put it above the Bible, or even close to being on a par with it. The elders are in the process of weighing the prophecy I received, but I also want to share it at the prayer meetings this week so that we can all hear it and pray for the things it talks about to become reality.

So if you want to hear it you need to be there on Wednesday or Thursday (8pm in K2). Until I've talked more with the elders I won't be sharing it on a Sunday or putting it up on the blog, although I may do that at some point in the future.

As well as this we will also be worshipping together, sharing communion, reflecting on Ben Cooley's visit and others will be leading us in praying for other areas of church life. Please be there if you can, as prayer is so key to us slaying the giants God has called us to defeat. Don't miss it!

Simon.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ben Cooley Reflections

Anyone wondering about the reality of the human trafficking problem Ben Cooley so powerfully highlighted to us this weekend only has to read this article on the BBC website this morning. Here's one section which really hit me: 

Anne Marie Carrie, Barnardo's new chief executive, told the BBC the problem was far more prevalent than it had previously thought and the 1,000 or so victims identified were "the tip of the iceberg". She also said the average age of those abused had fallen from 15 to 13 in recent years. "Children are being passed from man to man, home to home, city to city," she said. "It's the domestic trafficking of children for money. The children are as young as 10. These children are being used, abused and thrown away by organised gangs of men."
So what are we going to do? To be honest I don't know, or at least I haven't got a ten point or five year action plan of how Kerith is going to engage in this particular area of justice. What I do know is that God seems to have a consistent way of leading us in these situations, as He does in so much of life. It's how He's lead us with CAP, Foodbank, Serenje, Friday night youth and many other areas of church life, and how He's lead me in much of my personal life too.
First of all He shows us the big picture, the broad brush strokes of what He wants us to aim for. In this case it's the eradication of human trafficking in the UK. That might seem a huge dream, and we're certainly only going to be a small part of seeing that dream come to reality, but God calls the church to dream big dreams, and take on apparently unbeatable giants.
Secondly God shows us the next step. We'd like to see the next ten or twenty steps, in fact all the steps which will take us to achieving the dream, but He often only shows us the next one. In this case I think there are a number of next steps:
  • Go the Hope for Justice website and increase your knowledge of the issues surrounding human trafficking.
  • We must pray. Come to the prayer meetings this week and join us in praying for this and many other issues, as well as praying on your own and in Lifegroups.
  • Some of us will individually want to financially support the work of Hope for Justice - you can do that here.
  • Some may want to start an Act For Justice group in Kerith. A number of people have already spoken to me about this, and I think it would be a great thing to do. Someone will need to lead it (not me, but someone chosen by the leadership). If you'd be interested in being part of a group like this then send an email here expressing your interest and we'll gather a list of names.
  • As a church community we're going to host a Hope for Justice event on the evening of Saturday July 16th. We'll publish more details on this over the next couple of months.
That's probably enough next steps for now. My experience is that as we take these next steps God will show us more, both individually and as a community.
Finally let's remember that this is only one expression of God's heart for justice in our community. Let's not forget all the things that we're already doing, and be willing to get practically involved with those too. In particular over the next month we're going to be really encouraging people to get involved in befriending CAP clients - a simple but powerful way to be a force for justice.
Hope to see you on Wednesday or Thursday at the prayer meetings,
Simon.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Don't Miss Ben Cooley

Just a reminder that Ben Cooley, from Hope for Justice, is with us this Sunday. I've has the privilege of getting to know Ben a bit more over the last two days, and can't encourage you strongly enough to come and hear him, both morning and evening if possible. Part of our DNA is to be a church which makes a genuine difference in the society we live in - Ben being with us can only serve to strengthen that in us.

Hope you have a great weekend and see you Sunday.

Simon.

Spurgeon on Bible Reading

I love this quote from Charles Spurgeon on Bible reading, which was written over 100 years ago, but could so easily have been written today:

"You know more about your ledgers than your Bible; you know more about your magazines and novels than what God has written; many of you will read a novel from the beginning to the end, and what have you got? A mouthful of foam when you are done. But you cannot read the Bible; that solid, lasting, substantial, and satisfying food goes uneaten, locked up in the cupboard of neglect; while anything that a man writes, a best seller of the day, is greedily devoured"
I don't know about you, but for me the whole Christmas period played havoc with my regular Bible reading. If the same is true for you, please can I encourage you to get into a good routine now we're into the New Year.
As last year I'm using a reading plan from the fabulous youversion Bible website, which you can also access from an iPhone, BlackBerry or Google Android phone. Whether you use that, Bible reading notes or or some other system, please have a plan and take responsibility for your own discipleship in 2011.
Simon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Andy Jackson's Blog

My great friend Andy Jackson has joined the ranks of the Kerith bloggers. Many of you will know that his wife, Janine, began chemotherapy on Wednesday and Andy is using his blog to keep people informed about how it is going, as well as recording his thoughts and feelings. I particularly enjoyed his New Year's blog on promises. Please be praying for Janine as she goes in and out of hospital over the next few months.

Andy's daughter Ellie designed his blog - I feel very jealous as it looks far better than mine! Ellie also writes a very thought provoking blog which you can find here.

Simon.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Growth Requires Increased Giving

On Sunday I spoke about the growth we are experiencing, and that although growth is great it always brings with it problems which need to be overcome. Towards the end of the preach I spoke about money being one of the keys to growth (a message Ben Davies has brought to us for years). In 2011 we need to see around a 10% increase in giving in order to do all the things we have in our heart to do.

We want to be as open as possible about our finances, and to that end have added a new series of pages to the website to give more information. You'll find there:

Please take the chance to have a look at these pages. If you have any questions or comments on the pages (which we'd love to hear) then there are details on the pages as to who to send them to, or feel free to post them to the blog and I'll get answers to them posted there.

I'd like to encourage everyone who is part of our community to consider their giving, both regular giving and when people receive bonuses and inheritances. But remembering that God loves cheerful givers, and that we don't want anyone giving reluctantly or under any sense of compulsion. 

A huge thank you to Ben Oliver, Mike Webber-Gant, Helen Dodwell, Bill Clague and Rosie Donnan who have helped put these pages together.

Happy reading!

Simon.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ben Cooley

I'm so excited that this weekend we're going to have a guy called Ben Cooley with us. Ben heads up a charity called for Hope for Justice which is involved in attempting to bring an end to human trafficking. There are some incredibly moving videos on their website which will give you a much clearer idea of the scale of the problem and the work they are attempting to do.

Ben is going to be speaking to the Academy students on Thursday afternoon, meeting the staff on Friday during the day, speaking at LIFE (our youth event) on Friday evening and then speaking at all three meetings on Sunday (with a different message in the morning and evening). As well as telling us some of what he does he is also going to speak on God's heart for justice and the role the church has to play. We will also have stands on Sunday where you can get more information on not only Hope for Justice but also Foodbank, CAP debt counselling, our HIV AIDS project in Zambia and other ways you can get involved in making a difference.

I first met Ben about six months ago, although had already heard lots about him from our young people who had heard him speak at Rocknations in Bradford. I'm so looking forward to many more people in our community getting to meet him over the weekend.

Hope to see you there.

Simon.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My 2011 Reading Plans

Many of you will know that I love to read, and that it's one of my favourite ways to relax. That's only been helped by my recent purchase of an Amazon Kindle - such a cool device!


Usually most of my reading is contemporary stuff, either the latest Christian authors such as John Ortberg, Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, or contemporary fiction such as John Grisham, Ian Rankin or Susan Hill.



However, I've decided in 2011 to follow a pattern set by Rick Warren, who says that "25% of my reading is from the 1st 1500 yrs of the church, 25% from last 500 years, 25% from last 100 years, 25% current". 

I'm going to try and follow that for both my Christian and my fiction reading. At the moment I'm reading "Lectures to My Students" by Charles Spurgeon and "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and am really enjoying both. I might even write some book reviews to try and encourage others to read some "old school" stuff too! I've got some Augustine and some Martin Luther lined up next.

Incidentally all of this is helped by having the Kindle, as lots of the older books are either free or cost under £1 (also a great way to 'justify' buying a Kindle to both yourself and others!).

Happy reading,

Simon.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cloudy Days in Summer

One of my favourite series we have done as a church was "The Elephant in the Church", where we looked at some of the issues Christians don't like to talk about - you can still listen to the podcasts of those talks here.

One of the key roles of leaders is to be honest, open and at times ruthless about dealing with "elephants", and to listen to others who may have spotted elephants we were blind to. In my opinion one of the biggest "elephants" we have is the whole issue of mental health. Somehow we have an idea that if you're a Christian then you should be immune to any sort of mental health problems, and that if you are struggling then the best thing to do is to put on your happy "Christian" face in church and pretend you're fine!

I'm therefore delighted that on Saturday 5th February we're going to be hosting a conference dealing with both the theological and the practical issues surrounding mental health. The conference is being run by Sean Green and our friends from Reading Family Church, but we're hosting the day at The Kerith Centre. The day runs from 10am-4pm and you can either register online, via email or by phoning Reading Family Church on 0118 933 7961. There are also leaflets with more information on the Kerith reception desk.

If you want to read about two people in our community who have been brave enough to talk about their journey with mental health, I recommend the articles in the latest LinK magazine by Caroline Hanbury and Sue Toms. I applaud their courage and honesty.

Hope to see you there on the 5th.

Simon.