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.