Friday, May 30, 2014

Ten Talks

This Sunday we've got our ever popular Ten Talks, where different people from our community get to speak for ten minutes. This time they're all going to be speaking from the gospel of John, following on from our series spending 21 days in John.

In the 9am in Bracknell Anja Davies, Tim Farley and Lisa O'Brien are speaking.

In the 10am in Sandhurst we've got Lorraine Hart, Bernard Watsulu and Graham Foxwell.

In the 11am in Bracknell it's Dan McNab, Emily O'Neil and Adam Bilcliff.

Finally at the 6pm in Bracknell it's Connor Whiteside, Catherine Barrett and Emily O'Neil (again!).

Please come along, support those being brave enough to get up there and come expecting to hear from God.

Simon.

 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Jo Gambi - September Alpha Launch

We've got a really outstanding speaker, a lady called Jo Gambi, for our Alpha Launch Event which is on Saturday 20th September at 7.30pm.

In 2005 Jo and her husband Rob became the first married couple to climb the ‘7 Summits’ (the highest mountain on each continent) and ski to the Poles. Rob was also the first Australian, and Jo the first female, to achieve this. Rob is also the first cancer survivor to climb the ‘7 Summits’, and Jo is the second British woman to have climbed Everest’s North/North East Ridge. Together they hold the Guinness World Record for the fastest (and first) '7 Summits' ascent by a married couple, and Jo holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest ‘7 Summits' ascent by a female. Rob and Jo have two boys - Ben (3) and Sam (1). Sam was born with a rare complex neuro - behavioural disorder called Prader Willi Syndrome. They are by all accounts a remarkable couple!

I recently read Jo's book, "Holding On", which made me realise their mountain climbing adventure was even more amazing than it sounds in that short description - especially that they did it all whilst Rob was in remission from his second bout of cancer.

It's going to be fascinating to hear Jo tell her story, and especially how her faith impacts and informs everything else which has happened and is happening in her life.

Tickets will go on sale nearer the time. For now please put the date in your diary, and be thinking about who you are going to invite to what is going to be a superb evening.

Simon.

Ps - Bear Grylls says of Jo and Rob 'A great read, great story, and a great love…what champions you both are’ - what higher recommendation could you want!

 

Friday, May 23, 2014

April Finance Update

One of the things we're trying to do this year is regular finance updates. My plan is once a quarter to do a longer update on a Sunday, and in the months in between to do an update via my blog.

Those of you who were around at the start of the year will know that our goal this year was, after a number of years of rapid expansion, to get our expenditure under control, to improve our longer term financial planning, and to begin to build up reserves to give us a platform for future growth (getting better before we get bigger). That resulted in us taking some very tough decisions which, although hard, were essential if we were to safeguard the long term future of our community.

So the numbers.

So far this year our offering income has been very encouraging. In April we budgeted for offerings of £65,713 but actually received £112,695. For January to April we budgeted for income of £262,852 and actually received £322,313. That puts us just under £60,000 ahead of budget which is very good. There are a number of large gifts included in that total, but our regular giving is also above budget which is very positive.

On the expenditure side our expenditure remains below budget, although in part that is because of the timing of working being done and bills coming in. We need to continue to keep a close eye on expenditure to keep it within what is a very tight budget for the rest of the year, but so far we're doing well. After we've completed June and we've got 6 months of expenditure to report I'll share more detailed expenditure figures, but for now be assured we're doing OK.

All of this means that we have been able to increase our reserves from around £28,000 at the start of the year to just under £48,000 at the end of April. We've also improved our available cash (money in the bank which isn't in reserves or allocated to a restricted project so can't be spent on anything else) to just under £85,000 at the end of April. We still have a long way to go to reach our goal of having three months of expenditure in reserves (around £250,000), but the extra giving will allow us to get there more quickly than we initially imagined.

On top of all that we have also received a £10,000 gift for either our next site or our next building. Amazing!

I can't tell you how much the generosity of our community means to me as a leader. It always reminds me of this passage from the book of Acts:

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36, 37 NIVUK)

People being willing to trust leaders with their giving is one of the biggest encouragements any leader can receive. It's therefore no surprise to me that the first time we hear of Barnabas, this 'son of encouragement', is because of his financial generosity.

I want to say a huge thank you to all of you who have given so far this year, wherever you are on the occasional giver, regular giver, tither and sacrificial giver line. Our policy as a community is that the elders and trustees (which includes me) don't get to know what anyone gives. That's probably the right policy for us to have, but it does mean that I can't thank individuals directly. Please just be assured of my thanks and gratitude towards everyone in our community who gives. You are all sons and daughters of encouragement to me.

Simon.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book Review: Kisses From a Good God - Paul Manwaring

Paul Manwaring from Bethel Church in Redding, California is with us for all three morning meetings on Sunday (25th May). I recently finished reading his book "Kisses from a Good God" which tells of his journey of having prostate cancer and all that he learnt through it. I want to thoroughly recommend it to anyone either walking through having cancer, or helping someone else on that journey (which is pretty much all of us).

Many of you will know that Bethel Church is famous (amongst other things) for the many remarkable healings they see. One of the tensions for any of us who believe that God still heals people today is what do we do when people aren't healed, or aren't healed in the way we would like them to be. Some resort to saying that everyone should be healed and if you aren't then there must be something wrong with you or your faith (always an encouraging line!). Others will say the illness must be from God so learn from it. Others bury their head in the sand and just move on to the next person to be prayed for, hoping it will "work" with them.

One of the things I really appreciate about Bethel, and Bill Johnson who leads the church, is their willingness to wrestle with this tension. To honestly face the issues head on when people aren't healed and even when they die, whilst also creating a culture where there is an incredible faith and expectation of God healing people. That's part of the culture I long for us as a community to grow and develop.

Paul's book speaks right into the middle of that culture. His healing from cancer came not as a divine intervention from God, but at the hands of the doctors and surgeons who treated him. Many might regard that as a "second class healing", that God didn't really come through for him so he had to rely on the medical profession instead. Paul's argument is exactly the opposite, that healing via doctors is just as much "from God" as any other sort healing and isn't a second class healing. I love that emphasis. It helps us to understand how we interact with doctors whilst we pray for people to be healed. It gives huge value to the work of doctors and nurses and those involved in medical research. And for me it sits well with my faith and my understanding of how God works in the world.

One paragraph in the book which helped summarise all this is from right at the beginning where Paul says:

"Two months after my surgery, I stood in the kitchen of a doctor friend and we talked about healing. He said to me that the goal is to get well. He told me if I got a headache, he would pray for me. If the headache remained he would give me a pain reliever. Why? Because the goal is to get well. Yes I would have preferred a dramatic, supernatural intervention. But strangely, I now enjoy the fruit of journey I did not choose to take."

You can get Paul's book here, as well as catching him in person on Sunday morning.

Simon.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New Name for CCB

For just over a year now we've used an online database called Community Church Builder (CCB). To be honest it's a great tool, but we're only now, as part of our drive to get better, beginning to use it to its full potential to do things like:

  • Provide an online directory for the church with people's names, addresses etc
  • Support online kids check in on a Sunday
  • Provide the mailing list of eReveal - our monthly dates newsletter
  • Allow us to track new people in our community and help them find a Lifegroup, get involved in serving etc
  • Keep track of all the serving rotas
  • Provide online areas for creative and planning teams to chat, share documents etc
  • Allow people to book rooms
  • Allow people to book in to courses, events etc
  • And much more!

We're currently trying hard to make CCB more accessible and useful for everyone. That will take us a while, but as part of that process we'd like to come up with a new name for CCB which means something to our community. A while ago we asked people to suggest names - we've taken the best of those and would now like you to vote on your favourite. You can find the voting form here - appropriately it's on CCB!

Thanks. I'll let you know the result in a weeks time.

Simon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Serenje Dormitory Progress - Sponsor a Girl

The building of the Serenje Girls' Dormitory is going really well, as you can see from these pictures.

With so much progress being made we now need to start working on getting the dormitory fitted out. We estimate the furniture and other equipment required for each girl will cost around £240. We've set up a website where people can choose either to buy all that equipment for one girl, or pay:

  • £100 for a bunk bed
  • £60 for a table
  • £50 for a mattress
  • £30 for a chair

You can find all the details here. We've already raised over £200,000 so we really are on the final straight. Please take a look at the website and think about what you could do.

There are pictures of 100 Serenje girls who are representative of each of the girls who will end up in the dormitory. As each girl is sponsored the text under her photo goes green so we can see very easily how we're doing.

Thank you so much,

Simon.

Ps - a huge thank you to Lee Rowbotham and Pip Reeve who have done all the work to get the website up and running.

 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Paul Manwaring - Sunday 25th May

Paul Manwaring will be with us at at the 9am and 11am in Bracknell and the 10am in Sandhurst this coming Sunday (25th May).

Paul is on the Senior Leadership Team at Bethel Church, Redding, California - the church which is lead by Bill Johnson who I know many of you will know of. He oversees Global Legacy - Bethel’s apostolic relational network. Paul is originally from England and spent 19 years in senior prison management in England, is a Registered General and Psychiatric Nurse, and holds a management degree from Cambridge University.

I got to meet Paul through his son James who, along with his wife Amy, is a part of Kerith. It's been a privilege for me to get to spend some time with Paul and I know that you're going to love getting to meet him too. If you normally come to the 6pm then I encourage you to come in the morning as well on the 25th.

Simon.

 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

21 Days In John - Day 21: Failure Need Never Be Final


Please Read John chapter 21

Key Verse:

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs’” John 21:15


Simon Peter had denied Jesus! He had promised him that he would not let Him die alone, and that he would always stand by Him, but three times after Jesus was arrested Peter denied even knowing him. Peter was in the house where Jesus was being tried and at that moment their eyes met. Then Peter remembered and went out, weeping bitterly [Luke 22:54-62]. Failure is always painful!

The steps of Peter’s failure are clear:  Self-confidence; sleeping when he should have been praying; operating in the flesh as he cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant; following afar off [Luke 22:54]; and finally denying Jesus

Peter decided to return to his old life as a fisherman [verse 3]. Is he in denial but deep down hurting through his failure? Is it an escape mechanism?  All night the fishermen fished without success but then a “stranger on the shore” told them where to cast their nets. It was a similar miracle to the one when Jesus first called them, and they recognized the same Jesus on the shore.

Peter couldn’t wait to get to Jesus, but it was breakfast first! It must have been so tough for Peter. After breakfast Jesus challenged Peter three times then and restored him. Peter had denied the Lord three times, and the Lord re-commissioned him three times before renewing that original call to follow Him. Failure does not need to be final!

Questions:

Is there a failure that has dominated your life? You have tried to leave it behind but somehow it keeps raising its ugly head. Would you bring that failure to Jesus, and let Him forgive and heal your heart?

Will you follow Jesus wherever He calls you to go, and whatever it may cost?



What other people think of you is none of your business. You Follow Jesus!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Administrator Position at Oakwood

Tony Pudner and our friends at Oakwood Youth Challenge are currently looking to employ an Office Administrator to join their small team for maternity cover. All the details are below.

Please get in contact with them if you, or someone you know, would be interested in playing a part in this amazing charity.

Simon.

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

Office Administrator

Part-Time:15- 20 hours per week.

Maternity Cover

Oakwood Youth Challenge is a Christian outdoor activity centre situated near Wokingham in Berkshire. The primary aim of Oakwood is to make a significant impact on local youth, challenging them physically, mentally and spiritually. We achieve this by means of working with schools youth clubs and through facilitating church with residential facilities.

An administrator is required to carry out the following duties: answering enquiries- telephone and email; maintaining the efficient running of the office space; processing mail, invoices and payments; updating the centre website and social media accounts and managing the running of the residential accommodation.

The role would suit someone who is a good communicator and team player with attention to detail, able to use their initiative and manage their time. Candidates need to be mature and reliable and have experience of office administration.

All applicants must be committed practicing Christians.

Applicants should send a copy of their CV to enquiries@oakwoodyouth.co.uk for the attention of Ange Wood.

21 Days In John - Day 20: Sent Out With Peace


Please Read John chapter 20

Key Verse:

“So Jesus said to them again, Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” John 20:21 [NKJV]

The tomb is empty and Jesus has risen from the dead as the Scripture had said [verse 9]. Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene. Then He came to the upper room where the doors were shut because the disciples were afraid of the Jews.

Twice Jesus spoke peace to the disciples. The first time He spoke to their fears and then showed them His hands and side. Then Jesus spoke peace to them again, but this time He is commissioning them and so it is peace to their future. Peace at this moment and peace about the future is the wonderful promise of Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace. Would you allow Him at this moment to speak peace into your circumstances and your future?

Then Jesus tells the disciples that He is sending them to a needy world, in the same way that the Father sent Him. How did the Father send Jesus? To lay down His life for those He came to save; to live a life of obedience and communion with the Father; to identify with those He came to save; to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit; to do spiritual battle against a wicked enemy and to take back his captives and set them free. This is the life that Jesus has called us to as His disciples! 


Questions:

Can you think of a difficult time in your life when you experienced God’s supernatural peace? Remember how that peace came and remember also that Jesus has promised that peace at every stage of your life [see Philippians 4:7].


Was the commission of Jesus to be sent out to a needy world in the same way that His Father sent Him just for those in the upper room or is also for us today? If it is for us today, then what does mean in practice for you personally?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review: The Best is Yet to Come - Val Cottee

Our very own Val Cottee has written a book!

Those of you who know Val will know her as one of the wisest, humblest, kindest people you could hope to meet and a pillar of our Kerith community over many decades. She has faced a number if challenges in her life, but from my experience of her has faced every one of them with a smile and a deep confidence and trust in God.

I guess the interesting question for me was whether Val could translate all of that experience into book form - well the answer is that she has more than managed to do that.

I honestly thought that writing this I might be saying things like "well done Val for writing a book". I do want to say that (I know how hard it is to actually finish writing a book let alone start), but much more than that I want to say how deeply it challenged me, encouraged me and how God spoke to me through it.

In each chapter Val takes a story or character from the Bible and then weaves her own story in with their story. She manages to be incredibly vulnerable about her own struggles and shortcomings and how God has helped her come through them. Each chapter finishes with some questions for reflection and application. In particular I loved the chapter on Hosea which really spoke to me. My copy of the book is heavily underlined with some of Val's great one liners, such as "I'd rather be in a storm with Jesus than on calm waters without him" and "Jesus has provided a feast but instead we snack on phone calls, television programmes, computers, hobbies or shopping".

You can get Val's book either from Amazon, or by finding her on a Sunday and asking for one! All proceeds are going to the Serenje girls' dormitory. I think it would work really well in a small group or book club context - I'm sure Val would come along if you wanted an authors reading!

Finally I want to encourage others in Kerith who feel they've "got a book in them" to have a go. I wrote in the Peach and the Coconut how we now live in an age where anyone can self publish a book, removing many of the traditional barriers to producing a book. I'd love to see many of us express our God given creativity in this way.

Simon.

 

21 Days in John - Day 19: It Is Finished


Please Read John chapter 19

Key Verse:

“Jesus said, ‘It is finished!’ and bowing His head, He gave up His spirit”
John 19:30 [NKJV]

Jesus finished on the cross the work that He came to earth to do. Everything of His life on earth was for this awful moment, and finally it is finished!

The word translated “finished” is the same Greek word that means “paid in full.” Until the cross people frequently offered sacrifices to atone for their sin, to obtain forgiveness and make them clean. With the death of Jesus on the cross the complicated system of sacrifices for sin came to an end. Jesus took on Himself our sins and became our sacrifice.

On the cross, Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us. All our sins on Him were laid. He paid the price to buy us back to God. He satisfied the justice of God. He bore the penalty that we should have paid for our sin. He became our substitute, dying in the place where we should have been.

The great hymn-writer Charles Wesley put it like this:

“See all your sins on Jesus laid;
The Lamb of God was slain,
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.”

This is God’s offer of salvation. The cross is the entrance into God’s salvation. There is no other way and when Satan tries to accuse you and point out your sin and failure you can answer him – Paid in full by Jesus at the cross! 


Questions:

Why did Paul say, “…. we preach Christ crucified” [1 Corinthians 1:23]? What does that mean to you today?


In Roman times many people were crucified as punishment but what made the crucifixion of Jesus so different?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Refresh with Wale Adenuga

This coming Saturday (17th May) we've got an evening of Worship and Prayer and the Prophetic, jointly led by our very own Matt Price and Wale Adenuga, Pastor and Worship leader of Jubilee Christian Centre, Lagos.

It will be great to have an evening where we're not constrained with all the other things we normally try and fit into one of our meetings, but can just focus on seeking God's refreshing for ourselves and our nation as we worship Him.

The evening is free and open to all - parking is available at the Kerith Centre and at Bracknell and Wokingham College, the turning before the Kerith Centre. Doors open at 6.30pm and the event starts at 7.00pm. Hope to see you there.

Wale will also be preaching at all 4 meetings on the Sunday after - it's going to be great to have him with us.



For anyone involved in worship we are also hosting a morning of training, lead by Wale Adenuga and Matt Price, running from 10:30-12:30 at the Kerith Centre. If you'd like to book yourself or your teams in for this morning please email beccy.oliver@kerith.co.uk



Simon.

21 Days In John - Day 18: No One Took Jesus’ Life From Him


Please Read John chapter 18

Key Verse:

“Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’” John 18:4 [NIV]

You can’t help but feel as you read through John chapter 18 that Jesus is in total control. An old song says, “He could have called ten thousand angels,” but He chose to die alone. He chose!!

Why was a whole detachment of troops sent to arrest Him? Why were they carrying lanterns, torches and weapons? Were they expecting Jesus to act like a common criminal? To run into the darkest and most secluded corner of the garden and hide? It was not like that at all!

Twice Jesus asked whom they were seeking. He wasn’t reacting as they expected. He answered the soldier’s question using God’s Name, “I AM He.” The soldier’s fell backwards in the presence of Jesus. He even commanded the soldier’s to let the disciples go free!

Peter retaliated with a typical human reaction, as he cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant, but Jesus was in total control. He rebuked Peter and healed the servant’s ear! Even at His arrest Jesus performed a miracle.

Jesus said about His life, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of myself” [John 10:18]. Would you not trust this Jesus, who is in total control of His own destiny and is able to do all that He has promised and one day bring you to His eternal home?


Questions:

Think of a time when things did not work out as you expected. Did you react like Peter becoming defensive and denying Jesus? Will you recognize today that Jesus is Lord and in total control?

God’s Word says, “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” [Romans 8:28]. Would you intentionally commit your way to Him today knowing that He is in control and has your best interest at heart?


Will you go God’s way, however tough it might be?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Walking in the Rain (for a great cause)

A huge thank you to everyone who sponsored me for the Yeldall Manor Walk for Freedom I did last Saturday. Other than the torrential rain in the afternoon it was a beautiful walk up the Thames from Windsor to Yeldall Manor which is just by Shiplake - around 28 miles in total. So far the 63 people who did the walk have raised over £20,000 to help fund bursaries to allow people to access Yeldall's life transforming rehabilitation programmes. If anyone would still like to sponsor me you can do that here.

Thank you also to Sue Hedger and the team at Yeldall who organised the walk - you served us brilliantly.

If you're interested in finding out more about the amazing work of Yeldall they've got a Celebration service this Friday (16th May) at 7.30pm at Yeldall Manor which they'd love as many of us as possible to attend.

Finally to congratulate eveyone else from Kerith who did the walk - Karen Mehta, Pete Moon, John Stone and Andy Partington - we'll compare blisters later!

Simon.

 

21 Days In John - Day 17: The Power Of Unity



Please Read John chapter 17

Key Verse:

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they may be one, as You Father are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that you sent Me” John 17:20-21 [NKJV]


Only John records the High Priestly prayer of Jesus. Jesus prays for Himself as He is approaching His death [verses 1-5]. He then prays specifically for His disciples [verses 6-19] and then prays for all would come to believe on Him [verses 20].

At the heart of Jesus’ prayer is a desire that His children should be one just as He and His Father are one. There is tremendous power in unity. In Genesis 11:6 God said that because the people were one nothing would be impossible for them. He was speaking about ungodly men. If God’s children are united how much more would the impossible become possible?

At Pentecost the believers in the upper room were in one accord. Jesus said that agreement is a key to answered prayer [Matthew 18:19]. Paul told the Ephesians to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit [Ephesians 4:3].

Unity is not uniformity! God made each of us uniquely different, but we need to allow the Holy Spirit to develop within us those characteristics that make unity possible –humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and tenderheartedness. Two things will change the world – Christians who are united together and who love one another [see John 13:35].


Questions:

What practical steps will I take to make sure that I am one with all of my fellow believers?

Sometimes oneness is not possible, but am I doing everything that I can do to be at peace with all men [see Romans 12:18]?

Ruth Graham said, “It is impossible to genuinely pray that God would bless someone and at the same time have a wrong attitude towards them.” Is there someone I need to pray for?   

Monday, May 12, 2014

21 Days In John - Day 16: The Promise Of The Holy Spirit



Please Read John chapter 16

Key Verse:

Jesus said, “But it is actually best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Counsellor won’t come. If I do go away, he will come because I will send him to you.” John 16:7 [New Living Translation]


Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the Counsellor. In other versions of the Bible he is called the Comforter, the Helper, the Advocate. The word in Greek is ‘parakletos’ which translated accurately is “one who comes alongside to help and strengthen.” Jesus said that this wonderful Person, the Holy Spirit, will be both “with us and in us” [see John 14:17].

The disciples were sorrowful because Jesus was leaving them, and in response Jesus promised to send them the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16 He told the disciples that He would give them “another Helper.” There are two Greek words translated into English as “another.” The first is ‘heteros’ meaning another but different, as in heterosexual. The word used in John 14:16 is the word ‘allos’ which means another who is exactly the same. The Holy Spirit will be to the disciples exactly same as Jesus had been to them – a comforter, helper, counselor and advocate.

God gives the Holy Spirit to those who repent of their sin and believe on Jesus. The Holy Spirit will be to us exactly what Jesus promised to His disciples. He will teach us, guide us, help us, empower us, strengthen us and live right inside us. This wonderful gift is the promise of the Father and His Son to us.


Questions:

Why not honor the Holy Spirit today by thanking Him for having come to live inside you as your friend and Helper? Whatever your need is today why not specifically ask the Holy Spirit to help you in that need?

The Bible says that we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Would you ask Him to fill every part of your life today? Would you give Him your mind, you will, your body today?

“The Holy Spirit is my managing director” [Dr. Paul Cho Yonggi]

Sunday, May 11, 2014

21 Days In John - Day 15: The Secret Of A Fruitful Life


Please Read John chapter 15

Key Verse:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing” John 15:5 [NKJV]


“As helpless as a child who clings
 Fast to his Father’s arm
 And casts his weakness on the strength
 That keeps him safe from harm:
 So I, my Father, cling to Thee,
 And thus I every hour
 Would link my earthly feebleness
 To Thine almighty power”

We can do nothing of lasting value without Jesus, but we can link our earthly feebleness to His almighty power and allow Him to work through us.

As God’s children we have been called to bear fruit that lasts [verse 16]. The secret of a fruitful life is total dependence upon Jesus. Just as the branch cannot be fruitful unless it is properly connected to the vine so we cannot be fruitful unless we are connected to Jesus. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches.

In this chapter we see some of the amazing fruit that comes as we live in Christ and allow Him to work through us - purity [verse 3], love [verse 9], joy [verse 11], answered prayer [verses 7,16], and God glorified in our lives [verse 8]. Jesus says that those who live in this way are His friends [verses 14,15]. What a privilege! There might be opposition and even hardship, but what joy to know His power and His fruit in our lives.


Questions:

What does it mean to you personally to “abide in Christ”?


Sometimes there are things that are a hindrance to us as we walk with Jesus. There may even be good things that are hindrance to the best things. Are you prepared to allow those things to be pruned so that you bear more fruit? [see verse 1]

Saturday, May 10, 2014

21 Days in John - Day 14: Obedience Is The Language Of Love


Please Read John chapter 14

Key Verse:

“If you love Me, keep My commandments” John 14:15,21,23-24  [NKJV]

For some people, obedience is difficult to handle because it means towing the line, submitting to authority, and doing what you are told. In modern society we equate obedience less with love and more with authority. Like the teacher who ordered the schoolboy to stand up, and who turned to his classmate and said, “I am standing up on the outside, but I am sitting down on the inside!”

John more than any other gospel writer emphasized love, both in his gospel and his epistles, and yet more than any other writer spoke about obedience! Three times in this chapter the words love and obey come in the same verse
           
Love is the greatest thing of all. Everything in the Christian life is based on love – our relationship to the Lord, our service for him, our obedience to Him. “If you love me, keep my commandments,” is often understood to mean, “By keeping My commandments you prove that you love Me.” A better translation is, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” The power of our love for Jesus causes us to obey Him. It is “the expulsive power of a new affection”


Questions:

God’s word tells us the importance of obeying God, but what He wants more than anything else is that you love Him. What does that mean to you?

Have you told the Lord recently that you love Him? He loves to hear that so why not tell him right now and tell Him why you love Him.


Friday, May 9, 2014

21 Days in John - Day 13: Humble Service Is The Key To Greatness



Please Read John chapter 13

Key Verse:

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” John 13:14-15 [ESV]

Jesus was very aware that Judas was about to betray Him [verse 2,11,18,21-30]. James and John had previously demanded places of honor on the right and left hand of Jesus. Peter would make promises he could not keep and would disown Jesus. The other disciples would all desert Jesus when He was crucified. In spite of all this, and at this late hour of His life, Jesus still wanted to teach His disciples a vital lesson about love and humility.

Before the meal Jesus took off His robe, took a towel and a bowl, and washed His disciple’s feet. This was the menial work of a servant. When a guest came to a house the servant would wash his feet. Jesus chose to wash the disciples feet. It was the ultimate example of humility. The question might be asked, why did one of the disciples not offer to do this? Were they so proud?
Jesus made it clear, that if someone wanted to become great they should become a servant. In our modern culture we do not do the particular act of washing a person’s feet, but the principle is still the same – we are called to humbly serve others.


Questions:

John 13:1 tells us that Jesus showed His disciples the full extent of His love. He knows the sins we have committed and will commit and yet still loves us. How do you respond to that kind of love?

In what way does Jesus want you to reach out and serve others in the way that He humbly served the disciples?


Can you see in Peter’s reaction and Jesus’ response an even deeper, prophetic statement that Jesus is making in washing His disciple’s feet? 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

21 Days In John - Day 12: Unless A Grain Of Wheat Falls Into The Earth And Dies


Please Read John chapter 12

Key Verse:

And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:23-24 [ESV]

Jesus was approaching the last week of His earthly life, and He is making it clear that the time of His death is close. He spoke about being glorified, of being lifted up to die and the defeat of the ruler of this world – Satan himself. The crowds welcomed Him with branches of palm trees and cries of Hosanna and recognized Him as the King of Israel, but in a few day’s time they would be crying, “Crucify Him.”   

His death is likened to a grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies, but from that death will come life and much fruit. Many would come to believe on Him, and find freedom from sin and new life

Most people, even His disciples did not understand that Jesus would die, but Mary understood. She anointed the feet of Jesus in preparation for His burial.
Like that grain of wheat, she also was prepared to die. She gave Him the most valuable possession she owned, very expensive perfume. Then she gave Him something of even greater value. No woman of respect in that culture would ever let her hair down in public. Her hair was her crown and glory and typified her dignity. This was more valuable than the perfume and as she wiped the feet of Jesus she was giving him her dignity, her self and her everything. Out of her love for Jesus Mary was prepared to die to herself.


Questions:

The principle of a corn of wheat falling into the ground to die and then bearing much fruit applies not only to Jesus but also to us who follow Him. What does this death mean to you personally?

Mary gave Jesus everything she possessed. What would that mean in your life?

Jesus came to save the world [verses 44-50]. What does this mean to you? 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Jesus Wept

Yesterday I saw two grieving fathers.

The first was Rick Warren. Earlier this week I was at a leadership conference at the Royal Albert Hall where two of the speakers were Rick and Kay Warren. Rick is the author of "The Purpose Driven Life" and the pastor of Saddleback Church in California. Many of you will know that just over a year ago Rick and Kay's son Matthew committed suicide. They spoke incredibly movingly about what Matthew meant to them both, his struggles with mental illness, what it feels like to lose a child, what the last year has been like for them both, how with God they've kept going and what they're learning through it all (I'll post a link to their interview once it's available online). A year on their pain and sadness was still so raw, so real and so obvious to see. Their vulnerability was captivating, humbling and incredibly powerful.

The second grieving father I saw was Bob Geldof. In one of the breaks we went for some food and he was sat on his own outside a cafe with a drink just staring into the distance. I guess we've all seen in the news the tragic death of his daughter Peaches Geldof a month ago today. I've only seen Bob Geldof once before, over 25 years ago at a Boomtown Rats concert. It was hard to imagine that the brash young man fronting his band all those years ago was the same man I saw yesterday.

At this point I could make a load of frankly speculative (and almost certainly crass) comments about the difference faith makes to how Rick Warren and Bob Geldof are handling their grief. I don't know anything about Bob Geldof's faith (although I do know that in the light of Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25 he often seems more in tune with God's heart for the poor and hungry than many of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus). What I do know is that yesterday I saw two grieving fathers, feeling I suspect a very similar set of emotions and going through something I hope and pray I never have to go through.

And I was reminded that so many of us walk through life with deep sorrow. I knew about Rick Warren and Bob Geldof because their loss and grief is very public. But how many other people did I see sat outside cafes, walk past in the street, smile at whilst drinking coffee or sit next to at the conference who were grieving too, and I knew and did nothing about it.

One of the verses which powerfully spoke to me through Kay Warren speaking at the conference was Colossians 1:15 which says

"The Son is the image of the invisible God"

God was largely invisible to the world, but Jesus made him visible, gave God flesh, showed us what God the Father is really like. Kay's comment was that as the church, the body of Christ, "our role in life is to make the invisible God visible to the world we live in". That's an incredible life goal for each one of us to live with, making the invisible God visible.

Part of that is us standing with people in their grief. Not offering them quick fix solutions, or random Bible verses which we think should help. Rick and Kay said some of the least helpul things for them have been people telling them they should be getting over it by now, or saying things like "well at least he was a Christian" or "at least you still have your other children" (they encouraged us to remove the phrase "at least" from any conversations we have with people who are grieving!).

Jesus so powerfully showed us how to grieve with people at the tomb of Lazarus (which just happens to be our chapter of John for today). He knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, he'd already told the disciples that, but as he saw the grief of Mary and Martha the Bible simply reports "Jesus wept". God is a God who grieves when we grieve, who feels our sorrow and pain.

Are you in pain right now? Then please turn to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles. And find friends who will weep with you as you weep.

Or are there people around you in pain. Don't feel embarassed such that you draw away from them, don't worry that you don't know what to say. Be the image of the invisible God to them, the God who wept. And maybe, just maybe, having stood with them in their grieving, you'll be part of God's plan to turn their mourning into dancing and their tears of sorrow into tears of joy.

Simon.

ps I know some of you will want to know if I went and spoke to Bob Geldof. No I didn't, not out of fear but I just didn't feel it was the right thing for me to do - perhaps in the light of what I've written I should have done. I have been praying for him a lot since though, perhaps you could too.

21 Days in John - Day 11: I Know He Loves Me, But...


Please Read John chapter 11

Key Verse:

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was”
John 11:5,6 [ESV]

Here is a simple sentence with a verb, “loved,” a subject, “Jesus,” and an object, Martha, Mary and Lazarus! So uncomplicated! His love was without condition. It was not love “because” or “if” or “when” or with a “but.” He simply loved them. Their home was a place of refuge for Jesus and they were just like family. He loved them.

The next verse seems to contradict that love. When Jesus hears that Lazarus is sick He deliberately does not come to them. News comes that Lazarus has died. They know that Jesus could heal him but He seemed not to bother. Why didn’t He come? Had he let them down? Didn’t He really care?

Mary loved to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Him but now she is sitting in the house [verse 5], weeping, and when Jesus calls her to Him she falls at His feet complaining, “If you had been here my brother would not have died!” Have you been disappointed when Jesus didn’t seem to respond to your call for help? Have you, like Mary, felt let down, and also like Mary, have not seen the greater plan that Jesus had in that situation?

This is where trust comes in, and where we look beyond our limited understanding to recognize the sovereignty of a God who makes no mistakes! All things will work together for good to those who love Him!


Questions:

Can you remember a time when you asked the Lord to help you and He didn’t seem to hear? How did you feel about Him then and what did you do?

When things don’t work out as we had hoped will you become a better person or a bitter person through that experience?


Like Mary, don’t be afraid to complain to Jesus when you feel disappointed but will you also ask Him to help you trust when you cannot see and hold on to Him when you cannot trace what He is doing?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

21 Days in John - Day 10: Listening To The Voice Of The Shepherd


Please Read John chapter 10

Key Verse:

“The sheep hear his voice…. they know his voice…. they listen to my voice” John 10:3,4,16 [ESV]

Jesus He is the good shepherd. He goes to seek and to rescue the lost sheep and restores them to His fold. He lays down His life for the sheep. No one takes His life from Him but He willingly sacrifices Himself for the sheep. Satan wants to steal and kill and destroy but Jesus came to give us fullness of life.

The Good Shepherd doesn’t drive the sheep – He leads them and they follow Him. They know His voice and trust Him. Day by day Jesus wants to speak to us and gently lead us in the right path. One of the evidences that you belong to Jesus is that you recognize His voice. Paul puts it like this, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God” [Romans 8:14]. Are you listening to the voice of Shepherd?

How does He speak to us? He speaks through God’s Word, the Bible. Often He speaks by a quiet inner voice. Sometimes He speaks through another Christian and what is said finds agreement with the Holy Spirit within us. John Wesley called this, ‘the witness of the Spirit.” We need to take time to be quiet and listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, and then obey Him in whatever He tells us to do.


Questions:

Can you recall a time when you heard the voice of the Shepherd speaking to you? What did He say and what was your response to Him?

When was the last time that you heard God speak to you? What impact did this have on your life?


Would you make a commitment to take time each day to be quiet, to shut out all the other voices, and listen to the voice of the Shepherd?

Monday, May 5, 2014

21 Days in John - Day 9: One Thing I Know


Please Read John chapter 9

Key Verse:

“One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see” John 9:25 [ESV]


The man was a blind beggar! He had been blind from birth, and when Jesus came He healed him. Such was the change in this man that the people who knew him previously questioned whether it was the same man who had been a beggar. His parents knew that this was their son and that he had been blind from birth.

The religious leaders were already in conflict with Jesus and had made a rule that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ was put out of the synagogue. They told the man born blind that Jesus was a sinner. He responded with his testimony that he had been blind but that now he could see.

Your testimony is very powerful. People may disagree with you and they may reject what you have to say, but they cannot deny the evidence of the change that Jesus has made in your life! The simplest and often the most effective way to share your testimony is to do what this blind man did. He told them what he had been, of how Jesus came and what Jesus had done for him.

The Bible says that if we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus, then we shall be saved. Share with others what Jesus has done for you.


Questions:

What differences do you see in your life since Jesus Christ became your Saviour?

Have you shared with others your testimony of what Jesus has done for you?

Why not make a decision today to ask God to help you share with someone what Jesus means to you? It might be the means of them coming to Jesus too.