Friday, September 30, 2016

Serenje Dormitory Update

“‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”

(Isaiah 58:6-8)

 

For a number of years now we've partnered with Tearfund to help bring transformation to Serenje, a rural community in Zambia. As part of that project we helped fund a dormitory where girls could complete their secondary school education in a safe and secure environment.

Howard and Elizabeth Reece-Smith, part of our community for many years and now living in France, were recently out in Serenje and got to visit the dormitory, which is now up and running with the first group of girls living there. They sent back some photos which I wanted to share with you all, as it's so encouraging to see what has been achieved.

Interestingly the whole Serenje project arose out of a talk Bono gave at the Willow Creek GLS, challenging the church to engage with the issue of HIV/AIDS and seek to make a difference. That's why I'm passionate that as many of us as possible get to be part of the GLS we're hosting on the 12th and 13th and 15th October - more details here. If you're not booked in already please get yourself there - who knows what God will say to you and the impact that might have on the world we live in.

Enjoy the photos, and for all those who gave financially to the project and prayed for it please know that you have made an incredibly wise investment of your time and money!

Much love,

Simon.

 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Kerith Vision Fund

Helping people find their way back to God by generously giving our money to provide excellent meeting places where lives are changed

One of the things limiting our growth as a community is a lack of meeting places. That looks different on each of our sites:

  • In Bracknell we have run out of space to grow on Sundays, space for midweek activities including courses and social justice, and office space for staff, volunteers and Academy students.
  • In Sandhurst we need midweek space to run courses, parents and toddler groups, social justice initiatives and much more (in time as Sandhurst grows we will need a larger Sunday space, and eventually a permanent home for all that we do).
  • In Windsor we plan to start meeting on Sundays in 2017 (possibly once a month initially) which will require a Sunday venue (and in time Windsor will hopefully follow a similar development path to Sandhurst).

On Tuesday night we launched our Kerith Vision Fund, with the goal of producing the finances to provide the meeting places we need. For more details take a look at my presentation from Tuesday night. We'll be talking about this more on Sundays over the next few weeks, but please take a look as it will give you a good idea of what we're intending to do on each of the sites.

As a first step we're going to have gift days on the 30th October and 6th November, with a goal of raising £200,000. This would allow us to:

  • Significantly reduce the mortgage on the K2 house (currently around £180,000)
  • Provide seed finance to start to redesign K2, look for a Sandhust midweek facility and identify an initial Windsor Sunday venue
  • Give away £20,000 as a tithe which will go to churches we work with in other nations.

I'm asking whether there are ten people in our community with the gift of giving who could give £10,000 each, in order to give us half of the total, and then the rest of our community could take on the responsibility of giving the other half. I've already had one person come forward to give the first £10,000 which is brilliant, and would love to hear from anyone else who feels similarly inspired to give.

If you want to give before the gift days (always a huge encouragement to me as a leader) then you can do that online. We've already had people give both a one off gift, and set up regular giving, which is so exciting.

Prayer is going to be key to all this. As a first step we're going to have a week of 24/7 prayer from the 30th October to the 6th November, where we'll be praying for growth and health across every area of Kerith. We want to fill all 168 one hour slots across that week - I'll let you know when booking for the prayer room is open for November so we can start to fill those slots.

Hopefully none of us will feel anxious about this. Instead my prayer is that we'll be excited by the opportunity it presents for us to make a difference, not only in our generation but in the generations to come.

Much love,

Simon.

 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Curry Night and Magic

Several people have commented to me on us having a magician at our curry night on the 21st September, asking whether this is appropriate for a Christian event. That's a really good question, and I wanted to outline my thinking around it.

In the Cambridge Dictionary the word magic, as a noun, has three very different definitions:

  1. The use of special powers to make things happen that would usually be impossible, such as in stories for children: "The group is known for its belief in witchcraft and magic."
  2. The skill of performing tricks to entertain people, such as making things appear and disappear and pretending to cut someone in half: "He's a comedian who also does magic."
  3. A special and exciting quality that makes something seem different from ordinary things: "Although the film was made 50 years ago, it has lost none of its magic."

The first of these is demonic and not permitted for Christians. This is perhaps most clearly stated in Deutoronmy 18:

“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practises divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD; because of these same detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-13)

There is no place for any of these practices within the life of a follower of Jesus. Anyone with a past involvement in any of these things should repent of them, and destroy anything they have relating to those activities. An example of this happening would be in Acts 19:

“Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practised sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.” (Acts 19:18-19 NIVUK)

However, this is not the sort of magic we are referring to when it comes to the curry night, which in my mind clearly falls under the second definition of magic. I don't know anybody who looks at a modern day magician such as Paul Daniels, David Copperfield, Dynamo or our own Iain Bailey and suggests that what they're doing has been achieved because they've got special powers. Everyone knows that when the magician predicts which card you picked, pulls a rabbit out of the hat, saws a person in half or makes the Statue of Liberty disappear, that what we're seeing is an illusion. Something which appears to be impossible but which we all know has a logical explanation, even if we can't work out what it is. That's why the people doing this are often referred to as illusionists rather than magicians.

I do realise that many people in our community rightly have a very strong aversion to magic of the first type, and want nothing to do with anything which has the word magic attached to it. It's highly unfortunate that one word covers both definitions, and I fully understand why people might be surprised by the idea of us having a magician. However, I honestly believe that when we step back and think about what we mean when we use the word magic in this context we haven't got an issue.

There is a question as to whether we should still avoid having a magician because of the confusion it might cause in people's minds - that some people might think we're condoning the first sort of magic. That is a legitimate question and one we should think about for the future.

As for the third definition of 'magic', we could all use a bit more of that in our lives!

I hope that makes some sense. I'm very happy to interact more over this if people have other thoughts or questions.

Simon.

Ps - please be inviting people to the curry night - 7.30pm on Wednesday 21st September - you can get tickets here. We've already got around 80 people coming for what will be a quality evening and a great introduction to Alpha.

Pps - please pray for Iain Bailey. He's a committed follower of Jesus seeking to point people to Christ through his magic (of the second type!). If you have questions about what he does I'm sure he'd be happy to talk with you.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Smelling of Jesus

“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

(2 Corinthians 2:15)

I spoke last Sunday about us being the aroma of Jesus to the world. Of us carrying with us everywhere we go the fragrance of him - through our prayers, our actions and our words.

If you want to smell of something then the closer you get to it the more you will smell of it (I didn't get that science A level for nothing!). That's totally true when it comes to Christ. The closer we are to him, the more we will carry his fragrance into our world.

I spoke about two keys to us being close to Jesus:

  • Reading the Bible and doing what it says
  • Being filled with the Holy Spirit and following his promptings

Over the years I've used lots of different tools to help me in my daily Bible readings. Reading through the whole Bible in a year. Bible reading notes such as Every Day with Jesus. Bible pot luck where you just turn to a random passage every day and read it. YouVersion Bible reading plans. All of them (apart from perhaps the pot luck approach) have been very helpful. However, recently I've been doing something different which I'm finding really fruitful, and which I thought I'd share.

Tom Wright, who is one of the leading experts on the New Testament, and was for a while the Bishop of Durham, has written a series of commentaries on the books of the New Testament. (He has also written a number of other books, including the brilliant "Surprised by Hope" on how wrong we've got our picture of heaven).

In each of the commentaries he does his own short translation of a passage, then explains what that passage means in language that ordinary people like you and me can understand. It isn't exhaustive in that sometimes he'll pick up on one idea in a passage and not comment on another one (which can be a bit frustrating if it was the other one which really gripped you) but there's an incredible to depth to his understanding, not only of what the passage meant to its original audience but also how it applies to us today. As you go through you also really get the sense of what the whole of the book is saying, rather than getting stuck in the detail of a specific verse without being able to see the bigger picture.

So far I've worked my way through his commentary on the book of Romans, and I'm now about half way through his commentary on Revelation. If I'm honest the bit of Revelation between the letters to the seven churches at the beginning, and the picture of the new Heaven and the new Earth at the end, has always been a complete mystery to me. That's no longer the case, and I'm genuinely looking forward every morning to get to read the next section.

My plan is over the next few years to work my way though all his New Testament commentaries, probably reading a gospel next and then seeing where I go from there.

It may be that you've got an amazing Bible reading plan which is working brilliantly for you. If so praise God. But if not why not choose a book of the New Testament and begin working your way through it with Tom Wright at your side. I don't think you'll regret it, and you'll hopefully end up smelling of Jesus a whole load more!

Simon.

 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Better by Half and a New Series

Don't forget that from this Sunday our morning meetings are starting at 9.30am and 11.30am (Bracknell) and 10.30am (Sandhurst). If you forget then you'll have more time to chat to people before the meeting, or for some you'll just be there on time! The evening gathering in Bracknell is still starting at 6pm.

This Sunday we're starting a new series, called "Things I wished Jesus never said".

There are some things in the Bible which I find it very easy to accept. That God loves me, that he wants to forgive me, that he chose me, that he's got good plans for me. I have no problem with those things.

Yet there are other things the Bible says, and which in particular Jesus says, which can seem very uncomfortable. What he has to say about hell and judgement, about persecution, his instruction to die to myself and take up my cross. When we read those we might wish that Jesus never said them, that he just focussed on the 'nice' things he had to say. But I believe that properly understood even the things that seem hard speak to us of the love of a good God, who wants nothing but the best for his creation. That's why we've called this series things I wished Jesus never said, because I do believe that when we understand why Jesus said the things he said, then we will actually be thankful for them.

We start this Sunday looking at heaven and hell in all three meetings in Bracknell, and Jesus call to obedience in Sandhurst, then next Sunday we'll swap - other than at the 6pm on the 18th September when Canon Andrew White will be speaking.

Three other dates for your diary:

  • Tuesday 13th September - 7.30pm in the Kerith Centre - prayer meeting for Alpha with a live stream from HTB London
  • Tuesday 20th September - 7.45pm in the Kerith Centre - Kerith Vision Night
  • Wednesday 21st September - 7.30pm in the Kerith Centre - Alpha Launch Curry Night

I hope you've had a great week - especially those feeling the impact of the start of a new school year. I've been on retreat the last 3 days in Oxford which has been incredibly refreshing. I feel so privileged to be part of a community that releases me to do this - my prayer is that all of us would find the space in our busy lives to connect with God in meaningful, live giving ways.

Hope to see you Sunday,

Simon.

 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Kerith Kids Team Gathering - Everyone Invited

Next Tuesday (6th September) Sonia Hopkin, our champion for everything to do with children in Kerith, is inviting all of our current Kids team along with anyone interested in being involved in the future to a vision evening which will start at 7.30pm in our K2 building on the Bracknell site.

The core of the evening will be Sonia and me (I?) sharing our heart and our vision for children and their families. Included in that is what we do on a Sunday, things we're changing to better support children with special needs and their families, ideas for how our kids work integrates more closely with what we do in social justice and other ideas to reach out into our wider community. I'll also be giving a sneak preview of some of what I'll be sharing at the vision night on Tuesday 20th September.

Wrapped around that we'll start with cake, tea and coffe, and have time too to pray together and for Q&A.

If you can possibly make it then it would be great to see you there.

Simon.