Why don’t you join me on the edge?

Screenshot 2020-01-16 at 18.02.35I saw this message recently on instagram and while I usually swipe quickly past this kind of post, something about this one resonated with much that I’ve been thinking about at the start of this new year.

Our current series, Who are we becoming? is causing me to reflect on the last decade and who I want to become in the next one,  but I’m realising that reflection isn’t enough and action is required to challenge the Status Quo – be it in one particular aspect of my life, or across a whole range of issues.

Alan Scott once said “There is no vision without collision!”  

Vision – whether new or simply re-stated, is about articulating a better future, but moving towards that future requires taking some positive, and often challenging steps. And there will always be some kind of opposition.

For example, when I deliberately change my diet, my body initially opposes this new vision for better health.  When I try to make more time to spend quietly with God, there are always distractions close by.  Prioritising for deliberate rest often seems crazy in the midst of busyness.  And sometimes, preparing to attending a group I’ve committed to finds me in the group of tiredness.

It takes real courage to stand up to opposition – be it physical, emotional or spiritual, and to move beyond it to a place of real change.  It requires more than just reflection, but positive mental energy, supportive and encouraging friends, and the power of the Holy Spirit.  We are not our own in this! God’s encouragement to Joshua was to “be strong and courageous” as he led the people into a massive risky unknown future:-

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 ESV)

Standing on this same promise and following God’s prompting, what risks are you planning to take in 2020?  An how risky are they really?

Are we talking about things we can just about stretch to, or things that are simply impossible without God’s intervention?

The truth is that if there’s not much challenge then there probably won’t be much progress either!

So whether God is inviting you to review your finances and increase your giving, or to commit to regularly attending a Life Group, or to risk offering to pray for someone who you wouldn’t normally ask, why not choose to trust him wholeheartedly, step out, take the risk and be brave. 

It’s easy to see the reasons to be cautious, but whenever I have faced down opposition for something I know God has asked me to do, he has never ever failed me.  I have always learned something & grown as a result.

I’ve set a number of goals for 2020 – personally and for the church, and honestly, they’ll never  happen unless and I’m prepared to step out, take the risk, possibly look foolish, and trust that God is 100% in it.

I’m determined not to be motivated by fear, but by trust and obedience. I want the next 10 years to be characterised by my close proximity to Jesus as we encounter some crazy but brilliant adventures together.  I can’t think of anything worse than settling down into my comfort zone and I’m so looking forward to seeing all that he wants to accomplish come into being.

Why don’t you join me on the edge,  it’s gonna be a wonderful ride!

 

Useful links:

Winchester Vineyard Life Groups

‘Who are we becoming?’ Sunday Talks

Winchester Vineyard giving page

BLOG: God does not NEED our money but He WANTS our hearts!

BLOG: WHO ARE WE BECOMING?

 

WHO ARE WE BECOMING?

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At the start of 2020, my wife Jo wrote this reflection for our Winchester Vineyard church family:-

As we move into a new year and a new decade, I’ve been thinking about what is working well in my life and some areas that need to change. I’m sure I’m not the only one! As Nigel said on Sunday, it’s natural to do this when many around us are making new years resolutions, posting decade selfies and taking up gym memberships!

So, as we start 2020 we are thinking about who we are becoming as individuals and a church family. There are two questions; who are we becoming and is this who we WANT to become? If so, great. If not, what can we do about that?

We all know that our actions have results – the things we did yesterday affect the way we are today. If I went to bed far too late yesterday, I am tired, grumpy with those around me and unable to concentrate well on my work today. And taking that further, If I keep on going to bed too late I’ll get the same results each day.

As Albert Einstein is thought to have said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Or more recently Jessie Potter said “If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.”

If I want things to change, I need to change my practice – to go to bed earlier so that I’ll be less tired, less grumpy and better able to work well. There’s no other way to get there. Common sense really.

In RESET month at church we are thinking about our routines, habits and patterns in our life with God. If we are trying to follow Jesus and become more like Him, how’s that going? Are we living lives marked by His love, peace and presence? What tweaks or changes do we need to make so that we’ll look more like him at the end of 2020 than we do now?

As I look at my life I can see I can be preoccupied with my “to do list” and the “next thing”. But when I look at Jesus I see He managed to do all He was called to do and still be connected to His Father and fully present in each situation. We don’t see Him rushing anywhere or stressed about the next thing. So what to do? I tried a “habit audit” – an idea I picked up from John Mark Comer. (You may have seen his “Unhurry for the Holidays” video in our pre-Christmas epress). He suggested taking time to write down all our regular routines in the week and at the weekend. Eg. get up, make coffee, check social media, read Bible, go to work … make a list of everything you do. Then ask yourself .. what are these habits doing to my heart? Are they drawing me closer to Jesus and making me more like Him, or are they stirring up envy, discontentment, and anxiety and killing my relationship with Him? Be honest. If you find a habit that’s not helping you on your journey to become more like Jesus, do a habit swap .. replace it with something that does bring you life and draw you closer to Him.

As a result of this, one thing that I’ve been changing is when and how I use my phone. It’s a great tool for being connected with the wider world but can steal my time and attention when I should be focussed elsewhere. It’s early days for me but I’m disconnecting more in the evenings and early mornings and trying to use the Examen routine instead. I’m really appreciating time to pause and “be” more present in the moment and aware of my thoughts and feelings and aware of God’s nearness.

As a church we are thinking about how we grow in Generosity, Community and Compassion.

Perhaps those are areas for you personally too, or there are other things that you know need to change. The challenge for this week is to think .. who am I becoming? What tweaks or changes to my daily routine could I make to help me become the person I want to be? There are lots of ideas on the RESET sheet that you may find helpful…. What will work best for you?

Biblical Literacy: Reflections

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When we made 2019 a ‘Year of Biblical Literacy’ at Winchester Vineyard Church, we were aiming to explore how different books and passages fitted within the overarching narrative, in order to better understand and apply God’s truth to our lives.

Through our Sunday talks we’ve covered large chunks of God’s story – and in-between our other preaching series we plan to double back & revisit some sections and themes over the next couple of years.  We’ve had some memorable lectures for those who wanted to dig in deeper, and we’re planning to continue those from time to time over the next year or two. (You can catch up with talks from 2019 on our website.)

We encouraged everyone to engage with the bible personally during 2019 – aiming to read a section each day using a plan or one of the suggested apps.  If I’m honest, I’ve found that quite a challenge, and while I am absolutely loving the reading journey, I’ll admit that it is taking me some time!  Approaching Christmas, I’m almost at the end of the OT and expect to finish mid-late 2020!

We have said that it’s important to focus on the ‘Biblical Literacy’ rather than the ‘Year’ and wherever you’ve got to, I would strongly encourage you to continue with a consistent reading plan.  If shooting for the whole bible feels too daunting, I suggest you just choose one book at a time and read one chapter a day – or follow one of the many plans from the YouVersion app.

The bible is for life and not just for 2019!

God’s word remains fundamental to living our lives as apprentices of Jesus. Using various metaphors, it describes itself as a sword that pierces, a mirror that reveals, a seed that reproduces, milk that nourishes and a lamp that shines.  We are bible people: ‘people of the word’, and our hope and prayer is that the legacy of YOBL will live long in the life of our church community.  Whatever our focus, we will always seek to wrestle with and better understand the bible’s wisdom, figuring out how we allow it to guide our worship, our community life and our Kingdom mission. 

I’ve been incredibly grateful for the opportunity to dig in to Biblical Literacy this year, and am really excited about how we apply these lessons in the next exciting season of church life. 

Thank you for joining us on the journey….

Useful Links:

YOBL info & resources

Read Scripture App

Winchester Vineyard Talks

God does not NEED our money but He WANTS our hearts!

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“Everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord.” (Ex 35:21)

Dear Winchester Vineyard Family,

Over the last couple of weeks we have been sharing some of the challenges currently facing us as a church.  Financially, there is a significant shortfall in our general income for 2019 as well as an urgent need to replace our flat roof, ideally before the Winter, to avoid further damage.

Through the summer as leaders we have been praying and listening to God about this situation.  As well as the obvious financial needs, we feel challenged to respond by strengthening our prayer life and by investing in relationships and community.  We fully intend to press into both of these areas over the next few months.

But specifically in response to the financial challenge, we are holding a special ‘Heart Offering’ on Sunday 29 September.  This is a one-off opportunity for the church family to give over and above regular tithes to help alleviate the current situation. We obviously don’t know how much will come in, but for your guidance, our plan is to firstly give away 10% to Mission, and then after that;

  • £30K will replace the deficit in 2019 budget
  • £60K will replace the roof
  • £75K will finish phase 2 & 3 of the building project (kitchen & sanctuary)

The trustees will decide how best to allocate the money early in October, when we have a clearer picture of what has been given.

How you can give:

  1. Give by cash or cheque on the day – use the envelopes available
  2. Give by bank transfer to our account – use the ref: HEARTOFFERING+your surname
  3.  Pledge to give before Christmas – fill in the pledge forms available

Please note:

  • If you are a tax payer, then adding Gift Aid significantly increases your gift.
  • If you are NOT already a registered giver with the church, please fill in a GA form.
  • If you are not around on Sun 29th, please send any gifts or pledge forms into the office this next week.

God does not NEED our money but he WANTS our hearts!

We know that God is a God of provision with access to all the resources we could ever need! We strongly believe that this journey as about more than just finances.  We want to press into everything God has for us as a church in the next season and partner with him to see his Kingdom come & lives transformed.  Please do pray about how you might be part of this adventure, and if you have any questions, feel free to be in touch.

With our love and blessing

Nigel & Jo Hemming

 

 

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Holes in the Roof

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In a recent Sunday talk I shared the story of how God has been speaking to us as we’ve tried to respond to some of the challenges we are currently facing as a church.  Leading into the summer, a significant shortfall in our general income, and the urgent need to replace our flat roof caused the leadership community to earnestly pray and seek God.  We sensed him challenging us that ‘the holes in the roof’ are more than just physical but spiritual too.  We sensed a need to come before God in prayer & fasting, to spend time being close to him, listening for his voice & bringing to him the various concerns which are troubling us around prayer, finance and relationships.

You can hear the full talk here

As I prepared for this week’s follow up talk, I was drawn back to this reading from “Our Daily Bread”.  The author quotes a beautiful passage by Thomas Watson (a Puritan preacher from the 1600s) and encourages believers to embrace times of affliction as an opportunity to grow in our faith.

We can learn from the challenges by deliberately pressing in closer to our Father and choosing to trust in the strength of his ‘everlasting arms’.  I pray that the words of this devotional encourage us as we reflect on what God is doing in this season and listen for his guiding voice;-

Does Your Roof Leak?
(reproduced from Our Daily Bread, 14 April 1999 by Henry G. Bosch)

In a book written in 1696, I found these statements:

“Sharp afflictions are to the soul as a soaking rain to the house. We know not there are such holes in the roof till the shower comes, and then we see it drop down here and there. Perhaps we did not know that there were such unmortified cuts in our soul till the storms of affliction came, then we found unbelief, impatience, and fear dropping down in many places.”

How true! Affliction tests us and proves what sort of Christians we are. If there are defects in our spiritual armour, they will show up under the strain and pressure of trouble.

When the floodgates of distress are opened, it is then we echo with understanding the words of the psalmist, who exclaimed, “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck” (Ps. 69:1). Yet we need not fear, for it is our loving Father who allows the waters to come, not to drown us but to cleanse us and help us to see where our life needs repairing.

Have you been through a storm? Have you been disturbed, irritated, faithless, fearful, or rebellious? Consider that God may have put you through this difficulty to reveal your spiritual needs. By prayer, faith, and yielding to the Holy Spirit, repair the “leaky roof.”

God takes us into deep waters not to drown us but to cleanse us.

Wrestling with the Big Stuff

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Recently I preached a couple of sermons on the subject of ‘How to Suffer’ – looking at the ancient book of Job as part of our Year of Biblical Literacy.  

Job is probably one of the harder Old Testament books to figure out but it’s so worth the effort for the treasure contain within.  It suggests that there will always be an element of mystery, and that we may not get answers to all our questions in this life.  It encourages us to embrace lament, and bring our very real complaints directly to God who is more than big enough to cope with our raw & messy emotions. 

To be honest I’ve been a bit blown away by the response to these talks, which seem to have resonated with so many people.  Suffering is part of everyone’s experience at some point in their lives no matter how hard we try to avoid it, plan around it or medicate against it.  

The key question is not whether we’ll experience pain but how we’ll actually cope with it when it comes!

The bible invites us to embrace these times as important seasons through which our character can grow, rather than just times to ‘get through’ while our life is ‘on hold’. Job invites us, particularly when things are tough, into a deeper level of trust with a heavenly father who, while upholding the whole universe, loves & cares for each individual.  

As the Apostle James wrote:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4) 

If you are in the middle of one of these seasons, sometimes there simply isn’t much to say except ‘ I’m sorry’.  Tough as it is to hear,  experiencing hard times is normal, and many others have been there first including Job! 

Why not reflect on some of these questions and talk through your responses with a trusted friend or leader:-

  1. Think about a previous time when you faced difficulty / pain / suffering?
  2. How did you grow in that season of your life?
  3. What helped you get through?
  4. What are you struggling with now?
  5. How are you processing that pain in your life with God?
  6. What do you think you are learning in this difficult time?
  7. How might you able to use this experience to help someone else in the future?

You can catch up with my talks on Job here  (look for 7 & 14 July 2019)

More Bible Project resources on Job here

 

Coming up in August…. ‘Live Different’ 

Our next YOBL series is based on the book of Daniel.  

While its supernatural rescue stories are some of the best known in the bible, Daniel has plenty to say into our current situation.  The book explores what it means to ‘Live Different’ – to literally live a life of faith and spiritual practises which are vastly different from the surrounding culture.  

This series runs from the end of July through August and in preparation, please do read through the Book of Daniel if you haven’t already (there are only 12 chapters!).  

Lastly, you might also want to watch this Daniel Overview Video from the Bible Project which contains a helpful intro & overview to the whole book.

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More resources on the book of Daniel here.

Don’t Give Up!

17-Job-FNLI have a confession to make!

I’m a long way behind in my reading through the Old Testament.

As part of our Year of Biblical Literacy (YOBL), we’re trying to read through the whole bible together, but in the busyness of life, I’ve not been able to be very consistent.  So where many of us are now exploring the major prophets, I’m still working my way through the narrative stories of 2 Kings. 

But I’m loving it!

I’m absolutely loving the challenge of reading through the whole of the bible, with the help of videos and podcasts from The Bible Project, sermon series in church and discussions in Life Group.  Actually, this it the first time that I have ever tried to understand how the whole bible narrative strings together, and difficult as it it sometimes, it’s helping me get a much better handle on the nature and character of the God who I love and serve.

So I’m sticking with it, and even if you’re really behind like me, I would encourage you to do the same.  We said at the start of 2019 that it was important to focus more on the ‘BIBLICAL LITERACY’ and less on the ‘YEAR’, and we really meant it!

If you feel like you’ve lost heart, or given up, it is really not too late to carry on.  You don’t need to wait for 2020 to start again, just watchmen of the videos to remind yourself where you are, and jump back in.  There’s no deadline!  

The most important thing is to read a bit of the bible regularly, think about it, pray about it and learn from it.  It doesn’t matter how big or small – but don’t give up.

2 Tim 3:14-17

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Exploring the Book of Job:

On Sundays, having looked at some of the challenging themes that run through the Old Testament, we’re now dipping into certain books. We’ve already covered Proverbs & Song of Songs, and our next two series look in more depth at Job and Daniel. 

The two week Job series starts in July and in preparation, you might want to watch this Read Scripture video to remind yourself of the overall narrative:-

Overview of the Book of Job (11 mins)

More info & resources on Job here

More on The Year of Biblical Literacy here

 

Easter Reflections

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With the Easter season approaching, we in Winchester Vineyard Church are a quarter of the way through our Year of Biblical Literacy (YOBL).  

THE JOURNEY SO FAR

So far we have read through Creation, the Fall, the Flood, Abraham & his descendants, Israel’s miraculous rescue from slavery in Egypt and the details of their covenant with God at Mount Sinai.  Things didn’t go so well for God’s people, but after several twists and turns, and 40 years in the wilderness, the next generation finally crossed the River Jordan to entered the promised land under Joshua’s leadership and start to build their nation.

There’s still plenty of Israel’s story to explore, and in our Sunday talks, we’ll be circling back into the Old Testament in much more depth after Easter.

It’s not too late to join in with YOBL!

Through our recent Big Story of God sermon series we saw how despite the difficult times, God did not abandon his people, and their hopes began to be fulfilled through Jesus’ kingdom ministry and then through the early church.  As followers of Jesus today, we are still living in that story, empowered by the Spirit to bring his hope and life to individuals, institutions, communities and nations.

Check out our Scattered Servants Training this weekend.

EASTER CONNECTIONS

Our teaching focus in April will be on the events leading up to Easter and their significance in the overall narrative of the bible.  Taking time to reflect on Jesus death and celebrate his resurrection will not just deepen our personal faith, but will also enrich our community life together.  There a number of exciting ways to do this over the next few weeks:-

Our Soulfulness Evening with Brian Draper will help us take quality time out of the busyness to connect with ourselves, the world & God. 

Our Easter Labyrinth will be open for contemplation and reflection throughout Holy week. 

At the Jesus Life Story event we’ll immerse ourselves in the gospel story by simply reading through the book of Mark together out loud. 

And our Easter Sunday Celebration promises to be fun and lively as we head over to the water meadows for baptisms, egg hunt, picnic and games.

All of these events are open to anyone – please do consider who you might invite along. Postcards are available from this Sunday to give away.

We look forward to reflecting on Jesus’ death and celebrate his life together.

Word vs Spirit – The Radical Middle

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As we are settling into our Year of Biblical Literacy, a number of people have fed back to me just how glad they are that we are focussing on the Big Story of the Bible in 2019.  It’s true that the Bible is being marginalised in our wider culture, but some people may also be wondering just how much emphasis a ‘charismatic’ church movement like Vineyard places on understanding the Bible, it’s overarching narrative and it’s teaching?

Over the centuries, different Christian groups have developed a wide range of approaches to the Bible. On one side would be those who place a deep emphasis, almost exclusively, on knowing, studying and preaching the Word of God. At the other end of the spectrum would be those who put almost all of their focus on the the activity of the Holy Spirit. All churches in history could be placed somewhere on this line.

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John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement (pictured above) taught that the most effective growth would occur in the ‘radical middle’, emphasising the importance of both the Word and the Spirit in maturing disciples of Jesus.

We place a really high value on the Bible and it’s truth, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re digging into it this way this year.  We also love and value the Holy Spirit and his work among us in our private times, in our public meetings, and equipping us to live out our faith in the world. 

Maybe you’ve known people who have held more extreme views on the Bible, and who have expressed them in an unhelpful or immature way.  Perhaps, as a reaction, you have swung away from reading and studying the Bible for yourself.  If that’s the case, I would encourage you to consider redressing the balance.  As in many areas of life, holding these values in tension can be tricky but is so important.

As apprentices of Jesus, we need the Holy Spirit to quicken the Bible to us and bring it to life as we read.  And when we encounter the Spirit through a physical experience or receive a prophetic word, we need the Bible as our vital reference book to make sure that what we are experiencing lines up with God’s truth.

Consider: Where would you put yourself on this line? And is there anything you need to do to redress the balance in your own journey with God?

Our next teaching series is called The Big Story of God, looking at the overarching narrative of the whole Bible in 6 stages.

For Further Exploration

More on John Wimber & the story of the Vineyard Movement

Video Clip: John Wimber on buying his first bible

Lecture: Origins of the Bible by Tim Mackie of the Bible Project

Timeline of the Bible

Grasping the Big Picture

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We have designated 2019 as a ‘Year of Biblical Literacy’ at Winchester Vineyard Church.  We aim to grow in our understanding of the bible through consistent reading, discussion, Sunday talks and even a few in-depth lectures.  (more info)

One of the key reasons for doing this is to help us get to grips with the bible’s overarching narrative and get a better appreciation of its timeline.  

As a primary school teacher, I would always begin a history topic with a timeline, to help children learn how each particular period relates to the world chronology.  During the course of a year, for example we might study the Ancient Egyptians or Romans and then jump to Victorian Britain or WWII.  Each one is a fascinating with some brilliant stories, but each also occurs in its own context – culturally & chronologically.  It’s essential to start with the ‘Big Picture’ and then dig down into the specifics of each topic, and it really helps to understand where a period fits within the overall timeline. 

Getting to grips with the bible can present a similar challenge. Its 66 books span around 5000 years of history and were written by around 40 people in a variety of literary styles.  Each book stands on its own merit with plenty to explore, but it’s not always easy to know how it relates to the bigger picture.

Over this year we’ll be getting to grips with the Bible’s timeline as we work our way through it chronologically.  There are so many brilliant stories, but there are also some parts which are a little trickier to understand.  As we read through this book together, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to us, our hope is to gain a clearer understanding of the biblical timeline and its key themes.  Our next series “The Big Story of the Bible” (in February and March) will particularly help set out the parameters for the rest of the year. 

In your personal reading, be encouraged, not to focus on trying to keep up with a plan, but to read a section each day (however short or long) and ask God to speak to you through it.   Bless you heaps as we read God’s word together. 

For further information:-

The Bible Project Website

Overview Bible Website

The Sacred Calendar Website