Streams In The Desert
I’ve recently been living with the story of Philip and the Ethiopian from Acts 8:26-39. Philip had been experiencing a move of God in Samaria and then suddenly, out of the blue, God sent him into the desert! At the same time an Ethiopian official was travelling through the desert – unknown to them both God was engineering a powerful encounter. The Ethiopian was an important man with an influential job. On the surface he had everything going for him yet we are told he was a eunuch. It’s difficult for us to imagine the emotional and relational scars that this must have left him with. He had gone to ‘church’ in Jerusalem, looking to find God, but had left without any answers. It is here in the desert where Philip finds him grappling with a passage from the book of Isaiah about Jesus. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,”, “unless someone explains it to me?” Philip explained the gospel and suddenly it all made sense! The Ethiopian had a revelation of Jesus, was baptised and left overflowing with joy. His physical circumstances had not changed one bit but his life had now changed forever. Perhaps we can relate to this. Sometimes life can feel tough. Often people don’t see our inner battles or turmoil. Perhaps we have experienced what seemed like success, only to now feel in more of a desert place. But this is where Jesus loves to meet us. The theme throughout the book of Isaiah is that even in the midst of difficult and desert-like circumstances only God can sustain and revive us. Sometimes our situations do not change but God’s presence is like finding a stream in the desert. Jesus still encounters the needy. He still uses people like us. He still changes lives and an encounter with him changes everything! Much grace, Steve
God’s plans and our prayers
I’ve recently been reading A W Tozer’s book ‘The Knowledge of the Holy.’ Tozer stresses the importance of understanding the nature and character of God. The more we understand about who God is the greater our desire to worship him and the more confident we become that he will do what he has promised. But as we all know, believing God will fulfill his promises when he doesn’t stick to our script can be a real challenge! God has a plan and is working it out in his own perfect timing yet amazingly he hears and responds to our prayers. Holding these two things in tension is easy for God because he is God. We, on the other hand, find it more much more difficult. This is why the Holy Spirit speaks to us, helps us and guides us. He lets us in on the good things God has planned to encourage us and stir us to pray and to act. For some time God has been speaking about the spiritual tide rising around us but also that we needed to start digging out some old wells that had become blocked up – the wells of revival; worship; hopes and dreams; and healing. So over the autumn we will be doing just that. Every month we will be gathering for two nights (Sunday and Wednesday) to pray into and focus on one of these four wells. They will be exciting times not to be missed! At the same time we will be starting a new preaching series from the book of Isaiah called ‘Streams in the desert.’ Together, we are going to unpack some of God’s promises that bring life in the desert places. Just listen to Isaiah 30:18-19 in The Message: “But God’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. God takes the time to do everything right – everything… …Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he’ll answer.” God has an incredible plan, yet somehow within the purposes of God our prayers make a difference. So let’s stir ourselves to seek God together. It’s time to pray! Much grace, Steve Save
Whether its Gershwin’s classic ‘Summertime… and the living is easy…’, Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’ or the latest summer chart sensation, the songsters always seem to capture the spirit of the season we are in. And, busy though we all still are, it’s true that there is something about light nights and sunny weather that can lift our spirits, lighten our mood and put us in a more relaxed frame of mind. Out comes the lawnmower, garden furniture and barbecue – cafés and bars sprout tables on pavements and pub gardens overflow with people. With the opportunities longer days afford, summer is a great time to be with family and friends. It is a good time to be spontaneous – taking those opportunities that naturally come along day to day as we listen for and follow the voice of the Holy Spirit. Opportunities to get to know people, express interest in their lives, show kindness and love in practical ways, eat together, laugh together and share our lives and faith. It is also good to be intentional – allowing the Holy Spirit to remind us of those who are on their own, or who are coping with the kids over the long school holidays. Remembering those who are new to our church family or the neighbours who have just moved in near us. It’s a good time to renew or deepen our friendships with neighbours, who we often don’t see through the dark winter months. Summer is a time when people are perhaps more open to chat; a good time to have those conversations you have been meaning to have but never got around to. If you are feeling radical, then maybe even rise to the challenge Jesus gave to one surprised dinner host – to think beyond our usual list and invite someone who might not be able to invite you back? (Luke 14:12-14) Let’s be like Jesus – he loved people and he loved a good party…and still does! Seize the moment – make that invitation! Let’s open the doors – of our hearts, our homes, our diaries and maybe the gates of our gardens, and make this summer one of purposefully investing in relationships. The summer weather may come and go (hoping that it comes in the first place) but relationships are of lasting value. Jonathan Lloyd Save Save
Most of us live our lives at a frenetic pace and are constantly cramming ‘stuff’ into every available minute of the day. Living like this it’s no wonder the only person to get everything done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe! This was never what God intended. God wants us to be physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually well. This means building times of rest into our busy schedules. God promises he will give us rest as we draw near to him. Jesus encourages those who are weary and feel weighed down with the burdens of life to come to him. He gives us rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28) and only he will truly satisfy. Rest is his way of ensuring we enjoy him, others and the work has given us to do. When we are rested we are so much easier to be around – just ask family, friends or colleagues. Being rested gives us perspective and helps us to not miss the important things in life. Rest enables us to be fruitful and effective for him. Annie and I are going to be putting this into practice as we enjoy a sabbatical away from the busyness of church life. It will be a time of recuperation and refreshment but also a time of preparation for all that God has ahead. Let’s take heed of Robert Murray-M’Cheyne, the powerful C19th Scottish preacher, who on his death-bed aged 30, said, “God gave me a message to deliver and a horse to ride. Alas, I killed the horse, and now I cannot deliver the message.” So as we move towards the summer months let’s ensure we have some good ‘down time’. For some this will involve enjoying time with family, friends and those people God brings into our lives. For others this may simply mean going for walks without our mobile phone, catching up on sleep or simply slowing down. He is our source, our strength and peace. He is our comfort and knows all we need. Let’s allow God to recharge our batteries this summer. Much grace, Steve Save Save
Believing For Breakthrough
I love reading and hearing of God doing amazing things amongst his people. It stirs my faith and expectancy for what he is yet to do and all that he has promised. Our Sunday in March with guest speaker Angela Kemm was a significant morning for us. The response at the end of the meeting was overwhelming, with the vast majority of people coming to the front as a sign that they wanted God to move amongst us in a new way. Angela invited me to ‘commission’ the church into a new season of breakthrough and to share what was on my heart. I was deeply moved as I looked at people crowding towards the front. The truth is over the years I have longed to see God break into the life of the church and have dreamed of seeing days like this. Before I came to Winchester, I received a number of prophetic words. One was that I would stand on the stage at the MBC and see hundreds of people responding. Another was that I would see significant breakthrough. Hearing about what God is doing in other places is so good, yet my hearts cry is ‘Father, do something significant here!’ I dream of seeing people coming to faith in Christ and being set free from the things that hold them in bondage. He is the only one who can bring about this sort of breakthrough, yet each one of us has a part to play too. I want to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and to love those who God has placed around me. It’s not in my strength but in his and by his grace working in me day by day. So what about you? What’s in your heart? What has God said to you? As we step into this new season of fruitfulness let’s take up Jesus’ challenge to be fishers of men. Let’s follow his example and be filled with his Holy Spirit. Let’s move forward with courage and expectancy believing him for breakthrough in our lives, church, city and beyond. Much grace, Steve
Partnering With Compassion
For millions of children around the world, the unchanging story of poverty is all they have ever known. Recent statistics from UNICEF and the World Bank show that: • More than 9 million children under 5 die each year. Two-thirds of these deaths are preventable. • Over 1.4 billion people in the Developing World live below the poverty line (US $1.25 per day). • In Developing Countries, about 130 million children and teens have lost one or both parents. The Bible shows us God’s heart to help the poor. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed cloths and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me…” Matthew 25:35. Compassion is one of the world’s leading child development and child advocacy organisations. Their approach is to work with the local church, linking a child living in poverty with a loving sponsor. Each sponsor gives their child access to education, health checks and the care of a local church-based Compassion project. There is no quick fix to global poverty, but through Compassion, children’s lives are being changed. Their work is impacting families, communities and nations. Independent research showed that Compassion-sponsored children are more likely to be employed as adults, and leaders in their communities and churches (Journal of Political Economy 2013). On Sunday 9th April, Hope Church Winchester will become a Partner Church with Compassion. The local Church that we will support is ADERP Gakenke in Rwanda. The children we look to sponsor will be from this hillside community. Rwanda was once known as a ‘land of a thousand hills’, famed for its breath-taking scenery and endangered mountain gorillas. In 1962, Rwanda gained independence from Belgium and the Hutu majority population overthrew the ruling Tutsi King. After years of unrest, on 10 April 1994, the Hutus began the systematic slaughter of the Tutsis. Over the next 100 days, about 1,000,000 people were killed. The genocide left huge scars on the country: 50% of the population left were children, more than 800,000 were orphaned and 20,000 families were without parents. Today, Rwanda has vowed to learn from its past. It has developed a system of good governance, zero tolerance for corruption and promotion of gender equality. For example, 56% of all parliamentarians are women. The country has been credited by the World Bank for the positive way they conduct business. Our sponsorship will allow the staff of ADEPR Gakenke Rwanda to provide our sponsored children with bible lessons, health screening, education, vaccinations, testing & counselling for HIV/AIDS and life-skills training. The staff will also provide parenting education and household development training for the parents or guardians of our sponsored children. Please pray for this new faith-venture for Hope Church. Pray for peace in Rwanda. Pray for God to show the children how much He loves them. Come to the launch event on Sunday 9th April and let us turn faith into action. Wai Wan Save
The Father Of Compassion
Last year I had the privilege of travelling to Nairobi in Kenya with the children’s charity Compassion. For over sixty years Compassion has sought to help vulnerable children around the world through its sponsorship programmes. These programmes focus on ensuring healthy pregnancies and all that this entails as well as providing children access to healthcare, educational assistance and supplemental nutrition. In all it does Compassion works alongside local churches. In Nairobi I was able to see first-hand projects where Compassion is working in partnership with local churches, two of which were based in Mathare, a slum of over 400,000 people (more about Steve’s trip in May 2016) Whilst the scale of the poverty was overwhelming, it was deeply moving seeing children in each of the projects being given hope. Their simple but profound faith in Jesus will live long in my memory. Since last summer Compassion has been identifying the right place in Africa for us as a church to work alongside them. I am very excited that on Sunday 9th April we will become a partner church with Compassion. On the day many of us will have an opportunity to sponsor children, something Wai Wan has promoted in the church for a number of years. However from now on the children we sponsor will be from the same hillside community in Rwanda. Gakenke, home to 4,000 people, needs help with health training, encouragement to complete education and income generating programmes. Our sponsorship of children will enable a local church to provide health screening and education, vaccinations, testing and counselling for HIV/AIDS, life-skills training and educational assistance as well as teaching them Bible lessons. Last June we raised £11,000 and this will now be used to identify and establish a project that will serve this community. We are so blessed to live in what is at the moment a very secure part of the world. As Hope Church we have a responsibility to remember the poor, not just in the Winchester and the areas around us but in the wider world too. I’m so delighted that our partnership will have both a direct and ongoing impact in these children’s lives. What a privilege it if for us as we reflect something of the loving kindness and mercy of God, the Father of compassion. Much grace, Steve Save Save
A God Who Speaks
I love that the God who spoke creation into being wants to speak personally with me! In the Garden, Adam would walk in the cool of the day with God. This is a powerful picture of the relationship and communion God always intended for us to have with him, yet we know what happened next in the story… The devil seeks to subtly undermine our confidence in what God says. His first recorded question posed to Eve was “Did God really say…?”, sowing seeds of doubt in order to fracture their relationship with God – this is his goal. Yet despite this God has never and will never give up pursuing relationship with us. He never stops communicating his love, desire and purposes, and they are always good! Often we hear his voice through the Bible and prophetically through other Christians. In Ephesians we read that prophecy is a gift for the church, so having prophetic people around us is great, inspiring and helping us to hear God. This is why on Sunday 4th March we have invited Angela Kemm, based in Cambridge, to come and share with us. Angela has a recognised prophetic gift and serves as part of the Relational Mission family of churches led by Mike Betts. She is particularly gifted at speaking God’s purpose over people’s lives and in seeing breakthrough. I want to encourage us to come expectant to hear God speak. The most significant decisions in my life have been predated by God speaking to me, including the move to Hope Church. I have found hearing God is more of an art than a science. There are times when God is speaking but sometimes I’m not quite listening. Equally there are times when I don’t quite hear right or think I’m hearing him when perhaps I’m not. But that’s ok, God is big enough to handle all this and his response is… “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29.11 Much grace, Steve Save
Prayer Week January 2017
Jesus modelled a lifestyle of prayer rooted in relationship with his heavenly Father; whether day or night, alone or with others. As we approach our Prayer Week at the beginning of the year we also want do the same. You can pray on your own, as a family, in groups and all together. Remember to listen too! If prayer is based in relationship then we can expect God to speak to us as well. What do you feel God may be saying? Wherever we are and whatever we are doing let’s keep talking and listening to God. Pick up or download the full Prayer Week January 2017 Programme to help fuel your prayers and activity for the week Choose when you will pray and for what areas. When praying remember to write down what you feel God may be saying.
Partnership For Success
“How do you move a heavy mattress?” It sounds like the first line of a terrible joke! It isn’t, but the answer, “not on your own,” brings a rueful smile to my face. Annie and I have been redecorating our bedroom and I decided we needed to move the double mattress to the other side of the house. It turned out to be a lengthy process and I came close to doing myself serious injury. I wasn’t looking forward to the return leg. At no point did I consider asking for help despite Annie suggesting it – many times! Fortunately for me a friend insisted on helping and we moved it back in under two minutes! The moment underlines for me the benefit of working together. Sadly we live in a world where needing help is seen as a sign of weakness. Any reticence we have of acknowledging we need help stands in stark contrast to the apostle Paul. Paul’s passion to share the good news about Jesus at every opportunity meant he was always looking for people and churches to partner with him. God wants us to utilise the power available as we partner with others who share the same faith and a common goal. Hence in January we will be focusing on the benefits ‘togetherness’ brings, both amongst us and with other churches, especially the Commission family of churches. The truth is we can do more together than we can apart. There are many ways partnership can be expressed but perhaps the most powerful is prayer. So as we start 2017 let’s commit to praying for each other and those we are working alongside: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-6). Much grace, Steve Save Save Save
The King’s Christmas
As we’ve walked round the city centre over the last year most of us will have seen ‘The King’s City’ emblazoned on the side of buses as they weave their way round the streets of Winchester. For the bus company it is simply a nod in the direction of the halcyon days when the kings and queens of England ruled the country from Winchester. For us it carries deeper overtones of our Christian heritage. As we enjoy the build up to another Christmas season the churches in Winchester are running their Christmas activities under a single banner: “The King’s Christmas.” At a time when many people don’t give God a second thought, they do however still love Christmas, which is why it is a great season of opportunity for us. There are so many ways we can “make the most of every opportunity.” We can join with people from other churches at the Cathedral Christmas Market and serve for a few hours on the Church stall. Passers-by will be invited to ponder the question, “What would you do if you were King for a day?” Alternatively one of the vicars based in the town centre will be leading an evening of singing carols in the local pub! Whilst these may be out of our comfort zone all of us can do something. Maybe we could invite neighbours round for mince pies and mulled wine after the Carol Service. Even though some may well say “no” there may be some for whom our invitation will be the only one they get. We can all make sure we share some of what God has blessed us with, whether that be our time, our money or our resources – we could help with this year’s Christians Against Poverty Christmas hampers. If we believe that the real message of Christmas is one of “good news of great joy for all people” let’s show the world around us it really is the King’s Christmas. Much grace, Steve
“See I’m doing a new thing!”
We all occasionally dwell on ‘the good old days,’ but often they actually were not quite as good as we remember. Perhaps they are more a testament to our selective memories! Too often my gaze is backwards, but God is always doing new things. He can’t help it – He is the Creator. My challenge, indeed all our challenge, is to see what he is doing because at the beginning it isn’t always obvious. Have you noticed in the last few months God seems to have been enabling us to develop all sorts of connections with new people and groups in the community around us. Some are through groups and projects we are running, others are completely unexpected. There is a growing sense of momentum in parts of church life, the Ark and Alpha to name just two. Yet as we catch a glimpse of what God is doing it is not the time to sit back and be passive. Rather let’s be looking for creative ways of helping people experience God’s love for them. When there is a sense God is starting to pour out his blessing on his people, the church; when we perceive the moving of God’s Spirit, which may only seem like the rustling of leaves on the top of the trees, C H Spurgeon says “We ought then to be doubly prayerful, doubly earnest, wrestling more at the throne than we have been won’t to do. Action should then be prompt and vigorous. The tides is flowing let us pull manfully for the shore.” Let’s not miss what God is doing. Much grace, Steve
I don’t know about you but I am really looking forward to all that the autumn holds for us. We have seen God do some remarkable things in the last year which has stirred my faith for what lies ahead. Just over a year ago when we were about to sign the contract for the final stage of major building works at the MBC it looked like we would need around £175,000 that we didn’t have in the bank. Today the works are virtually complete and we’ve needed no bank or interest free loans or building offering. Praise God! Sunday by Sunday we have been seeing new visitors from a diversity of backgrounds gather to worship. There is a great sense of the grace of God amongst us. May the culture of the church continue to change for the better! There is a growing sense of vibrant community amongst us. Some Sundays, I just stand back and enjoy watching the church in action. May we always be a welcoming home for all. Nowhere was this sense of community more evident than at Westpoint. For those of us able to be there, it was a great time to be together and be part of the Commission family of churches. Our last few Alpha Courses have seen a growing momentum. Many of the guests have come from projects and ministries that we are now running, like CAP and The Ark. It is great to be able to communicate what God has done for us! I was praying recently and had a moment when I wondered if I was daydreaming! I could see a station with a train about to leave. On the far platform there was a carriage going in the opposite direction taking some people further away. Before I had time to be perplexed, I heard a voice say, ‘It’s alright it’s a turntable moment!’ God impressed on me that, just as stations have turntables to re-orientate carriages, this is a time for people to make a change to connect up to what God is doing amongst us. In this next season we’re looking for many to put their trust in Jesus, many to connect with us as Hope Church and others, who have been disconnected, to re-engage. Much grace, Steve
Reflections On Westpoint
Last year Fran and I were at Westpoint for the first time as newcomers to Hope Church. This year it felt like we were going as family – a lot has happened in a year! First things first – if an army marches on its stomach – then the magnificent serving of the Oliver’s Battery Community Group and others must be mentioned in dispatches! Speaking as non-campers, (it really is an option if you don’t do camping!) we didn’t make in time for the breakfasts, but good food, served cheerfully, in the communal marquee every evening was a great opportunity to sit and chat. Around the campsite, catching up with folk over a coffee in a less hurried environment was great. As ever with these things you can’t do everything, so there were some difficult choices to make. For sure there was plenty of challenging preaching, many God encounters and a few ‘I was there’, spine-tingling moments. Overall I was left with a sense that God had brought us as a family of churches in Commission to a significant turning point and given us a real sense of momentum. Phil Moore is a name I recognised from reading some of his books – hearing him was something else! He was outstanding with his preaching on Jonah – very relevant, very challenging – and definitely not the normal Sunday school story take! Listen to it online if you dare! As for Mark Jobe, well I’d never heard of him – but I have now! If you need your faith stirring into action, if you’re feeling a bit stuck, then this is one you need to hear. I felt God speaking to me very specifically when Mark preached on Elisha and the widow’s jar of oil (2 Kings 4:1-7) – saying it’s time to prepare empty jars ready for God to fill! Guy Miller cast the over-arching vision that pulled it all together. The offering of around £600,000 was amazing – not so much for the amount given, but for the sense of God at work in hearts that prompted it. The final night was moving and unforgettable, seeing the calling out of a ‘third generation’ for God. Thinking of it still gives me goose bumps! And I haven’t even mentioned the seminars… Of course, it all needs to be translated into everyday church life…We’ll work on that and, hopefully, you will see it over the coming months. In the meantime I encourage you to catch up online – in the comfort of your own sofa – no camping required! And, of course, there’s always next year… By Jonathan Lloyd Save
Prayer Week September 2016
Jesus prayed at all sorts of times both day and night, and modelled to us a lifestyle of prayer. It was never a religious exercise for Jesus but was about connecting with God his Father. We too can come to our heavenly Father at any time and any place; whether at home, in the car, at work, with our children, during the day or at night. So to help fuel your praying why not come to our ‘Prayer Station’ in the MBC in the weeks building to our prayer week. There will be cards available for morning, afternoon & evening slots during each day of the prayer week with some specific prayer points. Make sure you’ve got plenty of ‘fuel’ for prayer as you commit to pray on the day and time listed. You could pray for 5 minutes, an hour, on and off during that period, on your own or with others – maybe your family, community group or the ministry team you are part of. It’s up to you! If you would prefer to signup online you can do so below or just download the full Prayer Week Summary. We are also looking forward to great times together when we gather on Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday. Please see the calendar for details. During our week of prayer, let’s foster a lifestyle of prayer and “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Eph 6:18) ** Prayer Fuel Here ** Sunday Sun AM - Sunday GatheringsSun PM - Our LeadersSun EVE - Church Growth Monday Mon AM - The ElderlyMon PM - Facilities HireMon EVE - Discipleship Tuesday Tue AM - Personal EvangelismTue PM - Corporate EvangelismTue EVE - Salvation Breakthrough Wednesday Wed AM - My Community GroupWed PM - My CommunityWed EVE - Our City Thursday Thu AM - ChildrenThu PM - YouthThu EVE - Church Life Friday Friday AM - Churches In WinchesterFriday PM - CommissionFriday EVE - The Poor Saturday Sat AM - CompassionSat PM - Christians Against PovertySat EVE - Miracle Street Please enter your details below to receive an email confirmation Full Name* Email* Save Save
The Wrong Bike?
Whilst on holiday we hired bikes for the day to cycle along the north Devon coast. The guy in the shop suggested I have a BMX and without giving it much thought I took it. Within an hour I was struggling. The bike only had a few gears, small wheels and a low saddle. Annie was gently cycling enjoying the view whilst I had my head down and was peddling like mad. She loved it. I hated it and couldn’t wait for it to end. The problem was simple – I used the wrong bike. I was reminded of this as I was thinking about the importance of prayer. The God who created the heavens and the earth loves us completely. He invites us to pray and promises to hear us. Yet we struggle to pray. Somehow ‘we have got the wrong bike’ and the experience is not what it should be. We find prayer hard work and not enjoyable. When others get excited about spending time praying we switch off. When we pray we don’t expect a great deal and unsurprisingly we are not disappointed! John Calvin calls prayer ‘the chief exercise of faith’. In other words, prayer is the primary way our faith should be outworked. If God is all-powerful and all-knowing and he loves us as much as he says he does, his invitation to draw near in prayer is the greatest of privileges. One old hymn writer says God is the ‘inspirer and hearer of prayer,’ and if that’s true then we can expect him to answer our prayers even if it is not always in the way we expect! As we look forward to all that the autumn holds let’s raise our expectation of what God is going to do amongst us. Let’s not give up the habit of meeting together and let’s joyfully draw near to worship him bringing all our requests and expecting him to answer us. Prayer really is our greatest privilege. As Michael Reeves puts it, our “prayer life reveals how much we really want communion with God and how much we really depend on him.” Much grace, Steve
Time With Jesus
God loves to spend time with us. It’s one of the great Bible themes running from the beginning in the Garden of Eden to the end of Revelation. He loves relationship because this is who he is as Father, Son and Spirit. He is in relationship and he calls us also to be in relationship with him. We were made for relationship. Jesus was always in and amongst people. Those that gave time to be with him found themselves energised – with even cool hearts being strangely warmed as they listened to him. Yet isn’t it ironic that often we are just too busy or just ‘don’t have time’? In our busyness we all too easily miss out on the opportunity to simply be in the presence of the author and sustainer of life. Just think about Jesus’ encounter with Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Martha was busy doing a good thing for Jesus. Yet underneath the veneer of her capability she was worried and upset by many things. Sadly, in her busyness she let a good thing become the only thing and so missed out on the one thing that was really important – resting in Jesus’ presence. There are many good things to do and enjoy in life. Time off with family and friends is very precious and important. But over the summer let’s make sure we spend time with the only one who can truly restore our soul. Let’s make time to rest in his presence. Let’s draw near to him knowing he will draw near to us. Let’s allow him to renew our strength and restore our souls over these summer months so that we are energised to run and not grow weary! Much grace, Steve
Joy In Serving
As I was at home writing this article Annie was in bed recovering from a minor operation. My main responsibility was simple, to look after her. Funnily enough it did not quite go as I’d expected. On the evening after the operation she was in bed sleeping off the effects of the anaesthetic, or so I thought until my phone rang with a request for room service. “Two slices of toast and a cup of tea please!” She thought it was very funny until she found the laughing hurt! Serving those around us can be costly and challenging but is so worth it. Many at Hope Church already put huge amounts of energy into serving people of all ages and backgrounds, both in and around the city. This invariably involves getting our hands dirty and costs time and effort. There is also a financial cost to serving others. On Sunday 5th June we will be having a gift day principally to support and develop our ongoing work amongst the poor as well as helping children who are in need. This is a great opportunity for us to be generous. Serving challenges us, is often inconvenient and can be tiring. Yet it brings a joy and fulfilment as we have the privilege of demonstrating God’s great love to a needy world. I love hearing stories of people’s lives positively impacted by the church. It reminds me of the value of what we do and brings a joy that I wouldn’t miss for the world. Jesus’ promise to a church in the book of Revelation has been resonating with me in recent weeks. “See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut” Revelation 3:8 God has placed an open door of serving the city in front of us as a church. The door is open but the choice to walk through is ours. Let’s follow Jesus, who came to serve not to be served. There is great fulfilment and joy to be found as we put others first. Much grace, Steve
Compassion Trip, Kenya // May 2016
On 16th May I flew out to Nairobi, Kenya, to see firsthand the work of Compassion, a worldwide charity focused on releasing children from poverty. Kenya has a population of around 46 million, 10 million of whom are children living in poverty, on less than $1 a day. 65% of the population is under 45 years old, 80% are illiterate and 40% of young people are unemployed. Two thirds of Nairobi’s 3 million population live in slums rife with social problems including crime, drug misuse and prostitution. Compassion fund projects in over half of the country, currently benefitting about 100,000 children (50,000 children have already graduated from one of their projects). At this moment in time the charity principally focuses on child sponsorship within 327 projects run by local churches. Each of these churches must demonstrate a heart to work with children and have an acceptable statement of faith. It takes around 1-2 years before a Kenyan church formally begins to partner with Compassion. The aim is to create opportunities for children to come to Christ whilst helping them out of educational, physical and socio-economical poverty. They do this through: Child Survival Programmes (equipping and helping mothers of children 0 – 3 years old) Child Development Programmes (for children 3 years until finishing education) Leadership Development Programmes (inspiring and investing in young people) On our first day we visited a Child Survival Programme based in a church on the edge of the East African Rift Valley. On arriving we received a traditional Kenyan welcome from some of the mothers and children! The programme is currently helping 35 single and married mothers care for 36 children. Of those who are married only 6 of the fathers were working with the programme. As well as helping mothers with health care and simple life skills the church runs a number of micro-enterprises training them to be able to generate an income through making belts, bags, sandals and soap. There was also a hair salon where mothers could learn hairdressing skills. It was clear the programme had been life changing! We had the privilege of visiting some of the mothers in their homes, including Millicent and her three children, two of whom were twins. The father had recently abandoned the family. She lived in a small rented home with two rooms. Inside was very basic, with a sofa and small table in the one room and a bed in the other. The ‘kitchen’ was in a nearby shed, also used as a chicken coop, with a simple camp fire for a stove. The chickens had been provided to help the family live and earn a small income from selling eggs. Of the 16 month old twins, the little boy, David, had been ill with a longstanding cold. Eventually, through the intervention of the project staff, he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Millicent was unable to pay for his treatment so the church/Compassion stepped in, almost certainly saving his life… On our second day we visited Mathare slum in Nairobi, home to over 400,000 people. All the accommodation is ‘makeshift’ and situated alongside polluted streams and unmade ‘streets’ where food, fruit and vegetables are sold. The DIY electricity supply regularly causes fires, destroying homes. The problems within the slum are compounded by drug and alcohol misuse, teenage pregnancy and rape (affecting around 70% of girls in Mathare). The Child Development Programme we visited is based in a church in the middle of the slum. It currently supports 260 children between the ages of 3-21, helping them to know God’s love whilst ensuring they are being well fed and have access to education and health care. Yet the programme barely scratches the surface of the problem of children in poverty in Mathare. Whilst we were there the children prayed and shared with us. Whether young or old, each would start with “Praise God. I am born again. My name is …” Although cultural, it was a powerful reminder that for these children God comes first in a place like Mathare. It was incredibly moving to meet and play with the children. A little five year old boy called Godfrey, held my hand and wouldn’t let go. He hardly said a word whilst I was with him yet he stood by himself rubbing his eyes to stop himself crying when I had to leave. I left deeply moved and am still trying to process it all. Later we visited the home of an 18 year old boy called Christopher who had been in the Child Development Programme since he was 6 years old. He was living with his mother and younger brother in a makeshift home consisting of two small rooms divided by material. Christopher had completed his secondary education and was just finishing a computing course funded by the programme. On top of his studies he worked long hours selling second hand clothes to generate an income. He told us he faced huge pressure from his peers because of his faith and his desire to make a life for himself outside the slum. The Compassion programme had given him hope for the future. In the evening we spent time with four university students who were part of Compassion’s Leadership Development Programme. One of the girls had been forced to live on the streets with her mother and bravely shared how she had suffered sexual abuse. Through the intervention of Compassion working through local churches all of these student’s lives had been turned around. All of them had come to a vibrant faith and were looking to see how they could serve God back into their community once they had graduated. It was a powerful reminder of how God rebuilds broken lives. The next day we went back to Mathare to visit another Child Development Programme run by a different church. This church clearly had lots of experience working in the slum and were running an excellent project. Our visit to the home of two of the teenagers again revealed the ongoing personal risk of living in Mathare. One of them, Grace, told us of how her mother had resorted to prostitution in order to feed her before Compassion accepted her on the programme. Grace hoped that one day she would be able to take her mother out of the slum and care for her in a better environment. My trip to Kenya gave a great insight into the outstanding work of Compassion alongside local Kenyan churches who work together to rescue children from poverty. It also helped me to see something of the scale of the problem. Because of the great need, Compassion is constantly looking to partner with churches in the UK who will support their programmes through child sponsorship and also specific projects. As I reflect on my trip and the people I met, several things stand out and are a challenge to all of us who live in comparative wealth: The genuine joy of these believers, both young and old, many of whom live in incredibly difficult circumstances. The evident wonder they show at being ‘born again’, which gives them ongoing hope. The power of God to change lives. The importance of the local church to change a community. The involvement of local believers serving their community. The need to take responsibility for the world God has placed us in. Much grace, Steve
Life’s Not Fair
‘Why?’ is the unanswered question of the human heart, the common cry through suffering; whether through cancer, relational breakdown or injustice. We all learn from an early age that ‘Life’s not fair!’ But is there any answer to the cry of ‘Why?’ The only hope is found in the Bible and it never avoids difficult issues. Nothing is sanitised. Within its pages we see life in all its rawness. Nowhere is this more evident than in the earliest book of the Bible, ‘Job.’ Job seemingly had the perfect life. Suddenly everything went wrong. Loved ones died. He lost everything. He was struck down with agonising sickness. If this weren’t enough his closest relationships broke down. Unsurprisingly Job asked a lot of questions which began with ‘why?’ Throughout the rest of the Old Testament there seemed to be no clear answer to his cry. Then one day heaven opened. The silence was broken. God spoke in the most unlikely way. He broke into our history. God became man. Jesus, the Son of God, walked amongst us and fully experienced the pain of human existence. There was an answer. It may not have been the one we were expecting but it is an answer that offers more hope than we ever deserved. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” Romans 11:33 God knows everything. There is nothing he doesn’t know. Yet there is a ‘richness’ to his knowledge. It is not cold, clinical and factual. It is deep, rich and personal. He knows us. He knows what we think and long for. He knows how we feel. He empathises with every ache of every heart. He is not indifferent to our sufferings. The depth of his love is displayed through his Son. We may not have the specific answer to our ‘why’ questions but we can be sure of that he understands our pain and has provided a better answer, Jesus. Much grace Steve
Changing Lives And Building The Kingdom
Our Christians Against Poverty Debt Centre has been running now since October 2014. We have seen people set free from crippling debt, seen lives changed and continue to work with many more individuals and families who are some way along in their journeys. Our Debt Centre is highly regarded by many of the civic and charitable institutions in the City that help our clients in complementary and supporting activities. But there is so much more we could do. When it launched, the work was funded mostly by a single generous donation, which will have paid the operating costs for the first 2 years. We hope to continue with the success of the Centre beyond its second anniversary and also to increase the breadth of people that it can serve, but this can be achieved only through prayer, time and financial commitment. On Sunday 5th June, we will be holding a gift day, believing God for the provision of £50,000. This money will be set aside for 2 years’ Debt Centre running costs and also for us to start partnering with Compassion (a world-wide, church-based children’s sponsorship programme, which many in Hope Church already support) and to support the ongoing work of Commission through a gift at Westpoint (our annual gathering of the Commission family of churches). So let’s seek God for how we can personally support, whether through prayer, volunteering our time or giving financially. Let’s see lives changed as the kingdom of God is built.
The Tide Is Turning
A few weeks ago, someone from AMIRI, the company building the extensions at the MBC, was commenting that up to that point all the building works have been below ground, but in the next few weeks we will see the building, quite literally ‘shoot up’. Following this conversation, I felt God speaking to me. I felt Him say that just as the building works up to that point have been unseen, similarly, so has his work in shaping our church culture. However, just as the extensions start to go up quickly, so God is about to do something of significance in the life of the church. On the last evening of ‘Following Jesus’ we were considering what it means to share the gospel with those around us. As a finale, we watched Sean Duggan being blindfolded and helped to walk across a bridge of linked chairs. People stood behind each chair helping him on to the next person. On reaching the other side, Sean’s blindfold was removed. I feel that this is a vivid picture of us working together with the gospel. All of us are ‘links’ in the journey of people encountering for the first time the God who loves them. In our January Prayer Week, Marian brought a prophetic word. She saw a tidal creek when the tide was out. As the tide came in, it filled pools and seeped in to other fingers of the creek. Before you knew it, the creek was full of water. It is all too easy to miss what is happening when the tide is slowly, but surely rising. At the moment, there are signs of a rising tide all around us, with story upon story pouring in of people connecting with us through our Marriage Course, Foundations Course, Debt Advice Centre, The Ark and more. Recently at an MBC conference, a delegate signed up for Alpha and a few weeks later came along to the course – with a friend in tow! As Isaiah says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” When the tide is turning we need to lift up our eyes and watch what God is doing! Much grace Steve
That’s impossible! How did that happen? I don’t believe it! A chance in a million! All phrases that too easily fall from our lips as we read of an incredible escape from disaster, witness an amazing goal on TV or hear of someone winning the lottery. I never cease to be amazed at how excited we can get over something we’ll have likely forgotten in a fortnight, yet how blasé we can be about something that is of eternal magnitude. Easter is almost upon us again and for many, it probably means little more than a few days off and chocolate eggs. But as Christ followers it means everything; for at Easter, we take time to reflect on the glory and wonder that is Jesus’ death and resurrection. I’ve been going through the gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection recently and have once again been amazed at its completeness. All the seemingly random threads of the Old Testament are drawn together in Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection three days later. All of what the church is and is yet to be, springs from these two pivotal moments. Yet it is not the cross or the empty tomb we are worshipping, but Jesus; for through these moments He has brought an end to sin and raised us up into new life with Him. As a church our desire is build a grace-filled community of Jesus followers bringing good news to Winchester and beyond. Easter reminds us that in order to do this, we must keep Jesus at the centre of who we are and all we do. Is it possible that we can genuinely bring hope to our community and see it transformed? The answer to that question echoes from an empty tomb, two thousand years ago… Someone once said, “Jesus came through a womb marked ‘No Entry’ and left through a tomb marked ‘No Exit!’” Surely then nothing is impossible for God! Much grace Steve
“You Wouldn’t Do That If Terry Virgo Was Here!”
“You wouldn’t do that if Terry Virgo was here!” is a phrase Annie has said to me many,many times over the years, invariably as a response to something I have just said or done. Usually it is accompanied by a wry smile… Why Terry Virgo? Annie knows that he is someone I have looked up to for many years. Hearing him teach on grace back in the late 80’s was a life changing moment for me. Terry, until he stepped back a few years ago, has been the father figure to Newfrontiers, a worldwide family of churches all sharing similar values. These values are what underpin Hope Church and explain our focus on creating culture, building community and communicating the good news of the gospel. At the centre of everything we do, our desire is to build a grace-filled community of Jesus followers bringing good news to Winchester and beyond. In March, we will be kicking off a seven week series entitled “HOPE: A Church in the Heart of the City”, where we will be reminding ourselves of all that God has called Hope Church to be. We know that in the busyness of life it can be all too easy to lose sight of the values we hold. This series will give us that extra bit of help to live them out day by day. You can imagine my delight then, when Terry said he would speak during the series on what being a grace-filled church looks like. Only after he’d replied did I let Annie know that Terry and his wife, Wendy, might be coming to stay overnight. “You wouldn’t do that if Terry Virgo was here!” now comes with a knowing look and raised eyebrows whilst my longstanding response, “Of course I would” carries less and less conviction. Watch this space! Much grace Steve
Walking on the sunny side of the street
The phrase ‘walking on the sunny side of the street’ came to mind recently whilst I was praying. This phrase conjures up a picture where one side of the street is in shadows and the other sunshine. It suggests that it is possible to walk in the right direction, but choose which side you walk on. As Christians we can all too easily find ourselves walking on the wrong side of the street. Problems and difficulties can cast shadows that seem insurmountable. Sadly, we too often walk in the right direction, but allow feelings of negativity to overwhelm our thinking. Saint Ignatius referred to this as a choice between consolation and desolation. Desolation turns us in on ourselves and can result in a downward spiral, which eventually robs us of our energy. Consolation on the other hand, comes when we look outside ourselves to God who is greater than our problems and gives us new energy to press on. In the Book of Psalms, the Psalmist writes: “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”. It is as we look to God that his Holy Spirit encourages, energises and empowers us, how amazing is that? As we start the new year, I know that it can be all too easy to live in the shadows of the last twelve months rather than look forward with expectation to all that God has planned for us. In the coming weeks, we are intentionally focusing on Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians in our new series ‘Overflowing Joy’. Paul’s letter is one of overflowing joy. As we dig into this letter, I feel we will find great encouragement for the year ahead. As I conclude, my prayer is that in 2016 we walk together on the sunny side of the street, whatever situations we face and however difficult our circumstances. God let your Kingdom come! Steve
Make The Most Of The Season
One autumn weekend, whilst walking near a horse chestnut tree, I noticed the ground strewn with conkers. It reminded me of being in my early teens hunting for conkers. The only ones I could find were usually still on the tree way out of reach. It was a dangerous place to be as I threw sticks and stones to try and knock them down. But on this particular autumn walk there would have been no need – now is the season for conkers. When the fruit is ripe, it only takes a light gust of wind to cause them to fall. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, every season has its purpose. Despite confusion over the real meaning of Christmas, many people are more open to the gospel at this time of the year. In the run up to our Christmas events I believe God wants to encourage each one of us to be creative in making the most of this coming season through what we say and what we do. All of us can support the Samaritan’s Purse Project, help with the Christians Against Poverty Christmas hampers, get involved with the Soup Service or support the Basics Bank. Let’s make a quality decision to remember the poor and the disadvantaged. These next two months are also a great time to build community both within the church and with our neighbours. The Kings Chamber Orchestra on the 28th November will be well worth inviting friends and neighbours to come along with you. Even uncultured people like me, with no love for classical music, thought that it was amazing last year. I will definitely be there and hopefully bring several friends. As the nights draw in towards winter we have a great opportunity to “shine like stars” and bring the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” into the lives of those living around us. Only God can change lives but let’s be ready, whatever the season, to give a reason for the hope we have! Much grace Steve
Community and the glory of God
I still remember the ‘blast off’ moments when my teenage daughter would roll her eyes at something I said. Very quickly I would find myself going into orbit with Annie saying, “Steve, please calm down…” Clearly I could have done with hearing Steve Biddulph’s wisdom about ‘Raising Girls’! It is a helpful reminder of the challenges of bringing hope to our city. The relentless breakdown of family life and community surrounds us at every turn yet I am encouraged that not all is lost. We are looking at a sell out event for Steve Biddulph’s ‘Raising Girls’, with around 600 attendees wanting to be better equipped to nurture girls and daughters within their care. Our 7 week Marriage Course has begun with couples signed up from outside the church. The Ark, our Baby and Toddler group, is in its second year and continues to flourish in serving mums, carers and children within our community. We are practically demonstrating God’s love and compassion to the needy and lonely on our doorstep. Every Thursday evening, come rain or shine, we continue to care for the homeless on our Soup Service, now five years old. Our debt advice centre has seen an increase in clients seeking help and through The English Café we are aiming to reach out to overseas students in Winchester who often feel unwelcome and isolated. God’s plan, through his church, is to create a new community of people from every type of background. It is the very nature of this diverse group of people, beautifully unified together through Christ, that delights God’s heart so much. It demonstrates to rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms his breath-taking wisdom and power. It declares his greatness and reveals his magnificence and glory. This is why building community and communicating the good news about Jesus is so important to us as Hope Church.
Ones & Twos
A boy was walking along the beach on a windy day when the tide had gone out. As he paddled in the shallow water he began to see hundreds on starfish a few yards from the water’s edge. Realising that they were struggling for the water, he became concerned. The tide was still going further out and there was no way the starfish would survive the many hours outside of their natural environment. As the boy looked further up the beach he realised that there were literally thousands of the strange looking creatures as far as the eye could see, all stranded on the sand. In desperation he began picking them up, one by one, and threw them like tiny Frisbees back into the sea. As he continued his mercy mission and old man came alongside him and began to question him. “What on earth are you doing young man?” he asked “Don’t you realise that this beach goes on for miles you have no chance of rescuing them all, you’re wasting your time” The boy looked at the man and held up one of the starfish in his hands and replied “Maybe I can’t rescue them all but I can save this one” with that he launched the starfish into the air and it landed in the safety of the water. “I will stay here as long as I can and save the ones I can and if you help me we can save twice as many. The man shook his head and walked away, leaving the young boy to work alone. The boy realised that it was the ones and twos that were worth the effort of saving, the old man could not see past the size of the task and walked away. Alpha starts on Tuesday 6th October and is a fantastic opportunity for us to invite the ones and twos from the groups of people we interact with at home and work. As you’ve heard me say before please don’t invite them but bring them! It will be a lot of fun, totally non-threatening and potentially life-changing. Steve Lee
Prayer Week – September 2015
In Acts when Peter is in prison Jesus sends an angel to unlock the gates and free him. Peter does nothing, God just opens the doors. Peter then immediately finds the other disciples but has to keep knocking on the door before being let in. This is a picture of prayer. Sometimes Jesus opens doors and we have to do nothing. Sometimes he opens doors quickly in response to us praying and sometimes we have to be persistent in prayer. On Sunday mornings through the autumn we will be looking at the book of ‘Revelation’. One of the images of Jesus in Revelation is of him holding a key and saying doors he closes cannot be opened and doors he opens cannot be closed. This September our Prayer Week focus is to keep knocking on heaven’s door until God answers our prayers to see an increase in: the lost being saved the presence of God amongst us the sick being healed the needy being cared for us loving God more us loving our neighbour as ourselves us becoming more Christ-like the church growing the city being impacted the nation and nations being reached Let’s join together and pray whether corporately, on our own or by signing up for our 24-7 prayer slots. Prayer Week Dates September 2015 Sunday 6th September // All @7pm Tuesday 8th September // Men @7.45pm Wednesday 9th September // Women @7.45pm Friday 11th September // All @6am Sunday 13th September // Brook Street Kids @10am Monday 14th September // Monday Group @10:30am
You may have heard me recounting the story of how my wife, Annie, got lost driving to north London to visit her sister. A simple journey went badly wrong when she turned left instead of right off the M25. By the time she realised she was on her way towards Oxford; she was well and truly lost. After pulling off the motorway and finding a pub car park, she asked a van driver how to get to Islington. His answer; “Follow me”. Whilst it may not have been the wisest move, Annie’s ‘white van angel’ led her to Islington and drove right past her sister’s house before disappearing round the corner! At times all of us can find ourselves going in the wrong direction and can feel lost, yet Jesus’ invitation to us is the same as it was to Matthew the tax collector; “Follow me”. Matthew’s simple, positive response became the pivotal moment in his life and subsequently everything changed for the better. In today’s busy world this might seem much more complicated for us than it did for Jesus’ first disciples, but nothing could be further from the truth. Over the next six months we will be digging into what it means to follow Jesus. Each evening we will be taking a key aspect of being a disciple of Jesus and unpacking what this looks like in the world we live in. The evenings will have a strong practical element, helping us to apply the gospel in every area of our lives whether old, young, single, married, a student or working. So come join us at our monthly Wednesday nights of ‘Following Jesus’ starting on 16th September, 7.45pm to 9.30pm, and be inspired to be better followers of Jesus in today’s world. As Phil Moore said at Westpoint 2014, “I am asking you to follow me as I follow Jesus – will you do that?” Much grace Steve Chick
God, Why Are You Anti-Sex?
If you could ask God one thing what would it be? I’m sure we’d all have at least one question to ask him, if not several! In this video, one of our elders, John Groves looks at the question ‘God, why are you anti-sex?’ Watch John’s previous video ‘God, why is there so much suffering?’ by clicking here ***
Supporting New Way School Armavia
New Way School in Armavia, Russia is a school we have supported as a church for many years. The School provides the young people with family support and education. One of the School projects involves working with children with Downs Syndrome and their families. Recently students of the School presented their hobbies to twenty five Downs children and their families. The event was a big success. One of the ongoing effects of this particular project has been to help start breaking down the stigma that families have felt around their children’s disability. Teenagers from the school have been taking part in street evangelism, sharing the gospel and praying with people. There were reports of healings and prophetic words of encouragement. Stepping out in faith and seeing God move in power has given them a new confidence in talking to people about Jesus. Please pray for a member of their youth, Victoria Derevyanko who is eighteen years old and has just been diagnosed with Lympho-Matosis Granulomatosa disease. Please pray that Victoria will recover and for the ongoing work at New Way School and its young people.
What Jesus Sees
It wasn’t so long ago that 3-D films were just another crazy idea. Now we take them for granted! Some of us still remember the shock the first time we put on 3-D glasses watching a film in the cinema. Suddenly everything was much closer and more real. If putting on 3-D glasses changes how we see things in the world of film then surely the impact of God’s Spirit dwelling inside us should revolutionise how we view the real world. As our series on Proverbs, ‘Living Well’, comes to an end, July will see the start of our summer series, ‘Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief’. Here we will be looking at how Jesus relates to all sorts, especially the flotsam and jetsam of humanity. We will see that he was and still is “a friend of sinners”. As far as the religious were concerned he was always at the wrong sort of parties. The seeming paradox is that as far as Jesus was concerned it appears bad company didn’t always corrupt good character! Jesus wasn’t in the slightest bit bothered by what people thought. He was able to see beyond the outward messiness of people’s lives into their aching heart. Jesus always chose friends wisely – in fact he calls all his followers, including people like us, his friends. The key is always making sure we are seeing people through Jesus’ spectacles. It can be a struggle seeing beyond the outward appearance, but over this summer let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us see people as Jesus’ does. As we do we will find the Holy Spirit melts our hearts with compassion for them and will enable us to demonstrate the love of God by what we do and what we say. If we remain closely connected to him and his Spirit dwells in us, the life of God must flow through us to the world around us. Wherever we are, whether with our neighbours, work colleagues, family or people we meet on the street we are the aroma of Christ and make a difference whether we like it or not!
No Tax On My Inheritance
Last Christmas, my family and I took a holiday back home to South Africa. The holiday was a touch bittersweet however, as we were there to attend my father in law’s funeral. Tertius was a Godly man and he always made me feel welcome and part of the family. One sunny afternoon, my sister in law and I sat on the patio and shared our stories of how we met our husbands, the de Kock brothers. I soon realised what an incredible inheritance we had both received marrying into this family. The de Kock’s have been generational Christians, walking with God and passing on biblical truths to their children’s children. This rich inheritance of Godly living was mine and my children’s, not because of me or what I’ve done, but simply because I married Marcus. This is only an earthly picture of the true inheritance we receive in Christ. Though we were sinners, Jesus, the Son of God, stepped down from heaven, became a man and sacrificed his life so that we might inherit the Kingdom of God. I was a nobody, but now I am a daughter, heir to a generous inheritance with no debt to pay. – Elbrie de Kock
A Weekend To Remember
If you are like me and love ‘The Lord of the Rings’ films you can all too easily get drawn into a make believe world. However last summer, Annie and I had the opportunity to experience first-hand what it would be like to live in the world of a Hobbit! We tried to hire a caravan, but because none were available we were offered a camper van which we were told would ‘make the weekend an experience’. Little did we know we would be entering Tolkein’s Middle Earth. Though the van had all mod cons, including a rock and roller bed, what quickly became apparent was that you had to be a Hobbit to actually live in it. It was impossible for even a short Welshman to stand up inside and Annie had to cook on her knees, which was all very funny for those watching on in their ‘grown up’ vehicles. Of course it all added to the fun of being together over the Bank Holiday weekend. 2014 proved to be great Westpoint and the sense of community amongst us was worth the inconvenience of living in a Hobbit-sized campervan. Westpoint 2015 promises to be another memorable event. Packed with fantastic worship, great guest speakers including Andrew Wilson, Sam Alberry (author of ‘Is God anti-gay?’) and Dave Smith (leader of KingsGate Community Church in Peterborough), really good youth work (for those who are up for camping again post-Newday) and as always brilliant children’s work. Best of all, though, is being together as Hope Church. Our church marquee will be a home away from home – especially if it means I can stand up straight without banging my head! If you haven’t already booked in why don’t you come and join us at this year’s Westpoint? Let me encourage you to come along and have fun with us – I have every confidence you will encounter God. To book onto Westpoint, click here http://www.togetheratwestpoint.org.uk/
As we decide to live our lives for Jesus, we embark on a journey with Him. In our new video, Hannah gives us an insight into her journey of how she overcame anxiety with Jesus: Watch our previous video ‘God, why is there so much suffering?’ by clicking here *** Hi there, I’m Hannah and I’d like to tell you my story of how I’ve overcome fear and anxiety in my life. In Year 10 I was in a graduation ceremony in a big church when all of a sudden I felt really claustrophobic. I jumped up, ran outside and fainted. The hospital thought maybe it was epilepsy, but after talking with my mum we realized I’d had a panic attack. Things calmed down a bit during sixth form, but as I got to University I began developing really irrational anxiety about people. I became really fearful of what people thought of me and I panicked in social situations. I decided to meet up with a woman from church to help me go through the Freedom In Christ course, which would help me find verses in the Bible I could conquer the fear through. The course helped clear some of my anxiety, but most importantly, it showed me that the only way we get out of our mess is by drawing close to Jesus. I still get anxious sometimes, but it’s not as bad as it once was and I know Jesus will continue to help me through it.
God, Why Is There So Much Suffering?
If you could ask God one thing what would it be? I’m sure we’d all have at least one question to ask him, if not several! In this video, one of our elders, John Groves looks at the question ‘God, why is there so much suffering?’ Watch John’s previous video ‘God, why don’t you prove you are real?’ by clicking here *** If God is all powerful, and He’s good and He’s just, why is there so much suffering in the world? When we ask the question ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ we might not be able to answer what it is, but we can say what it is not. It is not that God doesn’t care, or that He’s a cruel, callous sadist.We know this because God Himself suffers. That’s the greatest mystery of all, the creator suffers and it’s not just empathy, it’s not just at a distance, God suffered Himself when Jesus came to Earth. Jesus was God become man and all throughout his life, He experienced ordinary pressures and suffering. Jesus experienced people’s anger and misunderstanding, their hatred; He experienced pain, loss and friendships broken, but beyond that he experienced the torture and agony of a Roman Crucifixion. The Bible says that through Jesus’ death on the Cross, God brought an answer to sin, evil and suffering. He bore our griefs and our sorrows; He broke the hold of these things in our lives. Through Jesus’ death on the Cross we are shown that even God himself couldn’t set us free without suffering.
6 Great Christian Initiatives in Winchester
In Winchester, we are blessed to have Christians from all the different churches doing good works across the City. Below are just some of the great Christian initiatives that take place in Winchester. Hear what the people who make it happen have to say about them – in no particular order, here we go! 1. Winchester Street Pastors “Teams of Street Pastors are out on the city’s streets every Friday and Saturday night, in uniform, from 10pm to around 3:30am, offering reassurance, safety and support through listening, caring and helping where we can. From the end of April 2015 we will be carrying out early evening community patrols in areas outside the city centre.” – Mark Hibbert-Hingston 2. Soup Service “On the 7th January 2010 we began the Soup Service. We were responding to a prophetic word to reach the poor and marginalised. We received the love of God and felt compelled to step outside the walls of the church building to share his love and communicate hope.” – Tom Foster 3. Olive Branch Counselling “The Olive Branch Christian Counselling Service has been running in Winchester for 18 years, offering affordable counselling to people of Winchester and around. The Olive Branch is based in an easily accessible city centre location. In 2014 the Olive Branch gave an average of 60 counselling sessions per week. People who come to see a counsellor at The Olive Branch find a confidential and non-judgmental place to explore whatever issues they wish to talk about and they can work with their counsellor for the length of time that they require.” – Ruth Mackintosh 4. Healing On The Streets “Healing On The Streets (HOTS) is simply ordinary Christians from many different Winchester churches praying for people’s healing on the streets of Winchester.” – HOTS website 5. Winchester Churches Night Shelter “Winchester Churches Nightshelter offers hope and help to the homeless from across Hampshire, relieving the suffering caused by homelessness. We have 17 beds and open 365 days a year offering an essential lifeline and first port of call to those in crisis. We provide high quality accommodation and food, a safe and caring temporary home, and specialist support to restore self-esteem, develop skills, and support people into longer-term accommodation and independent living.” – Hannah Gurnham 6. Christians Against Poverty (CAP) “Christians Against Poverty puts our faith into action. Through our free advice, friendship and support, we give hope to people that are weighed down by their debts. How they got into difficulties is irrelevant. Everyone deserves a second chance and this is a practical way to show God’s love and forgiveness to them.” – Barry Smith Perhaps you know of some Christian Initiatives in Winchester that we haven’t mentioned. If so, get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know for next time!
The Ascension – Worship Album Review
‘The Ascension’ is the sixth full-length album from American worship leader Phil Wickham. In the past, Phil has written/co-written such songs as ‘You’re Beautiful,’ ‘At Your Name’ and ‘Because of Your Love.’ ‘The Ascension’ is full of great worship songs; from big anthemic songs like ‘Holy Night’ and ‘The Ascension’, to the more personal expressions of worship like ‘When My Heart Is Torn Asunder’ and ‘Thirst.’ The resounding theme throughout the album is the constant need to draw near to the Father, whether it is us seeking Him out; starting our Ascension up the hill of the Lord to His holy place (Psalm 24) or crying out because we are thirsty for Him to come and meet with us. Coupled with the lyrics are some really good musical ideas and arrangements. My favourite aspect is the way the vocals are layered throughout the songs; with different effects and harmonies being used it creates a vibrant sound that fills the sonic space extremely well. In some instances the vocals are used to drive the song rather than the band, which is really refreshing to hear. Furthermore the balance between the more old school rocky guitar riffs and new school electronic sounds (synths/pads etc…) gives the album a very dynamic feel. It gives each song its own unique identity rather than hearing the same song 11 times. The album covers a variety of musical styles from Phil’s country roots to more contemporary Top 40 pop. Regardless of what musical style you like, I really believe there is a song you can relate to here. The combination of the lyrics and the different musical styles makes this album an absolute favourite of mine. This album was hugely encouraging to listen to, I have found it a great vessel for me to worship God; I felt hugely challenged to seek God in everything I did. Every time I listened to it I was reminded of this passage; ’But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’ (Matthew 6 Verse 33) We are called to seek his kingdom and then everything else will be added to us. Like the disciples we are called to leave everything behind and follow Jesus; to seek the kingdom first means we must run towards the Father at the detriment of all other things, we need to put God first in everything we do and then he will give us everything we need. I would highly recommend this album and you can purchase it from Amazon. – by Jonny Gagel
Looking Back at the Commission Student and 20’s Event 2015
Commission Student & 20’s (often referred to as CST) is a Commission run event specifically aimed at students and those in their 20’s. The aim of the event is to equip and empower us to be outstanding witnesses to the love and life of Jesus Christ in our places of work and study. Held in Portsmouth Guildhall, it played host to a number of great guest speakers such as Guy Miller, Tim Blaber, Matt Hosier and the Founder of Newfrontiers, Terry Virgo – just to name a few. As I went to a similar Newfrontiers event called Mobilize a few years back, I decided to go to Portsmouth and check out CST 2015. Over the course of the event, several meetings and seminars took place covering a whole range of topics. One of the seminars I really enjoyed was by Matt and Grace Hosier who gave a talk on the seven deadly sins (pride, anger, lust etc.) In the seminar they explained that pride is in every other sin and that we either have too much pride in ourselves/other people/things, or too little pride, which is where envy can come in. I found this seminar useful as I had never realised these sins were interlinked. It also opened my eyes to the reality that focusing on one kind of sin can cause us to be blindsided to other kinds and all sins are equal in God’s eyes. The next seminar I attended was called ‘Handling Hot Potatoes’ and was led by Dr Michael Blaber. The seminar covered all sorts of ethical issues, with a main focus on medicinal advances. The Doctor began by asking us ‘What makes a potato hot?’ Most people gave thoughtful answers such as ‘Something people don’t want to handle’ or ‘Controversial issues’. I on the other hand mentioned an oven… once the laughter subsided I suggested a microwave as well (which apparently no-one has ever mentioned before, yet they cook potatoes so much quicker!) Some of the other ‘Hot Potatoes’ we looked at were euthanasia and child deaths. These topics were hard to talk about as no-one really likes to discuss death, due to it being a rather depressing and often upsetting subject. Despite some initial awkwardness however, it was interesting to hear other people’s opinions on some rather controversial topics. Through the weekend, God brought it upon two of the speakers to talk about Jonah and the second chance he got from God after sinning and turning away from Him. I believe we were given this message twice to reinforce the point of the story and to give us – the congregation, a second chance to respond to the message of repentance. This was felt by most as a sign that God wanted to do good works with the entire congregation, and put second chances in our hearts for a wide range of personal circumstances. Speaking from experience, indoor camping was not the best way to get a good night’s sleep, but was a great way to get to know people. I made friends while waiting for showers to become free, talking in the toilets about pyjamas and offering someone some Sudocrem, all bizarre but simple ways to meet people! I have also been told that staying in the hotel – whilst comfy, was not soundproof and many of the local nightclubs were very close by! Overall, if you didn’t attend CST this year, you were really missing out. Not on a good night’s sleep; but all the different seminars which shed light on some really hard to talk about issues. It was a great opportunity to spend more time with God and hang out with friend’s new and old alike, hope there’s a next time! by Kim Whittle
Dementia Friendly Winchester
Winchester is the first city in Hampshire to launch a Dementia Friendly High Street. In Hampshire alone there are 20,000 people living with Dementia, with this figure looking to double by 2030. In response, the Hampshire Dementia Action Alliance (HDAA) are looking to raise awareness through Dementia Friendly High Streets. By giving businesses the correct training in Dementia Awareness, the HDAA believe that we can make Hampshire a safer place for those living with Dementia. Hope Church will be partnering with Hampshire County Council & the HDAA, and as part of this initiative, undergo training for their Front of House staff and Welcome Team. In addition, Hope Church will be providing their facilities at the Middle Brook Centre for their next conference in February 2015. The church believes that each individual is loved and valued by God. This training enables us to show value to individuals with Dementia, through a deeper understanding of what it is to live with the condition. It is the aspiration of the church to continually engage with our communities on a relevant and meaningful level. Our hope is that we can help to make a Dementia friendly Winchester.
No Perfect People Allowed
In early September last year I was invited by John Groves to come to his house along with a bunch of other young guys from the Church. The aim of the meeting was to pray and to listen to John’s heart for the young men in the Church, and to form a sort of discipleship group. Towards the end of this meeting we were challenged to read a book, No Perfect People Allowed by John Burke. I completed the book within the deadline and found it encouraging, shocking, and provoking all at the same time. It was encouraging because we can read how the gospel still radically transforms lives. It was shocking because of the situations people found themselves in before knowing Christ, and because of the types of conversations the pastors had to deal with. It was provoking because it challenged how we might respond to new Christians that are doing things we disagree with. No Perfect People Allowed was written to encourage and challenge Christians to create a “come as you are” culture in the Church. The Bible says that Jesus wants us to be real with Him; we can come to Him with all our personal mess and He accepts us just as we are (though God begins to change things in our heart.) As people come into Church looking for God, it’s important they feel accepted. We need to treat people like Jesus treats us. A question I’ve been struggling with for a while, and maybe you have too is “what if your friends never want to come to Church?” To my knowledge, none of mine want to come to any of our meetings. “No Perfect People Allowed” has encouraged me to find ways to demonstrate the Gospel in normal life, perhaps without the safety net of Church meetings. My hope is that we can find ways of including and empowering people to seek God in as many different ways as possible, without them feeling like they have to deny who they are in order to not offend religious people. God accepts us as we are and so we should do the same to others. We have the privilege to allow the Holy Spirit to change us, and we can have faith that He will work in the lives of those who don’t yet know Him too. by Tim Vaine
God, Why Don’t You Prove You Are Real?
If you could ask God one thing what would it be? I’m sure we’d all have at least one question to ask him, if not several! In this video, one of our elders, John Groves looks at the question ‘God, why don’t you prove you are real?’
Prayer Week Blog #1
“E M Bounds once said, “What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organisations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use— men of prayer, men mighty in prayer.” If you have ever watched films where people are travelling by steam liners, you may like me have felt sorry for the guys who had to stoke the boilers. It was hard work, unappreciated by most, but absolutely essential if the ship was to get to its destination. When Spurgeon said “prayer is the boiler room of the church” he may have had that sort of picture in mind. On Tuesday night we are encouraging men to gather to pray together with the ladies meeting the following evening. Prayer is essential if we are to see Hope Church accomplish what God has for us. For the rest of this week we are continuing to pray for the ‘gates’ of our lives, our church and our city to be thrown open in 2015 for the King of glory to come in. In Bible times the city gates were where all the business and key decision-making took place so let’s heed Paul’s challenge in 1 Timothy 2:1-8 and pray for God to break into our work places and homes as well as praying for God’s blessing and peace on all those in authority.” Much grace, Steve
Prayer Week January 2015
God is passionate about this world and the people he created. As the Psalmist says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it….” (Psalm 24:1). At the start of 2015 we will be gathering together as a church to seek God for the year ahead. It was John Wesley who said, “God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.” Over the first two Sundays of January our focus will be: Jesus, the King of glory, being revealed in our lives, church, city and country. If we want to see the Kingdom of God break out in increasing measure then we need to seek God together. “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?” We can – Jesus has opened the way for us to come boldly before God enabling us to pray with confidence… We are convinced God hears, takes notice of and then answers our prayers. Our hearts’ cry this coming year is for Jesus, the King of glory, to be seen more and more in our lives and in the life of the church. So like the Psalmist we say, “Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in…” Amen! Come Lord Jesus! The programme for the Prayer Week looks like this: • Sunday 4th January 2015 Prayer Meeting at 7pm at the MBC • Tuesday 6th January 2015 Men’s Prayer Night at 7.45 pm at the MBC • Wednesday 7th January 2015 Ladies Prayer Night at 7.45 pm at MBC • Friday 9th January 2015 Open Prayer Morning at the MBC – this will start with the early morning prayer at the MBC between 6-7am, the staff prayer meeting between 9-10am – both of which everyone is welcome to join – thereafter the room (Room 1 or 2) will be set up for people to come and pray through the rest of the morning until 2pm although it will not be manned. • Sunday 11th January 2015 Family Meeting – this will include a time of prayer. Let me encourage you to come and join us as we seek God together.
What’s On This Christmas
The Christmas season is in full swing which means mulled wine and mince pies are back on the menu! Kicking off the Christmas season here at Hope Church we had the tremendous pleasure of having the Kings Chamber Orchestra perform their array of ‘classical tunes with a festive twist’. Gerard Le Feuvre and his spectacular orchestra left the audience spellbound Saturday night and feeling thoroughly festive. This is just a taste of the great events we have coming up this Christmas at Hope Church… Next up – something for the ladies! This Friday 5th December there will be a Christmas Craft Cafe from 8 – 10pm. It’s the chance to have a natter with friends, be creative and Christmassy and relax with a mulled wine. It’s a great place for ladies of all ages to enjoy the festive season with one another. The following Friday we have the Youth Unite Ball. If you’re aged 11-18 this is the event for you! Dress up or dress down, whatever clothes you’re most comfortable in. The night includes festival style food, a milkshake bar, rodeo reindeer, silent disco, carnival games and much more. Your ticket includes a meal, a dessert or milkshake, a drink and free use of all the entertainment. Bring some cash on the night if you want to purchase polaroid photos, tuck shop sweets or extra milkshakes. On Sunday 14th December we will be having a Festive Family Morning with one of our elders, John Groves giving a Christmas message. Mulled wine and mince pies will be served afterwards. Then to finish our Christmas events off we’ll be having a Carol Service, with the Youth of the church putting on a production called ‘Night Of The Star’. There’ll be dancing, drama, catchy songs, definitely not to be missed! Below is a playlist featuring some of our favourite Christmas themed sermons/songs from over the years, starting with Steve Lee’s recent talk ‘Advent’. We really hope to see you at one of our events this year, have a great Christmas!
Handling The Prophetic – Some Things To Remember
Recently we had the privilege of having with us Wendy Mann and a team of people from the Kings Arms Church in Bedford. They spent some time with various leaders in the church on Friday night as well as leading the Ladies Day on Saturday. It was great to have them with us. Those who were there will have appreciated the prophetic gift they carry. There were lots of prophetic words for individuals over the two days which is very exciting and leaves us with the responsibility to weigh up what has been shared. So here are some things to remember… 1. Be open to the prophetic – God does speak today! 2. We can all prophesy, but we aren’t all prophets. 3. No one is infallible, as Paul says “we prophesy in part…” 4. It’s your responsibility to weigh up a prophetic word you get! 5. Prophecy involves a revelation, an interpretation and an application. The person who brings the prophecy often doesn’t have the wisdom for interpretation and application. Others may need to be involved for that… 6. Timing is an important part of the application of prophecy. God’s timing is often not our timing! 7. Does it make sense? 8. Does it line up with what the Bible says? 9. Is it being confirmed in other ways? 10. What do experienced and trusted leaders think? 11. Does it resonate with your own heart? 12. A major directional prophecy should never be acted on without several other reinforcing factors e.g. other confirming prophetic words; providential circumstances; wise pastoral advice etc… 13. If you (and others) feel like the word is right for you, then what steps can you take eg, if encouraged to preach – start studying and preparing some preaches; if encouraged to lead – get alongside other leaders and work on the character qualities required of a leader; if to worship – worship when you’re at home on your own…
The Myth of the Undeserving Poor
As I was walking to the MBC earlier this week I couldn’t help but notice another of the all too common newspaper headlines bemoaning people claiming benefits. Without doubt this is one of the key battlegrounds for all political parties as we run in towards a General Election. Whatever our political persuasion we have a responsibility to ensure our worldview is shaped by the Bible rather than by the media. For me all of this brought into close focus something I have just been reading in a book called, “The Myth of the Undeserving Poor”. The author’s pose the question, ‘are we ever justified in thinking that some people in poverty are undeserving of help?’ Before we allow ourselves to be shaped by what the world around us is saying we need to remember that all of us received mercy from God when we were undeserving – thank God he never bases his grace and kindness on whether we deserve it or not! In today’s rarefied political atmosphere, poverty is a hot potato. “The Myth of the Undeserving Poor” is a ‘must read’ because no one in poverty is undeserving of mercy! Let me leave you with a quote, “We may not approve of people’s behaviour; we may believe there is a better way to live. But Jesus has never treated us according to our behaviour – he treats us according to who we are, which is people made in the image of God, created to know him and reflect him to those around us. That is why, when Jesus saw the crowds, “he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). When you see the crowds – whether it’s face-to-face or in the media – how do you feel about them?” Click here to buy The Myth of the Undeserving Poor on amazon.
Christians Against Poverty – Free Debt Counselling Service
According to the Centre for Social Justice, debt is one of the five major pathways to poverty in the UK. For those already struggling with the costs of day-to-day living, adding the repayments, interest and charges associated with debt can often be the tipping point. The mental health problems such as stress and anxiety that are intrinsically linked then create a cycle of pressures and social problems. This means that, for many, debt is very easy to get into but nearly impossible to get out of alone. Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a national charity set up in response to these issues. Its mandate is to relieve poverty and bring justice to those in need through top quality debt counselling and financial education in partnership with local churches, so that people can experience and respond to the love of Jesus. Hope Church is opening a CAP Centre, operating out of its offices in the centre of Winchester. Its aim is to reach out to those in need, hardship or distress by reason of their social or economic circumstances by offering face-to-face support and a comprehensive debt management service, allowing clients to become debt free. The services are completely free and available to anyone regardless of background or belief. They include budgeting and specialist advice, creditor negotiation and a full insolvency service. To help clients stick to their budgets, we normally set up a debt management plan. Clients then make one weekly, biweekly or monthly payment into their plan to cover their debt repayments which CAP then distributes to their creditors. We also provide integral and long-lasting support to combat the emotional and spiritual poverty that the isolating burden of debt can generate and to befriend and encourage clients during their journey to freedom. Face-to-face meetings take place in the clients’ homes or wherever they may feel most comfortable. Hope Church will be seeking to work alongside different community and charitable agencies and in partnership with other free debt advice organisations such as housing associations, the councils, social services and other community groups. Nationally, CAP has helped many thousands of people to take control of their finances and see their lives transformed. Marriages have been restored, children kept fed and clothed, depression and anxiety lifted, and suicides prevented. If you need help today, or know someone who does, please call 0800 328 0006 to arrange a home visiting appointment or visit www.capuk.org. Barry Smith – CAP Manager
Newday 2014 Update
From Monday 28th July to Sunday 3rd August, you would have not wanted to be near Norfolk Showgrounds… 7000 young people from around the UK and overseas descended there for a week of much laughter, fun, games, fancy dress, ‘kotching’ (apparently the new word for relaxing…), seminars and incredibly loud worship all in the name of getting to know their Heavenly Father better. Actually I retract my first sentence, you definitely should have been there to witness the incredible way in which our young people loved each other, hungered to learn more about God and strived to have more gifts of the Spirit. In short, we had…75 WinFam youth attend, 3 first time commitments, 10 re-commitments, 5 healings and many youth stepping out in the prophetic. Here’s what some of them had to say about their experiences of the week… “At an evening service they were praying for healing. I prayed for my knees and they buzzed and I was healed! I felt a great presence of God.” Jordan “I felt a real conviction from God on Friday night and have made the decision to get baptized.” Jess “I just felt the reality of God’s love, grace and peace upon me on Friday night and that he loves everybody including me and I felt really encouraged.” Andrew “At a seminar they encouraged us to prophecy over each other. A random lady came up to me and I prayed for her and had a picture of a slide and felt God was saying that she needed to step out and go down the slide despite anything else. Afterwards she told me she had a fear of slides! Woop!” Jemimah “On Monday evening PJ Smyth was speaking. I was called to go to India, specifically Mumbai, and help with the orphaned children there.” Aimee It was an extraordinary week, culminating in the youth exceeding the target set for the offering and raising £140,000, over 3x more than last year’s NewDay offering!! It was certainly the highlight of my summer, despite the lack of sleep and risk of pranking… Kirsty Read – Youth Worker
Prayer – An Encounter with our Kinsman-Redeemer.
Through August we looked at the book of Ruth in our short series “A Woman Who Met God”. For centuries Christians have seen the relationship between Ruth and Boaz as a picture of the Christian’s relationship with Jesus Christ – our Kinsman-Redeemer. As we looked at Ruth’s encounters with Boaz, in the harvest field and at the threshing floor, we learnt some powerful lessons relevant to prayer. In chapter 3 Ruth is pursuing Boaz to petition him to become her Guardian Redeemer. Ruth is going to make “a big ask” of Boaz. She is going to ask him to take Naomi and herself as his family, this means taking Ruth as his wife! In order to make her bold request Ruth must find her way in to where Boaz is and lie at his feet in the secret place. She makes herself totally vulnerable as she seeks his grace and favour. She asks him to spread his garment over her – to take her as his own – it’s a powerful and intimate moment. Although Ruth is bold in going to Boaz and making her request she knows she is on good ground. Legally, Boaz is her Kinsman-Redeemer and that means she has a legal right to petition him. Relationally, in the previous encounter in the harvest field (chapter 2) he showed great grace and acceptance to her. Boaz invited her to eat with him – he gave her permission, provision and protection. She has a confidence with regards to his attitude towards her! All of this has much to say to us as we approach our prayer week. We are coming to our Kinsman-Redeemer. We are on good legal ground. Hebrews tells us we can have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus. We can come confidently to God and make our requests in the name of Jesus. However, this is much more than a legal right. We know we come to God as beloved children, loved and accepted. We don’t merely have a right to come and ask Him, we have confidence we will find Him welcoming and loving. He has already demonstrated His love for us and assured us of His desire to bless us. There is a tenderness and intimacy to Ruth’s encounters with Boaz. She is not merely asking for things, she wants to be his. He clearly loves her and wants her with him. We want our prayer meetings to be times of intimacy and encounter with our Redeemer – we are not merely asking for things. Our first meeting is on Sunday evening and will be “Gather” style. We want the whole church to come to worship, seek God’s face and hear from Him. This will be an opportunity to linger in His presence and be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading – don’t miss it! Here is the programme for the Prayer & Vision Week: Sunday 14 September. Gather. 7pm – 8.30pm MBC Worship & Hearing from God Tuesday 16 September. 7am – 8am MBC Praying for the nations Wednesday 17 September. 1pm – 2pm MBC. Praying for church ministries Thursday 18 September. 7am – 8am MBC. Praying for Winchester Thursday 18 September 7pm – 9pm MBC Youth praying for Winchester Friday 19 September. 1pm – 2pm MBC. Praying for church ministries Friday 19 September 5:45pm – 7pm MBC All age prayer for Winchester Friday 19 September. 8pm – 12 midnight. Worship and praying for many aspects of our church life. God bless, John
Becoming Hope Church Winchester
We are coming to the end of an era! Virtually 24 years to the day we became Winchester Family Church, we will again be changing our name – this time to Hope Church Winchester . Between now and the end of September we are working hard to get practical details in place before publicly becoming Hope Church on 5th October 2014. Yet it is much more than just a name. Today I was reading again, “Things are different now”, Reg Hall’s short history of the church. It has reminded me that God spoke to us about being a church in the heart of the city long before John or I were on the scene. Don’t forget that it’s under a year since we moved all our church life and administration into the Middle Brook Centre and sold Stanmore Lane. God has spoken prophetically many times about us being a church in the heart of the city. It finally feels we are getting there. Our desire is to build a grace-filled community of Jesus followers bringing good news to Winchester and beyond… Last Sunday we started a short preaching series from the book of Ruth. The overarching message of Ruth is that God wants to restore hope that has been lost. I believe that it is a message for us but also for the many, many people who are without hope and without God in this world. God wants us to be bringers of hope. HOPE CHURCH – Is there a better way of saying it!
I love a good story, especially a true-life story about who Jesus is and what He is doing; a gift of money someone receives at just the right time, a headache disappearing after prayer, pain going from a 9 out of 10 to a 3 out of 10 after being prayed for, a cancer tumour becoming like jelly, someone experiencing the love of their daddy God, getting freed up from performance, someone working through forgiveness, pain, disappointment… • It stirs me to worship God. It show me the character of God, what He is like, who He is and knowing He is healer, provider, freedom-bringer- it stirs my heart to worship Him. • It reminds me that God can do it again, and faith rises in me. He can do the same thing in my circumstance, or in a friend’s circumstances. • It encourages me to celebrate the breakthrough of others, which is so good to do, especially when it’s something I’m longing for too. • It creates an atmosphere where HE can do it again. The Bible says that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” As we tell testimonies, true-life stories about who Jesus is and what He is doing, we help to create an atmosphere where He does it again; it encourages us, stirs our faith, and shows us what God is like. The Psalms in the Bible are full of times where they recount and remember the faithfulness of God, and so should we. Have a read of these stories… what does it do to your heart? Celebrate with these people, worship God, let faith rise up that God can do it again. Here are some stories from last summer at Newday, a youth camp: “I had a really bad stomach pain for 2 or 3 days and it had got to the stage where I couldn’t stand up without it hurting. As we were walking down to the meeting a friend prayed with me- first time nothing happened, 2nd time a little better, 3rd time it was completely gone.” Jess “I had really bad pains behind my eyes and a headache for a few days. I had literally just taken 2 painkillers when Ang prayed for me 3 times for it to go- first time it was still the same, 2nd time a little better, 3rd time it completely went! I was amazed!” Lacie “I had 2 operations on my knees, the most recent one being at the end of May. At Newday I was off crutches but still getting quite a bit of pain. In one of the meetings I couldn’t stand for more than 5 minutes without pain, and then I was prayed for and I was able to run and had no pain since! I had an examination a couple of weeks after and they said there was no need for me to come back because both my legs were completely fine and I could go back to everything I did before.” Barney Wow! Isn’t God AMAMZING! He is always working, always moving and always doing something in our lives: answers to prayer, testimonies of healing, breakthrough, provision, etc. What God stories have you got to share? Let’s get in the habit of sharing them with people around us. Write down your God stories too- it’s so good to remember what God has done and is doing, and encourages us to be thankful. We would love to hear about the things that God is doing: Do email us at email@example.com and let us know. If you would like prayer for any situation in your life please find the prayer team after the Sunday morning meeting or email firstname.lastname@example.org, as we would love to pray for you.
Good Neighbours Week 4
Hello, and welcome to the final week in our series on Good Neighbours. Previously, we’ve thought about how to get to know our neighbours better, how to take positive steps to build relationships with the aim of becoming friends with those who live around us. This is all so that we can carry out Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves. Remember we don’t love our neighbours so that we can make them Christians. We love our neighbours because we are Christians. As we create deeper friendships with our neighbours, we will naturally have opportunities to share the most important things in life with them. In this final video, I want to draw out two other quick points that the authors make in the remaining chapters of the book. These are both about the challenges that we face when we try to be good neighbours. The first one is about the importance of setting boundaries. The reality is, when we make real relationships with our neighbours, we must be prepared to have needy and messed up people in our lives. Whilst this is a very positive thing to do, it is also important to realise we are not responsible for every aspect of these people’s lives. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is to draw appropriate boundaries. The second one is the importance of focussing. In Luke 10, we read about Jesus sending his disciples out to spread his message of good news. Jesus tells the disciples to look for a man of peace. He means that the disciples should look for someone who responds positively to the message and welcomes them into his home. This is a good idea to take on board when we look to build relationships with our neighbours. We don’t have unlimited time for our neighbours, and our neighbours don’t have unlimited time for us. So it is better to focus on a few quality relationships, rather than a lot of superficial ones. The best way to do this is to ask ourselves: who are the men or women of peace on our street? Who are the people who we naturally connect with or who seem the most friendly to us? It may very well be the case that these are the best people to connect with. We have now come to the end of the series. I hope you have enjoyed it and found it provocative. Thank you for joining in. I hope it has encouraged you greatly in being a good neighbour to those who live around you. Please use the discussions questions below to help you think about the issues that have been raised this week, and to think about the series as a whole, and how it has benefitted you. Questions for Reflection 1. Have you ever needed to set a boundary with your neighbour or had a messy situation that you had to deal with? 2. If someone has a copy of the book to hand, read the example that are given on pages 137-142. What are your reflections on these examples? Have you faced similar situations when you have had to make a tough decision in order to show love to someone? 3. Who are the men or women of peace in your street or on your road? Are there neighbours on your road who have been unfriendly or who have caused problems for you? How have you dealt with these situations? Activity to Finish If you have brought the street map from the first week, take it out and update it. If you haven’t brought it, have a think about the progress that you have made in being a good neighbour since the first week. Discuss together the progress you have made, and the things that you have found encouraging or challenging about this series. Are there any stories that you would like to share? Finally, as a whole or in smaller groups, pray for the names that you have written down on your street map and for other neighbours for whom you would like to pray. You might want to pray for one another, that God would help you to love your neighbours. Or you might want to pray about other things that have come up as a result of this series.
Replanting the church in the heart of the city
We are coming into an important season for us as a church which will culminate in us changing our name to Hope Church Winchester at the beginning of October. At our last Family Meeting I took the opportunity to share about what ‘replanting the church in the heart of the city’ looks like. As we continue to build the church we need to keep our core values in the forefront of our minds: creating culture, building community and communicating good news. If we do this it will ensure we build well on the foundation that has already been laid. Creating the right culture for the church to flourish in is an ongoing process. Being Jesus-centred, grace-filled and a worshipping people of word and spirit should permeate everything we do. Whenever people interface with the church they should encounter it. Building community in the church, city and further beyond is counter-cultural but we want to see community with our culture established at every level. Communicating the good news about Jesus is our on-going challenge and we want to do this at every opportunity through what we say and through what we do. “Our desire is to build a grace-filled community of Jesus’ followers bringing good news to Winchester and beyond…”
Good Neighbours Week 3
Moving Down The Line, based on chapters 5 and 6 Hello and welcome to week three of ‘Good Neighbours’. This week we’ll be looking at what it means to take the first steps towards having genuine relationships with our neighbours. The authors pose the question, how do we go from just knowing our neighbours to having a deeper relationship with them? How do we move from being acquaintances to friends? You might remember filling out the street map a couple of weeks ago, and it is now perhaps pinned somewhere in your house, or on your fridge. That simple exercise may have provoked and helped you to meet and greet some of your neighbours for the first time. This is the first step to developing a genuine and authentic friendship. The purpose of this session is to start thinking about how we build on these positive first steps. How, in other words, do we go from being strangers to acquaintances to friends? You can think about this together in your group discussions after the video is finished, but here are a few suggestions the authors give to get us started. First, you might want think about holding a street party. There are many ways we can gather people in our homes and we will all have different preferences. You might, for example, take advantage of a time of year such as a summer bank holiday, and invite people round for drinks or a BBQ. You might not need an excuse and decide to invite your neighbours to drinks at your house just because you would like to get to know them better. I want to encourage you to think creatively! Baking or cooking might be another good way to make friends with your neighbours. Sharing food you have cooked with your neighbours could be a great way to connect with them. Playing sports is another area where you might be able to build friendships with neighbours: playing golf; joining a local running club; playing squash. There are all sorts of things you could do. Watching sports or other shows on TV might be a good thing to invite your neighbours to do with you. As we’re making this series, the football world cup is showing on millions of TV screens around the nation. Your next door neighbours are very likely watching the England games, for example (unless they’ve been knocked out by this point). It’s a great opportunity to invite them over. These are just some of the things we could do, but don’t let these stop you from being creative and coming up with your own ideas. This is all about helping us to These ideas are given to help us to go from just being on first name terms with our neighbours to being friends and having deeper relationships. Let me encourage you to use the discussion questions and activities in this week’s blog to help you think about how you personally can try and build deeper friendships and become good neighbours. Starter Question: What is the most enjoyable or remarkable event that you have ever been to that has been put on by a neighbour or a local resident? Questions for Reflection 1. Is there anything that you do at the moment or have done in the recent past to connect with neighbours socially? 2. What are the activities you most enjoy doing, and how might they become tools for building relationships with your neighbours? Action Steps 1. Look at your street map and be purposeful this week in doing one small thing that moves you down the line from stranger to acquaintance to friendship. Feed back to the group next week. 2. Partner with someone in the group and begin to plan a party, bbq or some other activity to which you might be able to invite your neighbours.
Good Neighbours Week 2
Making Time and Facing Fear, based on chapters 3 and 4 Hello, and welcome to the second in our series ‘Good Neighbours’. This week we’re going to be considering two of the main things that stop us from developing good relationships with our neighbours: Not having enough time and The fear factor. In the book, ‘The Art of Neighboring’, we are encouraged to focus on prioritising relationships. The great commandment tells us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, and if we are going to do that we actually have to have a relationship with the people who live around us if we are to have any chance of loving them well and being good neighbours. To help us, the authors encourage us to think about the three points, which we are going to discuss in our groups in a moment. The first is 1. Make the main thing the main thing We need to think about the way that we spend our time and the activities that we prioritise. Make a mental list of the way you spend your time, and consider if the things that you currently prioritise could be rearranged. 2. Eliminate time stealers We are encouraged to practice the art of elimination – which sounds like something from the film The Godfather! Actually when we think about the way we spend our time we realise there are things we do which have much less value when compared to the more important things in life, like building good relationships with our neighbours. Of course the point is we need to spend more of our time doing the more important things! 3. Be interruptible Develop a mind-set which says it’s okay to have space in your day and in your diary. In places like Winchester, and in churches like ours, it is all too easy to be so busy that there is little space for any spontaneity or interruptions. If we are going to make good relationships with our neighbours, we are going to have to be flexible. What do I do if my neighbour Dave is outside cleaning his car when I come home tired after church on a Sunday? Do I take that short walk across the drive? Putting these three steps into practice will help us become better neighbours. Chapter 4 of the book encourages us to think about the fears we experience when we start thinking about how we can develop relationships with our neighbours. The following questions and activities will help us to be realistic about our fears and encourage us to take steps to overcome them. Please spend some time considering the questions and working through the activities in this week’s blog in your community group. Don’t feel the need to use them all. Simply choose the two or three questions that may be helpful to you. Finally have a great time! My prayer is we all bear much fruit as we seek to become good neighbours. Questions: Starter Question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how busy is life for you at the moment? Why is this? Reflection Questions: 1. Do you currently live at a pace that allows you to be present in your neighbourhood in a meaningful way? 2. What are the potential time stealers in your life? Are there ways that you can save time by doing something about these? (Can link to Action Step 1) 3. Are there people on your street who you find intimidating? Why is that and is there anything you can do in order to overcome your fear of that person or those people? 4. Discuss or think about some practical ways that you can overcome your fears of interacting with neighbours you don’t know. Is there any way that your Community Group can help you to get to know your neighbours? Action Steps 1. Look at your calendar/diary over the past week. Write down the ways that you spent your time. Reflect on how well you used your time and whether what you did lines up with what you think is important. 2. Make an effort to go and meet one of your neighbours who you know nothing about, or haven’t met yet. This could just be by introducing yourself to a neighbour as you pass by, or it could be something more in depth. If successful, report back to the group next week. This might seem like a strange thing to do, but it might be helpful in overcoming the fear factor and taking a first step.
Good Neighbours Week 1
An exercise to begin with… This is an opportunity to take stock of our relationships with our neighbours, and it may very well be a painful exercise. Below is a link to a house map, please make sure everyone in your community group has a copy. The middle house on the chart is yours. It doesn’t matter if your road or area resembles this map; imagine that the boxes around your house represent the houses that are closest to you in distance. Then in the middle of the chart, simply write your home address or house name or number. In the other boxes, fill in the three subpoints within each box – a,b, and c – as follows; a) Write the names of the people who live in the house represented by the box. If you can give the first and last names, that’s great. If it’s only first names, that’s fine too. b) Write down some relevant information about each person, some data or facts about him or her that you couldn’t see just by standing in your drive, things you might know if you’ve spoken to the person once or twice. Things that you can observe from your windows don’t count, like colours of cars, or flowers outside their house. We mean information you learn from speaking to your neighbour, such as where he or she grew up, what his or her hobbies are, and son. c) Write down some in-depth information you would know after connecting with people. This might include their career plans or dreams of starting a family or anything to do with the purpose of their lives. What motivates them to do what they do? What would they say about God? What do they most fear? What are their spiritual beliefs and practices? Write down anything meaningful you’ve learned through interacting with them. Reflection/Discussion Questions 1. How much of your map were you able to fill out? Did you have any thoughts or realisations as you did this exercise? 2. Describe the relationships that you currently have with your neighbours. Do you have any neighbours that you would like to get to know better? Action Steps 1. Keep your house map and place it somewhere appropriate in your home where you will often see it. Use it as an aid to help you to pray for your area. 2. Try and learn the name of at least one of your unknown neighbours this week, and fill in one of the squares on the map. Can I encourage you to finish your meeting by praying for one another as this series starts. Click here to download the House Map
Welcome to ‘Good Neighbours’
This week we are launching a four week series in our Community Groups called “Good Neighbours”, which will run through June and July. The aim is to encourage us all to be the best neighbours we can be, simply because God loves our neighbours as much as he loves us. The series is inspired by an American book, ‘The Art of Neighbouring’. You don’t need to have read the book in order to join in, but we have purchased copies of the books to give to Community Group leaders. Over the next four weeks we will be producing a weekly blog for the series on the church web-site. The blog will contain a short video, questions for discussion, and activities to help us put what we’re talking about into practice. Each week, Community Groups are being encouraged to watch the video together, and then use the questions and activities to help provoke discussion and prayer. This summer gives us a great opportunity to get to know our neighbours better. The aim is that, through our weekly blog, we’ll all be encouraged to become more concerned about those who live around us as well as challenged and spurred on to take more opportunities to become good neighbours. A reminder for Community Group Leaders: 1) In preparation for this Community Group series, if you haven’t got a copy already, please could you go to the front desk this morning and claim your free copy of ‘The Art of Neighbouring’? It will be up to you how much you read. It is only short and very simple, so please try and become familiar with some of it. 2) Make sure you or someone in your group arranges to have a device (iPad, pc or laptop) on which to watch the video etc. each week. You could make a short rota, to help you. You will need to remember to have the meeting somewhere where you have Wi-Fi access.
Typhoon Yolanda & Compassion
In November last year we were all moved by the disaster that unfolded as Typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines. The offering we took up in response went to support the relief work of Compassion in the affected areas. Here is an update from Compassion on how the monies raised are being spent. Please continue to pray for all those people in the Philippines who are still living every day with the impact of this disaster. Much grace, Steve
I want to take a moment to explain the importance of ‘The Wave’ picture which most of you have heard me mention over the last few months. In the autumn of 2012, during a time of prayer, I was reminded of a prophetic picture which God had given me whilst I was an Elder in Hedge End. It had been provoked by a picture of a wave coming into shore that had hung above the fireplace in my parent’s home as long as I could remember.At the time God spoke to me saying that a wave that was coming that would change the landscape of the church in Hedge End. God reminded me that a wave has the power to change the landscape of a coastline forever. I asked my mum if I could have the picture and subsequently hung it in my office as a prophetic encouragement. Over the coming years the church in Hedge End grew and changed significantly. When I moved to Winchester to lead this church the picture went into the attic of our new house.In the autumn of 2012 God reminded me again of the picture. I felt God say it was time to get it down from the attic because a wave was coming that would change the landscape of Winchester Family Church . I brought it into the office at Stanmore and during that autumn numbers of you heard me say that God was about to bring remarkable change to the church. At the start of 2013 we began a series entitled “A Thoroughly Modern Family”. The next few months were scary but exciting! There were numbers of significant answers to prayer, including some things we had been praying about for years like the sale of our Stanmore Lane building. It really did feel like a wave of God had come on us and the church would never be the same again. At a meeting just before Christmas I was talking to a few of the leaders of Commission churches about the last year and had brought the picture to show them. As I was about to start talking it fell off its stand and the glass shattered! I just had to pick the picture up and carry on. As I finished talking a number of the leaders present felt that it was an important prophetic moment for us as a church. Here are some of the things they shared: “When the glass broke I immediately felt it was significant. It reminded me of the beginning of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” when the waves pour out of the picture into the room. God is saying the wave of what He is doing can’t be contained and cannot live within a frame. The wave has burst out! Initially the moment the glass broke it looked devastating but it was actually incredibly positive.”“I felt the glass shattering was significant. It reminded me of an episode of Dr Who when there was something living within a picture being held in behind a glass front. The breaking of the glass has released something. It is the breaking of the glass ceiling over the church. The wave is breaking out.”“I felt the moment was prophetic. The frame and glass were old and fusty. Even though much change has happened in the church there is still a tie to the past. It is now time for the wave to break out. Steve, your response could be to put it back in the attic or to reframe with new glass but I feel as a prophetic act you are to reuse the picture unframed! There is no longer a need for a frame.”“I felt it was important that you didn’t view 2013 as the year of the wave. There are many other waves starting to rise in the picture. In the coming year and the years ahead there will be more waves coming on the church…” Finally Laurena Brown, who had not been there when it had happened and so had heard none of the above, woke up that night and felt God speak to her. She said, “Last night (about 4.15am I couldn’t sleep) I couldn’t stop thinking about the wave picture that you had dropped the day before. I felt God kept saying to me that it was more than just a smashed picture and that it was actually quite profound. I kept praying and I felt God say to me that: 1. He is much bigger than a glass box – he can’t be contained or squashed down into a box. 2. That sometimes people, ministries, churches etc can seem all pretty and ok from the outside but actually they are covered by a glass façade. God wants people etc to be set free and smash their ‘glass’ that so often holds them/ministries/churches back. God also gave me a picture to confirm what I had been thinking. The picture was of an aquarium. The aquarium glass breaks and all the water surges powerfully out. This is something God wants to do. The water is so powerful that whatever it encounters is immediately thrown over/down.” As a response to all this I have had the picture put on canvas and have it in my office!These are exciting days for us as a church. I want to encourage you to be open to what God is doing and going to do. Please pray for the leadership, the church and yourselves at this time.Last Sunday we gave out cards with a picture of “The Wave” on the front and some encouragements to stir us to pray on the back. Please put the card on your fridge or in your Bible and use it this year as a focus for your praying. If you didn’t get one last week or weren’t there please make sure you pick one up from the front desk this coming Sunday! Let’s be ready for all that God wants to do amongst us! Much love and grace Steve