I expect that many of you will have enjoyed watching the amazing sporting spectacle of the Olympics and Paralympics. There are some incredible stories of courage, determination and sheer athletic prowess that have come out of both festivals of international sport. It is hard to choose one highlight but it was pretty amazing to find that the gold medal winner and three other athletes who competed in the visually impaired T13 1500m Paralympic event all finished with quicker times than the gold medal winner in the Olympics a few weeks earlier. Even allowing for the fact that the Olympic 1500 m race is a tactical event and was completed much slower than the world record pace which has stood since 1998 it is a remarkable achievement.
The Paralympics movement has made a profound difference in the way that we view disability and encourages us all to focus more on what can be achieved by those who are differently able rather than their limitations. Yet the fact remains that in each event only the top three athletes get a medal and only one is crowned Olympic or Paralympic champion.
The modern Olympic Games draw their inspiration from the Greco-Roman world where many cities had their games including the original Olympics held in Olympia. Rather than medals the prizes for the victors were olive leaf wreaths or crowns. It was these games that Paul had in mind when he wrote to his younger friend Timothy “Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5).
Paul compares the concentrated efforts of an athlete with the commitment and dedication of a follower of Christ. Two chapters later he picks up on the theme again as he writes “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8). Unlike either the ancient or modern games however, Paul reveals that in the Christian life everyone gets to receive a crown. The Christian faith is the ultimate demonstration of equality and diversity. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, rich or poor, able bodied or disabled, educated or illiterate, male or female, or even which nationality you are from; the offer is the same. All can come to Christ, and if they do so in a humble, repentant manner can receive forgiveness. All who profess such faith in Christ can run the race of life confident that they too will one day wear the victor’s crown.
If you have not yet started this race of faith in Christ then I invite you to do so, knowing that God will accept you as you are. If you want to know how to get started, then pop along and speak to us sometime.
This blog post featured in the October 2016 edition of Hook Focus
Imagine thousands of people from hundreds of churches across our region all mobilised together with the aim of sharing God’s love with hurting people in our community. That is the vision that the Who Cares? team have for Hampshire and the surrounding areas.
When I first floated the idea of bringing the Who Cares? strategy to this area I thought my role was just to be a prophetic voice. I assumed that someone else would pick up the baton and lead the team. To my surprise everyone else in the team felt that I was the person God wanted to head up this initiative for this region. A few weeks later I was at a conference when a prophetic word was spoken over me that directly confirmed this call. Right down to details such as equipping churches across a geographical region and having access to the Bishop’s office.
It has been exciting to see how a vision that originally just embraced Basingstoke and outlying areas has expanded; first to include all of North Hampshire, and more recently to include the rest of Hampshire and parts of Dorset.
The mission consists of 2 phases:
- The Listening Phase. This phase starts on Sunday June 4th which is Pentecost Sunday. We are praying for the Holy Spirit to fall upon the church as on the first Day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago when the room that the disciples were hiding in was unable to contain the mission of Christ. Over the following 8 weeks Christians from participating churches will be mobilised to ask friends and family, neighbours and workmates, along with others in the community one simple question. ‘What Hurts The Most?’ or put another way ‘What one thing in life do you find most difficult to handle?’ The answers that are received will be collated on computers and analysed centrally to help churches understand the needs of their communities.
- The Responding Phase. This phase runs from September through to December. During this season churches will tailor their programmes to address the key hurts of the people they have been listening to. They will run Alpha Courses, do Café Church, sermon series (and much more) all with the focus of addressing the hurts that people have identified. The churches in Norfolk who ran a mission like this in 2014 found that hundreds of people heard the Good News that Jesus cares for them and many became followers of Jesus after 1,200 guests attended an Alpha launch supper.
I find it interesting that among the prophecies spoken over us as a church are things like ‘you will be a David among churches’ and ‘you will punch above your weight’. It seems that this is happening as more than a hundred of leaders are looking to Life Church, Hook for vision and leadership in this initiative.
I would invite you to get behind this project and support it by joining me at the Vision Night on Saturday 8th October, 7:00pm at Aldworth School, Western Way, Basingstoke. Admission is free but you will need a ticket which you can obtain via our website.
This blog post featured in the October 2016 edition of Lifelines