Every year thousands from churches like ours head to Exeter for a long weekend in August. For 5 days we enjoy a packed programme, with activities for all ages. Why go to Westpoint? My top 10 reasons:
- People who attend Westpoint join with thousands of others to worship God in joyful and exuberant praise – a foretaste of heaven!
- Children and young people attend groups tailored to their ages, experience lively worship and great bible teaching. Each year dozens of them become followers of Christ and experience the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
- It is an opportunity to hear great teaching from excellent bible teachers who bring expertise not available in the local church. As well as the main meetings and daily bible readings, there is also a seminar programme that addresses relevant issues that impact daily living as a believer.
- It is the best opportunity for us as a church family to connect with other churches in our movement and get caught up in the bigger, worldwide vision of Commission.
- It provides time for us to spend a few days away together building friendship and deepening relationships.
- The festival zone includes a bookshop, craft stalls and exhibitors from various Christian organisations.
- Want to learn a new skill or chill out? There are workshops, cinema showings, live music, quiz and comedy nights; whichever takes your fancy.
- The weather is always fantastic! Well that may not be strictly true, but over the years it has mostly stayed dry and gathering together in our marquee during the showers helps us bond.
- You can choose accommodation to suit your budget and style. Camping is cheapest, which most people opt for; caravanning is another way to stay on site, whether you bring your own or hire one. There are also plenty of guest houses and B&Bs nearby.
- As a Commission church, going to Westpoint is what we do.
I am looking forward to our largest group yet attending in 2016. Please plan your year around Westpoint 2106 and put the dates in your diary now (25th – 29th August). Book now to get the early bird prices and spread your payments out over the year if you wish.
This blog post featured in the October 2015 edition of Lifelines
This is not a question about personal hygiene, rather it is about how you read the Bible. You may be wondering what soap could possibly have to do with bible reading and I will come to that in a minute.
I know very few Christians who don’t believe that reading the bible is a good thing and wish they read it more often. Many however, struggle to read their bible with any regularity and those who do often feel that doing so can be a matter of duty rather than delight. Living as we do in the 21st century there are more resources to help us read our bibles than any other period in history. There are many reasons for this but I believe that one factor may be passivity. We live in a world of information overload, and most of the information is broadcast at us and requires little engagement. As a result we are used to passively hearing and reading information, then moving on to the next thing and quickly forgetting what we have heard. If we always read the bible like this then it is no wonder it seems uninspiring. However if we can find ways to really engage with it, to wrestle with its meaning and understand how it applies to us we can discover a fresh vitality in our reading.
Recently I was reminded of a simple little acronym (SOAP) that can be applied alongside any bible reading method and help us read more proactively.
- Scripture – Write down a verse from your reading that stood out for you. Copy it word for word, including the reference.
- Observation – Answer this question, ‘What do I observe about this verse?’ Things like: who is speaking, to whom, where, why, when. Engage as much as you are able with the original meaning.
- Application – Now work out how you can apply what you have read to your life or how it impacts your current circumstances. Is there a command to obey? An example to follow (or avoid!)? An encouragement to lay hold of? An attitude to be realigned?
- Prayer – Finish your reading with prayer. What can you praise God for? What requests can you make? Ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to live differently in the light of what you have learned.
Using these 4 simple steps requires effort but it will be worth it. As the saying goes: the more you put in the more you get out.
This blog post featured in the May 2015 edition of Lifelines
As we continue our exploration of the letter from James we are discovering that it is intensely practical. James wants us to understand that genuine faith in Christ is not simply intellectual assent, rather it is a response that so transforms our hearts that it produces changed behaviours. James writes: ‘As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.’ (James 2:26 NIV2011) Good deeds don’t make us right with God, but good deeds that are the outworking of faith are the evidence that we are right with Christ.
Since James was the brother of Jesus it is perhaps not surprising that so much of what is taught in this letter has parallels in the gospels. Jesus told a parable where he likened Judgement Day to a farmer separating sheep from goats. Jesus said that the sheep represented those who would be invited to share in Christ’s inheritance; whilst the goats represent those cast into the eternal fire. The basis for the judgement was how they had treated Jesus, in other words their deeds. Both groups in the parable seem surprised by this and ask for an explanation. Jesus’ response is: ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40 NIV2011)
Jesus shows how acting with compassion to those in society who are marginalised, despised, sick or needy is in fact to show practical love towards him. People who act in this way are true Christ followers and get to share his reward. Those who ignore those who are vulnerable in society however are judged to be ignoring Christ and are condemned for it.
In the parable the marginalised included the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, and the prisoner. What vulnerable people do you come into contact with on a day by day basis that Jesus would point to today? What acts of compassion are you able to do that would win Christ’s commendation: ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’?
This blog post featured in the June 2014 edition of Lifelines
Read almost any newspaper or magazine and you will regularly find articles giving lifestyle advice. You name it and at some point you will find guidance about almost every imaginable lifestyle choice: diet and fitness, health and medicine, personal image, clothing, finance, relationships, family life, the list goes on.
Much of the advice is good, based upon sound observations and good logic. Yet, no matter how expert the advisors are, it is impossible to escape the underlying worldview behind what is offered; a worldview that ignores God and considers only the time frame of the present, rather than taking an eternal perspective.
If we wish to live as genuine followers of Jesus we need guidance on how to live as Christians. The book of James is a great starting point for anyone looking for Christian lifestyle advice. Unlike most of the other letters James is short on doctrinal teaching, but is packed with down to earth practical instructions on how to behave. Martin Luther famously dismissed the book as ‘an epistle of straw’ because it lacks the magnificent descriptions of grace, and salvation by faith found in books like Romans and Ephesians. Yet James is not a legalistic book of rules, rather it is a description of what people gripped by grace and living by faith look like. It provides us with a yardstick by which we can evaluate whether our lifestyle is truly Christian or has been hijacked by worldly values.
Some see a similarity between James and the Old Testament book of Proverbs. When we recall that the author of James was almost certainly one of Jesus’ brothers, a better comparison might be with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
Over the summer months we shall be looking at James in our Sunday meetings in a series called A Toolkit for Christian Living. My prayer is that you will be encouraged and challenged as we read together the direct and practical teaching of the Apostle James who helped shape the early church.
This blog post featured in the May 2014 edition of Lifelines
The first things that come to my mind as we enter the month of November are bonfires and fireworks. I have vivid memories as a boy of helping my father pile wood, leaves and other garden waste up to build a bonfire at the bottom of the garden. As dusk fell various invited neighbours gathered and then the bonfire, complete with an effigy of Guy Fawkes, was lit. Sausages were sizzled on forks attached to long canes and fireworks were let off. Even in those less safety conscious day’s fireworks were an adult responsibility but there was something exciting to a small boy about being entrusted with a sparkler! You are no doubt familiar with the ritual of one sparkler being lit from another until dozens are being waved around to paint patterns in the night air. Given a sufficient supply of sparklers and willingness to share the flame this handheld display can be kept going for many minutes. One sparkler on its own however can seem quite tame and will soon burn away to nothing.
Christian faith too is best experienced in the company of others as together we share the joy, and at times heartache, of being a follower of Jesus. Whether our journey of faith is long, short, or not yet started the act of sharing it with others encourages the whole community, including ourselves, in much the same ways as happens when sparklers are ignited off each other. However, if we try and live our faith in isolation then we can quickly lose our sparkle and become dull and cold. Once a sparkler is burnt out all that is left is a useless length of wire. The good news however is that if a person’s faith seems burnt out it can be invigorated by joining with others whose flame is burning brighter.
If as these colder winter months draw in you feel that your life has lost its sparkle then perhaps it is time to immerse yourself in a church community. Whether you are an old hand or completely new to the Christian faith I am confident that you will receive a warm welcome at any of the churches in Hook. You can find out more on the adjacent pages.
This blog post featured in the November 2013 edition of Hook Focus