A Summer of Sport

If you are a sport lover, then this summer has plenty to excite you: International Cricket, Euro 2012, Wimbledon, the London 2012 Olympics and much more. There is surely an event for everyone and no doubt plenty of controversy to be debated on TV and in the pub! There will be winners and losers, medallists and also-rans. Each of them will have trained hard, often for many years with this summer in mind. They have considered the effort worthwhile in the hope that they will win gold. Yet even for those who achieve their ambitions, there will be another championship with new challengers and new winners; their moment of glory will fade over the years to a private memory.

Being a Roman citizen, Paul was familiar with the ancient Olympic Games and its cousin, the Isthmian Games in Corinth. It would have been with these latter games in mind that he wrote to the Corinthians: You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win.  All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. (1 Corinthians 9:24-25 The Message) Paul understood that being a follower of Jesus is hard and requires stamina and determination to keep going. His motivation for persevering was the assurance that he would win an eternal reward from God. There are plenty of worthwhile goals that we can have during our lives, yet ultimately these are all temporary. There is only one goal that has real permanence and that is to live a life devoted to Christ in order to win the crown of eternal life that he offers.

I hope that you will enjoy the summer of sport. As you watch the trophies being held aloft and the medals being presented on the podium, take a moment to pause and reflect. Will you, like Paul, receive a winner’s prize when you stand before God or will everything that you have given your life to fade away and become simply a pale memory in the hearts of those you leave behind?

This blog post featured in the July / August 2012 edition of Hook Focus

Catch the Flame

Over the next few months the world’s gaze will be upon London as the 30th modern Olympic Games gets underway. Starting on 19th May the Olympic torch will traverse the country in readiness for the opening ceremony in July. The symbol of the Olympic Flame can be traced back to ancient Greece and a fire that burned constantly in Olympia. According to mythology this was to commemorate the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus.

For Christians the image of fire reminds us of the flames that appeared on the heads of the apostles on the day of Pentecost as the Holy Spirit came upon them. This event marked the birth of the church and the fulfilment of promises from God that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord would be saved. Traditionally Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter and this year falls on 27th May.

To celebrate these two events Life Church and St John’s Church are partnering with our friends from Miracle Street for the ‘Catch the Flame’ weekend. On the Saturday afternoon we shall be holding a family fun day in Hartletts Park with an Olympic theme. This will be followed on the Sunday afternoon by an open air celebration of Pentecost, also in Hartletts Park. We hope that you will join us for these exciting events as together we ‘Catch the Flame’

This blog post featured in the May 2012 edition of Hook Focus

Looking Forward

We use thousands of words on a daily basis but I wonder how often we think about where they come from.  For example the names of our calendar months date back to the Julian calendar which began in 45BC as a result of a reform by Julius Caesar. January is strongly associated with Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, who is frequently represented as having a head with two faces – one facing forward and one facing back.  The tradition of reviewing the year that has just past and anticipating the year that is to come derives from this Roman origin.

For our nation looking forward, 2012 brings a number of challenges as we continue to ride the economic roller coaster. It also promises celebration as we rejoice at our Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – a remarkable milestone regardless of your views of the monarchy; and excitement as the Olympic Games come to these shores for what will almost certainly be a once in a lifetime experience. No doubt you will also have things you personally are looking forward to.

The Christian faith gives us great hope and expectation for a future where the pain and suffering, failure and disappointment of this current world will be swept away and replaced with a new, perfect, eternal world. This is the hope of all who have placed their trust in Jesus. This is the hope we will celebrate when the churches of Hook, Odiham and North Warnborough gather together at 6:30pm in the Elizabeth Hall on Sunday 22nd January at our joint expression of faith during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I do hope that you will come and join us that evening and stay for refreshments afterwards.

This blog post featured in the January 2012 edition of Hook Focus

Welcome to 2012!

I wonder what you are looking forward to during this coming year. If you are into sport perhaps you are excited by the prospect of the Olympics coming to London. Another big event will be the celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – a remarkable achievement! There is also a sizeable cohort of us in Life Church who will be celebrating our 50th birthdays – 1962 was a great year. Congratulations to those of you transitioning with me into the Saga era (ouch!)

I also wonder what 2012 will hold in store for us as a church. At the start of this New Year rather than making resolutions that we will break before the end of January why not ask God to give you big dreams. We have been praying for many years to see growth in our membership which has hovered around 60 people since 2004. Praise God in 2011 we reached a new maximum of 73. Will you join us in praying that we will continue to grow in size during 2012 – a similar percentage growth would see us reach 85 people, it would be great to break through the 80 mark.

Another encouragement this year has been to see 10 people baptised. That means there are 10 people who have taken a visible, significant step forward in being a disciple of Jesus. Will you join us in praying that we see at least that number of people baptised in 2012? Even better if that figure was also matched by a similar number of people making a decision to follow Jesus.

You may be aware that the Welcome Team helps me to track Sunday morning attendance (numbers not names!) Our best morning attendance was 108 on Easter Day, closely followed by 100 at our Carol Service. The average main meeting attendances in 2011 were 74 which is 22% increase on the 2010 average of 58 (for the Sundays for which I have data). A similar percentage growth in 2012 would see us reach an average of 90. Will you join us in praying that we achieve this during the coming year?

Less easy to monitor quantitatively  but of greater importance is our personal and corporate spiritual walk with God. My prayer for the church is to echo Paul:

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit — not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength — that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (The Message)

May 2012 be a breakthrough year when all of us experience more of God’s lavish grace and mercy in our lives.

This blog post featured in the January 2012 edition of Lifelines