Open Hand, Generosity for the Future

As we come to the end of our Open Hand series, I’ve been thinking more and more about the long term impact of our journey into generosity as a community. We’re all in different places on this path, but something has definitely shifted and we’re already beginning to hear wonderful stories of God’s faithfulness and provision as people have begun to act in obedient response to God’s promises around tithing and giving. 

This is only possible because of the astonishing generosity of our loving Father God. His promises are true and faithful. We don’t ever give to get back from Him… instead, we get to give because He is worthy of all that we are and all that we have. The fact that He responds with such favour and blessing on our lives is a benefit, but it isn’t our motivation. We’re moved by the chance to walk closer to Jesus, embracing the model of the Father’s generous heart to us all. 

So as these stories of generosity and provision have begun to come in, I’ve been thrilled to see such incredible things happen so quickly. But something deeper has been growing in my heart and in our hearts as a leadership team. Together, we’ve been dreaming of what could happen over the years and generations ahead in our community if we all press onwards deeper into this journey of astonishing generosity, investing and sacrificing for the future of our city and God’s dream of what would happen far beyond our church. 

We’re dreaming of more than just stories of personal provision and breakthroughs, though surely we will see many, many more of those. We’re dreaming of city breakthroughs, historic provision, and life changing generosity that cannot be held in the walls of any church, but must pour out over the lives of all who live in our community and beyond. 

Imagine with me a time of such generosity that we are able to provide with joy enough to help our struggling NHS. Imagine if we unlocked such provision and financial blessing that we could fund our schools across our community with more than just their needs? What if we could become a people who no longer need to request grants or outside funding for projects, but instead we become the source of grants and funding for organisations and our local council as they seek to serve those in need across our city? What if we were able to fund new start-up businesses creating new jobs in our community, realising ground-breaking ideas, and releasing new opportunity for all who live here? 

What would our city look like in 100 years if we become the joyful conduits of God’s generosity now? We know we can’t ‘out give’ God. In fact, His heart for favour on our community is wider than any ocean, ready to bless, and overflowing with love. Incredibly, we get to be the instruments of His wondrous generous heart here and now, investing for God’s good future over our city that we may not see fully of in our lifetimes. 

This journey of generosity has never been about our church finances… it’s always been about our hearts for God and God’s heart for our wider community and beyond. If we long to step off the map we’ve known into the undiscovered country of God’s good future for all the people of our community, we can only do that by embracing a journey of astonishing generosity fired by our absolute surrender to our Saviour who says, “Behold, I am making all things new!” (Revelation 21:5 NASB). 

Open Hand, The Blessing of Tithing

In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul tells us that ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Cor 9:7 NIV). However, when it comes to the subject of tithing, we often find it’s rarely spoken of cheerfully in our churches and is usually seen as a burden rather than a doorway into blessing.

The irony is that tithing is one of the most basic principles we see in the Scriptures that will unlock abundance and blessing in our lives. Sure, the topic of tithing has been abused before, but we can’t let our past negative experiences shape our future understanding and breakthrough. When we see what God promises in His word, it seems essential that we take a fresh look at this wonderful ancient truth. 

Throughout the Bible, the tithe is defined as a tenth. In fact, it’s not even seen as a ‘gift’ in the Scriptures, but as returning to God what is His. It’s taking the first 10% of all that He has blessed us with and returning it to Him trusting His faithfulness to redeem and bless the other 90% of our income. 

God takes this very seriously as we read in the 3rdchapter of Malachi. In verses 8 and 9 we see:

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.”

When we don’t return to God what is rightfully His, we’re robbing Him. If we’re truly trusting God with our lives, then we know He’s the source of all that we have and He can request anything of us. The wonder is that He asks for so little from us and offers so much in return! As we read on in verse 10 of Malachi 3 we discover God’s astounding promise when we tithe:

10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

What an incredible God! He asks that we return a tithe and He promises to bless us so powerfully that we will not have room enough to store it! In fact, He asks us to test Him in this and see what happens. It’s the only time in the Bible that we’re challenged to test God so we’re missing an incredible opportunity to discover new levels of His faithfulness when we avoid the blessing of tithing.

I know that in my life, my wife Tori and I struggled financially for years as missionaries, living by faith and trying to make ends meet. We could always find a reason not to tithe even though we often gave generously in offerings. We had embraced generosity, but we were missing the blessing of tithing!

It wasn’t until we began to take God at His word about tithing many years ago that we began to see significant breakthrough for our family financially. We determined to give the first 10% of all that we received back to God, trusting Him to do what He promised. We discovered that tithing unlocked more provision for us, which enabled us to be more generous on top of our tithe as well.

What was truly amazing was that we also began to see breakthroughs in all of our areas of ministry. We didn’t just see God’s provision and abundance in money; we saw it breaking out everywhere with people, opportunities, and so much more! We had discovered the blessing of tithing and it’s been a non-negotiable part of our lives ever since that time. It’s our first payment after our salaries come in, and we send it out with joy, knowing His blessing will always follow our obedience.

Generosity only begins after we tithe, returning to God what is His. Remarkably, when we put this sacred principle into place in our lives, we can trust in God’s promise to bring abundance to all areas of our lives, opening the door for us to become people of astonishing generosity, fully surrendered in every way to a faithful Father.

If you’d like to explore this topic further than is possible in a blog post, I’d highly recommend Robert Morris’s excellent book “The Blessed Life” which has shaped so much of our thinking and understanding around God’s promises of blessing around the tithe through the Scriptures. 

Open Hand, Open Heart

When we get right down to the core of things, generosity really isn’t about our money. Generosity is all about our heart. Whether or not we are generous has so much more to do with the level of surrender we are living in than the amount of money in our bank account. God isn’t after our money...but He is pursuing our heart.

Of course because money is such an important part of our lives, it’s not surprising that God often takes us on a journey through our money to get to our hearts. We live in a world that runs on money or the lack of it. We need money to pay for housing and food and to take care of our families…much of our time is spent working to make money.

There isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with money or with making money though. In fact, throughout the Bible we find very wealthy individuals who lived lives of faithfulness before God. The problem arises when we allow money to become an idol in our lives, keeping us from that which God has invited us into.

In his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10a NIV) Paul doesn’t say money is the root of all kinds of evil, but the love of money is. Because when we love money, we can’t fully love Jesus with our hearts fully surrendered.

Jesus said, “You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.” (Matthew 6:24 MSG) Those are strong words, but they get to the root of the issue; how we handle our money is a key measure of what we truly worship.

So often our finances are the final frontier of our surrender to Jesus. We might be willing to trust Him for our destiny, but live in fear that we won’t be able to pay for it. We may surrender our relationships to Jesus, but cling to our wallets because we fear being penniless more than we fear being alone.

These are tough issues but we have an awesome Father God. His heart for us is always set on favour for our lives. He invites us into a journey of generosity in all areas of our lives, including our money. The wonderful thing about this is when we surrender our money to God, fully embracing the truth that everything we have is His, we experience freedom from fear and new levels of breakthrough in our lives around all things, not just our money!

God will always pour favour on any area we surrender, leading us into new breakthrough in our lives. But what we won’t surrender, He can’t bless. If we surrender our worship, we’ll experience new intimacy with Jesus. If we surrender our future, we’ll experience greater destiny on our lives. If we surrender our relationships, we’ll see greater levels of restoration and love as we walk in holiness with others. But if we withhold our surrender around our money, we’ll never breakthrough into the fullness of God’s good future for our lives and for our families.

Our breakthrough will only go as far as our surrender. If we long for greater freedom, greater breakthrough in every area of our lives, we need to be people of full surrender, including our money. When we’re fully surrendered, we can have money without money having our hearts. We can embrace astonishing generosity that reshapes the future because our hearts have been reshaped by full surrender to the Father who holds our future.

God invites us all to go deeper, to be more surrendered, so we can embrace His good future for our us and for our city as we journey into generosity together. On the other side of this journey of surrender, breakthrough awaits us.

Open Hand

Over the next few weeks as a community we’re going to be looking at how we are called and designed to live lives of astonishing generosity. Generosity isn’t just a feature of a committed follower of Jesus, it’s a core principle that shapes the way that we live in every area of our lives. It’s crucial to our maturity as we seek to know Jesus more and see His beauty and grace demonstrated in our lives and in the lives of others.

God calls us into generosity not because He wants something from us, but because He wants something for us. We know that as we journey this pathway of generosity together across all areas of our life, we’ll experience more and more of Jesus and His presence in everything that we do, and that’s what we desire most of all. 

Over the next three to four weeks, we’ll be starting our journey of generosity looking at the area of our finances. It’s certainly not the only area that we’re called to be generous in, but it is certainly a tough one that is often ignored or not spoken about in the church at large.

If we long to see “All Things New” we need to engage with God’s word and with the Holy Spirit on the subject of our finances as we embrace new hearts and open hands. It’s understandable why this can be a touchy and difficult subject and that’s why we’ll be reiterating the following truths at the beginning of every message. 

Just to be clear, CCV isn’t in trouble financially and neither is God. In fact, we’re healthier in many ways as a church financially than ever before in our history, and as we read in Psalm 50:9-10, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (and the hills as well!). Fundamentally, we’re not doing this series because we want more people to give (though we expect that will happen) - we are focussing on this now for four key reasons:

God doesn’t need our money, but He does want our hearts. The Bible tells us that our hearts are with our treasure; that means whatever we treasure will truly have our hearts. So often, money is at the root of our treasure, and therefore, our hearts. This is why God so often goes through our money to get to our hearts! We want to be people who treasure Jesus and His presence above all and who live to treasure others with His grace. 

Generosity is a spiritual discipline. The Bible has more than 500 verses about prayer and nearly 500 verses about faith, but incredibly, there’s more than 2000 verses about money and possessions! In fact, Jesus talked about money and generosity in 16 of His 38 parables…that’s 42% of the time. We would never imagine not teaching on, or engaging fully with prayer or faith as a church, but far too often we’ve relegated the spiritual habit of generosity and giving to a place of secrecy, or worse, we’ve ignored it altogether. Jesus never intended this to happen and we must address it as His followers.

We want to be a church that God can use to supply the needs of our community. Everywhere we look, budgets are down. Schools are struggling, businesses are failing, our local council is overwhelmed by need, our health service is underfunded. What if we could rewrite that story through our combined generosity? What if we could make a tangible financial difference in the future of our community and our city? We dream of the day we are able fund start-ups in our city, or support government initiatives working to bring hope those in need, or help our local schools thrive and become places of extraordinary opportunity… and there’s so much more possible! But we cannot do those things as a church if generosity isn’t written in our hearts as a people. Where we go personally in this area, we’ll be able to go as church, seeking to serve the needs of our city.

We believe this is where our breakthrough lies. There’s been an increasing sense amongst us that after a summer where many faced trials and difficulties, God is leading us into a time of breakthrough - a time where we can begin to see “All Things New” across our community and in our lives. Throughout history, every significant movement or church that has seen historic breakthrough, shaping the culture and the future, has had generosity at the core of who they are. God has something in store for us, but our breakthrough will only go as far as our surrender is willing to go, in our lives and as a church. If we’re willing to surrender all, including our finances, and embrace God’s call and blessing on our lives as we embrace His design of generosity for our lives, we can step into His good future for our city together.

We are called to be people of open hearts and open hands. We believe God is inviting us all into a journey of generosity together with Him.

Making Room for More

New Kids & Youth Environments open now!

Over the last few years we have been delighted to see the quality of our kids and youth environments grow and develop, watching our Under 18s grow in their Kingdom identity and authority. As with everything we do here at CCV, we want to ensure we are loving with excellence, while creating room for guests.

We have revisited our Kids and Youth age groups and environments, and we believe these changes will both better the quality of our environments and create space for new families.

Find out more about these exciting new environments below!

Kids | Vineyard Stars | 6mo – 11yrs

Twinklestars
6mo – 1yr | Board Room
We are so excited about this brand new environment for parents and their babies. Parents/guardians will stay with their little ones, who will have space to move, crawl and enjoy stimulating play. Room hosts will be on-hand to ensure guests and their little ones have all they need to enjoy this time together!

Tinystars
1 – 2yrs| Green Room
This room is for babies who are one year old until they turn two. This bright and engaging room has lots of space to move and play. Parents/guardians are welcome to stay with their little ones, however it is not necessary that they do as this room will be run by our fantastic kids leaders.

Once your child turns two, they can move into Littlestars. We recognise that from this age children are becoming more aware of their surroundings and for this reason (as well as space available in rooms), we encourage parents/guardians to leave their child in the room and not stay with them, unless a plan has been made to serve in the room, or a leaving plan has been established.

Each of the following environments has a team of leaders as well as a room leader who will always let you know if your child is upset or uneasy.

Littlestars
2 yrs – Pre-School | Pink Room
This environment is for children once they turn two, until they begin their pre-school year of nursery. This will be a fun and interactive room of play, games and story time.

Smallstars
Pre-School Age | Lime Room
This environment is for children in their pre-school year. Our team of leaders are excited to roll out a vibrant and exciting curriculum, with space for kids to run, play, worship and engage in activities suited to their age and stage. This room is set up in a similar way to a pre-school environment, so your child will feel like they are walking into a familiar space.

Allstars Juniors
P1 – P2 | Blue Room
This room is for children who are in their first two years of primary school. There will be structured play and space for children to encounter Jesus through vibrant worship, teaching, praying for one another and learning to hear God’s voice.

Allstars
P3 – P4 | Orange Room
This room is for children in P3 & P4. This is a great space for kids to play, engage in challenges and activities, as well as getting to know Jesus more through teaching worship and discussion.

Hi-5 Stars
P5 | Hope Centre
This is a new and exciting room for our P5s with activities, games, worship, stories and a discussion time relevant for this particular school year. High-5 Stars will have a different feel to Allstars as we recognise there is a developmental jump that occurs for children of this age group.

Allstars High
P6 – P7 | Hope Centre
This room is for children who are in their last two years of primary school. We feel it’s important for children in P6 & P7 to be in the same environment because of the unique stage they are at together at school. There will be games, worship and a story with topics relevant to these school years as they prepare to move on to secondary school.

Superstars
Meeting Room 2
This is a new room and we can’t wait for it to launch! This room will be available for any child who has any additional needs and is struggling for these reasons in their age-specific room. We are so excited to be able to offer this space as we want every child to be able to enjoy their time at Vineyard Stars. Within this environment we will have different interactive zones for children to engage with. There will be a team leading this environment who have received additional training in this specific area. This team will also, like in our other rooms, roll out a Jesus-centred curriculum with worship, stories and play-based learning. In some cases, if a child has physical or additional needs that are beyond our capacity or training, parents may be asked to remain in this room.

Signing in your Kids
Sign-in for all of these environments, from Tinystars to Allstars High will be open in the Kids Foyer from 9.15 – 9.45am & 11.15 – 11.45am.

YOUTH | 11yrs – 18yrs

We are passionate about creating spaces to allow young people to thrive. We believe these changes in our youth age groups and room allocations will both better the quality of our environments and create space for us to welcome more new teens. The new youth environments will be:

Year 8 – 9 / 1st & 2nd Year | Hope Centre
Year 10, 11 & 12 / 3rd – 5th Year | Hope Centre
Year 13 & 14 / 6th Form & Tech | Hope Centre
Youth sign in is available in the Hope Centre, accessed via the auditorium.

We are excited about all that these new environments will make available to our Under 18s and the opportunity for connection this creates for more new families.

If you are a family looking for a place of connection, we would love to invite you to come along this weekend. Our Host team would love to welcome you, help you to register any under 18s visiting with you, and guide you around our new environments. We can't wait to meet you!

Sunday Services
9.30am & 11.30am | Kids & Youth Environments
7pm (no Kids/Youth Environments)

Why Baptism?

Growing up, I wasn’t just the son of a preacher man, I was the son of a Baptist preacher man, so baptism is a subject that is close to my experience and history. My father baptised me when I was a little boy after I had invited Jesus into my life, and even though I was small, I still remember the sense of something so powerful happening as I went under the water and then was lifted back up, dripping wet, with the sounds of an old hymn ringing through the church.

Over the 40 plus years that have followed that moment, I’ve been blessed to be at all sorts of baptism services in places scattered around the world. I’ve baptised people in paddling pools, rivers, lakes and oceans… sometimes with large crowds and sometimes with just two or three believers who gathered for the moment. Once, I hiked high up into the mountains in Nepal with a group of believers so we could baptise some new Christians in a secret place as it was illegal at the time for them to follow Jesus.

Whether it was in a baptismal pool at the front of a church or in a wild secluded river, I’ve always been struck by just how sacred and important the sacrament of baptism is. For the earliest followers of Jesus, their baptism was often the final step in their discipleship process, sealing their choice to follow Jesus for the rest of their lives. As this was often a life and death decision in those times of persecution, the act of baptism had profound significance for them and signalled that they had left their old life behind forever, entering into a new future with Jesus at the centre.

Though we aren’t persecuted here in Northern Ireland, the act of baptism is no less sacred or important for us. It’s a key moment in any believer’s life and it’s also a chance for us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who was also baptised as His ministry here on earth began.

Baptism is stepping into a changed life. It’s more than just a symbol or a tradition… It’s a physical act, embracing the end of our old lives and the death of Jesus for our sins, and then rising out of the water to enter into our new lives, embracing the resurrection life of Jesus. Baptism is a public statement that we join in the death and the resurrection of Jesus and that nothing in our lives will ever be the same again.

Baptism is stepping into a new Kingdom life. When we step into the water we enter into a sacred and powerful moment where we trade our old life for a new life as a carrier of the Kingdom of God. We go down to the water as one person, but we rise back up as daughters and sons of the King of Kings. We enter the water to embrace our new identity, transformed by the wondrous love of Jesus.

As Paul wrote in Romans 6:3-5:
That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.

Baptism is a sign that we’ve entered that ‘new grace-sovereign country’ and that we’re headed for hope, marked by love and carrying a new identity of Jesus all over our lives.

Baptism is primarily for new believers, but we also welcome those who may have followed Jesus for many years, but never got an opportunity to be baptised. For some, you may have been baptised as an infant or a child, but perhaps you would now like to step into the water with a fuller understanding of what this moment means, and we would welcome you to the water as well. It’s a sacred symbol and action of our life’s commitment to Jesus, so it’s for all believers in Jesus Christ.

Whatever brings you down to that sacred moment, we’ll join with you as believers in Jesus have for more than 2000 years, celebrating your new life with you as you rise up out of that water with hope and new life. Baptism is a moment to mark the new story that Jesus is writing over all of our lives, and we welcome you down to the water.

Fathering A City

It’s difficult to read through the Bible and not see the theme of Fathering. When we are introduced to someone throughout Scripture we are usually given the direction of their family line and more specifically who their father was; this was an important point of reference the writer wanted us to know. In those cultures the Father would bestow his blessing on the generation coming after him and that blessing was highly sought after; it contained inheritance both physically and spiritually. The knowledge of who someone’s father was had an indication of who they were. We see the importance of the fathers blessing illustrated in Luke 15 through the story of the prodigal son. The influence that the father has in the story is hard to miss; he was the releaser and the redeemer, the one who sent and the one who received. Unlike the brothers in the story who were looking after their own needs, the fathers desire was to love and bless those around him.

The Father relationship that God shows us in this story is a relationship we can receive, but it is also one we are meant to replicate to those around us. Men, we are called to be fathers in the same way God has fathered us. We are called to be a blessing and release a blessing to those around us; in our own families and in the communities we are a part of. We are called to be Fathers in the City. 

What does that mean practically for us this Father’s Day? I want to suggest three ways we can seek to Father the world around us.

See what’s in the heart not just what’s in the hands
Our Father in heaven looks at what is in our hearts. He is more concerned with who we are becoming than what we can do. Fathers look beyond the acts, the motion, the actions and look into the heart. A Father loves to connect with people's hearts. They love to nurture, protect and grow what they find in the hearts of others. We are called to look beyond what people are showing us on the outside and look inside. 

Champion those around us
Too often Fathers have been known for being hard to please. Many people I talk to will testify to how they rarely received praise from the men in their life and if it ever came it was usually in some off-hand way, with a correction attached of how they could have done better. I want to call us to be champions of others in every sphere. We need to champion others who are stepping out, encourage them and raise them up. Watch how the world will change around us when we begin to champion and encourage the people we meet every day; the person behind the cash register, the colleague in our work, our sons and daughters, the traffic warden, police officer. Fathering is Championing. 

Push others beyond where we’ve been
Men have a reputation for not wanting to ask for help, usually because we believe we can do it all. We want to seem like we are strong and that we can achieve great things. Sometimes that is ok but because of this we often fail to raise others up and push them beyond where, what, and who we have been. I want my 6 year old to experience more, achieve more and see more than what I saw but I don’t just want it for him, I want it for every person I have the chance to interact with, lead or have friendship with. Let’s ensure that alongside the championing we also call people to go beyond what they think is possible and what we know was possible for us. 

There are individuals around us who need fathered. There are institutions around us that need fathered. There is a city around us that needs fathered. As we have been fathered, so we too should father.

Neil Young

6 Tips For A More Healthy You

On Sunday in our morning services, Ricky Wright (Compassion Director) unpacked what it looked like for us to be a city of health. There are so many ways we can journey towards health for ourselves and our city, however, we want to point out some practical ways today that we can improve and make a difference to our physical health, with an emphasis on nutrition and wellbeing. 

"Don't copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." - Romans 12:2 (NLT)

 We're a church that champions being outward focused and serving the needs of the city. We have witnessed amazing stories of transformation and lives changed when we bring Jesus into our everyday, everywhere and to everyone as scattered servants in our city.

There is no area that our Father does not want to speak into to bring about His redemption in our lives. As a nutritionist, I see the food we eat and the way we steward our health as one of these areas that the Father wants to renew our minds in, to bring healing and transformation to our city person by person.

There is often guilt and shame associated with food, especially if you have struggled with weight or have dieted on and off for years. Inviting the Father into this area can seem scary, however His intent for us is ALWAYS good.

As a church we believe God is able to bring about miraculous and instantaneous healing emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, but are we willing to listen if He speaks a process of healing, which may take more time, where He teaches us to live lives that steward our bodies and our health well?

The Lord started to speak to me about this in my final year at University where I was studying to become a doctor. I always wanted to be involved in healthcare, however, it wasn’t until I witnessed an amazing story of healing in my own mother’s life through a nutrition and wellness programme, that I knew more clearly where the Lord was leading me.

My mom had struggled with depression, having days where she would spend hours in bed, unable to face the daily struggle that was life. I thank God that one of her friends invited her to take a nutrition and wellness programme. This was not only a significant moment in her life but in mine too.

During this time I witnessed a transformation in my mom that was remarkable! She started having so much energy and vitality from changing the way she ate, replacing the previous sugar-laden foods with wholesome vegetables. The increased energy from nourishing food gave her the energy to start getting into exercise. She ended up doing a triathlon with me after only a few months of training!

 My mom would say that the nutrition and wellness programme was a major factor in her coming out of depression. Witnessing the transformation of simple lifestyle choices to bring about healing has led me to where I am now, leading people in nutrition and wellness programmes myself. The Father cares so deeply for us and there are so many simple, yet practical things that we can embrace to find freedom and healing in our lives.

Here are 6 tips that you can start with, which create good foundations for your health:

1.     Drink More Water - We cannot survive without water. We are made up of approximately 60% water and it is vital for our bodies to function well! Aim for 8 glasses of water every day to keep your body hydrated and happy!

2.     Eat 5 Different Vegetables Every Day - There are numerous health conditions today that can be helped tremendously if we simply increase our intake of vegetables. Vegetables of different colours provide us with a variety of nutrients as well as fibre, which plays a major role in keeping our gut healthy! By simply adding an extra vegetable to your plate at meals, you can be doing yourself a world of good!

3.     Get Enough Sleep - Even the God of the Universe saw the need for rest. Sleeping is something that we spend one-third of our lives doing and it serves as a vital function to our health. Most healthy adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best, with more sleep required for children and adolescents.  

4.     Manage Stress - Stress has a major influence upon mood, our sense of well-being, behaviour, and health. Stress can be caused from external factors such as relational issues, financial hardship, work difficulties, or from internal factors such as illness, emotional/mental strain or physical pain. It’s important to recognise the stressors that you can actively change. There are other stressors that you cannot control however you can find coping mechanisms to help you deal with the stress better, i.e. seek counselling for stress caused from a bereavement.

5.     Move More - This isn’t about joining a gym or running a marathon, but rather finding simple ways to increase movement in your day and get blood flow going to help your body function best. Try walking to get your morning newspaper instead of driving, or getting off the bus or train a few stops early to walk a bit further into town or to work. We have become too sedentary for our own good with TVs and tablets keeping us from getting out in the fresh air so let’s start to change this and be intentional about moving more every day!

6.     Be in Community - Being healthy should be a team sport. Every BODY needs a BUDDY! Research has shown that those who live in community and relationship with others fare better in their health than those that are isolated! Let’s encourage each other in this health journey with food choices and overall wellness!

Invite the Father into your health and ask Him for the grace to make lifestyle choices that will help bring healing and restoration into your life! Be blessed as the Father guides you in your health journey!

Kathleen Henderson
Nutritionist
B.A. Biology/Chemistry
MSc Human Nutrition / cohunutrition.com

Exploring adoption, fostering & respite care

At Causeway Coast Vineyard we sense something is stirring around adoption, fostering and respite care. As we explore this together we wanted to share with you stories of those who stepped into this adventure.

Here is an inspiring and encouraging story from Debbie who is part of our community and has been on this journey for many years now. We asked her a few quick questions this week to find out a little bit more of her story in respite and foster care.

Q: Debbie, how many years have you been fostering and how many children have you cared for in that time?

D: I have been fostering for 16 years and I have had approximately 158 placements of children in that time. A placement can range from one day to as many years as may be necessary.

Q: Can you share a little bit about how your journey into fostering began?

D: I was working as a classroom assistant in a local primary school when a lady from my church asked me if I would be interested in doing respite care. She herself fostered children and was looking for someone who could give her a break. I said yes and I am so grateful I did.

Q: You have a real passion for respite care and fostering. What is it that makes you come alive in this area?

D: I love fostering and I believe God has given me the gifts and abilities needed so that I can make real differences in the lives of the children who are perhaps suffering through no fault of their own. I believe God uses me to show his love in real and practical ways to the children in my care, showing them that they are loved and cared for.

Q: What would you say to someone who is considering respite care or fostering?

D: Although every day is challenging, I would say that it doesn’t matter what age you are or whether you are single or married, as I myself am a single parent. What matters is that you have a heart for making a difference in a child’s life who is perhaps going through a traumatic situation. I would say to anyone reading this to never underestimate the difference you can make and the hope that you can give to a child in this way.

Debbie’s story isn’t the only story of hope being brought through foster care in our community but it is one that we hope leaves you encouraged! If you're interested in finding out more and this is something on your heart we would love to hear from you. 

6 myths we’re busting this Valentine’s Day 

The shops are filled with hearts, cards are being sent, cheesy poems are being composed - love is in the air.

For some people this week is a time of excitement and butterflies when they find out they have a secret admirer; for others it’s a reminder that they still haven’t found that significant other and for many of us it’s another way for shops to convince us to part with our money.

Wherever we stand when it comes to Valentine’s, the relationships in our lives are such a significant part of who we are and how we interact with the world around us, so we thought it might be helpful to share a few myth-busters we hope may be helpful at this time of the year. 

For those waiting for love…

1. Finding someone will complete our life
Even if we follow Jesus we can feel that not having someone makes us in some way less important when it comes to our faith. The truth is, being single is not a sign of spiritual immaturity, emotional brokenness, physical incompleteness or mental instability in the same way that being in a relationship doesn't make us the opposite of all those things. Neither is better or worse than the other. Jesus is the goal, He is the one who completes us, not a changed relationship status. 

2. There is a ‘one’ out there, somewhere
We think that there is one person out there who is destined to be the only person in the world that we could be compatible with and if we miss our opportunity that we’ll be alone forever. It seems crazy to read it out loud doesn’t it? The truth is there are many people out there who we could have a relationship with, some more suitable than others. There is no magical ‘one’. It’s only when we commit and covenant ourselves to a person that they become ‘the one’. 

3. The ‘perfect list'
We say things like; “He has to be strong yet sensitive, spiritual yet dangerous, open yet mysterious, be committed to fasting but not skinny”, or “she has to be funny but serious, confident but not overpowering, good looking but not too interested in her appearance, ambitious but selfless” and on and on it goes. The perfect person doesn’t exist and we aren’t perfect either so yes, wait for the right person but don’t forget, we’re all human!

For those who have found love…

4. If we are in the right relationship we will have no issues
Every relationship has two different people, with two different personalities from two different backgrounds. Every relationship will have to find a way to prefer one another and navigate these differences; that’s a part of the process. The more we work on these things together the stronger our relationships will become.

5. Relationships start out exciting but dull after time
The butterflies and emotion at the start were so exciting and we long for the days that they would return as we have settled for a relationship that survives rather than thrives. Unfortunately, this is the reality of many relationships and marriages but it is not the way they were designed to be. The people who are together the longest should be the most excited and the most in love, because they have had the longest to get to know each other, serve each other and build together. If we commit to this, the emotions that we felt in the beginning deepen and become a richer, more beautiful love. This takes commitment, but it is available. 

6. We no longer need to make an effort when we’re in a relationship
Often during the dating process grand gestures are made, romantic days and thoughtful gifts are shared but once marriage starts the dance stops. We can never allow this to be the case. The longer we are together the harder we should work to show each other that our love is deeper than ever, that we appreciate them more than ever and that we are prepared to show them that love in any way we can. We must find increasingly creative ways to show our husband/wife that we love them - why don’t we start it today.  

This Valentine’s don’t believe the myths but instead embrace the truth. We hope this week is a week where you know that you are loved whether you are single, dating or married. You are special to the one who created you and His love never fails.

3 tips for making the most of your week

If you’re reading this article you will know that ‘busy’ can quickly become a word that defines our weeks and lives. Tre shared on Sunday the importance of staying fuelled and fulfilled during 2018. We thought it would be helpful to hear from 3 people who lead 'busy' lives what their top tip is for getting the most out of their week.

Danielle McElhinney
Wife, mum to 3 kids, working part time.

Top tip: PLANNING

Like most mums, my weeks are filled with thousands of thoughts and lists of things to do. Weeks can rush by in a blur of busyness and yet I can end a week feeling like I haven’t done anything fulfilling or life giving.

Therefore planning is essential for getting the most out of my week. My calendar is my friend and I thrive on having a schedule!

I need to plan work patterns; kids’ activities; food shopping; housework and all the other mundane stuff. I also need to make time for the people and activities that bring life to my family and me, yet can so easily fall to the wayside.

This includes time to connect with God, time to relax with my kids, time for exercise (OK not much!) and time to catch up with friends, which is vital for an extrovert, like myself.

Some might say that a schedule is restrictive, but I find that it helps to combat the stress of busyness. It allows me to give my best yes to what’s important and to say no to the things that I cannot commit to that week.

Simon Hawe
Jesus follower, Husband, Dad (Full time and Respite), Son, Brother, GP

Top Tip: CONNECTION

Connection is key; connection with God and connection in relationship/community. Work can be tough and busy (NHS) and our kids' homework and extra-curricular activities seem all consuming at times. My wife Kathleen and I have a non-negotiable time together on a Thursday morning (connection) with a predictable pattern of running in the wilds of the North Coast followed by coffee, reflection and adventure planning. Much less of what I do in my week would be possible without the sacrifices Kathleen makes daily to support, equip and love me and our family. We are blessed with friends and family who we are intentional about connecting with. They make us laugh, challenge us, inspire us to love God more and recharge us for whatever the rest of the week brings. I hope that is reciprocal. Respite fostering weekends (connection) fuel our hearts to strive to love people more.  Meeting with colleagues to pray (connection) before a busy day refocuses my heart and mind on all God can do for people if I’m open to be used by him.  

Look outside yourself. When you focus on other people and ensure connection with friends, that fuels your life and your own problems and situations lose their magnitude. It is then that you will be equipped to strive towards the purpose God has for you. 

Hayley Blues- Drummond
Follower of Jesus, wife to Phil and part of the team at CCV.

Top Tip: TAKE FIVE

I often get to the end of the week and think ‘where on earth did that go?!’. In a flurry of activity and commitments, a week slips by and we can often be left wondering what we actually did with it.

And this will inevitably continue, unless we remember to take a moment. While I am very much on a journey with this, one thing I am learning is that no matter how full the week becomes, we need to take time to engage with the people, activities and spaces that bring us life.

In the midst of demanding schedules and overstretch we can feel ourselves begin to fray around the edges; when we feel we are being pulled in every direction, and there’s just not enough space, enough time, enough you – take five.

One of my significant ‘fives’ each week is Saturday morning. Phil and I head out for breakfast (ok, brunch), taking time to actually talk undistracted by phones, emails or anything else. If, like us, you have the gift of a morning, or a day, embrace it! Enjoy a walk, meet a friend for coffee, spend time with family - whatever gives you the room to breathe, renew and recharge.

Many of us won’t have that kind of time available today – it could be a busy day at work, multiple school picks ups or any number of other commitments. On these days, take five minutes. Read your favourite blog, contact the friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with, walk a lap around your office (or garden, or wherever you find yourself), or simply be still.

And on the days when even five minutes feels like too big an ask, take five seconds. Take a deep breath, still your heart and remind yourself of Jesus’ words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28 (NIV)

 

We hope these tips are helpful for you in the weeks to come as you too make the most out of the time that you have, remaining fuelled and fulfilled in 2018.

5 reasons you won't regret embracing community in 2018

I have a confession to make: I am not an extrovert. 

I know it may seem that I am because I spend so much of my life on stage speaking or playing music, and I know my personality seems quite extroverted, but my happiest place is usually when I am alone with a book or my thoughts. Other introverts will know that excited feeling when plans get cancelled and you suddenly get to be alone for an evening!

What this also means for me is that I like to have just a few close relationships rather than millions of friends; I’m most refreshed and relaxed when I’m with people I know really well and have known for a longer time. Even though I enjoy meeting new people, I usually have to make a conscious choice to develop new relationships with those people.

The problem is that the introvert part of my personality can keep me from becoming who I’ve been called to be by Jesus.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from Jesus and from studying the Scriptures over the years is that being part of and contributing to a community is absolutely key to our growth as followers of Jesus. As much as we place a priority on personal time and relationship with Jesus, He also places a priority on the way we love and interact with others.

Our January series “This Year I Will _____” has been challenging us to step into new depth with Jesus and others this year. One of the best ways for us to do that is to engage more fully in community. As I’ve journeyed this over many years, here are a few things I’ve learned as I’ve embraced the joy of community, even when I found it challenging!

Community helps us to be vulnerable – When we really connect into community we quickly learn that we have to open up our lives in trust; we also learn that we can trust others as we walk together with Jesus. That vulnerability is vital for us to grow in depth with Jesus personally as well.

Community helps us to connect – One of the best things about getting involved with community is that it helps us to meet new people who open up our world to different viewpoints and fresh thinking. If we’re only surrounded by people who we know and who already agree with us, we have very little chance to grow or be challenged to go deeper.

Community helps us to discover who we are – The best way for us to understand our identity is in Jesus and He calls us to greater relationship with Himself and others throughout the Gospels. Often, Jesus uses others to speak to us and to help us see things, both good and challenging, about ourselves that we can’t see on our own.

Community helps us to become more generous – When we connect with community we begin to see others' lives and needs rather than just our own. When we respond to those needs we begin to move away from selfishness and into generosity and we have a wealth of opportunities to love others beyond our small circle.

Community helps us to become more like Jesus – I’m always struck by the amazing fact that Jesus chose to do life with a community of disciples and followers. Surely He didn’t need others, but He chose to be with them and to open His life up to them. He shared His dreams, His sorrows and His days with a group of people from diverse backgrounds. Even though they were all Jewish, the fact that both a zealot and a tax collector (two individuals who would generally be at each other’s throats!) were among His 12 disciples has always challenged me greatly. If the Son of God chose community, I definitely should too!

This week we announced our next term of Small Groups here at Causeway Coast Vineyard. 78 different groups will run over this term with something for everyone and a place for all to connect more deeply with others. It’s a wonderful chance to meet new people and encounter Jesus with others outside of our church events. Most importantly, small groups are a fantastic opportunity for us to step deeper into relationship with one another as we discover that big things can happen in our hearts and lives as we journey community together.

For more information about Small Groups at Causeway Coast Vineyard, visit our Small Groups page.

6 Bible apps to engage with in 2018

This past Sunday we kicked off our “This Year I Will _______” series, looking at what and where we personally want to engage at the start of a brand new year. Tre challenged us to be people who engage in prayer, people who practice the presence of Jesus and people who engage in Scripture.  

We know that for some the practice of engaging scripture can feel like a challenge so we thought this post could be a helpful tool in finding ways to help each of us engage better. These apps can be used as your reading sources or as a companion alongside your readings, whether you prefer to read digitally or in print. If you do read on your phone or tablet a definite top tip is to ensure you put your device into do not disturb so that you can focus during the time you’ve carved out.  

This isn't necessarily a list of the best apps out there but they are our favourites. 

1. Bible by life.church (Youversion)

This is a go to app we love and most people will have come across it. As a Bible app it does what it says on the tin; provides scripture that can be read online and offline in a number of translations with an audio version to boot.  

What has made this app most helpful to us is connecting the app with a Youversion account. This helps to sync all your activity with other devices you may use and means that when you open your laptop and access Youversion you can pick up where you left off. It also syncs anything you have highlighted, noted etc. It provides many Bible reading plans, including the Bible in One year from HTB, produces instagram Bible images and, if you are inclined, there is also the option to connect with other people and read what they are thinking around certain verses or themes that you are meditating on.

There are other options in this area like Bible GatewayBiblica, etc, which all provide a similar service to Youversion so they might be worth checking it out as well.

2. First 5 by Crowd Hub (Proverbs 31 ministries)

This was my wife's personal favourite when our son was very young and time was short. It is a beautifully designed app designed with a female audience in mind. The goal of the app is to encourage you to give the first 5 minutes of your day to Scripture; it even provides alarms in the app with texts to waken you up if you wish.

It includes a journal type function in the app and also allows you to engage with users from across the world. One of the features my wife loved was the "weekend wrap up" videos (10 mins), where instead of having a daily reading the authors of the devotions talk about the week and bring more insight to what they have provided.

3. Bible in One Year by Alpha International

This is the app mentioned earlier but it deserves a mention all on its own. It is a brilliant app that is simple in its design and is a great way for us to engage with scripture in 2018. The devotionals by Nicky and Pippa Gumbel are great fun and they recently added an audio version to the app, which is read by the actor David Suchet. We would recommend tuning in as hearing scripture read aloud can open it up in ways we perhaps miss when reading it ourselves. 

4. Bible Memory - Scripture Typer Memorization System by Millenial Apps

OK, so it hasn't got the slickest title in the world but don't let that put you off. This is a hugely helpful tool for us as we seek to commit scripture to memory; something that doesn’t come naturally to all of us.

It uses memorisation techniques that use 3 cognitive senses (2 are in app purchases) to help you memorise, organise and review scripture. It's an app that is great to use at different points rather than an everyday visit to either commit new scripture your mind or as a reminder to what you have learnt previously. 

5. Bible App for Kids by life.church

This is an incredible app designed by the team that brought us Youversion and my son loves to use this. They have put a selection of Bible stories into interactive episodes where the story is read for them. They also get asked questions to see if they have been listening and they can collect items so it feels like a game for them. It really is an excellent resource if you have younger kids you’d love to see engage with scripture this year. 

6. Bible Study with Accordance by Oaktree

If you want to wade in a little more Accordance is a great resource, which offers apps and an online version. You can use free lite versions or pay to add different translations, commentaries and resources to the bundle as you wish. This has been a real help to us as we’ve sought to get to grips with certain passages and understand them more fully.

There are other great resources in this section like Glo BibleLogosOlive Tree etc. depending on your preference.

We hope these give you new ways to explore scripture this year!

Transforming Tragedy

Two weeks ago, as we worshipped together at Causeway Coast Vineyard, a horrible tragedy was unfolding over 4500 miles away in a little church in Sutherland Springs, Texas in the USA. 26 lives were taken away by another man with a gun... and our world and our lives were filled with grief, sorrow, and shock yet again.

Sadly, we’re growing used to this horror, as our screens are filled with the stories of so much tragic loss. Whether it’s the desperate images of human suffering caused by hurricanes, the horrific shootings in Texas and Las Vegas, or the alarming talk of escalating tensions internationally, we’re all numbly becoming aware of the fact that we can’t simply escape tragedy crashing into our lives.

This isn’t new for followers of Jesus.

In the book of Acts, the early followers of Jesus faced the terrible loss of Stephen, one of their most gifted young leaders, when he was murdered for his faith. He was stoned to death by a mob after a kangaroo court condemned him on false charges of blasphemy.

As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed, “Master Jesus, take my life.” Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, “Master, don’t blame them for this sin”—his last words. Then he died. Acts 7:59-60 The Message

When we face tragedy in our world or in our own lives, we often find ourselves asking “Why did this happen?” as we try to find some meaning in horrible events beyond just grief and loss. But what we see in Stephen’s death is how God’s goodness makes His favour available to us in new ways when tragedy strikes.

God’s goodness and great love means that we can ask “What is now available to us from God?” when we face horrific events in our lives or in our world.

Tragedy always transforms us.

Usually, our response to tragedy is to make our lives smaller and safer, pulling back from others in fear and minimising our risk to more heartache as we lick our wounds and we try to rebuild our lives.

But the Good News is that God is so good that He opens the door for us to be transformed into people who live bigger lives of love and grace if we let Him into our tragedies. Jesus can take the things the enemy intended for evil in our lives and then transform our tragedy into opportunities for His love, grace, and power to be shown in our lives and to others around us.

For those early followers of Jesus, the martyrdom of Stephen was a terrible event. Beyond the shock of his death, Stephen’s murder also began a dreadful persecution of the early church which meant they were separated from the apostles and then scattered across Judea and Samaria as they fled for their lives.

That set off a terrific persecution of the church in Jerusalem. The believers were all scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Acts 8:1 The Message

An event like that would destroy many communities: the loss of a beloved young gifted leader and the persecution following that sent them from their homes, their trusted leaders and all they knew into a fearful future.

Remarkably, something else altogether happened.

As those believers were scattered across Judea and Samaria, they begin to spread the Good News of Jesus everywhere... in fact, they began to fulfil the promise given to them by Jesus in the first chapter of Acts: And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world. Acts 1:8 The Message

Rather than destroying the early believer’s movement, God made available to them the opportunity to transform tragedy into a new story of His love, grace, purpose and destiny. The murder of Stephen was meant to stamp out the story of Jesus and stop the early followers of Jesus. Instead, that tragic event sent those brave women and men into their future because they allowed God to take their tragedy and transform it into something beautiful that blessed the world.

When we allow God into our tragedies, we open the door for Him to transform our sorrow into joy as He rewrites our stories with Hope where there was once only loss.

That doesn’t mean we don’t grieve.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t experience terrible loss.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t taste the full pain of sorrow.

But it does mean that those sorrows can count for something and make our lives more beautiful even as we carry the scars of our loss.

Jesus can make those scars beautiful as He rewrites Hope over our lives marked by loss.

Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. Acts 8:2 NIV

As we see here, grief is a part of our story and it is a righteous response to tragedy. It is part of our process... but thanks to Jesus, it isn’t our posture.

We will grieve at times, but we can go on to live as people of Hope and Joy when we allow the goodness of God into the horror of our tragedies.

Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning. Psalms 30:5b NKJV

Because of Jesus, we are a people of hope, a people of joy. We may walk through the valley of sadness, we may make our way through a night of tears, but we are reaching for the dawn and we are headed for the morning where joy rises with the sun.

Frank Pomeroy, the pastor of the small church where so many lost their lives on Sunday, spoke to the press after the event. Still grieving the loss of his daughter, who was one of the victims, he was asked how he made sense of the tragedy.

He answered simply, “I don’t understand, but I know my God does.” He went on to say “Whatever life brings to you, lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding.”

It’s a profound response that captures the reality that we may never understand the tragedies that hit our world, but we can lean into a God who cares for us and wants to meet us in our pain and loss and lead us back towards healing and joy. 

When evil comes, when tragedy strikes, when loss and pain seem overwhelming, we can lift our eyes to Jesus who weeps with us in our sorrow, and then welcomes us on a journey with Him, where our tragedies can become transformed into doorways of inexplicable hope. 

How to survive week one of small group

Hey! So, either you’ve signed up for a small group and are slightly dreading it OR you’re thinking about signing up for the first time.

How do I know? Because I’ve felt the same way! It really can be a daunting experience knocking on someone's front door and spending the next few hours sitting with strangers.

So, if that’s you, here are a few tips for surviving your first week of the big adventure that is small group. 

SHOW UP
It sounds simple but showing up on the first week is really important if you can make it, especially if it’s a new group for you. It will help you feel part of the group and if you’re nervous about attending it makes it so much easier to get to know the people there sooner rather than later! 

KNOW WHY YOU SIGNED UP
Why did you sign up for a small group? Maybe you’re hoping to meet some new friends and be part of a community of those your age or stage, or maybe it’s learning a new skill. Whatever your reason, knowing your why will help you get you through the first week with flying colours!

FEAR NOT
What’s the worst that can happen? Probably you encounter an icebreaker which, if you’re an introvert perhaps is a small reason to panic. But fear not, your possible awkward answer or maneuver will likely be forgotten in approximately 0.7462 seconds and you’ll have a whole new group of people to share life with in the future. 

BE YOURSELF
You are totally free to be exactly who you are when you are in your small group. One of the best things about small groups is that they are gatherings of people of all sorts of different personalities and qualities. If everyone was the same it would be boring. You do you

DON’T HIDE  
You are unique. There will never be anyone like you ever again, so make sure you contribute to your small group during the term, even from the first week. Your leaders want to hear what you have to say as do the rest of your group. Get involved and be intentional about chatting to people you haven’t met before. It will be so worth it as you'll soon discover!

It’s really that simple. If you have already signed up, then take a breath and get excited for what will be an amazing 10 weeks. If you haven’t signed up, go for it. You’ve got this!

Charlotte