Thomas & Tonny - A Farewell

Thomas and Tonny have been serving as BV Advance students for the last 18 months, as they prepare to leave we asked them to share what's next for them.

It's been wonderful having them as part of the team and we're so excited for them as they take there next steps in leadership back home. We hope you'll join us in praying for them

An update from Andrew & Rosie

Dear Birmingham Vineyard,

Rosie and I want to let you we are going to be taking a sabbatical from the 10th of February to the 14th of May. That will be for us to have an extended time for personal prayer, reading, reflections and theological study. After that we’ll be returning to our normal duties leading this wonderful Church. The concept of sabbatical may be new to some of you so please take a few minutes to read the rest of this blog where we’ve anticipated many frequently asked questions. All the leaders are already aware of this news and the community leaders, staff team or trustees can answer any question that you may have.  

With much love,

Andrew and Rosie.

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It’s been 30 years since Birmingham Vineyard was planted and 23 years that we’ve been leading together. The concept of sabbatical is well established in many church denominations, as well as in the Vineyard. The trustees have generously made it possible for us to take 3 months off from our day-to-day leadership responsibilities. The focus for us is personal growth and development, investment in the next decade of ministry, all in the context of extended rest. 

We’ll be away from Birmingham for most of the time and we’ve planned some guided prayer retreats, theological study, and extended time to be with Jesus in personal prayer.  We’ll enjoy time to rest as well as investing in our own relationship. We plan to visit some churches and glean wisdom from other church leaders who have been inspiring and insightful to us over many years of leadership. We’ll miss our Birmingham Vineyard family for those three months but we are excited about the chance to invest in our own personal growth. Our prayer is that we return stronger leaders. 

We’ve not done this before so it’s inevitable that some questions need answering. Here are some FAQ’s:

1          What does sabbatical mean? 

The concept of sabbatical is rooted in the idea of “Sabbath” or rest. It’s about ceasing from the normal day to day responsibility of leadership to enable an extended time for prayer, reflection and study. It’s a proactive step for us and for the congregation we serve. We’ve both got a spiritual director to assist in our reflection before, during and after the sabbatical. We’re heading off on 10th February, and we’ll be returning to work on 14th May. 

2          Why are you going on sabbatical at this time? 

With both of our daughters off at university we are in a life stage that makes this possible. We’ve also chosen this time because we’re confident of the momentum, health and vitality of the church and leadership team. John and Debby Wright, our National Directors, have spoken with us of the great benefit of taking a sabbatical and after conversations with the trustees we are in agreement that this is the right time for us and the church.  

3          What's planned for church?

This has been in the planning stages for many months so we’ve put considerable thought into the leadership and detail of the next term. We can leave knowing that everything is in good hands in our absence. The teaching themes and preachers for the next few months are all confirmed and we are also excited that new initiatives like the winter night shelter will be starting.

4          Can people still contact you? 

This is a unique time for us to step back from all day-to-day contact and communication so we can fully engage in this time of rest, prayer and reflection. We’d ask that you don’t contact us directly over this time. All our normal communication channels will be responded to by Joanne our PA or the team. 

5          When you are away who’s in charge?

Steve Philpott, closely supported by Tom and Ali Husbands, will be leading the team in our absence. We are grateful that we can confidently enter this sabbatical because of our deep trust in the wonderful team of staff and community leaders. They will continue to work together to serve and lead Birmingham Vineyard during our absence. For the last 6 months Steve has been line managing a number of the staff team and we are grateful for him becoming the point person while we are away.

6          Will anything change about our church while you are away? 

In many ways nothing will change. You'll continue to gather for worship and scatter to serve in our city. New groups will start and church will grow while we are away as you welcome new people into this great community. Please do introduce us to newfound friends on our return! The only change is we won’t physically be amongst you for the three months. The same staff and team members who lead Sunday services will continue to be on hand each week.

7          What do I do if I hit a problem or I become aware of one? 

We’re so glad that we’re not limited by a 'pastor centric' model of Church. The gifts of so many add to the health of our community.  Small Groups and Communities remain the first point of contact for emergencies or moments where help is needed. Community leaders refer complex situations to pastoral staff. That’s our normal pattern and it will remain that way for the sabbatical period.

The office based team meet weekly to pray, review the week and respond to needs that arise.  Some staff rotate between services with Michael and Jess consistent in the Central am service, Jeff and Becky at the South site and Tom and Ali on Sunday evenings. 

8          What if there is a real emergency?

Rosie and I have never made significant decisions in isolation. We’ve valued the wisdom of colleagues, trustees, ‘elders' and overseers outside the Church. All these people are on hand during this time. If something complex needs attention, our staff and trustees have access to the Vineyard Area Leaders and to members of the Vineyard Leadership Group. The Trustees team will continue to meet monthly with Mike McMaster as the chair of this team. Our colleagues have our schedule and contact details throughout the time of our sabbatical and they are empowered to communicate with us if they feel it absolutely necessary.

9          How can I best support the church at this time?

Being present, prayerfully engaged and supportive of the leaders is the most helpful thing you can do. The health of this church is maintained by the consistent choices we all make to prefer one another, serve one another, and pray for one another. This is a moment for our whole community to grow.  

10       How can we pray for you while you are on sabbatical?

Pray that we become still enough to hear everything that Jesus wants to say to us. The invitation to know Christ and become more like Him is offered to us all in every season of life. We want to grow as leaders so the next decade of ministry in this church and beyond it is as fruitful as possible. 

Birmingham Churches Night Shelter

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We are excited to announce that we will be hosting the Birmingham Churches Winter Night Shelter on Wednesdays February 21st to March 28th 2018.

We are looking forward to hosting this and we will need volunteers to help run it! 

Please email info@birminghamvineyard.com if you are interested in helping with this fantastic opportunity to be Jesus' hands and feet.

Training will be provided at Network House on 15th January at 7:30pm and you will need to attend it if you are seriously thinking about volunteering.

Prince of Peace - An Advent Reflection

We may not have gathered together on Sunday because of the snow, but we can still take the opportunity to learn from the week's sermon topic! Jess, who would have been preaching, sent this out on Sunday morning, we hope it blesses you.


Well, Birmingham Snowmageddon 2017 is in full force and we hope that you are warm, dry, and safe at home. A big hardy thank you to our fearless pastor Andrew who drove around early hours this morning assessing the roads, and upon seeing dozens of cars unable to traverse the slightest of inclines, helped us see the hazards of travel today - glad you made it home Andrew.

Sitting at home drinking a cup of coffee and watching the snow peacefully fall to the ground I am reminded of what a wonderful gift it is to have a Sabbath day of rest given to us each week - and today being unable to travel, it feels an extra layer of forced rest in our busy lives, an opportunity to reflect on God coming to us, Emmanuel, Jesus the Prince of Peace.

As we wait expectantly for the coming of Jesus, of course we celebrate his human birth, his coming as a baby, God on earth, which we remember at Christmastime. We also wait for his second arrival, when Jesus returns for the final battle against the enemy of this world. Where he will make all things new, where he will wipe every tear from our eyes, there will be no death, or pain, or crying and all things will be made right again - when God’s Kingdom will fully come here on earth (Revelation 21).

And there is a third coming which we can be expectant for during Christmas. The presence of God breaking through in our daily lives here and now. In our lives right now we have a invitation to experience Jesus’ presence with us daily - in our workplaces, in our homes, in our relationships - we are invited to ask for and anticipate the coming of Jesus into our own hearts and lives with his presence. And his presence is filled with peace.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
— Isaiah 9:6

The concept of peace can be quite challenging to wrap our minds and hearts around at this time of year. Are you feeling the chaos yet? All the parties, the kids concerts and plays, the never ending shopping lists. Our emotions are maxed; for many of us the chaos around the holidays is more internal, we are navigating grief, pain, and sickness. Loneliness is weighty around the holidays, every loud reminder from society about “how Christmas should feel” is like twisting a knife into that painful loneliness just a bit more.

So how, how in the midst of external and internal chaos, can we receive into our own lives the coming of the Prince of Peace? How can peace in the midst of chaos be possible?

What is this Peace?

First, what is God’s definition of peace? The word that is used in the Old Testament for peace is “Shalom” and it means so much more than the absence of conflict or presence of comfort.

“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.” -Cornelius Plantinga

The ancient hebrew writing of Shalom opens up another dimension to this peace. In Hebrew, each letter used describes something and the letters which made Shalom mean “to destroy the authority attached to chaos”.

A Peace which starts in our relationship with God

First and foremost, Jesus came so that we could have a right relationship with God.

God chose to come as a refugee in a broken place, live with us in a broken world, chose to allow violence to come to his body, bleed out and die to bring us life.

God initiated this through Jesus because he wants a restored and peaceful relationship with us - with you.

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14

We have lots of Christmas cards and little ornaments that read “Peace on Earth” don’t we? But there is no peace on earth until people start living for God and his glory.

See, the root problem behind the lack of peace is that our lives were created to revolve around God. God is the centre. We human beings were designed, we were engineered to be like planets that revolve around the sun. Instead each of us tends to live our lives like we are at the centre.

To experience the peace that Jesus brings - He must become the centre. Glory to God. Then peace on earth.

“For he himself is our peace” Ephesians 2:14

Jesus is our peace. We cannot experience shalom in our own lives and we cannot produce shalom in the lives of those around us. We can produce friendliness, agreements, settlements but we cannot produce shalom. We can’t produce a sense that things are the way they ought to be without God.

This truth begs the questions:

Where is your life aligned at the moment? What are your most dominating thoughts the past few days? Are they thoughts that acknowledge Jesus at the centre?

Or are they thoughts that center around our expectations being met or unmet, about how we will get our needs fulfilled?

When we re-align with God at the centre, everything else gets re-aligned and we begin to experience the wholeness of shalom in our life.

A Peace which continues throughout our self

As we are re-aligned in our relationship with God, this shalom continues throughout our relationship with our own selves.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

Fear is not from God and fear never helps us. God does not want us to live our lives from a place of fear. But the reality is that we live in a fear-focused and fearful place.

As a people of peace living in a fearful place, how do we reject fear and receive peace?

It’s this alignment with God at the centre that is key.

What would it be like to take every fear-filled thought captive and make it obedient to Christ? To take every thought that is anxiety ridden and send it through the filter of shalom, the destruction of that chaos. What would your life look like if you could approach situations not from a place of striving but from a place of trusting that the prince of peace is with you?

A Peace which spills out onto others

And when we can receive the shalom Jesus brings to our own lives, it spills out onto people around us. You know those people who just walk into the room and the whole atmosphere of the room shifts? When Jesus stepped into a room the atmosphere shifted. It wasn’t necessarily the words he said, it was who he was. Jesus was so full of this peace, that the universe adapts to his words and presence, peace pours out of him.

This is the impact that shalom can have in our environments - as we are filled with this peace, as we enter a room from a place of peace then our words and our actions have more impact.

Jesus is our peace. Our circumstances and our situations do not get to control our experience of shalom - Jesus brings shalom just by being with us, and as we trust him to be our source for peace and fight for that truth in every aspect of our life, atmospheres shift and we live out of a place of peace rather than of fear.


Further Reflections for this Second Sunday of Advent

Let’s take a few minutes to use scripture, questions and silence to reflect and listen to what God may have for us today.

This guide will help allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us about the areas of our lives, (inner and outer lives) that need His peace. Start by reading this small passage and then read the question below using them to help you to talk to Jesus reflecting in the light of the passage…

PRAY - Centering yourself on the presence of the Holy Spirit already with you where you are.

READ -

Isaiah 6:9

For to us a child is born,

to us a son is given,

and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

REFLECT -

As you prepare yourself to receive the gift of Christ Jesus on Christmas, what stresses… What anxieties… What situations and relationships cry out in need for this prince of peace? Take a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to point out those areas that could use his peace… (wait a few moments, allow HS to speak to them)

PRAY - Use this written prayer below if you would like, or your own words in conversation with God

Everlasting Father I recognize that we need you, and I need your peace for myself and those around me. I lift up these things that have come to mind, as prayers, and I ask that you would give me peace.

READ -

Ephesians 2:13-18

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

REFLECT -

It is Jesus, Jesus coming to earth and sacrificing himself, raising to new life, by those actions it is him that brings us peace. Peace with God, with others, and even peace within ourselves. Take a few minutes of silence to reflect on this truth about Christmas. Listen for what the Holy Spirit may be saying to you about this.

PRAY - (Use this written prayer below if you would like, or your own words in conversation with God)

Father God I thank you for wanting peace and relationship between you and I. I thank you that you came in Jesus and made a way for that peace and relationship to happen. You showed your very character in the humbleness of a baby, born in a stable. And your deep love by your sacrifice. Lord I pray that I could receive your peace today.

Christmas At Birmingham Vineyard

We're looking forward to celebrating Christmas together as a church, here's everything we've got going on across the season!

Reverse Advent Calendar

Over the Christmas period many of us will be using our Foodbank Reverse Advent Calendars. They have an item to buy and an action to do on each day and if you buy each item by the end of the calendar you'll have filled 3 Foodbank bags! Pick one up from the info point on a Sunday or download a PDF version of it here

 

Sunday 3rd December

Normal Sunday services with an advent theme
10:30 & 17:30 (City Centre)
11:00 (South)
 

Sunday 10th December

Normal Sunday services with an advent theme
10:30 & 17:30 (City Centre)
11:00 (South)
 

Sunday 17th December

10:30 - Relaxed Carol Service (City Centre Site)
11:00 - Christmas Carol Service (South Site)
17:30 - Christmas Carol Service (City Centre Site)
All 3 services will have kids Christmas parties for our under 11's age groups!
 

Monday 25th December

Family Christmas Day Service
10:30 - City Centre Site
 

Sunday 31st December

Services to celebrate the New Year
10:30 & 17:30 (City Centre Site)
11:00 (South Site)

Saying Goodbye to Matthew

 
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After five years of excellent service Matthew, our Finance Administrator, will be leaving us at Christmas to continue his career elsewhere. We wish him well, and thank him for all he has brought to Birmingham Vineyard. His departure offers us the opportunity to look at how we manage our finances. We would love to hear from you if you have book keeping or accounting skills/qualifications, and may be interested in working as part of our team. Please contact Steve Philpott (steve@birminghamvineyard.com // 07747638767) by Friday 8th December.

Food for thought #5

Bill Dixon is one of our older members who has been around the block a few times. He has seen God move in extraordinary ways and wrote a poem about it. Here's a video of him performing it and telling us his top stories of how he has seen God move. He also gives his tips for people just starting on the adventure Jesus is calling us into. 

Lectio Divina

This week we'd like to challenge you to read the psalm Tom and Jeff preached on last Sunday using the 'Lectio Divina' Method. If you missed the last post about Lectio Divina, go here to read the post or go here to remind yourself how to do it.

Food for thought #4

Forgiveness is a peculiar thing. And quite hard to receive or to give. We've asked Eleanor Masters to write a blog on how and why to forgive yourself. But first a song by Sons of Korah based on Psalm 19 which is about the perfect law of God.

Eleanor Masters - How to forgive yourself

I am writing on this subject not to provide a thorough and absolute doctrine, but rather in the hope of instigating or feeding your own meditations. We are all on a journey and walking this together as the family God has provided for us can get us so much further than going it alone.

Permission to Forgive

I work as a mental health nurse with adolescents aged 12-17, and one of the most prevalent reasons for young people coming to our ward is trauma which has effectively in one way or another trapped them in a horrific moment in time and rendered them unable to move beyond this. Unforgiveness can do the same thing: if someone else has harmed us, the wrong they have done can repeat in our minds; if we ourselves have done wrong, the horror we feel at our own actions can almost seem to hold us hostage and feel just as real as the present moment in which we live.

In Psalm 51 David says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit” in place of burnt offerings – in other words, God accepts David’s remorse as an atoning sacrifice. Remorse itself is not the end point here, and we are not called to remain in a place of perpetual torture over wrongs we have done – this is when remorse morphs into guilt and, as it says in Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are free from guilt and “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9).

God’s grace is always there for you and immediately available for those who ask for it. Sometimes the hardest battle is seeing that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ our Lord,” (Romans 6:23) and accepting this: he has already paid the price of our sin for us, but if we cannot forgive ourselves we cannot take the gift he freely offers us. Give yourself permission to take this gift – whatever it is you have done, God’s grace is big enough to swallow it up whole and blot it out forever; letting this be true for you is such a vital part of forgiving yourself.

 

Making Amends

Sometimes it is the conviction that we have not done all that we can to put things right which holds us back from being able to truly forgive ourselves for something. That is not to say that God’s forgiveness waits for action to be carried out or relies on what we do to be released to us, but Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” and in Matthew 5 verse 24 we are told to drop everything on the way to coming before God and make up with those we have fallen out with before coming back to worship him.

Ultimately, although we will not have to pay an eternal price for what we do wrong, we have God-given love for one another in our hearts and deep down it is very hard to tolerate hurting someone else in some way without ever apologising or taking obvious practical measures to put things right if we can.

If what you need to forgive yourself for is something you have ‘done’ to someone else, and you continue to feel ill at ease with yourself over it despite praying, meditating on and absorbing the fact of God’s infinite grace, it may be that you need to ask him what you need to do to demonstrate to that person that you are sorry. Forgiving ourselves cannot rely on whether or not they choose to forgive us, but I’ve found it’s sometimes not possible to let myself off the hook until I’ve let God show me if there is anything of this sort that I can do, and then carried this out.

 

What If There’s Nothing I Can Do?

When my little sister Alice was alive, there were times when I had a very difficult relationship with her – it is impossible to explain this in just a few sentences, but troubles in our childhood and her on-going battles with various mental illnesses caused a great deal of our interactions to be seen through a lens of suffering. I didn’t learn about her final hospital admission until she had already been a patient for 3-4 weeks because she had asked my parents not to tell me, saying that she blamed me for her needing to be there. I was devastated and crushed when I found this out, but I was also extremely angry at the injustice of it: I had not hurt her and could not cause her to become so unwell, but it felt like my parents were endorsing this belief. This and the fact that I was in another city looking after a newborn and a toddler while recovering from a caesarean meant that I very much delayed trying to arrange visiting her in hospital.

It took several weeks before I felt I could even phone her: I didn’t want to bring up what I had been told and make her feel worse, but it was hard to think of speaking about anything else. We did have a handful of conversations over time, and the last time I spoke with her I told her that I would visit the following Saturday. I had been hoping that when we saw each other she might see my love for her and that we could be fully reconciled. Unfortunately Alice died in the early hours of that Tuesday and I was unable ever to see her alive again. I had had no idea that the time we had was running out so rapidly, and therefore did not know how much I needed to ensure we had truly cleared the air. In all honesty, I was still angry with her at the time when she passed away.

I am sharing this because it is the clearest example I can think of in which there is nothing I can now do to put it right. In this case, I didn’t cause the hurt in the first place, but nor did I pursue reconciliation while I had the chance and now, two years on, this still fills me with sorrow.  

Over the last two years, I have gone from trying to ignore thoughts and feelings about this (because the loss of Alice alone was more than I could bear) to being forced to face this and bring it before God many times. Finally I have arrived at a place of peace – not without sadness, but the anger and the feeling that I need to be punished are no longer with me.

If you are grappling with a complicated situation where there is no clear solution or no way you can do anything to change things, do not despair. Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33.) There is nothing, nothing he cannot heal. Do not be discouraged if there are some things you cannot instantly forgive yourself for: keep bringing them before God, keep standing in his presence and letting his love wash over you and keep coming back to the Bible. I would really recommend the book of Romans and 1 John as full of fantastically freeing truths about God’s forgiveness and a life lived in the light of this. Reading these, soaking up the truth and coming back to worship God again and again will help you forgive yourself for what he, our God, has already forgiven you.

 

Final thoughts

There are so many things I haven’t even tried to cover here, and so much more that could be said on what I have touched upon, but I do hope I have given you some food for thought.

I also want to briefly acknowledge that there may be some specific but serious cases in which seeking professional help may be of use. For example, if you have been through something very traumatic but lost someone else to this and feel you may have “Survivor’s Guilt,” getting someone to talk to might be a good idea. I do not say this to downplay God’s grace and capacity to heal, but rather because you may be experiencing things which most people have little understanding of and this can be more damaging than helpful at times.

I truly believe and have found in every circumstance I’ve lived through that our Heavenly Father will walk with us through anything and can bring healing to our hearts no matter what we have done.

Food for thought #3

Lectio Divina

This week we'd like to challenge you to read the psalm Jess and Steve preached on last Sunday using the 'Lectio Divina' Method.

What is Lectio Divina?

Lectio Divina is a Benedictine practice of reading the bible prayerfully. The intention is not to study a specific Bible passage but to meet God by reading scripture. By reading the same passage a few times, each time with a different focus, we encounter God whispering to us, pointing out things in our life He'd like to change, encouraging us and drawing us near to His Father's heart.

Again, the intention is not to understand what the passage says, it's to hear God's voice speaking to us personally, so take your time in each step.

How to do Lectio Divina?

There are a couple of ways of doing this but the simplest  way is to read the same passage 3 times.

  1. The first time you just look at the text. What is happening? Who is speaking? Are there phrases or words that pop out? We're not looking to work out why, just be aware of what captures your attention.
  2. The second time you read the text while praying "God, what are you saying to me today?". So now we ask the question why specific phrases or words stand out.
  3. The third time we ask what God is inviting us into. Are there opportunities God is highlighting for you to step in? 

We would recommend this resource when you want to read Psalm 68 with Lectio Divina.

Thomas's Thoughts on Psalm 68

When I started reading this psalm with the intention of doing the three steps of Lectio Divina, I initially thought it was quite a long psalm with many movements and different themes. The first time through, I had to read a couple of verses multiple times to understand what was going on. To be honest, in the first reading not a lot jumped out to me. For clarification, I used the ESV when reading the Psalm. There was one word in verse 9 that jumped out to me as I was reading - 'inheritance'. I couldn't see a reason why it jumped out to me so I almost didn't pay attention to it but I underlined it anyway. 

I prayed "God, what are you saying to me today?" and read the psalm a second time. This time a couple of things jumped out. Especially the movement we see in verse 24 where it speaks about a procession into the sanctuary. I saw a picture of Jesus on a horse entering the city with his warriors celebrating a victory. I felt an intense joy with this. I was standing in the crowd cheering.
On top of that, the line in verse 10 stood out to me that says: "From your bounty, God, You provided for the poor". This reminded me that, although the psalm talks about how God defeats His enemies, He doesn't want to have enemies and would rather save people, but there's no room for people intentionally going against Him.

The third time I asked what God was inviting me into. As I started reading, the first words of the psalm instantly hit me: "May God arise". Now the next thoughts are hard to explain so bear with me. Verse 16 jumped out as well and it was as if the mountain in the verse was an image for my heart. God invited me to not be in the crowd cheering during the procession, but one of the warriors. In order to become that, I need to have an undivided heart. Some things in me are enemies of God and there's just no room for that. So He invites me to let those things go and let Him be the ruler in my heart. 

I shared these to give you an idea of how Lectio Divina can work, of course you will probably pull different things from psalm 68 in conversation with God!

What is God inviting you into?

Food for thought #2

Last Sunday we kicked off our new sermon series - Psalms that tell a story. We started with a Psalm written during David's life when he was being persecuted by Saul. David wrote a lot of songs while under adversity. We've asked Tony Bunker to write us a blog on how to reverse adversity, but first hear how Rend Collective puts their feelings into a song:

When it's just not OK - By Tony Bunker

Hi, my name is Tony and I am married to the lovely Maddy. We have three grown up boys who come home from time to time to eat all our food. I am writing this because I have a fair bit of experience of living when its not OK. I am disabled with a form of restricted growth which limits what I can do and causes quite a bit of pain. I also have some longstanding promises from God which have not yet been fulfilled…

We know our God is amazing. We know He regularly does frankly astonishing stuff like fixing bodies so they work properly, or fixing finances so that there is money when before there was just a horrible gap. He fixes relationships so that there is peace instead of tension. He fixes emotional hurt, career mess, addictions - the list goes on and on. Most of all, we know our God is amazing because He brings us salvation, wholeness and spiritual life. He brings hope, joy and a fantastic future. We know these things are true because scripture says so and because we have seen them
to be true in our lives and the lives of others we care about.

So what happens when they aren't? Or at least they aren't so far? What happens when all we are left with is unfulfilled promises and emotional rawness? When we just can't bridge the vast chasm between what we believe and know to be true, and the daily rubbish in front of our eyes? And what about when it isn't just a quick crisis but a grinding struggle, rolling on unchanging for months and years, stretching our hope very thin? What happens when we have to say ‘I’m fine thanks’ when people ask us how we are, because if we told them the truth we’d start crying and not be able to stop?

How do we respond when we find ourselves facing this - and many, if not most, of us will at some stage in our lives? David, Paul and countless others rolling down from the pages of scripture to the present day, have dealt with the most horrendous adversity and not been broken but actually seem to grow stronger in the midst of it. So what’s the secret? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Be honest with God, if it hurts say so! Don’t pretend it's all OK when it's really not, God is big enough to deal with our anguish, frustration and questions, even our anger. But stay away from self pity and despair - that’s enemy territory.
  • In your honesty, remember who God has shown Himself to be to you. Remember specific instances where He has shown you His grace, love and power. But most importantly remember who He is. David was sustained through some very difficult times by his deep inner certainty that God is good and full of love. Pray that God will show you more of who He is to help you in the same way.
  • We are built to live in friendship with others. Find people you trust who you can tell how much it hurts and who can support you, pray for you, love you, and yes challenge you when you need it.
  • Keep an eternal perspective. Your life belongs to God and ultimately what matters more than anything is becoming more like Jesus and building his Kingdom. It's hard, but hold things lightly here and now, and keep your eyes on the prize!

Remember, no matter how it seems it's going, it's still only halftime!

Food For Thought #1

This weekend we'll be starting our new sermon series on the Psalms. These 'Food for Thought' blogs will be released every week to help us get a bit deeper into each theme. 

As an introduction we'd like to explain a little bit about how the bible tells us the same stories from different perspectives. 

But first, we thought you might enjoy this rendition of Psalm 77 by Sons of Korah:

The bible from different perspectives

Often when we are reading the Bible, we zoom in on one passage or book. It’s important to note that a lot of it fits together and the Bible gives different accounts of the same time period. We have 4 gospels that tell the story of Jesus in a different light, each with their own focus and style. Also in the Old Testament we’ve got different sets of literature that speak about the same events.

Traditionally, we divide the type of books in the Old Testament as follows; the Pentateuch (or the first five books of Moses); historical books; wisdom books and the Major and Minor prophets. 

Pentateuch

The first five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) have in themselves different ways of telling the story. There are big chunks of historical report mixed with a lot of poetry. There’s also direct instruction of how to live life, as it tells us how God gave His people the law and what the law was.

Historical books

The Historical books are Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. We see some songs and even prophecies but they are primarily a historical account of events concerning Israel as God’s people.

Wisdom books

Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs are books of wisdom. They don’t tell us an account of events. Most of these books are written in a poetic style and have a lot imagery in them.

Though these book are not historical books, it’s worth noting that there’s usually a story behind the poetry or a reason why they were written. We can often find the context of these books in passages of the Historical Books. For instance, Psalm 51 was written after David committed adultery with Bathsheba, which we can read in 2 Samuel 11.

Sometimes there’s a prophetic layer to these books as well. For instance, Psalm 22 was written by David, singing about his sorrows, but we can also see Jesus in this Psalm and how he was rejected.

Major and Minor prophets

The prophetic books are also not historical. The prophets received a word from God for different sets of people and we get an outsiders look into these words. These prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.

Again these are written in a certain time period and for a specific reason. They have elements that are historical to explain why they received these words from God.

So how do they hang together?

If not all books are primarily historical, and they are not ordered in the bible chronologically, how do we know what goes with what? A psalm is written for a specific occasion, but can we get more insight into the psalm if we can figure out when it’s written?

If we look at the graph below we see that Job is one of the oldest books. We also see that Isaiah and Micah were contemporaries. We can see that Chronicles and Kings are talking about the same time period. They’re both historical books, what’s the difference between them? Do they have a different focus and why might that be?

It’s important to know when we read Isaiah that he wrote his stuff before the exile and that Malachi wrote after the exile while Israel was still under the rule of other nations.

It’s very difficult to date the books of the Bible exactly. Although graphs like these are helpful, we should only use them to get an idea of how books relate to each other time wise.

It’s very difficult to date the books of the Bible exactly. Although graphs like these are helpful, we should only use them to get an idea of how books relate to each other time wise.

Conclusion

When looking at a certain story, it might be worth checking if there was another Biblical writer writing in the same period or about the same events. This way we can get a clearer picture of what has happened historically and with what intention the writers wrote.

Summer Sunday Services

Summer is Here!

During the summer we love to make a more relaxed space for people, so whilst we are having services at our usual times (10:30am, 11am, 5:30pm) we will be doing something a little special each week. Take a look below for more details:

July 30th - Cafe Church
Come along for relaxed, cafe-style services at all sites. 

August 6th - Board Games
The morning services will happen as normal. After the evening-service however you can stick around to play board games. Bring your games!

August 13th - Ice Cream
When it's a hot summers day you need some cooling down. That's why we're serving ice-cream after every service.

August 20th - Strawberries and cream
We like to treat everyone with strawberries and cream after every service. Enjoy, it's on us!

August 27th - Community Sunday
We will have no morning services but we'd like to invite everyone to a picnic at the south site.
Join us in the evening for a worship night at City Centre Site.
The picnic is from 11am until 2pm.
The worship night is from 5.30pm until 7.30pm.

September 3rd - Board games
The morning services will happen as normal. After the evening-service however you can stick around to play board games. Bring your games!

St. Patrick's Day Road Closures

Some of you may have seen that some parts of Digbeth are being closed this Sunday for the St. Patrick's Day Parade. The route is outlined in red below. It shouldn't have an impact on our normal church services, though traffic may be a little heavier than usual. Please bare this in mind when considering travel time.

Lent: Some Resources to Get You Started

And so lent begins!

Lent is a season of fasting (giving stuff up) & repentance (recognising what we've done wrong), leading up to Easter,  as we celebrate what Jesus has done for us.

It's an encouragement to turn back to God once again, with renewed passion. We devote ourselves through prayer, fasting and giving.

If you'd like to join in this season, we thought we'd put together a few helpful resources to get you started!


Giving:

There are so many great opportunities and causes to give to, it's sometimes hard to know where to start. Here are the things that we're doing - it'd be great if you'd like to join us, and together we can bless people this Easter.

For the past few years, we have collected chocolate Easter eggs, donated by our church family. We've been able to pass these on to our agencies we partner with, and they have in turn distributed them to their clients. Last year, 196 eggs were donated. We'd love to see if we could donate over 200 this year! It's a really great way to bless families in need at this time of year.

As well as our Easter collection, our regular Foodbank operates all year round, supported only by donations of the church. We're always in need of more donations, so please GRAB a bag from the back of church, FILL a bag with everything on the list and GIVE a bag this Easter. Alternatively, visit our Foodbank section to find the shopping lists, and bring in a carrier bag of all the items.


Devotionals:


24/7 Prayer have created 7 great videos about how Easter can have an impact in your life:
https://www.24-7prayer.com/podcasts/category/loveeaster

 

 


NT Wright has written a series of devotionals, one for each day, over 53 days. Each day, there is a Bible reading, and a thought from NT Wright about how it relates to Easter. It's really great!
https://www.bible.com/en-GB/reading-plans/83-lent-for-everyone

 


Ann Voskamp has also created some great resources for Easter, with a really fresh take on grace & reminding ourselves to keep Jesus at the heart of everything:
http://annvoskamp.com/2017/03/because-sometimes-you-want-to-take-back-lent-a-broken-world-your-breaking-heart-a-free-40-day-lent-devotional-journey/


40 acts is a great missional resource with 40 days of generosity challenges to bless those around us. It's great for families and individuals alike. Check out more here: 
https://40acts.org.uk/

Giving Focus: This Way Up

Birmingham Vineyard is a registered charity which exists to bring life to individuals and communities across the city of Birmingham and beyond. We are funded entirely by donations and use these both to resource our own projects and to invest other organisations. Each month, we’ll be profiling one of the organisations we support, letting you know in more detail who they are, what they do and why we think what they’re doing is so important.

This Way Up is a charity which offers pastoral mentoring to young people in the West Midlands. They usually support children who are coping with loss, through bereavement or family breakdown, giving them someone to meet up with regularly and talk to about their experiences and feelings and helping them develop coping strategies.

14 year-old Tina came to mentoring sessions very anxious about the prospect of her mock exams occurring around the anniversary date of her dad’s death. She had never talked about her dad’s death before but was given the space to do this with her Mentor and to make a memory jar to commemorate him. At the end of her sessions she said that she felt much happier than at the start. She said ”I’m able to see the positives in life and can focus in lessons for the exams”
— This Way Up Website

If you’d like to find out more about This Way Up, or find out how to become a mentor, visit their website, www.twup.org.uk

Week of Prayer Stories

Last week was the first of three weeks of prayer (BVWOP) we'll have here at Birmingham Vineyard in 2017. Last week saw more people commit to an hour of prayer than we have ever had and we heard so many stories and testimonies of what God has been up to, as well as having a wonderful time in worship and prayer at the Presence.

Presence Jan 17.jpg

One of the values we have here at Birmingham Vineyard is encouraging people into the passions and gifting’s God has given them and releasing people into this. The weeks of prayer we have are no exception to this! Below is a story from Ruth Traynor who is now part of the team who put together the weeks of prayer, the resources and The Presence, alongside Liisa Wiseman and myself (Aaron). I've also  included some stories which came in from last week:


‘Sitting in a church in Vestmannaeyjar, an obscure volcanic island off the coast of Iceland, I decided to see if I could get stuck in with 'prayer stuff' at church.  I had been on the island for 2 weeks, with a 24-7 Prayer Team, spending a week in 24-7 prayer, followed by 5 days giving out free coffee and chatting with the thousands of Icelanders who had descended on the tiny island for the annual 'lively' Viking festival, þjóðhátíð (try pronouncing that one!).

I didn't want to get involved with BVWOP because I had suddenly become a prayer expert or finally 'cracked' praying, but it was because of the joy I had found in spending time with God and the creative possibilities found in prayer. I also loved looking outward to the community we were immersed in, letting the festival, the locals and everything we were surrounded by shape our prayers.

Although spending time on a tiny, obscure Icelandic island was an amazing experience, my experience of Viking culture wasn't the most profound 'takeaway' from my time. I became far more concerned with how we can recreate that level of outward looking and compassionate prayer in our everyday working-lives. That's why I love BVWOP so much - because the whole point is to challenge us to raise our prayer game in our everyday lives.

I have absolutely loved getting stuck in; being able to indulge my creative side, challenge my own prayer life and see others grow in their faith has been awesome. I would totally encourage anyone, if God has lit a spark in you for anything, to find an opportunity to get stuck in and play... see what God is going to do with you and your spark!’


So if God has put a ‘spark’ in you for something then say yes and see where God takes you. Here is a selection of stories from last week:

  • I came to the evening service with a painful back last night, after lifting some rubbish earlier in the day. Sitting or standing was really uncomfortable. Becky prayed for me during ministry time; it felt a little better, but was still sore. This morning it is completely better!

  • My cell prayed for me about an OFSTED advisory visit – as a result it was a more constructive and positive experience than I could have imagined!
  • I felt God prompt me to fast at various points this week – which I did. At the end of the week, although hungry, I felt as if God had met my need and I feel my relationship has deepened.
  • I have previously struggled with praying for an hour, but this week I have felt as if the resources (breaking an hour up) have helped me engage with God like never before.
  • Someone I met through work some time ago (and was able to chat to about God as she experienced Him in the midst of difficulty), has recently got in touch and invited me to her baptism!
  • On the Sunday before the week of prayer started, one of our young peoples toenails was completely split in two by an opponent's football studs during his football match. It was very painful and kept bleeding! On Monday night we commanded the nail to be completely healed in the name of Jesus. On Tuesday morning we heard a shout - "Praise God, He's healed my toe!" The toenail was as good as new and completely un-split. What's almost as good as God's healing is the faith and immediate thanksgiving of this 9 year-old!

Got a story/testimony? We would love to hear it! E-mail stories@birminghamvinyard.com

In the meantime, lets continue to press into God and see his Kingdom come!

Aaron 

Adventurous Faith

As a church we’re excited to be hosting a group of 11 young people from YWAM New York led by Kate James who grew up in Birmingham Vineyard. We asked Kate to give us some of her thoughts:

 

Hi All,

As we go into the latest teaching series, that looks at faith, I just wanted to encourage us all. For the last two years I have been serving on staff with YWAM in New York. This has been an incredible adventure, one that I never thought I was equipped for, but did because God has asked me to. During this time, I have had to rely on God for financial provision, this is never easy, but He is always faithful, and my relationship with Him is so much stronger because of it. During the last year, I have stood on the brink of depression, plagued by anxiety I had never experienced before, and having to make a conscious decision to get out of bed each morning and face what was ahead of me. While it’s been difficult, I have clung tighter to Jesus and He has become the first person I turn to in all situations.

As we go into this series, I want us all to know that we are called for a faith adventure with God, we are all world changers. Individually made to make an individual impact on the world. None of us are average, we have all been invited on the journey, and the journey starts with a yes! We don’t need to have it all together we don’t need to have a plan beforehand, God just wants our yes.

If God is calling you into something, know that He will be with you every step of the way. We see in Jeremiah, God didn’t just call him into his adventure, He promised to be there throughout.

Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
— Jeremiah 1:18-19

Empowering Leadership

This week we had the honour of hosting Tom and Beth Camacho, who oversee coaching training for Vineyard USA. In sessions on Friday night and Saturday morning, Tom presented an introduction to Empowering Leadership through the use of coaching tools for our leadership community. The sessions were full of helpful and insightful tools for us to use in the different leadership environments in which we find ourselves. 

In principle, God's desire is for us to multiply ourselves by equipping, empowering and releasing other leaders who can go on to empower others. This is part of the DNA of the Vineyard movement, where our founder John Wimber taught us that "everyone gets to play". He explained the process of releasing ministry to others as "I do it, you watch. We do it together. You do it, I watch. You do it alone." He modelled a 'coming alongside' leadership style which we can see in the lives of Barnabas and Saul in Acts 11:25-26. For a whole year Barnabas met with the church and taught great numbers of people, with Saul by his side. After this, Saul separated from Barnabas and himself began to teach as had been modelled to him. 

Coaching is the process of coming alongside someone to help them discover God's agenda for their life and ministry or to get clarity and confidence in addressing life’s challenges and then cooperating with the Holy Spirit to see that agenda become a reality. Coaching is not about telling people what to do, but is more about listening well and asking insightful questions. In cooperation with the Holy Spirit, coaching can help a person or team sort out where they are, identify obstacles, set goals for the future, discover where God wants them to go, and then help determine how to best get them there.

 

There are three important skills to learn when we think about how to coach somebody:

  1. Discovery listening involves developing the skills necessary to listen in such a way that we really understand what our coachee is saying. We might summarise what they are saying periodically without evaluating it, invite our coachee to say more and allow them to fully unpack their ideas before we give input and pay close attention to their body language, tone of voice and emotions. 

  2. Asking insightful questions is a key skill in coaching. Good questions are open-ended rather than closed-ended and create opportunity for deep reflection, helping the person think in a more helpful way about things.

  3. Cooperating with the Holy Spirit to find the intersection of the passion, wiring and gifting that God has put in the person we are coaching. We are mining for the gold of the nature and image of Christ in each person, drawing out the son or daughter God created them to be. 

The key to coaching is that the responsibility for growth and development remains with the person being coached. We don't take on their development, we just come alongside and partner with them and the Holy Spirit in their growth. 

 

If you are interested in reading more, the recommended textbook for this coaching method is 'Coaching 101' by Bob Logan. An excellent 12 page summary of the book can be found here

 

Alternatively come and chat to Rosie so we can look at developing some further skills in this area in the spring.