Preach // Healing // Spiritual Gifts // John 9

Preach from TRINITY Church 6.30 / 25th June 2017

based on John 9 and 1 Cor 12:9-10

INTRO //

Recommend books:

The essential guide to healing – Bill Johnson and Randy Clark

Those controversial gifts – George Mallone

There is More – Randy Clark

 

Well here we are in our series on the gifts of the spirit (in our life and church) and today we are looking specifically at healing and miracles. Our main focus is still the passage from 1 Cor 12, and particularly today vs 9-10

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to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers…

But I’ve also chosen the John 9 passage we just heard to take us a bit further than that.

My view point //

And I need to say I come at this from the view point that the spiritual gifts are for today and for now. I have seen them at work in my life and in the lives of others and I think we need to embrace them more, so I won’t apologise for being very enthusiastic about this subject!

However I will say that if you don’t agree with me or you have questions do come talk to me or to one of the leadership team, because we really want people to embrace this subject, but we also recognise it is a difficult one.

Facts //

So healing is our focus today.

Did you know that out of nearly 4000 verses in the 4 gospels, 727 relate specifically to the healing of physical and mental illness and the resurrection of the dead – that’s 1/5th of the gospels.

Healing was a big part of what Jesus did and how he taught people about the kingdom of God.

So then if that’s how he taught, shouldn’t it be the same for us as we share about the kingdom of God?

We had a phrase at my last church and it was ‘there is more’ (from the RC book)

Because I believe there is so much more to life following Jesus than we are seeing right now.

We are only seeing a tiny fraction of the kingdom of heaven and what that means for us here on earth now. We really need the gifts of the spirit to step into the fullness of what God has for us. I was taught in that environment that we should always be seeking the more. And I have carried that with me ever since.

 

 

John 9 / doubts etc

Now I imagine some of you are still unsure about this kind of stuff and perhaps not ready to totally embrace it yet or step into it for yourself. So I chose this passage from John 9 because there is so much in it – there is of course the healing miracle, but there is also doubt and questions, and there is even humour too:

You can see later on the man who was once blind is obviously getting a little bit exasperated with the questions from the Pharisees and he says:

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“I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

now that’s some banter right there. The pharisees are seriously important guys and our guy here is giving them some serious sass – it’s like a comedy routine almost!

But as well as humour there is also doubt and questions as well as the miracle of course.

All of which can help us relate to the idea of healing with our own questions.

Because questions are ok – I think we can grow in our faith by asking questions but let’s question intelligently – and let’s hold our doubts tension with the truth of who Jesus is, with what scripture says about him.

I want to show you a video clip now, this is of a man called Randy Clark who I believe has been given the spiritual gift of healing and has seen hundreds if not thousands of people healed. And here he is interviewing people who have been healed during one of his conferences:

 

>>>CLIP Randy Clark video 3 mins ish


Now, I’d be really interested to know what do you think when you see that? Anyone want to tell me – what is your immediate response to seeing that clip? Honestly.

Get responses… >>

perhaps you are inspired and in wonder at the power of God.

Or perhaps you find it really challenging. Did God really do that? Why? How? are they even telling the truth? Is this fake… it’s all pretty unbelievable right?

And that’s ok, it’s ok to have questions about stuff and especially when we don’t understand it or haven’t experienced it.

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You know, I literally was writing this preach sat in the Royal Alex hospital this week with my son who broke his arm – ironic right ?! I was writing this surrounded by sick kids who needed healing.

That was really hard, I was like should I be going round offer to pray for healing?!

And here’s the thing he had lots of prayer for healing and the bone did not get healed,

So about now I could be thinking, well I know God has the power to heal and he hasn’t and why hasn’t he? But if I focused on that I would be missing the answers to prayer that we did experience.

When we left the hospital on the day he broke it, we were told he’d need surgery and to come in on Monday for the op. So we began praying he wouldn’t need surgery. Monday morning after he’s already fasting – nil by mouth – we get a phone call to say they are not going to operate after all, they’ve taken another look and can he come in the next day to have it manipulated instead. Praise God!

Plus his pain levels which were through the roof even maxed out on paracetamol and ibuprofen dropped hugely, meaning he could go to school in between hospital visits to finish his end of year exams.

So I can take comfort in the fact that God has been with us all even if he didn’t heal Elliott as we would have liked! So I can hold the question of why didn’t he get healed this time alongside what I know to be true that God loves him and wants the best for him.

And I can’t say it enough, it’s key that we recognise that it’s ok to have those questions, so long as they don’t take over. So long as we hold them alongside the truth.

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Here, in our John 9 passage we see 2 different ways of dealing with questions.

Firstly you’ve got the Pharisees with all their rules and objections:

: But it’s the Sabbath

: He must be a sinner because he did this on the Sabbath

: But how can he be a sinner and have the power to heal?

And so on…

 

But they just end up tying themselves in knots with all their questions and seem to deny the truth which is right in front of them, that Jesus healed a man who was once blind.

And then you’ve got the man who was blind – our second example – he says it all when he says:

“Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

It’s as simple as that! He doesn’t care who or how or why, he just knows, he can see!!

But still the Pharisees question. In fact they end up where this passage started – the idea the disciples suggest in v1 when they say:

“You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!”

they just can’t get beyond their objections and questions to see the truth.

Let’s not get too bogged down in what we don’t understand, it will just cloud our vision…

 

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So what are the gifts for?

So, we believe that these gifts are for today, well what are they for? Or Why are they there, why should we take notice?

Well I’ve got 3 reasons here but you might have others…

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For the Common good

To bring Glory to God (Evangelism)

Jesus told us to

 

  1. For the Common good

 

In our 1 Corinthians passage v7 we see that the spiritual gifts are given for ‘the common good’

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v7:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

 

And that theme is picked up later on in the passage from verse 12-22 when it talks about us being one body with many parts

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12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ

 

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable

 

We are in this together people!

We all have a part to play.

Just imagine as our passage says, one part of the body says to another, I don’t need you.

What happens? The body doesn’t function completely as it should.

So say the hands don’t work, well that would make life very difficult but the body would still be alive right – my son has only one working arm at the moment and it’s a challenge! But he’s still living, going to school, etc but it means his body is not functioning to it’s full potential.

So take that metaphor to the church. What happens if we say, well we don’t need that bit of the church, we don’t need that part of worship, or that part of belief. What happens?

>>The church doesn’t function to it’s full potential.

 

So if we do away with part of what God has for us, we are missing out big time. If we say well the spiritual gifts are not for now, or God doesn’t heal today, or that’s not for me, then we are not achieving our full potential as Christians or as a church.

 

2 For the glory of God

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Paul says in Romans 15:

 

17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— 19 by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.

His service is all about bringing glory to God and look at how he notes that through these signs and wonders the HS is doing through him, he is leading gentiles – ie: non believers – to come to know the Lord

Do you know what happens when people get healed?

They are so full of joy and excitement they tell people about it. See our clip earlier – look how excited they were to tell about what had happened to them!

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In our John passage, verse 3 Jesus says of the blind man:

 

this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

When signs and wonders happen the glory is for God. And more than that – when God’s glory is displayed people want to know more.

There’s an example of this in Mark 5 when Jesus healed a demon possessed man. And afterwards it says:

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20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

The miraculous power of God at work, inspires people to give glory to God and to share about who he is…

 

3) Jesus told us to

Ok , one of my favourite scriptures really speaks into this – it is from Matthew 10:8 when Jesus sends out he 12: and he says:

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As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

So he says: preach this – the kingdom of heaven has come near. And then the action is to – heal the sick, raise the dead etc. The two are connected.

Now I love that passage because of the message but more… this is as much for us all now too, that we should both proclaim the kingdom and act accordingly – and if you’re not convinced let’s look at Mathew 28:19, The Great Commission – Jesus tells the disciples to:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Ok so they are to make new disciples – ie: preach the kingdom of heaven – and then teach those new disciples to do what they are doing. Yes, get that? Ok so what did he tell them to do back in Mat 10?

Yep you got it:

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.

So this is as much for us now as it was for them then! Make sense?

 

Hard stuff //

Now before I finish I do want to touch upon the difficult stuff –

God doesn’t always answer our prayers, for healing or otherwise, in the way that we would like.

And that can be really difficult, I am sure there are people here who haven’t received healing through prayer or have had a bad experience with people praying for healing for them. And it can be quite damaging actually. We need to recognise that and be super sensitive when we are teaching about and praying for healing.

People can come up with all sorts of reasons people aren’t healed – just like the Pharisees saying well he must be a sinner that’s why he’s blind.

I’ve heard for example:

  • well you haven’t got enough faith
  • there’s something blocking your belief.

 

Well you know Jesus himself said in Luke 7:

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

A mustard seed – do you know how big a mustard seed is? tiny! I am pretty sure we could all muster up a mustard seed’s worth of faith!

(no pun intended)

Or you get those over zealous pray-ers – you know the type – people rock you around, pushing you over, or getting shouty, trying to force healing to happen… I’ve experienced plenty of that and it’s just really distracting, in fact I find it decreases my faith because I am just thinking ‘will you stop shouting in my ear you are spitting on me…’!

And those kind of experiences can just leave people with even more questions or with their faith damaged as a result

We have to remember it is not us that are the ones doing the healing, our role in praying for healing or anything else in prayer ministry is to bring that person closer to God, to help them to meet with the Lord in their situation. It is the Holy Spirit that does the work not us. They should be able to walk away from prayer feeling they have drawn closer to God whether healed or not.

And for some of us in those kind of situations, when being prayed for, trying to hold onto the truth of God, alongside what we are seeing in front of us can be really really tough.

If that’s you I’d recommend the book of Job, I have found it really helpful – in it there is a whole discussion going on between Job to whom terrible things have happened, and his friends who are trying to justify and answer and come up with reasons why all this has happened.

And then God shows up. And asks ‘where you there when I laid the earth’s foundation? Or when I made the clouds? Have you given orders to the morning, or seen the gates of death, or comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? And this goes on for some time!

And the answer is No, so how can you possibly understand!?

Because at the end of the day He is God and we are not.

Now I know some people think that is a cop out, they want to explore and argue and come up with answers to everything and I know because as a Christian I’ve been accused of being foolish, thick, naiive, brainwashed.

They think faith without proof is mumbo jumbo, a crux for the weak. But I say the opposite, wow I mean how much strength and courage and boldness does it take to believe in Jesus? It’s rarely easy!

The thing is he is God, He’s God! If we could fathom him out and answer all our questions then we’d have no need of him in the first place!

We have to get to a place where we can be comfortable with an element of mystery.

  

We don’t always know the answers, perhaps one day when we are up there we will, perhaps we won’t but for now :

What we don’t understand we hold alongside the truth.

So let’s finish with some truths…

Healing and the spiritual gifts are for now as much as in Jesus time.

They are for the common good

They glorify God and point people to Jesus

: Jesus IS the Son of God, he loves us and want to know us more and for us to know him more.

: He will be with us in any circumstance, no matter what we’ve done, no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in.

We are a church that wants to see lives transformed by the love of Christ.

The more we know Jesus in all his fullness, we more we get transformed, the more we see others lives transformed.

Randy Clark said this:

 

“God is not looking for the well financed, the well educated nor even the well experienced in “ministry.” He is simply looking for those who are willing to yield their hearts and lives to all He wants to do working through them. He is looking for those who are willing to believe for more, because there is more!”  p.26 RC There is More

 

so my question today is – Do you want to see the more?

 

Lead into prayer…

 

Preach / / Service of Remembrance / / 4th Dec 2016

Talk from our annual ‘Service of Remembrance’, for those who have lost loved ones, at TRINITY Southover, 4th Dec, based on Psalm 46:1-7

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I expect many of you have read or seen the movie of ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’, by CS Lewis?

In it, Narnia is in permanent winter, with no sign of Christmas or Spring. The cold is ever present, snow all around, lakes frozen, and with it much joy has been sucked from their world.

I sometimes wonder if winter isn’t a good analogy for pain and grief…

I mean I wonder if you have noticed the trees lately? it was just a few weeks ago I wrote a talk whilst gazing out my window and admiring the glorious autumn colours on the large Sycamore tree outside. Now it stands rather stark and bare with all that wonderful colour blown away.

Winter can be very stark. The trees are bare, looking like a shell of what they can be.

The air is often cold and crisp – on really cold mornings even breathing in can make us wince. The nights are longer, our afternoons fading into early darkness and we tend to find ourselves more often at home, wrapped up, shut in away from the cold.

 

There is something in the pain of losing a loved one that I think provokes those sort of feelings and reactions in us. We are stripped bare, we are not what we once were. Things can change so dramatically in such a short space of time. There may be mornings when we wake and find that drawing breath is such an effort.

We may want to hibernate, to shut ourselves away, as if we can hide from the awful reality that has hit us.

 

…o0O0o…

 

Grief brings with it such great uncertainty. The world as we knew it, will never be quite the same and how can we face the world with our new darker view of it?

At times like these finding some truth that we can hold on to, can be really helpful, a foundation for us to stand on when we need.

Perhaps that might be in a particular memory of our loved ones that we can cherish – nothing can take that away.

Or in something we do regularly just to have a moment of control, of certainty.

And for many of us, we find certainty by looking to the truth of God.

The Psalm we heard, Psalm 46, starts with these words:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

3 truths for us to hold on to:

 

God is a refuge.

God is a strength.

God is an ever-present help. Words of comfort and certainty and – because of those – our Psalm goes on:

 

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging

 

We may well feel that the earth is giving way under the weight of our grief.

We may feel surrounded by the swirling of roaring waters as our emotions rage out of control. BUT there is still that point of truth around which we can turn and perhaps sometimes it is all we can do to cling on to it.

 

…o0O0o…

 

Do you need that refuge – somewhere to hide?

 

Let him be that refuge.

Seek solace in him.

Psalm 91 is another that talks of God as our refuge, and verse 4 says:

 

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge…

 

What a wonderful picture – like a mother bird, drawing her young to her, protecting them, bringing them to the warmth of her own body, shielding them in their vulnerability from the outside world.

Perhaps that is where you need to be right now – just being, just being protected, being shielded form the world outside. Perhaps it is helpful to imagine yourself in that picture, under his wings…?

God is our refuge…

…o0O0o…

 

God is our strength too…

Or do you find yourself lacking strength to get though each day?

Pain, suffering, sorrow and loss are exhausting. Even the simplest of tasks can seem like mountains to be climbed.

Philippians 4:13 tells us

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

We need his help…

In our times of pain and weakness, God can be our strength. He longs to help us. In the Old Testament we can read of Moses, where he is facing a battle and at one point Joshua and Aaron come and hold up his arms when his strength is failing. All the while they are holding up his arms, they are winning the battle. And God can hold your arms up too.

I imagine for some of you, just coming here today might have been a huge step. If you are facing something that seems too huge, that you just don’t have the strength for, ask God for his strength – ask him to hold your arms up for you.

 

Jesus can be your strength.

 

 

…o0O0o…

And our third truth – Do you find yourself searching for that ever present God?

 

God is ever present? Sometimes that might seem laughable.

We may find ourselves questioning… wondering… not understanding

‘How could he let this happen?’

‘Why Lord?’

‘I don’t understand God…?’

And there may be no answers to those questions, there may never be, but he is always present – within what we are facing and what we are living with, of that we can be sure.

In Narnia, in the perpetual winter, there were rumours of Aslan’s return – Aslan, the lion, the king, who promised a hope for the future. ‘Aslan is on the move’ people would say. Fleeting glances were seen, snatched conversations were had amongst those who dared to hope even when they couldn’t be sure, when they couldn’t see him.

 

This is from the book after Aslan is mentioned…

And now a very curious thing happened… the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different…. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music has just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.

Just as the children experienced in the story, they didn’t see Aslan nor could they be sure that he would return, and sometimes God is like that for us. Sometimes we can feel that we just don’t know where God is, we are in that roaring water the Psalm talked of, or a stark swirling snowstorm, stuck in that perpetual winter with no Spring in sight. But perhaps, just perhaps we might see a fleeting glimpse, we might sense him with us, we might just feel a glimmer of Hope, or recognise a truth we can cling to within that.

Perhaps in a passing sense of him truly being our refuge, a feeing of safety. Or maybe an unfathomable strength in a moment we thought we couldn’t face.

 

Psalm 56:8 notes:

 

You keep track of all my sorrows

You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book.

 

I know for myself, there is nothing God is afraid of, nothing he can’t face with us. He has been with me through illness, through pain and suffering, through dark times and sometimes his presence, fleeting as it might have been, has been the one thing that gave me the strength to keep going.

He is there in our joy and celebration, and he is there in our grief too. He knows our pain and walks with us in it.

God is an ever-present help in trouble

And my prayer is that you will recognize his presence with you as you walk through your own journey.

 

Book Review // ‘Cross the Line’

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‘Cross the Line’ by Ollie Baines and Liam Flint

Another fab book from SPCK and this is the first one I requested to review as I knew it was the perfect book for my son. So this time the review is from him… 

 

 

What is the book about?

Professional footballers talking about their faith

 

Did any of them stand out to you?

Kaka! Kaka was the best player in the world. In 2007 he won the Balon d’Or which is the award for best player in the world.

In the Champions League Final with Liverpool, when he scored he revealed a top underneath his kit which said ‘I belong to Jesus’. That’s pretty cool. It’s bold because not many people would that do and he’s really putting his faith out there, at such a big event. I wonder if anyone saw that and thought I am going to find out about Jesus?

 

Would you recommend the book?

Yes! It’s easy to read – I read it pretty quickly and isn’t too long. I think it’s really encouraging knowing that people from my favourite sport have the same beliefs as me, so it would be especially for people who like football and are Christians.

It’s also good for people who aren’t Christians too, there’s lots about football in it and some really interesting questions.

 

elz2Bio // Elliott

I am 13 and into many sports, including football! I also love music. I am an avid Brighton & Hove fan and also a Christian. I feel like Jesus supports me when I am playing sport.

 

The book is available now from SPCK here priced £9.99

 

 

Biblical interpretation and the US Election

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Picture via Wylio: Vince Alongi https://www.flickr.com/people/vincealongi/

Look, here’s the thing, I don’t like Donald Trump. Sorry Lord, but it’s true, you’ve made some much nicer, more decent human beings, but hey what do I know? So I’m sorry for that but I don’t apologise for this piece of writing.

There has been sooooo much written about the US election, so I’ve avoided writing about it, the world doesn’t need another diatribe against Clinton or Trump. But the thing that has got me going now is the Christian ‘excuses’ all over social media, from single comments to lengthy essays citing ‘biblical principles’ as to why Trump is the right choice.

At the end of the day if we want to, we can pick and choose any bible passage we like to confirm our own thoughts and feelings. We can make it fit our own ideology, or political beliefs. And we all do it, even when we know better, maybe in choosing a scripture to send to a friend for help or support when they need it; or perhaps in writing a sermon and needing something to make our point. And, well we could say, ‘is there anything wrong with that?’ After all scripture is, according to 2 Tinothy:

… God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16-17

it’s also

alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’. Hebrews 4:12

And if we believe in the bible as God’s word, if we believe it is powerful and relevant for today, then we should read it, consult it, take it in, and be led by it, through God. But as we see in any given theological discussion we all do that differently. I for example, quite like Paul’s writings, I don’t think he was a misogynist, I see him actively working with women, and yet, others take some of his writings to say that women should not be in church leadership, or in authority over a man.

Someone might take the biblical command not to murder, for example, to apply more to unborn children and another person use it in relation to innocent casualties of war. I might take the command to love your neighbour to mean we should welcome refugees and those more needy than ourselves, whilst others might think more of their own literal neighbour, to home territories.

God did give us freewill. He gave us the ability to think for ourselves and that’s why we have different opinions and we can all make mistakes. We should all be aware of that, and acknowledge it, so if we use the bible as our guide in making decisions publicly, we have a responsibility to apply it fairly, prayerfully and in a Godly way to both sides of any equation – not just because it fits our preconceived ideas. So far most of what I have seen written by Christians, including someone I highly respect and look up to, has not done this. It has been one sided and picked biblical passages and principles to suit their own opinions.

It has been widely reported that the white evangelical vote was what got Trump (soon to be resident) into the White House. And I would say 90% of posts or pieces I have seen from this area, focus on one single issue – abortion and the saving of life.

So just for the record, did you know, there are no specific scriptures on abortion itself, only those on the sanctity of life. So if we choose abortion over any other issue of life, we ignore the roughly 17,000 Americans who are shot and killed each year (over 2000 of whom are children) in gun incidents; or the thousands who have been killed in conflicts around the world in the last year; or the 6 milion people who have been displaced in the Syrian conflict to cite just a few stats.

Do we really think that abortion alone is more important than matters of foreign policy or defence? Than immigration or asylum seekers? Abortion is just one issue that deals with human life – and for the record numbers of abortions in the US have actually been falling steadily since the 90s…

Bill Johnson said this:

‘But all of our rights stop when they violate the rights of another – in this case the unborn. I also found that one of the main biblical purposes of authority is to speak on behalf of those who have no voice. The unborn qualify. They wait silently for someone to stand up and speak.’

What like the rights to a life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness maybe? The US declaration of Independence says this:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…

 

Or wait, is that just for US citizens?

…oo0O0oo…

So, how about forgiveness – another biblical principle that has been written about. If we can forgive Donald Trump his dirty campaign, his continual slander of Clinton, his threats to throw her in prison and refute the result (how ironic), his derogatory remarks on women that were apparently made years ago and then apologised for, then we can also forgive Hilary Clinton her email error, which she too apologised for.

We are told to forgive as God’s forgives us, the only sin being unforgiveable is blaspheming the Holy Spirit (of which there is plenty of debate over what it means anyway.).

…oo0O0oo…

Or how about compassion then, another thing I’ve seen referred to in relation to the welfare state? It’s pretty easy to suggest that a welfare system can be a negative thing when you have a good job, a nice house and live in relative wealth. Here in the UK we’ve seen the results of austerity: the rise of those living in poverty, the necessity of foodbanks and in fact the ‘robbing of peoples self esteem’.

Another thing that has been talked about is the quality of leadership. So what does the bible say about that? Well, this from 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is pretty good I would suggest:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? …

 

Or this from Acts 6:3

Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.

Hmmm…

…oo0O0oo…

And well of course, at the end of the day God has given us a choice. Is Trump God’s chosen leader? There are of course several stories of God’s chosen leaders in the bible, there are passages that talk of choosing a leader too, this in Acts for example:

And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. Acts 1:24-26

But before we get all carried away and proclaim Trump as chosen by God, we forget that these passages do refer to choosing from amongst a group of Godly and upright believers, rather than voting for President. And as we know, many Americans found the choice between Trump or Hilary Clinton a really tough one.

…oo0O0oo…

So, we are where we are. Donald Trump will be US President, will be possibly the most powerful man in the world and, opinions divided, decisions made and votes cast, shall we just try and love each other rather than gloating or arguing? She says… perhaps I have just added to all that, though that was not my intention, but rather to encourage us all to think, to read our bibles and pray more, to be led by God and not by man or by popular opinion. So let me just leave you with this from 1 Timothy 2:1-2:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

 

Treasure Hunting Guidelines

You may or may not have heard of a type of evangelism called ‘Treasure Hunting’. Pioneered I believe by Kevin Dedmon at Bethel church it has become popular in the UK and I’ve been involved in taking out groups on a number of occasions. I’m now introducing it to my new church which is very exciting! Basically it means praying and asking God for some clues as to the people he wants you to reach out to in your town/venue/area. Then you go out looking for what God has shown you.

Here’s a couple of videos that give you a bit more of an idea what it’s about…

 

As part of what we are doing, I’ve produced some basic guidelines, which you can download here : treasure-huntingv2pdf and also includes a clue sheet, which might be helpful if you want to give it a go. Some of it is below also…

 

What is treasure hunting all about? 

We are going out, seeking out the treasure God highlights to us. It’s fun but it is fundamentally about revealing the love of Jesus to people and blessing them.

Treasure hunting is basically prophetic evangelism. Prophecy is a word or a message from God, that he wants to be shared. Simplistically: Old Testament prophets spoke to the people on behalf of God; New Testament prophets point to Jesus. Treasure hunting is both. Evangelism is about sharing the good news of who Jesus is. So in treasure hunting the two go hand in hand, we are messengers of God and revealers of Jesus.

Matthew 9:37-38

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

 

Mathew 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Many people are open to ‘the spiritual’ but not necessarily to Jesus or the church. Treasure hunting is a tool that can cut straight into people’s hearts, to reach them with a message they might otherwise be unwilling to hear.

What are we doing?

We are revealing Jesus to people, and his heart for them. We want to give positive messages of love, hope and truth that reach into people’s lives, where they are at.

 

1 Corinthians 14:3 (which is a message to the church largely but certainly appropriate here)

But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.

 

Shawn Bolz, a man with a huge prophetic gift, always talks about prophecy and love going together – the prophetic has to be all about love. We are not pointing out anyone’s faults, sharing anything judgmental, or giving a corrective word. We simply want to bless people and open their eyes to Jesus.

 Here’s a really encouraging story of someone’s experiences of treasure hunting:

” The first time we went out was crazy, it was a day of signs and wonders, gold dust appeared on us as we worshipped and prayed together, we went out for the treasure hunt and saw a lady healed of severe arthritis in her knees. When we saw her (one of our treasure maps had her exact description along with ailment and another map had her name) she could not walk up steps and had to be helped by her friend. Straight after we prayed for her she went bounding up the steps, we also saw her later in the day and she came running, yes running up to us, pointed her finger at us (yes, my initial thought was ‘oh what now’) and shouted, ‘My knees, my knees, I have no pain at all, for the first time in years”.

 

How do we do it?

In short: Pray, ask God for clues, then go out looking for the people he has highlighted! 

Take a risk but be careful with your words

Don’t be afraid to get it wrong and don’t worry if people aren’t interested! God loves our willingness and passion to serve him, not our 100% track record! Be confident in the Lord and step out, ask him for courage. Don’t rush!

 If you find someone who could be your treasure and matches some of your clues:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Explain what we are doing
  • Show them your clues
  • Ask if you can pray for them – is there anything specific?
  • Pray!
  • Tell them where they can find out more if they want to follow this up.

 

 

  • Introduce yourself

Simply say ‘Hi, my name is… tonight we are taking part in a treasure hunt and we think you might be our treasure.’

 

  • Explain what we are doing

We are Christians and tonight we feel that God wants to show people here in the town, how much he loves them by making them treasure in a treasure hunt! So we’ve prayed for clues as to who is his treasure today and now we are out looking for them…

 

  • Show them your clues

Show your sheet and point out why you think it is them. Tell them how precious they are, how much God loves them and wants to bless them. If you have something specific like a condition written down, mention that and asks if it fits with them.
Ask their name!

 

  • Ask if you can pray for them – is there anything specific?

You could offer to pray for any condition you have as a clue, you can ask them if they would like prayer for any area of their life or if they need healing at all. Be led by them.

 

  • Pray!

Ask if you can place a hand on their shoulder, or if for healing (and if appropriate) at the site of pain, if not, just hold a hand near them.

If you feel any specific words or message for them, explain that we believe we are sharing what God has for them, but we can make mistakes so if anything doesn’t fit with them, they should ignore it.

Do not offer anything judgmental, everything should be rooted in love. If you feel like God might be wanting to highlight a difficult area, you could lead to it gently, eg: is there anything you feel sad about? Is there anything you would like to share with us? Is there anything troubling you that we could pray for? etc You can write things down as you go, so if they then reveal something, you can show them that God has highlighted it

Keep it simple and short. eg:

Lord thank you for X, thank you that they are your treasure, that you love them so much, that they are so precious to you etc…

Share anything specific you feel God might be saying.

Bless them

Lord I ask that you would bless X today, fill them with the wonderful gifts of your kingdom,

With love, joy, peace, etc

Healing

Lay a hand on – ask first

Pray in Jesus authority/ in his name and use positive words like ‘be healed in the name of Jesus’, not begging prayers!

Ask how the pain is – scale of 1-10 etc. If appropriate offer to pray again, repeat.

End

Always finish by praying in the name of Jesus and Amen – then they know you have finished!
Wish them well, tell them where they can find out more, and hope they have a nice evening etc

 shutterstock_224435719

Want to find out more?

Two great books I would recommend are:

The Ultimate Treasure Hunt: A Guide to Supernatural Evangelism Through Supernatural Encounters by Kevin Dedmon, and

Translating God by Shawn Bolz

Also check out Kris Vallotton and Shawn Bolz, both who have an amazing prophetic gift and they both have podcasts and youtube channels.

 

Bikinis, braces and vanity

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definitely bad hair…

When I was 10 I loved wearing tracky bums, had bad hair, read comics and spent my evenings after school hanging out in our road, cycling up and down and playing ‘king can copper’ with the other kids in the road. Of course some of my mates were into the latest ‘dash’ tracksuits and body shop lip balms, but most of us were content to be 10 year olds. 

It’s 2016, and I’m way beyond tracksuits and have a dresser full of ‘products’ and make up awaiting me each morning. I am a strong, independent woman, sometimes too confident and often too gobby, but this summer I wrote this, thinking about a possible blog post:

As the weather has got warmer (and colder again) there has been sudden rush of tweets to get your ‘bikini body’ ready. Part of me feels a surge of panic as I’ve not been able to properly exercise for a year now since back surgery, at the thought that I shall be going on holiday with friends and will not be at my best in my fave red 2 piece. Another part of me wants to scream and swear at those tweets and statuses that imply you must be perfect before baring all. And just to make matters worse as I googled ‘baring all’ to spellcheck it, up came 2 ads for ‘secret slimming tummy control’ swim wear. Arghhhhh!! there is no escape…

I’m not really that different to many women I know – we get cross with the media telling us how we should look but still secretly berating the extra inches on our waists. I’ve had 3 kids, have masses of stretch marks and no amount of running will make me look perfect in my bikini, or in my case spending too much money on straightening my teeth. As people have gradually noticed my recently acquired braces, usually the question is: ‘why?’. The honest answer to that is: vanity. Pure and simple. Yeah I know I’m 42 and I also really shouldn’t care but I do. Just like when I think about putting on my bikini.

So, the question is: why?

children-of-godjpg

Why do I care about my wonky teeth, why do I care what I look like on the beach? Is it really just vanity? I mean as my Dad once said, ‘you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear…’ but, and I love this response,: ‘you can roll a turd in glitter…’. Not that I am saying I am either a sow or a turd (hahahaha!!) but I mean I know I’m not going to look like I’m 21 and and I don’t want to. I actually love being in my 40s. But I think this goes a lot deeper, perhaps it’s more about being honest, comfortable and completely ok with who I am.

I wonder if any of us can truly say that we are?

You know it’s taken me 10 years to get braces (and to be able to afford it) but one of the biggest things that has stopped me is the question of vanity. Is it ok as a Christian to want to change her appearance? Shouldn’t I be happy with what God gave me? Isn’t this a slippery slope to bottox or plastic surgery? (hey, we’re not that flush) and I have battled with that over and over.

Last month, the bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, talked about highlighting the issue of body image in kids, something that is hugely important in our society.

I want to challenge the subconscious messages we’re giving,” she said. “We need to look at the language we use as adults and how it shapes our culture. For example, when adults engage with girls, nearly always the first thing we say is a comment on appearance. We need to find out who they are, what they enjoy, what they’re good at, what makes their souls sing…

We need to start encouraging young women to discover who they are as a whole person and to delight in that.

And I would suggest, not just our children, all of us! We are all, whether we like it or not, swayed by the message fed to us daily through the media, TV, the internet. When actually none of what they offer really helps us to be happy with who we are. If we bow to the messages of society, we might feel short term gain but in the end aren’t we always going to be assessing ourselves against others, against an impossible standard?

Last night at the Alpha course we are running, we discussed what following Jesus brings to our lives, for me it was the power of knowing that God loves me as I am, no matter what, that my identity is really as his child. He loves my stretch marks, the few extra inches, even the wonky teeth and even though I might not have completely 100% accepted that, it brings amazing freedom. I’ve always been a bit of a misfit, rebel even, and perhaps that’s how I’m supposed to be? Either way, nothing can take away from the fact that God loves me as I am. When I’m slapping on my mascara in the morning, or sitting in the orthodontist chair checking out my teeth, that’s what I am reminding myself. I am ok, more than ok, I am a child of the king. That’s what we need to be teaching our kids, that’s the message we need to be telling people.

God loves me as I am.

God loves you as you are.

 

The Fragment // Book Review

fragment
‘The Fragment’ by Davis Bunn is the perfect holiday read for someone like me. An easy read, with a gripping storyline, and with spiritual truth woven through it. More than that, Muriel, the main character is a young woman, refusing to fit into the social and cultural norms of her day, post war 1920s in Alexandria, Virginia. In a way her desire to escape and not conform reminds me of my own journey – refusing to settle for what was expected of me – except she does it with much more grace and humility than I ever will.
 
Then very quickly her life changes as she heads off to Paris to work for an old friend of the family, an American Senator on a quest to find a fragment of the true cross on which Christ died.
(It is worth noting that whether you are someone with a passion for relics or one who finds the whole idea of them questionable, it doesn’t take away from a good storyline, so just shelve that, ok?!)
 
‘The Fragment’ reads like a more charming and less frantic Dan Brown novel, except here the input of Christianity is more obvious and certainly woven in as spiritual truth and not just for dramatic effect. Muriel’s initial desire to leave the mundane comfort of her home town develops as she realises that this is her calling, something she feels God has prepared her for for life. Seeking a calling that is so clear is something that will resonate with many readers I am sure.
 
The faith of Muriel and her boss and family friend, the Senator, is evident throughout, woven into the storyline with ease. It’s refreshing to read a novel like this which has such spiritual truth at the heart of it. And indeed, the story of the search for the cross is made on several levels. Their quest to find the fragment, the true cross, is echoed in the journey of Charles, a young man haunted by his war experiences who Muriel attempts to bring on a journey of his own towards the cross. She sees that his life can only be transformed by Christ but he continues to fight it, in a battle of inner turmoil.
 
Set in 1923, when woman had not long gained the right to vote in the UK and US, in France it would be another 20 years, and the author conveys some of the discrimination that abounded, the childish ways women were ignored, mistrusted or put down simply because of their gender. Muriel reacts to this with grace and patience and in this story she comes out on top, partly thanks to the generous and supportive senator who believes in her.
A cleverly written novel, perfect for the beach, sitting by the pool, or just for lounging around on an autumn evening in front of the fire (which it feels like as I write now in August) ‘The Fragment’ is available now from Marylebone House, priced £8.99.
 

‘Still Emily’ book review

StillEmily

I’ve just read ‘Still Emily’ in one sitting, on holiday surrounded by people, and have had to stem the tears pricking my eyes on more than one occasion. Emily’s story touched my heart, not with tears of sympathy but of love, of admiration, and in some sense, of understanding.

Emily began life healthily and despite what could now be seen as warnings, the shock of an NF2 diagnosis at the age of 17 was huge. This condition would go on to rob Emily of her hearing, her balance, ability to walk and more, yet she has refused to give in to the condition, not willing to be defined by it, and continued in her walk with God, perhaps closer than ever might have been.

(Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2) is a disorder that causes tumours to grow on the body and throughout the nervous system. Depending on where they grow they can cause conditions like deafness, severe balance problems, facial nerve paralysis, spinal cord compression and swallowing difficulties.)

‘Still Emily’ is a movingly honest memoir of Emily’s journey with NF2. Of the highs and lows – of which there are many, including the moment at age 17 when Emily’s family said goodbye to her as she lay in a coma, not expected to wake up. Like the times when she has been robbed of her sight for a period as well as hearing, in order to allow her eyes to rest and recover as they work harder than ever. I’m not sure I can begin to image the isolation and fear that must induce.

It is also a story of a family thrown into turmoil, but choosing to respond in love. Choosing to support, choosing to demonstrate the love of God in the face of adversity, united in their faith. Christian faith is of course a theme than runs through the book, not in an ‘in your face’ way, but in a gentle undercurrent, God’s presence and faithfulness the foundation in this inspiring story.

As anyone with a long term condition will know, it can be hard to remain always positive, even with God at your side, and Emily is honest about this, but also reminding herself, and us the readers, to focus on the bit that can be done, not the bit that can’t, as she recalls learning to sit again, able to do 20 mins at first but not the half hour she hoped for. The subtitle to ‘Still Emily’ is ‘seeing rainbows in the silence’ a choice that Emily has made – to always seek the moments of joy: ‘I choose rainbows. Every time. Even when they are invisible, I carry on looking…’

One of the things I love about this book is the truth that we are all worthy, no matter what we can or can’t do. A simple reminder that came to Emily when all she could do to help a fellow patient in hospital was press the ‘call nurse’ button, but in that moment, that was what was needed. This was something I too learned when recovering from back surgery last year, even in the tough times, in suffering and in the moments when we feel useless, helpless and alone, that to God we are perfect and he can use us all, whatever the circumstance.

This is a book about endurance, the faithfulness of God and above all, hope. In endless operations, physio and appointments, in pain, in disappointment, there is still hope.

 

‘Still Emily’ is available now from Malcolm Down Publishing, priced £7.99.

 

One Year On // Post Op

This was me post-op, listening to an 8 hour long worship playlist which got me through!

It’s now just over one year since I suffered a ruptured disk in my back and had surgery to correct it.

Recovery is ongoing.

They told me it would be at least a year and they were right. It has been so up and down throughout the entire year and yet hitting the 12 month mark did seem to bring a realisation that actually it is basically ok. The ups and downs are less violent and the swinging fear of it happening again, and euphoria over new things I can now do again are less pronounced.

I still carry a cocktail of painkillers with me wherever I go, along with my trusty back chair or roll cushion. I have to plan long journeys carefully and take time out from sitting for long periods, often choosing to work at home from the floor of my study, propped up by cushions laying in front of the laptop.

As I write a lone runner zooms past, red, sweaty and clearly enjoying herself. A momentary pang of despair hits me. We are on holiday at Spring Harvest in France. Last time I was here I was doing the same, taking time out of each day to run along the river soaking up the sun and enjoying a new route that hasn’t bored me yet. Last time we were supposed to be here I was actually at home in the post surgery phase. Hard to believe that that was now over a year ago.

There are still things I can’t do, or more perhaps, won’t risk doing. There’s talk of going canoeing this week and whilst I am desperate to go the truth is I just don’t think it’s worth the risk. To get to where I am now, I’ve seen physios regularly, faithfully done my exercises twice, if not three times a day, attended Pilates classes, sat correctly and not done anything stupid, and it still seems any kind of full recovery is a way off. Why would I risk it now? And yet I also don’t want to live in fear, don’t want to be defined by my health. Don’t want to be the boring mum who can’t play football in the garden with the kids, can’t actually change the beds for fear of tweaking something, can’t push a trolley full of food round the supermarket (thank goodness for online ordering). It’s all so boring.  People still ask me regularly how is your back? I’d love to say yes it’s fantastic, never better, but the truth is and my stock answer is ‘it’s ok, bit up and down but I’m fine’. It’s actually nice, having moved churches for curacy to be somewhere where many people don’t know I had the op, so I can escape the questions.

But as this is an update, for those that want to know… I am still doing physio twice a day (at home, I have a set of exercises to do), I walk every day, 3 miles if I can, to keep my back mobile and from seizing up, it’s also the only exercise I get. I am allowed to cycle too but I’m not a cycling fan to be honest so walking it is. Clinical pilates is once a week and boy do I notice it if I miss one. The pain is up and down, I still get nerve pain in both legs and numbness in one foot occasionally. It’s varied and changes from day to day. Sitting for long periods produces latent pain (ie: it appears after the event -usually the next morning), and I know when I’ve pushed it too much like lifting something I shouldn’t, or twisting awkwardly and usually the results last for a few days or longer. Paracetamol and Nurofen are my best friends and I don’t go anywhere without them, but I am thankful that the super strength pain killers, which I also carry with me in case of a relapse, have not been used for months now.

However. It’s all ok. Yes it can be frustrating at times and I hate carrying my back chair or cushion with me like some old lady, but it’s all manageable and I still say I wouldn’t change it for the world. Earlier this year I found myself focussing on the pain too much and I made a choice to remember the blessing of it all every time I felt weighed down by the pain. After all the pain is a reminder of a time which I doubt will be repeated. A time with God that was a gift. Such a special time, unable to do much at all except rest in his presence, read his word, pray. It was like being soaked in him for weeks on end. Oh how I miss that.

So now every time I feel the pain I remind myself of the blessing. And a blessing it was. Is even. It has changed my life, my faith, altered my view on so many things, given me more empathy and understanding and I hope helped me to be a better minister.

So for now I focus on that gift, that blessing and move forward…

‘I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…’ // Preach 24/07/16

IMG_20160724_081337-2

This is my preach from the 6.30pm at TRINITY on 24th July 2016. It is part of a series on The Apostles Creed, each talk based on a passage of scripture as well as a line from the creed.
As usual this is my notes/script so may not be exactly as I said it!

 

Preach // John 1: 1-18

“I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…”

 

So… do we?

I don’t think any of you here know my story or testimony, and I’m not going to share it all this evening, (but more than happy to chat about it if anyone wants to!)

However I spent my life from a baby to the age of about 18 going to church regularly, in several fairly traditional parish churches. I must have said that line ‘I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son’ and others from the Creeds, hundreds if not thousands of times. And yet for over 30 years I didn’t really know what it meant. I didn’t really know what I was saying, I just said it because that’s what we did in church.

After that I was in and out of church for years until my 30s. In fact the reason I stopped going to church eventually was because I couldn’t stand the fact that I didn’t understand what it was all about.

>In my mind it was all turmoil, did I believe in God? Or not? Who was Jesus? Did he actually live? Was he really God’s Son?

And finally I decided I didn’t want my kids to go through the same experience and uncertainty and so we stopped going.

Just like that.

For a few years I was in some kind of spiritual blender where I looked at various different faiths, explored meditation and mindfulness and tried to find some answers.

Then our lives changed when we had some work done on our house and a builder who was a committed Christian started to tell us about Jesus. Not just ‘Jesus Christ the Son of God’ whose name or title I had repeated all those years, but a Jesus who he knew, who was with him always, who was his friend, who he couldn’t live without.

This was a Jesus I had never heard of before, but I wanted to know more…

And there is of course a lot more to that story, the fact that I’m here and ordained is part of it! But the reason I wanted to share that is that for me, now, when I say those words: ‘I believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God’ I mean it. I mean it with all my heart and I mean it because I do know him, and I couldn’t say anything other than I believe in him. It’s not just repeating a name and a title because I don’t just believe – he is my reason for living

 

: Now we are focusing on The Apostles Creed, which is based on doctrine, which in itself is based on scripture.

And so to look at this line today, “I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…” we are focusing on John 1:1-18 which is a fantastic passage because it declares such amazing truths about who Jesus is.

But I believe it also actually says as much about us as believers as it does about Jesus.

So we’re going to look at who he is but also who we are in him.

Now some of you will have similar stories to mine, some might not. Some will perhaps recognise where I was a few years ago, others may always have known Jesus, but wherever you are at, I hope that in what I share this evening, that all of us might know Jesus a little by more by the time we all leave this place, but also that we might seek to find who we are, in Christ also, to seek how he sees us. Is that ok?

  

So what does John tell us?

 This passage, is really John laying down what he believes, to frame the rest of the gospel. And the opening lines of the chapter here – vs.1-18 are like a prologue to the whole thing. It’s a bit like John’s creed, his declaration of who he believes Jesus to be: He says:

Jesus was there in the beginning

he had a part in creation – all things were created through him,

he gives light to all men,

he gives right to become children of God,

he brings grace,

John even takes us back to Moses and the law, just confirming again Jesus as the fulfilment of the law.

 

Those are some pretty big claims actually, so let’s take a closer look at some of them and what they might mean for us.

 

  • logos – foundation just as today

 

And he really starts by laying down a foundation stone:
‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God’.

 

This is a direct description of Jesus. And I love this about John’s gospel that he is far more poetic, mysterious even, more spiritual than the others, and this language here is really beautiful and creates an amazing picture of who Jesus is throughout this passage.

But even so, why does he use ‘word’ (or ‘logos’ in Greek) ? why doesn’t he just say ‘Jesus’? wouldn’t that be simpler?
Well if we imagine the time he was writing and those who would have read or heard these words, we know that he is appealing largely to two groups of people – the Greeks and the Jews.

So for the Greeks – As you might know the Greeks were very into thinking and reason, philosophical thought. So ‘logos’ was a word for reason – a way of referring to thought. Both in terms of inward thought – so our own ideas and things whizzing around our brain, but also an expression of thought in speech. Speaking thoughts out loud.

So, in referring to Jesus as the word, the ‘logos’ he was appealing to the idea of reason, not just declaring who Jesus is, but putting the idea of him into a framework the Greeks would understand. He’s saying there is a reason for life – and Jesus is it.

But John also appeals to the Jewish readers too. They would have understood that idea of the word ‘logos’ in a different way – as a revelation from God – a word spoken from God. For example in the Old Testament, prophets were God’s mouthpiece, he spoke his words directly to the prophets and they then shared that with the people.

In some scripture God’s word can almost be seen to have a life of its own in this sense –

Psalm 107:20 ‘God sent forth his word and healed them’

or Isaiah 55: 11 ‘… so is my word that goes out from my mouth; it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it’.

So actually John is, as well as being very arty and poetic, is actually being very clever in appealing to different readers using the same word, to help them to understand who Jesus is, in terms they might know.

So for us, as the modern reader, today, in our lives, are these helpful terms? Do they help us to get a better handle on who Jesus is? Can we imagine Jesus as our reason for living? Or can we picture him as someone sent out from God, to do his work?

If you imagine in those lines above that I read – imagine ‘word’ replaced with Jesus it can really help us to understand what is being said here:

God sent forth Jesus and healed them’

‘… Jesus will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent him’.

I think they are quite helpful actually as a foundation, but there is so much more to Jesus than that isn’t there?

Jesus as God – there in the beginning

And John doesn’t stop there, he goes even further than this, he wants to really cement that the word, Jesus, is not just a revelation or expression of God but that he is in fact God himself too. So he highlights:

‘he was there in the beginning, through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made’.

Which is also echoed in v10 – ‘through him the world was made’…)

Wait, so if it weren’t for Jesus, if it weren’t for ‘the word’ there would be no world? That’s enough for people to stand up and listen isn’t it?! And that’s the truth of how fundamental Jesus is to us too, that without him there would be nothing. Without him in our lives, is it all worth nothing?

Again John wants to reach a range of readers so he uses language to reach them. Jewish readers would know their own scripture, for example the Torah, the first 5 books of our Old Testament, was for teaching and all about the law and instruction.

And how does it all start? What are the very first words of the bible in Genesis

Anyone know….!?

 

‘In the beginning…’ the very same words John starts his Gospel with. He is aligning himself, his beliefs and Jesus, with the Jewish faith, placing Jesus as the Messiah, there at the very beginning. Of everything. Not just with God, but he was God.

But also again he’s appealing to the Greek reader who placed such emphasis on thought and reason with the very idea of ‘the beginning’ – what was the beginning? What was there, before there was anything?

Jesus was there ‘ in the beginning’. Just as later we read in Hebrews 13:

‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’

Jesus that was there in the beginning, was the same Jesus who came to earth as a baby, the same Jesus who died on the cross, the same Jesus who offers us eternal life now, if we choose it.

So for us, does this bring meaning to us? Personally I believe both show Jesus as a reason for life, but in different ways. So just as then, now we might understand Jesus as the Son of God, the reason for life, the reason we are here – bringing meaning to the universe and the world around us.

But also he continues to bring us the word of God, he is the one who enables us to know God the Father.

 

…o0O0o… 

So John goes on with his fundamental truths… and so far we have really looked at who Jesus is, but now, we get a sense of who he is for us or within us. For example in:

– In v.9 He is the ‘true light that gives light to every man…’

In v 12: ‘he gave the right to become children of God’ – this is for us today

In v14: the word dwelled amongst us

In v.16. through grace we receive blessing 

These are all amazing statements about who Jesus is for us, but I want to focus now on Jesus as the Son of God as we declare in that line:

 

“I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…”

So, in verse 12-13 John says:

‘he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, not of human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Jesus gives us, all of us, the right to become a child of God. We can call God our Father, we can call him our Dad. Strange though that might seem, Jesus’ came to restore each of us to a relationship with God, the kind of relationship that a truly loving Father has with his children. That is what is on offer for each of us!

And I wonder, can any of say that that is how we see God? That we truly believe that we have the kind of relationship with him where we see him as a truly loving Father?

It’s actually really hard to get our head around, especially if you may not have had a loving Father in life.

 

…o0O0o…

 

But it’s actually much more than that even – In the Jewish and Greek culture, generational lines and the importance of Father-Son relationships were hugely important. For example:

In Hebrew culture, a son or child was deemed to be so, not just by birth but by who the father chose or named as his son, so sometimes men would take others into their family and deemed them to be sons (sadly rarely happened with women!). Doing so not only meant that others then saw the new son’s status as the same as the Father but that they were representatives of the Father, they had his rights, could make decisions in his name. So a slave could (and did in some cases) be taken into a family and given the same rights as the head of the household.

 

…o0O0o…

 

In a way that’s what Jesus does for us – offers us adoption into his family. And how could he offer this? Because he was the son himself – he could share his inheritance with us…

For those of the day, unlike other religions of faith cultures, Jesus offered ‘membership’ if you like, to anyone. This was a world where status mattered hugely, from governors, army generals and Rabbis who carried importance, weight and power, to slaves who often had no rights of their own and no prospect of getting any.

 

Jesus and what would become Christianity, was something so different to anything seen before. It was a faith for everyone, irrespective of intelligence, age, gender, race or religious background.

They could all receive from Jesus.
We can all receive from Jesus.

And today there are still vast chasms between the rich and poor, between those with status and those without, sometimes just as arbitrary but nothing can keep us from Jesus – well nothing except ourselves.

Actually sometimes we put those barriers there ourselves, we question ourselves, our identity – many of us suffer with a real lack of self worth, but God’s word tells us that as Christians, as believers in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we are nothing less than the personally valued, dearly loved children of God, irrespective of how others may see us or even of how we see ourselves.

 

Romans 8:14-21 says this:

 

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

 

>>We get to be children of God, we get to share in his glory. You are special, every one of you. EVERY one of you. Can we believe that? <<

  

…o0O0o…

 

But it’s not just a theory either, not just something we choose to believe –

Jesus came here…

 

Verse 14 – I’m going to read it from the Message Version – have come across that? (explain)

Says this:

The Word became flesh and blood,

    and moved into the neighborhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

    the one-of-a-kind glory,

    like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

    true from start to finish

 

I love that – he moved into the neighbourhood. What a great way of describing it – because we can hear that Jesus was: the incarnation, he was born of Mary – but what did it mean?

So just imagine, Jesus moved into your neighbourhood – imagine Jesus was here in Lewes. He might have grown up on your street, he might have been at events you were at – a wedding maybe or a funeral, or you might have heard him speak at the Speakers festival this weekend!

 

Have you ever seen someone famous in real life? A celebrity? I’m sure there must be a few around Lewes! It’s like you see them on TV or maybe or read about them, you’ve seen plenty of photos of them, and then you bump into them in the street, or see them at an event. Undoubtedly they look a little bit different, but more than that, you will see them in the flesh, 3D if you like, you get to see them in all their glory – the fullness of who they are.

It’s the same with Jesus. This is John’s story – he saw Jesus, he knew Jesus, this is his testimony that he saw him.

Jesus (God) was actually here on earth, he dwelled among people like you and I, he revealed himself, as God, the Son of God, he was a revelation of God here amongst us.

 

Jesus is God but he also knows what it is to be human, to feel emotion, to feel pain – I know some can’t get around the theology of what Jesus could feel, but do you think as a child he never fell over, scraped his knee or stubbed his toe? Did he never get a cold? If he was fully human as well as fully God then he experienced these things just as we do. And we know, he certainly experienced suffering.

 

And he is still with us. Yes we don’t get to bump into him down at Tesco, but he’s here, in our hearts, longing for us to know him more.

 

…o0O0o…

 

 

And in fact the last few verses 16-18 just reiterate that too, and again I’m going to read from the Message:

 

 

We all live off his generous bounty,

        gift after gift after gift.

    We got the basics from Moses,

        and then this exuberant giving and receiving,

    This endless knowing and understanding—

        all this came through Jesus, the Messiah.

    No one has ever seen God,

        not so much as a glimpse.

    This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,

        who exists at the very heart of the Father,

        has made him plain as day.

 

 

Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the fulfillment of the Jewish faith.

And that word Messiah, by the way, is translated in the Greek as Kristos – Christ, It literally means ‘anointed one’ and it was often used as a title, for someone who was thought to be anointed – maybe a Priest or Prophet, even a King. So whist we know the word as solely referring to Jesus, it was something prior to his time on earth.

John is reiterating here again the history, going back to Moses – reminding the Jews of the heritage of their faith, Moses a fundamental figure for the Jews, here being superseded it seems by Jesus – he’s taking them forward, to the next level, Moses didn’t see God but we get to – we get to see him in Jesus. As do we today.

We get to receive this generous bounty – through grace – none of us deserve it but we get it anyway. We get to know Jesus. Jesus Christ the Son of God. The one who was there at the very beginning, will be at the very end and is here right now.

 

…o0O0o…

 

Ending…

 

So… When we say that line

 

“I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son…”

 

Let’s ask ourselves – do we?

Because when we say this line (and the Creed as a whole) we are not just declaring what we believe in, but we are declaring who we are.

If Jesus lives within us, then we are also declaring our own identity.

 

So do we believe that Jesus is God, that he was there at the very beginning?

Do we believe that he is our very foundation? Our reason for living?

Do we we truly accept that we are Children of God? that we are special?

Can we say that we have received God’s grace? Undeserved and unearned, but there for each of us?

 

Those are the questions I want to leave you with, I’d love you to ponder on them this week, to think about your reason for living and who you are in Jesus.

…o0O0o…

 

Prayer and Ministry….