Preach // 28th May 2017 // 6.30 TRINITY Church // Witness

6.30 service at TRINITY // 28/5/17

Witness and Mission // Acts 1:8

 

 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

 

 

…o0O0o…

Before I get into this preach tonight, I just want to say, I first sat down to write this sermon on Tuesday morning. I had just woken up and seen the terrible news from Manchester. A lot of thoughts and emotions went through my mind. And I have to be honest I just completely floundered, where was God is in this?

During the day I read an article which highlighted the good that was bring done in the wake of the tragedy but did so my suggesting Jesus came to Manchester after the bombing.

 

 

And I’ve got to be honest it just made me really angry.

 

I mean, ‘And then Jesus came?’

What was he not there before? Did Jesus not grace the doorstep of Manchester before this terrible thing? Does goodness only come out in response to terror and fear? What nonsense.

Look I think it’s almost impossible to come up with an answer to the why? in situations like this. We can talk theology or politics but it actually doesn’t really help us to understand why someone would do something so awful, to cause so much pain deliberately and equate that with an all powerful loving God.

But what I do say to people with those sorts of questions is that we need to hold the truth of who God is alongside the things we don’t understand. And I expect that is what the writer of that piece was trying to do.

Questions are ok, I’m not saying don’t question, don’t ask, because actually I think our faith grows through that, but we have to hold them in tension with the truth.

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. Or of not understanding.

 

So whilst what I say tonight I believe, it’s something I am passionate about and I believe it is what God has for us right now, I also recognise that sometimes it’s hard to hold that truth in tension with what we don’t understand. Perhaps what I say tonight will sound crass in the light of what’s happened, though I hope not, that is not my intention, or maybe you’d rather hear me say something about God and suffering, but I just encourage you just to try and hold what you hear tonight together with what you don’t understand if that’s ok.

 

…o0O0o…

And the truth of our passage tonight is that we are called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. And I don’t suppose the disciples when they heard this fully understood what they were to do but they trusted in him.

 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 

Jesus is speaking here to his disciples, literally seconds before he ascended and returned into heaven – and its very appropriate for this week, because did you know it was Ascension day this week?

Now, there are many times in the bible when Jesus sends out his disciples, but I think it’s hugely significant that these are, his very last words to them.

You will receive power

The Holy Spirit will come upon you

You will be my witnesses

In all the earth

 

And before I go on I want us all to understand that this is as much for us now as it was for them then – how do we know that?

 

Matthew 28 The Great Commission, another passage like this one, sending them out:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 (now here’s the key) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age…

And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. So the disciples are told to teach others to do what Jesus has taught them, so then the next generation of believers has the same commission, to continue to teach what they have been taught, and so on… right up to us in this day.

Whatever Jesus commanded the disciples to do, we can therefore say is for us too.

Does that make sense?

 

So for example. Matthew 10:7-8 one of my fave passages, Jesus sends out the 12 with these instructions:

 

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.

 

Yes? Come on!

That’s what I want to see, the sick healed, the dead raised, lives transformed…

and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Remember…

 

So just as the disciples were, WE are Jesus’ witnesses – anyone who is a Christian who has been made a disciple is called to be a witness for Jesus to all nations, to the ends of the earth.

That’s us.

So, are you a witness for Jesus? Are we as a church a witness for Christ?

 

And what does that even mean anyway?

…o0O0o…

Well 2 words that strike fear into the hearts of many:

Mission and evangelism… that is what witness means.

But why is that we hear words like them and break out in a cold sweat?

Well maybe it’s because we have seen really bad evangelism and want nothing to do with it? Maybe we’re worried people will think us weird if we talk about you know, (hushed) Jesus.

Or because the church often has a bad reputation, and we don’t want to have to deal with difficult questions about suffering or evil or homosexuality or women in the church…? Goodness whatever next!

Or maybe it’s just that we don’t really know what it means or what we’re supposed to do?!

Because we’ve already established that this is for everyone, right – we’re all supposed to be doing this, because we are supposed to be following what Jesus taught his disciples, yes?

 

…o0O0o…

Now look, some of us ARE called to be out and out evangelists. We are called to be project starters, to be pioneering new ideas out there… And that is great, we need pioneers to have ideas to get things going, to be out there among the people. And some of us aren’t called to that specifically as a calling or gifting, but we must not be people who sit back and think, well that’s ok – they, them over there are the missional types, they are the evangelists – I’ll let them get on with it…

But equally I’m not saying we all need to be out there on a street corner with a soap box and a loud haler telling people they are going to hell,

but we should be doing something.

So what can we do? And I’m going to focus on us as individuals though it’s as much a call for the church together as it is for us.

So we’re going to use Forrest Gump as an example.

Now I love Forrest Gump – how many of you have seen the film?

If you haven’t it’s the story is of a guy who, well I guess today he’d be classed as having learning difficulties, and it’s his journey through life. And he gets into all sorts of amazing situations mostly by accident.

And the reason I wanted to show it to you today is because I think Forrest is a great example of someone who is missional and evangelistic.

So here’s 3 things we can learn from FG about being a good witness, about being evangelistic and missional.

 

We can be incarnational

We can tell our story

We can go wider

 

 

1) We can be incarnational

 

Had to get that clip in, the most iconic line!
So, being incarnational – literally means in this context – just being who you are, a Christian – being a light for Jesus wherever you are. Jesus was the ultimate incarnation – he came to earth and took on human form in order to fulfil God’s mission. So for us that might mean intentionally seeking to be a shining light wherever we are. We can bring a Christian presence in any given situation, bring a different viewpoint, a bringer of peace and light.

So for example, Forrest makes the most of wherever he is, or wherever he is sent, or wherever he finds himself. He is just himself and takes everything in his stride. No matter what the situation – at war, in business, siting on a park bench – he embraces the place where he is. I am sure sometimes people think him weird but he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.

So great example here – he’s just waiting for a bus and he doesn’t just sit there and ignore everyone, he is the same as he always is and so he just chats to people who come and sit next to him, or offers them a chocolate!

Jeremiah 29:4-7 says this:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

 

These are people who were sent to exile, sent away from homes and family and all that they knew, but God tells them to embrace where they are, to bless where they are, where he’s placed them.

We have to own where God has put us! I don’t think any of us are where we are by accident!

So, where has God put you? What’s your mission field? College, work, home, football club… where do you hang out with people?

Wherever you are, you are bringing the presence of God, because we carry that within us anyway. You don’t necessarily have to be talking about Jesus. sometimes just people knowing you are a Christian or that you go to church, is enough. It means that when they have questions or they need support they might just come to you.

John 13:35 tell us:

 

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples- if you love one another”

 

that’s how people will know about God, if we love people and love one another. That’s quite simple isn’t it?

And I always tell the story of my husband who had a work colleague who was a Christian, she didn’t go on about it a lot, he just knew because she’d said occasionally, that she went to church. So when he started having questions about faith, he knew exactly who to ask!

 

Be incarnational and embrace where God has put you.

 

OK so what else can we learn from Forrest Gump?

 

2.We can tell our story – we can talk about what God has done for us.

FG, talks about his faith quite openly and without shame or being embarrassed, he just talks matter of factly about it. And because he does that, people respond – so here you see Lieutenant Dan saying ‘where’s this God of yours’ but actually there is more to it that just teasing, he is on a journey, and later on FG says that he thinks Lt Dan made his peace with God.

But because he is open about his faith it’s easy for God to move! Here we see an amazing miracle but it’s the same in our lives too wherever we are open and seeking God, it just creates ways for him to move and for us to reach into peoples lives.

Your story is one of the best tools for evangelism that you have. Testimony is so powerful, we are a people who love stories, we especially love personal stories and stories of people going from sad to happy, from a bad place to a good one. Some of the stories we see in Alpha, like the guy who had been in prison and the became a Christian and his life was turned around. How many of you watch movies on Facebook or Social Media of heart warming stories? It makes you feel good right!? Your story could do that for someone else.

In Mark 5, where Jesus healed a demon possessed man and when the man asks to go with him, Jesus says no – just go and tell people what the Lord has done for you.

Mark 5:18-20

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 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.

 

This man had been healed by the Lord. And what did Jesus tell him to do – just go and tell people what had happened to him. And that is key. Our story, our testimony.

You know someone close to me who is not a Christian, we’ve had so many conversations about faith and God and the bible, and he is very antagonistic and the only thing that gets him to really listen is when I talk about what God has done and is doing in my life. My story.

I’m not trying to be a theological expert or answer all his questions and get out of the traps he lays for me! I’m just telling him what’s going on in my life.

He even once said, ‘I wish I had what you have’. I’m still praying for him, he hasn’t recognised Jesus yet but I have faith that he will!

…o0O0o…

And you don’t have to have some amazing healing or dramatic conversion, it might just be that because of your faith you are able to feel peaceful in a stressful situation. Or are the one who can be a peacemaker between arguing friends, or the one who encourages people to help someone worse off than them. That’s your cue, your opportunity when people notice those things, that’s just as much you story…

And, we don’t see in this clip but the man sat next to FG on the bench doesn’t believe him and goes off laughing. But FG just carries on talking to the woman next to him. Just like in the parable where the seed falls on rocky ground, in weeds and in good soil, we still need to sow it! That man might never have believed but the woman next to him certainly does!

1 Peter 3:15

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…

Use your story you know it well!

…o0O0o…

And finally. FG shows us that we might go further, go the extra mile.

 

3.We can go wider/further

FG ends up in all kinds of situations that as a child no one thought him capable of, they didn’t even want him in school because they thought he couldn’t cope with it.

The truth is we just don’t know where God might take us. And that might be a one off situation where he calls you in that moment to do something radical or bold or courageous for him. Or it might be wider calling to go somewhere like Lisa from our congregation here who God has called to Uganda for example. Or I have friends that moved to a particular estate locally because that’s where God led them to.

We might end up in places we never thought we could go or doing things we never thought we could do. We need to be open to the leading of God. In our passage it says that the Holy Spirit will come on them. We need to be aware of the HS in our lives, to listen, to hear and be led by him.

I think this is one of the most inspiring scenes in the movie. FG is fighting in Vietnam and despite the danger, despite the fear, he is completely focussed on rescuing people, saving his fellow soldiers.

Isn’t that what we’re about at the end of the day? Seeing people saved? Rescued?

Where might God send you? Who might he be calling you to see saved or rescued?

And more than that, FG did in that moment more than he could have done without the adrenaline and fear and desperation to find his friend. It’s just like that when the HS comes on us, we can achieve so much more than in our own strength!

 

…o0O0o…

 

and one more thing I want to pick up on..

 

Mark 16:15 says

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation

 

And in our passage from Acts:

and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

 

 

To the ends of the earth…

Did you know that According to Finishing the Task, (evangelistic organization) there are 506 unengaged, unreached people groups with populations over 10,000, together numbering over 51 million souls that are still beyond the reach of the Gospel.

Most of which lay in what’s often referred to as the 10/40 window – a band which lies across Africa and Asia from 10 degrees latitude north of the equator to 40 degrees latitude north of the equator.

But what if we’re not called to actually go to somewhere across the world, does that mean we can’t share the gospel across the world?

No – in our technological era, with the internet and social media, I can put something online that can be seen across the world in seconds. Even in remote places. Of course there are people without access to the internet but it is still a very useful tool.

So for example, I went on my blog stats and looked at where people were viewing my blog from.

There was a huge list of countries. But some had just 1 or 2 views. So if I wanted it would be very easy to write stuff to reach a particular country, or to set my profile and settings to reach a different area. All without leaving the comfort of my sofa!

Social media – we can contact people all over the world. I have friend who runs a school and orphanage in rural Haiti and they keep in touch via Facebook because its the easiest way to get the news out to lots of people and quickly (and it’s free!).

 

Going into all the world might not necessarily mean actually physically going there…

 

…o0O0o…

So.

 

We are ALL called to be witnesses for Jesus. There can be no excuses!

 

We could be incarnational

We can share our story and

We might just be able to go a bit further…

 

…o0O0o…

Lead into prayer….

 

 

 

PREACH // John 20:1-18 / Mary Magdalene & the transforming power of Jesus

Preached at TRINITY, 9.30am // 20th November 2016 & 10am and 11.15am 27th November

‘The transforming power of encountering Jesus’

 

48

Mary Magdalene //

The star of this piece (apart from Jesus obvs) is Mary Magdalene. Now I am sure it won’t be any surprise to you that I am a bit of a feminist, and so I really want us to start by taking a look at Mary Magdalene this morning.

So let me ask you, what do we know about her?

Answers…

Prostitute, Jesus’ wife, 7 demons cast out of her…

She is commonly referred to in modern Christian thought as a prostitute. But I want to tell you there is really no evidence for this whatsoever, it is total conjecture and theory throughout history that has been perpetuated down the years. So let’s just put something to right here! I don’t know really where this idea first came from but some suggestions are:

Perhaps this theory came about because when she is first mentioned in Luke 7, it comes straight after the passage where the ‘sinful woman’ anoints Jesus feet with perfume.

Or perhaps because when she is mentioned in Luke 8 with other woman, they are talked of having their own means, their own finances – how did they get them?

Or perhaps it is because nowhere is there any hint of a mention of family or lineage.

Or perhaps because we know that 7 demons were cast out of her (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2).

But is all of this enough evidence to label her as a whore? I don’t think so! Pretty weak case I’d say!

So what do we know about her…

In Luke 8 we read:

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

She had demons cast out of her. And that she had her own means. So I would like to put forward another hypothesis here. Perhaps she actually came from a wealthy family – after all Magdalene where she came from (hence the name) had a prosperous textile industry. Imagine then she was the daughter of a wealthy family, who had tragically been afflicted by demons. What do you think her family’s response might be on seeing her free and healed from this? I wouldn’t be surprised if they literally threw money at Jesus! Or perhaps she decided to follow Jesus after this, and they were only too happy to support her in it?

Now of course her family aren’t mentioned as they are with some of the disciples, and many of them left home without even a backward glace, just following Jesus on his command ‘come follow me’.

And well as I said that’s just another theory, but we do know she was demonized…

So then we can be sure that her meeting with Jesus was more than a fleeting one – more than just a suggestion to follow him – I mean let’s just imagine her state, as demon possessed. In other biblical accounts of the demonised, we hear people are:

Mute (Matt 9:32)

Blind and mute (Matt 12:22)

Legion – uncontrollable, crying out, cutting himself with stones….

 

Mark 5:1-20

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.

 

Can you imagine then, if you had been living with any of that and then you were healed and freed from it? The man with the legion of demons was said to then be

‘clothed and in his right mind’ and talking with Jesus. Having been shunned by society, possibly locked or chained up, and then one man frees you from this? What would you want to do?
Well, we know what Mary did, she devoted her life to following him.

And let’s just be clear here, she was just devoted to him, any why wouldn’t she be? Again there is no evidence whatsoever of her being in a relationship with him (which has also been suggested). But she knew who he was. She knew her life had been transformed by the power of Jesus.

In fact there is actually nothing bad or negative written about her – she did not deny Jesus (John 18, Luke 22), nor did she betray him (John 13, Luke 22), or make foolish comments (Luke 9:55 calling down from from heaven). And where she is mentioned with other women – Mark 16: her name is sometimes put first, before even Mary, Jesus’ mother…

She was there through it all. At his trial:

Mark 15:

Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs…

At his crucifixion:

John 19:25

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

She had cared for Jesus own needs, she had followed him everywhere, she was not afraid or hiding at the trial or at the crucifixion.

And now here we see her in this passage, the first one to find the tomb empty, the first one to see the risen Lord, and the one to tell the other disciples that he was alive.

Let’s just clarify that, of the 12, or of those who knew Jesus and followed him, Mary M (according to John) was the first one to see him, the one to break the news. Mary Magdalene who history has suggested was a prostitute and sinner.

 

Theologian Tom Wright notes that:

John has told us nothing of her history; the little we know, we know from the other gospels. But her place here is spectacular. She is the first apostle, the apostle to the apostles: the first to bring the news that the tomb was empty. And… a greater privilege yet: the first to see, to meet, to speak with the risen master himself.

 

He calls her the apostle to apostles?!

You know if anyone wanted to make this story up, she is the absolute last person they would have chosen. So it’s pretty important that she is the one chosen here for that task.

And I just want to say that I am so glad to be in a church that supports women in leadership, I have been so blessed by peoples support on my journey to ordination, but as we know not everyone agrees. But this passage alone surely has to cause them some doubt!

 

Mary Magdalene’s encounter //

But I’m not here to give a feminist manifesto! Mary Magdalene is an important player in Jesus life story that’s why I am focussing on her here. And as always we must ask ourselves, what can we learn from her? What can we learn from this passage and her interaction with Jesus?

Well I think there’s a message for us all here and it is:

Situation – encounter – transformation – sharing

There is a situation and in that an encounter with the Lord, transformation takes place and then the good news is shared.

Any God given situation should lead to encounter with Jesus. Any encounter with the Jesus should transform those within it. And those who are transformed should be compelled to share the news of who Jesus is.

So this passage starts with Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb early in the morning, One commentator suggests that in order for it be dark it would have been between 3-6am in the morning which might seem like a strange time for a woman at that time to be wandering around in the dark. But there was a Jewish custom to mourn at the tomb of a loved one for 3 days after the death, as it was thought the soul was still present for that time. Perhaps she was going there to mourn, to just sit and be there.

 

Situation – encounter – transformation – sharing

 

Situation

So here she is, this is the situation she faces, an empty tomb. Jesus’ body gone. What are her emotions? Fear? who has taken the body? So she runs back to get help. Peter and we assume John (the beloved disciple the text says) run back to the tomb with her. See the scene and then head back to the others.

But Mary Magdalene, she stays. She weeps, looks into the tomb. And here is her encounter. Firstly with the angels, and then Jesus himself.

 

And she doesn’t recognise him, thinks he is the gardener.

 

I love verse 15 where he says to her:

“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

 

Because that surely is a key question to everyone who lives: who or what are you looking for? So often we seek our answers anywhere but in Jesus. This is a key question – WHO ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?!

And how often do we not recognise Jesus anyway? I think Jesus probably comes to us many times, even daily, and we don’t see him. But especially in times of trial – we are caught up in our own emotions, our own situation just as Mary Magdalene was here. We can’t see beyond the immediate situation and yet God longs to appear to us, if we would just open our eyes!

Here of course it is in mentioning her name ‘Mary’ that she finally recognises him.

 

And what a beautiful moment. ‘Mary’. He just says her name and in that her world is changed, transformed. Suddenly the one who was dead, gone, whose body has even been moved as she thought, is there in front of her and she knows him. (And is if she needed any extra confirmation, there are the angels too!)

Just in a moment – in him saying her name. And you know what, he knows our names too…

 

 

In Isaiah 43:1 the Lord is talking to the people of Israel and says:

‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine’

 

And Isaiah 49:16, also to Israel:

‘See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’

 

and in John 10:3 Jesus talks of himself as the Good Shepherd:

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out… “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

 

Jesus knows your name too.

 

 

 

I wonder if you can remember the first time you encountered Jesus? Perhaps you have always known him with you, which is a wonderful gift so many of us don’t have, or perhaps there was a moment of realisation?

For me, one thing was a moment of realisation that I was loved. Truly and utterly, unconditionally. Phil, my husband, says, as we fell in love with God, we fell in love with each other all over again. And the knowledge that we were ourselves loved as we were, enabled us to experience God’s love for ourselves and in our lives, and to pour out that love on those around us. It was a transformation in our relationship and in our lives.

 

And here we see a moment of transformation –

as Mary Magdalene, seeing Jesus afresh, in a new encounter with him – she is transformed.

 

From weeping in grief and sorrow to the realisation he is there, she turns towards him, shouts out ‘rabboni’ and then what would be your next reaction? I think I would fling myself at him hugging him! Wouldn’t you?

st-mm1

And I think that is exactly what she did, when we read the next line:

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father…

‘do not hold on to me’, I just imagine her clinging on to him, as if he might disappear again!

 

She is transformed, from grief to joy, in an instant… Any encounter with Jesus should bring about transformation like that.

And transformation of course should happen when we meet Jesus for the first time, when we become Christians, but we need to go on being transformed into the likeness of who he is. Mary Magdalene knew Jesus, she had already decided to follow him, to support him, to care for him, but this is another encounter, a new step.

Do you have those moments? When you feel something new in your faith, a step forward, a realisation? I’ve had those moments in prayer, by myself or when other are praying for me; or in reading scripture, when suddenly something you’ve read 100 times before stands out in a new way and challenges your thinking or shows you something you’d not seen before of who Jesus is.

Or maybe you’ve had a more ‘powerful encounter – you’ve been healed, had an answer to prayer, seen a miracle happen before your very eyes.

Let’s be open to those things, let’s be seeking those things. I mean here for Mary Magdalene she wasn’t seeking the Lord particularly, she was lost in grief, but how much more do we see, recognise, realise the presence of od when we have our eyes open, our eyes fixed on him?

We could start each day by saying, ‘Lord show me a transforming encounter today’, or ‘I want to see you more in this day’, ‘show me where you are today’, ‘give me open eyes and ears to see and hear you today’…?

 

 

And what do we do with those encounters? Those moments?

 

Situation – encounter – transformation – sharing

 

And the response to an encounter with Jesus – should be sharing about it, telling the good news – evangelism!

As Jesus tells Mary Magdalene (though I’m not sure he needed to!) she goes and finds the disciples and shares what she has seen ‘I have seen the Lord’ and tells them all that he has said.
When I first became a Christian I described the desire in me to tell people about it, as being like feeling I needed a loud haler that I could stand on the street corner with and wanting to shout out who Jesus was and what he’d done in our lives. I could happily have done that – though I don’t think it’s a recommended form of evangelism TBH!

The Rev. Frank Teesdale, pastor of Garfield Ridge Baptist Church, preaches the Gospel at 18th Street and Loomis Boulevard in Chicago on Friday, June 10, 2011. (Terrence Antonio James/ Chicago Tribune) B581333380Z.1 ....OUTSIDE TRIBUNE CO.- NO MAGS, NO SALES, NO INTERNET, NO TV, NEW YORK TIMES OUT, CHICAGO OUT, NO DIGITAL MANIPULATION...

Instead I began to write about it and years later I’m still writing that blog! Because there is something about a transforming encounter with Jesus that compels us to share it with others.

And it is so powerful…

 

I love hearing people’s stories of how God has been at work in their lives, don’t you? It’s just so encouraging and inspiring. Last Sunday at the 6.30 we heard from a guy whose family have disowned him for his faith. And yet the ways God had worked in his life were just staggering.

 

At my last church, there we met a woman who was healed of terminal cancer.

I often start my day by asking God to use me to reach people. On holiday one time, I felt compelled to go and talk to a chap at a table in the restaurant where we were eating. Thankfully he spoke english… As I shared what I felt God was saying, he looked at me in total disbelief as I saw him transformed before my very eyes. He was not a Christian but had spent the day sitting in a church wondering what to do with his life and every word I spoke to him was an answer to that.

 

Testimony is so powerful…

 

Revelation 12 talks about a great battle in heaven and notes this:

 

Rev 12:11

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…

 

Victory was in what Jesus did and in out telling of what Jesus has done…

 

In Luke 8:38-39 – the man with all those demons:

begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying,  “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

 

 

In John 4 we read of the Samaritan woman who Jesus spoke to at the well, telling her everything she had done and that he was the water of life… she went back to her town and told them all about him and v 39 says:

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony…

 

In our Situations – look for encounter, be ready to receive transformation and then go and share what the Lord has done…

 

So I want to ask you today, where are you encountering Jesus in your lives right now? How are you enabling others to encounter Jesus? how are you sharing what he has done for you?

 

…..lead into ministry…

 

 

 

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.

 

Is sharing your faith *actually* counter-productive?

talkingJesus_JPG

So you may have seen that some new research has just come out looking at perceptions of Jesus, Christians and evangelism in England. Called ‘Talking Jesus’ the research was done by the respected Barna group and commissioned by the Church of England, Evangelical Alliance and Hope.

My mother in law actually flagged this up to me, as she arrived to see us today clutching a piece clipped from the Telegraph. In the paper the story is shortened and immediately got up my nose, with the implication it gave that sharing one’s faith does more harm than good.  The full version here has more info and seems a little more balanced. But it is this kind of reporting that irritates me most. The media has a role to give us the news, not their version of it. If you actually read the full report it is actually very positive, so it’s just typical that the Telegraph has highlighted the negative stats.

For example, the report begins with these questions:

What do people in this nation know and believe about Jesus? What do they really think of us, his followers? Are we talking about Jesus enough? And when we are, are we drawing people closer towards him, or further away?

and goes on to say this:

This piece of research had the potential to equip every Christian to have these conversations. But we wanted to make sure. So denominational leaders agreed to fund further, more comprehensive, research… This piece of research should provoke us to prayer as our hearts are heavy with the reality of how little our friends and neighbours understand about who Jesus is. But there are glimmers of hope; we are excited about this unique opportunity to understand the landscape we are in. This is not a quick-fix strategy, but a long-term commitment to changing the story in our nation, so that people might meet Jesus, love him and follow him.

Hardly an overall summary that sharing one’s faith does more harm than good, more that perhaps we should do it more. The report doesn’t just look at evangelism it also looks at who people think Jesus was and what their perceptions are of the faith. But as evangelism is something I’m passionate about I want to highlight that.

So to balance it out, here’s a few positives:

66% of practising Christians have talked about Jesus to a non-Christian in the past month

72% of practising Christians feel comfortable talking to non-Christians about Jesus

44% of practising Christians credit their friends for introducing them to Jesus

 

Woah, so 66% of Christians have actually talked to someone else about their faith in the last month? How encouraging is that!? I’m always hearing people say they find it hard to talk about their faith or they would feel awkward or wouldn’t know what to say. But these stats seems to show people do still do it! And what’s more it is clearly having an impact as 44% of Christians credit friends with helping them come to faith.

There are some negatives so here’s a few:

40% of people do not realise Jesus was a real person who actually lived

One in four 18 to 34-year-olds thinks Jesus was a mythical or fictional character

This is sad but not unexpected, so perhaps we need to change the way we are having these conversations rather than stop them completely! The Great Commission in Mathew 28 tells the disciples to share the good news and to teach believers to do as they are doing, so then it is our commission too, to tell people about Jesus. We cannot deny it. I’m sorry if you are a quiet ‘my faith is personal’ type., because that’s just not biblical I’m afraid (yes yes you can disagree but how do you think people will know about Jesus if we don’t tell them…?). The report says this:

Each of us is called to take part in the Great Commission. As followers of Christ, we should be vocal about our faith, and it seems many of us are. Our research showed that 95% of practising Christians believe “it is every Christian’s responsibility to talk to non-Christians about Jesus Christ”. That’s why so many of us are often talking to people about Jesus.

However it also says this:

More than half of non-Christians (54%) who know a Christian, have not had a conversation with this person about faith in Jesus. Two thirds (64%) of 45-54 year olds who know a practising Christian say they have never had a conversation with any practising Christian about their faith in Jesus Christ.

This is more what I expected to see to be honest. But despite this, figures also show that generally Christians are liked and well received, for example friendly and caring, with much lower numbers saying Christians were, for example, narrow minded or hypocritical.

As the report also points out, not everyone had a positive reaction even to Jesus himself. Heck, even in his own town he was nearly thrown from a cliff! (Luke 4) So perhaps that should give us some encouragement too. The bible shows us that not everyone will respond to the gospel, so we shouldn’t expect everyone to. Our commission is to tell people, not drag them into the kingdom kicking and screaming! And that can be tough of course. For those close to us, for those in true need, we so long for them to know Jesus, to see their lives transformed by him. But we must also remember others salvation is not our responsibility. My heart is currently breaking for a few people who I long to turn to Jesus. They are broken, in need, struggling with life and yet something holds them back…

The report ends with this:

What this study reveals is that people are far more open than we might realise. After we’ve had conversations with non-Christians about Jesus, one in five of them is open to finding out more about him…

So we need to talk about him: to more people, more often, and more relevantly. The research shows that so many of us are already talking about Jesus. We are not ashamed of the gospel, despite some of us feeling ill-equipped to talk to our not-yet Christian friends and family members about Jesus.

So, let’s focus on that, let’s be encouraged, let’s share the good news that we know can transform people. Let us not be put off by scaremongering Journo’s with nothing better to do that knock the church some more…

Social Media & Mission

Social Media & Mission // #Write31Days // Day 30

Ok So I’m a blogger, of course I’m going to rave about Social media. It is a passion of mine. I’ve written about it before here and here and here, here on a Christian Practice of Internet use and here on a short guide to soc med in the church, and plenty of other places too! But listen up people, the church needs to embrace social media – it was referred to as new media but it’s not new anymore! the world has embraced it and we need to as well if we want to reach people.

So whatever you are doing, whether you are a church, starting a new initiative, planning an event, get a Facebook page, post some tweets, it will get the word out there and feed into that all important communication which I mentioned a few days ago. It’s not difficult and if you don’t know where to start ask someone who does.

SOcMedStats1

One of my fave people right now is Pope Francis (@pontifex). On the World Day of Communications last year, he said felt the internet was a gift from God, when referring to its benefits and possibilities! He asked also:

How, then, can communication be at the service of an authentic culture of encounter? What does it mean for us, as disciples of the Lord, to encounter others in the light of the Gospel? 

So then there’s a challenge to us, and in my essay that I wrote about here I asked myself how does a christian use Social Media any different to anyone else? How can we enable others to meet with Jesus through our online use? Of course being authentic, not hiding our faith, being open to talking (or writing!) about it is key but more than that, I think need to be intentional about it.

So in mission, are we using soc med to share what we are doing? are we being overt about our faith? I mean it’s not just getting out into the community, what about our own friends and family too? Are they seeing us giving glory to God online and with boldness?

And here’s another question, how many people have you ‘friended’ or ‘followed’ online who you’ve met through a missional outreach? Are you actually forming friendships as you would with others?Actually soc med is a great way to interact with new friends in mission as it’s pretty non threatening. They don’t have to give you a phone number and also have the option to unfollow/block you if they are worried! That can actually be a real concern for some people, especially the most vulnerable.

dannyQuote3JPGAnd more than that how about a soc med campaign? For 2 years we have run ‘Share the Hope’ through Advent, an evangelistic campaign run solely online to encourage people to think about hope in a very busy time of year. This (left) was a quote from last year. Jesus is for everyone, exactly that! and if we want our social media use to be missional we must remember that and meet people where they are at. And for many where they are at is online! 

A few weeks ago I wrote this:

One of the biggest reasons to reach ‘out there’ – to outside our church walls – is that so many people just wouldn’t step foot over the threshold of a church. So how will we share the Gospel if we don’t get ‘out there’? And of course for some, coming to church is more than a mental barrier it’s a physical one.

and this:

 Isn’t our mission to reach ‘all nations’ with the message of Jesus? Well here’s a very 21st century way of doing just that…

Do we need any other reason to use social media now?

To Jesus or not to…


To Jesus or not to…. // #Write31Days // Day 29

shutterstock_321668363So a couple of days ago I wrote about how to move from praying about mission to moving on to something practical. Today I want to think about how to move from that practical thing to real discipling (this doesn’t necessarily apply if you are planting a church or similar as you are probably doing it anyway!).

This is a challenge it’s true. You’ve formed a relationship with someone, or a group of people maybe and then the question is, how, or do you, start telling them about Jesus? To Jesus or not to, now that is the question! A friend told me recently of an experience where she found herself bound by regulations and unable to speak about her faith. She told me she would never allow herself to be in that position again. And I am so with her. This is a free country, we do have the right to talk about our faith, where so many others cannot so we shouldn’t feel constrained. But that said, if you befriend people and then launch into being too full on with the gospel at the wrong time, well that’s one way to annoy people I’m sure!

Actually I think it should start well before that anyway. Be open and honest about being ‘from the church’. Talk to people about ‘prayer’ or ‘the spiritual’ right from the off. Ask God for opportunities to share those things. I’ve had conversations with people where they have been ill or had an issue going on and I’ve just said, I find praying helpful and can I pray for you? Most people are open to being prayed for, even atheists I’ve found! Then you are being far more open about who you are.

You can also make the most of opportunities like Easter and Christmas which many people will understand and want to celebrate. We did an informal carol service last year at one of our projects, followed by a free lunch which worked really well. Who doesn’t love carol singing?! (or a free lunch for that matter!). If you are doing something like that you can then lead into something else, use it as an opportunity. ‘If you’ve enjoyed this morning we will be meeting on Wednesday to talk about what Easter means for us now’ for example…

IMG_20130623_141634If people then start to open up and ask questions you might find a core of people who want to know more, or who are ready for something more concrete but might not be up for ‘church’. I used to host a ‘coffee and questions’ group in which people could come and just ask any question of faith. It was very informal and worked well for a while. Of course there are standard things you can do like an Alpha course too, but remember to think about what would work in your context or with the people you are reaching out to.

One thing I have mentioned previously but I think is really important is that we don’t just think that we have to feed people into a church. Our aim is not to get them to a Sunday morning service, but to get them to know Jesus! So whatever we do we need to keep that at the forefront of our minds….

 

A day trip to Synod…

Written on Tuesday…

So I’ve just spent a mere 3 hours at Synod and I want to say that this post is not by any means a judgement (heaven forbid) or true reflection of what the whole is like. However what this is, is some rambling thoughts on the proceedings from a total newbie.

I don’t know much about the inner workings of the CofE although I find myself attempting to catch up in the wake of the good Lord calling me into the midst of it. But I have to say that Synod was pretty much as I imagined it would be: incredibly structured, a few inspiring leaders, and some tweed-clad-full-of-their-own-importance-(or point)-interlopers, some marginally funny in-jokes, some time wasting, and amongst it all some absolute gems. The Archbishop of Iraq was one of those who shone out in the greyness of clerical shirts, who gave a heart-breakingly honest view of the life of a persecuted Christian, in many cases refusing to give up their country as a nation where Jesus is worshipped despite huge and real personal cost and danger. He littered his talk with requests for prayer, a thing so fundamental to our faith that we so often overlook in times of others crisis. I would have thought the very least we could do as a church is to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ and yet he asked for nothing more.

It was almost laughable that this deeply concerning talk was followed shortly after with a report and response which included such delights as ‘this report is printed in the wrong font/colour’. 
Really? 
I mean I am all for inclusivity and accessibility but is a meeting of the governing body of the entire church the place to air this crap? I’m sorry to sound so rude and I wish no ill to the person in question but this just smacks of the reasons why an organisation like the C of E is seen as a dinosaur by so many. If you have structures in place to run this kind of thing then use them, why on earth should this kind of thing be raised in a meeting where people have travelled the length of the country to attend? Surely there must be a system in place to deal with these things? Otherwise it allows Joe Blogs with a gripe to go off on it for 3 minutes, and believe me 3 mins is a lot longer than you think, especially when there are lots of them…

It strikes me also from my limited experience of deanery synods and the like that there are some folk (& I shall be very unkind here) who are rather full of their own self importance. I do wonder sometimes if deanery/general synod reps are a mix of those who delight in the role, of having a title and being noticed, and those who have frankly been press ganged into it…

Then there was the ridiculous pride that since November screens had been used for worship (really since November? what is this, 1988?) and in order to count the number of people present, they used the voting pads which frankly took twice as long as if someone had just stood up and counted them. ARGH!!! Is this the modern face of the CofE?

Ok, ok, I’m really not being very nice, I know, I’m sorry. I know people give up a lot of time and effort to work/volunteer in these roles but personally I came away thinking for goodness sake, this would drive me around the bend. And this is an organisation I work for!

Thankfully the ABC (who I think I am secretly a little bit in love with) saved the day with a stirring speech on evangelism and sharing the gospel. (Although I have to say, it was sad that he even had to say it at all. I mean, surely, if we have devoted our lives to Christ enough that we are even working for the church, or volunteering or whatever, surely there should be enough of Christ in us to compel us to share him with those around us?)

His point that he highlighted several times was that the love and joy of Christ should urge us on to share the most compelling of announcements that is the good news of the gospel. 
Yes! Yes! And yes! 
So often it feels like this church is apologising for simply whispering the name of Jesus and I want to shout it from the rooftops: 
Jesus. Only Jesus.

In Jeremiah chapter 20, he is complaining of the persecution towards him and yet even then he says that if he were to try and hold in talking of God that

‘his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot’

He simply cannot stop talking of the God who he is committed to and he hadn’t even met Jesus yet! Surely as church and as Christians we should be as committed and overcome with God’s love, as Jeremiah was, and if not I think we should question our faith. Yes, truly I do, controversial as that sounds, oh yes some are called to be evangelists, blah blah, but at the end of the day our job is to make disciples, to share the good news and if you’re not doing that, then why bloomin’ not? 

Ok enough of my slightly irritated ranting. In Summary, General Synod was exactly as I expected (rather frustrating), and so was the ABC (rather brilliant). Could have just posted 2 lines really….

“The Faith of Friends…” Talk at The Point Church // 10/08/14

Luke 5:17-26 TNIV
7 One day Jesus was teaching, and
Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every
village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was
with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man
on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19
When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on
the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the
crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“Friend, your sins are forgiven.” 21 The Pharisees and the
teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who
speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 Jesus
knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things
in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or
to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man
has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man,
“I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25
Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and
went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God.
They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things
today.”

 

 

Talk // The Faith of Friends
 So we are on our 3rd Summer Sunday
and over the summer we are looking at some of
the parables of Jesus in Luke’s gospel
. Last week Will talked about healing
after looking at Jesus healing the man with leprosy. This week we see another
healing, this time of the paralysed man.
So in prep
for this talk, I’ve been reading a book called: Through Peasant Eyes’ by
Kenneth Bailey, which looks at the oral
traditions of story telling
in the middle east and particularly in relation
to Luke’s Gospel. Parables and much of the early sharing of the Christian faith
were shared orally by people meeting each other, sharing stories, social time.
In his book
Bailey says of the parables:
‘The parables of Jesus are a concrete/dramatic form of
theological language that presses the listener to respond. They reveal the
nature of the kingdom of God and/or indicate how a child of the kingdom should
act…’
and I was
really struck by this line but just to make it a bit simpler:
We are the children of the kingdom of God right?
So then, when we read the parables of Jesus, they should teach us how to act in
a general sense but also foster in us some sort of response. Some sort of action.
So as I was
looking at this passage, which has so much in it, and thinking on what to talk
about today, I thought ok, well what is it that should be the response here? What is the action that we should take away from
reading this story?
And what
stood out to me and what I want to focus on today, is not in the man who was
healed, ‘Matt’,  but actually it’s the people who carried him. The
people who did something extraordinary for this man, who went way more than the extra mile for him.
Not for themselves but for him, for this one guy, lying paralysed on a mat.
Why? Why
would they do that?
Well I think
it’s simple, the passage tells us that ‘Jesus saw their
faith’.
So. Jesus saw their faith. And that’s why we
asked you to think about how your faith has impacted others. How have others
seen your faith?
I think
these men were lovers of Jesus, early followers and they knew what Jesus was
all about and they wanted some of that for their friend. We don’t actually know
whether the friend wanted it but I guess he didn’t have much choice!
The point
is, they loved Jesus enough and they loved this man enough to be pretty radical
in getting him to meet Jesus.
And that is what I am going to suggest should
be our guide, or our response to this parable. A guide to what our actions
should be as children of the kingdom of God. Do we love Jesus enough to enable
others to meet him? Do we love others enough to be radical in how we help them
to meet him?
Do we?
There’s our
challenge… and it’s a challenge to us as individuals and as a church.
To love Jesus enough and to love others
enough.
Xxxxx
Another book
I’m reading, which I will probably be mentioning a lot in the months to come is
this: ‘Being Church, Doing Life’.
It’s all about people getting outside the church, being missional, meeting
people where they are at. I really recommend it, especially as we start to look
at being a transforming presence in Mid Sussex. Anyway, I just want to read you
a bit from this book: It talks about a mission heart, but don’t freak out at
the term ‘mission’ in this sense, it simply means having a heart for others.
P.152,
So – Are we up for it?  To be part of buildings Gods kingdom?
xxxxxx
So, going back to our passage in Luke, what do
we actually know about these men?

What can we learn from them? Well we don’t actually know that much to be honest
but we can use some assumptions too! This
parable actually also appears in Mark 2 and a version of it in Matthew 9 as
well.
Mark tells
us there were 4 men, here in Luke it just says some, but as it says he was
lying on mat we can guess that’s one at each corner, carrying it like a
stretcher.
So, four men
are carrying a paralysed man on his mat.
Now don’t forget this is a culture with
little medical provision
. There
would have been no hope for any cure for this man or any improvement. We don’t
know how long he has been paralysed, whether from an accident or injury or from
birth. But he would have probably been shunned by society. Often illness and
affliction were seen as spiritual
a judgement from God or something demonic. Many
people with long term illness or disabilities were reduced to begging in the
streets.
So for four
men to willingly pick up this paralysed man and carry him to see Jesus, I think
we can assume there must have been some quite strong connection – probably
family or perhaps friends. Of course as followers of Jesus they could have been
simply acting out of compassion but I believe with the lengths they go to it is
likely to be someone they know. And I think that is confirmed also when we see
what they do. Not only do they bring him to Jesus but they are so desperate to
get him before this great healer that they go to really desperate measures
don’t they?!
xxxxxxx
Here’s the other thing about this situation.
Here we have a building rammed with people to hear this young Prophet speak.
Of course we don’t know who all the people
in that house were but we do know that there were a lot of religious leaders there – from every village of Galilee and Judea
and Jerusalem. So we’re not talking 2 or 3 here, that’s a lot of religious leaders.  (v17)
We also know
from what happens later that they are really here to check him out aren’t they.
They want to prove him wrong, they want to be able to condemn him.
So we have a
house full to bursting (no H&S obvs!) with a bunch of cynnics come to check
out this guy, responding to reports of a prophet not following their teachings
perhaps, ready to catch him out, ready to condemn him. These are not men who
need Jesus, they are men who think they are better than him.
And yet outside there is a man, one man, who
cannot get in
. Possibly
the one man who really needs to get in and he can’t. His way is blocked by
religious leaders. His way is blocked by a crowd. Perhaps even his way is
blocked because of his condition, because of his needs.  In other places where Jesus has preached, the
bible talks of him healing all their sick but not here. Here it says the spirit
is present to heal but until this man comes in no one is healed. Are people repulsed by his needs? Do
they keep him out rather than making a way to let him in?
xxxxx
I think that gives us a picture of what the
church is often like. A

building full of people focussed on what is going on in the inside, whist
outside are those that really need to meet Jesus but for one reason or another
can’t or won’t come in. Perhaps we are repulsed by the needs of others? Perhaps
we don’t want to make a way to let people in?  ….
xxxxx
Yet here, outside there are 4 men showing
their love for Jesus
, showing
their love for their friend, absolutely determined to get in. Radically
determined I think. I mean that’s hard core isn’t it digging a hole in a roof!
(literally hard core!)
Not sure any
of our bits of paper will say that!
But anyway
they get in and what happens? Jesus saw
their faith. HE SAW THEIR FAITH.
Not the mans, Matt’s faith, but their
faith, the friends faith. IT is the faith of the friends in bringing this man
to Jesus that prompts Jesus to say to the man ‘Friend your sins are forgiven’.  That is the impact that our faith can have on our friends and
those around us. OUR faith… this is so key!!!
In the book:
‘being church, doing life’ – here’s an example from one person:
P;48 ‘Ive become a follower and lover of God, because I was introduced to him like that by people who have God in them, and not the religious stuff…”
That’s what
our faith can do for others….
xxxx
And Jesus
didn’t literally see their faith did he, its not like they had a sign around
their necks saying ‘full of faith’ – no
he saw it in their actions,
in their love for their friend. Having faith is
one thing, but we usually have to act on it as well. We don’t just sit there
waiting for God to wave some magic wand over us do we?
Do people around us, SEE our faith? In our
actions, in our lives?
In these
friends we see in them, their love of Jesus, they know who he is and what he
can do, not just for them but for their friend.
You
can just imagine it – They are undeterred. Outside the building
. They are so close. They can probably hear
Jesus’ voice, they know they are so close. Even the man on the blanket can
hear. They are not giving up now!
So they do something so crazy out
of desperation, they dig through the roof. Mark tells us: in 2:4 ‘Since they
could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the
roof above Jesus and after digging through it. Lowered the mat the paralysed
man was lying on.’ Or ‘through the tiles’ as it says here in Luke. Either way
it was not an easy task to say the least!
We see their desire to see transformation in
their friend
We see their
sense of urgency – they don’t give up and say we’ll come back another day – who
knows Jesus might not be there another day.
And we see
ingenuity. I mean they dig a hole on a roof – how’s that for thinking outside
the box!
xxxxx
I just wonder how often we take our faith for
granted.
You know
you don’t have to be standing on a street corner shouting about it, but we are
not supposed to be hidden, people should see our faith. Luke 8:16 parable of the lamp on a stand: ‘ no one lights a lamp
and hides it in a jar or puts it under his bed. Instead he puts it on a stand
so that those who come in can see the light’…
Can people see your light?
Now I’m sure
I’ve stood up here and said this before but
we are all different, ok
. I know that I am a natural evangelist, I will
talk to anyone about my faith but I know that not everyone finds that easy. But
we can all find ways to let our lights shine without shouting about it. If We are part of Gods plan to ‘contribute
to the salvation of others’ – then Surely God gifts us, prepares us, equips us
for all he has for us
?
We can all
impact those around us with our faith. That’s why I wanted to see what you said
– how you have used your faith?
How your
faith has impacted those around you – because we are all different. We can all
learn from each other.
So how do
people see your faith? How has your faith impacted others?
Share some
examples….. from the box! and expand on them…
xxxx
 
Earlier in the service we had asked people to write down times when their faith had impacted others and put them in a box at the front. Then at this point we read some of them out. It was a powerful time of encouraging each other as individuals and as the body of the church and then we prayed together… 
 
Some examples were:
 

“Prayed for many in the town, healings are happening here! this town’s ready for revival!”
“all my friends were gossiping in the common room at college and I wasn’t joking in but instead reading. This started a conversation about why I wasn’t joining in and showed Jesus!”

“I did a bible reading at school”

“I was walking down the street and a lady and her dog saw me. The dog approached me. The lady was so surprised that she kept asking what is it about you? Well I told her it was Jesus and I was able to pray for her right there”

“My friends come to me when they’ve got tough stuff going on in their lives and need advice”

“By treating anyone who comes into our house as if it was God coming in, we’ve recently had the theory tested when we found a group of half drunk teenagers partying in our house (as guests of our daughter). We didn’t kick off but cooked pizzas and made them all feel welcome”
” loved a friend who was going through a really tough time, ended up sharing Jesus with her and eventually she became a Christian!”

” Aiming to run a business with kingdom values, creating a supernatural workplace environment”
” Telling people at work that I go to church”

Mission & Evangelism for the modern day…

Just reflecting a bit more on BAP with a friend this morning. When you go to BAP one of the things that has to be done in advance is a written piece about an aspect of mission & evangelism. I had 2 options. One I felt was the easy option which was about youthwork and the harder option, but far more me was about getting out there among Joe Public and asking God for words of prophecy and offering to pray for healing… this was my piece, in case anyone is interested…

Mission
and Evangelism: Meeting people at their
point of need.

(In
relation to aspects H3 & H6 on the Criteria for Selection)

Like it or not, we live
in an increasingly secular nation. Our government does not openly declare any
one faith, the media is not ‘Christianity friendly’ and church attendance is continuing
to fall. This is the age of ‘the haves’ rather than ‘the have nots’; the era of
knowledge – where we can find out pretty much everything we want to at the
click of a button; the age of consumerism, selfish choice and demand.

 And yet amidst all of
this, increasing numbers of people are realising that wealth and possessions
are not an answer to happiness. Research in the last decade has shown that the
majority of people in the UK have a belief in a divine being and that they do pray. Various beliefs and religions
are on the rise and ‘spirituality’ has come to be ‘cool’. So there seems to be
a dichotomy between these two: People are seeking a spiritual encounter but in
many cases their first choice appears not to be the Church. I long to see this
turned on its head!
 My own experience has
been that by enabling the Kingdom of God to come into people’s lives at their point of need, hearts are softened
and minds are far more open to hearing the Word of God. Inspired by the early
church I believe God has given us all as believers, power and authority in His
name and that in working within that, the church can have a far greater impact
on those around us. Talking to someone about going to church can often be a
conversation killer, however an offer to pray for an injury or an encouraging
word can be a great opener into a conversation on the Kingdom of God. In some
circles this is a controversial approach but St Paul tells us to ‘eagerly
desire’ the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1) and that prophecy specifically
is to: ‘strengthen, encourage and comfort’.
 In my own walk with
Christ I try to model this wherever I can, both in my own time and also
corporately at church. I have had some wonderful conversations with people
after giving them a word, or by offering to pray. One particular example is of
a man who came to clean our carpets. When he arrived he was obviously limping
and apologised for struggling with his equipment due to a painful foot
condition. I offered to pray for his foot and the pain was largely reduced (so
much that he stopped limping). He was happily amazed and it enabled us to have
a more detailed conversation about my faith, the gospel and our next Alpha
course, which he said he was going home to share with his wife! Another recent
example is of a prophetic word I shared with a chap who works at our local
station. Having been initially a bit reluctant to talk to me, he said that the
word meant something to him and again there followed further discussion about
Jesus. This was particularly interesting as he is a Muslim. What a great way to
proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God, by offering people something at
their point of need, first.
 This kind of spirit-led
ministry reflects the work of the early church that can be seen specifically in
the book of Acts and the Letters of St Paul, and is something that I am passionate
about seeing more of within the modern Church. In Acts 9 for example we see the
power of a healing in evangelising, when a paralytic is healed and a woman
raised from the dead after Peter has prayed for them:
 Acts 9:35:  All
those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
Acts 9:42: This became known all over Joppa, and many
people believed in the Lord
 Using the spiritual gifts
that God has given to us is enormously helpful in proclaiming the Good news to
non believers but also to encourage and nurture new or existing believers. I
long for the day when an entire town turns to Jesus because someone is healed
as we see above. The Kingdom of God promises us so much, as we say in the
Lord’s Prayer, ‘on earth as it is in heaven…’  and I would love to see that, in all its glory,
right across the church and across our nation. 
I want to see the church as a true centre of each and every community,
people being met at their point of need, to see communities transformed by the
power of God. To see people healed, encouraged, lives turned around and The
Church being an absolute beacon of God’s power and glory in this broken nation.
Jules Middleton
March 2012