Seeking the truth in love

Famously, we are living in the era of ‘post-truth’ a phrase that ought to be enough to send fear into even the most courageous of hearts. Post-truth – makes it sound like ‘the truth’ doesn’t exist anymore and it some sense it doesn’t. The technological era has enabled people, groups and organisations to share whatever opinion they like and brand it as ‘news’ or ‘truth’ and share it with millions of people, who gobble it up and regurgitate it at their will. And we then take that ‘truth’ and brand ourselves with it like some flag of allegiance.

Yesterday evening, about the time Donald Trump was being sworn in as President of the USA, I was preaching to 800 or so teenagers at a local school. The theme was ‘Come Follow Me’ which struck me as particularly ironic, and in that talk I said: 

“For example, my truth is that Donald Trump is a mysoginistic, racist liar.

And yet…

women and people of colour voted for him, their truth is very different to mine…

And excuse me for getting political but we are living in a time where it is becoming more and more important for us to distinguish between the voices who are shouting out to us. The loudest or most retweeted or most viewed is not necessarily the right one. Often the quietest ones are: the most important, and the most vulnerable, and perhaps the ones telling the most truth.

Choose carefully people.”

 

A well used quote notes:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

(It is popularly attributed to Edmund Burke although no one seems to be able to prove it was actually him)

and it is a good sentiment for a time like now, where something or someone, causes such divide and has the potential to grow into what we might call evil.

But the danger in that, in feeling fuelled to do something, is in how we respond. Right now, anyone in a position of leadership, with authority and influence, has a responsibility to stand up and be a voice of truth. Not just their own brand of truth, but in a desperate seeking to see through the opinion, the spin and rhetoric and seek the actual truth. We need to model a way of living that does not spread more hate and anger but seeks to love in difference, to bring grace where there is judgment and humility where there is arrogance. And equally as important, we need to help others find their way through this mist of words.

Trump is a dangerous man – completely aside from what you think of him or his politics – just look at the way he has been able to gather the support of millions of Americans who on paper should despise him, to be where he is now. He has gone from a potential laughing stock to arguably the most powerful man in the world.

But far more than that, and here’s where I worry most, it is in how he affects his opponents. His words and his behavior have incited people to fear and hatred. And not just those with a tendency to discriminate, but actually all of us, ordinary people, who might be trying to live in love, and yet we find ourselves equally fuelled with anger and vitriol, it’s just pointed in a different direction. So how are we any different?

I’ve spent months thinking about this, about how to take a stand against the injustice that has come through the rise of Trump and Brexit, but without adding to that increasing fire of anger and hate. I, with others, started the Movement of Love and yet I am still angry and frustrated.

But. At the end of the day all I can come back to is that Jesus died for Donald Trump as much as he did for me. I am no more special than Donald Trump and if I think I am then I have missed the whole point of The Gospel (and perhaps in the wrong job).

Let us not sink to the level of those who hate, we are better than that – you are better than that, I am better than that. We were made for more. I saw singer Martyn Joseph in concert last night and he noted that there are no less kind people in the world today than there were yesterday. And that’s the thing, we all have the potential to be lovers or haters, to do acts of kindness or acts of discrimination.

Let’s choose for ourselves to be loving and kind and to bring people with us on a journey of hope for a better future.

 

PREACH // Daniel 3: ‘Three Friends Trust’ // 23 Oct 2016

Daniel 3: ‘Three Friends Trust’ // 23 Oct 2016 // 6.30pm TRINITY Church

 

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In 2005 8 men and 1 woman were arrested in Bali for attempting to smuggle a large amount of heroin into Australia. Amongst them were Andrew Chan, aged 21 and Myuran Sukumaran, aged 24.

They were sentenced to death for their crime.

For 10 years legal wrangles continued between Australia and Bali, high profile celebrities supported the campaign to have their sentences reduced or for them to be returned to Australia. Throughout this time both men became Christians, their lives being transformed by the love of Christ, in their darkest hour, with Chan even becoming ordained as a Christian minster during this time.

However, the Balinese authorities were unrelenting despite the obvious rehabilitation of the men and finally last year a date was set for the execution.

This is from a newspaper report at the time:

Strung to a pole and staring down at the weapons pointed at their hearts, the prisoners defiantly sang Amazing Grace in the moments before they were executed.

Pastor Karina de Vega described to the Sydney Morning Herald the extraordinary scenes of the prisoners “praising their God”. “It was breathtaking,” said De Vega. “This was the first time I witnessed someone so excited to meet their God.”

They reportedly refused to wear blindfolds so they could look their executioners in the eye, and as they sang in unison the bond between them was visceral (deep and inbuilt), said the pastor.

“They bonded together,” she said. “Brotherhood. They sang one song after another. Praising God. They sang a few songs together, like in a choir.” After singing Amazing Grace they moved on to Bless the Lord O My Soul. The order to shoot was issued before they finished…’

Such conviction to one’s faith is something I am sure we all hope we would show in times of great trial, but for most of us it won’t be tested in such a dramatic way as it was for Andrew and Myuran, or for Shadrach, Mishach and Abednego.

What must it take to be able to stare death in the face? to face pain, uncertainty, absolute fear and yet to be so sure of God, to have so much trust in him that nothing can away us from our absolute love and devotion to him? For Shadrach, M & A to face it with such conviction, such defiance in the face of the kings death threats? For Andrew and Myuran to walk to their death singing – in fact encouraging all the prisoners to sing and praise God, perhaps helping people to meet Jesus in their final moments? They had amazing faith, amazing trust in God, amazing devotion to him, but also they had each other.

We are just at the beginning of our new series, Seeing Jesus through Old Testament Heroes. Kirsty kicked off us last week looking at Samson and being a weirdo! And we are specifically looking at how these old Testament heroes point to Jesus.

 

You know I love this quote from Martin Luther –

 

The bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid

Luther was a Priest, a Monk, very intelligent, well educated and knew the bible inside out. He was hugely influential in the reformation – a time which challenged some of the doctrine of the church and their practices. Luther taught that salvation had nothing to do with good deeds, or doing right but is only received only as the free gift of God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus has to be our focus. And in fact all of the bible points to Jesus.

Not sure I’ve said before but something like only 5% of all preaching is from the OT (not sure how they worked that out) (one stat here says less than 20%) and yet ¾ of our scriptures are in the OT – we cannot ignore them! These were the Jewish scriptures, the scriptures that Jesus himself would have known, loved and spoken from. Of course they were written before Jesus arrived on earth but the Jews believed there was a Messiah coming, they looked forward to that day he would arrive, their Saviour on earth.

We believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT scriptures. So if we only read the NT then it’s like just watching the ending of a movie, missing the whole build up, it doesn’t means as much if you don’t know where it’s all coming from.
So it’s great that we are looking at OT heroes and how they point to Jesus.

This evening specifically through the story of Shadrach, Mesach & Abednego in the book of Daniel we are going to look at:

  • Trust in Jesus – completely trusting in our amazing God, in all things
  • Focus on Jesus – absolutely fixing our eyes no him and him only
  • Together with Jesus – walking out our faith in fellowship with others – friendship.

…oo0O0oo…

 

  • Trust in Jesus – completely trusting in our amazing God, in all things

trust3JPG Proverbs 3 is all about wisdom and advice for a Godly life, it’s a great passage, go and check it out later, but v 5-6 says this: 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Amazing words and quite challenging. TRUST IN THE LORD with everything… don’t trust your own thoughts, just be led by him.

In the message version is says this:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.

Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health,  your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over.

What does it mean to trust God? Just that – bring him into every part of your life, every thing you do, every choice or decision, every action. And the rewards are huge. Do we entrust our lives to him – every area, our decisions, big and small (not, perhaps, what colour socks to wear in the morning.)
Which we might think ok I can do that, but what about in the tough times? When the really hard things come along, temptation kicks in or we face something hard?

For Shadrach, Mesach & Abednego, it is clear that they totally trusted God, with everything.

In V16 after Nebuchadnezzar has threatened to throw them all in the fiery furnace – they show no fear at all – in fact the opposite, total defiance. It does remind me a little bit of my kids when they are being a bit antsy and answering back, like ‘ well, fine, I don’t need my ipad anyway’. Kind of ‘I am so unphased by what you are saying…’ There’s that almost teennage arrogance – ‘we don’t need to defend ourselves before you…’

Except its not arrogance, it’s confidence, because they completely trust in God.

 

 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

 

I think it’s all about the bigger picture. Instead of focusing on what was right in front of them they looked to God.

 

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It’s like looking at a painting close up you just focus on the bit in front of you, it’s just a blurry mess. But when you stand back you see the whole thing.

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And Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were able to see the whole thing because they knew God – they had experienced him. So when faced with something that was right before their eyes, they could stand back and see the bigger picture, see where God was.

And what happened? – perhaps one of the clearest pointers to Jesus in the Old Testament: v:24-5

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Don’t forget they didn’t know Jesus, they believed a Messiah was coming but they didn’t know when or who, perhaps this was Jesus walking in the fire with them, but they very fact that Nebuchadnezzar refers to him as a ‘son of the gods’ points us to the fact that there was a bigger picture and that God was at work here.

S, M & A they were fully persuaded. Fully focused on God. Nothing could make them bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue – no threats, no consequence, no punishment. They were fully persuaded of the promises of God and in their obedience to him. 

Are we totally focused on Jesus? Do we trust him in all things? Can we step back and see him in the bigger picture?

 …oo0O0oo…

  • 2) Focus on Jesus – absolutely fixing our eyes on him and him only

 

So how do we trust in God completely as they did? We put our focus on Jesus completely.

S, M & A model this for us, they are so focused on God and won’t let anything tear them away from him.

Now these guys had been through the mill. They have ended up here because Nebuchadnezzar has already attacked Jerusalem (Daniel 1). Not only did he carry off plunder and things from the temple but people too.

These guys are from the nobility, the royal family and Nebuchadnezzar takes them and orders that they be trained to serve him. They have gone from living in the palace as nobility to being forced to serve those who live in another palace. It’s like the UK being attacked and Will & Kate being taken off somewhere and being forced to be a servant to a king in another country. It’s shocking, it’s demeaning, they have been taken by force from a position of great power and authority and reduced to this.

I wonder how that felt? They could have been angry at God – why did he let this happen? Why did he not rescue them? Why had he reduced them to such a position?

Real faith means obeying God even under difficult circumstances. And they just continue to honour God.

We read in Daniel 1 how he refuses to eat the meat provided by the king – it was ‘defiled’ – had probably been offered to one of the Babylonian Gods. Instead they ate vegetables and water and yet God made them healthier and better nourished than anyone else!

1:17 tells us that God gave them gifts of understanding, knowledge, literature, and that Daniel could understand visions and dreams.

In fact later Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream when no one else can and the king falls down and says ‘Surely your God is the God of the gods and the Lord of kings….

So they have seen God at work and are completely focused on him, even when threatened with death, they refused to worship the idol set up. Anything that would take their focus from God, they were not interested.

I wonder if we can say the same – that we are so focused on Jesus, we refuse to worship other idols?

Because I think often we get a bit disillusioned and we get drawn away from fixing our eyes on Jesus.

Old Testament idols were literally sculptures or carvings or things that people bowed down in front of as we read earlier (3:44)

But what are our idols? What draws us away from focusing on Jesus? It might not be a an actual sculpture but I think an idol is anything that takes our focus from Jesus – anything we spend more time focusing on, than on Jesus.

What are the things that take your focus away from Jesus? What are the things we might see as idols in our lives? What does our society encourage us to worship and focus on rather than God?

 

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Ourselves? ‘Because you’re worth it’ – society teaches us we can do what we want when we want and no one has the right to take it away from us…

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Do we make an idol of ourselves or our lives – I must have the next pair of Nike trainers, the latest hoody, or pair of jeans, I must look good, have perfect ‘on fleek’ eyebrows, defined cheekbones….

Our stuff – what about our stuff? Are we more focused on our possessions than on following Jesus? Do we worship our iphones and ipads for example…

 

Or do we worship other people? If only I could be more like them…?

Are we led by our friends, influenced by them and not by Jesus? Or sports teams? Frankly in our house I’m not sure that Seagulls aren’t an idol ;) My son’s room is like an albion shrine!

Or social media – here’s a biggie – how many of us spend more time on Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat or Instagram than you do reading your bible? I actually want to challenge you this week to time it.

 

Anything that draws our focus away from Jesus can be an idol. And the bible is pretty clear about worshipping idols – basically it’s a bad thing!! For example:

  

Therefore I poured out My wrath on them for the blood which they had shed on the land, because they had defiled it with their idols. Ezekiel 36:18

They served idols, concerning which the LORD had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.” 2 Kings 17:12

 

 

Don’t get me wrong it’s hard! In fact I think the devil does everything he can to draw our focus away from Jesus. Distraction – it’s one of his biggest tools! And in our society there are so many things to distract us and draw us away from Jesus.

If we look at Shadrach, Messach and Abednego, I wouldn’t have blamed them for giving in and going along with what the culture around them was doing – it would have been far easier, let’s face it. Just eat the food you are give, do as you are told, join in and worship the statue when told to. It took real guts to be different – and it’s the same for us. It’s not always going to be easy, we might face trials along the way, but let’s not despair!

I read this quote this week:

Don’t despair. Because when the devil turns up the heat, God does too.

I like that – so appropriate here, we might not get thrown into an actual fire of course (I hope) but life brings us our own fires – the trials and difficulties we face. But you know, what we see with Shadrach, Messach and Abednego is that God doesn’t save them from the fire, he doesn’t stop them going into it, but he goes through it with them – we see him in the fire, the fourth person. And it’s the same for us. And you know what I think is amazing is that when they came out they didn’t even smell of smoke! What a great picture for us.

  …oo0O0oo…

 

3) Together with Jesus – walking out our faith in fellowship with others – friendship

So, how do we remain strong and focused on Jesus? Just like S, M & A did – with each other 

Life is pretty tough if you do it alone. And I know, I’ve been there. In my rebellious younger years which I have mentioned before. I was fiercely independent, not really knowing what friendship was, not letting people into my own life, my space. I had friends but only on the surface, I’m not sure there was anyone I could have called on if I was in deep need.

But God creates us to live in relationship with others. He himself is three persons, living in unity together. Man was not complete alone so God made him a companion. Jesus had his disciples, Moses had his brother Aaron, Paul had various companions – Timothy, Silas, Titus.

In fact there are few positive examples of people in the bible going it alone.

– we are not achieving all we can if we try and do life alone.

 

One example I love is in Exodus 17 where there is a battle going on and all the time Moses hands on the air, they are winning but he gets tired and his arms come down and they start losing. So Aaron and Hur hold his arms up.

We all need someone who can hold our arms up.
Daniel, S, M & A stuck together and in that there is great strength and support.

Daniel gets promoted by the king earlier on having interpreted a dream of his but he doesn’t leave behind his friends, instead he asks the king to promote them too, and he does (Dan 2:48-9)

When we stick together we are accountable to each other, when one person is struggling, the other can pull them up. When one person is in need, ill or having a tough time, the others can support them and help them. When someone’s focus in drawn away from Jesus, the others can draw it back.

1 Thess 5: 11-15 tell us:

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing… Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Friendship – much easier to stay strong in a group together
Castellers de Vilfranca – a Catalunyan tradition in Spain – building towers of people. – they way they can do something so unbelievable is in their mutual strength and be focussed on the task to achieve amazing things.


We need that too. We need to trust in God and in each other – recognising God in each other

Preach // John 17:6-19 // Standing in the Gap

Preach // John 17:6-19 // Standing in the Gap 

Now available to listen to here: Just click under the speakers tab and choose my name and you can see it.

TRINITY: 9.30 4/9/16; 10am & 11.15am, 18/9/16

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Anyone know who this is?

Have you heard of a man called D L Moody? D L Moody is known as one of the world’s greatest evangelists. He lived in the 19th Century and travelled mostly around America and England sharing the gospel. In a period of just 40 years he saw 1 million people become Christians as a result of his teaching and preaching. 1 million people. That’s staggering isn’t it? Even in today’s era of mass communication.

But more than that he also planted churches, founded Christian schools, launched a Christian publishing business, established a world-renowned Christian conference centre, supported the poor, and inspired literally thousands of preachers to win souls and conduct revivals.

And one story I love about Moody is that in his lifetime he wrote a list of 100 friends who he decided he would pray for to come to know Jesus. And he prayed for them regularly. By the time he died, 96 of them had become Christians. Pretty cool, right? But there’s more – the final 4 of the 100 – converted at his funeral!

Moody was a man who knew the power of prayer.

Why am I telling you this? because the passage today is Jesus’ prayer. And we are going to be looking at prayer this morning.

So a quick recap – we are continuing in our series from John’s Gospel, and we are looking at this passage which we should remember takes place at the last supper, in that upper room, the last time Jesus and the disciples are gathered together before he is arrested. And this passage is part of a prayer and also right at the end of what is called Jesus’ ‘Farewell discourse’ which runs from Ch. 13-17.

It was actually a fairly common practice in the ancient world, to give a parting speech or ‘farewell discourse’. When someone knew their end was approaching, they might share with those close to them, some thoughts, possibly some words of comfort and sometimes a prayer. So what Jesus is doing, or what John tells us of what Jesus does is not that uncommon and would certainly make sense to the Greek reader at the time.

 

So we are looking at Jesus’ praying…

And it’s actually interesting that very few of Jesus prayers are actually recorded. We know he prayed alone, at night, often by himself, withdrawn from others, he prayed for children as they came to him, he prayed outside in nature, on the mountainside or in lonely places, he prayed for his persecutors… In fact he prayed in lots of ways or situations but we don’t often see what he prayed in any detail. We have the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ of course, but this in fact is, I believe, the one time in the bible where we see the words Jesus prayed, recorded at length.

So Jesus’ prayer here has 3 strands to it, first he prays for himself, then as we have heard today, for his disciples, and then later for all believers.

This prayer is an intercessory prayer – it is Jesus interceding for the disciples, he is lifting them up to the Father – as we sometimes say, standing in the gap for them. He is the go between, the connector, the wifi router if you like. The one that connects them with the source.

So that is what I want to focus on today, for us to look at what it means to intercede for others in prayer, what we can learn from how Jesus prays and our role to intercede for others.

We are of course starting with this passage but we are going to look at a few other scriptures, so we will have them on the screen but if you have your bibles and want to look them up please do…

 

What does it mean that Jesus is an intercessor for us? 

We sometimes have the ‘intercessions’ in church – prayers in the service that specifically lift up others before the Lord.

And to intercede means: to act or interpose on behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, by pleading or petition…

So Jesus is the one who stands before the Father on behalf of us, he stands in that gap between us and the Father and brings the two together. He mediates on our behalf.

And in fact this isn’t the only passage in the bible on this theme of intercession.

In our Romans passage earlier (Romans 8: 28-39) we heard that ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ and that’s it, Jesus, as God, is soooo for us. He’s our biggest fan! And that passage goes on to say that God doesn’t condemn us, no, he is the one who intercedes for us and that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus. Nothing!

Because he will always be there, as our cheerleader, our encourager and mediator…

Hebrews 7 talks about what it means to be a Priest and notes that Jesus as our great high priest : ‘is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them’.

He is ALWAYS interceding before God, for us.

Isn’t that pretty amazing? It’s like having someone continually beating your drum, saying how amazing you are, but also defending you when you need it, being the one when you make a mistake who stands up for you, who fights your corner.

Who does that for you? Anyone? … Always?

Well Jesus does it for you, before the one who matters most, before the Father…

 

 

Other biblical examples of intercessors

There are other examples of great intercessors in the bible too – there are many people in the OT who were like forerunners of Jesus, from whom we can learn so much about Jesus. Moses is a great example and an amazing intercessor. He was interceding for the nation of Israel. So many times they messed up and he went before the Lord and pleaded for them, on behalf of them.

There was also Abraham prayed on behalf of the people of Sodom, Daniel prayed for the people of Israel, and then there’s this in Job:

 

Job endured great suffering, pouring out his heart to God and to his friends, says this (from the message version) Job 16:18-21

 

‘O Earth, don’t cover up the wrong done to me! Don’t muffle my cry!

There must be Someone in heaven who knows the truth about me,

 in highest heaven, some Attorney who can clear my name—

My Champion, my Friend, while I’m weeping my eyes out before God.

I appeal to the One who represents mortals before God

as a neighbor stands up for a neighbor.’

 

Who does that sound like if not an intercessor? If not THE intercessor.

 

So that’s just a few examples of bible heroes, if you like, who were great intercessors too.

 

But here in our passage, we have THE greatest intercessor, Jesus, interceding for his disciples,

So. What can we learn from how Jesus prays here? He is praying specifically for his disciples, he is not at this moment praying for all believers (see v. 9), that is to come.

As we know, this is the last supper. The last time Jesus will be with them before he is arrested and then killed. He has shared some thoughts with them, his final words or discourse and now he prays, in their presence it seems.

He knows what trials they will continue to face. To suffer persecution and pain and for all bar one of them (John interestingly) to die horribly, martyred for their faith.

What could he possibly pray for them?

I wonder how many times you have prayed for someone and just thought, what can I possibly pray? Their situation may seem so hopeless or impossible that we might find ourselves with so little faith.

But of course Jesus also knows here what great things the disciples will achieve in his name, and I think much of intercessory prayer is about stating some truths, biblical promises, declaring them over people, over situations, the truth of God.

Jesus does this too. So let’s just look at a few of the things he prays for and the things he declares:

 

He starts by declaring who he is, who the Father is and who the disciples are.

He says that disciples were the chosen ones of God in v 6: … ‘They were yours; you gave them to me’. Declaring that they belong to God, putting a spiritual seal on them if you like – like I’ve just been naming my kids uniform this week as they have just gone back to school – putting a label on which basically says: ‘this belongs to Joe Smith’. It’s a bit like Jesus is putting a label on them saying, these guys here, they are mine, they belong to God.

 

He goes on in verse 7-8

‘…they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me’

he is saying, declaring, this group of people, they are believers, they are followers of me, it’s a declaration of salvation. They have chosen to be part of the Kingdom of God.

Then in verse 10 he says they are bringers of God’s glory:

‘And glory has come to me through them.’

Again he is declaring what they have done, their work for the kingdom, and this is how God sees them.

 

He talks of the power of his name slide

v. 11-12

 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me

 

He is declaring over them, the power of Jesus name – that his prayer, carries great authority.

don’t forget they are there whilst he is praying – And he’s actually using words they would recognise, from their Jewish scriptures, our OT – praying for them but by declaring amazing truth through God’s word.

 

Proverbs 18:10:

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.

 

Jeremiah 10:6

No one is like you, Lord, you are great, and your name is mighty in power.

 

We pray: in Jesus name, it is the authority he has given us, through his name. Hugely powerful, and often I don’t think we grasp how powerful.

 

He prays for unity for them too

 

‘So that they may be one as we are one’. Again he is declaring the truth of who God is, here God as the Trinity – 3 in 1 and that the disciples will be united in the same way.

You know there is something so powerful about being united in God. Our Christian faith brings us together, unites us with people we might never have met or known otherwise.

 

Part of my old job involved me gathering churches in our area to work together for social justice and community projects. It was not easy work for sure! But it was so worthwhile. Spiritually I think it is powerful, I think the devil has only a few strategies to tear us from God and he uses the same ones over and over again! And this is one of them, to try and pit us against each other and so often even within the church, we fall for it.

Unity is powerful … and more than that it is also a great witness to those round us too, that we are a people of love and we love each other just as much as those who don’t know the Lord yet.

 

Unity is a weapon against the enemy and that’s what Jesus wants for the disciples – protection – he says it in verses 11,12, 15

 

15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one

 

Round up –

When we intercede for others we are not pleading with God – we are declaring the truth even when it is not visible, even when it seems impossible. We might say of someone:

 

You ARE a child of God

You are a follower of Jesus Christ

You are loved by God

God is a healer

God is our guide

He is our comfort, our shield, our strong tower

These are all biblical truths of who God is.

 

 

And lastly here,

He prays for sanctification – the disciples are set apart. That’s what sanctification is, to be set apart, to be holy

And he says, verse 17:

‘Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.’

It’s a round up of what he has just been praying – he has declared the truth over them, God’s word, God’s truths – and so the conclusion of that is that they can be set apart for the kingdom. He is enabling them to be dedicated to their cause – Jesus’ cause.

 

 

So what does all this mean for us?

 

Jesus continues to intercede for us, we have seen the scriptures that tell us that, in Romans: Jesus is: is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

In Hebrews: ‘He he always lives to intercede for them

And we’ve seen examples of other great intercessors, pointing the way to Jesus: Moses, Abraham, Daniel, Job

 

But for us?

 

Well, just as the disciples had a mission to continue the work of Jesus, we have work to do, and part of that is to pray. And there are many ways of praying, and intercession is just one of them but it is a very important role.

 

I started by looking at DL Moody who saw millions of people won for Christ and for those closest to him he prayed them into the kingdom, with his list of 100 people. He was clearly an extraordinary man with an extraordinary faith but you know one thing he said was :

 

‘If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent’

 

Men and women of average talent! Not super spiritual people, not extraordinary people, just normal people, like any of us. And you know earlier this year the Church of England ran a campaign around prayer called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, they used the story of Moody’s list to help encourage people to pray for others and they suggested just choosing 5 people to pray for and to commit to praying for them, to intercede for them, to stand in the gap for them….

 

Who are you interceding for? Who are you standing in the gap for?

 

Some people have a real calling for this kind of prayer and will spend hours interceding for others. I have a friend who has been seriously ill for years and is often housebound and can’t get out. So she spends her time praying and she feels that is her calling. If I ever send out a prayer request via email I can guarantee she will be the first to answer.

But whether you have a particular calling for this, or not, we can all pray for others and I am sure we all know those who need prayer. Those who are sick or suffering. Those in need, those known to us and those not – persecuted Christians across the world for example.

Unanswered prayer;
And I just want to say here, I am sure there are many of you who are praying for others, or who have done, and yet you don’t see prayers answered, or you feel downhearted if people aren’t healed or their situations improved. And I’m afraid I’m not going to focus on that today, on why prayers don’t seem to be answered, on the disappointment that brings, except to say 2 things. 1 – I know that pain, I have been there, praying for others who haven’t been healed and also for myself, many people have prayed for me as I have a long term back condition which is not healed. So I know what it’s like. BUT, secondly, I think we have a choice. I have a made a choice – to trust in Jesus and all we know about him. And in the bible we see him healing everyone who came to him, we see miracles and prayers answered. That is my God. And whilst I may not understand why prayers don’t seem to be answered how we would like them, I refuse to get bogged down in that, so I choose, we can choose to focus on who God is and what he can do.

 

 

SO… let’s be great intercessors. I really feel that God is stirring up a hunger in people to pray more in this way and for our own communities, towns and countries too. I mean let’s just look around us, at this town of Lewes. I would love us as a church to really commit to praying for Lewes. And not because the church is doing it because as a family we feel stirred up as individuals to do that.

 

I mean there is so much to pray for here, in our town: The people, schools, how many schools are there here for example?! there is a hospital, a prison. In fact I love to go prayer walking – I just walk and pray, I go up on the downs so I can look over the town and pray and I come down by the back of the prison and I often wonder about the people in there.

 

Then when I was preparing for this preach I came across this story and I want to finish with this:

 

Jackie Pullinger is a missionary who has spent much of her life in Hong Kong ministering to drug addicts and criminals. At one time she went to visit the brother of a local drug Lord, in prison every week. She told him about Jesus, sharing the gospel every week for 9 months but he was completely unmoved. (Recommend book: The Lost Art of Intercession – by James W Goll)

She then asked others to pray, to intercede for him and to fast for him every Wednesday when she visited. Then a strange thing happened…

One day the governor of the jail was passing his cell and could smell something strange, like a perfume. Ali himself, the prisoner himself could not smell anything so they searched his cell. When they found nothing they searched him. Still they found nothing but they could still smell it. Ali asked himself what is that smell?! And as he did he felt something inside of him reminding him it was Wednesday and he realised he was smelling the aroma of prayer, like a holy incense of hundreds of prayers prayed just for him and pointed at his cell.

Of course he then talked to Jackie about it and finally a few weeks later he became a Christian devoting his life to the Lord. A hardened criminal, facing charges for murder and yet the power of prayer was so strong he could not resist.

And if you want to know, by the time he went before the judge, the judge just released him without even hearing the case! How’s that for the power of prayer!

 

 

Well, if you don’t know what to pray for – why not start with the inmates of the prison? Because whatever they have done wrong, you can bet that God’s heart is breaking for them as much as for their victims. Many prisoners have their own stories of heartbreak and how they came to be inside.

 

 

But lets ask ourselves.

Who you can pray for perhaps? Who can you stand in the gap for? Who is God asking us to stand in the gap for? Because there are millions of people around the world, millions of situations who need our prayers, let alone those on our own doorstep.

 

Let’s be the ones that stand in the gap….

 

 

‘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….

 

 

Saturday Morning Musings…

Sitting in my garden in the summer sunshine, there’s a gentle breeze blowing across the grass; in the next door garden I can hear the clank of spoon on bowl as they enjoy their breakfast, as we all gulp in this moment of sunshine, eager not to miss it. Inside my kids are watching old movies and my husband snoozes peacefully enjoying a lazy Saturday lie in.

I close my eyes and just feel the warmth of sun on my face. I breathe in slowly, desperately trying to still my mind, searching for something to hold on to. The sweet smell of lavender near by, the sound of a bird tweeting in a tree, the soft notes of a guitar twanging a few gardens away…

It’s almost idyllic except that my mind is in turmoil. In such stark contrast to my physical presence, my brain is processing news stories, pictures of horror, words of hate, increasing anger and xenophobia. I want to weep.

In my prayers I am saying ‘Lord why?’ I can’t voice my feelings, just can’t fathom, what is going on. I desperately whisper the name of Jesus, it’s all I can do.

 

…o0O0o…

The world seems to be in meltdown. I joked on Twitter that it was seemingly a bad time I had chosen to start studying the book of Revelation.

If you know the bible, it’s full of murder, hate, anger, of people making the wrong choices, of war, of death. And I don’t know, maybe the world has always been like this? Perhaps the reason it seems so awful now is partly because we are in the era of communication. We see things, hear things, literally as they happen, from the most far flung places of the world. We can be bringers of news ourselves, breaking stories as we find ourselves in them. How would it have been centuries ago, when angry dictators stormed across lands with their armies wiping out towns and villages as they forced their way into new territories, if we had Twitter? If we had had the capability to respond, to decry, to publically unite and stand against them? Would t have been different? Would our world be different now because of it?

There have always been disasters, manmade and natural. There has always been evil lurking in our hearts, waiting to be nurtured by some loving soothing voice bringing it to the fore. I know this, so why does it feel so desolate right now? So uncertain. Like everything we know and are sure of could disintegrate at any point?

I think for many it is so hard not to be sucked into the increasingly angry conversations going on. And angry they are. I heard this week, in the town where I live, swastikas had been painted on walls. I heard of being people abused in the street for the colour of the skin or their accent. And so much of this, I think, comes from fear and ignorance, comes from the whipping up of emotion in the press and in social groups. This is not going to stop any time soon.

…o0O0o…

All I can do is just turn to the one who I know is love. Who can be a comforter, who can bring peace. Because he is a comfort and it does bring peace to my mind. I cannot fathom the world, or the evil in it, but I do know Him.

 

The one where I get political…

Imagine this. A nation where the ruling elite are hated by many. Ruling with an iron rod, the poor are hardest hit. Yes they made some improvements, but not without huge cost.

Then along comes a leader like no other. One who interprets things differently, who brings a different world view. He’s not like the others. He’s not worried about what he looks like, or even who supports him, he just knows what he is there to do.

His message is so vastly different to the world he inhabits, he quickly gains support from those seeking a new way, seeking something different. Fed up with the status quo. People follow him and rally to declare their support of him.

Of course being a bit of a radical he has his enemies, he has his dissenters, that’s to be expected, right? But he has come to challenge the system, the world order, to make a change, he is committed to his cause.

 

…o0O0o…

Of course I’m not actually talking about Jeremy Corbyn, this is written abut Jesus, but I’ve been struck recently that the whole sorry mess this nation is in, is not that dissimilar to what happened 2000 years ago. Of course I’m also not suggesting Corbyn is any kind of Messiah either, but what I want to highlight is that someone a bit different gaining support can make people suspicious. The religious leaders of Jesus day (his own crowd you could say) turned on him because he was different, because he didn’t agree with every word they said. He brought a new interpretation of their laws, their scripture. And in a way Jeremy Corbyn is doing just that amongst his crew: the politicians, and now despite recent huge support for Corbyn, his party seem to be panicking, worrying about the difference that won him his support and are becoming increasingly suspicious of him.

Right now this country needs something to believe in. We need something different. I am proud that we live in a democracy, I’m proud that I get to vote, I am passionate about voting and wish more people did. But about now, when I watch PMQs and see them all behaving like school children – well worse actually my kids wouldn’t behave like they do – when I see the name calling in the press, the picking out each others flaws, the continual need to undermine each other, causing us, the public, to trust no one, I wonder why on earth we bother.

And what has gone on in the last few weeks? Well bloomin’ heck what IS going on? Our nation seems to be falling apart. And I am not going to join in the name calling and finger pointing but this whole sorry mess has come out of our own western political system, a democracy. So don’t tell me that it’s the fault of anyone except our political system and our politicians.

We are in a time of great uncertainty, we are fearful of the future, worried for our kids inheritance, angry, mistrustful and upset.

Well, last week someone said to me that it is at times like these revival happens. When the chips are down, when all else is falling apart, when wars happen, or disasters hit, the power of God often breaks out.

I don’t know why that is, perhaps there is something about feeling helpless, about finally admitting we don’t have all the answers, that enables us to hear from God. Perhaps there is something about being intentional – about actually seeking God, or even just seeking another way that allows him to break in.

…o0O0o…

Well right now as a nation we need something, or someone to believe in. Politically for me that’s JC – Jeremy Corbyn that is ;) He’s different, he’s bringing a different style of politics, is bringing a hope that the rest don’t seem to be able to do. Yes he might be a bit scruffy, yes he might be interpreting the rules differently but I think that’s what we need right now. I mean it can’t get any worse can it!

However, it will always be for me the JC. Jesus Christ. Whatever is going on around us, whatever I face, I know that Jesus is my constant. In times of trial, in times of joy, in pain and in celebration, he is there. If anyone can get us out of this mess it is him. So whilst I’ve voted for Corbyn and for remain, and am seriously considering joining the Labour party, I will be praying too. I’ll be crying out to the Lord for our nation, for a better way, a way that is founded on love and compassion. A way that sees the poor and marginalised supported and welcomed. A way that might be different to anything we’ve seen before but that just might save our nation from wrack and ruin. It might seem unlikely, but that’s what faith is. To believe that one man could change the world – how is that possible, right? But that’s just what I believe Jesus did and is still doing.

All that said, I also am praying for us – we can be that one man or woman too. How can we change our world? How can we bring a loving presence and a sense of compassion to what we do? Let’s be praying that there can be another way for this nation, whether it starts from God in revival, from politicians or simply from us…

jesus-politics

Love this pic (actually from a sticker design at Cafe Press)

A Movement of Love | Preach 5th June 2016

Finally back online after moving house and the horror of no wi-fi for over a week, argh!! Busy few weeks moving, leaving our church and finishing college, and I have so much to write about but for now, here’s my preach from last weekend, our last one at The Point. It’s focussed on 1 Corinthians 13 and love with a bit of my testimony thrown in…

 

Guest Post on Joy //

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This is the next instalment in a year of guest posts on Joy as part of my year of focussing on joy (my word for the year). This month we have an anonymous post but you can find out more at the author’s blog here. I am so grateful to her for sharing some of her story, and for her absolute honesty and inspiring faith.

**trigger warning, this post contains some of the author’s story of abuse**

 

Roughly 2 years ago somebody approached me who’s now a very dear friend of mine and suggested I could find my joy in the Lord and that nothing was impossible in him, well at that time I just wanted to tell her where to get off, and what she could do with the Lord’s joy!

Now the reason I reacted like this was because all I could see in my life was utter hopelessness and I felt worthless in the world so there was no room for feeling joyful in my eyes.

The fact that I was severely depressed, had daily suicidal thoughts and rarely even got dressed out my pyjamas to even attempt a new day was a big problem to start with for me.

These problems started from birth as I was brought up in an abusive and violent home and as a young lady I was subject to sexual abuse and horrific rape so how on earth could I even contemplate joy or even know what it was?

The past two years have been a big turn around for me as my dear friend never gave up on me and kept gently dropping little things in about her Lord and saviour and I could see it beaming from her.

I started to find out about Jesus for myself, dared to trust, have faith and began the process of breaking my walls down and letting the Lord into my life in a big way.

I have learnt what joy is and my joy comes from Jesus every day

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My Joy comes from looking at how I have been healed in magnificent ways and that the horrors of past don’t define who I am anymore.

My Joy comes from seeing and helping others find Jesus for the first time and being set free from what’s holding them back.

My Joy comes from knowing that I’m a daughter of a king who lavishes his love over me.

My Joy comes from knowing I’m protected and can seek refuge in Jesus.

My Joy comes from seeing how I’ve changed so much and know it’s only because I have Jesus and have put my total dependency in him.

My Joy comes from knowing I have been saved from my tormenting thoughts of suicide and I now know I’m of worth.

I’ve learnt in a very big way that when you put your trust and dependency in Jesus there is so much to hope for, to be joyful about and most of all I can now smile…

Inked…


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So. I just got a tattoo. I was going to keep it to myself and just let people see it as and when but I feel compelled to write about it. And the reason? Well before getting it done I did a bit of research via the power of google for Christian designs. I found some great things, but I also found a whole load of judgemental claptrap from people claiming to be the authority on Christian sin as to why you are pretty much going to hell if you get one.

Ok, slight exaggeration, but only slight. If you google ‘what does the bible say about tattoos?’ you get a load of posts taking one Old Testament scripture and using it to justify the view that it is wrong. Note, Old Testament, not new. Pre-new covenant, pre-Jesus – the fulfilment of the law. Hysterically I love how one bloke noted in his diatribe on the sin of tattooing, piercing and numerous other things, that ‘When I was a young Christian, I had numerous sins that I had to deal with. Two of them were smoking and criticising others…’ Clearly God hasn’t dealt with the criticising others bit yet then…

So if you are a Christian considering getting a tattoo, here’s two things people will undoubtedly say to you and some responses. And if you have the time read this post which is the best I’ve read, along with a load of comments which are also worth reading

1. The Bible says tattoos are wrong.

Yes, it does, in one verse in Leviticus 19:28

Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.

Two responses here. Firstly, this is under the Levitical law. Jesus came to fulfill the law which is why as Christians we don’t adhere to these laws anymore. The law was about the people having a relationship with God, all of the laws were about keeping people holy and pure, free of sin so they could have a relationship with God. However now, we have Jesus to facilitate our relationship with the Father. It is through him and because of what he did on the cross that we get to call God our Father.

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Jesus, on the wall in the tattoo shop. He’s even doing a blessing, what more can I say?

Anyone suggesting that a Levitical law is valid today is living under the old covenant, ie: forgetting about what Jesus did for us. In fact this is so fundamental I honestly don’t know why people keep bringing up OT scriptures for specific things today and saying we need to adhere to them. My OT biblical studies tutor once said that everything in the OT points to Jesus. So we have to view it through that lens, you cannot read the OT without him in mind.

 

However, if you must do that, then I fully expect you to follow all the commands in Numbers and all the Levitical laws not just picking those that suit you.

For example, your son has fallen over and gashed his knee and you clean up the cut – you must sacrifice a lamb or goat to make up for your sin of uncleanliness (Leviticus 5). Or, have you ever worn a Polycotton shirt? Wool blend jumper? (Leviticus 19:19) then you are sinning against the Lord. Enjoy a nice rare steak? (Lev 19:26) Yup that too. Cut your hair, shaved (Lev 19:27), said something bad about your parents (Lev 20:9) and frankly what teenager hasn’t? – bad news for you, you get the death penalty… and on the list goes. In actual fact there isn’t a specified punishment for getting a tattoo according to the OT anyway.

Now, look I’d be lying if I said I had never taken a scripture out of context to make a point, we all do it to some extent, but seriously, do your homework people! Whether it’s on this issue or any other, you need to know what the bible actually says and why.

 

2. Your body is a temple.

Hurrah a New Testament scripture! (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Well yes this is true, however I would point out that this is another scripture taken out of context as it’s actually referring to sexual immorality, and as one of Paul’s letters is addressing something of relevance specifically to the church at Corinth.

However, yes this is a good principle to live by, if Jesus lives within us, then we should treat our bodies well, we should recognise that we are holy too. But some of the most famous and holy temples or churches are decorated with stunning and beautiful artwork and adornment and it’s all for the glory of God. I mean going back to the OT, just look at some of the descriptions of how God wanted the temple to be. In Exodus 25 we read how the tabernacle was to be made and in 2 Chronicles 3 on the building of the temple. Beautiful descriptions of detail, precious stones, carvings, details, all for the glory of God…

So if it’s ok for God…

And in addition, how do we take this anyway? Do we never drink caffeine or alcohol? do we refuse to wear make up? Do we only ever eat super healthy food that cannot possibly harm us?

…o0O0o…

So there you go, two points on why I think tattoos are ok.

But adding to that, here’s why I had mine done. I have been thinking about getting one for a long time, like years, I’ve prayed about it, had different ideas, drawn things out. I really wanted something Godly, something biblical and I wanted a mark that said I am his. But I also wanted something personal to me.

In the end I went with the word Selah, which I have written about several times. Selah is important to me as it’s a reminder to take time to rest and to seek God, to reflect on Him. I wanted something where I could see it as a daily reminder to me to do just that. not that I need reminding to seek God but I do reminding to seek rest and rest in him. So I had that put on my wrist in a place where I will see it every day and be reminded.

It’s not that big or amazingly creative but I didn’t need it to be, I just wanted something simple as I said, to remind me.

 

Fred

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Let me introduce you to Fred (not his real name of course and this picture is not him!). Fred lives alone, in the same village as us. He is elderly and has some of the health issues that age brings, partly being that he is losing his eyesight.

Fred lived with his sister, in their family home in the village where they were both born, as virtual recluses for many years. In fact he only really came out for essential things like going to get food or to go to the Doctors.

Sadly Fred’s sister died last year, in the same week as their dog was put down, leaving him alone with their slightly straggly cat. He is the last surviving member of their family.

In the weeks following her death neighbours discovered that for years Fred and his sister had been living in conditions that we would baulk at. They have been living in one room, with no central heating, limited water and electricity, and no cooker. Although I’d like to keep this as anonymous as possible some people will know Fred so I’m not going to go into all the details but let’s just say the situation is as bad as you could imagine, if not worse.

Having spoken little to Fred in the years we have lived here (although we have looked out for them) all of a sudden we find out he has a personality, quirky yes, and with some odd opinions, but with a sense of humour and a generous heart. In fact I have enjoyed sitting down to a cuppa with him and hearing about his past life.

Now, as neighbours some of us have pulled together to help, to support, to put him in touch with the relevant people (and yes social services are involved). But some months on and things are changing only at a snails pace, despite the fact that he does want help.

…o0O0o…

So why am I telling you all this?

Well, the things is, we are all a bit exhausted. There is so much to do, so much help required and Fred it turns out, is actually quite needy. And more than that, he’s lonely. 

I am continually reminded of Matthew 25 and in particular verse 40:

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me

My days are torn right now, between wanting to do as much as I can for Fred, and finding myself annoyed at yet more to do. I wonder, with that verse, what would I be doing if it was Jesus? Well, he’d be in our spare room I’m sure, I’d cook for him every night, I’d be hanging on his every word, I wouldn’t dream of letting him stay in that house. But yet I’m torn. How much can I do for Fred? How much can I share? Where are the boundaries? Because in ministry they tell you: you must have boundaries, you must be careful, and I understand this. Of course I have to protect my family, but then I think of poor Fred, sat alone in his filthy house, eating beans from a can and imagine Jesus sat there with him. 

…o0O0o…

So here we are. And I know Fred is not an isolated incident. There are older people up and down the country, still wanting to live in their own homes (and why shouldn’t they) and yet with so much they find hard if not impossible to do, or with situations they find themselves in, far too huge to handle. Of course Fred is an extreme case but he would never be able to access some of the help he is getting without help in the first place, what a vicious circle! Today I needed to book something for him and the council recommended company don’t take cheques and can’t receive cash. No two ways about it, even when I explained the situation they would not budge. Yet Fred only uses cash. Surely that’s a form of discrimination? What will probably happen is that one of us will pay and he will then give us the cash but what if it was someone who had no one to do that? Any anyway why should that have to happen?! 

And on loneliness, Age Concern stats show that loneliness is one of the key things facing older people today. Much of the time Fred just wants someone to talk to. He says how lonely it is with just him and the straggly cat 24/7. So many other older people are going through this, as Fred says, he has spent his whole life with someone, his parents or his sister and now there is no one.

I’m torn.

…o0O0o…

Officially we (the neighbours) are doing all we can, relevant agencies are involved. I have no actual responsibilty to him and yet… Whatever I do for the least of these, I do for Jesus…

I am torn.

Do you know I have actually prayed for him for years, for an opportunity, for a way to help, to get to know him. Now I have it and yet it’s huge. What can I do? I ask myself, am I being the Light in his life? Am I being an example to neighbours of the love and compassion of Christ? What am I teaching my kids if I am annoyed or lacking compassion? I want them to love people, to learn to serve the poor, to be the light that we should be.

Lord, help me.

…o0O0o…

So you see I don’t think this post is really about Fred at all, it’s about my own struggle to find what it really means to be Jesus’ hands and feet. To get stuck in where it matters. To what lengths I am prepared to go to do that. It’s about the way I demonstrate the love of God to those around me. Oh I can make up reason and excuse not to do things, or to shy away from what needs to be done, and I probably still will, but truly I know what I should be doing.

I do wonder, when we think of falling church numbers and all that, if we were truly acting as Jesus did, being a very obvious and present example of him, how much that might change peoples perception of the church…?

 

Just so you know, there is very little chance of Fred ever reading this, but I have changed a few details and of course his name to give some anonymity.