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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

…o0O0o…

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 truths for us to hold on to:

 

God is a refuge.

God is a strength.

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

 

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging

 

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

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

 

…o0O0o…

 

Do you need that refuge – somewhere to hide?

 

Let him be that refuge.

Seek solace in him.

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

 

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

 

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

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

God is our refuge…

…o0O0o…

 

God is our strength too…

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

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

Philippians 4:13 tells us

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

We need his help…

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

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

 

Jesus can be your strength.

 

 

…o0O0o…

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

 

God is ever present? Sometimes that might seem laughable.

We may find ourselves questioning… wondering… not understanding

‘How could he let this happen?’

‘Why Lord?’

‘I don’t understand God…?’

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

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

 

This is from the book after Aslan is mentioned…

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

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

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

 

Psalm 56:8 notes:

 

You keep track of all my sorrows

You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book.

 

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

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

God is an ever-present help in trouble

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

 

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…

 

 

 

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

moody1JPG 

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….

 

 

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…

 

Talk / 8th Feb 2015 // A Crippled Woman Meets Jesus // Luke 13:10-17

My planned talk from The Point Church, Sun 8 Feb. 
As always this is not really the transcript more the notes I made in advance…. and in this case, actually quite different from what I actually said as I felt God saying to listen to him and be led by him in what I said. So this is what I would have said! It will be available online to listen to what I actually said here, next week.
 
 
INTRO
Word for the church – God calling us to greater freedom…
CHALLENGE/ WHY ARE YOU HERE?
So if you’ve heard me preach before, you may
know that I often like to challenge you when I’m speaking. I’ll maybe give a
challenge for the week ahead or ask some searching questions of you. Usually I
like to ease you in gently, give some
background, get into the text first… well not today.
Sorry.
Today I felt we should go straight in with
the challenge – and I want to ask you:
What are you doing here today?
Why are you here?
What are you expecting this morning?
I mean really and truly?  Why are you here?
I am asking each of you to think about that.
I’m not making a joke or being flippant, I actually want you to think about
that today. What are you doing here, what is the main reason you are here at St
Paul’s this morning?
So firstly, just in case I’ve alarmed anyone,
you might have been invited here today
by someone or you might be visiting us
right or you might be new to this church? And if so, great, you are so welcome
here. You know since my family became part of this church we have felt part of
a big family.  Welcome J
But still, I want to say to you, why are you
here?
Some of you might say, well it’s Sunday I come to church on Sunday, it’s
what we do, right? Ok but why? Why is it ‘what you do on a Sunday?’
Or maybe you come for the community, for the family feel, you get
to meet your friends, hang out, have a chat, you get to be part of something. But you can get that at a football game, with
your mates, or going to a ‘Sunday Assembly’ heaven forbid…
So why have you come here…?
Because actually there is nothing particularly special about this
place, about the coming together, about being family together – none of these
things set this place apart from any other gathering of people.
Because the thing that makes this place different is Jesus.  The thing that should make
US different,  is encountering Jesus.
So why are you here? well I hope that at the
root of all our reasons, we are all here because of Jesus. If we are visiting, or
been invited for the first time, perhaps it’s because you feel life is missing
something or you recognise something in others, the person who invited you
maybe? If you are a regular, is it because your life is committed to Jesus? Not
just because, that’s what we do on a Sunday….
When was the last time you asked yourself, challenged yourself
about your faith? About where Jesus is in your life?
PASSAGE
Because in our passage today we’re going to
see what is essentially a church, and one person in particular encountering
Jesus, probably, although we don’t know for sure, for the first time. Having
gone along faithfully to worship for years, going through the motions, obeying
the rules and yet, when she meets Jesus, it all changes…
Let’s read it shall we…
Turn to Luke 13: 10-17
HAVE YOUR OWN BIBLE!
It’s on the screen but you know what, it’s
good to have your own bible with you. I know you can have it on your iphones
etc and I am a real tech fan, but if you really want to get into this, get
deeper into God’s word there is nothing like having your own bible in your
hand, a physical book. Mine is scrawled with notes and underlinings and dates
and it’s real – living and active (Hebrews 4:12) – this is your manual for
life…
Anyway whatever you are using today…. We are
at Luke 13: 10-7
READING
So what’s going on here?
Let’s set the scene here – we have a
Jewish synagogue, not one of the big temples, but a smaller town synagogue, where
local people would be gathering on the Sabbath (Saturday not Sunday), probably in
the evening, people would come here each week, just as we do here, there would
be prayer and some teaching. But until now, until this passage no Jesus. As
Jews they would have believed in the coming of a Messiah, they would know the
prophecies, the words spoken foretelling his coming, but hey wouldn’t know him
for themselves.
This is a faith with a lot of rules and
regulations, but no Jesus.
And why did they come? Maybe because they were Jews, because the law told them to?
Because that’s what they did on the Sabbath? Because it was expected of them?
Except this day is different. On this day
they have a visiting preacher, if you like…. and that wouldn’t have been
unusual especially in these smaller places, for educated teachers to speak, but
on this day they get the ultimate guest
speaker
don’t they. They get a whole lot more than they came for.
They get to encounter Jesus,
and I say they, because although it’s
one woman who is really impacted, they all
get to hear him, see him, meet him, they
get what we need
. What we all need. Whoever you are, whatever you think or
believe, you need Jesus. And not just to know about him, to hear about him, to
read something about him, you need to encounter him, for yourself.
You know, I have been so convicted of that recently and for myself but it’s relevant for us all, that not only do we
need to encounter Jesus for ourselves, but as followers of Jesus, we need to
help others to encounter him. You can say what you like, tell people what you
like, give them books to read, bring them to Alpha and so on, but if they don t
encounter Jesus for themselves it’s empty.
OUR STORY
And you know how I really know that, because
that was me, and my husband a few years ago…. Going along to church on a
Sunday, every week, because that’s what we had always done, what our parents
taught us to do, on a Sunday you go to church. We didn’t think much about God
the rest of the time, if at all, we didn’t live out a faith particularly, we
didn’t have Jesus in here (heart).  That’s our story. For years we went to church
faithfully. We knew what was expected us, we knew the prayers how to recite
them and when. In a way we just followed the rules, what was expected of us. I
even served on the PCC, bit like our trustees, we basically helped the Vicar
run the church, make decisions about it, we helped with the youth group.
BUT despite that, despite our involvement,
despite our faithfulness in going to church, despite our desire to be part of
the church, there was nothing different about us than anyone else, Because we
didn’t know Jesus, we didn’t encounter him for ourselves. In fact if someone
had told me I needed to encounter Jesus I probably would have thought them a
bit whacko TBH. I don’t think I even thought it even possible to ‘meet Jesus’,
I thought people who went to non CofE churches were not proper Christians!! Oh
the shame…!!
Makes me laugh now – some of the people I
met, they knew Jesus, really knew him….
And yet our churches need to be places where people meet Jesus.
Truly.
So back to our synagogue, then, what
happens … v.11 – we are straight in, aren’t we, Jesus sees this crippled woman,
suffering, in pain, could she even see him I wonder, bent over… and he calls
her forward and heals her. She’s been like this for 18 years and he heals her
right there.
Who was she? This woman, the one he picks
out? Calls forward?  This woman who gets
to encounter Jesus?
Well we know that she was probably not just a
one off visitor, because Jesus calls her, v16 a daughter of Abraham. So if you don’t know, Abraham appears in the
very first book of the bible, in Genesis, he is a descendent of Noah. God calls
him and made a covenant with him (like a legal agreement) and says that he will
make him into a great nation, that he will have numerous descendants, in fact
he says as numerous as the stars in the sky. Which at the time was a pretty big
claim to make when Abraham’s wife was barren, she couldn’t have children.
However nothing is impossible for God, they did have a son and Abraham’s descendants
became the Jewish nation, he is referred to as the Father of Israel. In Isaiah
he is even referred to as a Friend of God.
So, to refer to this woman as ‘a daughter of
Abraham’ meant she was a Jew and a faithful one at that. It is likely she would
have known the Jewish law, the rules the things she had to do and would have regularly
attended the synagogue.
And yet…. v16 tells us that she had been kept
bound by this spirit,
by Satan, for 18 years. 18 years, crippled, not able to
stand, bent over and in pain. For 18 years.
And we get this seemingly slightly random
reference of Jesus calling the rulers hypocrites and mentioning untying oxen
etc. which actually isn’t so random as it looks –
Jewish law had a list of tasks you were not
allowed to do on the Sabbath, which included tying and untying things. And yet
as he points out they still untied their animals to take them to water, there
is a level of compassion for their animals, and he suggests that what he was
doing here was undoing the bindings of this woman – untying her from being kept
bound by Satan with this crippling affliction.
It’s not just a physical ailment but a spiritual affliction too.
For her here that meeting Jesus, in him
reaching out to her, he healed her. But more than that – her life was
transformed, both physically and spiritually. I think it’s really significant
that the passage talks of the spiritual side of this. In v.11 it says she had
been ‘crippled by a spirit’ and in v16, she had been kept bound by Satan’. This
is a picture of a spiritual world, one where there is so much more than we can
imagine or understand – what’s that line from Hamlet:
There are
more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are
dreamt of in your philosophy.
There are more things on heaven and earth than we an even begin to
understand, and there is a spiritual world, a level of things going on that we
can be completely oblivious to.
FREEDOM
Here’s the thing, if we are not walking in the freedom
of Christ then we are bound by Satan –  the enemy, the devil, force of evil, whatever
you want to call it.
Bound by addiction maybe? and not necessarily to
alcohol or gambling, or drugs – the obvious, what about or work, addicted to
work to achievement, finding our identity in the things we do, the money we earn?
Our title? What about porn.
It’s not nice
to talk about, but for men and women it can be something that binds us,
secretive, we can’t talk about it, exactly what the enemy wants, us to be bound
in a world where no one knows what we’re doing, feeling thinking… Alone and
fearful.
Or we can be bound by things from our past, rejection
– you know not feeling loved enough, not feeling good enough, or are we bound
up in rules and regulations? Even in the church – in religion – this is the way
we do things…?
If you don’t think you are bound by anything, or you
don’t know what binds you then just think, what do you spend the most amount of
time thinking about or doing? What are the things that worry you, keep you
awake at night?
What is binding
you? Because I’m telling you, Jesus brings us freedom. True freedom, transforming
freedom. Like this woman experienced
,
So, why did you
come here today? Do you want that freedom?
Our lives – so I told you about us, we were definitely
bound by the things we ‘should’ do – like going to church and yet when we met
Jesus (too long but happy to tell any of you over a cuppa!) that our lives were
transformed.
And the reality is that nothing has really changed in
our lives (apart from me training for ministry! That’s a biggie!!) but the
essential elements are the same, same house, phil same job, family etc. But
what has changed is that we know we are walking in the freedom of Christ and
that feels so different! Like a
different world!
It’s kind of like that picture of the left
and right brain – don’t know if you’ve seen it? So the left brain is
analytical, logical, regulated. The right is creativity, spontanaiety, crazy
almost! And the thing is if we just had the left side, with the regulation and
the right way of doing things life would be just that, ordered logical, and
methodical.  But with Jesus, you get this
too. The full technicolour picture! Both not one or the other! You need the
left too…. We don’t just discard what the Jewish faith teaches, it largely
forms our OT (not going into specifics but largely the same will do!) Jesus is the fulfilment of what the ancient
scriptures teach us.
So we are not just casting that aside, not at all. But
without the fulfilment of those teachings, well it’s like this…
You know a while back we booked to go to
Bills restaurant for breakfast. You know Bills? Local restaurant, now chains
all over the place. Anyway they do good breakfasts. So this day we had booked a
table and they called to tell us that they had no gas and so they could not do
any hot food or hot drinks. Right, so restaurant famous for breakfasts, hot
food, hot drinks.  What are they left
with, a nice looking restaurant sure, very pretty, on trend, but its main
focus, is missing. I mean its like going to Starbucks and them saying sorry
we’ve got no coffee! You see where I am going with this right?
I heard a quote the other day that said if
God was removed from our churches, 95% if them would stay the same! Let’s
reinforce that – if God were removed from our churches, most of them would stay
exactly the same!?  Pretty depressing
thought and I happen to think as a church we’re doing ok, but how about you? You
personally.
Are you a Starbucks without the coffee, Bills
without the breakfast – are you living a life in black and white? And when was
the last time you even thought about it? Even questioned yourself on it.
If God walked out of your life would you even know?
Why have you come here today?
I have been privileged over the last few years
to get to know Yvrose from Hope House a little bit. Yvrose lives a life utterly full of Jesus and
you can see it in her, she overflows
with joy and love and compassion. And they have so little. They could be bound by
anxiety and fear. Where is the next meal coming from? What if a child gets
sick? They could be bound by the fear of those who
practise witchcraft in the area. They have been threatened, people holding
voodoo ceremonies on the edge of their land. Yvrose could be bound by the fact that she
could never have biological children of her own, she could be bound by
insignificance and pain. But she isn’t, because she knows Jesus, She is
committed to Jesus, every single day is lived for him, through him and with him
and as a result she walks in the freedom of Christ and it is clear and pain as
day for the world to see…
We have so much here, we are so blessed, but
when I spend time with her I want to give it all up and live with nothing,
because they encounter Jesus every day. And that is more precious than anything
else…
I mean, come on, what are we settling for?
Are we just going through the motions?
Do we want to step into a season of greater freedom, of encountering Jesus more than ever before…?
 This is a new season, God wants to draw closer to us as
a church and as individuals.
He is calling you, calling us like he called the woman – so
are we going to go forward for all he has?
Why you here? Want to be part of this new
season?

The Work of the Holy Spirit // Preach 7th July 2013

As usual am posting the notes from my talk today, and as always I will say they are my notes so may not make 100% sense!!

The Work of the Holy Spirit
I am one of those people who get very excited about the Holy Spirit. I was excited to be given this title today. I love Holy spirit led ministry, and you know we talk about the exciting, supernatural HS stuff, receiving power form the HS to go out and share with people, to see people healed, to see lives transformed and so on. 
But I think for some people that is a bit scary isn’t it? we like our safe lives where we don’t have to be afraid of anything crazy going on, we don’t want to be challenged or put in positions where God might ask us to do something a bit radical. Thats how some of us see it isn’t it? The HS is scary, wacky, outrageous. So what happens is, people shy away from that and think, well that kind of life, being led by the HS is not for me, I’m not confident enough, or I’m not gifted as an evangelist, or I’m called to something else…
Which is fine to one extent, of course we do all have different gifts and callings. BUT, and this is what I think we can learn from the passage today  – the Holy Spirit is there for ALL of us regardless of where we’re at or what our personality is or what gifts we have. IF THERES ONE THING YOU TAKE AWAY TODAY, TAKE AWAY THIS. THE HS IS FOR ALL!
The truth is, none of us can ‘do life’ without the HS and none of us are supposed to. 
The HS was sent to us, intentionally, as a gift for ALL of us. and whether you are a crazy out there, go up to people in the street kind of Christian, or a quiet contemplative, or someone who just interceeds for others, or maybe you’re just someone who comes to church on a Sunday. Whatever it is, whoever you are – you need the HS in your life! GOD is a trinity of people Father, Son and HS, and we need all 3!!
So…. this passage shows us specifically 4 things we can learn about the HS(and I’m going to go into this more but in a nutshell)
– that he is an intentional gift from God for us all (and therefore a very necessary part of our lives)
– That the HS convicts people of their need of God
– HE reveals to us the kingdom of God – ie: all truth
– and, and possibly this one could encompass all the others, he Brings glory to God
So this is not a let’s get excited about HS fire and people speaking in tongues, and wind howling kind of passage is it? so those of you who find that hard can breathe out now!
And yet it’s one of the few places that Jesus himself talks about the work of the HS, and so if this is what Jesus teaches directly, on the work of the HS, we need to take note, these are defining words.
So just to back up a little. This whole series has been about Jesus preparing his disciples for his death and therefore for their future without him. Don’t forget we are still on one evening, the same evening where he washed their feet, where be broke bread with them,  he’s predicted Judas’ betrayal and his own subsequent death. This all happened on that evening, they shared a meal and were hanging out together. And here still, he is still preparing them for what is to come. 
On the one hand Jesus is telling them of what is to come and what awful things that can expect, and yet at the same time he’s trying to comfort them, he’s saying its ok, Im not going to be here but this other thing, this advocate, its far better, and you’re going to do so much more with him guiding you…
So he is warning them:
1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their hour comes you will remember that I warned you about them.
they WILL be persecuted, they WILL be put out of the synagogue, in fact their lives will be in danger.
 I mean that’s not really what you want to hear is it? Yeah, so Im going away, and you’re going to have to deal with all this without me. And he says he’s warning them so that when these things happen they will already know. They will not ‘go astray’ or as it says here ‘fall away’, but they will know because Jesus himself has told them what will happen, like some kind of macabre comfort in a way. When they see these terrible things happening, that they will be reminded, ok well Jesus told us this would happen so we’re just going to deal with it. They can stand firm in the knowledge that he forewarned them with. 
And then he says to them, and this is the key bit
 it is for your good that I am going away. 
I do love that line – It is for your good? I am going to die, horribly and you will be persecuted, and at risk of death yourselves but, you know it’s for your own good.
How many of you remember your parents saying that to you as a child?  like when your mum makes you eat all your broad beans – it’s for your own good?  or you have been grounded, it’s for your own good, you won’t learn otherwise…. 
And as adults we can look back and think well actually my Mum was right, broad beans were good for me, being grounded because I had done something very stupid and likely to put myself at risk, was absolutely for my own good. And just like I was, the disciples are struggling to see how it can possibly be for their own good that he is going away. and Jesus can see this when he says ‘ you are filled with grief because I have said these things.’…. BUT he says:
 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you…
Jesus knows of course the awesome power of the HS and how it is not only for their good, but as we see here it is necessary that the HS comes to them. The HS is not a replacement for Jesus, he is a necessary Advocate, someone to plead Jesus’ cause, a partner if you like, someone who can continue the work Jesus has been doing, through them, and through us…
THE WORK OF THE HS…
And so we see, then he begins to tell them of the work of the HS. It’s kind of in 2 parts. almost, the first part is about the HS working in non-believers and the second part is for them, and for those who believe.
CONVICTING PEOPLE
8 When he comes, he will prove (or in some versions convict) the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
It’s 3 fold about sin, righteousness and judgment. In David Guziks commentary of the bible, he sums it up like this:
Sin is the truth about man, righteousness is the truth about God, judgment is the inevitable combination of these two truths. 
a very simple summary… I like this because it’s simple and because it refers to truth and Jesus has already and will refer to the HS as a spirit of truth.
In NIV it uses the word CONVICT. I like the word better. someone who is convicted in a legal sense is ‘found guilty of a criminal offense  or a convict is: ‘a person found guilty of a criminal offense and serving a sentence of imprisonment.’ which if you look at it in spiritual terms you might say
a convict:
‘A person found guilty of sin and serving a sentence of living enslaved to sin.’
which is exactly what we are before we have made a commitment to the Lord, enslaved sentenced, if you like, to live a life of sin.
So man alone cannot understand his sinfulness apart from the HS. Those who are unbelievers do not recognise their lack of faith as a sin. But it is the root of all sin. Without that belief we are misguided in our life choices. And of course even as believers we make wrong choices, but at least we know we are sinners.
For many I think the truth about a lack of faith is more about an unwillingness to want to face ones own failings. People think coming to church they will get judged and the truth is they will, but not by us, by God, through the HS. 
Its not nice is it? do we want to have our sins, our faults, our failings shown to us and to be convicted of them?  If you look at kids you can see that kind of unwillingness to see their faults. you ask them about something that has gone wrong and they say ‘it wasn’t me’ or ‘I didn’t’. Once we found blue crayon all over the inside of our wardrobe door. all 3 children denied it totally, even though it had to have been one of them. even when you know that is was them, they don’t like to face it, because they are afraid of the punishment, But for us the truth is that we don’t have to face the punishment, it’s almost back to front isn’t it. If we accept our faults we get rewarded! Its when we don’t that we’re in trouble…
It’s really interesting I think that Jesus says in vs 2-3;
They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.
People will do these dreadful things, because they have not known God. And it’s dire, but a few verses later he says, almost, it’s ok because the HS will come and convince, not just them but the world of their sin.
It is common, on receiving Christ for the first time to be utterly aware of ones own sin and wretchedness, of how unworthy we are in the face of God.  Some people have really defining experiences of that. Have you ever had a moment like that?
For me personally, it was not an instant thing but gradual. There were things that were instant, like I stopped swearing overnight  and I used to swear like  trooper. But for the most part it was a gradual process and even now, and though I know I am forgiven I look back at some of the things I did in the past and I feel such shame at my actions. And I know that is the conviction of the HS. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong back then, I was just living my life as I wanted to live it. And sometimes I feel like God remind me of those times just to remind me of who I was and of who I am without him. 
ME EXAMPLE: Anger….

 and that’s a minor example but for some real radical transformations take place. Robbie Dawkins, in the Father of Lights film talks about drug dealers being convicted – spiritually not legally! and handing in guns and all sorts.
1 Sam example:
1 Samuel 10 – Samuel gives Saul a message from God – the spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power and you will prophesy with them, and you will be changed into a different person.
the HS POWER to CHANGE people. whatever you are facing…
the HS is not nasty, not wanting us to be covered in shame and guilt, but we need to be convicted of this in order to truly know God. It is conviction through love. And in realising that, being convicted of that we come to know God – the God of all righteousness
and in regard to righteousness…
Because Jesus is going to the Father where they will no longer see him. The only truly righteous person, without sin or guilt, is Jesus. The perfect lamb without defect, sinless, without blame, pure. 
If you think ‘well I’m doing ok thank you very much’, think you’re living a reasonably righteous life, try this from Isaiah 64:6
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
Because the truth is that in the face of Jesus righteousness, his sin-less-ness, his purity, we are like filthy rags…  It’s pretty stern stuff I know, but, and this is the truth of salvation:
in Isaiah 61:10-11 says this:
I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
 
   and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 
For as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations.
How beautiful is that! We and our filthy rags he will clothe in his righteousness – a robe of righteousness. We don’t deserve it, we are not worthy of it, but he will clothe us with it. Though we are convicted of guilt, the sentence is that we get to choose to receive the robe of righteousness. So which do we choose? the robe of condemnation and guilt or the choice that gives us freedom: the robe of righteousness?
CHOICE/JUDGMENT…
and that’s it there is a choice, of course. We will be judged according to our choices, just as the devil, or as named here, the Prince of this World, ‘now stands condemned’. vs 8 he will prove the word to be wrong about.. judgment. The prince of this world, the one who condemns us, himself now stands condemned in the face of what Jesus is about to do.
He is condemned as the HS pours conviction on us, the conviction for the the devil, for evil, is that he will be condemned. His sentence: to spend eternity in hell or as Matthew 25 says, ‘in the eternal fire prepared for the devil and all his angels.’
I know we don’t often like to think about the consequences of making the other choice, but it’s there, not as a condemnation or a threat, and it’s not where God wants us – he wants us to be with him! And he gives us every opportunity to make that choice. He has sent the HS in order to do just that, so that we will be convicted, so that we will know, we will experience the truth of who God is….
TRUTH
and what is the truth? as we look at this second part, this is for believers. So first the HS will convict people of their need for a Saviour and then, he will guide them into all truth;
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.
We could get all philosophical and start talking about ‘what is truth?’  It is a question philosophers have discussed for centuries, isn’t it? The bible mentions truth many times.. for example:
John 18:37 great scripture.. Jesus with Pilate before his death.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate.
the age old question..
In a Christian perspective, Jesus stands for Truth, he says I testify to the truth, he testifies on behalf of God. He also says ‘I am the Way and the truth and the life…’
I think a good way to look at it is like this:
The revelation of truth, (or as the passage says: HS will guide you into all truth) means the revelation of God – ie: the fullness of the kingdom of God. If we equate truth, or the ultimate truth being God himself, then revealing truth is revealing the kingdom of God.
So when the spirit of Truth comes (the HS/advocate etc)  ‘he will guide you into all truth’
he will reveal the kingdom of God, more of God, more of the truth.
just as Jesus did the work of the Father, so does the HS…
He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
John 5
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
he will reveal what he hears from the Father. Prophecy…
and lastly: v14
4 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.
Thats the ultimate really isn’t it? the work of the HS is to glorify God… and through us, as he works through us we give the glory to God. That almost sums up everything else has has said doesn’t it….
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US TODAY?
I believe, what this passage tells us is that we cannot live without the Holy Spirit. It’s a bit like having your spiritual satnav turned off. The HS brings power and life into all we do.
I can stand up here and preach the best sermon ever heard but it won’t make any difference if the HS is not in it. The worship team can play the best set they have ever played but if the HS is not within what they are doing, we won’t be encountering God through it. 
You can tell your friends about Jesus but nothing will convict them of their sin and need for a Saviour without the HS resting on all what we say.
You can read the bible all you like, you can pray all you like but without the HS guiding you, it won’t guide you into the truth…
You can pray for people to be healed as much as you like, but if the HS is not going with you, not one will be healed.
ME..
And believe me I know! because for many years we lived without the HS in our lives. We went to church for years without knowing the truth, without fully knowing the truth of who Jesus is and without the HS.
I describe that time as being like having a jigsaw puzzle with lots of the pieces missing. I could see a general picture, I knew roughly what it would be like but I couldn’t see the details, the reality if you like.  And the truth is, now with the HS its not just that I can see the picture, but it’s like a movie! the reality of what is there for all of us is just so staggering I can’t believe I put up with just part of the picture before!
END
We all need to know the HS is part of Gods great plan, Jesus going and then God will send the HS. It’s not a substitute, or a replacement because they can’t yet be with God the Father, or because Jesus, the son, is going away, no it is intentional, a gift from God and not just to the disciples but to us all.
The HS is not just there for those who want to be doing crazy stuff, it’s for all of us. It’s what convinces us of the truth, convinces us that we need Jesus, convinces us that there is another way, a better way, that there’s a God who loves us more than we deserve.
Are you convicted of who you are in the sight of God? are you convicted of who God is? Are you being guided into all truth? These are questions this passage is prompting us with today. 

Jesus is THE WAY… talk 160613

Here’s my notes from this mornings preach on ‘The Way’ for anyone who is interested!

John 14:1-14 ‘The Way’
BACKGROUND:
So the background to this passage, Will has spoken about the last few weeks but just to refresh our minds. These few chapters happen right before Jesus death, in fact scripture indicates it is the night right before he died.  Jesus is about to go to his death. He knows it. The disciples know something is up if not what exactly… 
At the end of the last weeks passage, Jesus has just told Peter that he will disown him 3 times.  He has just told the disciples he is going away, and more than that he has predicted that one of them will betray him.
One can only imagine the atmosphere in that room. Anxiety, fear, the unknown. As a group these guys have been traveling with Jesus for around 3 years. They have known he is the Messiah. But even so they have had to learn so much on the way. Jesus has TAUGHT them, he’s CORRECTED them, he’s LOVED them, he’s SERVED them, and what’s more he has LED them in every way, and here they are staring really, into the complete unknown. 
I think it’s pretty clear they don’t really understand what is actually about to happen. Even though he has told them the truth, that one of them will betray him, that he will die, that things are about to change, they don’t really get it do it.
and on top of that Jerusalem is hardly a stable place at this time, there is so much unrest, concern over the governing forces, people fighting back against it,  and to be honest Jesus has really been adding to that, hasn’t he and yet now, he’s told them he will be leaving them.
So we start our passage today with Jesus saying don’t worry!
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
COMFORTING THEM:
So this passage is abut Jesus comforting them, reassuring them. Here he says to them, don’t worry! I think that maybe he sensed the atmosphere in the room. You know sometimes  you can be in that situation, maybe excited about something or engrossed in talking about it when you look up and have a moment of realisation that maybe people haven’t understood you, or people look concerned. Perhaps thats what happens here because he seems to change tack doesn’t he, from the previous Chapter were he’s telling them the truth of what is going to happen, to now reassuring them.  He says:
do not let your hearts be troubled’  trust in God. My Fathers house has many rooms… you know the way…
and yet we still we see them almost answering him back almost, ‘but how we can know the way?” what do you mean?  show us the Father..
LEARNING FROM DISCIPLES
Clearly still much confusion amongst the disciples. I love the disciples, they are there with Jesus. Actually with him, they are seeing him first hand performing miracles, they themselves are performing miracles and yet they just don’t always get it. Sometimes they come across like these amazing characters for leaving everything and following Jesus, such an example, and other times they just seem a bit dense, don’t they! 
But they are just like us, even though they were physically with him. We learn from Jesus just as they did, sometimes we walk in amazing confidence and other times we are a bit slow aren’t we? we forget, we doubt, we misunderstand. I just love the disciples, and I love the fact that the bible shows us that they got it wrong sometimes, well quite a lot, because we can learn so much from them can’t we?
FOCUS:
But I really want to focus on one line from this passage today. It contains one of the most often quoted lines of scripture:
‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.
such an often quoted line. And it can seem so simple can’t it, but yet to the disciples it’s not enough! 
I love that little conversation between Thomas and Jesus: Thomas says: ‘but how can we know the way?’ Jesus is like ‘ ‘hello’ its me, I, me, standing right in front of you. I AM the way!… and not just the way but the truth, and the life too…
SO DO WE GET THIS?!
what does it mean that Jesus is ‘THE way’, the only way to the Father?
Well to start it’s probably one of the most defining arguments for the importance of Jesus isn’t it? He says, No one comes to the Father, except through me.
PEOPLE SAY:
So often people who don’t know Jesus will say, well there’s many ways to God, or My God is in nature, or My God is in energy, or well, I believe God can be reached through all faiths… there’s lots of things people say aren’t there? But. NO! The bible says right here that the only way to God, to the Father is through the son – Jesus. 
Some of the staff went to HTB leadership conference recently and one of the speakers, PATRICK LENCIONI talked about this in relation to our current society, he talked about the concept of moral relativism, which is a really interesting concept if you have time to read up on it or listen to his talk via the HTB website, but he was talking about how in our society people invent God in their own image, rather than the other way around and how dangerous that is, because we have no authority or governing morals if you like, except the ones we have invented. Like you make up your own God, to guide you in your own life you have chosen for yourself.
Well for us, it’s quite clear here isn’t it – Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father.So we know that you cannot get to heaven, you cannot get to the Father, except through Jesus. 
HARD TO TAKE IN…
And that can be quite hard to take on sometimes can’t it?. So often people say ‘well I think I’ve lived a good life, I’ve done my bit for charity, or I’ve done right by people, or I’ve not done anything wrong, I think I’ll get to heaven, but the bible says otherwise and that’s really hard to actually deal with.
loved ones who aren’t saved? perhaps we even know of people who have passed away who, as far as you know did not know Jesus. 
We don’t really want to have to face that do we? It’s not a nice thing to have to consider, what if they didn’t know him. And of course there is so much we don’t know. People can make decisions on their deathbeds we might not know about – the bible says the Kingdom of heaven is for everyone whether they sign up at the beginning or at the very end – parable of working in the fields and they all get paid the same. truth is, we won’t know for sure what exactly happens when we die, but we can be sure of our salvation in Jesus.
It’s a tough one, but the bible is pretty clear about the way to get there, and I don’t think we should shy away from it. 
and in one way it’s a very simple thing to follow – Jesus is the way to the Father so we follow him. But actually what does that actually mean?
THE WAY
The word ‘way’ has so many different meanings.  
I love words and text, fonts etc I guess I’m a bit of a geek like that, you know I love where words are derived from, meaning, translation, etc. I love a good thesaurus! So in this context we automatically assume we know what it means to say “Jesus is the way”, he’s the route we follow, the route/way to the Father. 
But have you ever thought about how many ‘ways’ you can use the word way? and I want to look at some of those further because I think that little word “way” means so much more than we give it credit…
For example:
A road, route: highway/freeway/railway
An opening: a doorway
Opportunity to Advance: the way to proceed…
Behaviour/conduct: his way of doing things.
Freedom to do as one wishes: if I had my way… how often do we say that!
State or condition – John’s in a bad way…
that’s just a few…!
ALL AREAS:
If we are to follow Jesus as the way to the Father, that means in all areas of our lives… all consuming, in all ‘ways’, it’s not just a simple journey from A to B.
So lets look at a few of those meanings to expand that a bit further…
Way: Road/path
We are travelers on a journey, there’s no doubt about it. But on a journey in our daily lives, a trip is rarely just about going from place A to place B is it? There is preparation, how are we traveling, in what mode of transport? how long is the journey,  etc. So there is preparation and research , if it’s  along journey. And if it’s a long journey (which our journey the Father probably is!)  there might be things to do on the way. Stops to make, people you come into contact with, food to eat. Things happen on a journey. We see new things etc
And there are ‘ways’ to make a journey. You can choose to get a sleeper train and sleep through your trip, arriving in your destination as you wake up. But you’ve missed all there is to see and do on the way. A journey is an opportunity isn’t it?
Way: An opening/ eg. a doorway, the way in,  so Jesus is the road, the path we follow but he’s also the doorway, in fact the bible talks about exactly that – Rev 3:20
 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
that means so much more than us just opening the door to Jesus, it means literally inviting him into our lives, being fed by him, spending time with him.
Just think for a minute how often in your day you go through a doorway. It must be hundreds, right?  I don’t want to be silly about this but for example: to get into this hall today you have gone through at least 4 sets of doors. If you went to the loo that’s about 8 (2 doors in and out!) if you’ve taken the kids out add on 4 more.
So imagine those doors as opportunities that Jesus is giving us. Does Jesus act like a doorway to us as often as that? He is the entry point to so many situations
Way: An opportunity to advance: the way to proceed or the way is clear to proceed
Jesus should be our way to proceed ahead. Are we proceeding in our faith or stagnating? Are we sitting here waiting for God to do something, waiting for him to talk to us? or are we proceeding in Jesus, moving forward.
It’s so easy to go through the motions isn’t it? Your car engine can be running, you can even put your foot on the accelerator and make the engine race, but you can’t move forward unless you put it into gear and take off the break. Are you just sitting on the driveway waiting for a tow?
Way: as Behaviour or conduct: we might talk about ‘that’s his way of doing things’ or that’s just her way, that’s what she’s like.
So, is our ‘way of doing things’ Jesus’ way? Jesus is the way…. Can we say we conduct ourselves in the way he did? Of course that is the goal isn’t it? to be more like Jesus every day? and yes I’m sure we all fail, well in my case daily sometimes! but we try don’t we? try to be like Jesus. the old phrase WWJD? What would Jesus do? cliche maybe but perhaps we should ask ourselves that more often?
Way as Freedom: eg ‘if I had my way….’
Come on how many of have said that, well if I had my way, they’d drop the price of those, or if I had my way you’d be in detention, if I had my way those curtains would be blue…
We get that freedom in Christ. It’s not if I had my way, but if I had Christ’s way… and there’s no if about it! 
Is our WAY of life, all encompassing. are all aspects of out life lived out in a ‘way’ for Jesus ?? IS HE OUR WAY?
———-
The Way to the Father. So when Jesus talks about the way to the father, it’s not just a simple journey, it is every aspect of that journey. The sights we see on the way, the way we drive. or walk, or travel. It’s the smells, it’s the flat tyre or the late train, it’s the filling up with fuel, the stop for lunch, it’s our traveling companions and the people we meet on the way.
So if we take all of this on board, when we look at Jesus, all of him, everything he does, the way he does things as our guide, then when he talks of the destination, OF THE FATHER it seems clearer doesn’t it? Because actually it’s not just about the destination, it’s about how we get there too. And in the journey we see the destination, its signposted all the way. As Jesus says, in him we see the Father.
So often when people talk about taking a significant journey, or possibly a pilgrimage, they say things like, well it turned out it was all about the journey  or that the destination is in the journey…
The disciples ask to see the Father – the destination if you like – and Jesus says  I am in the Father and the Father is in me…. the destination is there and apparent in the journey.
is this making sense? 
CONTINUING HIS WORK…
and I think JESUS makes it even more clear because he tells the disciples they need to continue what he has been doing – he says, they will do even greater things, because he is going to the father. Their journey, their way is not yet done…
The Message version puts it like this:
The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it…
So because he is going away, he’s reached the destination if you like, he’s giving us the work to do that still needs to be done. The same work he has done. So we are doing all that Jesus has done and would have done – his work continues through us. 
So actually he’s saying we have a job to do on our journey. We are not just traveling on this road to a destination we have stuff to do on the way. we’re not starting in Brighton and following the A23, the M23, the M25, then the M1 and to get t our destination as quick as we can. No we’re going to stop on the way, see the sights, work a little, have a bite to eat…. And it takes time. we don’t get from Brighton to Glasgow in 5 minutes….
JOB SCENARIO…
It’s a bit like this… you get a new job. The person who did your job before you was the son of the Boss, the guy who set up the company, right? But the son has now gone to be on the board of directors with his Father. So he doesn’t do the daily work, he has delegated that to you, and trained you in how to do it, in your job, which you took over from him. 
Now it happens that you’re not the only one doing that job there are actually lots of people in the same position, with the same role but each one has slightly different job descriptions. does that make sense? And you know that one day, the option is there for you to be on the board too with the Boss and his son. So how are you doing in your job? what is your job description? How are you making your way along the road?
PILGRIMAGE:
I’ve been reading this week about a pilgrimage that many people take along the Camino de Santiago in Spain (or The way of St. James). During Medieval times it was one of the most significant christian pilgrimages that could be undertaken. It’s a passage some 800km long across France and Spain to the church of Santiago de Compostela where it is believed that St James is buried.
Thousands of pilgrims make this journey every year, some traveling longer portions of it than others. People take the journey for all sorts of reasons, spiritually, personal health, marriage problems, mid life crisis etc etc
They say everyone is seeking something on their journey whatever their reason for undertaking it. Well for us, OUR pilgrimage is seeking Jesus in all we do, not just as a destination, but as the journey, as the pilgrimage.
On the camino people say to each other ‘buen camino’, which i a literal translation means ‘good road’, but we would probably say ‘have a good journey’ . But on the camino it means so much more, it’s a greeting, locals say it to pilgrims passing through, it’s an encouragement to those struggling ‘buen camino’ keep going, be encouraged, it’s an invitation, to undertake all the journey has for the traveller, it’s a prayer, be blessed on your journey, it’s so much more than just have a nice trip!
And just like that there is so much more to following Jesus as our way than just having a good journey…
Every aspect of the journey is revealing the destination, both to us and through us.
So I guess I want to encourage you all today to have a ‘buen camino’ and whether you are right at the beginning, half way through and weary or maybe even nearing the end of your journey, don’t waste a moment or an opportunity. Live it all with Jesus as the way…

Prayer & Healing

So this morning I preached on prayer and healing. I cut quite a lot of what I was going to say so that we would have plenty of time to actually pray for people! Here is the full (ish) version for anyone who is interested… (For info, when I preach I write whatever I feel God giving me, out in full first then I reduce it to notes, with highlights to remind me. This is the first draft so it’s not exactly what I said but gives an idea! 


WE ARE A CHURCH WHO BELIEVES GOD CAN HEAL.
I want to start by saying, or reiterating, that we are a church that believes God can heal. We might not have a statement of beliefs or a doctrine as such, but as a church we believe that the power of the Holy Spirit reigns in us, as Gods adopted sons and daughters. I know some people struggle with the idea, or might have theologically different ideas, but that is the point we are coming from as a church. So I’m not going to make any excuses for talking about healing again, or from talking about the fact that God can heal. ok?
Now we had a tough year last year, 3 key church members died. I know that has knocked some of us, and we have talked about that from out the front here, but I really don’t want to focus on that, I want us to move on from that… Not to belittle the grief or pain that any of us may feel, but what I mean, is that we need to fix our eyes on Jesus and the glory and goodness that he brings. If we dwell on what we think he hasn’t done we will get stuck in that place. We have to focus on HIM.
So today I am telling you that God can heal and God does heal. No apologies. That is God’s truth.
PASSAGE: 1 Cor 12: 8-10
To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b]
SPIRITUAL GIFTS
We’ve talked a lot recently about the spiritual gifts, part of our theme on prayer. And its important to recognise that God gifts all of us differently, after all we are all parts of one body and if we were all the same or had the same gifts we would be an unbalanced body. I’m really excited that next term we are going to be looking much deeper at Spiritual gifts and how God gifts us all, because we all need to work together, to our strengths…
Whilst each of us might have a very specific calling, or a gift that is to be used more, it doesn’t mean the rest of us sit back and say, ‘oh thats not for me…’ We all have Jesus within us so we all have the capability to pray for healing. 
So as an example some members of our church have really felt God calling them to be praying for healing and so they have set up their once a month Sunday evening session. Which is amazing, God has clearly spoken to them and they have acted upon it. But does that we mean we all stand back and say, to anyone who is poorly, or needs prayer, of you need to wait until the next monthly meeting to get prayer for healing? does it?
No of course not, we pray in faith for whoever needs it. For faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Just because we haven’t seen anyone miraculously healed of blindness or had a arm grow back, we still have faith, right? which is: the substance of things HOPED for and the evidence of things UNSEEN … YET! We need hope in the things we know God can do, even if we haven’t seen it.
John Wimber… 
John Wimber was an amazing evangelist with a gift of healing – someone who God had clearly called to this kind on ministry. he saw hundreds of people in the 1980’s and 1990’s healed and he taught many others to heal by faith in Jesus. But John Wimber prayed for more than 1,000 sick people before he saw his first healing. How could anyone possibly stick with something through such constant failure? He refused to go by what he was experiencing, but stood on the testimony of scripture. 
THIS WEEK AT DOCS STORY:
I had to take my youngest 2 to the docs for an immunisation this week. and a funny thing happened whilst i was there. and you know that if something odd happens and you recognise it is odd or out of the ordinary, it’s always good to take note, because you just never know when God is talking to you…
So whilst we were sat in the waiting room a boy of around 15/16, came in with a nasty gash to his head, obviously needing assistance, and he came in with a few concerned friends who said that someone had just walloped him over the head. So what would you think would be their response? Maybe to rush him through to be patched up, or to find a nurse straight away or to sit him down and find out if he was alright maybe?
Well the receptionists very first response was ‘well I think the best thing would be for you to got to A&E’ Now I won’t tell you where we were but the nearest hospital I would guess is 20 miles away, this boy is obviously too young to drive and anyway is in no fit state and the buses, are frankly rubbish.
On top of that, this young boy had come to the place that had both the skills and the resources to help him, and yet their response was we can’t treat this,  I don’t know why, maybe it’s not in our guidelines, he has to go to the hospital, we can’t treat this… but they had in that building all that they needed. Doctors and nurses, many of them, trained with the skills to stitch a headwound. Dressings, bandages, needles, all under that roof and yet their first response was ‘we cant’. Was that fear maybe? fear of reprisals? fear of mucking up their schedule – people already waiting… would people be cross at having to wait?
And yet it seems rather ridiculous doesn’t it. That a medical centre would send someone to a different place, miles away which it would have been very hard to get to, when they could treat him right there.
Sound familiar….? I think that’s what we are like as a church sometimes. WE HAVE ALL WE NEED in JESUS!! He is the great healer and lives within us… we have the resources, we have the skills. But so often we don’t use them because we are fearful. Fearful of getting it wrong, what if it doesn’t work, what if they don’t get healed? what if they think I’m ‘not normal’ a bit odd (Wills talk a few weeks ago – well, we’re not normal!) maybe we don’t believe we have what we need to pray for healing? maybe the docs thought they didn’t have what they needed?
What if we said to people, oh no we can’t pray for you, you have to go to a special prayer meeting, or to a church miles away that has a good record of seeing people healed? like they would have sent that boy to the hospital… We can feel that we need to go to these far away places to get healed, but Jesus is right here in this building…
be saved and have faith.. thats it.
Just to finish the story, thankfully, after a very long wait, in which I thought he might faint in the middle of the waiting room! they called him in and stitched him up. Thankfully someone in the building knew their skills and knew what resources they had and they weren’t afraid to use them. So I’m telling you, you have what you need! We all do, Jesus has given it to us. 
 let’s not be fearful, let us be confident in who we are, in Jesus.
STILL NOT SURE?
 SCRIPTURES:
Just to reiterate. When Jesus sent out his disciples, the bible says this:
Matthew 10: 5-
10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
….later he says:
As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
So Jesus tells his disciples to go and pray for the sick, well in fact what he actually says is ‘heal the sick’, not go and pray and see what happens, but ‘heal them’. and for those of you that think that was for then and not now, he later says in the Great commission (Matthew 28)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 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 it is still happening 2000 years later. We are many generations down but each of us has been made a disciple, most of us have been baptized (and if not, next week…) we follow and ‘obey’ the teaching of Jesus and his word.
simple!
———————
So I read through most of the gospels this week, I wanted to reaquaint myself with how Jesus healed people, how he prayed, what happened.
Jesus healed all who came to him. All. Even the soldier who had come to arrest him, he healed his ear. 
The bible talks a lot about compassion ‘Jesus was filled with compassion’, or ‘he had compassion upon them’. In his compassion he heals them.
do we have compassion for all who come to us needing help? needing healing? and it might not be physical healing, it might be mental or spiritual, needing healing from pain, past hurt, needing to forgive.
And Jesus doesn’t pray long prayers or in one particular way, most of the time he just says something very simple like: 
‘be clean’, get up, ‘Go, your faith has healed you’ ‘woman, you are set free from your  infirmity’
Now I’m not dissing any one way of praying, there is some amazing teaching out there and there have been some amazing men and women of God who have had hugely successful ministries in healing. Often these people will have a specific way of praying and they teach that. And clearly we do need to be careful not to be inappropriate or too directive, praying for healing is often with vulnerable people and we have to respect that, but what I would say is that really it is nothing to do with us, What we do when we pray for the sick is we are bringing people into the presence of Jesus by his Holy Spirit. That’s all we are doing. 
HUNGER…
So when we see Jesus healing people in the bible, we see people coming to him. People will all kinds of ailments from blindness, deafness, withered limbs, paralysis, possession by evil spirits and so on… The people come knowing that he is something special. That he can help them – they have a hunger for what he can bring, what he can give them. and I think that’s the key – are we hungry enough? Do we want God to move more in our church? Are we on our knees seeking him daily? are we crying out to him?
When Jesus was travelling around people travelled huge distances to see him and not in cars like we have today, on foot or possibly by donkey. How did they know where he was – could have taken days/weeks to find him!
The bible says that people followed him everywhere. That huge crowds formed. word must have spread like wildfire
in Mark 1:45 – says that Jesus couldn’t go to towns but stayed in open places, (because so many people would crowd to him) but even then people followed.
He tried to move to another place by crossing a lake and yet they still followed him. 
I Love that hunger – people were so desperate to see him, to hear his teaching, to touch him etc – they filled houses, they formed huge crowds, they followed him, some left jobs, families to be his disciples.
There was the woman with the issue of blood who touched his cloak – perhaps that was all she could do, I imagine it must have been like being at a big concert, down the mosh pit at the front, and she knew all she had to do was just reach out and touch him, what would it have taken for her to do that? a woman, probably alone, she was probably weak from her condition, she would have been unclean,  and anyone who touched her would have become unclean, she took a huge risk and yet she fought her way through a huge crowd of people. What hunger she had.
and there was the paralytic man whose friends lowered him through the roof! they didn’t give up when they couldn’t get into the house so they actually dug a hole in the roof and lowered him through.
Do we have that kind of hunger, to see more of God at work here? and in our lives?
Cwmbran…
So 2 weeks ago I went to a small town in Wales called Cwmbran, it’s near Newport just off the M4. In a church not much bigger than ours the week before a man who had been paralysed for 10 years got up out of his wheelchair, lifted it above his head and ran around the room. That is what God can do… Come on!!
So anyway I went down to find out what God was doing and it was pretty awesome! I had a great time there. There are 2 things I want to say about it. 1 is that those people were/are hungry. 2: THEY ARE IN NEED. 3: THEY GET INTO JESUS PRESENCE…
 The Pastor there is a reformed drug addict who spent time in prison, he was saved in prison, went to work for an organisation called Victory Outreach UK, eventually trained and became a Pastor. He pastored a huge church in Birmingham and he felt God call him back to Llanelli in s Wales where he came from. Now this is a deprived area, pretty much the whole of the welsh valleys is, closure of mines, theres high umemployment and with that the associated problems, alcoholism,  crime, drug addiction and so on. People here are in need. 
So the church in Cwmbran was set up 3 years ago and since then 4 others planted in the valleys area. God is clearly on the move there. But much if that is about peoples hunger. For many of them they are in dire need, and the church is a place where they can be set free and they know that. many in their congregation have been set free form addictions, just as their Pastor was, many come from deprived families and yet they know they need saving! They know there is another way. And they come to this church with that hunger within them and there they meet Jesus.
So for the last month, since that chap, Paul, got out of his wheelchair, people have been flocking there to receive a touch from God. Hundreds have been saved, hundreds healed. Such hunger
ESTHER:
and the other thing to highlight is that when the outpouring started, the Pastor preached from the book of Esther. and his message was about how Esther dealt with her enemy. If you don’t know the story, read it! Short book, great story. But the bottom line is that Esther overcomes her enemy (and an enemy to the all jews), not by ranting and raving, shouting getting cross, but by bringing her enemy into the presence of the King. That was the message that he preached, you can hear it online – great message. And so Pastor Richard encourage people to  bring whatever the enemy was throwing at them, into the presence of THE KING.
Paul, in his hunger, brought his paralysis into the presence of the King, into the presence of Jesus and and he was healed.
We need to be hungry and we need to get in Jesus presence.
Now that outpouring has been going on for 4 weeks and each night people are getting healed and saved. People are travelling from all over to experience what God is doing and in fact Pastor Richard speaking this week – Thurs night at TKC. Because they are hungry and they want to be in God’s presence.
We don’t have to go to Wales, or Bethel Church or anywhere else to meet Jesus, he’s right here. Are we hungry enough?
Look the bottom line is we believe in God. A God who created heaven and earth, who sent his own son to die so we could have a relationship with him. How can we possibly expect to always understand what is going on? We cannot! and we just have to live with that. But do we live with the balance of it, or do we become defined by unbelief..
Do we believe in Gods word or not? simple as that…
Eph 3:20: MSG: 20-21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.

edit: 14/05/13: you can hear the audio here.