Spring Harvest 2014: Morning 6 – Rob Parsons

Spring Harvest 2014

This morning Rob Parsons beautifully wrapped up Minehead Week 2 at Spring Harvest:


Talking this morning about the fact that God ha confidence in you as we carry on from John 16 Jesus’ final discourse.


The BBC already have the obituaries of famous people on film, especially older people.  They will put a tiny bit about the death but pad it with everything in their life.  The stories of Jesus are opposite, the gospel spends over a third on his death.  it goes from a speeding train to slowing down to the days, hours and even minutes as he dies.


That last night, probably a Thursday night, when that door clicked behind them as they ate that last meal they had no idea what was going to happen.  George Orwell in 1984 writes about Room 101, the thing of which we are most afraid.  The disciples didn’t know they were going into Room 101 but it was full of secrets, betrayals, the most incredible phrase, “and Judas went out and it was night”.  They had no idea what was going to go on in that room, and while they were in that room he said three things: one of you will betray me, one of you will deny me, and the words they never wanted to hear, I’m going to leave you now.  Peter asks where are you going where we can’t go – we’ve always been together.  Room 101 it seemed like he had lost confidence in them.


School report book, a chronicle of failure, not just a preachers thing, come and look at it, mum could only just read and write.  Not sure how he got into the grammar school, didn’t really understand how to study.  Could you imagine if the disciples had report cards, for example James and John.  Dear Mr and Mrs Thunder your children were refused seconds and threatened to bring brimstone down on the village.  Thomas’ parents, Dear Mr and Mrs Doubter – he has a very negative effect on the group!  Peter’s parents, Dear Mr and Mrs Fisher, the master had to tell him to get behind him as he made a silly comment, he ruined the ascension with a silly comment, he nearly drowned whilst trying to walk on water, he cut someone’s ear off in the garden this evening!  They were rubbish.  Why wouldn’t Jesus leave them.


In the book is Rob’s French O’ Level mark, Fail.  The oral really did him, the teacher gave him a phrase to use if in difficulty, “je n’ comprehend pas”, the teacher then used gestures, he then spoke in English, what did you have breakfast, knew the answer to the question, but he didn’t want to know it in English he needed it in French.  Heard a voice say “la test”!


In his late teens and early twenties met three people who changed his life.  Two of his O’ Levels were from his English teacher, filled books with ticks and stars, and comments about we should get this in print.  An old guy from the church who loved stories, and encouraged Rob to speak about the prodigal son.  A guy in business who said we have confidence in you.  Three people saying they had confidence in him, twelve years later he was a senior partner in a law firm.


Kids in your church have got rubbish written in their report.  Many older people feel that no one wants them.  Husbands and wives feel rubbish by their spouse bringing them down.  But it doesn’t take much to bring confidence to someone.


At the back of his report is a page that says Final Report and it is blank – his school didn’t bother filling it in.  But we all have blank pages, we can’t change yesterday but God has confidence in you and that page is still to be written in your life.  The most remarkable thing happened on that night, the second they heard him say it they knew he had confidence, he wanted them to hear his prayer.  My prayer is not for them alone but those who will believe through their message – he believed in them, he believed others would come to faith through them.  A bunch of ragamuffin losers turned the world upside down.


We have to get used to God using the book, he loves to using the book.  When we release the book we release people.  Don’t ever say there is nothing you can do.  Things maybe breaking your heart, it may be your health, it may be your kids.


Heard Diane answer the phone, said it was a wrong number, and then spoke for 10 minutes.  The ladies daughter had hung up on her and not heard from anyone for a week.  Don’t walk passed the man or woman with the big issue, try and buy it, but don’t just buy it, but touch them on the arm, no one touches them.


Ronnie came for one night and stayed for 40 years.  Rob showed off his new car to him, showed Ronnie that power steering, Ronnie said, oh I know, we have it on the bin lorry.  All his life he’s heard that people don’t have confidence in him.  The other night he played in a cricket match, got two runs and almost a catch, he was thrilled because Diane had built him up!


Churches fight about four things: youth work, building committee, Style of leadership, style of worship.  Let’s not fight, let’s not do cheap grace.  He is Holy God who wants us to live for others, we are the hands and feet of Jesus.


“Father I want them with me where I am” – they remembered in my Father’s house there are many rooms, he wanted them with you.  Imagine you’re 9 years old, Rob is the teacher, blow his whistle, want Charlie and Suzy to be captains and pick teams.  Your fear is you are going to be last.  It is worse than that, they say you have him, no you have him.  Larger girl in a school photo of Lloyd’s, no one is near her, Lloyd said it was because no one


Catherine Hill, Director of CARE, was at a posh black tie dinner for Burns Night in Bristol with a woman from the Welsh National Opera.  She’s singing but there is also a homeless man singing.  Two burly men march him out.  Later they bring in the haggis, with men behind him playing the bagpipes, then there is the homeless man again.  The two burly men get up again to throw him out, but a man at the back shouts out “No, there is room at my table”.  The disciples felt rubbish, but then they saw he wanted them at their table.


There is room at my table.  He believes in you, that is the gospel.

Spring Harvest 2014: Evening 5 – Chick Yuill

Spring Harvest 2014

Tonight Chick Yuill spoke about the Holy Spirit at Spring Harvest:


Driving in the car shortly after Tony Benn had died and Radio 4 were playing some of his diaries from 20 years ago, he told a delightful story about his then five year old grandson.  His grandson said to his dad what’s the biggest number in the world, is it 168,000.  Dad smiled and said no and said you could have 168,001, the little kid looked up and smiled and said I was pretty close then!


We have some very small ideas about the Holy Spirit and yet think we’re very close.  Don’t want to denigrate the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but that is like imagining that the National Grid exists to power your bedroom lamp.


We’ve fallen out over how the Spirit manifests itself, we’ve dismissed Christians who disagree with us, and we’ve bottled the Spirit into thought and theological forms from previous generations, e.g. Salvationists bottled a purification bottle from the 19th Century.  But worse than these we;ve often made the Holy Spirit an optional extra.  If you want to be a deluxe Christian you can add the Holy Spirit.  But the real truth is we can’t even leave the room and enter the world without understanding the Holy Spirit.


The disciples have eaten, drunk and spoken with the risen Lord Jesus, and they’ve even seen the ascension of Jesus.  The word was don’t leave Jerusalem until you receive the Holy Spirit.


We need the Holy Spirit because their is a story to behold.

We’ve focussed on some of the great creedal statements, the thinking of the church over centuries as they’ve reflected on the gospel.  A creed, a set of beliefs is not the primary thing, an experience of grace is important but not even the primary thing.  There is a story to be told – you are to be my witnesses into to Jerusalem, Samaria and the ends of the world.  They are witnessing to a great sweeping story beginning with creation by a loving God, the corruption of the fall, the wonder of a covenant – people chosen not for ability, a story with the supreme central act in Jesus, we are in the fifth act of this, the church.  We know the story has a great ending when the King comes and returns again.  The Spirit makes the story much more than history or an ancient memory or pleasing fantasy from 2,000 years ago – it is a present life changing story.


D.L. Moody heard two ladies praying in the front rows of his missions.  They said they were praying for him to be baptised in the spirit – he was annoyed.  But then day in New York, he had such an amazing experience of God.  A few months later he preached in Britain with Sankey and he changed – he didn’t present new truths and yet hundreds were converted.  What was the difference?  The difference was he was not only telling the story in words, but he was part of the story, the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead was also in Moody.  There are no clever techniques that will make the story significant it is the Spirit that does this.


We need the Holy Spirit because there is an invitation made

There is an implicit and explicitly invitation for men and women to come to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour.  It is the Spirit that does this.  Live in Manchester, and some months ago was in Burnley, before the service began met a lady who he sensed was coming for the first time, it is as culturally alien for them as going to the ballet or the opera.  All went well until his sermon, and her mobile was ringing, so Chick paused the sermon and said it might be someone trying to contact her, maybe even God!  She flipped the phone up and the colour drained from her face, then she said oh it was Chris, I thought it said Christ!  Wouldn’t it be great if God contacted people direct, then remembered that is exactly what the Holy Spirit does.


Preached a lot of sermons, some were downright rubbish, some even asked Jesus to take him in the middle of his sermon!  Sometimes people come up a week later and said what a word – it is the Holy Spirit at work every time the gospel is preached.  Without the Holy Spirit we can do nothing.


There is a life to be lived

Roman 8:5, those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their mind set on the fruits of the Spirit, the Christlike qualities which are impossible without the Holy Spirit.  A lady this week at a seminar said her son-in-law had been shot and killed in Afghanistan, and discovered that his killer was a 14 year old boy.  Did some research and discovered what the life of a 14 year old in Afghanistan was.  Teach English to foreigners in a little village, she’s teaching English to two young lads from Afghanistan.  You can’t do it by will but because the Holy Spirit enables us to live increasingly like Christ.


Last night prayed for Clive Adams the leader of the UK Salvation Army.  Everyone knows about William and Catherine Booth, but one of the heroes was George Scott Railton who laid everything on the line for the gospel.  He was asked to write in a teenage girls autograph book when he stayed in their house: “The life of the soul saver is the grandest, merriest, strangest life that can be lived on earth.  The life of Jesus lived over again in us.  It will cost you everything, but it will be a good bargain at that.”  That’s impossible except with the Holy Spirit.


There is a family to be embraced

The family of the church to which we are called.  None of this nonsense of being a follower of Christ without being linked to a church.  We’re brought into new relationship with our fellow Christians, check out Romans 8:14 – adoption to sonship by which we cry Abba Father, as children of God.


We have a glorious certainty that we are included in that family as we have the inner witness the deep assurance of the Holy Spirit, you just know it and you know it.  The Spirit enables us to cry out Abba Father.


It is a grateful humility, it brought about your adoption, we have no right to belong to this family.  We have all been adopted into this family, but it is a glorious adoption.  Two boys in the same class were only 3 months apart and the teacher was confused by the biology!  The boys explained one of us is adopted but we can’t remember which one!


You will need a gutsy loyalty.  Chick, Margaret and two daughters, Katrina, an actress, a strange thing of getting on a stage in front of hundreds of people and hope they like them, where does she get that from; Jenny is a lawyer and won’t back off from an argument!  Two years ago Margaret nearly train-wrecked her marriage.  Chick had been to Old Trafford and see Manchester United beat Arsenal 8-2, asked to watch the Match of the Day highlights one last time – went to watch it a week later when feeling a bit low and it had gone – he meant the last time that night!  Because of the man he is he has gutsy loyalty.


Stewart Little is a great adoption story of a little mouse.  The family cat is a long haired cat, and once when the family are out, he grabs the mouse and is about to eat him, when the mouse is rescued from the jaws of death.  The mum says we don’t eat family!  At the start of every church business meeting we should read the word and pray, and at the end do the benediction, but in the middle we should stand and hold hands to say “we don’t eat family.”


There is a victory to be declared

The victory is that the king is coming again with a new heaven and a new earth.  We shall be raised, and be like Jesus as we see Him like He is.  We declare that victory not just in words but in the way we live now.  Our churches should show the kingdom of God now to others.  We believe in the incarnation of the son, the miracles, the inspiration of his teaching, the cross and resurrection – the power of the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives in us, and without us we are a miserable and funny collection of odd people.  The resurrection coming says there is no hopeless people, hopeless places, hopeless churches.


A few years ago felt it was right to step out from the denomination.  Owed a lot to the denomination due to his dad being rescued by them.  Was worried about employment and housing.  Now live in a house which has a name, must have made them posh!  The name is Arrowbon which is referred to where the Holy Spirit is the pledge.  The last few years are a foretaste of what is to come!


We need the Holy Spirit.

Spring Harvest 2014: Bible Teaching Day 5

Spring Harvest 2014

Simon Ponsonby, from St. Aldates Church in Oxford is leading the Main Bible Teaching at Spring Harvest this week, and he’s speaking this morning on the Holy Spirit:


Thinking this morning about the Holy Spirit.  It was almost prophetic that we got the video wrong, he blows where he wants to be!  It is often how it is with the Holy Spirit.  But if you seek me you will find the Holy Spirit says.


Often work in a coffee shop – there is one argument in the development of science, that the enlightenment came from the setting up of the coffee shops in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The water was poor so they used to drink beer which is a depressant, caffeine is a stimulator.  Brains started working together in a much quicker way.  People often leave something behind in a coffee shop.  Often running behind people saying haven’t you left something, forgotten something.  Want to say it to the noble church fathers who just say “I believe in the Holy Spirit” in the Creed – it isn’t enough.  It’s almost as though they are saying that they believe in the Spirit.


No mention of the Spirit incubating over creation, operation in the world, in the ministry of Jesus, in the conviction of sin, the focus of regeneration, that constitutes the church, equips and ordains us for service, inspires the scripture, brings new life, brings breath to all life.  The Creed is almost embarrassingly silent on the Creed.


The Church is similar, we believe in the Creed.  Gregory named the Spirit, “the God that no one writes about”; Karl Rahner called the Spirit the Cinderella of the Spirit.  Why is it that there is such a paucity of thought.


The absence may be due to the context of where the Creeds are formed – often focussed on hammering out Christological issues in their churches.  The lack of presentation may be more fundamental and reflects the nature of the Spirit who always spotlights Jesus and puts Jesus centre stage.  The whole point of the Spirit is that He points to Jesus.  It may have been a concern of church leaders damping down excesses in cults, which were often linked to proclamation of the Spirit.


Already by the 4th and 5th century the church had become so institutionalised and liturgically restricted that the freedom of the Spirit had been subdued.  They are writing out of their lack of experience.  Ever since the church has carried on, we have lost something of His immediacy, agency, power, presence in our lives.  Would want to say humbly, haven’t you forgotten something, there’s more to say, to know, to experience.  Spring Harvest have you forgotten something.


Schweitzer wrote “long before the Holy Spirit was an article in the creed he was an experience of the primitive church.”  Much of the things that go by the name of the Holy Spirit today has nothing to do with Him, it is often just human sprit sadly manufacturing.


Billy Graham says “everywhere I go I find God’s people lack something”.  Interesting as most evangelists don’t care about the church, they care about those outside of the church.  He worked with some of the best of God’s people but he still felt they lacked something, they were hungry.  Their Christian experience is something they didn’t expect, a sense of disappointment with Christian life, a dislocation with the Scriptures, songs and sermons and what you see in your life. “The greatest need of the world today is that many who profess Christ’s name get filled with the Holy Spirit”.


James Stuart Stuart, the great Scottish preacher said, “we expected more”.  God gave us everything so it is the problem of our reception.  If there is disappointment it isn’t because God is withholding himself or the Holy Spirit is mean, but is that we haven’t filled enough, we haven’t drunk deeply enough with God.


One of the things that marks Paul was that he always desired more for him and the churches he looked after.  Philippians 3:10-14, if we’d been Paul in jail, about to be beheaded by Nero, we would have been moaning, I deserve better, but here is Paul awaiting death, a man who is achieved more than any other bar Christ, saying he wants to know Him more, yet he’s just written a book in Philippians 2.  Want to know the power of the Spirit pulsing through me.  You need communion, intimacy with God.  Some of us Anglicans calm down, you’re too cool for school, where is the fire?  Paul wants to know Christ, to be joined with him, and fulfil every call and mandate on my life.


Paul wants it for his community, Colossians 1:8-11 – what a church we would be if we would live that.  They already had the Spirit, they had been saved, but he wants them to receive more.  He prayed it for the church in Romans 1:11, he wants the church to facilitate his mission to Spain, writing to reconcile and resolve the Jews and Greeks, laying down a theology of the cross – where we meet God regardless of Gentile or Jew.  Romans 15:29 has more.


1 Corinthians 12:31 – the problem in the Corinthian church was numerous, and Paul was trying to troubleshoot.  In 1 Corinthians 1:7 we know they had the Spiritual Gifts.  Some say that the charismatic stuff had gone a bit overboard and needed to calm down and live a life of love.  You don’t need any gifts, but then he says eagerly desire them.  When was the last time you asked for a new gift and exercised that gift.  When was the last time you were burning to be anointed by God.  Often we’re so weary we can’t be bothered, life is so hard.  We need to ask God to put a fire in our heart.


In Ephesians 1 we have an introduction (v. 1-2), and then in v. 3-14 he’s speaking about their role in Jesus Christ.  We would look so much different if we did this.  In v. 15 he prays for them – did you know you have eyes in your heart, you can see what you feel.  Some of you haven’t received much in the Lord since receiving the Spirit in 1982.  Have you pressed on, have you learnt more, have you experienced more.  God always has more to give.


Ephesians 1:19 – the power of God was what marked the Early Church, you will receive power when the Spirit comes upon you, without the power there is not much witness.  Power is a dirty word in our culture because often is has been misused and abused.  But power wrapped in love brings transformation.  This is for all the saints, not just the vicars and pastors, don’t rule yourself out, count yourself into the text.  Writing I want to be known what can’t be known would fail you in an essay at Oxford!  But it is true, words run out and we speak in tongues because we can’t describe it.


How do we get there


It is one thing for Paul to desire it for them, it is quite another thing to desire it for themselves.  We can read scripture, listen to the preacher, but unless we desire it it won’t happen.  If we leave the lid on the kettle when trying to fill it up it just goes everywhere.  The Church is the same.  Some of us have lost our appetite for God, we’ve become anorexic, you’ve shutdown, stopped receiving a long time ago, disappointment with God came your way, God wants to turn up the desire, put a hunger in us.  “This longing is like the umbilical cord of life” Soren Kierkegaard.  Oswald Chambers said “I am hungry with a vast desire for him”.  Some are hungry and God wants to satisfy that desire, others God wants to put a desire into us.  Whatever you’re around can stir your affections for it, e.g. food, women or God.  Get those spiritual juices flowing.  “I want, don’t get!” we all become our parents don’t we!  God is the table laying God!


We need to be like Jacob, I will not let you go unless you bless me.  Jacob was a nasty piece of work, manipulated his brother, deceiving his father to get a blessing, but one day he finds himself in the desert, wrestling with an angel, he wouldn’t let go until he receives a blessing.  Blessing comes from the greater to the lesser, Jacob no more he becomes Israel, and from that is the line of Jesus, you grabbed hold of your birthright.  Some of us don’t grab hold of it, let go of it too soon.  There must be desire, and we need God to raise that in us.


Georgie Whitfield one of the great awakening leaders wanted more of God, he sought him day and night with fasting, prayer, got frost bite from lying on the ground too much.  He records in his journal I resolved to die or conquer.  He was so ill that he couldn’t do more than read his greek New Testament for 2 hours a day.  The Spirit of the Lord met him under a tree in the park.  France had a revelation, we had a revival, men filled with the Spirit.  Why?  Because one man was willing to die to everything for Christ.  Where are his like today?  Maybe some of you will say enough is enough I want more of God.  There must be a dying.  A sense of resolution to go flat out for God.


What does it look like

Two things we see throughout Scripture: love and power.  The Spirit always brings greater intimacy with Christ, the overwhelming affection of and for God.  We are filled with love, not just duty, but love and duty.  In the time of the Puritans, more commentaries on the book of the Song of Songs were written during their time than any other book as they were looking for a language of love.  These aren’t just propositions like “God so loved the world” – love historical becomes love existential.  The Puritans created journalling, to read out their thoughts to each other in church.  God so loved the world, when you are filled with the Spirit you underline so because you understand his love.


Paul is often going on about power.  The church is often going on about hot air, we’re need the power of the Spirit.  The power to transform us and equip us for works of service.  To live such an amazing life for Jesus.  There is immeasurably more, he can do, he can give, you can be immeasurably more – it comes from the Spirit, and looks like love and power

Spring Harvest 2014: Evening 4 – Cathy Madavan

Spring Harvest 2014

Cathy Madavan spoke really powerfully this evening in the Big Top:


Need to confess an addiction that’s got too big, too big for a hobby, addicted to TV house programmes, addicted to Location, Location, Location, binge on Grand Designs and more.  Favourite programme is the Restoration Man with the lovely George Clarke.  He comes alongside the nutters who take on the really difficult projects, and with incredible passion and sacrifice they look past the piles of rubble and see the potential.  They see potential in a place where we see problems.  Lived in 6 houses with Mark, and renovated four from scratch!


We all need restoration, our selves, our churches, our country, our world needs a restoration man, and our good news is that Jesus is alive and in the restoration business.  We can live in this world because we believe deep down that Jesus can transform things, he can bring transformation.  But how do we see past the rubble, the problems and the challenges.  Rather than seeing what is impossible, how do we see past and see hope.


Hopefully learn something from John 16, part of Jesus’ farewell discourse.  It is Jesus with his disciples, knowing that his arrest is around the corner, every word is pregnant with purpose, and we eaves drop on them.  The disciples are thoroughly confused which brings reassurance to us!  Jesus knows very well what is ahead, that there is betrayal, grief, fear ahead and very painful death on a cross.  Their project will be in ruins in front of them.  They will be facing what looks like an impossible situation, but he also knows there will be a resurrection, there is a hope.


He knows that as he is a sacrifice for the wrong, and that as the resurrection happens we will be reconciled to God forever.  In v. 20 he says your grief will turn to joy.  It’s like having a baby, it really does smart a little, but the joy eclipses the pain.  Jesus longs for us to be restored, but he’s not a cosmic self-help guru.


We live in a self-help culture, in a world that says we aren’t good enough and we need to be improved through adverts on TV and magazines.  Women have heard this for too long, to have toned thighs, cook nutritious meals, self-styled homes, running a business from your spare bedroom, and you need to be a swiss army wife!  This pressure we feel to self-improve and compete is not the kind of transformation that will help us, it is personal consumerism.  The only place we can deal with our deep longing is through Jesus.  Dallas Willard describes it as a transformation of the Spirit in The Renovation of the Heart.


Our restoration, our renovation is about becoming more Christ like, and God is really, really committed to that.  He is far more interested in our character than our comfort.  He restores us, but it must not stop there, he wants us to restore the world, conflict, places where the world needs grace and truth.  We need to be like the first disciples and trust him even when it feels like we can’t.


Walking in Wales with daughter looking at beautiful scenery., got the bags of food  Got to the last field and saw an enormous herd of cows looking straight at us.  Take it slowly and we will be fine.  Walked quickly along the wall of the field.  The cows walked alongside until half-way along when the whole herd turned to look at them.  Chief cow looked at them, at her mates, and then charged.  Who knew cows could be that quick?  Did what every Countryfile expert did and tried to ring husband on iPhone, who didn’t answer.  Ran as quickly as she’d ever run, eventually the cows ignored them.  The farmer’s wife said the cows saw the plastic bags and thought there were Werthers Originals.  Mark laughed so much, until Cathy said he better stop or else he’d meet an angry cow!


Imagine Jesus looking at the disciples saying I know it is scary and you will all want to escape but trust me I am the restoration man, i want you to bring people to God, to serve the poor, my mission is your mission.  He has gone ahead of us, we will see him there, he is preparing the way.  He asks us to trust him and go in his name.  Yes it is tough, there is grief and pain but I believe their is hope, there is brokenness but I believe God can heal.


That has always been his plan, right from the garden of creation, his plan has always been to be reconciled to us, and for his world to be restored.  Revelation 21: everything made new again.  That is the mission of God.  We are to be restoration men and women, there is nothing else that compares with that, seeing lives changed, the kingdom of God come here on earth, but we have to step out in faith.


Aged 19, at university in a very dark and lonely place, parents recently divorced.  Someone had said Jesus had died for them, but couldn’t believe it was true.  Sat over a golf course and asked God to show himself if he was true.  An old man walked past and asked to sit down next to Cathy.  He said he was a missionary and felt God had asked him to say that God really loved her.  Completely transformed her life, but he didn’t have the big picture, he just had a little bit, but it completely changed the course of her life.


That’s our mission to bring the hope of the resurrected Jesus in the home, the mission place, the work place, the grocery store, the golf course and more.  Bill Hybels describes getting a holy discontent, someone has to do something, those kids without food, so many marriages breakdown, kids looking at pornography on their mobile phones in their lunch break, old people are left lonely and on their own, women are still being exploited, the next generation are growing up without knowing about Jesus.  He says go and get stuck in, that is my heart.  Go in the name of Jesus and start restoration.


When took daughter in pram to a video store she saw explicit videos as they were done alphabetically.  The manager said he couldn’t do anything as it was the national company policy.  Wrote to the CEO who rang her and met her in the store and fully supported it.  Videos in that company were put into genre from then on.  Jesus was there in front of her, he wanted to use her to restore that are.  God wants you to be restored to him, but also to help restore the world.


Tonight the renovation project of my heart is too big to do it on my own, I need your help.  I want the renovation job of my heart to happen.  You are designed to be restored to God.  But want you to know something else, just like the first disciples, we might not always know the big picture or the big plan and quite frankly it can be scary and challenging.  But he wants you to know there is a huge restoration project that he wants and needs you to be a part of it.  Our church, our country, our children and grandchildren need you – this is not a time to faff about.  God wants to restore you church, country and the world.  We are called to serve the world in Jesus’ name as he is still making all things new.


Step out, whatever you holy discontent is, your area of mission, trust God, he will be before you, you will seem him there, you will see his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.  Are you willing to do that?

Spring Harvest 2014: Bible Teaching Day 4

Spring Harvest 2014

Simon Ponsonby, from St. Aldates Church in Oxford is leading the Main Bible Teaching at Spring Harvest this week:


Struck last night by the amazing testimony from Barnabas.  Asked himself the question what would have happened if he had not committed Psalm 23 to memory?  What would have happened if he hadn’t have had God’s word stored up and hidden in his heart?  What have you got stored in your heart so when you are under affliction what will get you through?  Great sadness that many of those who would call themselves Evangelical have lost the mooring of being Evangelical – the emphasis on the word.  In the Creed we hear “according to the scriptures” half way through but would like to have seen it after every proposition.  We believe that God has been revealed in a time and place, in the Messiah of Jesus Christ, that revelation is recorded by the people of God in the book of God.  If we lose that Scripture we look for a mooring elsewhere, and history shows that we normally turn to culture, and culture is not predicated on scripture.


Psalm 119 – the longest in the Psalter, the longest chapter in the Bible, so why does God inspire his people to create this study.  Each of the stanzas begin with a Hebrew word following through on the alphabet.


Second stanza, verse 9: how can someone keep themselves pure.  Like Pastor Barnabas we need to hide God’s word, His decrees and commands in our heart.  If you want to know how to worship get in to the word, it teaches you rejoicing.  We must not neglect God’s word.  All over the world those so called people of God are neglecting God’s word – we must not for the sake of the world.


Had an amazing student who came out of an Arminian family from Iran.  Out in Iran taking bibles into the churches, bibles in the boot, and they went to the petrol station, and there was an armed warrior by the door.  The wife says to the husband you need to give him one of our Bibles, so he fills up with petrol, pays for it, and the wife says he didn’t give the bible.  The woman starts on the man, and the man drives off, after a while he turns around, drives to the petrol station, takes the Bible to the warrior and says this is a Holy Bible, the Christian book, and the warrior broke down and cried.  Three days ago he had a dream that he would be given the word of life at the petrol station, and he had been waiting there for 3 days and 3 nights!


The dream pointed to the scriptures and the scriptures to Christ who points to life.


God’s word is neglected 

In awe of Pastor Barnabas hiding the words in his heart, and getting up an hour before the other prisoners each day to meditate on Psalm 23.  The IKEA catalogue is now the most printed book.  Many Christians now the IKEA catalogue better than the Christians.  You get a catalogue for free but you have to pay for everything in it, the Bible you have to pay for but all of it is free inside.  Non-Christians from 50 years ago knew the Bible better than Christians today, they just don’t know it.  Leaders so often just tell stories, want to hear from the book, to hear about God.


Dr. John Bibson, hands up who has read all the Bible, 25 years ago at an evangelical college, maybe only a third had read all of it.  Now maybe a third are not in ministry anymore.  Maybe there is a correlation between ministry and the word.  Four of Simon’s mates have left the ministry having seen wives walk out with others, how was it they could have gone from being spirit-filled leaders bring people to Christ – what went wrong – it didn’t happen overnight, it will have been incremental, there wasn’t a daily seeking and being fed by God, and then the things of flesh rise.


P.T. Fawsite said why don’t people read the Bible more, because they’ve not been in that country, they’ve no experience to stir and develop.  People feel like bits of land is there place, this is our place.  This is how we should feel with scripture, it is our narrative, where we belong.  So many are going around like headless chickens because it is not where they belong – this is where we belong.  Go back to the place where you can stand and breathe in the air and say this is my place, these are my people.  A neglecting of God’s word leads to a neglecting of God’s way.  There is no distinction between evangelical Christians and non-Christians – the same ways of spending money, the same divorce rates.


The Church’s health and the Christian’s health is directly predicated to a reliance on God’s word.  No amount of prayer ministry will sort you out if you’re not reading the Bible.  We have created a culture of where people do the work for us – the preacher reads the Bible, the prayer ministry team pray for us.


Deuteronomy 6:6, Moses instructs the Israelites on how to live, the commandments.  God’s word was to frame every aspect of their life, their heart, their forehead, their forearms, their gateposts, their door frames, with their children, waking up, going to sleep.  God’s word was with them in everything so they could live well and prosper in the land.


The people of Israel time and time again went away from the word, all hell would break loose and God would bring them back.  God’s word has got to frame our life.


In Krakow in the Jewish quarter where Schindlers list happened and was then recreated, the people as they were being rounded up, ripped off God’s word from their door post and put it into their pockets to take it with them, wherever they were going.


The Psalmist prized God’s word

V. 14 he delighted in God’s word, he prized it, it wasn’t just not neglecting it.  Which would you rather prefer a bible or a holiday home?  Open Doors on their website have an account of someone ministering to oppressed Christians in Indonesia, they asked what do you want – money, support, fighting in the courts, teaching pastors – they replied a Bible – we can cope with everything else when we have God’s word.


Repeatedly we see in 97, 113, 123, 167 “I love”.  Maybe one of the things we have to ask God is to stir our affection for God’s word.  For God to overcome the stupor, the spiritual dyslexia, stirring a fire for God’s word.


His dad read the Bible four times a year, once a year when bringing up little children.  He is the nearest person to Jesus, he is a man of God, as he has been framed and fashioned by God’s word.


The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, over a billion people tuned in to watch it.  In her gold plated chariot, she comes to the cathedral with all the world’s royalties, Prime Ministers, dignitaries.  Power like the world has never seen, and the Moderator of the Scottish Church hands her a Bible, “this is the most valuable thing the world affords, this is wisdom.”  This book puts us on par with the Queen of England.


Spoke at a conference of worship leaders in Cambridge, asked them to get a Bible, they were through the cupboards in the Monastery they were in to try and find Bibles.  This girl had a Bible bound in denim, covered in stickers and stuffed with notes.  Discovered she was from a church where he had bought a CD and loved using one of the songs his quiet times, turned out she had written it.


The Bible is Power

The Bible is so precious as it mediates God.  There is power in this book.  So often we want more power but there is power in the book.  “Your word stands the heavens” – your word is in the heavens, but also upholds the heavens.  There is power, not just to split an atom, but to create an atom.  Some of you need to the power of God, to transform your character, to transform what comes out of your mouth and into your eyes.  To be a better man, husband, father, colleague and human.


Why would God pour out his spirit on you if you don’t read his word?  150 times the Psalmist speaks of scripture as your word, your law, your decrees.  The divine has somehow chosen to use this thing to reveal and mediate himself.  You want a blessing, walk according to his law, you want freedom, insight, peace, overcome sin – open the word.  Fill yourself with a better vision, a better picture, a better story.


Every demonic regime seeks to ban or burn the Bible.  Throughout the history of church, when regimes come against the church they try to repress the Bible because demons recognise the power in the word.  Famous Christian missionary sat on a train alongside a Indian mystic who went into a trance staring at him for four hours.  The mystic after four hours said what is this power you have in your breast, the missionary pulled out of his pocket the New Testament!


The Nazis forbade the Bible in concentration camp, they called it The Book of Lies, if the demonic hates something then maybe that something is really special and important.


Young Christian interpreter who translated the Bible in Vietnam.  When it was collapsing he was arrested and daily brain washed.  After several years of this he came to the end of himself.  He prayed every day but he thought God had given up on him.  He decided to consciously not pray.  He was given the job of cleaning the toilets, as he emptied them out, he found some paper, wiped off the excrement.  Read it later and discovered God’s word, 31,300 verses in the Bible and nothing more relevant than the verse he was given “Nothing can separate you from my love”.


What a God, we are people who believe, and we believe according to the scriptures, and it is in the scriptures we find life, love, power, and transformation.

Spring Harvest 2014: Evening 3 – Barnabas Mam

Spring Harvest 2014

Barnabas Mam spoke this evening on the theme of Christ at the centre of it all:


Joined the Communist Party in the 1970s.  In late teens, loved to get involved, especially against corruption and injustice, so organised many protests against the Cambodian government and the USA.


His mentor sent him to spy on the Christian church, to find out how many Americans were there, and how many Cambodians were involved in supporting this work.  But as he heard the story of the Prodigal Son he found himself in that story.  The closing thought was you might have thought that believing in Jesus Christ is to believe in a Western family but instead it is to go home.  Between 1972-1973 over 3,000 people gave their lives to Jesus at these rallies.  The Communist leaders sent him to the wrong place.


The Cambodian church went through real revival to deal with the suffering that would come through Pot.  His father asked him “If the communist ome to power they will destroy your church, burn your bible, kill your fellow leaders, can you still practise your Christian faith?”  I will worship God anywehere, and then Branabas challenged him about his Buddhist faith.


Pot ruled Cambodia with terror and atrocity.  It became a totally agrarian country – no banks, no schools, everyone focussed on growing and catching food.  The Government targeted a number of groups – the rich, the educated, the leaders and more.


Over 1 million killed during the killing fields, lost 6 of his family to this.  Out of 10,000 Christians only 200 survived.  How could you survive, all his fellow pastors were killed, no Bible to read, and no close friends allowed.  Barnabas saw Christ in his suffering.  He knew he was not the only person on earth who was suffering.


2 Corinthians 1:5 – the more we see Christ suffer the more comfort we receive from Him.  The few verses that he could remember, became sources of power, encouragement, e.g. Isaiah 53:5.  As Christ suffered for me 2,000 years ago there was a purpose.


Begin the day and end the day with Jesus Christ: how do you do this with no band, no worship group, no Bible, no preacher, no congregation.  Not even 2 or 3 gather in his name could work!  Counted the stars as God’s blessing on him.  Had to wake at 4am to do an hour of prayer before the prisoners woke at 5am, and then again prayed and worshipped when the other prisoners were asleep.  Instead of Scripture Readings he spoke the memorised portions of scripture, e.g. Psalm 23.  Sang about his eternal home as he had no home on earth; and sang How Great Thou Art when it was raining cats and dogs so he could sing from the bottom of his heart.  Lived below the basics, no choice, no education, following where the Lord lives, Psalm 51 – the Lord is Shepherd.  Assigned to be a Chef in the Prison, caught several fish which “fell” into his cooking pan!


Learnt to be sensitive to Christ’s prompting.  Twice a week you would go through prisoner interrogation.  Often asked “do you miss your wife?” because he was still emotional he must be revolutionary – he was killed; another friend said “no, not at all” and he was accused of being a liar and killed straight away.  The Lord spoke to Barnabas and said Matthew 10, be shrewd, but do not worry about what to say and how to say it.  When he was asked did he miss his girlfriend, I am here at this school not to miss anyone but to learn to work as hard as you do.


Trusted Jesus Christ for anointing.  His friend was a former pilot, and spoke 1 French word, and was beaten and tortured for 2 hours.  Barnabas was called for at midnight, and he was asked did he speak English, the language of the enemy of the regime.  If he told the truth he would be killed, if he lied he was not the son of God.  He told them the truth and was given various portions to read and a meal was prepared.  The officers said to take better care of him.


Many friends died through murder, labour, illness such as malaria.  Barnabas buried many others but then wondered who would bury him if he died.  But he was one of only 27 out of 3,000 prisoners to have survived.


You may feel you can’t bear your burden any more, you may have felt like giving it up, but don’t.  Let Christ be at the centre of your worship, prayer, conversation, reading, work, living – Christ will lead you from darkness to light, from low to height, from bad to good.  Let us have confidence in Jesus Christ.