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

Desire

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: 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.

Spring Harvest 2014: Bible Teaching Day 3

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 Colossians 1:12-23: Giving thanks to the Father.

Laurence of Arabia grew up in Oxford.  His mother heard the then Rector Canon Christopher, moved to Oxford after becoming a Christian whilst on holiday at the Isle of Wight.  His brother and his mother went to be missionaries from St. Aldates to the China Inland Mission.  Laurence of Arabia later in life said I only believe in the first four words of the creed: “I believe in God”.  Is that enough?  James says so what, even the demons believe in God.  This God, this eternal father is revealed concretely, incarnately in the person of Jesus Christ.  Karl Barth said “Jesus is the centre of the creed”.  How do we know what the Father is like, because Christ shows us what the Father is like.

 

The Colossian church weren’t satisfied with Christ.  Despite in 2:6 receiving Jesus as Lord they moved onto higher things.  In 2:8 they were following hollow and deceptive philosophies.  There is a lot of this in the church as well as the world.  Too often we think Jesus is not enough, but we’ve been taken captive by false prophets.  They exchanged freedom in Christ, moving from a religion focussed on special dates, astrology, diets and more.  Paul wants to put Christ back in the centre of the Church.  As J. John says if you take Christ out of Christian you’re only left with Ian and he can’t help you.

 

We believe in Jesus who is God with us

Verse 15-20 generally regarded as an early creed.  Almost certainly they’re not Paul’s words but he is echoing back a creed, hymn or song that was written, possibly even in this church.  Listen you’re singing this song, you wrote this song, but do you really understand the reality behind the propositions you are saying.  So often we just sing songs and say religious statemtns, it is imperative that we understand the reality of what we are saying.

 

There are so many people who have fallen away from church having led worship and more, and that’s because there is a disconnect between their words and their reality.

 

There are 14 specific responses name as Jesus, He or Him with personal pronoun.  It is all about Him, it is to Him, it isn’t for our benefit it is for His benefit.  We delight in worship, but it is not about us.  It is about Him and what He has done for us.  Once asked about the worship, and said he didn’t think much about it.  We think we’re the adjudicator of good worship.  But God said, “I liked it”, oops!

 

Oswald Saunders said worship is “the adoring contemplation of God”.  When he draws near it is wonderful to be in His presence, but regardless of that He deserves our worship.

 

Michelangelo was asked by his pupil Raphael to comment on a picture of Jesus.  He went round  and looked and wrote a comment.  Raphael came back to find that Michelangelo had painted in huge letters “Amplius” – make it bigger – make Jesus bigger.

 

The challenge is is Christ at the centre of our Christianity.

 

It magnifies Jesus’ divinity

In v. 15 he is the seen, unseen God.  The word image is “ikon” from which we get icon.  It refers to an exact copy or portrait.  Philo referred to it when speaking about logos, the human mind.  Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

 

It is polemic in challenging the false doctrine that had seeped into the Colossian church.  It was an early form of Gnosticism, a dualist idea driving a huge wedge between the divine and matter.  Matter doesn’t matter to God, God who was Spirit and good.  We get to God through secret keys, secret knowledge, opening secret doors with special prophets having special knowledge and passwords of access into the divine.  If we are matter, and matter doesn’t matter to God who is Jesus, he can’t be Spirit as he is matter, but he can’t be matter as he is more like God.  He is more a demi-God, a mishmash.  Paul says he is both fully God and fully man.  All the fulness of God dwelt, in verse 19, dwelling amongst us.

 

Dwelling is a great Old Testament theme, as he dwelled and lived among the Israelites now dwells amongst them.  Verse 17: he is before all things – he is the ancient of days become flesh.  As a little child once said, he was born when he was old.  He didn’t suddenly become God at his baptism, he was the eternal logos.

 

Verse 18: He is the beginning, like Genesis 1:1.  Jesus doesn’t just break into time, he was before all time, he is Alpha and Omega.

 

Verse 16 he highlights his creativity.  The Gnostics emphasised levels of distinction, here Paul challenges this.  Jesus stands over all these categories and levels.  This is why we worship.

 

The Greek and Roman Gods struggled to hold up earth and sun etc., in the classical atlases, e.g. Hercules straining to hold the earth up.  Mother Julian of Norwich presented the concept of Jesus holding the world as an acorn, spinning it in his palm.

 

Blaise Pascal: “Jesus is the centre of everything, and he is the object of everything, and those who don’t know that know nothing.”  Science’s Grand Theory of Everything – how does quantum physics link with Newton etc., is there an overarching theory that makes sense of it all – yes it is Christ, the Logos!

 

We need to amplify our conception of Christ.  He is not just the person who may or may not heal your toothache he is the Lord of all the universe.

 

It magnifies his supremacy

The word all in Greek means all.  All things are created by and for him, all things are held together by him.  All, every.  “There is not a square inch of the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ who is supreme over all says ‘mine!’”.

 

Jesus is the head of the body, the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury good though they are are not the head of the body.  Men are not the head of the body, Jesus is the head of the body.  If you lose connection with your head you lose connection with the nervous system.  It is always back to Christ, the supreme centre of operations.  Kierkagaard said the church is like a train carriage that in uncouple from its locomotive that is rolling but will soon come to a stop and may even go backwards.  We know people who get disconnected from the head, who have lost their faith, made life altering decisions.

 

We believe in Jesus who is God for us

Not so much in the song, but v 12-14 and v. 22 which bracket or sandwich the song.  In the hymn we celebrate the person of Jesus Christ, God who is with us, but around this Paul is celebrating the God who is for us.  The reason he is with us is to be for us.  His back is not turned toward us.

 

Some of you think God is against you.  Loved Pete Greig when he said sometimes he thinks God is after him, if he hasn’t had a quiet time etc.  What a man of God he is.  Because God is so awesome, and we are so creaturely, we live in fear of a Monty Python foot coming out of a cloud and squashing us.

 

He is not a moral traffic warden, he is not out to get you.  He is out to get you out, out of your sin, darkness, bondage, away from judgement and brought into the light of God.

 

v. 12 the Father has qualified us.  Some people think they stand over God qualifying whether or not he can exist.  We don’t qualify ourselves for God or make ourselves acceptable, God qualifies us.

 

We are lost if you have to qualify yourself.  Colossians thought it was your work, your merit, your clothes, no God qualifies us.  Like the Prodigal Son you say you bring nothing, he didn’t say he was bringing anything.

 

Karl Barth said “so often we are refugees from grace, so often we try to do it on our own.”

 

We need to condor our inheritance

V. 12, we have an inheritance.  Some of you are worried about your inheritance, and think your parents will live forever and you won’t get any inheritance.  Dad collects antiques, others call it tack, and he says “one day son this will all be yours!”  That’s what God does for us, sharing in the inheritance of the Saints.  These glorious universe on universe on universe will be ours.

 

Recently been a circuit of books about people who claim to have visited heaven.  They are as realistic as the Hobbit, their vision is not big enough.  This world has no analogous correspondent to this.

 

V. 13 he has delivered us from the powers of darkness.  He has delivered us from sin and condemnation.  Note the tense, he has delivered us.  Some Christians tie themselves in knots thinking they are still entrapped by the enemy.  He has done it.

 

Much of the Colossian church was focussed on a spiritually of dualism, and if they didn’t do the right thing then evil would gain the upper hand.  A lot of spiritual warfare rests on this theology, but he has delivered us, and we are mopping up before his return.

 

We love rags to riches stories, e.g. Les Miserables, Oliver Twist, Shrek, Cinderella.  They are archetypes that touch something deep in our psyche as they are our story.

 

Redemption: to be bought out of slavery, used for the Israelites taken out of Egypt and brought into the land and brought into life.  He brings us out and redeems us.  Reconciliation: in the Greek it becomes he lassoos us.  Brought to God, to an inheritance, to a new kingdom, to eternal life.

 

Spring Harvest 2014: Evening 2 – Pete Greig

Spring Harvest 2014

Pete Greig spoke in the Big Top tonight, carrying on our look at the Farewell Discourse from John’s gospel:

Thinking this week about confidence, and how we can make our faith more believable – both as we communicate us, but also as we believe it.  In the evenings we’re looking at John 14, tonight verses 1-9b.

 

In John 14 Jesus uses the word 23 times in 31 verses.  The central focus of Jesus’ famous last words, his farewell discourse, the central message that he is drilling into his disciples is the love of the father.  He knows if they have the love of the father through him everything else will fit around it.

 

It is key to their effectiveness (v. 12), and key to answered prayer (v. 13).  It isn’t just this one chapter that talks about this idea of the love of God as a heavenly father.  St. Augustine says “The whole Bible does nothing but tell of God’s love” – that is such good news.  That is the key that everything else in your life and eternity sits in.  So whatever you struggle with, whatever baggage you carry with you, whatever you have, they key answer is the Father loves you.  God loves you, God will not give up on you.  You can’t be too bad, or too boring or too lost.  He has counted the hairs on your head (easier for some than others), he tattooed your name on his hands.  He will not give up on you, nothing can separate you from him.

 

One of his kids, a human child, not a human goat, have a sweet they really love called tongue tanglers.  Sweet on the outside, bitter on the inside.  Saw some in the BP services so though he’d buy some and let him eat them before breakfast without telling his mum!  He tells son he has a surprise for him, child asks is it an Xbox 360 or an iPad.  He tried not to look sad!  The Xbox and iPad would be broken and outdated, the greatest gift is that his father’s love doesn’t die.

 

The greatest promise of God to you is not his provision but his presence with you.  We always want God to airlift us out of the mess, he occasionally does that and we call it a miracle, but he normally parachutes in and walks through the myrie pit with us.

 

So many things we long for: healing, guidance, pray for a husband or a wife, pray to be free from a stronghold or addiction, pray for a loved one who is far from God.  But the greatest gift of all is not the gift but the giver – the Father who so loves us.

 

When wife was at her sickest and regularly having MRI scans, quickly realised that the MRI scan is like the shadow of death, having to go in their with just a sheet, having removed your jewellery and watch for 30 minutes utterly alone with intense humming of the machine.  She knew the presence of God in the MRI scanner.  The prayer was for her not to be in the MRI scan at all, but God was with her in the scanner.

 

This weekend have to preach the biggest sermon of his life to one person.  Going to preach to Daniel, his son, aged 13.  Got this thing in his family were they created a rite of passage to claim the 3 peaks, just father and son, taking something from his childhood – his cuddly blanket – and after the third mountain he will bury it and consciously embrace his teenage years.  The verse God has given to talk through is Joshua 1:9 “Be strong, be courageous, I will be with you wherever you go”.  So whatever mountains Daniel has to climb he wants him to know his father will be with him come what may.

 

Did a training walk of 15 miles last weekend, they came across a nice English pub and ate chips and had a hot chocolate.  Daniel fell asleep, Pete woke him after 10 minutes, Daniel said he won’t be able to do the 3 Peaks but Pete was able to talk about he will be with him.  We find our strength with the presence of the Lord who walks with us.

 

Ask for the Spirit when you’re going through hard times

When Daniel was young, and his wife was ill, and so Pete became the primary carer saying no to speaking to events like this.  Sammie was unwell, she was going to hospital lots, leading a prayer movement but his prayers aren’t working.  He’s primary carer to two children and Daniel gets chicken pox everywhere.  He was in such pain and had no way of understanding that he wasn’t always going to feel like this.  His baby mind couldn’t express this, and so all Pete could do was just to hold him in his arms and pace up and down until Daniel fell asleep.

 

Our baby brains can’t understand why God is not able to do the miracle, we need to know the love of the father come what may.  It is tempting in bitterness to separate from the Father, and Christian community as the Devil knows you need the Saints.  This passage says in verse 1, do not let your hearts be troubled, and again in verse 27.  How is it possible ot not let your heart be troubled when you’re in a difficult situation?  We need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us – verse 16 and Romans 8 – our Spirits connect with the Spirit of God and we’re drawn afresh to his fatherhood and our childhood under God.

 

Jesus says he’s going to his Father’s house, as well as asking for the Holy Spirit, we need to push into Christian community and allow others to love us.  There will be times when we won’t feel God’s supernatural love, but we can receive from others, press into your Christian family.  As we do that the Father’s love is shown to us again and again.

 

If your human dad was absent, distant or abusive it is important to get help, to listen, to talk, to pray, to get the holy spirit.  But these things take time and it is important we press into others in this process.

 

Video of dad and son playing guitar from youtube – don’t let me down.

 

The kid couldn’t play the guitar, wasn’t a great singer and didn’t really know the lyrics but he had his dad, and his dad wasn’t saying he couldn’t do it, but instead was loving the interacion.  It is the same with your Father in heaven, he loves you trying to join in with his song, don’t wait until you are as good as him to join in as you never will be. It is about being with your Father.

 

Turn this information about his love for you into a revelation afresh for you about what that might look like in your situation.

 

Pete’s dad was driving the car.  He was a great, kind man but he only did handshakes, not hugs, and wouldn’t say anything to puff Pete him up.  Sheila, the family friend, loved shows of emotion.  Sheila said “Brian you must be terribly proud of Pete”, she had brought her dad to a place where he might say something he always wanted to hear.  A little pause later he said “yes, yes I am proud of my son.”  Information he always knew became a revelation and felt like he could conquer mountains.

 

We need knowledge to become something defining.  We need thing we know theoretically to encounter experientially.  Creeds to become cries of the heart; insecurity to become a sense of confidence.  The love of God is the answer to all the whys in the Bible.

 

The nature of life is the tendency to worry, to beat ourselves up, to think we have disappointed God.  We want to move from a sin paradigm where we always feel guilty to a son paradigm where we know we are loved.  Maybe you tonight feel hurt or isolated, the Father says I love you; hurt or ashamed, the Father says I am with you; afraid in evangelism, the Father says I am in you. I will never leave you or forsake you, I will be with you wherever you go.

 

Tonight maybe you want to receive a fresh wave of the Holy Spirit, to meet with God the Father; to commit to meeting in community to be helped by them even when you can’t feel God’s love; to meet with God as your Father for the first time.

Spring Harvest 2014: Unreached People Groups

Spring Harvest 2014

This afternoon I went to a seminar led by the fab Eddie Arthur on Unreached People Groups:

 

The first Christian missionaries to the Kouya people in the Ivory Coast were in 1958.  They were rejected by all but one person.  The first Christian convert in 1958, the second in 1981 – 23 years later.  For 23 years he had to pray, do fellowship, read the scriptures in another language.  In 1988 missionaries turned up to translate the scriptures into his language.  He prayed for thirty years and ended up with a bald fat bloke from Sunderland.  He could have expected the Archbishop of Canterbury or

 

There is a church in every village, the scriptures are available, this last week the Jesus film came out in Kouya.  Most of us hadn’t heard of the Kouya but God had and is reaching out to the hidden peoples.

God answers prayer – yes the prayers of his faithful missionary prayer groups but also the prayers of these hidden groups.

God does thing in surprising ways, it isn’t how you expect it.

 

“My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else.” Romans 15:20.  We take the idea of a British church for granted, but if the Roman missionaries hadn’t come here we wouldn’t be Christians without pioneer missionaries.  The only way that people come to our faith is when we go to the places that has no church.

 

The Good News

Seoul in South Korea in 1900 has no churches.  In the year 2000 there were 7000 churches.  So much so that the Korean church is making plans to plant churches and supporting planting of church in the UK!

14 million of 140 million Dalits (sometimes called the Untouchables) are committed Christians.  There are higher percentages of Christians in comparison with anywhere in Europe.

Indonesia is the largest Muslim population in the world.  They used to release religious statistics annually, but now don’t do that as they’re embarrassed as to how many Christians there were.  Now estimated to be about 15%.

Estimated that there are more followers of Jesus in China than members of the Communist party.

Countries with fastest growing evangelical population:

19.6% per year – Iran – both the Persian and the Kurdish groups.

16.7% per year – Afghanistan – growing by 1 in 6 every year – that’s huge growth.  A Christian had been asked to head up adult education in a whole province due to the Churches being the best at helping people learn to read.

8.9% per year – The Gambia – where British Tourists go in the middle of Senegal.  Strongly Muslim country, but the Church still growing at nearly 10% a year.

 

This is the most exciting time in history, there has been no time in history as to when more people were coming to faith.  More people in the Islamic world have come to Christ in the last 25 years than in the entire history of Christian mission.

 

The centre of gravity of world Christianity has shifted – it used to be White – British, Europe and America alongside some colonies.  There are more Christians in Africa, Latin America and Asia.  God is reaching out into the world and reaching to people in ways he has never done before.  We don’t see it in our country perhaps but it doesn’t negate what is happening.

 

The Bad News

Worldwide, only 1 in 7 Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus know a Christian.  If you are born a Hindu the likelihood is you will go your whole life without ever meeting a Christian.  Increasingly the same if you are born an atheist.

 

The Worse News

85% of Christian Workers are in locations where there role is to support the existing church, focussed on maintaining churches, not focussed on reaching out to the world.  In money terms about 10% goes to the church from Christians, of that, a further 10% goes to cross-cultural international missions, so about 1% of the total money Christians own.  Of that 10% goes on reaching the unreached, so about 0.1% of our income as Christians goes on spreading the gospel in places that have never heard of it before.

 

Many churches in the UK form links with countries such as Tanzania, Gambia etc. due to British language, nice beaches, good safaris, and more % Christians than the UK has.  Very rare for a church to have links to Iraq, Afghanistan, Central African Republic.

 

Who are the Unreached

It’s easy when you are a Bible translator – they have the Bible or they don’t.  To say whether they have Christians is harder, and so there are lots of different definitions:

A people group is unreached when the number of Evangelical Christians is less than 2% of its population.

It is further called unengaged when there is no church planting strategy consistent with Evangelical faith and practice under way.

Lots of questions – why 2%, why Evangelical, helpful for strategy – it leaves us 6,545 Unreached People Groups, of those 3,055 are Unengaged – they have no Christian witness amongst them.  This is the biggest issue that faces our Church today.

 

These statistics help to focus prayer, missionary ideas.  The problems is that you can’t take the statistics too seriously.  One of the groups on the list from the Lausanne congress is where Sue Arthur was working with three denominations including two pastors!  It also focuses on smaller ethnic groups, missing out that the majority live in cities and the mission strategy is focussed on rural communities and not the mega-cities e.g. Tokyo.  People groups are complex some inheritance comes through the father, some through the mother so when inter-marrying across people groups happen it is not straightforward to put them in a neat box as seen in books and or websites.

 

Is the UK really reached?  We probably have more than 2% of evangelicals, so technically yes, but there are large swathes of communities that have no Christian community.  How much contact do we have with our neighbours from other religious backgrounds.

 

What Should We Do?

It’s always the biggest question.  We need to revisit our mission priorities.  Mission notice boards have all sorts of interests including poverty relief, justice issues, someone teaching theology somewhere, but very often nobody who is reaching out where no one has planted a church before.

 

Get in touch with an agency focusing on the unreached.  When churches do their own mission they tend to stay within a certain comfort level.  Talk to WEC, Interserve, Friends International, Wycliffe and others.

 

Pray – it is the most important thing.  It feels like a cop out to say it is the most important thing to do as it feels like you aren’ doing anything.  But God has limited his own sovereignty and action he waits for us to ask, he wants us to be involved.  God answers our prayer, and God will answer the unreached through the prayers of his people.

Unreached people of the day – you get an email or tweet to help you pray for groups.

The Joshua Project – daily prayer for a different people group.

Bibleless People Project – daily prayers for a different people group.

First Gospel Prayer – for four years Wycliffe will send you info to pray for one people group, and at the end of the four years hope to have a gospel and Jesus film in their language.

 

What about the unreached on our doorsteps?

The hardest missionary situation is post-Christian, post-modern Europe.  Not likely to be beaten or thrown into jail.  Harder than where there is a strong religion as people are used to talking about their believes.

 

People often say: “Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words” – a misquote of St. Francis, but we need to explain why, otherwise we have hungry people still at risk of hell.

 

We often look at Matthew’s commission.  We need to move from that commission to this commission from Jesus: John 20:21 – “Peace be with you; Just as the father has sent me, so I send you.”

 

Every year there are 50 plans for world evangelisation, the fact they have to keep making them says something about their success.  The Commission gets us excited, but God balances this by saying do it in the way that he sent Jesus – in humility, not to order people around, born in a poor home, rode into Jerusalem in triumph on a donkey, always pointing at his father.  We will only reach the unreached people groups who we give up our life – literally or in comfort – for those people.

 

Q&A

What are we seeing that is working in the UK?  20 Schemes – planting churches in 20 housing schemes seeing drug addicts and prostitutes coming to faith.

Moving into an estate in Brixton to work with drug addicts, where do you start?  Start with prayer and making friends – which takes time.

How long does it take?  How long is a piece of string, in Britain we are finding people trust each other less.  People meet in the pub together instead of in the homes.  People work longer hours, they don’t want to spend time meeting with Christians after a long day.  Take 15-30 years to translate the Bible normally for Wycliffe.

Do Messy Church weekly as focussing on relationships, not enough to do it once a month.