Teenage artists wanted for Group Publishing’s Biblica Bible project

Teenage artists wanted for Group Publishing’s Biblica Bible project

Group, a US based, non-denominational Christian publisher, is partnering with Biblica to produce a New Testament Bible for youth. What will make this Bible unique is the editorial and visual elements featured in this Bible will be created by teenagers.

They are looking for teenage artists to do interpretive illustrations for the introductions to the books of the New Testament. Based on samples submitted by young people, they will select four teenagers who will each illustrate up to six of the Bible introductions.

What they are looking for…

  • Teenagers age 16-19 who love to draw very expressive and interpretive art.
  • The interior of the Bible is 2 color (Black plus another color). So the art will need to be one/two color line art.

What’s in it for the student…

  • Each artist will be given credit in the final printed piece.
  • Their art will be used in marketing efforts to promote the new Bible.
  • Students can include their finished work in their own portfolios as commissioned commercial art.
  • Each student will be given a write-up in one of our blogs promoting them, their art, and their school.
  • Each student will get “real world” experience with an art director and publisher.
  • Each student will receive 5 free copies of the Bible after it’s been printed.
  • Selected student artist will receive a contract for up to 6 illustrations and be paid $99 per illustration completed.

The only requirements for this opportunity…

  • The student must be between the age of 16 and 19 years old.
  • Students selected to work on the project will need to complete all illustrations contracted for in 5 weeks. (We will contact artists directly to determine the number of illustrations they believe they can complete in this time frame.)

Submissions begin now.

  • Students need to submit a sample of their art style to Jeff Storm, Art Director at Group Publishing.
  • Attach 1-2 samples as a .jpg file to an email addressed to jstorm@group.com (please limit attachment size to 5 MB).
  • Please make subject line in email- Biblica Bible illustration submission
  • Include your full name, attach the samples to the email, and let us know a little something about the samples you are sending and why you’d like to be considered for this project.
  • Sample submissions must be received no later than Feb 21, 2016.
  • The selected artists will be notified by Feb 26, 2016
  • The selected artists will have five weeks beginning Feb 29, 2016 to complete the illustrations contracted for.
    Biblica Youth Bible release is scheduled for September 2016.

Click here to download a summary to hand out to young people.

 

The world’s most popular Bible verses in 2015

Every second, the world conducts more than 40,000 Google searches, creates 5 new Facebook profiles, and opens YouVersion’s Bible App 112 times.  In the app, three bookmarks are created, four verses are shared, and 18 verses are highlighted. More than 50 Bible chapters are listened to, and 342 chapters are read.

YouVersion, launched by Life.Church in 2008, announced that the Bible app has topped 200 million installs. The app now offers the Bible in more than 1,200 versions and 900 languages.

The most popular Bible verses (by country) of 2015.

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As part of its annual review of user activity, YouVersion highlighted the most popular Bible verses in the 10 countries where it has been installed the most.

The verse that was bookmarked, shared, and highlighted more than any other in the app’s history was also the top verse for the US and Brazil in 2015.

That verse was Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” [All verses in this blog are NIV translation.]

Other top verses were also favorites in more than one country (and proved popularlast year as well).

Mexico, the United Kingdom, and South Korea engaged the most with Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Likewise, Nigeria, South Africa, and the Philippines all engaged the most with Jeremiah 29:11: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Canadians engaged most with Ephesians 1:23: “[And the church] is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Meanwhile, Chinese engaged most with 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

The most shared Bible verses of 2015.

The overall most shared, highlighted, and bookmarked verse of 2015 was Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

YouVersion also broke out which verses were shared the most over email, text, and social media.  The top five:

  • Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
  • Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
  • Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
  • Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
  • Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Increase in engagement around the world in 2015

The Bible App has now been installed in every country, YouVersion stated. Since it reached the 100-million install mark in 2013, engagement with the app more than tripled in Pakistan (up 240%), Thailand (247%), Namibia (250%), and Greece (261%). Engagement more than quadrupled in Swaziland (up 341%), China (359%), Mozambique (370%), and Uruguay (388%). Use of the app is five times higher in Bulgaria (up 413%), six times higher in Cameroon (up 562%), and seven times higher in Suriname (up 670%).

Assembly: The Bible is a library

Bible

Today’s assembly was for one of our local Infants school’s and themed around the Bible is a library:

Aims

To help the children understand the variety of material in the Bible.

 

Preparation and Materials

  • A large Bible (you could borrow a lectern Bible from church).
  • Two benches or equivalent, one on either side of you.
  • A4 cards showing the following words, one on each: Stories, Songs, Poems, History, Wise sayings, Laws, and four road signs.

 

Assembly

If I asked you what your favourite book in all the world is – hands up if you would be able to name one straight away? Books are fantastic and the great thing about them is that there are books to suit everyone. Hands up if you like books about cars, wizards, pirates, detectives, cook books?

 

What book am I thinking about now? It’s in two main parts. One part is a special book for Jewish people, Christians and others. The second part is the Christians’ special book. But the whole thing is not just one book but lots of books – it’s the Bible.

 

Does anyone know how many books are in the Bible? The two parts are the Old Testament (39 books) and the New Testament (27 books). So it’s a bit more like a library of books than just one book.

 

Ask the children about going to the library – if there’s a school library you could talk about how we choose different books.   I expect your teachers really like you to choose a wide variety of different books, not always the same kind. That helps us to learn about lots of different things.
So I thought we would create a human library today. I am going to need some volunteers.  Invite a number of children up to represent the different types of books that we find in the Bible library. Don’t go into too much detail – you just want to give them the idea that the Bible is a rich and varied collection. Give them the A4 cards to hold. Put some volunteers on the OT ‘shelf’ (bench) and some on the NT.

 

Christians believe that as we read the Bible we get to know God better. There are lots of great children’s books and Bible stories (you could show some or mention where they are in the school library). Even if we find it hard to read the Bible ourselves at the moment we can listen to others tell us the stories and get to know God that way. Above all, Christians believe that God’s great book, the Bible, is meant to be enjoyed by everyone.

 

Ask the children what each road sign stands for:

  • No entry
  • Stop
  • One way
  • Danger from falling rocks.

 

Show a Bible and point out that Christians and people of other faiths believe that it is a book that contains much wisdom that can help us to live a better life.

 

Show the ‘No entry’ sign. Sometimes the Bible tells us that it is better for us not to follow certain ways of living (such as being selfish and holding on to our possessions). You may wish to draw attention to the Ten Commandments. Christians believe that this is not because God is a ‘spoil sport’ but because God loves and cares for us.

 

Show the ‘Stop’ sign. Explain that sometimes in the Bible there are stories and laws that tell us to stop doing something we are already doing. It may be that we are hurting other people or doing something that we know is wrong. The Bible shows us that we should stop doing wrong and follow a life that is good and helps and cares for others.

 

Show the ‘One way’ sign. The Bible shows us a way to live that encourages us to think of others before ourselves. It asks us to not always put ourselves first and make demands, but to consider other people’s ideas and preferences. We will be happier when we live like this.

 

Show the ‘Danger’ sign. Explain that Christians believe that the Bible is not there to make our lives boring or miserable but to show us a good way to live that makes those around us happy. It shows us that there is a danger of living lives so caught up with ourselves that we end up making ourselves and those around us unhappy too.

 

Recap that the Bible is not just a rule book for Christians to follow; it is full of examples of how we can live our lives for others. Many people find that it gives them direction and provides them with peace and comfort. Some people believe that God speaks directly to them through the Bible and others find it a good source of interesting stories and wisdom from the earliest civilizations. It tells the stories of Jesus and his followers in the New Testament, and of the Jewish people in the Old Testament.

 

Time for reflection

Think about books. What kind of books do you like? Do you have a favourite book and a favourite writer?  Do you know any very old stories such as those you might read in the Bible or from ancient legends?

 

Dear God, thank you for all the different types of books.  Thank you for the joy of reading.  Thank you for the Bible, for the stories, letters, poems and songs, history and more that we find between its pages.  Amen.

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: 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.

 

YouVersion’s Most Shared Bible Verses of 2013

The makers of the YouVersion Bible app, which has been downloaded more than 123 million times worldwide, have released this infographic look at the most popular Bible verses of 2013.

The “Verse of the Year” (a title given to the verse that had the highest combination of shares along with bookmarks and highlights), was Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

The distinction of being the year’s most shared verse (through email, Twitter, Facebook and SMS), belonged to Psalm 118:24: “This is the day that the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Top 10 Bible Verses

You can go here to see the full list of the top 10 most shared verses.

A Great Bible Reading Plan for 2014

Tim Chester:

I’ve posted this Bible reading plan before. We use it in The Crowded House Sheffield. If you’ve been using it then you’ll be interested in this postcard-sized version of the plan for 2014. If you’re not reading through the Bible then the approach of the new year is a good time to review your Bible reading habits. Here are a couple of old posts on why that would be a good idea – Hearing God Speak and Must I Read My Bible Every Day?This plan has a number of differences from other plans.

1. Flexibility – The plan specifies a number of chapters for each week rather than for each day. This makes it more flexible. You can read a chapter or two each day or you can read it in two or three sittings. Or you can set out reading a chapter a day and then catch up at the weekend. It means it fits more readily around people’s lifestyle.

2. Communal – It is designed to be followed with a partner or among a group of people. There is only one section each week (occasionally two shorter books). So you don’t have to read a section from one book and then a section from another book each day. It means the sections are somewhat uneven, but it makes it easy to discuss what you have been reading when you meet up with other people.

We’ve been using it for a year now and it works very well in this way. I meet up with a friend each week for lunch. It’s easy for us to discuss what we’ve been reading because there is only one Bible book to focus on.

It also means I only need look at the Bible plan once a week – I don’t need to refer to it each day.

3. Realistic – Following this plan you read the OT in three years and the NT twice in three years. This works out at about nine chapters a week. It means you are not rushing through what you are reading to ‘get it done’. I’ve found with other plans I tend to read it with my mind disengaged. This plan gives time to meditate on the passage.

There is also a version in the document in which you cover the OT once and the NT twice in two years = about 16 chapters a week.

4. Balanced – The plan balances OT history, prophecy, wisdom, Gospel and Epistles throughout the year. You move between genres so you’re never faced with reading OT prophecy continuously for six months.

Here’s the complete three year plan and here’s this postcard-sized version of the plan for 2014.

YouVersion Bible App for Kids Hits 1 Million Downloads

YouVersion announced that its eagerly awaited Bible App for Kids that was released on Thanksgiving day was downloaded to a million unique devices during the first week.

The release date seemed to work especially well for American children.  According the the YouVersion blog, a lot of the success of the Bible Apps for Kids can be attributed to to its visibility in the app stores.

Some cool stats for iDevices in the first 12 hours (via the YouVersion Bog):

  • #1 free Kids app
  • #1 free Education app
  • #2 overall free iPad app
  • #4 overall free iPhone app

Numbers aside, it’s an excellent bridge between technology and God’s word that can be celebrated:

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Lee Mack: I would read the Bible

Bible

Desert Island Discs invites guests to select the music they’d want with them on a Desert Island, plus Shakespeare and the Bible, in a closing remark Lee Mack reflected:

“I’m glad you get the Bible, because I would read the Bible. I think it’s quite odd that people like myself, in their forties, quite happy to dismiss the Bible, but I’ve never read it. I always think that if an alien came down and you were the only person they met, and they said, ‘What’s life about? What’s earth about? Tell us everything,’ and you said, ‘Well, there’s a book here that purports to tell you everything. Some people believe it to be true; some people [do] not believe it [to be] true.’ ‘Wow, what’s it like?’ and you go, ‘I don’t know, I’ve never read it.’ It would be an odd thing wouldn’t it? So, at the very least, read it.”

Comedian Lee Mack on BBC Desert Island Discs via Tony Watkins