Spring Harvest 2014: Morning 6 – Rob Parsons

Spring Harvest 2014

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Spring Harvest 2014: Evening 5 – Chick Yuill

Spring Harvest 2014

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


We need the Holy Spirit because there is an invitation made

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


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


There is a life to be lived

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


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


There is a family to be embraced

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


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


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


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


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


There is a victory to be declared

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


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


We need the Holy Spirit.

Spring Harvest 2014: Bible Teaching Day 5

Spring Harvest 2014

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


How do we get there


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


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


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


What does it look like

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


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

Spring Harvest 2014: Evening 4 – Cathy Madavan

Spring Harvest 2014

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Spring Harvest 2014: Bible Teaching Day 4

Spring Harvest 2014

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


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


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


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


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


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


God’s word is neglected 

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The Psalmist prized God’s word

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


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


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


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


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


The Bible is Power

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


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


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


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


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


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

Spring Harvest 2014: Evening 3 – Barnabas Mam

Spring Harvest 2014

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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: Home for Good Reception

Spring Harvest 2014

This evening I went along to the Home for Good reception:

Claire and Alan had wondered about adoption before marriage.  Seven years ago made enquiries, five years ago 14 month old joined their family.  Having great fun with her, learning lots, especially around her additional needs.  Also involved in the Home for Good initiative from when that began.  Started fostering in the last two years in the Milton Keynes locality.


6000 children in the UK waiting for adoption.  Part of the issue is the spread of children and how that varies across Local Authorities.


A conversation with Evangelical Alliance, Care for the Family and CCPAS which created Home for Good looking at how individuals and churches can get involved with adoption and fostering.  At the heart is a desire to see how we respond to the most vulnerable in society, caring for those in our care system.


One of the key stories is how this has been picked up in Southampton, where groups of churches responded to the needs of the Local Authority due to the budget cuts.  From the Children Service provision there was a real need for 80 families to be involved in foster care.  The churches made a commitment to find 40 families for Southampton City Council, using Psalm 68: God finds homes for the lonely.  Within 6 months they had signed up 46 families, now 63 families.  Now replicating in Reading, Suffolk and other places.


Faith Literacy: CCPAS working on how to help social workers to have a better understanding of the faith community and how they can connect with them and vice versa.

Joint Campaigns: very much Evangelical Alliances input and we have great resources from that.

Adoption Sunday: Krish has worked with BAF, and is one of their Media Champions, and they run the National Adoption Week, linked to this in 2013 we had over 200 churches involved in Adoption Sunday.

Information Events: especially at different conferences and gatherings, people like Spring Harvest have been very supportive.  Over the last two years, across a whole range of supporters, connected with over 25,000 people encouraging people to get involved.


Keswick ran the session following the main meeting in the Big Tent so in effect it was anyone who isn’t interested in helping vulnerable children can leave now!  Always a way to attract listeners.  When you adopt or foster in the Charter’s church you get two weeks of meals in the same way as when you have a baby.  It is engaging more people across the church in the movement.


Have a number of Home for Good Champions who share their experience with others to help inspire people around adoption and fostering.  Barbara, from Scotland, has two adoptive children, Volunteer Regional Support Co-ordinator for Scotland, working for Care for the Family who co-ordinate the support of adopting and fostering parents.  In Scotland much of the networking is done via Facebook and Skype; recently spoke to 300 Church of Scotland Ministers about the campaigns.  Nobody had ever brought the families before.


We were introduced to someone who was born to an abused mother, by a church elder.  They were privately adopted by a church family who adopted them.  Next they were adopted by a Christian family who now wouldn’t be allowed to adopt.  That’s why the rules and checks are there.  Really love and appreciate their adopted mum, but especially as they said their birth mum loved them and didn’t want to give them up which gave them so much help and confidence in their placing in God’s family.


It comes down to how we provide a home for the children, bringing hope for each child, and we can find ourselves as part of the story.  It is a real privilege to share that journey with any and every child.  It is good for the church in how we serve and how we grow, for the reputation of the church, the Southampton example.  It is good for the nation – the numbers of children in care that we want to see change.


Tim & Melissa adopted two sibling children, four years ago.  Currently started fostering a few months ago.  Started an adopted families support group a few years ago which has grown and been a real help in return.  Christmas 2013 had 30 children including both birth, adoptive and fostering children.  Based in Ipswich and now linking with other churches in Ipswich and Suffolk.  The Suffolk Council has been positive about faith adopters, and are connecting with more potential adopters, sponsoring a Home for Good event to use publicity through the faith community.


Next Steps

Began as a conversation, now in a preparatory phase to build Home for Good as an organisation in its own good as coming out of the Evangelical Alliance.  Tearfund was birthed in a similar way so there is a proven track record of this.  Looking to look at how they could work with some approved agencies – PACT based in Reading, and Adoption Matters North West.


In Southwark and Lambeth the conversation led to the Councils funding an outreach role to connect between Councils and Churches which may provide a model for other local authorities to follow.


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: Bible Teaching Day 2

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 kicking off today with the Unfathomable Father.


Romans 8:14-17

Looking at God as creator, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and also looking at what is the nature of belief.  In the Creed is condensed the Father of the Universe, we over the next few hours will be able to highlight some of the words.


I Believe in God the Father Almighty

Before God created the universe he was already the Father, that’s why the Creed puts this preface at the start.  It is part of his nature, it is his definition.  The overflow of his fathering is poured out before us.  Providing, delighting, wonderful father.  Many of us struggle with this, and one of the things God wants to do is to renew our affection and understanding of God’s love for us.  No one is more thrilled that you are here than God – he wants to spend time with you, and he wants to delight in you.


Little while ago a man came to see Simon, worked as a Verger at the church, had had a colourful previous life including drugs and jail.  He thought God wanted him to become a Vicar, so Simon asked the guy to share more of his story.  on holiday he was was aware that he had been saved, that God had been wonderful to him, and yet still felt there was something missing, a sense of emptiness.  Friends prayed for him, they went to a charismatic event in a barn, during the worship time he was on his knees calling out “what is the key”.  Someone else who he didn’t know walked in front of him, and walked to the barn door, pulled out a wrought iron key, and then put the key on his neck, “this is the key – you are my son and I love you”.


Three simple points – a baptist heritage!


A Cry for a Father

There is a fundamental cry, aching and longing for God as Father.  If you’ve seen Cider House Rules, set in the 1940s in an American orphanage, following the children as they come of age.  A couple arrive in an open top car to adopt; all the girls are lined up in height.  At the ned of the row is a new born baby which they pick.  Then the scene changes to a 11 year old lad looking out of the window as the car drives away, he’s asked are you going somewhere, no, he’d packed his suitcase hoping someone would take him.  “They wanted a girl” he responded with “no one wants me, nobody has ever asked.”


That image somehow prophetically gets to the heart of the human condition.  Waiting on the landing with a suitcase packed, waiting, longing for God to take us home.  We’re aware of waiting for something but we can’t put words on it.


Since Eden there has been a deep and profound sense of abandonment within the human soul and a fear of rejection, then a rejection of ourselves and others.  We don’t know what it is and what will satisfy its need, we try all kinds of things to fill the hole.  We try with intimacy in relationships, promiscuity for fleeting momentary pleasures, self-love through driving ambition, achievement, acquisition of goods, others hit out angrily at the world.


Man speaking to 70 lads in prison asked how many of you ever heard your dad say I love you – not one!  In that sense of absence of a father figure they find a substitute father as a gang leader and end up doing crime.


God wants to meet us on the landing with our suitcase packed.  We are made for God our father.


Many of us struggle to understand God as Father, e.g. feminists suggest there is a power play, deifying masculine and women are pushed aside – sadly this has happened within the church.  Paul calls all of us sons of God whether male or female – it is a place of privilege and inheritance.  In the same way men are called to be the Bride of Christ!


Freud argued that God was like the little girls made up friend.  He understood that we project onto God the experience we have with our earthly father.  If we struggle in our earthly relationship it affects our Godly relationship.  We can cope with God as almighty, saviour, etc., but not God as father.  Not easy to appreciate your adoption by God, Abba, Father, if you were an unwanted child.  Not easy when your dad beat your mum, when your parents divorced and dad left, if you were sent off to boarding school, if dad was more interested in work or your achieving sibling.  Then we live in fear, we don’t draw near, we become perfectionists, we don’t want to hang out with him.


A man was called “Stupid number 5” until he was in his thirties.  God never spoke those words.  He wants to heal these situations.  If this was your experience as a father you know you shouldn’t but it is repeated.


Your father at worst bears no resemblance to God and at best is a poor resemblance of God.  This is the number one point of contact for the gospel in our society today.  We need to have apologetics to deal with Dawkins and Hitchens etc., but fundamentally the question is normally if there is a God is he like my dad because he and I didn’t get on.


There is a Cry of the Father

There is a longing in the divine heart for us.  The Father wants to father us.  Ever since Eden, and the dislocation enters into human life God also felt it.  God said “Adam where are you” before Adam spoke, it’s not like he didn’t know where they were.  Is God hiding from them, they’ve moved away from God, God is moving towards them.  The calling out is a sense of loss and pain that ripped the heart of God.  No one ever adopted reluctantly.  There was an overflow in your heart, space in your relationship and home and you had to adopt, you had to do it, even going through all the hoops.  God can’t wait to adopt you, he went to hell and back seeking his heirs.


Luke 15 – the prodigal son, or the prodigal affections of the Father.  The son offends his father, wishing he was dead so he could get his inheritance.  He squanders the share of the inheritance, ending up feeding pigs, for a Jewish boy this is a bad story.  He is starving, longing to feed his gut with the food he feeds the pig.  He comes to his senses, even the servants are treated better than this.  When he was still far off, his Father saw him – was it an accident – every day the Father felt the loss of the son, every day looking for his Son.  He sees him, picks up his skirt and runs to him and then smacks him in the mouth – no!  He hugged him and kissed him – there is no sense of the son causing shame and bringing dishonour on the family.


When we come to God we come saying we’re not worthy, make us a servant.  But God has all the servants he wants through the angels.  He gets the best robe, they always kept a great robe spare for honoured guests.  Then they throw a party and kill the fattened calf.  The fattened calf was looked after whilst the son was away; the butcher comes each week offering top price and the father says it isn’t for sale, it is for the sun.  The only person gutted apart from the older brother was the calf!


The nature of the human condition is feeding pigs and your gut is empty; the nature of God is we throw a party an eat BBQ ribs.  The older brother can’t cope with that.  The father says to him, “son, you are always with me, always near me, always for you and towards you, you could have had the fattened calf, the butcher couldn’t but you could.”  The older brother had a servant mentality, he was the son but acted like a slave.


Calvin said the Spirit is the Spirit of Adoption.  The Romans looked to adopt children because they weren’t sure who were their children.  They would look for great leaders, warriors etc.  Many of the Emperors were adopted, given inheritance that wasn’t originally theirs.  Paul says you can have this with God.  You can have his inheritance.


There is a Cry, Oh My Father

Romans 8 speaks about the Spirit, the instrument by which we cry Abba, Father.  We also read about this in Galatians 4:6.  The word in Greek means to cry, to shriek, a welling up, an involuntary ecstatic exclamation.  C.H. Dodd said when people are filled with the spirit and cry Abba Father it is a charismatic experience.  So often we major on the minor – tingling, falling over – we need to focus on the birth title.


This is the unique thing.  The Ancient Greeks had no concept of God as Father.  None are specifically father.  In Islam there are 90 names for Muhammed but none are father.  Orthodox Jews call God “the name”, they wouldn’t dare to call him father as it would constrain God.  The Rabbi Paul could say Abba Father is extraordinary.  Jesus invites us into the relationship he has eternally with God.  The nearest to Father is daddy, children.


The Spirit gives us the revelation.  The Preacher can preach until the cows come home but it won’t make sense of take place without the spirit.  This is a need in the world and in the church.


In 2 Timothy 1: “I know whom I have believed”, do we know the Father’s love, that he wants to say “come away with me”.


In Romans 8 and Galatians 4:6 both talk about slavery to fear.  When we know God as Father we won’t be gripped by fear.  Many are gripped by fear, you’ve walked around yourselves with trumpets seven times, you’ve been ghost busted, you’ve done prayer and pilates, and a whole load more.  Ask God to fill him with his Spirit and to free you.


Luther Vandross wrote I want to dance with my father, he lost his father as a child and expressed his thoughts in it.  We need God as Father

Spring Harvest: Lead Zone – part 2

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Here are my notes from part 2 of the Lead Zone by Debra Green & Mark Madavan


  • Youth worker at Altrincham Baptist church – saw real growth from 30 to over 200.
  • Then went to IVY Manchester, been there for 20 years – was first female elder – took five years for women to get onto the Eldership.
  • Leading Redeeming Communities – was going to be a North West charity, became national and about to come international.
  • Key is having a go, never had a formal theology training, got a diploma in clinical and pastoral counselling.


  • Involved in youth groups.
  • Led a semi-professional drama team for four and a half years.
  • Theological college
  • Became Associate at Andover Baptist Church for 6 years.
  • Lead Loxley Heath with 350 people through doors on Sunday, 800 come through for other activities – been there for 10 years.  Have 150-200 youth and over 300 under 11s.
  • Been a school governor for a school with 1,700 pupils.
  • Looking to buy a warehouse and do a £4 million refurb.

You join because you’re really passionate about it but then hit all the red tape.

Present to God

Reflecting on Mary & Martha – are we happy to be, reflect and to sit with the Lord or are you working out your faith, activist.  p. 47, Timothy Keller quote on our default position.  We often try to emulate the leaders we look up to.  Coming to terms with who we are in Christ, being me, and letting God affirm us in that.  If we copy it’s not us and we will fail.  The key is loving yourself and enjoying that.  “I am special as God loved me…”.

We teach things as leaders, but we need to take time out to reflect on these things time and time again.  We can lead by experience, on automatic pilot, and forget that we’re special and loved by God.  So often we doubt ourselves, is it matching up to someone else.  We get into that trap as leaders.

So we need to focus on the rhythm of prayer – being present to God.  Allowing God to shape me and mould me.  To know what God is speaking into our lives.  We can lead from that, being fruitful for Him from that.

Paula Gooder quote on p. 52.  We forget who we are and find it difficult to receive.  Take some time out to be, to be present to God.  To sit and notice the things around us.  Look at Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer and Cave Refectory Road: monastic rhythms for contemporary living.

CWR asked church leaders what was their most important priority – most said prayer, but the next question said what takes the most and least amount of time in the diary and the least was prayer.

Besides a crisis what inspires you to pray?  We turn to God in the crises as it is all we can do, but what else helps us to pray.

  • Pray when we’re outside – as we’re visual people – being moved by God
  • Guilt – you get so busy, it makes you feel guilty and so you pray
  • Pray when writing a new song
  • Community Prayer Experience – prayer communities meeting regularly with particular topics linked to the venue.
  • Silent prayer – not about effort but consent – about us sitting there and consenting – say a word or picture when distracted it refocuses your mind on God.
  • Don’t judge your prayer – give thanks for spending time – you don’t know what it will do or mean.
  • Julian group after Julian of Norwich – spending 30 minutes in silence – a scripture passage to use as an option.
  • Park as far as away from the office as you can.
  • Prayer walk where say thank you prayers – we get into ask me prayers too often.
  • Who needs encouragement in your church – pray for them?
  • Pray during the gardening – active and close to nature!
  • Purposely pray in the gaps.

SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP – Psalm 42 – Be still and know that I am God

Pete Greig, God on Mute

500 More Prayers for All Occasions

Present in the world

First name?


Where you are from?  Complicated question – origins, where you were born, where you live now, your church …

Being in the presence of God is linked to wherever you are – not just where you are from.  Outside of Butlins you have family, social life, work and more.  “God moved into the neighbourhood”.  When you moved into your neighbourhood, God moved into your neighbourhood.  There is such a connection of God’s presence and where people are.

We need to reflect on this.  We expect God’s presence at church. or our cell group, do we expect God’s presence to be in Butlins outside of Spring Harvest, what about work or your grocery shopping.  Do you expect to be with God in those places.  If truth be told you are expecting God in more areas than others.

One of the biggest challenges that we face in the West in consumerism – we shop for our faith and encounters of God.  We go round a big shopping centre but only visit our favourite shops.  We look for God in our favourite places.  God in his grace does meet us there.  But the truth is God is in your neighbourhood and God wants you to encounter his presence in the different areas.  The danger is it is a lot of heartache when it goes wrong, but the good news is that God is with us in it.  When we go to school, work, the community centre, we’re with the Good News!

“My work place is my ministry place, so I don’t need to serve at church”  Discuss  Do you also expect the church to provide quality Sunday services, children’s work, youth work etc.

  • Pints of View – men’s ministry
  • Brew Crew – Refreshments Team
  • Sacred secular divide is false // Children asking leaders
  • God, home, work then church

Spring Harvest: Bible Reading part 2

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Bible Reading by Gerard Kelly – Be – 1 John 2:7-3:3


  • John’s foundation is that Jesus is both God and man:
  • Light, life and love are three themes that will be weaved
  • Sin & brokenness, and the Jesus way of confronting these
  • Followers will imitate the life of Jesus

Some of the things that were worrying John, the church community he was part of and the pressures they were under.

1 John 2:7-11

The connection of God’s love for us and our love for one another cross with the theme of light  Where love is light has shone, and where light shines we learn to love one another.  If love is not visible then we have to assume that the light has not come in this area.  He is not say 100% that people are in light or darkness – but makes an assumption based on the actions.  If I see you hating one another I have to assume that love is not there.  Not writing a new commandment but telling you what you always knew – not linked to Jesus – but what had always been the case – love The Lord your God and your neighbour – what Jesus emphasised – but what the Jewish people always emphasised.  Jesus lived it in a way that had never happened before – this is what made it real.  It is what always John had known to do – but Jesus showed him how to do it in a real way.  Not just moving house regularly to change your neighbour!  Not by trying harder but by encountering the love of God.  A new exploration of a very old commandment,

This is his version of the New Age movement.  Many are taught it was invented in the 20th century   nut cases.  Jesus taught loads about the new age – this age and the age to come.  Not quite what people mean today but the concept of new age is very biblical.  Darkness is disappearing, and the light is already shining.  That is to do with John’s worldview, the New Testament world view – John doesn’t have time for the Greek heresy of the life you live now and the life you will live later in some floaty place.  Jesus spoke about a dark age and an age to come that will be filled with light – this doesn’t happen when you die, but when you receive Christ  So John says don’t sit around waiting for it but realise that it has already begun.

John has the same view of eternal life – not something you’re waiting to inherit, or that you’re waiting to begin.  The qualification is that you confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that you surrender your brokenness to God and let him deal with it.  From that point God is already in you pushing back the darkness, declaring the new age.

John’s conviction is that the darkness will be ultimately victorious.  Light brings love and love renders faith concrete.  If you don’t love then the light of God isn’t in you – regardless of what you sing and say in church.  Where we don’t love is a big neon sign from God as to what we need to deal with.  Maybe when you meet someone who has a different view point of church, a different skin colour, a different lifestyle – John says that you’re not terrible – it is pretty human – but ask for God’s light to shine more there.  Love is the evidence of the light of God in your life.

1 John 2:12-14

Writing to people he knows, churches who he is in touch with.  He does it twice to make sure they can see his deliberate action of those who are the children of God – those who have just got their and those mature in your faith.  Being part of the family of God is diverse.  People at Spring Harvest are saying how great it is at an older age to be learning new things.  If you are genuinely open to the Spirit of God and the Word of God you will go on learning – this is the picture that John wants us to have.

This isn’t the only reason he writes this.  He takes time to address the challenge of Gnosticism – which was a tendency that was beginning in some of the churches.  He understands it well, and writing later he is more aware of it.  Cavlism was the sense of dressing up the Old Testament in esoteric thoughts.  The Gnostics were very influenced by Greek thought, and specifically Plato.

The body, and everything in it is bad – the Hylic.  The material world is created by lesser Gods as it is in some sense flawed and broken.  The word deal comes from Platonic thinking – everything we see is a poor reflection of the ideal in the theoretical world – e.g. the chair is a poor imitation.  Everything is about escaping the body and living for spiritual realities.  It is the oldest heresy in the church and yet we still struggle with it now.

The Hebrew view is that the cosmos, the human world is the top level as God made it.  Put simply God was bored of the fluffy clouds and having coffee with the angels.  God expressed himself in creation – it is a positive expression of God.  The focus is the redemption of the cosmos – the resurrection of the bodies – not being whisked away from the earth.

John sees the Gnostics as a key challenge to the faith – he sees that God comes to us in flesh but the Gnostics say the flesh world is negative so they believe that God has done something stupid, he has parted with his dignity in doing this.

John 3:16 – God so loved not just me and you but the cosmos, the world that he sent his one and only son for the giraffe, dolphin and more!

Another feature is that Gnosticism divided humans into three areas:

  • Hylic (stuck in the body) – human demands – food and more food!
  • Psychic (aware of the soul) – emotional and inner psychological soul – the sign is that you start writing poetry
  • Pneumatic (living in the Spirit) – they live for the Spirit

Unfortunately some Christians live for the Spirit but deny their own human actions, e.g. I don’t need to eat any more as Jesus will look after you and the Holy Spirit will pay the rent.  The Holy Spirit comes to bring life to your eating, sex life, community and more.  Don’t let the similarity of language fool you – they are not bringing you into the Kingdom but something entirely else.

The Gnostics always a steps of spiritual ascent – it varies but in John’s day to was seven linked to the seven spiritual beings.  At each stage you get the next level of enlightenment.  To get to the next stage you receive more secrets – very similar to Free Masonry and Scientology.  You move up through the ranks and eventually get to be Tom Cruise.  Tom Cruise literally has nothing negative in his life according to Scientology!  Just tell that to his wife and ex-wife!  John says “rubbish” – as far as the love of Christ is concerned – the person who became a Christian a minute ago and the person who has been in the faith for 50 years have access to the same knowledge.  Where John sees Christians beginning talk about having secret knowledge he tells them to repent.

Spring Harvest is the evangelical business class – frequent flyers still don’t get a better chalet though!

The Word of God speaks to everyone and some need to come to terms with the insight that God gives to new Christians as well of them.  We don’t divide into different classes or blessings.  The things we don’t understand we probably need to get rid of, e.g. why we can’t open the curtains without Vera being there!

All esoteric faiths have a ladder from earth to haven – climbing up with God – but when you find the top of a ladder you will still find thin air – there is no system of increasing enlightenment.  The Gospel says you meet God where you are – in your community.  The Jewish story meets Moses where he is – the ground is Holy take off your shoes.  God establishes things where we are – he wants us to understand his purposes where we are – in our relationships, in the places where we live as that is where God’s story placed us.

Let your kingdom come, let your will be done on earth – the battle is to get God here – there is no victory to get God worshipped on the earth as they do that already!  There is a ladder in the Christian faith – but it is the ladder God climbed down to get to us – if you’re going to use an up and down concept.  Let’s see how much heaven we could see in our neighbourhood, faith, relationships, church and more.

One rule for all – you are all children of God.  If you are a newbie in the faith or a father in the faith then you receive the same challenge.

1 John 2:15-17

Just in case we are no clear he carries on.  If you receive these words as a Gnostic he says don’t take on the world views.  John isn’t talking about that – there is a kingdom where we are dark in our thinking – part of us is that and part of the world is that.  The Kingdom of God is arriving so the questions is do you let your identity to be shaped by the light or darkness.  The world in this language isn’t the physical world, our community and culture.  It is a challenge to the empire of the world, e.g. media, advertising.

Belief + Doubt = Sanity

John in his culture with no society of consumerism.  He still understood even then that there is something that calls to us to be comfortable and often against the word of God saying love your neighbour.  The question of whether or not you’ve got the right stuff comes from whether or not you have identity in possessions – do they hold your heart or not?

Just look at the Tiger Woods campaign “Winning takes care of everything” which stimulates the idea to win we should buy more Nike kit.  They are going beyond marketing, and become philosophers and theologians.  Did winning take care of everything for Lance Armstrong?  His need to win and to keep winning drove him into disastrous actions and wrecked the life of him, his family and hundreds of others.

We need to be willing to speak the truth.  Maybe the new car, the bigger house, the extra holiday won’t change anything – sometimes it can but often not.  Not living in our barns, one of the few places in scripture that Jesus allows someone to be called a fool.  Tonight it is over – Jesus said he was thinking about the wrong things.

Will you be what God says you are, be who he calls you to be, secure in Christ regardless of richness, poverty and possessions.  Hear God speaking your identity – not the stuff around you.

Loop back to the fundamental thing, the tiny anchor – the life of Jesus – let that be the anchor that everything else relates to.  More people in the UK have lost their faith from being comfortable rather than persecution.  The things we fear are often the things that will free us.

1 John 2:18-25

Introduces the concept of anti-Christ, it is anything that is n work of the world that goes against Christ in your life.  It doesn’t matter what they are – they could be good, bad or anything else, but they are the anti-Christ.  The clue is to stay faithful.

1 John 2:26-3:3

The clue is how to listen to God and not the billboards is to remain faithful that God has given us the Holy Spirit to be our teacher – nurture that relationship.  Not moving through stages, but teach us from within.  And we can be secure as God has brought us to the father.  Jesus brought us to the place where we are secure as the children of God.  That is our identity and future – to be taught by the Spirit to be taught all that Jesus wants us to come.