Saturday, 18 October 2014

Encouraging the Spirituality of Children



Photo via Wylio / Ivan David Gomez Arce
So last weekend at Vicar School we had some excellent teaching on stages of development and on stages of faith development. I was really fascinated by the teaching on children's spirituality and how open they are to things of a spiritual nature. Open that is until we shut them down.

(and when I talk of spirituality, we had a whole discussion on what that means to different people, but essentially I mean here, in referring to matters of a spiritual nature, things that are outside of this world, seeking something outside of ourselves)

We learn from a very early age what we share with others and if the response is negative we learn very quickly not to share that again. Even as an adult I am careful when I share my own beliefs. I mean, I am a natural evangelist so I talk about Jesus all the time, but when it comes to things of a spiritual nature, for example, believing God can heal through the Holy Spirit or that I can feel God or in referring to 'spiritual warfare' then I test the waters first, because let's face it can all sound a bit bonkers. And none of us want people to think we are bonkers do we, because then people won't listen to the message we have to share...

So as children, it doesn't take much for them to be shut down and yet research shows that an openness to spirituality is far more evident in children. In fact one research study showed that 50% of people have had a 'spiritual experience' and it mostly happens in childhood. 

I like to think that in this house we are pretty open to hearing from our kids on spiritual matters, in fact we try and encourage it, encourage them to be open about it. But even then, this week I was telling my youngest about the stuff I had been learning last weekend and she told me an example of someone at school (she's just 8 by the way) whose friends thought she was lying because of something she said she had seen. Even at 8, they question things, even at 8, they learn to keep quiet, even at 8 they are wary of who to talk to. And I find that so sad. 

As parents we have a key role in listening to our children's experiences, especially when they are younger, so often they just talk and talk don't they, and so often we just switch off! Or if it something we are unsure about ourselves, we doubt what they say, or we try and explain it in our own adult terms.

So how can we encourage our children to be open to these things, to encountering God in real and personal ways, to understand that it is ok to have these experiences even though the world doesn't always recognise them? and how can we be more open, listening, hearing...

That's something that I really want to do with my own children. As I said we are pretty open and we have a once a week bible or prayer session with them, where we do different things or activities. In the past some of the best times we have had have been just waiting on God, giving them pen and paper and seeing what they feel God is saying. They have had amazing words and pictures that are way beyond their level of understanding. They have had words of knowledge for people who are really struggling and have spoken so directly into the situation without really knowing anything about it.

Sometimes we just have to allow them to be open, to listen, to hear and to see without questioning.

I would love to hear others experiences - have your children had spiritual experiences, seen angels, had words from God...? Or do you a have great ideas of how to encourage your children in this area? do get in touch...




Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Talk from Hurst College Chapel // All Age // 9/10/14

All Age talk from Hurst College Chapel Prep School Service

The parable of the wedding banquet

22 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”






Intro to me

So I thought Id better just introduce myself – as you heard my name is Jules. And I expect some of you will recognise me because I have 2 kids here in the prep school. But I also work for a church in Burgess Hill called The Point Church and I’m actually training to be a Vicar in the Church of England. Which is why I am here because I need to get some practice in speaking and helping in services in places like this. So that’s me…

So we’re going to look at the Gospel passage we just heard from Matthew which talks all about a big wedding banquet, or party doesn’t it? So how many of you know that when you read the bible you get two kinds of meanings, one is what we call contextual – but really means its talking about things at the time and the other is how we can use it today – what does it mean to us today?

So here in this passage Jesus is talking about a wedding banquet and he would have been describing a big Jewish wedding as it was back then, and they were pretty full on parties let me tell you. They would spend months preparing and once it was ready they would be huge, amazing lavish parties, the kind that everyone would want to come to. So then, I am sure lots of you have been to big parties, so if we were going to have a party here what might we need?

Got some bits in my bag here, but I need some help, what might we need…

Food (crisps/ biscuts etc)
Decorations streamers / party poppers / balloons
Nice clothes – bling – necklace, tiara
Music – ipod/ instrument? Drum?
Band – organist !

( see what other options they come up with)

What do you think? Is this going to be a great party? Ok so what if this was your party and you wanted all your friends to come – invites – we need to invite people –  who wants to be a servant and give out our invites? (2 people)

Give out 6 invites – servants to hand out. (don’t open them yet)

So what happened to the people in the passage – did they come to the party? No, not only did they say no, they killed and ill treated the servants didn’t they.

Obviously were not going to do that to our servants are we?! Don’t worry servants you are ok – ok so what could we do to symbolize not wanting to come to the party?
Whose was given an invite – stand up – ok I want you to rip them in 2 – just in half – once is enough.


Ok well the thing about our passage is its not just talking a out a wedding banquet or a party is it? There’s a line at the beginning that tells us – Jesus said ‘the kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared  a banquet…
In the Isaiah passage today it says this:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
  a feast of rich food for all peoples,
 a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.

(ok well we haven’t got wine and meat but were almost there)

So what this is really about is the Kingdom of Heaven – now the kingdom of heaven doesn’t just mean the place where we want to go when we die. It means Gods kingdom, where God is and he is all round us isn’t here, he is everywhere.  Wherever we are.

And God's kingdom is far better than the best party in the world. I can tell you from the moment I choose to accept Jesus into my life, my life has been one extraordinary adventure. Not to say it is always great, it isn’t, not to say nothing ever goes wrong of course it does, but having Jesus in your life makes everything so much better and easier and more peaceful and more joyful… it is a little bit like being part of a big exciting party with lots of friends around you.
And the thing about God's kingdom, is who is invited? What happens in our passage – some people get invited don’t they and they don’t want to come, so the king sends out the servants to invite everyone. It says ‘ all the people they could find, good and bad…’ Everyone!!

Everyone gets invited to God’s party.  We are all, every single one of you can get to go to this party if you want to.

So who had the invites earlier – what do they say on the front (hold up)
RSVP – what does that mean – (response from kids)
Yes you have to respond…

So imagine if you held an amazing party and no one came, no one replied none of your friends or the people you loved – how would you feel?
I think that’s how God feels about us, he longs for us to come to his party.

And so do we want to be people who get to go to his amazing party? Do we rip up the invitation and push him out of our lives? Or do we want to say yes, I want to be part of this amazing kingdom?

How could you respond to Jesus invitation if you wanted to?
Ask them and see what responses

 then:
...or you could very shortly come up and receive communion or have a blessing, whichever you choose. Because when you come up and do that it’s a bit like saying, you know what, I want to know more about your kingdom, I want to know more about you in my life Jesus, I want to come to your party.

Ending..

So just remember that invitation is always open to you. And you can accept it any time you like… and you know what Jesus would just love to have you at his party…

Amen…









Monday, 6 October 2014

The Rich Fool // Talk on Giving // Sun 5th October

My talk from yesterday on The Rich Fool and relating to 'giving'. 

Luke 12: 13-21. The Rich Fool

You can listen to the talk here


So, The Rich Fool eh? The man who stores up his wealth and then has nothing to show for it as God arrives to demand his life.

Nice story isn’t it?! You might think, well that man probably worked hard for his money, for his savings, isn’t that a bit unfair? Why shouldn’t he save up? Invest in his future even?

I don’t know about you but I think for many of us our attitudes to money essentially are based on what we have been brought up with. My generation I think, were encouraged to earn and to save. Anyone remember those Natwest piggy banks – even at age 10 the more you saved, the better the piggy you got! That was an era of significant economic growth and the more you had in the bank (or in the barn perhaps) determined your status. People had a desire to be ‘financially secure’, and I guess we all do still to some extent, I think the reason so many people play the lottery is the thought that winning such a vast sum of money could mean they never have to worry about money ever again. Because these days jobs are becoming less and less secure, gone are the days when you took a profession and kept it for life. Gone are the days when a job could mean a level of security for you and your family. So isn’t it then sensible even to store things up for the future, save up for a rainy day, for retirement… well I’m not saying it isn’t but actually the key thing in this passage here is not actually the act of storing it all up, but the fact that this farmer, this ‘rich fool’ did it with no reference to God whatsoever.

Often when the bible uses the word ‘fool’ it really is a term used to refer to someone, anyone whose way of life, or practices deny God. So here we have a man who ‘thought to himself’ it says in v17. And I’ll say to myself in v19, who is focussed only on himself.

It’s not wrong to save or be sensible or even to be rich, but when we don’t even consider God in it all, then WE ARE fools. Then we deny God, we deny Christ. And that’s not just for the ‘rich’ by the way - whoever they are, I mean years ago I remember playing the Game of Life’ anyone remember that – you can still get it… the dream was to get to the Million £ house at the end. £million could give you financial security for life! These days that standard has changed dramatically. But anyway I digress, the point is, it doesn’t matter how much you have, there are parables about having no money as well, in Luke 21 for example, The Widow who gave less than a penny, but Jesus says of her ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others… she, out of her poverty, put in all she had to live on’

SO don’t sit there thinking well I’m not rich so this has nothing to do with me, this is for everyone, it’s about our heart attitude to God and allowing him into every area of our lives including our finances.
I don’t know if any of you listen to the Rooted podcast by Beth Redman and Pippa Gumbel. They were looking at Romans 12 this week and the first thing they started off with was that we need to hand over everything to God. Every part of our lives… (and if you don’t get it, do, its great and this week they featured Tim's story too!)




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So, money. Giving. Finances. Yes we’ve got a gift day coming up… And I’ve got to be honest when Will give me this passage and said I want you to include giving, it’s right before our gift day, I thought what? Thanks for that then...

Then I thought well hang on a minute ‘that’s not really the right attitude, is it! Firstly, I love my job and I just think it’s a complete privilege to stand up here and be speaking to you. Secondly giving is actually a massive part of who we are as Christians and that is certainly true for me and my family, we do believe that everything we have is a blessing from God and it is from that place that we give back to him.

So then if all that is true, why was I feeling anxious or worried? Well here’s the thing, I think most talks on giving in church make people feel guilty. You end up feeling that you need to empty your wallet into the offering basket, receipts, fluff and all. Or you go away feeling bad that you can’t give more and that as a result God is not happy with you Well, No! that’s not what Christian giving is about. If you are giving out of guilt, don’t!

Christian giving is not about giving from a place of guilt. We don’t serve a God who lives to make us feel guilty, or bad or that we’re not good enough or that we need to find more to give to him. No we don’t serve a God like that, we serve a God of love and compassion and grace and of course he would love us to be generous giving people but not from a place of ‘we have to’ but from a place of ‘I love Jesus and I want to honour him, be part of bringing in his kingdom’. Giving out of guilt is a lie! And I will not aim to make you feel guilty about giving!
But I think people expect that, they expect to be made to feel guilty, that they have to give and I think that’s why I was feeling a bit pants about giving this talk today. So if I’m feeling that then maybe some of you are too, so I thought it might be good to debunk a few church myths about giving.

1 1.  Guilt
Obviously the first one is that we give from a place of guilt. As I’ve said that’s a lie. But it does mean that so often on gift days people expect to be made to feel bad and so they stay away. It’s classic within churches that on gift days, attendance numbers are down. So I’m going to pray that numbers are up for us! Because hopefully you will know you will not be made to feel bad but that you can come and worship God with the family of The Point Church – that numbers will be up because people love this church and because they want to worship Jesus and feel part of something, part of this church, part of this family, we are all in this together! OK? So no bunking off!!

    2.  Talking about money is vulgar, isn’t it! We do fit the stereotype, too British! We can’t talk about money, we don’t like talking about it. And we certainly don’t like talking about how much we give. But we’re just going to have to get over that! because I am going to talk about the church spending money… even more vulgar!
So here’s the myth – that all the money given to the church goes on
Paying staff wages/ buying kit/renting the building.
Well of course, like any church we do have running costs. BUT We are not giving into a pot that funds salaries and kit, we are giving into a pot that is furthering the kingdom of God. I know that all of us on the staff team, trustees, OLT etc we take our positions and jobs seriously. We know we are put there in positions of trust because of God. None of us take that for granted, and don’t take it lightly, we are there because we really believe that we want to see Gods kingdom go further in Mid Sussex, we want to be a transforming presence in Mid Sussex. And we take that seriously.
So when we are giving to the church of course some of it will be spent on those things (and a lot of it isn’t there are our mission partners, the hardship fund? And others) but it is in order to see GODS kingdom coming.

PLUS On the back of that, we also take the way money is spent in this church very seriously. No one spends money wily nilly. A lot of thought and prayer and discussion goes into how money is spent, sure people would be happy to talk about that with any of you.

3. We live in a consumer society, don’t we? It’s the way the world is, we expect to pay money and receive a service or an item in return.  If it’s not exactly what we want we send it back, we ask for a discount, we don’t go back to that place again. We want instant, easy and perfect transactions, whether it’s amazon, google, tesco we know what we want and when we want it.

So, then isn’t church the same? Myth number 3!
there is a lot of debate about ‘consumer church’ at the moment. What is it – are we putting on a ‘service’ for people - not like the 9.45 service, but providing a service that people can come and receive from // or are we creating a space where the kingdom of God is experienced, where people draw closer to God, where his Kingdom can be experienced in our world. Where we can come and be in God’s presence, where we can be a church family together.

A lot of debate about that but my opinion is that we do not want to create an environment where we are providing a service in which you need to give something to partake of that. You are not receiving something from us. This (indicate the stage area) is not a transaction, it’s not buying a ticket, not a service where you are required to pay or give in return. When we give, of our time or our money we are doing out of here, from the heart. We are doing it because we want to see the kingdom of God come, we want to see this church being a transforming presence in Mid Sussex. It’s all about from here.

Now don’t get me wrong, our church would not run if people didn’t give time or money I’m not saying don’t do it, (will, will be pleased to hear!) what I’m saying is it is not a requirement of coming to this church or any  church that you have to give in return. That is not how a relationship with God works is it?  Actually we get something in return from God for doing nothing, just for being here, we get to be friends of God we get to receive salvation, from that all powerful, loving God for nothing. If you heard David Cooke’s talk last weekend – he gave an example of a guy who had just become a Christian and he was all enthusiastic –  said to him ‘what do I need to do, David’ – and he said, you just need to relax, you don’t have to do anything , it is done for you.  What Jesus did on the cross was done for each and every one of us, now that’s the only transaction that needs to happen. We have to accept it, receive it of course but we don’t have to do anything to earn it.

So we don’t want to be a church that models ourselves on a system of transactions.

oooooo

So there’s the myths debunked, can we all rest a bit easier now? Now of all these things I’ve just mentioned, we can get past them all in one easy way, by spending time with God. By surrendering to Him. As I said earlier -  every part of our lives.  If we allow him to be part of our lives, and in all parts then we can feel free and at peace with our lives – and with our giving. We won’t feel guilty, because if we’ve listened to God we will know we are doing what he wants us to do. We will trust in how money is spent here and we won’t be feeling that we are paying for a service and that’s all we need to do.
Be rich towards God, v 21 of our passage.

oooooo


So, here we are. The Point Church, ten years old. If you were here for any part of last weekend, you’ll know it was an amazing celebration of all that has happened here in the last 10 years. We showed the highlights of the last ten years video, and I watched that for the first time on Saturday evening. And I’ve got to say I was so moved. Just to see all the things God has done here, all the ways in which he has impacted people in our communities, the ways in which we have seen people meet with Jesus for the first time. It was just amazing. Praise God!!
So now we stand on the threshold of the next ten years, or 20 or 30… and it is so exciting to start thinking about where God is taking us next isn’t it? We have our vision ‘to be a transforming presence in Mid Sussex’ (slide) and the strategy team is meeting to think about exactly what that looks like but we do know that this church feels like such an exciting place to be right now! I mean just look at all that is going on already.

Church in a Pub (just a year old!) is going from strength to strength, at the last one it was so packed out, we really needed more space! People are coming along to that regularly who would never come to church, we are out there, meeting people where they are at. And that actually started with the Landlord asking us in! to do church in his pub!

Willow Way
The Melting Pot Café in Hurst launched just a few weeks ago and already there is so much excitement about what else can be done there, there are all kind of talks going on about our involvement there and where next. Someone said to me last week at the café, there are people here who I never thought would come out to somewhere like this. There are locals offering to get on board.
On top of that there is the Youth Drop In Sessions which have also just launched and are reaching a whole group of young people, most of whom haven’t yet experienced Jesus for themselves.
And in that area organisations are approaching us (so many!), wanting to work with us. And we are being asked to get involved in other things to take responsibility for things. I think that’s because they can sense or even see the work that God is doing in that place.

So, we are already ‘pioneering authentic communities’ in Mid Sussex and there is more of that to come, even though we haven’t got a final strategy yet - there are all kinds of informal conversations going on,  about other areas, there are people who are really keen to see things happening in their communities too, who want to start new inititiatives or get us involved in theirs. I mean it’s not a case of what should we do next but which one do we choose?! God is moving so fast right now, it’s such a great time.

We are also already ‘engaging with and serving the people’
We are already ‘demonstrating God’s love and compassion’
In these communities, in these projects.

I guess the next step for some of these is to openly ‘Share the good news of Jesus’ and at WW there are plans a foot for a carol service and potentially out of that, some sort of small group for people who want to know more about Jesus. So our Visions Statement is becoming a reality faster than any of us could ever have dreamed!


oooooo


Now, as a church we could so easily think, we haven’t got the money to do this, we need to hold on to it and just keep the church going as it is. But then wouldn’t we be just like the Rich Fool, hoarding anything we have for the future? Verse 15 of our passage says ‘a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’ well it’s just the same for us as a church, this, this stuff (Stu won’t like me referring to it as ‘just stuff!) but this and what we do here, in this place, is enabling us, us here to meet with Jesus, to become more like him (another of our statements) but that’s just one of our aims isn’t it. Yes we need to meet him, know him more, we need good teaching and time and space to worship him, but what about them out there, those who don’t know him. If we just keep what we have within these four walls, we will be the ones to whom God says ‘who will get what you have prepared for YOURSELF…’

What we receive in here, we need to take out there….



oooooo


Everything we do here at The Point is founded on a relationship with God.  It’s founded in prayer. Jesus’s criticism of the rich man in our passage is not so much the hoarding of his crops but the fact that it was a decision made by himself, by himself with no thought of God.
We are not a church with one or two people making decisions. With our leadership and staff teams, we seek God, we pray, we consult together. Our heart, our desire is to see God breaking out in new ways and new places across Mid Sussex. You know when we started the vision process 2 years ago we started thinking about the fact that our ‘patch’ if you like is Mid Sussex. There were comments like, how can we reach all of Mid Sussex, we cannot aim to reach it all, but we knew we just had to start somewhere. And yet now, just 2 years later we have several new projects established and lots of ideas coming through for new ones. All of a sudden God is opening doors right across Mid Sussex. Our vision was way too small!! I once saw a guy called Angus Buchan preach, he’s a very firey south African farmer, really animated and he said and it has stuck with me, if your vision doesn’t scare you, its not big enough! Any vision we can come up with ourselves is never going ton be big enough for God and he’s showing us that already!

oooooo

So really what we are asking of you right now, and at this gift day is do you want to be part of it? Do you want to be a part of what God is doing through this church in Mid Sussex? Because that’s what this is all about – us The Point Church, together, a family, reaching out across our communities to see more of God’s kingdom.  The Chichester Diocese held their clergy conference a few weeks ago for all the Anglican ministers across Sussex. Their theme was ‘your Kingdom Come’. And that’s it isn’t it. Perhaps the oldest prayer and possibly simplest prayer:  Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be Your Name – YOUR KINGDOM COME!
That’s what we want to see! Come on!!!


Our church has never been dull let’s face it, but the truth is a journey with Jesus is probably the most exciting journey you can ever be on! A year ago as a church we were in a very different place and yet we sought God, we humbled ourselves before him and we looked to him to guide us forward. In less than a year he has turned this church around. I’m not sure that any of us could have forseen what has happened in this year. Opportunities opening up, old relationships rebuilt, new ones formed, new projects, new ideas, new teams. It is quite amazing, staggering even, and of course, only possible through him.

As a church a year ago we stepped out and humbled ourselves before God, we admitted the mistakes we had made and in that pain and fear, as a church we trusted God with everything. And now look where he has taken us. If he’s done all that in a year, well I don’t know about you but I just cant wait to see where next!

2 years ago this church was growing smaller, now it’s growing so fast we need to make a plan to work out what to do next!
TBH our volunteer teams were pretty much at crisis point, now we’ve got some fantastic new team leaders and have welcomed, new members of the point onto our teams.
2 years ago some key staff members and trustees move on and we weren’t really sure how that would be managed. Now we have a flourishing, thriving staff team and a great new band of trustees and just a fantastic sense of God’s love following through them all.

2 years ago as a church we had some really sad times, losing 3 special people in this congregation. Nothing will ever replace the pain of that of course, but this year, we have seen healings, prophetic words spoken and we’ve just seen the most amazing miracle in Tim’s life, haven’t we – finding his mum after 50 years of not knowing.

Will has other ministers asking him for help, 2 secular places have asked us to ‘come and do church here’, We have made great new relationships across this diocese and have a greater presence here, we’ve been involved in a national Church of England Project – the OurCofE campaign and been asked to take part in another one, and more locally we’ve got churches working together in ways they have never done before.

And it’s all God. We are a church that has fully surrendered to him, all parts, all pieces, and here we are.
oooooo


So here’s the question - are you part of it? Do you want to see more of God’s kingdom here? Do you want to experience more of Gods transforming power in your life? Do you want to be used by God for his kingdom? If you do then get on board!

Actually that’s really what this gift day is about, saying to you, do you want to partner with us? Do you want to be part of The Point family vision?

So what we are asking you today is to go home and seek God. If we are a prayerful church that wants to be led by him, fully surrendered to him, then let’s model that in all we do. It would be very easy to turn up next week and think oh no I haven’t had time to think about gift day, well I’ll just chuck in a tenner. Or maybe you give monthly – you might just think, well I can just add on a few pounds that will do. That is not what we are asking you to do! That would be giving from guilt!

So what we’d love you all to do is go home and seek God, pray, ask him where you fit into all of this, this new season, this new vision, and of course it could mean lots of things, he might have a very specific role for you, he might ask you to get on a team or get involved and that is amazing and part of it all but specifically this week we are asking you to pray about your giving. What is God asking of you and of your finances right now. What is he saying to your heart? In here?


oooooo


I’ve got to be honest, the bottom line is that there is a shortfall in our finances right now. But if as a church we just put on a gift day to fill that hole then we are missing that mark completely. We are putting on a gift day because we have every faith that the vision God has given us, is exactly right for this church in this season. And if we have faith in God, the God of the impossible, the God of miracles, if we believe that God can do that, we have to trust him with everything, including our finances!


And if you don’t want to feel guilty, or anxious about what the money is spent on, or not feel that you are making a transaction, then seek God, its simple. Because if you make decisions about your finances based on God’s guidance then you can do so in peace cant you, knowing that you are trusting in God.


So

Here are the things I want to leave you with, the questions I want you to think about:

-       : Are you fully surrendered to God? Do you have an attitude of ‘being rich’ towards God?
-      :  are you going to seek God and trust him with your giving? Go home and seek him for next weeks gift day

-       And :
-       : do you want to get on board with what God is doing through this church? Do you want to see more of Gods kingdom coming in this area? Do you want to experience more of God for yourself? Because that is what its all about. Your kingdom come.
-       
     Amen

Saturday, 6 September 2014

So, I prayed for the VCR

Praying hands from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Jan Smith, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Yeah so I did that, I prayed for the video player this week. And you know what, it was answered right away!

So let's take a step back. I do pray about everything, well ok maybe not what socks to wear in the morning, but you know the important stuff, the day to day stuff, just giving my day to God. Paul says to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17) and I kind of think that is a reflection of us giving all of our lives to God. It's easy to pray when we need an answer, it's easy to pray when something big is going on, someone is sick, we need to move house, we have a job interview. We all do that, even people who aren't Christians do that! But you know I think God wants all of our lives, not just to turn to him when really need him.

So. I pray, a lot, all the time. About important stuff, about random stuff. Doesn't matter, I want God in all of my life not just the bits I choose. Now I know that some people think praying selfishly or for yourself or even, for random objects, like,  say a VCR, is wrong. I don't agree. I think it's all part of the whirlpool of our lives and so I think we should include God in it all. 

So the VCR - how did that happen? Well, we've been having a big clear out and I found a video someone had made of our wedding. We do still have a VCR but it isn't used regularly. Anyway of course the blooming' thing wouldn't work would it. My husband tried everything. We had planned a bit a family time, the youngest two were sat with milk and cake, in PJs, all ready to watch it together before bed. It was going to be a special time. 

Except it wouldn't work. 

Let down... 

So just as my husband was about to give up, I just threw out a prayer: Lord please would you let this work, we'd really love to have this special time together. Well, instantly it came on, without my husband touching another thing! ha!

And I know that some people will say oh that was coincidence or that my hubby had fixed it or whatever. But you know I think that was just God's favour. He knew it was important time for us and I think he answered our prayer. and after all, why wouldn't he? The bible says: 'Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart'. (Psalm 37:4). How lovely is that - it's such a joy and a privilege to delight in the Lord and yet he offers us even more.

God wants to be part of our whole lives, in the nitty gritty, the details, the important stuff and the stuff that only we know about, but we just need to let him in a bit more often!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Discernment, writing and a neglected blog


So my blog has been rather neglected over the last few weeks, partly because it's summer but also because I've been using any spare time to write, to, well, to write! but just not here.... So as a reminder - here's what I'm writing and how can get get involved... see here


Sunday, 10 August 2014

"The Faith of Friends..." Talk at The Point Church // 10/08/14

Luke 5:17-26 TNIV

7 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." 21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So he said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."




Talk // The Faith of Friends

 So we are on our 3rd Summer Sunday and over the summer we are looking at some of the parables of Jesus in Luke’s gospel. Last week Will talked about healing after looking at Jesus healing the man with leprosy. This week we see another healing, this time of the paralysed man.

So in prep for this talk, I’ve been reading a book called: Through Peasant Eyes’ by Kenneth Bailey, which looks at the oral traditions of story telling in the middle east and particularly in relation to Luke’s Gospel. Parables and much of the early sharing of the Christian faith were shared orally by people meeting each other, sharing stories, social time.
In his book Bailey says of the parables:

‘The parables of Jesus are a concrete/dramatic form of theological language that presses the listener to respond. They reveal the nature of the kingdom of God and/or indicate how a child of the kingdom should act…’

and I was really struck by this line but just to make it a bit simpler:

We are the children of the kingdom of God right? So then, when we read the parables of Jesus, they should teach us how to act in a general sense but also foster in us some sort of response. Some sort of action.

So as I was looking at this passage, which has so much in it, and thinking on what to talk about today, I thought ok, well what is it that should be the response here? What is the action that we should take away from reading this story?

And what stood out to me and what I want to focus on today, is not in the man who was healed, ‘Matt’,  but actually it’s the people who carried him. The people who did something extraordinary for this man, who went way more than the extra mile for him. Not for themselves but for him, for this one guy, lying paralysed on a mat.

Why? Why would they do that?

Well I think it’s simple, the passage tells us that ‘Jesus saw their faith’.

So. Jesus saw their faith. And that’s why we asked you to think about how your faith has impacted others. How have others seen your faith?

I think these men were lovers of Jesus, early followers and they knew what Jesus was all about and they wanted some of that for their friend. We don’t actually know whether the friend wanted it but I guess he didn’t have much choice!
The point is, they loved Jesus enough and they loved this man enough to be pretty radical in getting him to meet Jesus.


And that is what I am going to suggest should be our guide, or our response to this parable. A guide to what our actions should be as children of the kingdom of God. Do we love Jesus enough to enable others to meet him? Do we love others enough to be radical in how we help them to meet him?
Do we?

There’s our challenge… and it’s a challenge to us as individuals and as a church.


To love Jesus enough and to love others enough.


Xxxxx



Another book I’m reading, which I will probably be mentioning a lot in the months to come is this: ‘Being Church, Doing Life’. It’s all about people getting outside the church, being missional, meeting people where they are at. I really recommend it, especially as we start to look at being a transforming presence in Mid Sussex. Anyway, I just want to read you a bit from this book: It talks about a mission heart, but don’t freak out at the term ‘mission’ in this sense, it simply means having a heart for others.
P.152, 


So - Are we up for it?  To be part of buildings Gods kingdom?

xxxxxx




So, going back to our passage in Luke, what do we actually know about these men? What can we learn from them? Well we don’t actually know that much to be honest but we can use some assumptions too! This parable actually also appears in Mark 2 and a version of it in Matthew 9 as well.

Mark tells us there were 4 men, here in Luke it just says some, but as it says he was lying on mat we can guess that’s one at each corner, carrying it like a stretcher.

So, four men are carrying a paralysed man on his mat.

Now don’t forget this is a culture with little medical provision. There would have been no hope for any cure for this man or any improvement. We don’t know how long he has been paralysed, whether from an accident or injury or from birth. But he would have probably been shunned by society. Often illness and affliction were seen as spiritual – a judgement from God or something demonic. Many people with long term illness or disabilities were reduced to begging in the streets.  

So for four men to willingly pick up this paralysed man and carry him to see Jesus, I think we can assume there must have been some quite strong connection – probably family or perhaps friends. Of course as followers of Jesus they could have been simply acting out of compassion but I believe with the lengths they go to it is likely to be someone they know. And I think that is confirmed also when we see what they do. Not only do they bring him to Jesus but they are so desperate to get him before this great healer that they go to really desperate measures don’t they?!  


xxxxxxx



Here’s the other thing about this situation. Here we have a building rammed with people to hear this young Prophet speak. Of course we don’t know who all the people in that house were but we do know that there were a lot of religious leaders there – from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem. So we’re not talking 2 or 3 here, that’s a lot of religious leaders.  (v17)
We also know from what happens later that they are really here to check him out aren’t they. They want to prove him wrong, they want to be able to condemn him.
So we have a house full to bursting (no H&S obvs!) with a bunch of cynnics come to check out this guy, responding to reports of a prophet not following their teachings perhaps, ready to catch him out, ready to condemn him. These are not men who need Jesus, they are men who think they are better than him.


And yet outside there is a man, one man, who cannot get in. Possibly the one man who really needs to get in and he can’t. His way is blocked by religious leaders. His way is blocked by a crowd. Perhaps even his way is blocked because of his condition, because of his needs.  In other places where Jesus has preached, the bible talks of him healing all their sick but not here. Here it says the spirit is present to heal but until this man comes in no one is healed. Are people repulsed by his needs? Do they keep him out rather than making a way to let him in?

xxxxx

I think that gives us a picture of what the church is often like. A building full of people focussed on what is going on in the inside, whist outside are those that really need to meet Jesus but for one reason or another can’t or won’t come in. Perhaps we are repulsed by the needs of others? Perhaps we don’t want to make a way to let people in?  ….

xxxxx

Yet here, outside there are 4 men showing their love for Jesus, showing their love for their friend, absolutely determined to get in. Radically determined I think. I mean that’s hard core isn’t it digging a hole in a roof! (literally hard core!)
Not sure any of our bits of paper will say that!

But anyway they get in and what happens? Jesus saw their faith. HE SAW THEIR FAITH. Not the mans, Matt’s faith, but their faith, the friends faith. IT is the faith of the friends in bringing this man to Jesus that prompts Jesus to say to the man ‘Friend your sins are forgiven’.  That is the impact that our faith can have on our friends and those around us. OUR faith… this is so key!!!


In the book: ‘being church, doing life’ – here’s an example from one person:
P;48 ‘Ive become a follower and lover of God, because I was introduced to him like that by people who have God in them, and not the religious stuff..."

That’s what our faith can do for others….

xxxx

And Jesus didn’t literally see their faith did he, its not like they had a sign around their necks saying ‘full of faith’ – no he saw it in their actions, in their love for their friend. Having faith is one thing, but we usually have to act on it as well. We don’t just sit there waiting for God to wave some magic wand over us do we?

Do people around us, SEE our faith? In our actions, in our lives?


In these friends we see in them, their love of Jesus, they know who he is and what he can do, not just for them but for their friend.

You can just imagine it - They are undeterred. Outside the building. They are so close. They can probably hear Jesus’ voice, they know they are so close. Even the man on the blanket can hear. They are not giving up now!

So they do something so crazy out of desperation, they dig through the roof. Mark tells us: in 2:4 ‘Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and after digging through it. Lowered the mat the paralysed man was lying on.’ Or ‘through the tiles’ as it says here in Luke. Either way it was not an easy task to say the least!

We see their desire to see transformation in their friend
We see their sense of urgency – they don’t give up and say we’ll come back another day – who knows Jesus might not be there another day.

And we see ingenuity. I mean they dig a hole on a roof – how’s that for thinking outside the box!
xxxxx

I just wonder how often we take our faith for granted. You know you don’t have to be standing on a street corner shouting about it, but we are not supposed to be hidden, people should see our faith. Luke 8:16 parable of the lamp on a stand: ‘ no one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under his bed. Instead he puts it on a stand so that those who come in can see the light’…

Can people see your light?

Now I’m sure I’ve stood up here and said this before but we are all different, ok. I know that I am a natural evangelist, I will talk to anyone about my faith but I know that not everyone finds that easy. But we can all find ways to let our lights shine without shouting about it. If We are part of Gods plan to ‘contribute to the salvation of others’ – then Surely God gifts us, prepares us, equips us for all he has for us?

We can all impact those around us with our faith. That’s why I wanted to see what you said – how you have used your faith?

How your faith has impacted those around you – because we are all different. We can all learn from each other.

So how do people see your faith? How has your faith impacted others?

Share some examples….. from the box! and expand on them...

xxxx

Earlier in the service we had asked people to write down times when their faith had impacted others and put them in a box at the front. Then at this point we read some of them out. It was a powerful time of encouraging each other as individuals and as the body of the church and then we prayed together... 

Some examples were:

"Prayed for many in the town, healings are happening here! this town's ready for revival!"
"all my friends were gossiping in the common room at college and I wasn't joking in but instead reading. This started a conversation about why I wasn't joining in and showed Jesus!"

"I did a bible reading at school"

"I was walking down the street and a lady and her dog saw me. The dog approached me. The lady was so surprised that she kept asking what is it about you? Well I told her it was Jesus and I was able to pray for her right there"

"My friends come to me when they've got tough stuff going on in their lives and need advice"

"By treating anyone who comes into our house as if it was God coming in, we've recently had the theory tested when we found a group of half drunk teenagers partying in our house (as guests of our daughter). We didn't kick off but cooked pizzas and made them all feel welcome"
" loved a friend who was going through a really tough time, ended up sharing Jesus with her and eventually she became a Christian!"
" Aiming to run a business with kingdom values, creating a supernatural workplace environment"
" Telling people at work that I go to church"