Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Relaxing at Christmas

Probably the last entry of the year. Had a nice relaxing week with family & in-laws. My sis got engaged on Christmas day which was cool! General chillout for the rest of the week til I go back to work on the 2nd! Before then... the next update on beginningwithmoses.org is due on 01-Jan-2004...

Recently I've mostly been reading: The Message of 2 Timothy to prepare for Reading CU Cells - a timely read. Simon Austen's A Better Way which sheds light on Jesus! And John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life (til I lent it to my Dad and forgot to get it back before we left...).

Friday, December 19, 2003

Jesus better than everything else..

One of them was the Reading Carol service with Krish Kandiah a couple of weeks back. He took us to the heart of Christmas - "You know how much trouble you're in by who they send to rescue you... God was sent to rescue us... hence we're in big trouble... Jesus is God-to-the-rescue.. pay attention to him".

These are notes from a talk at Surrey CU....

John Piper, C.S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards stand behind this talk. Not to credit this would probably make this plagiarism... I'm thankful to them but more so to Jesus and his word which is the real inspiration. I've lived at breathed Philippians this term as I've studied it with guys at Reading...

Jesus is the better than everything else - Phil 3v1-11

Let us approach God's word and hear him speak to us…

1. Phil 3v1-6 Humanity has many boasts

Paul can make more boasts anyone if you want to play that game… in Paul's culture that means religious boasts about ritual and heritage. The same occurs today but differently, I've been to church, I helped people across the road, I've done this, I've not done that, I never killed anyone… me, me, me, me...

And the horror is that this kind of life is what most people think being a Christian is all about.

2. Phil 3v7-11 BUT all these things are worthless compared to knowing Christ!

And yet strangely, one of the great Christians, Paul calls all these human boasts loss & excrement by comparison. Clearly, these things are not the essence of Christian Life. They are loss, loss compared to what…?

Everything is loss compared to knowing Christ our righteousness (3v9).

100% guaranteed not guilty - that is what we as Christians know. Ian Huntley now has a guilty verdict from the British legal system. We are not much better than he - though in different ways, but God will give anyone who repents a certain not guilty verdict. Everything is loss compared to knowing Christ as our righteousness.

Everything is loss compared to knowing Christ the name above all names (2v9).

He is better than everything and yet so scorned by the world. For Paul that causes distress (acts 17v16), for me? For you? And what will we do with that distress. Paul speaks out in the hostile Athens marketplace. What will we do in Roots, in Chancellors, in the lecture theatre… Everything is loss compared to knowing Christ the name above all names.

Everything is loss compared to knowing Christ in whom we have resurrection. (3v11)

The goal, the hope ahead of us - eternal joy in the presence of God. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. You bet. All the halfbaked joy in the world is nothing compared to even one day in the presence of Jesus - and we have all eternity ahead of us. Awesome! Everything is loss compared to knowing Christ in whom we have resurrection.

So, three challenges

1. Open your eyes to tragedy in your own life

don't waste it by boasting in anything other than Christ, don't be content in the ambitions of the world, don't be content with food or with Christmas, or with a first class degree, or with the hope of retirement…

John Piper writes in Don't Waste Your Life

p125 - "Don't just ask "what's wrong with it?", ask "Will this help me magnify Christ? Will this point people to him as the manifest treasure of my life? Will they highlight me created in the image of God or my sexuality… or my laziness…",

Op119 - "Oh, how many lives are wasted by people who believe that the Christian life means simply avoiding badness and providing for the family. So there is no adultery, no stealing, no killing, no embezzlement, no fraud - just lots of hard work during the day and lots of TV and PG videos in the evening, and lots of fun stuff on the weekened - woven around church. This is life for millions of people. Wasted life. We were created for more, far more."

Instead… (and this is my second challenge)

2. Be totally satisfied in God

find all your joy in him alone. Invest your life in enjoying him - consider what you have been given by God in resources and gifts, what will you do with them… this is the life that will shine in the darkness, and we don't even come close

Instead of living negatively let us live creatively and outrageously to magnify the glory of God - the whole Bible is about this one theme - the glory of the King of all - the complete wonderfulness of the one whose name is above every name - Jesus. Jesus!

Let us learn and so worship. John Piper again, calls study of scripture "education for exaltation". This first struck me about five years ago and it was a joy to encounter John Piper's writings a couple of years later and discover someone who lives it out and communicates it more eloquently than I. The heart of it is that we need to know the truth. We need to get our hearts and minds into the Bible at every opportunity - that's why the church teaches scripture, it's not for fun, it's not out of habit - it's because we need it. We live and die by every word that comes from God. We live by what he has spoken in scripture.

So, open your eyes to your own life. Don't waste it on the worthless, but instead invest it in what is truly valuable - be totally satisfied in Christ. Find all your joy in him. And finally… because it is all too easy to say this at the last CU meeting of term, here in treetops where there may not be any one who doesn't know Christ - oh, but if there is please hear what I'm saying. Please look at this wonderful Christ. Thirdly and Finally, let us…

3. Open our eyes to the evil and tragedy of wasted lives

- lives who don't know Christ, half-hearted hedonists who know nothing better than they have, surely let us hold out the word of life to them - let us tell them about Christ who is worth more than anything else, let us dispel the lies about good people going to heaven, let us deny the lies about satisfaction being found in money, power and sex. These things are sending people to hell under the fully justified judgement of God. But people do not need to stay being satisfied with less than Jesus.

We have two voices - one is our lifestyle which must speak much more radically than it does. To magnify Christ in life is not to do someone's washing up - with all due respect if the best thing that knowing Christ makes you want to do is that I beg you wake up and look at Christ….

He's better than that. I doubt we have much of an idea what a Christ magnifying life really looks like. Let us examine our lives this Christmas and not let ourselves be content with the treasures of this wonderful world. Let us not be afraid to make big changes regarding our personal comfort, our money/resources and our time.

But second and here is where it hurts most. We must open our mouths and speak - it is unavoidable. Spread a passion for the glory of God - live, study, serve and speak so that Jesus Christ becomes the only thing in which anyone at this University wishes to boast in.

They will not know unless we speak. They do not know. They will not guess.

They think we believe in being good getting you to heaven. They are wrong but they wont realise that unless we correct them.

It costs us more than we dare admit to speak about Christ in the early 21st Century and we create any excuse to avoid it. We'll be scorned, ignored and mocked but we must. For the sake of Christ we can suffer. We say we do friendship evangelism, but are we prepared to lay the friendship on the line to share the very best thing in the world with people. True love gives others the best thing for them.

The best thing is the knowledge of Christ. The inexpressible joy of knowing him forever, and ever, and ever! Better is one day with Christ than a million, million, million anywhere else.

Please don't let us live to be liked, to achieve much, to have a nice Surrey home… let us risk suffering and not always seek our own comfort. Let us live to know only one thing - Christ and him crucified, and to make Christ known. Get stuck into his word this Christmas and find satisfaction there. Don't let Christmas dinner and presents under the tree satisfy you. Let us not waste our lives. Let us return in 2004 and live, and speak, and suffer to make Christ known.

Father,

We thank you and delight in you that you give us access to your presence. We thank you that in you is found joy everlasting in your presence. We praise your name for the cross where that is made possible. Lord may you be our only boast!

May we only seek joy in you. Forgive us for our self-indulgence and searching for satisfaction elsewhere and help us to change. Would you give us the power to seek only to magnify you. Only to boast in you. Help us make the hard choices so that we would not waste our lives but rather declare all things loss compared ti knowing you.

And Lord help us also to make you known to others that they too would turn from their sin and glorify your name forever, for your fame, for your renown, for your glory Most wonderful Lord and Saviour we delight in you. Amen.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Don't waste your life

Just got a copy of Don't Waste Your Life, John Piper's new book! Taste this...

"You don't have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them.

The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don't have to have a high IQ.

You don't have to have good looks or riches, or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things-or one great all-embracing thing-and be set on fire by them." (p. 44)

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

For God's sake let there be justice

This came out of a conversation with a student at Surrey...

There is a rising tide in the west in support of the cause of "justice". But what is justice? Why does it matter? What will we do about it? What are the larger implications of us pursuing the cause of justice.

And injustice is right on our doorstep. While today's Students campaign against fees imposed on them by MP's who got their education for free there are much bigger issues at stake. The gulf between rich and poor continues to increase even in the fully developed world that is the West. Injustice occurs when I walk down the street and all eyes are averted to the ground to avoid contact with any other person. Injustice occurs when I look straight through the bank clerk and act like they're not even there. But bigger than this our very quality of life depends upon injustice. Not against us, but the kind of injustice that entirely favours us.

This is the world justice problem that sees most of the world's resources in the hands of just a few. And if you're reading this then you're probably one of those few, we who have education, internet and home comforts. We who spend more on ice-cream per year than it would cost to give Africa clean water. Our very lifestyles are an abuse of our fellow human beings, who being out of sight are easily out of mind. And we prefer it that way. Injustice is good for me.

And this is where we see that ultimately getting rid of justice would cost us too dearly - it's not that everyone needs money, or education… but the ability to survive, particularly when there are enough resources in the world.

This form of injustice is visible, at least potentially. We block in out of our minds - or at least we only filter in a small amount. An amount we can deal with by pangs of conscience and direct debits. Twenty four hour news puts the worlds problems in our face but we harden ourselves to it. We let the starving child die. And another. And another. Because to morally engage would be too painful since there's so little we can do. If we only throw one starfish back into the sea it matters to that one doesn't it? So we adopt a child! Drink fair trade coffee.

Yet none of this does more than scratch the surface of the issue of justice. And it's further reaching than any of these examples will admit. These are merely the visible injustices of the world. You can tangibly encounter these if you so desire (which most of us don't).

Greater still is the invisible injustice. This is one with much greater implications than these tangible injustices. They are vile and we see them if we allow ourselves too. They are also temporary and will end on death - which is no excuse for not doing anything about them. But there is a bigger injustice.

This is the injustice of the clay saying to the potter I don't need you. Injustice, like a child who disowns her mother. Injustice where man says to his maker you don't even exist. And even if you do I don't need you. And even if I need you I don't want you. If we are going to cry for justice - and we should then this is the greatest cause of all. When the beauty and love of the God of all creation is scorned there is great injustice.

And what is to be done because this injustice on our part will truly be the undoing of us all. This injustice on our part spells our eternal separation from our maker. So what can be done? Should we seek to reform our lives and atone for our wrongs? No this is truly futile. What then? Can God sweep our indiscretions under the carpet? No this would be injustice on his part. Justice requires our punishment for our injustice. God must be just. A God without justice does not bear thinking about. And so this would be our end. God would indeed be just but we would be finished.

God provides another way. One in which be can be just, and also the one who justifies us. Who in all justice makes us right in his eyes. How? We have earned his wrath but he takes it upon himself. He has a problem with us because of our injustice but he will take the punishment upon himself. Where? In the death of Jesus Christ - that death of God 2000 years ago bears God's wrath upon himself and puts us right with him. This is the ultimate issue of justice.

What then? Let us fight for justice in our world. For God's sake let there be justice. But if we will do this then we must look to the God of all justice who determines what is just. And we must face up to the fact that we are the unjust and our primary offence is against him, even more than our fellow human beings - though that offence is truly terrible too.

What does he ask of us? That we accept what he says is true, That we receive his gift of justice to us. His act of justification of us. His not-guilty verdict on our lives because of the death of Jesus. And if we will do this then surely our hearts will rejoice and we'll dedicate our lives to the advancement of justice in the world - for others to share in God's just solution to his problem with us, and for justice to be upheld in our broken unjust world.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Free Coffee

Uploaded the handout and powerpoint from Thursday night (linked on 02 December) and also study questions on Mark 14v27-52. Today was the beginning of Christmas shopping, sadly not yet the end of it! Had a great last week - first the new dol.cHe Vita expresso bar at Reading has been serving free coffee which has enhanced my meetings! and more significantly I've been reminded again of the joy of the grace of God. Re-reading some of John Piper's Desiring God has been great, and taking a look at J.I.Packer's Knowing God which turns out to be quite good too! Term draws to a close at Surrey, Farnham, Farnborough and Reading over the next couple of weeks and I'm starting to look ahead to next term and 2004

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

The Weight of Glory

Believe the truth & rejoice because it is much sweeter than our lies
We rejoice when we obtain this most precious treasure that God gives to us when we believe in the precious blood of Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen!

From C.S. Lewis in his sermon, The Weight of Glory:

"If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud-pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Can you hear what Lewis is saying? We’re too easily pleased. We suppress the truth and we love it. We exchange it for lies and thing they are better than the truth. We are too easily pleased. Our lies are halfhearted imitations of the truth. Our lies are futile, senseless and weak. Our lies and passions serve only to bring us God’s wrath. And yet we need not go this way. We need to accept the truth about God. We need to come to the cross where Jesus died to turn aside God’s wrath. We need to come to the place where true life is available.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

God, Church & Glory

Last week was UCCF New Staff Training. Awesome week with the other new staff at Hothorpe Hall. Top notch practical stuff on pastoral care, discipleship and motivating for evangelism. Plus the legendary Chris Sinkinson on God, Church & Glory from Romans 1,3,5 & 8. Outstanding. Four days there was followed directly by Reading CU Houseparty and some seminars on Quiet Times & Evangelism. Back to work after a day off yesterday and preparing to speak at Reading this Thursday on The Most Important Decision of Your Life (DOC) | (PPT). Spent this morning discussing and delighting in God's grace and election with one of the lads from Reading. Looking forward to getting back on the road and out to Guildford and Farnham in the next couple of days.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

On the train

Just posting up my one to one study guide on Philippians - Joy in Life. Had a meeting today with the Reading guys and their mission speaker Krish Kandiah which was great. Then went to SIADCU in Farnham which is great group, ploughing through Romans together! On the train home I was reading Romans 9 - God's wonderful mercy.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Love actually

Parents visited today. Yay! Good to catch up with them. Also this weekend saw Love Actually.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Sandwiches with JT

Action packed month. Had a great time in Cardiff earlier this week. Shadowing the Staff Worker there and popping along to some events with Cardiff and Newport CUs. Got back to find my picture in the December edition of Evangelicals Now. Alongside a top article about UCCF by Lindsay Brown. The photo was taken at the Forum conference by David Smith. The others in it are Rach, Debs, Vicky, Phil, Dave and Lexi.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

INTP

Top time in Southampton this week with the UCCF guys from the South East. Some quality practial ministry training, prayer time and an evening of fun doing Myers-Briggs tests. Turns out I'm an INTP... so there you go! Bit of fun but also useful to help us think about the way we're different and made that way by God. Reading Q & A event was on Thursday night and went very well. Lots of really good questions well answered by the panel which had two students and a local vicar on it.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Notes

Mid term and things are going well. All of the CUs I'm working with are in good shape and I'm starting to see my role in each place. On Monday we're relaunching beginningwithmoses.org. Still got some finishing touches to do on what has been a huge job.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Should Christians feel guilty?

1. Guilt & Christians

1 : the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty; broadly : guilty conduct
2 a : the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously b : feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : SELF-REPROACH
3 : a feeling of culpability for offenses

Do Christians feel guilty? Are non-Christians guilty? Are Christians guilty?

2. The Doctrine of Justification by Faith [Romans 3v21-26]

21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

What is the problem?
How can God deal with that?

BE JUST? 2. SAY, JUST FORGET IT? 3. BE JUST & JUSTIFIER?

24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

One solution:
THE GIFT = LAW COURTS + MARKET PLACE + TEMPLE = JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH

This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

It’d NOT Just-as-if-I-never-sinned but justified sinners. We are those who know what it is to have sinned and been justified, redeemed and have God made propitious to us at great cost to Himself. We know grace.


“I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say of me, he lacks my righteousness, for thaty was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself… I went home rejoicing for the grace and love of God..” Bunyan, who spent 12 years in an English jail for refusing to stop preaching this message of justification by faith

“I could only look up to heaven in silent fear, overwhelmed with love and wonder” Cowper






“My friend's psychiatrist once told her that many Christians run into emotional problems because they are laden with guilt. This bothered me because Christianity is the one faith in the world which eliminates sin and guilt. Why would Christians then be laden with feelings of guilt? The truth, I later realized, is that most Christians don't know how to apply the central truth of their faith to their own emotional life… We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, not filled with guilt. However, it is one thing to know this, yet another to work it out in our own lives. Sometimes we require the help of another to help us correct what we are telling ourselves so that it lines up with God's Word. Let us pray for wisdom to understand the errors in our evaluation of ourselves that we may understand how important each of us is in God's sight. We can then replace the guilt trips the devil throws at us with the truth--God's truth as written in His Word.”

3. Case Studies [Discuss & Feedback]
There will be overlaps with your life in these case studies – they overlap with mine. It’s not a guilt-trip exercise, quite the opposite, something that can help us see the implications of justification by faith for our lives….

Where can we affirm them? Many of them are doing good things for the wrong reasons, what should drive them and how… Where might they need challenging? How would you do that practically – what would you say to each of them? Do we see these traits in ourselves? How can we apply justification by faith so that we don’t fall into these traps?

Tim is the kind of person who is useful to know, he’ll always offer to do stuff for you, he’s a perfectionist, always doing good things, he reads the Bible for at least an hour day – and you know it because he makes sure it’s not hidden. He’s a Tim-nice-but-joyless character who is striving very hard to be godly. When there’s an altar call he’ll be first up to confess and claim victory. He has a lot of high achieving spiritual heroes. He’ll tell you its not easy being a Christian but he’s pressing on day by day and winning those battles.

Anne is involved in the evangelism team, the international team, plays in the band each week and leads her cell group. You need a volunteer? Anne’s your girl. Every moment of the week is full of things for God. She’s an activist. A few times a year she gets completely run down and collapses to bed for a few days but is soon back on her feet doing everything again. If you ask her how she is she’ll say “Busy”. Anne doesn’t respond well if you ask her to take a break.

Sarah has been a Christian since Christmas of her first year. She was impressed with the life of her Christian friends and decided to become a Christian too. Recently she’s found herself struggling to read the Bible because she feels too ashamed. She knows she’s sinned and when you ask her about it she says she’s gone too far for God to forgive her.

James has been a Christian for years and is in leadership in the CU. He can be a bit of a lad and enjoys the odd pint. He vows to change but it never happens. You’ve carried him home the last three weeks after he’s had a few too many. His catchphrase is “God is good, the more I sin the more he forgives me…”

The Difference between Conviction and Guilt.
Satan induces the lie of guilt in our lives after we’ve done wrong, or to make us think we need to try harder or are too bad. It makes us feel ashamed and denies the gospel.
The Holy Spirit brings conviction which is the message of grace and forgiveness. When this meets sin it causes us to turn away from sin and back to God. This is a positive thing that proclaims the gospel in our lives.

Scribbling

Once again some quality time with Andy Goodacre & Steph Carter at our weekly Team Meeting in Guildford yesterday before returning to Reading to lead a seminar on Should Christians Feel Guilty?. One of the best titles I've ever been given I think. I'll put the notes up in a while.

At Reading we've just completed four weeks of cell in John's gospel to fit with the Life project. We'll take one week out to focus on cell evangelism before moving back into John for four more weeks. Life - Part 1. Cell Notes from John 3,4,6 &9. It's been great preparing and teaching the material for these and I'm looking forward to the rest of term as we explore John 12,14,19 & 20.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Seventy Five Years of UCCF

Tonight we held a thanksgiving meeting for seventy five years of Christian Unions in the UK. It was a good night with John Risbridger speaking from Philippians 1. Some real encouragement about our partnership in the gospel, our need to love the right things and to proclaim the gospel. Great testimonies and we found amongst us one of the earliest members of Reading CU from 1934!

[RUCU was founded in 1927]

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Permission to fail - spiritual healthcheck

Developing a “Permission to Fail Culture…”SPIRITUAL HEALTHCHECKSomeone once described the Christian life to me as living on the road of grace. It’s a great road - the most wonderful road, one on which we are completely certain of where we are going. But, he said, this road has a ditch on either side that many slip into. They take their eyes of the road of grace and soon find themselves stuck in a ditch. Thankfully, it’s always possible for God to get us out of the ditch… Sometimes we even veer between both ditches…

DITCH 1. LICENSE “God is good, he will forgive me, that’s his job…”

This can lead us to think, ultimately, that we don’t need grace and that sin is acceptable… maybe we even deny that anything “sin” is wrong… Grace is not a license to sin - rather grace teaches us to say NO to sin. Are there areas where you’re trying to get away with sin?

Sin can be hard to break free of and the only real way is to make the tough choices and to come to God for forgiveness - and he will always forgive. Ask God to forgive you if you’ve been taking his grace for granted, and ask him to help you be wowed again by his grace. Spend some time adoring him. The end of 2 Corinthians 3 speaks of how we’re transformed as we adore our Saviour from the scriptures because God has opened our eyes to see him.

DITCH 2. LEGALISM“if I don’t do this God wont love me…” “…He’ll love me more if I do this…” Are you a workaholic leader? Do you not dare delegate? Are there areas where you’re trying to earn God’s favour? If you weren’t doing all the things for God that you are doing, would God still love you? Do you sometimes think you might be too bad for God? Do you measure the quality of your relationship with God on how many quiet times you’ve had? Or on whether you can say you’re Busy? Do you know for certain the verdict you’ll get on judgement day?

If you’re wrapped up in legalism be assured that there is nothing you can do that will make God love you more, and likewise nothing that will make him love you less - his love for you is based on what he’s done for you at the cross not what you do. This means his plans wont fail if you do or don’t do something, whether that’s some great act of service or some “terrible sin”. His grace is enough. Ask God to forgive you simply because of Jesus. Ask him to help you adore him and know his love for you more.

THE NARROW & WONDERFUL WAY OF GRACERomans 3v24-25: And [we] are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented [Jesus] as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin, through faith in his blood. Romans 5v1: Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God.

Nothing you can do or say can make God love you less or more… The wonderful truth of JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH means that ahead of judgement day we already have a NOT GUILTY verdict on our lives. We are very much guilty because of our sin but because of Jesus work on the cross God sees us as blameless. Grace compels us to live a holy life because God already sees us as holy. Jesus has done everything necessary so that we stand before God totally forgiven. No-one is going to play back a film of our life on judgement day. It’s gone. There is always forgiveness - you can never be too bad because you’re never good enough in the first place.

Pair up with someone and take the risk of being open and honest with them about this.

Ask God to search your heart as you ponder the questions on this page. Meditate on the verses from Romans. Pray together, to know more of the power of grace in our lives to transform us, and to know more of the completeness of his forgiveness for us.

Take some time in prayer to adore Jesus because he died for us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The grace driven leader

Talk notes from Canterbury CU.

THE GRACE DRIVEN LEADERS

ome questions
What does it mean to be a leader?
How do you feel about being a leader?
Why should you be a leader?

[FEEDBACK]

Let me tell you about some of the leaders who’ve influenced me most…

Ian - taught me 2 Timothy at a leaders weekend and for the first time inspired me to read the Bible. Another guy called Richard helped me a lot later by helping me understand how to read the Bible by showing me a few simple examples. Christian leaders are going to need to be Bible people. Some useful resources to help you with this are Vaughan Roberts book God’s Big Picture or the Read Mark Learn study guides on John or Romans. It’s worth studying any of these with some friends.

John F Kennedy apparently said "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."

Chris - a Christian Union Staff Worker, rebuked me for pushing an idea that would have compromised the interdenominational nature of the CU. But after that didn’t give up on me, instead he invited me to join him on a summer team in Poland, an experience that broadened my horizons and was the first step towards me being here today.

John Stott records a story about the great 20th century preacher Martin Lloyd-Jones “[Lloyd-Jones] confided in several friends that a fundamental change took place in his outlook and preaching in the year 1929. He had, of course, emphasized from the beginning of his ministry the indispensable necessity of the new birth. But after preaching one night in Bridgend, South Wales, the minister challenged him that “the cross and the work of Christ” appeared to have little place in his preaching. He went at once to his favourite secondhand bookshop and asked the proprietor for the two standard books on the atonement… on his return home he gave himself to study, declining both lunch and tea, and causing his wife such anxiety that she telephoned her brother to see whether a doctor should be called. But when he later emerged he claimed to have found the real heart of the gospel and the key to the inner meaning of the Christian faith. So the content of his preaching changed, and with it it’s impact. As he himself put it the basic question was not “why did Jesus become a man?” but “why did Christ die?” He responded to a challenge and changed for the better.

Marcus - who helped me see that people don’t have to have everything right straight away.

Roger - the evangelist who cannot help but preach the gospel and who with an author called Graeme helped me see that I must keep the gospel at the centre of what I do. Roger also says that leaders are readers… readers are leaders… take that away…

We’ll take some time looking at what Paul teaches about leaders in his letters to a young leader - he writes to his apprentice, to Timothy. And he’ll teach us lessons from what he did and what he expects of Timothy. Along the way we’ll see how some of that points towards being a cell-leader but we’ll not major on that this morning. When everyone else arrives we’ll take fuller look at cells and hopefully then you’ll see that they are natural way of working out these principles of leadership

1. Serving by grace (1 Timothy 1v12-14)“Thanks to God for giving strength and appointing to serve. Even though - Paul was a blasphemer, persecutor and opponent of God. God showed his mercy to him for his ignorance and unbelief. God’s grace overflowed to Paul in faith and love from Christ.“

1a. God will give you the strength to serve
Paul received strength to serve. Me? You? Receive strength to serve. Maybe you’re looking forward to leadership - you’ve been waiting for this and now it’s here. You’ve made it… let me tell you it’s nothing special. Maybe you’re sitting here thinking someone made a serious mistake when they asked you to do this. You felt like you had to say Yes, and now you’re here but you wish you weren’t. Paul says - God has given him the strength to serve. That strength comes from God’s grace - it comes from a deep knowledge of the gospel, a deep experience of God’s grace to you - get these from scripture - gaze on Jesus and his work for you on the cross.

Leading isn’t easy - you’ll do a lot of hard work and probably not be appreciated. You’ll have to deal with a lot of issues from people and they’ll assume you know exactly how to deal with their problems and answer all their questions… Last week I was introduced at one of the CU’s I work with as the person who can explain what just happened if a witch flies into the room half way through a CU meeting…. (shrug!!!???) I need God’s strength!!!

1b. you’re a sinner serving by grace so that God gets the glory
Paul was opposed to God and did not believe in Jesus. He made it his job to oppose the church. Me? You? Once, opposed to God and not believing in Jesus, maybe we even once opposed Christians too… either way we couldn’t have served by our own merits. BUT Paul received mercy and grace from Christ. And Me? You? We received mercy and grace from Christ

It’s by God’s grace that we serve - you might not be the best for the job - you certainly haven’t earned it - sure you’re probably here because you’re committed to Christ - and that’s great!! And you’re incredibly valuable because you’re prepared to serve but you’re only here because God has shown mercy to you.

As a leader you need to know that God hasn’t chosen you to lead because you’re necessarily the best for the job - probably you aren’t but we serve by God’s grace - we serve by his strength not ours and God gets the glory.

1c. God doesn’t have a team lounge
This isn’t directly in the passage but there is an implication of this. You see, Paul and us - we’re all sinners who are called to serve by God’s grace. And this means that we’re all equal…

Last year I was on the Spring Harvest Team - and that means you get to go into the “Team Lounge”. Having the right colour wristband grants access to the holy of holies on the Butlins site… trust me, it’s nothing special in there but the point is that there are no “team wristbands” with God. Now I’m not saying that a refuge for team members isn’t helpful at Spring Harvest, it was - giving out all day it is nice to have a place to collapse BUT with God it isn’t like that

There isn’t an upper class of Christians called “leaders”. No, we’re just ordinary Christians - forgiven sinners - who God gives the strength to serve him. Be a grace driven leader - know that you’re serving because God’s grace has been shown to you, and know that you’re serving in God’s strength.


2. Saved by grace (1 Timothy 1v15-16)2a. you’re a sinner saved by grace so that God gets the glory:
“Christ came into the world to save sinners. Paul says he’s the worst of sinners. But God showed him mercy so that God’s patience would be displayed. So that God would be glorified.”

Christ came because we’re sinners - we’re the kind of people who can’t save ourselves and who are cut off from God. By working with the worst God’s glory gets shown because the transformations can’t be explained any other way - you have to give God the credit.

It’s like story of the man living in the gutter who gets given the winning lottery ticket by a passer by. Suddenly he is transformed - he can have anything and everything. He sets up charitable trusts to help the poor. He invests well. He gets an education. And as he lives in his new found wealth he knows that it’s not something he deserved or earned. In fact amidst all these things he has to give the credit to the simple passer by who gave him the key to everything he has.

Or it’s the story of the quiet teenager, academically achieving highly but with no idea what job to do. The story of a kid who kept quiet. But the story of how his eyes were opened to read the Bible. The story of how he found a new meaning and a new life. And a calling to a work that he’d never even heard of or considered. The story of how I got to where I am today. Knowing that deep down I’m not the kind of person you’d choose as a speaker - the guy who’s not extroverted and ultra confident but one who has fallen deeply in love with God and knows nothing better in the world than the glint in people’s eyes as they catch hold of him. God’s story in me. God’s glory and patience shown in my life. I cannot take the credit. I cannot take the glory. Those who’ve known me since I was a child can vouch for that.

You and I never deserved God’s mercy. But at the cross God has shown it to us.

Six months ago I was given some advice about being in Christian work - in leadership, if you like. I asked - what’s the most important thing I could do? It was at my interview for this job. And the reply knocked me off my feet. What would you expect to hear?

My interviewer said one word. Repent.

You see the most important thing as a leader, as a Christian is to be someone who knows their sin and repents. Someone who can rejoice and give glory to God because he has shown them mercy. To let his grace drive you. [pause]

So you serve by grace and you’re saved by grace. What to do next? Lets flick over to 2 Timothy 2.

[STAND UP AND STRETCH]

“Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”


3. Passing on grace (2 Timothy 1-2)3a. Let grace be your strength
It’s what we’ve just been talking about. You undoubtedly have gifts and talents. But your greatest strength is the grace of God. Remind yourself every day of what he’s done in your life. Each of us has come a long way - remember it.

3b. Do “the Relay thing”
But secondly, pass it on. Tell others. Do the Relay thing. Paul here establishes a chain. He says that he’s taught Timothy, now Timothy is to find others, and he’s to teach them what he’s learnt in such a way that they can then teach others. He’s setting up an eternal chain of passing on.

It’s a relay thing. Paul has passed the baton onto Timothy. Now Timothy will pass it onto “Faithful Men” and those “Faithful Men” will pass it onto “Others” - who will also be “Faithful Men” - if Timothy is imitating Paul.

It’s exactly what Your Relay Worker is here to do. He’s with you to pass on what God has told him. A combination of his experience as a student in Leicester and also the study and training he’s receiving this year. But you don’t have to be a Relay Worker to do the Relay thing. It’s something we’re all to do. That’s the thing to do. What’s the baton? It’s what Paul has taught Timothy? It’s the good news about grace. The grace that is in Jesus…

Bill Gates said “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others." As you lead a cell you’ll be empowering others - you’ll be introducing them to Jesus in the Bible - you’ll be facilitating them.

Delegating to them. Releasing them to serve. One of the key things for you to know as a cell leader is that you’ll not be doing everything. One of our cell values is Every Member in Ministry, that means that you share the load and you’re constantly training others, letting them get involved and be empowered to serve as well. Everyone has something to give. There’s no room in cell for the one-man-band. It means delegation. EVERY MEMBER IN MINISTRY DEPENDS ON YOU NOT DOING EVERYTHING. But take it one step at a time. Don’t drop people in at the deep end, the first time some one does something it should be the Welcome. There is a principle of faithfulness in small things before faithfulness in big things. Ease people in.


So, BE A GRACE DRIVEN LEADER
1. SERVE BY GRACE - GOD’S STRENGTH
God is your biggest strength.

2. KNOW THAT YOU’RE SAVED BY GRACE
Be real about being a forgiven sinner. Give God the glory.

3. PASS ON THAT GRACE TO OTHERS
Teach others what you know of grace and release them to know and serve God.

Another value in cell is to develop an honest and open community.
What I’d like to do for the next 20mins is to take some time for you guys to take in some of what we’ve been talking about for yourselves. We’ll do this in pairs and what I’m going to ask you to do is to look at some questions and try to be honest in answering them. The idea is to explore how much we’re living with grace as our strength and at the areas we’re not doing so - together we can discuss this, repent where necessary and then pray for each other.

The pastor of the church I went to as a student said that Christian life is like a road. It’s a road called grace where we live knowing that we’re saved by grace not by our own merit - it’s one full of God’s blessing and presence with us. However, this road has a ditch on either side which we very often veer into - even veering from one ditch to the other quite often. The ditches are called

Legalism and License.

In one we start to think that grace means we can live however we want. And so we start to sin. We make our mantra that “God is good, he will forgive me, it’s his job” and so we give ourselves license to sin. Grace calls us back to the road saying Yes God will forgive, but that same Grace teaches us to say no to sin for God is much much more wonderful and beautiful that any sin.

The other ditch, legalism, is one where we start to think that our life with God rests on our behaviour. So when we sin we feel unforgivable as if we’re too bad for God. Or we think that our goodness gets us in with God. Grace says - you were never saved because you were good enough but because you weren’t - so you can’t be too bad for God. And Grace says stop trying to perform - you’re accepted as you are. You don’t need to be a Christian Workaholic, Nothing you can do can make God love you less or more.

Grace says - you have the not guilty verdict over you life because of the cross. Grace says you’re totally forgiven because Jesus died for you. Grace says there is always a new day and new mercy for you.

Developing honest and open cells starts with us being honest and open with each other. We need to give each other permission to fail - permission to have gone into the ditch and then be pulled back out of it again. You have permission to fail because you have failed - you’re a sinner, saved by grace.

Can I urge you to be honest with each other. We’re trying to create some level of accountability but it only works when we’re honest. Church leader who have fallen in recent years due to some sin or other had accountability for many many years. But they weren’t honest. You can risk honesty because you’re not expected to be a sinless leader. You’re called to be a grace driven leader.

Let me pass round the hand outs - as we do this lets stand and walk around and find someone we can pair up with. If you need to have a three that’s fine but pairs would be better. Take 20mins or so on this and then we’ll come back together.

Monday, October 13, 2003

On the road

Been a while since I've had time to post anything here. The last week has been great - I've got started on meeting one on one with some lads and we've had some good times exploring the Bible. It's been a challenge and a joy. I'm determined that my vision will be grace and my attitude one of joy and the more I read the more I'm finding this. Today's headline in The Times said: Savour this Monday morning: if only life could always be as sweet as this in response to the weekend's sporting triumphs.

God's mercy's new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Every morning is one to be savoured because God's mercy is new to us because of what he did at the cross. Sport is ok but forget such second rate savouring... God says (Lamentations 3v22-23.): Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Savour that!

Spent a few sunny hours in Canterbury at the weekend doing some cell training for them. Notes to follow.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Mad month

What a mad month. I've been away from home for nine nights and eaten more conference food than I wish to remember. That said it's been a fantastic time of new beginnings. It's been great to start to get to know Surrey CU, particularly with their Cell weekend which we've just had. A real focus on building community and being evangelistic. My session was on honesty & openness, titled not about sex... and it wasn't. Meanwhile Reading start back this week and with the FE Colleges in the area also up and running I'll be all over the place trying to show people how wonderful Jesus is, from the Bible.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Not about sex

Ephesians 2v11-22
There are no strangers in the new humanity created by Jesus blood (11-19a)

Image 1. A new Humanity
Jesus’ triumph at the cross means…
All the divisions have gone
Access all areas for everyone

In what ways do we discriminate between each other? (be honest!) How will you treat everyone equally in your cell? We’re all sinners which means failure is ok. How can you create an environment where there is “permission to fail” in cell? What will you do to ensure that God’s abundant grace flows in your cell? How will we grow from being strangers to being open with each other? God’s glory inhabits the new house when it is built on the gospel & the Bible (19b-22)

Image 2. Inhabited House
The inhabited house is built on 2 foundations… “Jesus blood” & “The Apostles” –
i.e. The Gospel, The Bible Get those in place and God moves in! In what ways are our individual lives built on these foundations? How can we build these foundations in cell? “Being Jesus-centred means being Bible-centred”. Discuss. What will it look like to have your cell inhabited by the glory of God, i.e. to be a Spirit-filled cell community?

Newsnight reported last week that the government are trying, and failing, to build 250K houses a year – but the population’s not growing that fast? Roads are gridlocked twice a day with cars each of which only have one passenger. On the bus we fill up the sits one person per two person seat – and then we stand… before we’ll finally sit next to some one. We’re disconnecting from each others. Douglas Coupland wrote over a decade ago of the cult of aloneness. Aloneness. Total disconnection.

It’s nothing new to Christians – we know that humanity has disconnected from God, and from each other and from our environment and the affects are becoming increasingly clear. We’re in a global village where I’m more connected to someone 100 miles away via MSN than I am to my next door neighbour.

As Christians we suffer this disease as much as those around us –we’re immersed in this disconnected culture but it does not have to be this way.

Ephesians 2v11-21. (READ IT)

The passage breaks down into two sections – two main themes centred round two images.
FIRST – A NEW HUMANITY
SECOND – AN INHABITED HOUSE
Let me read you a quote from Jeff Lucas: And then there is the way we greet, or don’t greet each other. We are fairly gifted in the art of totally ignoring strangers… this is not just a secular problem…. I occasionally like to catch people’s eyes and then offer a warm, “Good Morning”. The response or lack of it can be astounding…. Totally stared down and coldly ignored… Lucas on Life 2. p24-25

Humanity stands divided. Because of the cross a new humanity is being created – the weird and the wonderful united by Jesus and in Jesus. Can you see the implications? There is a real bond between Christians and you can’t deny it. We do, but how can we… Remember in Neighbours – all those scenes in the Coffee Shop where the cast live out their lives whilst in the background hundreds of wannabe actors try to make a living by prentending to drink coffee – extras – disconnected from the story and looked through as if they weren’t really there at all.

We treat those we don’t know like extras in the story of our lives – people we ignore and treat as part of the scenery. Just occasionally we get to know such people – sometimes they’ve been part of the backdrop for years and we’ve never given them the time of day – never given them the kind of respect God gives them. My best man and I were interviewed on the same day at Bath University in December 1996. We were in the same group tour around the campus. And yet I know we never spoke – probably we deliberately avoided eye contact… because that’s what we Brits love to do. And it is horrific. A film of my life would have featured him as an extra in 1996, and yet within a year we became the best of friends and have been each other’s best man… We live miles away from each other and only see each other infrequently but we’re united. We’re not strangers – and there is no place for being strangers amongst God’s people. It just makes no sense.

From God’s eye view we are all miserable sinners but also all incredibly loved – and it’s time we made the connection. God loves you, and me – but do you & I love each other? ALL THE DIVISIONS ARE GONE. AND second… EVERYONE HAS AN ACCESS ALL AREAS PASS WITH GOD. The world is full of off limits areas. Locked doors and seats in first class. Last year I was on the Spring Harvest Team – and that means you get to go into the “Team Lounge”. Having the right colour wristband grants access to the holy of holies on the Butlins site… trust me, it’s nothing special in there but the point is that there are no “team wristbands” with God. Now I’m not saying that a refuge for team members isn’t helpful at Spring Harvest, it was – giving out all day it is nice to have a place to collapse BUT with God it isn’t like that.

If you’re part of this new humanity then you have an ACCESS ALL AREAS pass which gives you entry into his presence – to the most holy place. Every Christian has this – this means there are no priests. Mike Pilavachi helpfully pointed out at the Alpha for Students conference that: “there is only one way into the presence of God and it’s the cross not worship” You and I do not get access to God via a worship leader. And what a relief…. I often led worship when I was a student and that would have been way to big a responsibility…

Lucas again: God is the champion who chooses the awkward, gangly-limed players for his soccer team, and gives them equal honour to the Beckhams…. [he] insists on utilizing ordinary people for his purposes and blessing them in the process. One reason for his heart for the ordinary is simple – ultimately, we all are. Ordinary. But much loved. Lucas on Life 2. p23

But what does this mean for us? All the divisions gone Access all areas. It means that you and your fellow Christians have a bond between you – a unity that is in Jesus. You have a lot of other common ground, like bein a student at Surrey, your age etc. But above and beyond that you have the bond that is the gospel – Jesus Christ who has loved you both. There can be no more strangers –

You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. Problem is that CHRISTIAN FRIENDS are family. You can’t discriminate and choose who you want, not really… we need to open up to God’s people – we can’t have strangers in the new humanity if we’re to be united. And everyone having equal access to God means we are equal. No one is better than anyone else. We stand reunited with God and each other.

Implications?? If God has removed the barriers between us – so should we. Lets be open with each other – we’re not better than others. And nor do we need to pretend we are. If you’re in the new humanity then it means you know you’re a sinner – it means you know you’re a failure. It means we need to have a Permission To Fail Culture. It is ok to be wrong. It is ok to struggle with things. None of us is the finished article. Progress is a good thing to but you don’t need to be perfect yet. Forgiveness needs to be the context – a place of grace, a place where no one gets laughed at for a stupid question, or a stupid answer – but a place where we learn and grow together. John’s gospel views the cross through the eyes of the prophet Zechariah – Jesus death causes fountains of cleansing to flow – grace flows abundantly to us as Christians…

We’ll think in groups about how that might work in practice soon – how we can live out being this NEW HUMANITY. Paul’s second image. A GOD INHABITED HOUSE. Paul takes his images from daily life. Sometimes the army, sometimes farming, sometimes athletics, sometimes building… Paul imagines God’s brave new world as being like a house – like the temple where God had dwelt and he’s leaving this behind and saying that God is building a new house. Any house has to have foundations otherwise it will fall down. God’s house is the same.

There are two here. First the cornerstone, the stone that everything rests on – it’s Jesus, and earlier in the passage we saw that it was Jesus blood that is the key – his death for us is the cornerstone on which everything else is built. Second – the house is built on the apostles teaching – that is to say, the Bible, the New Testament of their writings and the Old Testament they taught. To make life easier – the subject of these texts is Jesus and his death for us. And so it’s the gospel that this house is built on. And this foundation needs to be kept in place otherwise the house will not be safe to live in. And who is to live in the house – GOD – we are his house, individually and corporately and he is to dwell with us. The Message translation of John 1 speaks of how…

Jesus moved into the neighbourhood …when he became a man. For us the Spirit will come and inhabit – dwell in – the house that is God’s people. God’s glory will manifest itself amongst us when we’re built on the right foundations. God will move into our neighbourhood again!
FIRST GOD DWELT WITH ADAM IN THE GARDEN
THEN GOD DWELT WITH ISRAEL IN THE TEMPLE
THEN GOD DWELT WITH THE APOSTLES IN JESUS
AND NOW WITH US – BY HIS SPIRIT!

We’ll need to think about How we make sure we’re building on the right foundations and we’ll do that in groups too. Are we letting grace flow in our cells – being open and honest with each other because we’re united in Christ? Are we building on God’s word in the Bible and on the message and affects of the gospel?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Student Alpha Conference

Alpha Conference was great. Very challenging afternoon session on Worship, Evangelism & Justice by Mike Pilavachi. Some strong challenges - first to see the connection between Worship & Evangelism (a point i've longed to see made for four years - on which see my article on Acts 17v16ff), but then to consider whether our lives are truly worshipful lives - do we live justly, mercifully and humbly - like Christ? I suspect we don't. And grace abounds from Jesus, who is all those things but it never absolves us of living in right response to the gift we've recieved from God. I know I need to think over this more and more than that to begin to act more justly, mercifully and humbly. The other big challenge for me was a seminar by Danny Brierley of Oasis to think about community - what impact am I having on the communities that I'm a part of - that then points to the sphere in which my life is to be led in justice, mercy and humility.

Monday, September 15, 2003

The Distress of Idolatry to the heart of the worshipper

If we profess to be serious about God - if we consider his name and his glory to be the most important things and indeed the things for which we were created then this will impact our lives. Driven by this as we meet together we will proclaim this in songs of great joy and truth. And we'll do it in the preaching of the Word of God faithfully. And it will impact our lives, it will be applied.

"Worship which does not beget mission is hypocrisy.
We cannot acclaim the worth of God if we have no desire to proclaim it" (Stott, 1967)

A great example for apologetics (or at least that is how it is used) is found in Acts 17 but so often we miss the backdrop of this great triumph of cross-cultural evangelism. What was it that drove Paul? In v16 we see him enter and observe the city of Athens and he is found to be greatly distressed at the idolatry he sees - men worship anything and everything - even unknown gods, but they do not honour the true Sovereign God. And so, he takes the gospel to them.

And now also our mandate is the same. We were created by God to glorify him and to bring others to glorify him. His glory is why we remain on earth. If not for the advancing of that then we should surely find it of greater worth for us to be with Christ. But there is a task to be completed. Driven by love and a passion for the glory of God we must find ways of connecting with our world and confronting them to leave their futile idolatry and come to worship God. Compelled by Christ's love for us that is displayed at the cross this is our task.

To shirk this is to leave our acclamation of him as mere hypocrisy. This task is not easy and there may be no one size fits all solution but it must be done. To innovatively and strike out and faithfully make known the gospel of Christ is to glorify God truly by calling many to come and worship him.
Day off work to rest and recuperate after the FORUM conference. Fantastic to see over 400 students getting a vision for the good news about Jesus and looking to tell their fellow students about it, with the aid of the new Life resources. Off to the Alpha for Students conference tomorrow and then on to meeting with students on campus

My job is to meet with students and study the Bible with them, the aim of this is to see them gain in confidence and joy in Jesus' good news, and so to push forward the witnessing communities of students (CU's) on campus as they seek to take that good news to students. This is a genius way to work - sending 18 year old Christian missionaries from across the world into the student world as students to take the good news of Jesus to students. These missionaries work for three years in the most transient population in the country whilst they study, getting to the heart of student culture and speaking about Jesus.