Friday, 30 January 2009

What does God look like?

Well, if I'm honest, I thought after they had seen that the free food was a hook to get them in to an evangelistic meeting, most of our visiting pupils wouldn't be back!! But I am pleased to admit, I was wrong.

Last week we had 50, today we had 49! It's true that many did not come back, but many did come back, and they brought their friends! (I also know of one little guy who wasn't able to come cos he was representing the school in a sport's tournament, and was gutted he couldn't make it! So we had 50 in spirit, if not in body! ... Not that I am obsessed with numbers or anything! !(?)! ;o)

After the initial warm up acts of piped music, a Darwin Awards youtube video and a game called blobs (which I can't do to save my life, but the boys seem to be able to complete with an alarming amound of ease). we turned to the question: What does God look like? and with the help of Chrissy's excellent vox pops video and these bible verses we explained that no one knows or can know what God looks like, thinks or feels by themselves, that if we want to know the answer, we have to look at Jesus.

If you gave us some air time in your prayer life this week; thank you! I am amazed at how many of these little guys want to come and how they seem genuinely interested in what we are doing. I want to pray now for humble boldness, not just to answer questions, but to give direct challenge, to these little men and that the Christian guys in the CU will rise to the challenge of helping some of them get along to a local church-based youth group.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Abiding vs. Abstracting

If you are a follower of Jesus, is this how you understand the way you do the spiritual life? (1:51)

Or is it more like this? (3:56)

I don't know about you, but one of my dangers is that I slip into seeing myself like the fighter jet in the first video - as an essentially independent human being who willingly contracts out my services to God and who, at intervals, comes to him for refueling so that I can go out and serve him better.

This is wholly inadequate and I think heretical, because, amongst other things, it can lead me to the belief that the spiritual life is about the maintenance of disciplines and routines under my own efforts and pays too little attention to the cultivation of a constant relationship that the Father, Son and Spirit have brought us into with them.

It is true that I need to eat, drink, sleep and breath in order to maintain myself alive.  But to say that life is just about eating, drinking, sleeping and breathing is wholly inadequate.  

I need to read my bible, pray, fast, attend Christian meetings in order to stay spiritually alive, but to say that the spiritual life is the maintenance of these routines is wholly inadequate too.

Jesus did not save me to be a fighter jet, he saved me to be a grafted branch.  He did not save me for independence but for dependence solely on him. Grafted branches don't log-on (no pun intended) to get their sap and then pop off to go and bear fruit elsewhere.  They bear fruit by remaining permanently attached to the root.

I want be like the mango branch in the second video - learning to know and live in step with the Spirit of God naturally, organically - not as my personal trainer, whom I make appointments with, but as my constant companion - seeking and depending on his lead on every situation, and following him in whatever he says - every minute of every day as he fixes my eyes on Jesus to the glory of God the Father.

So who made God?

This Friday, at the School Christian Union, we had our first attempt at answering punters' questions (see this for context).

Cheesy posters, like this one (not my forte) were put up on noticeboards, announcements were made in assemblies and vox pops on this week's question, amongst others, were gathered on video by Chrissy, the local Schools' Christian worker.
Normally we have half a dozen come of a Friday lunch time. This week we had 50. Boys were perched everywhere, on chairs, on tables, even sitting on the floor.

We played games, watched videos, gave out prizes and I attempted to answer the question Who made God?

Of course, most were there lured by the prospect of free food, but the truth of the divine nature - God's trinitarian eternality (Don't worry, I didn't use those terms with the boys!) was declared and seeds were sown. 

What will come of those seeds, time will tell. I'm praying for the Spirit of God to do something amazing with them though and to give us a foretaste quickly.

If you can spare it some air time in your prayer life, please pray for the continued attendance of these boys; that there will be an awakening in their hearts to Jesus' call, and that many boys (and adults) will give their lives to him.

Monday, 19 January 2009

True Freedom

The Devil, the World and even my own body all tell me that true freedom is being able to do what I want.

The Bible speaks to my soul and tells me differently; that true freedom is being able, to do what I was created for.

Here are some of my favourite verses to illustrate that very point. 

With the strong help of the Spirit of God, I will live like this:

'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Matthew 22:37

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature ; rather, serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13

I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
Psalm 119:32

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Romans 8:19-21

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36

Friday, 16 January 2009

Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, you have ordained ... erm... questions?

At our School Carol Service we had at the end of last term, I asked the boys to write down any question they had about God. Here are the uncensored (both in grammar and content) responses we got.  Some are funny, some insightful, others are blasphemous. Many break your heart when you realise the ignorance and/or pain behind them:

Where did God come from? Who made God? Who gave birth to God? How was God created?
Did God smoke?
What would happen if Jesus were alive today?
Why does God allow suffering? Why doesn’t he let us live in peace and only die a natural death?
Why does God let us die?
Did God mean Jesus to die?
Is God gay?
What came first, Adam and Eve or the dinosaurs?
What colour was Jesus given that he came from Asia?
How many species of dinosaurs were there?
What is the reason for hymns?
What colour is God’s beard?
Did Jesus wear socks with his sandals?
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
When newborn babies die, the parent asks why was he/she taken from me and the priest says – because God loved them more?
Why does God remain hidden? Why did Jesus die on a cross?
Why do people who “see” God get diagnosed with insanity?
Why is there sadness in the world?
Is God married?
If God is the sun, how is night?
What happened to Mary and Joseph?
How old is God?
Does God like cheese puffs?

With the help of the Bible, (free food and some humour provided by Camcorder, Youtube and Yours truly) we hope to answer most of these by the end of the year and see people turn from their worthless idols and give their lives to Jesus.  Please join us in praying that this dream would be realised not just for boys, but for adults too.  


I love you guys!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Real Relational Leprosy

I just heard a pretty disturbing program on Radio 4 called Online Damage: Porn in the 21st Century.

It's available here (40mins) on the BBC iPlayer for the next 7 days, and will air again on Sunday 18 January at 5pm. It is well worth a listen or setting the timer to record it.

Most are now alert to the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but the relational damage we are exposing ourselves to online through pornography and the darker side of social networking sites is not yet well understood, by academics or by parents (who are mostly on the wrong side of the digital divide).

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The Heavenly Apprenticeship

My latest sermon audio can be downloaded here (31:36). Notes and application questions here.

For those who don't know, our church's sermon archive is here.

Happy listening.


Monday, 5 January 2009

Something Divine!

The Bible says that when someone becomes a Christian, they become a participator in the divine nature.

But the question is: what is the divine nature?

It can't be an -ence like omnipotence (being all powerful) or omnipresence (being everywhere) or omniscience (knowing everything) because if that were so it would flatly contradict other texts in the Bible like this one!

So what does it mean?

The Bible reveals to us a God who is love. Love is by definition is relational. You can't love on your own. Love has to be directed to someone or something. It therefore makes total sense that the Bible also reveals a God who is, from eternity, a Trinity of persons: Father and Son in the unity of the Spirit, both in the New Testament and the Old:

So when a person is saved by believing and trusting in Jesus. They are caught up into this divine love. They are united to God the Father, through Jesus (God the Son) and they are united to both the Father and the Son through (God) the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says it like this.

To put it another way:

What I love about this diagram is that it is essentially a figure of 8 on its side. That is the mathematical symbol for infinity. What's more, an 8 has a cross at its centre!

Folks this is eternal life!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Standing at the Dawn of 2009 : A Meditation

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action. Be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace that will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:13

The cross of Christ brings Christians many wonderful benefits in this life: forgiveness, a clear conscience, reconciliation with others healing from physical and emotional brokenness, protection from demonic forces, power to liberate others from bondage to darkness, but these are not its greatest benefits. The greatest benefit of the cross is future-centred and future-driven and it is good news for those who love it because it tells the Christian of his destiny, which is to be finally, fully and forever united with Christ in the next life.  

The Christian lives for the day when he will be united to Jesus, when faith gives way to sight. The forgiveness that God offers through the cross is wonderful not so much because it helps him to be happy and do his job and love people well in this life, (although it does do that!!) but more importantly because it opens up the way for him to know the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit in this world and then to be united with them in the next, where he will gaze upon the beauty of God, forever.

So then at the beginning of 2009:
1. Prepare your mind for action.
2. Be self-controlled.

The literal translation of “Prepare your minds for action” is “Gird up the loins of your mind.” The image Peter is using here is of an average person taking up the flowing garments that they used to wear in those days, picking them all up and tucking them into the belt so that they could run without fear of tripping themselves up and without hindering the extended movement of the legs that running requires. If Peter lived in the 21st century, he might have said something like, “Take off the slippers of your mind and put on the mental equivalent of trainers.” In other words prepare for a change of pace.  Slippers are for lounging around.  Trainers are for action.  Once you were ignorant about the future, but now you aren’t.  No more excuses!  Get stuck in!


Cultivate a Godly imagination.
God didn’t give us an imagination so that we could waste away our days imagining scoring the winning goal at the next world cup, or walking down the aisle in some amazing dress or what life would be like if we earned £10,000 per week. 

He gave us an imagination so that with the help of the Bible and the Spirit we can, in faith, imagine, however imperfectly, what it will like when we finally meet Jesus and are united to him.  Jesus himself exemplified this principle, the Bible says of him in Heb 12:2 that knowing (imagining) the thrill he would get out of honouring God the Father, He went to the cross and in so doing opened up a way of salvation for the whole world. Jesus knew what it was to have a pure and healthy imagination and he made that imagination serve his obedience to his Heavenly Father. Does your imagination mostly lead you to dissatisfaction with God and disobedience or to hope in God and obedience?

When was the last time you thought about what you will say to Jesus when you are giving your account to him?  When you and God look back together on this day, what will you tell him about how you have lived it? What about the week just gone? What about tomorrow?  Or the year ahead?  Are you like the wise man, facing up to your future, or like the fool, running away from it?  Imagining what it will be like to meet Jesus will either drive you mad or drive you to prayer and action.  Most people ignore it and hope it will go away, but it won't.  Which will it be for you?

Through godly self-control, let your destiny (as informed by the bible) define your daily routine and not vice versa.

We are hope machines. We are constantly hoping:
:: I hope I’ll pick up a bargain in town.
:: I hope I get that career break.
:: I hope my team win today.
:: I hope there’s something good on TV tonight.
:: I hope my kids turn out good.

None of these things are wrong in themselves, but we must ensure that what we hope for is worthy of our time and not allow an abundance of good small things to deflect us from the great big thing, which is hoping in God.  Many Christians have been neutralised in their effectiveness, not because they have had some high profile moral failure, but because they get sidetracked into lesser causes.

The greatest thing is to live in the shadow of the cross and the light of Jesus return, for however long he gives us breath!