Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wake up to the spiritual straight Jacket!

There is a common accusation to Christians that we are in a "Spiritual Straightjacket", meaning that we are bound by church tradition, the bible and what ever our God tells us to do. Where as the rest of society is liberated from religion and is free to think and act as they wish to do, no straight jackets on them but free as a bird.

I guess you have to start at the root and ponder what Freedom actually is and whether anyone is completely free?

Imagine your a Gold fish and your swimming happily in your bowl. From the outside that bowl is your prison, you are trapped in its glassy exterior. So in a bid of freedom and wanting to be free you jump out of that bowl and into the cool breeze of the day. You're free! You don't have the glass to restrict you and you can go where ever you want. Except of course you can't because that very bowl and its water was what was keeping you alive and in your restriction there was great freedom and life.

Society has it very wrong when they think that they are beyond influence of what is around them, that they make free choices and are free to do what ever they want. There are restrictions and their hearts are decieving.

What is interesting is that when God made man, He made them to worship Him. It's like He placed on our hearts a great yearning and desire for something more then ourselves, so therefore to yearn and worship the Almighty God... everybody worships and since the fall everything is turned upside down and instead of worshipping God we worship ourselves, each other or what we have made. Yet we still worship. We are all in that spiritual straight jacket.

Not convinced? Do you ever see something on TV that you would like? Or walk past a shop and see that new games console or new pair of shoes. There is a deep desire in you to have them, to want them and your positive it will make your life better - more popular, more staisfied, more beautiful and happy. There is your idol right there. You are worshipping what you want. When I walk around Exeter I see people running after idols and placing them in recycled bags. We have warehouses of mini idols and an advertising campaign on their behalf that infiltrate into our daily lives... extreme...but true! You are in a spiritual straight jacket.

The difference between the spiritual straight jacket that christians are in is that the christian God gives you a Lord and master who forgives and dies for you (Tim Keller remarks this in The Reason for God). The Lord and master in a non christians life does non of these and does not satisfy you. We are all in a spiritual straight jacket, but which one is more fulfilling and which one gives you salvation? We are all made to worship but which would you prefer to worship - wooden idols that sit on your shelf and don't do anything or a God that created the world, that gave His son to die in your place and who loves you more deeply then you know.

Wake up to the spiritual straight jacket....but which one are you in?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"People are desperate for spirituality"

On radio 4 there was programme about the town Telford being the most Godless town in Britain. Yet there was a new church in town, claiming to connect with society and offering spirituality instead of religion. The church, led by a missionary calls the church an emerging church and this caught my interest and raised a few questions.

Firstly I think that it is great when churches can engage with culture and community, proclaiming Christ as the way and making church breach further then Sunday and spilling into our whole week which is vibrant, prayerful and centered around Gods word. Yet there was something amiss with this new community, as they pitch up to a Mind, Body and Soul event and invite people in to try on Christianity and experience this new spirituality, I wondered where the proclaiming of Good News, Repenting and Baptising in the Lord went? Perhaps they just didn't say it on this programme and I don't want to quickly assume things...

However there were some interesting things that people said, that may or may not represent the missionaries theology. But one lady mentioned that there are Jesus tarrot cards that can do prophesy? Interesting... You know you can slap the face of Jesus on anything and call it Holy and prophetic and yet it be the work of Satan. I think we may need to be slightly more discerning...

They also do meditation. Meditation on the word of God is good. Psalm 1 announces that he meditates day and night on the word of God, the Law. We are to meditate on Gods Goodness, His Word - always ready to be corrected, repent and give praise to God... Yet the meditation that was mentioned here was slightly leaning towards New Age mysticism..where you close your eyes and soon you will be surrounded by loud clanging symbols and an uplifting and peaceful experience will over take you. This scares me. Meditation isn't about letting go and seeking sensations and feelings. We are to center on Christ, on His Word and be filled with the rich food of His garcious promises and love in His Word. Always in control, because that is apart of the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:23)

The truth here is that "People are desperate for spirituality", be as that may, it doesn't give an excuse to match that with modern christian mysticism. Clutching hold of experiences more then onto Christ. It is good that people are seeking and are desperate - because they should be, they are cut off from the creator of the word and they are His objects of Wrath (Eph 2). They therefore don't need a "spirtitual experience" in the sense that New Age movements offer, what they need is to turn back to God, to repent and believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him...

One great quote came from a Church of England Bishop, where he said that the church should be "To point people to the Lord Jesus". I thought that was spot on. It is always about Jesus and you can say what you want about the church of England, but if new modern churches continue to go so far from doctrine and enter the magical land of spirtual movements they may find themselves on dangerious soil, contending with more then they bargained for.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." - 2Tim 4:3-5

[PS - this is my rambles and thoughts - you may not agree with them and that's ok!]

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Boy in the stripped pyjamas...

On my day off I got to sit in starbucks and read a book. This is the book I was reading, it was sad and heart renching. Here is an innocent boy, observing the cruelty of mankind to one another through the eyes of a child. It is horrifying and yet a stark reality that we are so very sinful, so very corrupt.

This little boy saw that there was no difference between him and the small boy on the other side of the fence. Except one wore stripped pyjamas. One wore the Jewish sign on his arm and the other was swept along with a nation full of hatred...yet innocence is at the heart of his outlook.

Jesus said "
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mtt 18:3). Jesus wants us to love the Lord like a child, unquestionable trust, obediance and Joy. Looking at the world and not getting the lines blurry, not letting greed and hatred take over, not letting race or colour or religion stopping us from loving one another and telling the Gospel to those around us.

This book is a moving story, well written and clever in its unveiling of the truth...Go read!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Who will fling their life away?

A quote from Shining like Stars:

“Where are the young men and women of this generation who will hold their lives cheap, and be faithful even unto death, who will lose their lives for Christ’s, flinging them away for love of him? Where are those who will live dangerously and be reckless in his service? Where are the men of prayer? Where are the men who count God’s Word of more importance to them than their daily food? Where are God’s men in this day of God’s power?”

Monday, January 26, 2009

What came out of Relay 2

In my last post I gave some highlights of Relay 2. This was a week of training, fellowship and just being in awe of Jesus. What I love about Relay is that it is all about Jesus and I am starting to meet the real Jesus, understanding more of Grace and yet still not having it fully grasped. I come away from Relay 2 really challenged...challenged about how I spend my time, how much I love God, how much I am really living for Jesus and about the idols in my life. I am callenged about the students I work with and whether I am really spurring them on to love Jesus more and to tell their friends about Jesus and whether that is reflected in my life...

We worked through Zephaniah and I was blown away with how there is little difference in my heart compared to theirs. With their pride and their idols and their security with man made things. We wrote a list and I was shocked, because my heart didn't want to admit this sinful attitude and wanted to justify myself with saying "Well...i'm not like that"... But I am like that!!

Yet there are peeks of hope in chapters 1 and 2... there are remnants and pleas of seeking humility, righteousness and the Lord. Gods wrath is clear here, He hates sin and wants to purify His people. Is God over-reacting? Not at all... God is God, He is the real deal and it grieves Him that we can worship things that arn't anything like Him, that can't create the universe and are not God...seriously can you not blaim Him for getting a bit angry!?

But Chapter 3 then explodes with Gods mercy and Grace. This amazes me even more. God is very angry at us and yet loves us more deeply then we can imagine. He forgives us, He shows us Grace and will have us back again to be His people. This is something to shout for Joy for! Hurry for Jesus indeed...!

It's good to be reminded this:

"God is God... You are you and don't get the two confused" - Mo

You know what? The bible screams this at us the whole time and yet we still retreat back to our idols where we think we are safe. Therefore we need to continue to read Zephaniah, remind ourselves that we are sinful and deserve being cut off and then remind ourselves of Gods amazing Grace.

Let us Rejoice in His salvation.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Relay 2 Highlights

Relay Two came and went....


- The South West Team - Chunk it!!!!
- Fellowship group
- Zephaniah :: Seeing God's anger against our sin, seeing that we are no different to those who go after idols and are proud. To see that God is still gracious and merciful to us...
- Ruggle Juggle...
- The South West coming 5th in the karaoke... " So Long, farewell..."
- Hurry for Jesus!
- The West Wing...
- Rich and Poor day - resulting in no coffee all day...that was very hard!
- Tesco shop
- Getting to know people more and enjoying fellowship...
- Excited about equiping students with the Gospel
- God speaking clearly to me... prayer works!
- Support from wise women...
- It all feels like family... I love being a Relay Worker!!!

The Gospel is True and Heaven is Real.....

Monday, January 19, 2009

Relay 2...

I am off again for a training week called Relay 2...Blogging will resume when I am back!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Signs and Wonders - Is Jesus Enough?

These are going to be slight random thoughts, that may be controversal or pretentious. But I am still going to let the ink pot fall on the blotting paper.

At church we had a talk on signs and wonders, mainly that of healing. In homegroup we further discussed how we had little faith to ask God for healings or to see healings. As we were discussing a few thoughts popped around my head...

Imagine if I never saw a healing or a sign or a wonder, would that be an excuse to distrust God? Is Jesus not enough, is His word not enough for me to believe and trust in Him!?

It is good and right for us to desire to see God work and Him to be Glorified. But if my basis of faith is on whether He shows me a miracle or a sign and wonder then I think I may be in a bit of trouble. My faith should not quiver in the slightest when I don't see these signs and wonders. I trust that God will work as He wills. My faith is based on what Christ has done on the Cross and that He rose again and that right now He is seated at the right hand of the father...

Would seeing a miracle strengthen my faith? I reckon for a whole 5 minutes it will and then I would invert back into the shell of cynicism, trying to convince myself that there must be some other explanation or I would grumble that I don't see more. Just like the Israelites in the desert, they saw hundreds of signs and yet still lacked faith - how are we any different?! I don't think I am...

Yet God works miracles every day...depending how we define a miracle. Perhaps we need to stop looking so inward and start looking out and seeing what God is doing. We might be suprised.

I wonder this... our heads may have faith in God, but does our heart? No matter how many miracles I see, will it give me more faith in God or will it make no difference because my heart isn't where it should be? For me it comes down to what I am putting my trust in. I want Jesus to be enough. I want to say that Jesus is enough even if I never hear God speak, never see a person rise from the dead or never see any signs or wonders. I want Jesus to be enough. And yet Equally I want to see Gods amazing Glory, I want to have enough faith (although how you measure it I am not sure) to see his powerful works and majesty...

I am glad to be reminded that faith as small as a mustard seed is enough...Matthew 17:20...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A good deal of Ecclesiastical Machinery!

I am reading "Paul the Missionary" ~ Schnabel for my elective. And a quote that caught my eye and made me think was this:

"We imagine that nothing of consequence can be accomplished in the Lord's work without a good deal of ecclesiastical machinery - committees, conferences, workshops, seminars; whereas the early Christians depended less on human wisdom and expertise, more on divine initiative and guidence. It is obvious that they didn't do too badly." ~ Kane

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Folk Music at Oddfellows

Last night I went to Oddfellow, a pub in Exeter where some folk music was being played...and I have to say it was pretty good. Rebecca Worthley was performing, she is from Exeter and I reckon you should check some of her songs out:

Monday, January 05, 2009

Study Week!

This week is study week for Relays. A chance to get into the swing of studying and prepairing for the next term, which I hear is crazier then the first... *Gulp*! Still, I am looking forward to being challenged and to have fun with the South West Relays! So there will be no blogging until I get back, which will hopefully mean I will be armed with a few blog posts to publish :O)!

Piper - "I Love Jesus"

Every so often I get e-mails from Desiring, they are taste and see articles that John Piper writes that has the motion of getting our hearts excited about the Gospel, wetting our apitite for enjoying the Word of God. I read his latest one and it struck me. I love the honesty and the challenge. I thought I would share it with you as you may not of signed up to these e-mails. They are worth reading ::

One of the most memorable moments of my seminary days was during the school year 1968-69 at Fuller Seminary on the third level of the classroom building just after a class on systematic theology. A group of us were huddled around James Morgan, the young theology teacher who was saying something about the engagement of Christians in social justice. I don’t remember what I said, but he looked me right in the eye and said, “John, I love Jesus Christ.”

It was like a thunderclap in my heart. A strong, intelligent, mature, socially engaged man had just said out loud in front of a half dozen men, “I love Jesus Christ.” He was not preaching. He was not pronouncing on any issue. He was not singing in church. He was not trying to get a job. He was not being recorded. He was telling me that he loved Jesus.

The echo of that thunderclap is still sounding in my heart. That was 40 years ago! There are a thousand things I don’t remember about those days in seminary. But that afternoon remains unforgettable. And all he said was, “John, I love Jesus Christ.”

James Morgan died a year later of stomach cancer, leaving a wife and four small children. His chief legacy in my life was one statement on an afternoon in Pasadena. “I love Jesus Christ.”

Loving Jesus is natural and necessary for the children of God. It’s natural because it’s part of our nature as children of God. “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God” (John 8:42). The children of God have the natural disposition to love his Son.

Loving Jesus is also necessary because Paul says that if you don’t love Jesus, you will be cursed: “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). Loving Jesus is an essential (not optional) mark of being a beneficiary of God’s grace. “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible” (Ephesians 6:24). If you hold fast to the love of anything above Jesus, you are not his disciple: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).

Loving Jesus is not the same as obeying all of Jesus’ commands. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). That means that obedience to the commandments is the result of loving Jesus, not the same as loving Jesus. Love is something invisible and inside. It is the root that produces the visible fruit of loving others.

So here at the beginning of 2009, I join James Morgan in saying, “I love Jesus Christ.”

And as I say it, I want to make clear what I mean:

  • I admire Jesus Christ more than any other human or angelic being.
  • I enjoy his ways and his words more than I enjoy the ways and words of anyone else.
  • I want his approval more than I want the approval of anyone else.
  • I want to be with him more than I want to be with anyone else.
  • I feel more grateful to him for what he has done for me than I do to anyone else.
  • I trust his words more fully than I trust what anyone else says.
  • I am more glad in his exaltation than in the exaltation of anyone else, including me.

Would you pray with me that in 2009 we would love Jesus Christ more than we ever have? And may our Lord Jesus grant that from time to time we would deliver quietly and naturally a thunderclap into the hearts of others with the simple words, “I love Jesus Christ.”

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

Loving him with you,

Pastor John

Friday, January 02, 2009

Love in criticism

Lets set the scene: A preacher gets up and preaches, he says some good things, but you don't like him, you don't agree with what he says, you think he was talking about Jesus enough, you think that actually you could do much better or you know someone else that could... you sit there and He finishes preaching... What do you do next?

I guess there are several options and I want to go through them. This is something I have seen other people do and I also find myself doing...

1. Turn to your mates and tell them how rubbish the preacher was. How wrong they were in this and this area and rip them to shreads. Any form of encouragment that comes to you about them you toss into the nearest waste basket and carry on with your wrath upon their preaching. Gossip. You slate them and conclude that you are a much better Christian then them because you know the right way to teach that passage....

2. Pray & Be slow to Speak -
a) Ask God to open your heart and mind to what the preacher was saying. Explore why you didnt agree with it..Test it against the bible. Was it just the preaching style? Was it cos he didnt wear a shirt and tie? Are you being too judgemental and not loving?
Love this person no matter if you disagree with them.

b) Here is what most people don't like doing...chatting to the preacher afterwards and perhaps giving time for prayer and seeking Gods wisdom, not charging up to them straight after the preach. Is this not more edifying? How arrogant we can be in thinking that the way we do things or the way a certain group does things is always right... God is not in a box!

But does this not bare more of a Christlike Character then storming off and telling your Christian circle how rubbish He is. Why not think of some encouragments to tell the preacher and ask him to explain more about the passage and why he thinks certain things. Most preachers would be willing to do this and it will help you to discern more the next time you hear them preach.

After a ECU event or meeting, as I sit in the car and I have Alex passing questions to me about the meeting. He asks me to say encouraging things about the talk or event and then any critical points that are constructive...and we discuss this, not because we want to pull the CU down, but because we want to build them up. Once that is discussed we report back to the committee or preacher or whoever and encourage them, equip them and build them up.

The question I have to ask myself is am I doing this to make ME look good or to see them become more like Christ??