Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Glance at Galatians Pt 3

Pt 3 :: Remember the Poor

There is much to say about chapter 2 at the start. But there is one verse that strikes out to me:
v10 "Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." Firstly Paul has been accepted by the other apostles - his testimony is true and the gospel he is sharing is real. There have been a lot of false teachers about, so you have to be careful! But right at the end, after accepting him they wanted him to remember the poor and Paul was eager to do this!

I have been reading a book on intrigual mission - putting the proclamation of the Gospel and the demonstration of the Gospel together. It means speaking and living the Gospel - action without words and words without action just don´t work. They work together as two blades that make a scissor. Some may think that all you have to do is just tell the Gospel and thats it or all you have to do is give someone a bottle of water and they will get it. But they wont. There has to be both.

But what of the poor? Have you ever noticed how God really cares for the poor and the widowed? (Zach 7:10, Amos 2, Isaiah 61:1 and more) Yet its easy for us to ignore them, its easy for us to pretend that they are not there. But its hard when its all around you, when you have slums on your doorstep or as walk down the street there are children asking for money. So what do you do? I dont have an answer, but I am thinking about the question a lot. I can´t give to everyone in Peru but equally I cant ignore them.

Why is it so difficult to reach out to them, not just with words of the Gospel but with love and compassion? Why doesnt it affect our hearts that there are people going hungry every night and even worse there are people that dont know Jesus. Sometimes our hearts can become very dull. And yet Paul is told to remember the poor. To remember the needy. What does this look like really, in Peru and in England?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Confidence in the Gospel

What happens when we lose our confidence in the Gospel?
When we find that we haven´t been rooting our identity in Christ?

Its really easy to depend on feelings and I find it easy to depend heavily on my feelings while in Peru especially when your not being fed spiritually at church. But regardless where you are or what situation you are in, its important to keep our confidence in the Gospel and to remind ourselves of what the Gospel says. In the book by Tim Chester - "The Ordinary Hero" he writes about what it means to live in the light of the Cross and Resurrection and there is one bit that he wrote about thats really challenged me and helped me here. He says that if we have confidence in Gospel truths then it will affect our actions and our heart:

  • If you´re confident that God loves you, then you´ll love other people
  • If you´re confident that God died for you, then you´ll lay down your life for other people.
  • If you´re confident that God loved you while you were still his enemy, then you´ll not complain when other people let you down.
  • If you´re confident that God´s gracious to you, then you´ll be gracious to other people.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Glance at Galatians Pt 2

Pt 2 :: A True Testimony

In Galatians 1, Paul wants to make it certain that he has a true testimony and that the Gospel he preaches is the true Gospel. At the time there was a lot of false Gospel teachers around that were leading the Galatians astray and so its important that this is the true Gospel. So I am going to look at how he describes his testimony...

But firstly: When asked to do your testimony what is it normally about? I guess you. You (including me) say that I was like this, then I knew Christ and then I changed...I stopped this and this and no longer did this and I was full of Joy. Sometimes our testimonies can be more about how we saved ourselves rather then Christ saving us. But Pauls testimony is extreme and holds an interesting framework as well as a great hope.

Before he knew Christ, Paul has a lot to boast in, being a very zealous Jew! But he persecuted the church and was zealous for all the wrong things. He was going after righteousness through works when really Paul needed Grace. Like perhaps many of us before knowing Christ - we were running after the wrong things, thinking they would give us somethng that would fulfil us. But we are actually running the wrong way.
But something amazing happened to Paul that is apart of his testimony and yet he didnt do anything to deserve it nor did he do anything to recieve it.
In verse 1:15-17, Paul says that God did several things:

  1. He set Paul apart before he was born
  2. He called Paul by His Grace
  3. God was pleased to reveal Jesus to Him
  4. God commisioned him to preach among the Gentiles.

In many ways I find this is a rhythm to our testimony, that actually before we knew Christ we were zealous for the wrong things and then it was God that saved us, it was God that set us apart and called us by His Grace. It was God that was pleased to reveal Jesus to us and it was God that has told us to share Christ with everyone. Isn´t it amazing that God was pleased to reveal Jesus to us, considering all that we have done and do - he is pleased. We did nothing to change our lives around, it was all Christ.

I find that there is so much hope in this. That no matter how bad we were or cut off we were, infact it is God that brings us back and its not based on our merits or what we do! What Christ did on the Cross and what he is doing now in our lives is more powerful then what we were or are like or what Paul was like! It gives us hope that when we preach Christ and the true Gospel that it is God that changes lives and is pleased to reveal Christ!! We therefore need to keep looking at the Cross and keep reminding ourselves that our testimony is based on what Christ has done and not what we have done.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Time or Event orientated?

One thing for sure is that culture is different all around the world. Culture within culture is different and you can´t escape culture - you are in it. This is seen by how you dress, what you watch, what you do in your spare time, how your family functions, how you view people, how you communicate and how you see things as right and wrong. No culture is perfect, but we can learn from each culture.
I have been learning a lot about peruvian culture and my own culture. Its very easy to tar with one brush, but I can only comment on what I see, which I know is limited.

I come from a culture that has very high stress levels. Everything is about time and nearly everyone wears a watch. Time wasting is seen as bad. If you have left someone waiting for 10 min you have to apologise for wasting their time. Because time is precious and the more effeciant you are with time the more you get done. When I was doing Relay I had a 2 hour planner that allowed me to plan and schedule everything down to eating and sleeping - this was so I got more done in the day. Although honestly it was very hard to keep. But in the west this is normal, time is a priority and we cant waste it.

But I have now entered a new culture and the use of time is different. The culture here is seen as more event orientated. The concern isnt about how much time I spend with a person or if I am late, the concern is the people I am with and the event taking place and whether I am making the most of it. Its made it clear to me that when I was in England it was very easy to think of the next thing. For example, when I am in the middle of a coffee with someone I think about what time it is, how long left and whats the next thing I am gonig to do (not always, but sometimes)... But that kind of attitude doesnt fit here - its out of place because if I show this attitude it means I am saying that I dont care about the person I am with or the event I am in and I am more concerned about the task ahead. Although, even in England - what does that show about my attitude?

It is difficult not to compare and we must adapt to what ever culture we are in. I also know that one isn´t better then the other, but I wonder as a christian whether sometimes our attitude to time isn´t good? Sometimes we need to slow down and start to spend time with people and not worry about the task ahead or trying to get done as much as possible in a day. Sometimes my days here are filled with being with people and not having a diary but just seeing what happens. I know this doesnt suit everyone and it can be frustrating, perhaps some would see that a waste of time. But it changes the way you think and how you view each moment. It means you dont fill your diary up with thing after thing and not leave any room for a person to call or drop by. Its also one way to build relationships and share the Gospel that suits this culture and I am learning so much from it. But how much of this will stay with me when I return and how much of it will be recieved well or seen as a waste of time?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A glance at Galatians Pt 1

Looking through the lens...

Currently during my quiet times I have been going through Galatians, feasting on its richness and trying to absorb it in. Its difficult to be fed spiritually when you cant speak the language but its equally encouraging to read a letter like Galatians and know that there are some universal truths that will always remain. I am going to explore some of them with you and write up my thoughts and how it is helping me here. Its not going to be an indepth study, but its going to be a glance and hopefully a helpful one at that...

Pt 1 :: One True Gospel

How easy is it to desert Christ? When you think about it right now, its very easy to say that it would never happen. Right now, we can be sure that we would never desert Christ or follow a different Gospel, but what about tomorrow or next week when Christ doesnt seem to fit into my modern living or when God doesn´t feel so close - what happens to our heart? Is it a time where we turn to Christ or desert Him?

What I have noticed in Galatains is Pauls shock to how quickly they are deserting Christ (1v6). And the way they are deserting Him is by going to a different Gospel. Pauls message to the Galatains is very clear - there is only one true Gospel. If anyone preaches something different to this, they are accursed! (1v8-9) This is no fluffy language, Paul is hitting it between the eyes and is making it clear that the Gospel is true and precious. Nothing can match to it, but yet people want to distort it - some days I want to distort it. Why? Because some days the message of the Gospel has razor sharpe teeth and bites hard, it shows me all of my sin and cuts through my pride. The problem is, is that I want to rule the Gospel rather then let the Gospel rule my life, I want it distorted so that it pleases me and allows me to live an easier life. But the message is clear - there is only one true Gospel and it if we are to follow Christ then He must rule over us. IF we reject or change the Gospel then we reject Christ and we are accursed.

This makes me think alot. I have to be careful about what I say when talking about the Gospel through bible studies, teachings or working with students. I am held acountable with the words I use and I have to check myself - am I telling the true Gospel or a watered down, different Gospel?
Not only do my words count but also my actions do. Am I telling the Gospel in love and Grace with a heart for the person and our relationship or because I see them as a project or to win evangelism points? Sometimes our actions can shout a different Gospel and this to is dangerious.

But the great thing about there being a one true Gospel is that we know what our foundation is, we know the truth in which we stand on and we can trust it. We can trust Jesus and while I am here in Peru where there is much distortion of the Gospel, especially in catholisim here, then I need to be sure what is real and what I can grasp hold of and pour my heart out with. Its very easy to get trapped and apathetic, but I dont want to do that because the one true Gospel is bringing good news to the lost and they so need to hear it here, they need that truth and security and to know the Love of Christ and how their sins can be forgiven. Paul was so right in expressing such hard language here, he knew how important and precious the Gospel is and how it needs to be treasured and how we need to warn our hearts against distorting it, because once we begin to distort it we start to move away from the hope we have to a complete darkness of superstition.