Friday, April 26, 2013

a life changing experience!

So this is how it begins.......
a while ago, we began sponsoring a child through compassion, then at clan a couple of years ago, we began to sponsor two children, one in India and one in Peru. At Church we then really began to get going sponsoring children, and as we did this we starting thinking about becoming partners with a project somewhere....

Compassion invited us onto a church leader's trip to Nairobi in Kenya, part of me wanted to go, really wanted to go, part of me really wanted to stay at home, comfortable and safe, but through it all, God seemed to be saying, "the time is right son, get going". So Donna and I packed our bags left the kids with Donna's mum and her friend Eva, and off we went.

We travelled from Edinburgh, in the snow, flight was delayed, arrived at heathrow, had to change to terminal 4 from terminal 5 and we were panicking about getting checked in on time and there we met John, who was calmness personified (and would be for the entire trip, indeed I think he is more laid back than me, I know!!), we checked in no problem and we met the other intrepid explorers on our team, Hayley, Andrew and Ricky from Northern Ireland, and Ros and Ian from Eastbourne on the south coast of England, panic over we relaxed for a bit at costa before heading off on Kenyan airways, overnight to Nairobi!

I think Andrew was the only one to get a good snooze on the flight thanks to his cunning plan of praying that no one sat beside him, this prayer was answered, and he managed to stretch out, but even in a single seat I had the chance to watch a movie and get a snooze without any wonderful kids grabbing me, so I enjoyed "wreck it Ralph" (the selection on Kenyan airways was not great! However it turns out there was a good selection but impossible to find until 20 mins from the end of the return flight!)

Anyway, we arrived bleary eyed on Monday morning in Nairobi, through the airport no probs and then on to the hotel, it was a short journey maybe half an hour, but the country had been in lockdown due to the uncertainty of the elections (last time there was horrendous violence that resulted in many deaths) and this was the day when everyone went back to work. Suffice to say our journey took a wee bit longer than regulation, Nairobi traffic is awful, if you brought traffic lights to that city you could make a fortune!
Eventually through the "friendly checkpoint" with obligatory AK- 47's outside the Israeli embassy and through the gates and airport scanners we arrived in the fairview hotel, safe and sound. The hotel was excellent and looked after us so well, for me it was a constant source of guilt that we were living very comfortably and yet 10 minutes drive away there were people living in abject poverty (ones that we had come to visit), however if we had stayed with them we would put them and ourselves at risk, so I guess I had to live with it.

So first day, we had a bit of a snooze, got up had some lunch and then an opportunity to explore a bit of the country before the work began in earnest, we ended up at a crocodile farm with a tour guide who was very able at hitting grumpy crocodiles with a stick, and to be honest I wouldn't do his job is you paid me a lot more than what he would ever get paid! 
There was also some ostrich, and a reticulated giraffe (google it!) and even some rabbits who wanted their freedom, but for me the highlight was driving across the city and the country, seeing a bit of how people were living. Even with all the traffic on the road, everyone seemed to walk, there were so many people on the road. I don't think I could ever imagine people in Britain walking the distances that some of these Kenyans seemed to be walking, but I guess needs must. We are so comfortable in our safe world.

So then we began in earnest on the Tuesday morning,
Where to start? This day was a significant day that I will not forget in a hurry.
First of all we met with the compassion staff, singing "days of Elijah" was fun as Andrew one of our team used to play with Robin Mark, and he loves this song! We also sang a song called I think"thank you Daddy" and one "here I stand and I give it all to you", this is my pledge to you Lord.
in the afternoon we got in the bus and we drove to a child survival project for mums and soon to be mums, for kids from 0- 3 years old. they welcomes us with such joy and laughter it was a delight to behold! It was amazing to see the work being done there, all tied in with the local church, the kids were so beautiful, the project is all about helping the mums to stand on their own two feet and survive, the mortality rate in this project is equivalent to the mortality rate for kids in the USA, outside of the project it is far higher.
We then went on a home visit to see Benson and Jane and baby Rachel, in total they have 6 kids and they live in two rooms, they seem to have so little, but Benson was a man of peace, full of hope, he has his diploma pinned to the sheet of metal that is one of his walls where he took extra time to study theology so he could help in his Sunday school at church, his prayer request was for an end to struggle in his family's life, to get enough money for food and shelter for his family, they have to pay rent of £8 pounds a month, Benson is lucky if he earns £10 a month, Jane showed us the skills she was learning that were helping her children live, they included, washing her veg before cooking and cleaning her hands, I am deeply humbled by all my worries which in truth are "1st world problems", I am beginning to see God's heart for the poor, how he can bear it I don't know because my heart was breaking. Yet in a house so small, Benson and Jane live with joy, peace and hope, what more do we need, yet we are always striving for more, which is such a waste.

In the evening we met young adults who had come through the child sponsorship programme, we had a meal with "Helix" who was 23 years old, and the "best footballer in Kenya", he lives in Kibera the largest slum in Nairobi, the largest urban slum in Africa with a population between 1 and 2 million. Helix earns money for his family by playing football, the gangs leave him alone because he plays for the slum, at the moment he is injured and he is trying his best to earn money for him and his aunt, his mother died when he was a baby and he never met his dad, he was also full of peace, he was inspiring and it was a humbling experience for me to realise at 10pm, he was heading back on the bus to the slum and we went to our beds in the lovely hotel. Helix showed me that Compassion's child sponsorship really does work, it may not bring him out of the slums, but it brought him love, joy and peace, it gave him a reason to live and he spends most of his days returning to his project to volunteer, to give back as he has been given.

Up early Wednesday morning, long journey along interesting roads! but beautiful too, rural project in the great rift valley, where there had been a lot of violence after the 2007 elections, but man it is stunning! We got to the centre and were were greeted with the children singing a welcome song about how they were so happy that we had arrived! (we were feeling the same way!)
We were then welcomed by the pastor of the church and then there was a couple of presentations from some of the girls and they were amazing! we were just blown away by their acting talent, I was left speechless!
The project was in the grounds of the Church, it was just so natural, the church and the project working together organically and it was so empowering for all involved.
We then went on a home visit to Victor's house, where we met mum Jacqueline and his sister Joyce, mum was just hopeless, her husband had been murdered in the 2007 violence, but she seemed to be holding it together for her kids, they had moved to this area to escape the violence, she had been pregnant at the time, she had left her home as a farmer and her husband dead, her faith had left her, I couldn't blame her. Yet I sensed God at work in their lives and through the project.

we returned to Nairobi, tired but challenged, that evening we met with some of the recent graduates of the leadership development programme, this is where those who come through the child sponsorship who show exceptional ability and aren't able to fund themselves through university are taken on the LDP, this means they have funding for life and university, but also encouraged to volunteer at compassion projects and they are given leadership training to help put back into the community the good they have been given.

We sat with Eric, he was engaging, intelligent and trained! He said that one day he would be president of Kenya, I for one believed him and Lord I pray you will fulfil your plans in him. He felt equipped to deal with the challenges ahead, he along with Stafford and Vyiona the other graduates were greatly inspiring and it was just a real blessing to see that it all works, the kids are sponsored and lifted out of poverty, but they then go on to do great things in their community and for God, it is such a good method, it is clear Compassion works!

So my conclusion for this day? Obviously we are seeing the success stories, we are not meeting the "failures" or the "drop-outs", there is a plan and a scheme and it works! From sponsors to projects, with the churches and the children it all works! It is natural, it is organic, it is sensible and it is exciting!

Thursday, we were heading into the slums.last day, later start, then into the bus and we head to Mithare, 2nd largest slum in Nairobi, we travel along and as we carry on the town seems to get wilder and wilder, then we turn left and head straight down the valley into the slum, goats, kids, people everywhere, the bus gets held up in a traffic jam and we begin to get a wee bit nervous! Elijah our driver tells us to close the windows once more, "move your hands away!", just doesn't bear thinking about!

It is a false alarm however, we arrive safe and sound at the church and project compound (God's protection has been on us and around us from the start, we felt very prayed for!). Pastor Joel and the staff greet us, they have lived here for so long, and are so well known in the slum. The rain during the night has brought all the garbage down from the top of the valley onto the people and their "houses"

The staff tell us of the problems in the slums, drink, HIV, that if they don't die often women can expect to be grandmothers by the age of 36, there is an endless cycle of poverty, yet through it all we see the projects and the Church making a difference. Compassion is giving life and hope, pulling people out of poverty "one child at a time".

Pastor Joel tells us that we shouldn't come to stay, he says go home and tell others of us and support us and make a real difference! This is the challenge, as we want to be here making a difference, seeing lives changed, but it is true, with our sponsorship, letters and getting others to do the same will go much further than our own individual attempts to remove our guilt of the West.

We then enter the slums proper, venturing through the small lanes and alleys, down to the filthiest river I have ever seen, then we meet Regina in her tiny metal shack, we are there because she moved to a nicer place so the kids could play (I hate to think where they once were), we want to do so much more for her, give her what we have, yet she has joy and hope in a way that I am not sure we ever would have.

We return to the project shell shocked, but I am changed, I can feel it in my bones, I need to make a difference, I have to make a difference. We return to the hotel, we eat, we pack up and we head to the airport, we head back to reality?

This experience really is a game changer for me, I have seen such poverty and I have seen a fantastic model in Compassion of how to lift people out of poverty, to break the cycle, to grow hope and to do it with local people, not us from the west dropping in and then dropping out.

I have an duty as a follower of Jesus Christ to care for the poor, I am challenged how to do it as a person in my own back yard, but when it comes to helping those in need across the world, I will use Compassion, i will care for kids through sponsorship, prayer and love, I wish we would all take a trip to the poorest places of the world so we can see the horrors, but also see the hope and joy we can bring through fairly simple methods.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

faith in the king

Mark 4 v 34- 5 v 20
Intro- Cigars- little fires
- Question for today is what does it mean to have faith in Jesus the bringer of the kingdom of God
- Answer Martin Luther, 3 parts “Notitia” (evidence/knowledge), “assensus” (inclination/attraction) and “Fiducia” (fidelity/commitment)
- You see these all in this text
Did all this really happen?- small details, time, cushion, exact location, other boats, accurate and unnecessary
- Not hero-God myths, either sophisticated lies or historical acc
- Unflattering picture of the disciples, slow, weak, fearful.
- Gospels are strong evidence acc are of real historical events
- We can trust in the bible, faith in Christ is based on solid facts
Calming the storm- Person of Jesus, quite human and divine, tired, words of command
- Important, not human cant be our rep, divine can’t reveal God
- First set of miracles show he is all powerful, over nature, demonic, even death
- Jesus brings hope when all seems lost
- Trusting in Jesus 1)faith is all about content and information
- When Jesus says “do you still have no faith?” he is saying he has already given them plenty
- Faith is not simply belief, it requires trust
- Faith is built up by examining all evidence and trusting what you see (Notitia)
- 2) Faith includes action “still”, he is assuming they should be doing something
- Faith is not just a gift “oh you poor lads”, he is shouting! Angry not because they shouted for help, but that they doubted his love, after all he has shown them, faith is an exercise
- Supplements Eph 2 v 8-10
- Given faith, but we must exercise it, it is a muscle, don’t use it lose it! NIAGARA ANCHOR DO YOU KNOW HOW TO USE IT
- We can’t complain we don’t have faith we need to act upon it!
- Fiducia we have to be committed to the truth, despite our fears
- We need to “consider the lilies” Matt 6, think through your fears, doubt is an absence of thinking!
- 3) Faith is a matter of being attracted to Jesus, and what he has done for us
- doubt is questioning his love and power
- “Still” that is the key word! He has done enough!
- Faith is thinking, committing but also resting in the love and work of Jesus
- Biggest failure of disciples is the thought that Jesus doesn’t care, but it is the cross that confirms the love and how far he will go for us.
- Similarities to Jonah, the fear, Jesus is the true Jonah, Matt 12, consumed by the storm of God’s wrath, so we can have peace and be calm and be saved
- Jesus has calmed the only storm that can really harm us, God’s wrath, if we recognise that, we can trust him in the smaller storms.
- This is the proof that we can trust him.
Legion ch 5 v 1-20
- demonic in society, sceptics, psychological, social structures
- Jesus has the authority to rescue, he is liberator and healer
- There is an alternative to having Jesus as master
- As you submit to him as King, he brings you into the kingdom and kingdom into you!
a) Person of Jesus, ch1 showed the power of Jesus no hocus pocus, just a command, same here, simply gives permission, he is the higher power
b) Trusting Jesus 1) demons know who Jesus is, James 2 v 19, good theology, faith is more than good theology, live in trust and building life upon the truth of Jesus
2) Townspeople see how they respond! They are petrified at his power, because it meant loss of control!
- Faith is to accept losing control, to let the power of Jesus in, a good and unpredictable irresistible force
3) Cured man, begs to be a disciple, Jesus refuses and he obeys, he is called to go home and be a witness, he gladly does it with his whole heart - this is true faith, as opposed to the demons and the townspeople
- unlike the demons he bases his life on the truth of Jesus
- unlike the townspeople, he gives Jesus control of his life
- Jesus gives him a different agenda from what he wants & he accepts
- He experiences “unanswered prayer” but responds in obedience
4)Application a) Jesus wants you to go to your loved ones and tell them what Jesus has done b)Story shows us no matter the storm, how much we have messed up, how deeply enslaved, how bad our problems, JESUS SETS US FREE! THAT TAKES FAITH, daddy I can’t see you!
MAY YOU……tell others, persist in the storm, trust in your Father

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The community of the king

Mark ch 3 v 7-35
- each section of Mark reveals something about Jesus, power, purpose, plan
- ch1- authority, ch2- conflict, ch3- new community
- community!! Built through serving, teaching, preaching, training, counselling, healing and liberating
- as we read Gospel we are confronted with 1) HOW can Jesus carry this out in my life 2) How can I carry it out in the lives of others
They want to kill Jesus
- Pharisees and Herodians
- Jesus brings new community not through who you are or what you do, but by accepting what he brings!
- Tells us who his family truly is, he chooses the leaders of the community
- Leaders reject but the people do not, leaders don’t see it demons do
- One of the main themes of mark “the upside down kingdom”!
- Mention main players
- First will be last and last shall be first
The 12 disciples
- disciples are called to be “sent out” to preach and do miracles
- 12 significant? Formation of Israel= formation of Church
- NEW EXODUS! Mountain, 12 tribes, OUT OF SLAVERY
- Death of first born = death of Jesus is the liberation of the people
- Inclusive!
We as disciples
- Disciple is a serious follower, not just believe but follow. What does this mean?
- CHOSEN BY GRACE! Called by God!
- Against religion, the disciples slow, hard hearted, cowardly
- We are chosen; we are not the choice cut though! Humbling, gives security
- Not about performance but relationship
- This is what makes Christians different
- Called and sent out, preach and do deeds, all priests!
- HOW? Tell the truth, show love, uses the gifts, lead people to meet the king
- Disciple and apostle, a follower who is sent, Jesus not just meeting our needs/ to serve him in the world
- Intimacy, drives us, not academic, disciples trained by living with him
- CALLED INTO COMMUNIITY, zealot/tax collector
- Not in community not a disciple!
Rejection of family
- Family reject him, leaders reject him, relationship is spiritual
- Unforgivable sin? V 28&29
- Only way is to reject grace and not repent and reject Jesus
- Not what is expected, but proud need to beware!
Practical implications
- family? Who is family? Community of Jesus, the family of Jesus are those who follow and do his will
- Prodigal son Luke 15
- Jesus is the true elder brother, we become part of God’s family at his expense, the true big brother

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mark: The meaning of free grace ch 1 v 35- 2:17

Intro: Jesus a man of authority, to heal and forgive, which was for God alone, he ate with sinners, which was forbidden, he needed no other authority
1.ch1 v 35-39 Popularity
I. v 28, news of Jesus spread like wildfire, overwhelming crowds
A. Gets up to pray in solitary place for hours (not cut like we do)
B. After Peter tells him, he says “lets leave”
II. Why? He was for everyone
A. preacher not just a miracle worker
III. Jesus’ priorities
A. Prayer (leans on the father)
B. Balance of word and deed in ministry
C. Popularity is not a priority (quality rather than quantity is the key to Jesus’ ministry
2. ch 1 v 40-45 Leper
I. Leprosy was a term for variety of skin diseases and disorders
A. Quarantine
B. Ceremonially unclean, even when you came near (tree)
II. Leper approaches Jesus, heals not only with pronouncement but with touch
A. Surprising as not needed for physical healing (cf 2 v 10-11)
B. Surprising because Jesus opens himself to be branded unclean
III. Risky, but touch is significant
A. Not needed for the physical healing, but for the emotional suffering
B. Jesus can’t become unclean
3. ch2 v 1-5 Paralytic
I. Back to Capernaum, preaching this time, not healing
A. Doing good is not the whole of Christianity, if it was Christianity would be just like any other religion
B. It would be a matter of following examples and fulfilling ethical standards
C. But we are saved by faith in what he has done
II. We need to hear the message to believe it! Surprises persistent friends
A. Jesus forgives his sins!
B. Something more radical and basic than physical health, being right with God
C. The only thing that can really kill you is sin
D. The only cure is forgiveness
III. Jesus surprises us the readers
A. How can you forgive someone who isn’t repentant?
B. Jesus reads the motives of the heart
C. We don’t have to say things the right way, or follow a set of rules
D. Have a heart of dependence and desire to get near him
4. ch2 v 6-12 authority to forgive sins
I. third group of people surprised by Jesus
A. Religious leaders, enormous claim about Jesus, blasphemy!
B. Jesus claiming he is God
II. someone sins against you
A. costs you something
B. to forgive means you don’t expect to be reimbursed, you pay for it yourself
C. you can only forgive if a debt is against you or if you are willing to pay for someone else’s debt
III. If Jesus forgives sins, he is claiming all their sins are against him
A. every sin breaks his rules (he is rulemaker)
B. Jesus is claiming he can pay for these sins
C. Religious leaders never expected this!
5. ch 2 v :9 what is the answer to Jesus’ question?
I. Which is easier?
A. Anyone could say “you are forgiven”, need power and authority
B. Jesus says the first does the second, he heals the man
C. Jesus is saying “ I HAVE THE AUTHORITY”
6. Ch 2 v 13-17 Sinners and the righteous
I. Do the righteous not need him? This is a warning to the self righteous
A. When do you go to a doctor? When it is beyond your control
B. You don’t go just for advice, you want intervention
II. Jesus calls the sinners and the righteous
A. Sinners know they are in need of the great physician
B. Righteous think they can do it on their own! (Work hard, live a good life etc) Jesus an example not a saviour
III. Jesus can and will only help those who know they are moral failures, unable to save themselves
A. Self righteousness is in some ways the only fatal sin
B. The moral and righteous are turned off (when Christianity is explained)
C. The big “sinners” are turned on (when Christianity is explained)
7. ch2 v 13-17 Levi
I. Peter, Andrew, James and John, working class, Levi wealthy!
A. No religious type! Jesus’ call is to all!
B. Only the religiously proud exclude themselves
II. Jesus can reach and transform anyone
A. Levi’s call is not merited, it is grace!
B. Jesus’ call over all, to everyone and for everything
8. What is the theme that binds?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

“When God Increases the Uncertainty”

Series: Race of Faith
Hebrews 11:32 Gideon
-one of the great sights is Michelangelo’s David—this massive sculpture regarded as one of the great artistic achievements of all time
-what I did not know was the story behind the materials
-in the late 15th century, the Florentine sculpture Agostino d’Antonio began work on a huge block of marble
-but after several futile attempts—he gave it up as worthless
-and the block of stone—badly disfigured—lay idle for 40 years
-until a young artist by the name of Michelangelo came along and saw what it could become
-and receiving his commission—he spent the next several years sculpting his masterpiece
Those listed in Hebrews 11 represent stories of men and women who God sculpted into masterpieces of faith
-who stepped into vast unknowns
-accomplished great acts of courage
-because they took God at His word
One of those listed is Gideon—11:32
-whose life has been captured in Judges chapters 6-8
In order to understand Gideon—we must understand his world
-and here is what stands out—Gideon’s world was a mess
-no leadership, no moral compass
-everyone doing what was right in their own sight
There was this unending cycle of rebellion—retribution—repentance—and ultimately restoration
-chapter 6 describes the retribution moment (read 1-6)
-Israel’s spiritual neglect invited the Midianites
-a semi nomadic tribe of camel driving warriors from the south
-who took their formidable beasts and wasted the land, pillaged and plundered the people of Israel
-like locusts, they swept in on an annual basis and devoured anything that lived
-and seven years of terrorist campaigns had a devastating effect
-it left Israel “impoverished” (verse 6) (lit reduced to something tiny)
So they cried to God for help
-and God—as He always does—heard and spoke
-but more—He raised a deliverer (read verses 7-12)
-we’re not immediately impressed
-but then—most of those God calls are not necessarily imposing, remarkable, inspiring—Moses, Samson, Jonah, Peter
-Gideon was a simple farmer--improvising-beating out grain in a winepress—so as to not arouse the attention of the Midianites
-but God saw something in this clump of clay, mass of marble
-He saw a mighty warrior, a powerful hero, a man’s man
-who would change his world
-just as He sees something in you—something in me
-and though it may seem so contrary to what we can see
-for all we see is the clump of clay
-He nonetheless occasionally speaks into us what He intends us to be
-speaks His future into us
-calls us to what He intends us to be
-even if it sounds rather absurd at the moment
-for He sees far beyond who we are—out into what we can be when we submit to His refining work
-come to grips with His call
-as McManus puts it—“If everything else remains uncertain—be clear on
this point—there is a calling on your life”
And if we have lost faith that God continues to do this—then maybe we are not listening
And how did Gideon respond?
-the same way many of us do
-with enthusiasm, assurance, passion
-no--with skepticism, doubt, fear, and maybe even a bit of cynicism (read vs 15)
-do you know the meaning of my name Gideon—it means “hacker”, hewer?
-are you aware of my standing?
-I am in the “thinnest” clan, I am the runt of the litter (Peterson)
-I think God you have the wrong number
-and my guess—a lot of us do the same thing with this call of God
-who am I God?
-I’m just this civil servant, this teacher at King’s park, this IT guy trying to survive
-this full time mum trying to maintain a home
But God is not put off by our lack of faith
-He didn’t agree with Gideon—He doesn’t agree with us
-He keeps sculpting, shaping, forming
-Speaking His hope into us- (read vs 16)
Gideon would need some assurance—some sign from God
-Some indication this was of Him (read vs 17)
So God showed Gideon He was in this (read vss 20-21)
But Gideon needed more assurance—facing the enemy, he needed a guarantee
-something that would underscore God’s power to save (read 36-39)
-but before we shake our heads over Gideon’s lack of faith
-let’s remember that God never rebuked Gideon for this
-He quietly accommodated
-proved Himself to Gideon
-and we should remember we do the same thing
-we look for some tangible sign God is in this
-we put God to our own tests
-we want to know God is in this
-in the fog—we need an occasional glimpse of light from the shore
-we need God to assure us He has called us
-that He is working out His will in our lives
And sometimes God speaks, acts
-the fleece is wet
But before we go too far down this road
-we must realize God is often doing something as well
A. Sometimes He takes us out of our experience
-out of the safety and into the dangerous (read 6:25-26)
-He will call us to tear down our altars, destroy our idols
-the things that claim allegiance over us
-things we have built to give us security—money, possessions, careers
-He will call us to tear down anything that comes before Him
-and build a proper kind of altar
B. Sometimes He will demand we remove those things we rely on that make us self-sufficient (read 7:1-8)
-God knows our tendency to build our armies, accumulate our resources—such that we will not have to rely on Him so much
-so that we can take some of the credit
Sometimes God hears our prayers
-gives us reassurance—certainty
-and sometimes He strips us bare of sureness
-leverages the odds against us
-does things that make no sense from a human perspective
-require we travel in dark places
-because if we come to a place where it all is certain—-then faith is unnecessary
-and if faith is unnecessary—God is unnecessary
It’s when Gideon came to grips with this tension
-embraced certainty and uncertainty
-the story tells us he worshipped (7:15)
But more—something of the future entered the present (read 7:17-18)
-a doubter became a believer
-a coward—a hero
-a hider—a leader
-a farmer—a warrior
-a slab of marble—a David
Here are the questions Gideon poses—
Have you come to peace with this ongoing tension of certainty and uncertainty
-that both are necessary in this journey of faith?
-that uncertainty is where God does His greatest work?
But here’s a bigger question—
Are you convinced that slab of marble you see in the mirror is a mighty warrior in the making?
-to fight the good fight with weapons of faith, hope, love
-face our Midianites
-follow our Warrior King Jesus?

The meaning of the Kingdom

Mark 1 v 16-34
I. Kingdom of God is near
A. Who is this king? Peter Faulk, Colombo, Jesus identified, but slowly revealed by Mark
B. Nature of the kingdom what is it, how do we enter it?
In v 16-20, what do we learn about the kingdom?
I. It means coming under Jesus’ authority
A. v 16-17, authority extends to work life
B. v 19-20, authority extends to family life
II. It means drawing others into the kingdom too
A. Fishers of men v 17, metaphor for Christian discipleship
III. it means decision
A. at once they left v 18, without delay they left v 20
B. world torn open, ruptures status quo
C. Makes people choose
D. Kingdom requires a decisive act of commitment
What do vs 21-22 teach about the Kingdom of God?
I. Jesus exercises his intellectual authority
A. We must submit our ideas, philosophies, ideologies and opinions to him
B. Beliefs shape practice
II. Mark explicitly uses the term authority v 22
A. “out of the original stuff” He was brand new!
B. Teachers “thus saith the Lord” Jesus “but I say to you”
C. Amen, Amen, usually afterwards, Jesus uses to start
D. No one else ever did this, not kings, priests, prophets
What do vs 23-28 teach us about the kingdom of God? Despite modern prejudices against the idea of demon possession how does the existence of evil spirits help us explain what goes on in the world?
I. Jesus exhibits authority over demons
A. not simply a claim to authority, this is proof
B. This is exhibition of power and authority never seen before
C. No incantation, just “shut up and get out”
D. No call on higher power, he is higher power
II. Our sceptical culture
A. Fair enough for an atheist, but not consistent for a believer to believe in a good God and refuse to believe there is evil supernatural beings
B. Demonic forces explain complexity of psychological problems, many causes, moral, physiological, psychological, demonic
C. Demonic forces can explain systematic social evil. Apartheid, Rwanda

III. Misery and evil not simply because of sinful choices
C. But Jesus can heal
D. His exorcism shows how the kingdom works, not simply rule giver, but liberator and healer, he brings in the new realm of the kingdom
IV. There is an alternative to having Jesus as master
E. Not everyone possessed like this man v 23, 24
F. Ephesians 6- principalities
G. Anything we make an ultimate value becomes a master and exercises enslaving power over us (career idolatry)
H. Jesus comes in as Saviour and therefore King, as we submit, priorities change, kingdom comes in, you become new
Over what areas of life do v 29-34 show his authority? What do we lean about the kingdom here?
I. Jesus is king over the physical world
A. Teaches and heals, word and deed
B. Christians to do likewise, fishers of men from injustice
People today struggle with the idea that we must absolutely submit all of our thinking and practice to the Lordship of Christ. How can we answer a person who struggles like that?
I. we need a king, even though democratic human rights say different
A. We want someone to help us, love us, not rule over us
B. Reason for democracy not because of goodness, but reverse, no power in the hands of one
C. We no longer honour the monarchy, we honour others
D. Wear equality with others, but undress before God, C.S. Lewis
II. If Jesus is not your king, something else will be, it is how we are built
Summary, what have we learned?
I. The kingdom is comprehensive, extending over every part of life and reality
II. The kingdom of God brings healing and wholeness to any area that comes under the king’s authority
Remembering the big picture
I. Who Jesus is
A. he is the king, Christ and the Son of God, B. he is as powerful as John the Baptist said (v7), C. he has supernatural authority
II. Why Jesus came
A. To establish a new kingdom B)He holds the power over the spiritual and physical world
III. How should I respond?
A. Apathy? B. Everyone who meets him is amazed. C. The demons were violently opposed to him

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

“Faith in Spite of Failure”

Series: Race of Faith
Hebrews 11:32
Many have been captured by the current movie, Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce-a man whose heart was changed by God -and then changed his view of man—giving everything he had to end the slave trade—but according to the author Eric Metaxas—this wasn’t his greatest accomplishment--
“To fathom the magnitude of what Wilberforce did we have to see that the “disease” he vanquished forever was actually neither the slave trade nor slavery.
Slavery still exists around the world today, in such measure as we can hardly fathom. What Wilberforce vanquished was something even worse than slavery: he destroyed an entire way of seeing the world, one that held sway from the beginning of history, and he replaced it with another way of seeing the world.
Even though slavery continues to exist here and there, the idea that it is good is now dead. That is why it’s nearly impossible to do justice to the enormity of his accomplishment: it was nothing less than a fundamental and important shift in human consciousness.”
Wilberforce had to be a man of faith—who believed God for everything—even when it appeared hopeless—even when he couldn’t see how
Were the writer of Hebrews 11 still writing his chapter—Wilberforce would surely be there—alongside Enoch and Noah and Abraham and Isaac -men and women who stepped outside of their experiences
-beyond their comfort zones
-did not limit their sight to what was flesh and blood…
-to perceived certainty
-trusting God with the their lives—their futures—their possessions
-lives of risk intended to INCREASE OUR FAITH
This evening we look at the next illustration …found in Hebrews 11:32 (read)
-there is a quickening of pace
-sharp staccato beats
-no longer stories—he merely mentions names
-no longer writing—he is preaching
-what shall I say?
-preach it brother—tell it all!
-time would fail me to tell it all
-go for it brother—say it—preach it!
-I’d have to talk about Gideon and Barak, and Samson
And then—the congregation gasps
-wait a minute—have you lost your mind? Samson?
This is like arguing for Rob Bell as Calvinist of the year
- Ally McCoist to be given an oscar for his role in “shot at glory”
-my dog Skip invited to participate in crufts
-how can Samson be included in God’s Hall of Faith?
His story starts well enough in Judges 13
-verse 1 establishes the setting—Israel was in desperate shape (read verse 1)
-it was a situation of their own making
-their only hope was a deliverer—an act of God
-and there was—to a barren woman came this angelic announcement (read vss 4-5)
-there was something unusual, special about this man—like a Wilberforce in the making
-he was to be a Nazarite—a name whose very root implied separation
-set apart for God’s purposes
-marked by both diet and appearance
-and the chapter ends, telling his he became great and the blessing of God was on his life
-and the Spirit of God began to stir, disturb—shake things up inside him
Like a comedian who warms up the audience, that works to create anticipation—we’re ready for the curtain to open
-we expect something of greatness to descend on this world—as it did when
Hannah gave birth to Samuel, Elizabeth gave birth to John, Elizabeth Wilberforce gave birth to William
-we are ready for someone larger than life to excel in a religious vocation
-someone of heroic proportion, spiritual stature to come and shift the human conscience
-but from the outset, it is as if a wire got crossed
-and what transpires causes us to wonder if chap 13 and chap 14 are speaking of the same person
-we wonder if Samson’s parents picked up the right baby at the hospital
-or if they did—did they forget to inform their son of his marvelous destiny?
-for what follows is not heroic narrative—but a tragic-comedy
-and we wonder—how did he make it into the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11?
-for here’s what we find—
1. Samson from the start is a MAN OF IMPULSE (read 14:1)
-like some drunk driver—Samson runs his life with more speed than direction
-in almost every situation—he lives on the reckless edge
-in places he has no business being in-like Timnah
-the place on the other side—the land of the Philistines
-where Samson appears to be on the pull—checking out foreign women
-here is a man who knows what he wants—and he wants it now-(read 14:2-3)
-it does not matter what social protocol or Jewish law requires
-Samson is like Woody Allen—who when confronted about a controversial affair, explained—“The heart wants what it wants”
-we anticipate a man full of the Spirit—but Samson is introduced as a man full of self
-that will lead to a series of self-defeating choices
-as well as a betrayal of vows that had set him apart at birth
2. We discover a man NOT TO BE MESSED WITH
-there is a fierceness in the heart of Samson
-that intimidated his parents-manhandled lions
-in every story-Samson is the clear alpha male, the wild stallion
-the OT bad boy whose favorite movie is bad boys 2 or point break
-who spends his days letting people how tough he really is
-and with each assertion of his will- he lets people know!
Samson is the antitype of the tame, domestic, tidy, dutiful, expressive— and above all—nice man
-every episode reveals this in Samson
-look what happens at his wedding (read 14:12-19)
-this guy is a mess
-in chapter 15-Samson’s wife was given to his friend
-and Samson again will get his revenge (read verses 15-16)
-there he is—in all of his pompousness declaring—
-I have made idiots of my enemies!!
-but you can’t help but wonder—who is the real idiot?
-in chapter 16-Samson seems to be in full descent
-ruled by his passions—he seeks to satisfy his lusts (read verses 1-3)
—Samson seemed to look for intimacy in self destructive ways
The tension between Hebrews 11:32 and the narrative grows with each story
-for this thing is reading less like a spiritual biography
-and more like something in News of the world
-less like a devotional—more like a expose of Ryan Giggs
3. Samson is a man who will have the FINAL SAY
-still driven by his sexual addictions
-he finally meets up with his undoing
-her name is Delilah—whose name should have tipped him off—“flirt”
-she is a woman who is less enamored with Samson—more interested in
money (read verses 4-5)
-and in the end—she gets her way
-in the end—what goes around comes around
-whatever we invest in—we tend to get back with interest (read verses 20- 21)
-this bad boy of Israel becomes the Philistine’s trophy
-by day—a grinder in a prison
-by night—a lewd form of entertainment in the temple of Dagon
-but Samson isn’t finished—he will have the final say (read verses 25-30)
So what do we do with this?
-how do we reconcile this tragedy with Heb 11:32?
-where is the stuff of Abraham, Wilberforce?
-even in his final, mighty act—it is as self serving as all the others
“Remember me O Lord…so that I might with one blow get my revenge”
1. Maybe it is this—that Samson had the faith to lay hold of the power God had given him
-that came upon Him time and again to do what otherwise could not have happened
-three times we read-“The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power”
-and one can only imagine what would have been if he had not abused the power God gave him
-and there’s something to this
-because some of us lack the sort of faith that lays hold of what we have in
-lays hold of this—that we have also been set apart like Samson
-citizens of a different realm
-empowered by the same Spirit—such that when we seek God
-He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine— according to the power working in us
-all too many people of faith do not step out and believe this is so
-and live weak lives—that evidence little of God’s might
2. But maybe the writer of Hebrews had something else in mind
-something less obvious—yet there for sure
-that Samson’s faith was this
-that though he made a string of bad choices
-that though his usefulness was nearly over
-his manliness bankrupt
-his spirituality stamped with the words—“lost potential”
-his life marked as “squandered opportunity”
-who could have resigned himself to be some circus freak
-someone destined to spend the rest of his life grinding stones
-he nonetheless stepped out in faith and believed that God can yet use him to accomplish His purposes
And that requires great faith
-because there is something of Samson in all of us
-most of us are a mixture of spiritual promise and sinful choices
-who might be here—barely—and certainly convinced God has no use for
If God would still come upon a Samson
-how much more will He come upon us
-use us to accomplish His will through us
Ask for the gift of faith, pray for more faith, step out in faith, and though you feel that life has passed you by, see how God will come upon you and accomplish his will through you.