Saturday, July 31, 2010

Beacon Touchpaper #25: "God's Welfare System, part 3: Sent for a Purpose"

"But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." (Jer 29.7, ESV)

So far, we've looked at the welfare (= "Shalom": peace, wholeness) and seek (= discerning the needs around us) aspects of God's command to His people through Jeremiah. This month, we will understand what He meant by "sent".

Who is the greatest missionary that ever lived? Take a moment from reading this and come up with your own answer.

Was it William Carey, with his great work in India and his translation of the Bible into Bengali, Sanskrit and many other languages and dialects? Or perhaps Hudson Taylor? He spent 51 years in China, and his labours resulted in 800 Christians arriving in that country, starting 125 schools, directly resulting in 18,000 turning to Jesus! Or could it be Jackie Pullinger? Or David Livingstone? Gladys Aylward? Not forgetting the Apostle Paul of course!

Might I suggest... Jesus? He reminds us no less than 39 times(*) that He was a missionary sent from heaven to minister among us here on earth. His calling here on earth was to fulfil the mission God had placed before Him - to live a life that worships the Father above all things, to engage with the culture(s) around Him, demonstrating God's love for humanity despite our sin, and proved that by laying down His life in our place so that we don't have to. And in His resurrection and ascension to the Father's side, He secured our hope for eternity through victory over sin and death, sealing that within those of us who accept His Lordship by His Holy Spirit. He came with a mission. He fulfilled it. And He's passed that same legacy on to you and me. We've a job to do.

Remember that verse from our first Touchpaper on this subject? About how when we read in John's gospel (20:21) that Jesus saying "Peace be with you" meant "Shalom" and all its intended meaning? Read on. Jesus took it to the next step: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21, ESV) Jesus, the Sent One, is now the Sender. God the Father had reminded His people in exile in Babylon that they were not somewhere alien by accident, nor by evil man's doing, but by HIS design. And then, 600 years later, Jesus the Son reminded His people exactly the same thing. And here, 2000 years on yet again, our great God still says this same thing to you and me: "You are not where you are by chance nor by man's choice, but by design. I have a job for you. Seek the welfare of the people around you, that they might be saved and I might be glorified." Let's get to work!

(*if you want proof, I can email you the list of verses! Also found in Mark Driscoll's Vintage Church, p20)

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Monday, July 12, 2010

"Real Faith: Pleases God (Enoch)" - sermon notes for 11/07/10

(You can hear the sermon audio here)

Enoch is well known for one of the greatest disappearing acts in history. One moment he was, the next he was not.

Read Gen 5.21-24 - Enoch is well-known for one curious fact, but if we focus on that to the detriment of another facet to his story, we miss out in a big way...

In the centuries prior to Christ's arrival, the Jews were increasingly interested in heaven/angels/afterlife. Subsequently there was a lot of interest in this little-mentioned man called Enoch. He became popular in Jewish writings in few centuries before and after Jesus. His strange apparent escape from death seemed to grant him a certain mystique. Books were written in his name which were increasingly mystical (Jude 1.14 also quotes from 1st of these - not as authoritative but as example!); the 3rd even claims that he's an angel called Metatron. But Hebrews turns from this aspect of his story and zooms in on what really matters::::

Heb 11.5-6: = walked, pleased, rewarded by...

1. The PACE And The PLACE (The walk itself)

"The 11th chapter of Hebrews is not about ultimate achievement in the world's eyes; it's about holding to faith, even when the world thinks you're ridiculous" Steve Ayers

Knowledge vs faith: "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up". DEMONS WILL BEAT YOU HANDS DOWN IN A BIBLE QUIZ! Needs to be centred on and in faith. Applied. Worked out. Why was Enoch commended as one who pleased God? Twice the Genesis text says He walked with God = commended as pleasing God BECAUSE he walked with God.

God "walked" in the garden Gen 3.8 and Noah "walked with God" Gen 6.9 (=generational family values!)

Ray Stedman = "Enoch used to take long walks with God. One day he walked so far God said, 'It's too far to go back; come on home with me.'"

Ever since the Fall there's been a need to walk WITH God that has been absent. There is a value to be found in walking with God so naturally and so genuinely that we can find ourselves closer to His place than to ours. Walking = lifestyle. He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden - and that relationship was broken - but now that kingdom is at hand, we are under an open heaven, it is available to us. Right here, right now. Through Jesus.

Our sin - the things we should do but don't, shouldn't but do, and more importantly the state of our selfish heart that causes that - this sin has separated us from the perfect, one-of-a-kind, HOLY God & made us subject to the judgement that that bears. Forever. EXCEPT by His Son Jesus... Once more we can walk WITH God. No shame. No hindrance. Perfect union. Through Jesus. Walking with Him: sometimes it's a walk, a run, a climb. Wrestling or resting.

2. the PERSON:

TOM WRIGHT: without faith, you can't begin to please God... you may have a general sense that there is a supreme divine being, and you may even have an idea that this being wants people to seek Him out. But unless you have faith, unless you really believe that God exists and that he does indeed want people to seek Him, and will reward them when they do, you can't actually begin to worship Him.

Why did Enoch please God? Because his heart & his mind were in step with God. He acknowledged God as THE context. And so, He ultimately found his pleasure IN God. Finding your joy in something gives it worth. So wherever you find most joy is what you consider of greatest worth. Is that Him? Or stuff/people/dreams?

God was not Enoch's means to an end. "Loving God means I get saved, ticket to heaven/ means I can ask Him for things/ means I'm not alone". Are we loving the walk/walking more than the One we're walking with?


(John Piper illustration of 3-year old on edge of pool and Dad says, "Jump! Trust me!" It makes HIM look good, not us. And the harder it seems for him to fulfil his promise, the better he looks when you trust him.)

We give glory to God when we trust him to do what he has promised to do – especially when all human possibilities are exhausted. Faith glorifies God.

THUS: what is faith? = more than facts/knowledge. It is trust. It is more than simply knowing someone, it is whether you trust them. We cannot rely on someone else's faith or trust.

2 Cor 5.7 = memory verse! = "For we walk by faith, not by sight"

Do you have any promises God has given you that you need to act upon? Not just prophetic promises given to you, but also trusting the promises in the Bible?

Is He clearly saying something to You and you have yet to step out in faith upon it? eg giving/ commitment/ prophetic gift/ baptism/ sharing your faith with your neighbour? YOU'RE ON THE DIVING BOARD; GOD SAYS JUMP!

...walk with Him. It pleases Him. And there lies the greatest reward. Christ walked among us. Let that continue to be a reality as demonstrated in our lives, in step with him, through His Holy Spirit.

Cell Q's:

  1. How do we really know we're walking in step with God? What clarifies or endorses that? Give Biblical examples.
  2. Share stories of when you've trusted God and the lessons the rest of us can learn from that.
  3. Jesus says in John 10.10, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly"
    • What are the common misconceptions of that promise?
    • What does it really look like?
    • What is your personal response to that?

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Beacon Touchpaper #24: "God's Welfare System, part 2: Seeking to Sow"

"But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." (Jer 29.7, ESV)

Shalom! Last month we considered what is meant by "welfare" when God told His people, through the prophet Jeremiah, to seek it on behalf of the city they were living in: Shalom. Wholeness, completeness, well-being... and now we'll look at why God instructed them to actively seek it.

Who springs to mind when you think of the term "unreached people groups"? Is it people who live thousands of miles away from you? Is it people who live in a remote land, or under a communist regime, or who worship strange-looking idols? And who springs to mind when you think of the poor? Would that be people with less money than you? People who can't afford a certain lifestyle? Those who live on the streets? Might I suggest that "the poor" could also be those with money: those who drive posh cars, live in big houses, play on golf courses... Because being poor is not simply being without money. It can also be those without the Spirit.

Unreached people groups are moving into our nation in increasing numbers. They are coming to us. Opportunity knocks! From the Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe, these people are coming here to live in huge numbers. In our town and our region. Should we be moaning about that, or seeing it as opportunity to share the Gospel? Many Iranians, for example, are being saved across the UK, and determining to return home to Iran to take the Gospel back there. See? Exciting!

And yet... the phrase "unreached people group" goes even further: it can also include the disabled - over a quarter of the UK population have a long-standing health problem or disability*. How many of them are hindered in hearing the Gospel as a result? Do you know who the world's largest unreached people group actually are? It's the Deaf.

Jesus referred to words from Deuteronomy 15.11 when talking to His followers and friends in Bethany: "For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.'" IN YOUR LAND. They're here. Which is why we have a responsibility to participate in seeking the welfare - the shalom - of those around us. Look around you. Up your street. In your local shops. Where you work. Where you play. And see opportunity - amongst the poor in spirit, the unreached, the broken and the lonely - to share the wonderful news of our Jesus with those who may well have not met Him before.

*27.2% - Eurostat research results (2003), cited in OSSATE Accessibility Market and Stakeholder Analysis 2005

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