Power

I know God wants to help and heal and I expect him to help and heal. So I step out and pray for people and try to help. From time to time things seem to change for the better, but most of the time nothing much seems to happen. Basically I feel a lack of power.

Jesus  talks a lot about power. He sends his disciples out with authority in the gospels but he talks about being clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:29).

Power comes from persistence. If we just keep going spiritual force is exerted to extend God’s kingdom. There is power in God’s word, as we declare it and believe it. There is power in God’s presence. As we spend time with God and get to know him we can carry his presence more effectively into situations. There is power in excising the gifts God gives us, related I think both to the size of the gift and to the level of faith with which we wield it. There is power in prayer. Asking God for things in Jesus’ name is powerful and effective. There is also power in stepping out, getting into dark places and deep water were you desperately need God to show up or your done for. I guess I can look at all these things and look to strengthen them. But still I’m truck by Jesus words about being clothed with power.

That is not just an inner thing, revealing who God is and his love for us. That is of course a massive part of the work of the Spirit. But Jesus talks about being clothed with power. Something is put on us. Around us. Like Sigourney Weaver in Aliens when she gets into that exoskeleton to beat up the Alien Queen. She is not just operating with a new confidence or gifting. She is clothed with power.

 

 

This power is not such that we become physically invincible or incredibly intelligent. The empowered disciples pretty much all ended up dead-Well, obviously they did, but I mean in horrid ways because of their faith. But they had a very fruitful life up until that point. There were thousands saved and hundreds healed.  They burned brightly.

We are like a wick. On it’s own there is a little light, it smoulders a bit and then fizzles out. Placed in a bowl of oil and lit, it burns brighter and longer. It’s not really the wick that is burning but the oil, yet the oil needs the wick to fix the location and bring definition to the flame. I’m sure you know that the Holy Spirit is spoken of as oil in the bible so I won’t labour the point. I’ll just look for suitable picture…

lamp

Get on end in the oil and one in the world.

Quotes

 

 

A few quotes I liked and squirrelled away:

“People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” Pascal

 

NTW: “One of the reasons we do history is because it acts as a brake, a control, on our otherwise unbridled enthusiasm for our own ideas.”(*from Andrew wilsons blog I think)

 

“The issues of my heart can be fixed in a 24 hour period…before the sun goes down” Bill Johnson

 

 

“Christopher Hitchens, I had the opportunity to debate him a couple of times.  A brilliant guy. I love Christopher Hitchens. But he really was just mad at God. In fact I summed up his book at the end of both debates.I said you can sum up Christopher Hitchens’ book in one sentence. ‘There is no God and I hate him’ “ Frank Turek

 

“In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”(”The Last Word” by Thomas Nagel, Oxford University Press: 1997)” Thomas Nagel

What sets us apart is not that we recognise no God, either in history or in nature or behind nature—but that we find that which has been reverenced as God not ‘godlike’ but pitiable, absurd, harmful, not merely an error but a crime against life. We deny God as God. If this God of the Christians were proved to us to exist, we should know even less how to believe in him. Friedrich Nietzsche, in his book The Antichrist (from here)

 

“God has one ‘what’ and three ‘who’s. Jesus as two whats and one who” Frank Turek

 

 

“The point of a sermon is to grab the truth, big ideas, and pertinent details, and with passion press those into the hearts and minds of people in a compelling way by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Driscoll

 

“People want an honest pastor who takes Jesus, not themselves, seriously.” Driscoll

 

“To be biblically faithful and culturally relevant does not mean we make the gospel relevant. Rather we show the relevance of the gospel.” Driscoll

 

 

 

But what if you are wrong?

I was asked this recently “what if you are wrong and when you die it turns out that you believed in the wrong religion?”

My response was the one people usually give when presented with a hypothetical question loaded with the assumption that you are wrong. “That will not happen”. So convinced am I that my life is safe through faith in Jesus that it is a struggle to answer the question at face value. Jesus is the truth. Assuming that he is not, even for a moment, is like being asked what you would see if you turned the lights off. As Psalm 36 says “In your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9). Its hard to ask someone to imagine that something so basic to their thinking that it has come to colour everything they think, it wrong. It’s like asking “where would you live if the earth didn’t exist”? That’s a massive question.

But of course the obvious and sought after answer to the original question is “that would be awful. If it turned out that Jesus was not who he said he was and that he could not be trusted to bring me into a relationship with God as my loving heavenly Father, and safely through death into eternal life with him in the new heavens and new earth then that would be a terrible loss, at least from the perspective of the here and now.”

Its interesting that answering in such  a way seems to give some credence to the assumption in the question that Jesus may not be trustworthy. It’s made worse because Christianity is a relationship. Your asking about a person that I know and love.

How would you feel if someone said “how would you feel if your husband or wife murdered you in your sleep to get the insurance money?”. Before saying “Oh that would be simply awful” would you not say “But that would never happen. I know them. We love each other. Such a thought is inconceivable”. The questioner would have to ask the question many more times with much force, stressing the hypothetical nature of their inquiry, before you gave in and reluctantly, to humour them, or get the off your back, said “Ok, yes that would be awful. But it is not going to happen. Where are you going with this dark line of questioning?”

I know God the Father through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. These are not just theoretical beliefs, they are tangible relationships. God loves me and does not lie to me.

A better question would be “what evidence can you give me that Christianity is true”. It places the discussion in a more appropriate unbiased context. Interestingly enough that was the second question that I was then asked.

My answer to that was not the subjective experience of knowing God, but something that I felt would be more helpful for someone genuinely exploring the truth of Christianity. Now at some stage we need to take a step of faith and enter into a relationship with God but before then of course there are many things that we can helpfully consider in our quest for truth.

Christianity is an historical religion, grounded in history. Jesus really did live and die and rise again. For me the strongest evidence for this is the disciples being willing to die for their testimony that they saw Jesus physically after he died. They even had breakfast with him! They died, not just because someone had told them that Jesus was the son of God, who died and rose again (people die for that belief, and others, quite often).

No, I think their confidence in who Jesus was, and therefore their willingness to die for him, was largely on the strength of that breakfast. They saw him nailed to a cross and die. They saw him put in a sealed tomb. And then he appeared to them. Many times. And cooked them breakfast.

I wonder if they thought about that when they were arrested for  telling people about him. I wonder if as their hands were held down on wooden cross beams, they thought about that meal by the sea. I wonder if as they nails were hammered through their writes whether they had flash backs to Jesus taking up the fish he had just cooked and eating it with them. They died for what they had seen and touched. John, the disciples the Jesus loved, wrote about that “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands” 1 John 1:1.

 

PS. I Forgot how good Ravi is:

 

 

The meaning of marriage

 

People say:

“Marriage is just a piece of Paper, I don’t need a piece of paper to say I love you”.

Tim Keller says there are Two types of relationship. Covenant and consumer. You can walk away from a consumer relationship any time you want. Shop around. If something else meets your needs better then go there. A covenant relationship can lead to more intimacy not less.

He illustrates covenant relationship by pointing out that Ulasees tied himself to a mast because he knew he would go crazy for a while, but he also knew he would get over it and get to somewhere better. “He didn’t want to wreck the ship when he wasn’t thinking straight.”

“that’s what a marriage covenant does. It ties you to the mast. In most cases if you are able to stick with it it gets you into something richer, it creates something of stability”.

 

 

A marriage covenant creates freedom.

 

“If you do not know the discipline of making a promise and sticking to it you are not a free person. You are enslaved to your feelings”.Kierkegaard

 

“Only a human being can make a promises and when you do you are most free” Lewis Smeed

 

Keller talks about the mission of marriage. He asks what it is for. What is it for? and suggests that many want someone who will accept them as they are and won’t want to change them. He says, “but we all come into marriage flawed. And there are no perfectly compatible people”. Marriage will bring out the worst in you. Show the problems that are there, the incompatibilities.

One of the purposes of marriage is to help each other grow.

“When you look for a marriage partner do not look for a finished statue but a good block of marble.”

 

“The Christian view is that you fall in love with what the person is becoming.”

 

“You should be looking for someone who could be your best friend and most trusted councillor.”

 

“The secret of marriage is to be able to love your wife during seasons when you are getting very little love back. When they are sick. When they are discouraging. When they are absorbed in their own problems. They are not really serving you or noticing you or attending you. It it extremely important during those times to keep giving love even though you are not getting it back. That takes a source of love from outside….if you pull back as they pull back over the years there is no love left at all….we need to give when we are not getting back. I call it love philanthropy….to do that we need a source of love from somewhere else. The only love you can get it from somewhere else without being unfaithful is from God. …if your spouse is the main source of love income then you will freak out when they are not loving you. But if God is your main source of love income you can get through it. It all comes from Ephesians Chapter 5. Jesus loved us by staying on the cross…Jesus didn’t love us because we where lovely but he loved us to make us lovely.” Keller

 

What is the criteria for finding a good [marriage partner].

1) Someone who understands you.

2)  Someone you have already solved problems or conflicts with. And both of you think it was a good solution.

3) Marry someone of the same faith. If your faith is important you to you then someone would have to share your faith in order to understand you.

The mission of marriage is to make the other your best friend.

 

Sex says I belong exclusively to you. Every time you have sex you are re-marrying.

 

 

Making a connection, telling a story

What magic trick could you do that a blind person would enjoy? Watch this Ted talk if you want to know the answer. It’s worth it.

He told a story to talk about making connections with people.

“Magic is about making a connection, life is about making a connection”.

And I would add preaching is about making a connection. This guy talks about making a connection with people, sharing a perspective, in order to enjoy together the wonder of a magic trick. He says to make the connection you need to help people identify with you, feel that you understand them, and so share a conceptual space in which together you can enjoy the trick (for example, one way is to pretend, as a magician, that you are surprised by what is going on too. Another is to pre-empt their scepticism about your props and let them check them out for themselves). But of course it’s an illusion. The magician is not seeing the magic in the same way as the audience. In preaching however we are genuinely experiencing awe and wonder together as we see Jesus.

Good magicians also tell a story with their magic. They do not just come on and do tricks. They take people on a journey. I was intrigued as to the way this chap told a story to make his point about how to do a trick that a blind person could enjoy. In telling it he talked about what he thought, and felt and the dilemma that he had etc. All the normal marks of a good story. Plus a great twist at the end.

He talks about the difference between visual perspective and emotional perspective. Not how we or someone else looks but how they feel about the interaction. How do you know what someone is feeling? Ask. And then listen to understand. Don’t be thinking about what you are going to say next and don’t jump in with your thing before they have finished. All good advice.

Then I watched another Ted talk on telling stories by the guy who wrote the screen plays for Toy-story, Finding Nemo and Wall-e, a bugs life :

“the greatest story commandment is ‘make me care’”

The story should start with a kind of promise that it will be worth hearing to the end. The first few moments of a preach are so important too. It’s there that you need to persuade people to listen to you. That is will be worth their time and, more importantly their attention (only a few will actually get up and leave if its dull!).

“Don’t give the audience 4, give them 2+2”. Draw them in to make the deductions.

You can’t just present information. People must feel compelled to process it. To work with it. To do something with it. In preaching the truth should get us thinking “if that then this and this…” or “but if that then what about this…”.

Characters need a spine. Something that drives them. Woody’s was to do what was best for his child. Wall-e was to find the beauty.

“If things go static, stories die…because life is changing all the time”

“drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty” William Archer

He said something interesting about Woody. They were going to make him more selfish at first, I think, but in the end decided to make him friendly except with one condition. That he was top toy. That’s a very human trait. We can be nice and good as long as certain conditions are met. The key moment for Woody is not necessarily when he goes from mean to self sacrificial, but when he lays his condition down. When he says in effect “I lay down being and striving for and protecting my position as top toy”. He is sacrificing the thing he holds most dear.

“Woody’s resolve to maintain his status as “Andy’s Favorite Toy” is unraveled throughout the course of the story, until by the end he concedes that status to Buzz.  At the moment of greatest crisis (right before the rocket explodes), Woody lets someone else be in charge for once, allowing himself to be literally taken under Buzz’s wings.  From the experience of his separation from Andy, Woody comes to believe his own words, “It doesn’t matter how much we’re played with—what matters is that we’re here for Andy when he needs us.”  In the final scene we see Woody loosened up and dancing, satisfied to be part of the group rather than its leader; he’s more comfortable with himself, more chummy to Buzz, and more accessible to Bo Peep’s advances.” http://dramatica.com/analysis/toy-story

There is so much of the gospel in that character arc. God gave up his most precious son to be here for us in our need. We in turn, give up our most precious needs and enjoy living life for God. We are only truly free when we submit our lives to him.

“A strong theme is always running through a well told story”

“use what you know, draw from it…express values you personally feel deep down to your core”

“the magic ingredient, the secret source [of story telling] is can you invoke wonder.  Wonder is honest ,it is completely innocent, it cant be artificially invoked. For me there is no greater gift than another human being giving you that feeling. To hold them still for just a brief moment in their day. And have them surrender to wonder. When its tapped the affirmation of being alive reaches you to almost a cellular level…. The best stories infuse wonder”

Preaching should invoke wonder at the God who, in Jesus, gave himself up for us. We have the most wonderful story to tell.

And now fireworks night is over, here is this Christmas’s the John Lewis advert:

It invokes wonder, magnified through the eye of a child. It moves emotions. It makes us care what happens in the end. And as well as getting us to buy more things, possibly from John Lewis, it raises money for Age UK.

The strap line and the story is ultimately “Show someone they’re loved this Christmas”. That is of course the heart of the Christmas message. God so loved the world that he gave his only son. So that we would not be permanently excluded from his presence but accepted and brought near.

And now for something completely different, one final TED talk – you can draw!

Another proof and another book…

The next proof copy of my book is shipping today. I’m hoping that there won’t be too many more errors when it arrives. After a number of revisions I’m feeling happy with the cover now. Thanks everyone for all the feedback.

doublepagecover2web

I’m wanting to get on with the next book now. It’s working title is “Faith Fuel”. Hopefully it won’t take another 6 or 7 years to complete!

faithfuel

 

 

Peter Hitchins : “Selfism”

 

 

Interesting discussion on Q&A with Peter Hitchens and Germaine Greer, etc

Q: Peter, you have bemoaned the moral decline of Great Britain. Is is the decline of Christian values that you are talking about?

A: Well Christianity more of less collapsed in Europe after 1914 and the first world war. And when it ceased to exist all kinds of other things rushed in to take its place. Mostly what has rushed in to take its place is what I call selfism. The idea that we are all sovereign in our owns bodies, no one can tell us what to do with our own bodies, that everything that we do is ok. Provided we think we aren’t harming anybody else. Quite often the truth is we are harming everybody else but we are hiding it form ourselves.

Q (from a lady on the panel) : But who gets to decide what is corrupt (me – great question!) …  where do you draw the line? It seems totally arbitrary.

A Peter: Where do you draw the line? You draw the line fundamentally as far as I am concerned round about the sermon on the mount. And those instructions given to us. And I have absolutely no shame in saying that the Christian religion is the most precious possession the human race had, which large parts of the world is now busily throwing away.

Audience Question : What is the most dangerous idea that could change society for the better

Peter: The most dangerous idea in human history and philosophy remains the belief that Jesus Christ was the son of God and rose from the dead. And that is the most dangerous idea you will ever encounter.

Moderator : Just quickly, I think you can’t really leave it there. Why dangerous?

Peter : I cant’ really leave it there? Because it alters all of human behaviour, and all our responsibilities, it turns the universe from meaningless chaos into a designed place where there is justice and there is hope, and therefore we all have a duty to discover the nature of that justice, and work towards that hope. If you reject it it alters you as well. It is incredibly dangerous, that is way so many people turn against it.