One big theme from today was reaching out to and caring for the poor. In the first session Scott Marques worked through Matthew 16:13-20, talking about the three dynamics of Gods kingdom you find in the passage. Gods passion for the poor and lost, Gods passion for the Church, and Gods passion for the nations.
I was particularly touched by Scotts challenge to bless those around us, especially those who are against us. God purposes to bless us, but also to bless the nations through us, so its our job as Christians to actively seek to bless people around us in any way possible!
The theme of caring for the poor was David Strouds focus in the third session, and he took us on a wonderful journey through Isaiah 58, provoking us to rethink the importance of the poor in our lives. Isaiah makes it clear that although Israel are fervently praying, fasting and desiring after God, they were not close to God because they didnt care for the poor among them.
Caring for the poor around us is a clear and essential evidence of true faith and obedience to God. It isnt something we tack on once everything else has been finished, caring for those around us is an essential part of being Church. Its also an essential part of our individual lives, and I was particularly challenged by Davids call to first ask what can I do to help? instead of the perhaps more natural cry of what can the Church do to help?
It was also great to hear David unpack the wonderful positive results of caring for the poor. Not just the obvious benefits to those around us, but also the fact that God promises to particularly bless his people when they do care for the poor.
So we’ve arrived in Brighton and are just going to chill out for the rest of the day. Later on all of us (which is 14 of us mobilise lot, plus Richard) will be eating together and generally having a relaxing and fun evening.
Tomorrow morning the conference kicks off, and I will be blogging about the week as it happens. I’m not really sure how many other people are blogging about mobilise itself, I know of quite a few ToaM live bloggers, but not so many of the young ‘uns.
I’m really looking forward to an exciting week, and I’m especially pleased that there are so many of us together from King’s Church to share the experience and then bring it all back up to Leicester together.
In case you hadn’t noticed, there is an election happening right now. I had the pleasure of speaking from Romans 13 this morning on government and our submission to it. My hope is that I managed to encourage a bunch of people to get engaged with politics, to realise that as Christians we have a unique role to play in the way our country is ruled.
Our purpose as Christians is not to overthrow government, and it certainly isn’t to use government to impose Christianity upon the nation. Our main purpose is to share the gospel, and we do not do that through politics. However we do have to deal with government, and the Bible is pretty clear on how government should function.
Romans 13 describes a government which is a terror to evil conduct, and approves of good conduct. Our government should be like that, it should deal with good and evil on those terms. We live in a democratic country where we are able to influence government very easily. So we should be engaging with and influencing the authorities in the UK in such a way that they become a government that approves of good conduct, and punishes evil.
We should be sharing with our government exactly what we understand to be good and evil, and how they should be dealing with those things. We should be voting on those terms, so that the government which ultimately will have control in a weeks time is a government which deals with good and evil correctly. We should not leave it there either, after the election we should continue to engage with our rulers in such a way that we show them what the Bible has to say about good and evil. We need to show government what their job is.
If you like, you can have a listen to the whole talk here:
Well, OK, it kind of is. But more importantly it’s also about the resurrection!
The Cross is a beautiful place, where Jesus became sin for us so that we could live and have freedom to worship God. I love the Cross and I go there often because I need constant reminding about where my strength comes from.
The resurrection is better though. Without the resurrection the Cross would be an empty gesture, without any power to save. The fact that Christ rose again is absolutely essential, and the resurrection is what we celebrate at easter. On good friday Jesus’ died, and on easter sunday he rose again.
We celebrate Sunday, as the completion of what began on Friday.
So Genesis 6-8 is all about the flood, Gods judgement on a corrupt world. Noah is singledout by God because “Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD” (6:8). Indeed in the next verse he is described as a righteous man,blameless in his generation.
Now you might think that having been given such high praise God might be pretty pleased with the situation post-flood. We are left with a single group of people, being led by a man who walked with God. It would be easy to think that Gods promise that “I will never again curse the ground because of man” (8:21) flowed out of hope that he would not need to, that man had learnt his lesson from the flood.
This is not the case, 8:21 reads in full
And when the LORD smelledthe pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of mans heart is evil from his youth.Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.
The reason God promised not to curse the earth again because of man was that he looked at Noah and co., and realised that he would have to. Mans heart is evil from his youth, so the corruption of humanity was inevitable.
So often the rainbow is described as a reminder of Gods mercy and grace, and thats brilliant. But lets not forget that it is also a reminder of our corrupt and evil hearts which led to the near destruction of the planet. Praise God that in his mercy he came up with another plan, praise God that he sent his son instead of the second flood we deserved.
It would be easy to look at Genesis 3-4 in a negative light. In these two chapters you find the fall of man with accompanying curse. You also shortly afterwards discover the murder of Abel and a further curse upon Cain.
These chapters are filled with devastation, the paradise of Eden is lost and humanity is torn apart.
But in the midst of that I cannot help but be overwhelmed by Gods love and mercy. Adam and Eve were told that they would surely die if they ate the fruit, and this is true, they did die. But God was merciful and did not kill them immediately, instead he clothed them and sent them away. Not only that, but he also blessed them with children as evidence that he would allow them to continue their task.
And Cain, who was cast intothe wilderness to wander for the rest of his life, was also protected by God. A mark was put on him so that no one would kill him, and he had children, a brief genealogy is listed in chapter 4.
Gods great mercy shines through in the early chapters of Genesis, despite the immense disobedience of man. Praise God.
On any given Sunday it is not sufficient to claim your words are Biblical and true. You must also demonstrate that they are Biblically grounded and true by drawing them out of the text you are preaching.
If you don’t, then one of the two the following things happens:
People don’t believe you – And why should they? Human wisdom is empty and meaningless compared to God’s, so unless listeners can see the truth in the words of Scripture they have no reason to trust what you are saying. The sad thing is you are probably saying true things which are found in scripture, but without that authority behind you words people will ignore you.
People do believe you – Whilst the first option is sad, this is downright dangerous. If listeners are taking everything you say as gospel truth but can’t see how it comes directly from the Bible then you are cultivating disciples of yourself, not of Jesus. People must be shown that truth comes from Scripture, not from men. I pray that people would never quote me, I pray that they would see me quote scripture and do the same.
And if you are a listener, then you have a part to play as well. Weigh everything against Scripture, get your Bible open and keep it open, check that it really does say that on those pages. Make notes not just of what is said, but which chapter and verse it comes from.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”