Thursday, 31 May 2012

Trinity Sunday/Diamond Jubilee Sermon by Glen Scrivener

This is a fantastic sermon by Glen Scrivener - which was so good I thought I'd post here on this site.  To read more of Glen's sermons & thoughts click HERE

“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”
So said Princess Elizabeth to the whole British Empire on her 21st birthday.  The year was 1947.  And as we look back on her 60 years as Queen, who can deny that her long reign has been devoted to “service.”
What an incredible marker for a monarch!  Not power, or wealth, or prestige, but “service.”
The Queen is not simply Head of State, Head of the Commonwealth, the Fount of Justice, Head of the Armed Forces, the Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.  She is also patron of over 600 organisations and charities.
And, routinely, Queen Elizabeth II is referred to as this country’s greatest public servant.  A sovereign who serves.  What’s her motivation?
She has told us.  In her Christmas message of 2000 she said this:
For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.
The Queen is following the example of Christ: the ultimate Sovereign who serves.  And this evening I just want to think about that remarkable combination of sovereignty and service.  Because there’s a reason we respond so positively to Sovereign Service.  When our Rulers are servants they show us something very profound.
Today is not only the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.  In the Church Calendar it’s also Trinity Sunday.  Today, ministers all over the world attempt to put words to the truth that our one God is Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Trinity is the truth that God is a unity of three – a tri-unity – a Trinity.
But perhaps you’re thinking, what on earth does the doctrine of the Trinity have to do with our Jubilee Celebrations?  Actually Trinity Sunday and the Queen’s Jubilee truly belong together.  Because with both we are dealing with that wonderful combination of sovereignty and service.  Let me explain…
John’s Gospel begins with these famous words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
If we were in any doubt about who the “Word” is, our song has just told us.  Jesus is the Word of God the Father from before the world began.
So John introduces his biography of Jesus by affirming that Jesus did not merely found a religion, He founded the universe.  Jesus, “the Word”, existed before the world began, with God His Father and with the Holy Spirit.  So John gives us a picture of “the beginning” that is unlike any the world has imagined.
The world’s creation myths are full of conflict, killing and chaos.  They speak of wars in heaven, or cosmic storms.  Powers collide and the universe is the debris.  But John casts a very different vision.  In the beginning, there was love.
That’s the doctrine of the Trinity in a nutshell: “In the beginning there was love.”  Because in the beginning there was the loving relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Before there were people or planets or protons, there was love.  Love is the one thing God didn’t need to create because God is love.  The Father has always loved His eternal Son in the joy of the Holy Spirit.
And so at this Jubilee Celebration we remember that the Sovereign of Sovereigns is not a heavenly Tyrant – a distant individual, ruling in splendid isolation.  Before there was anything to rule, the Father, Son and Spirit related.  Their life is a life of caring, sharing, give and take, back and forth.  Before God’s life was a life of sovereignty over the creation, God’s life was a life of serviceamong the Persons.  The Father pours His love and life into the Son in the power of the Spirit.  The Son offers up His love and life in the power of the Spirit.  The very essence of our Sovereign IS service.  God’s life is a life of mutual self-giving.
We have a saying don’t we: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Well apparently not.  Apparently the absolute power in this world is not a corrupt Dictator, but a loving Family in which service is supreme.  Do you start to see why Trinity Sunday and the Jubilee belong together?
Because of Trinity, no wonder we’re so attracted to the Queen’s humble example.  The servant-heart of the sovereign is a glimpse of something holy.  Because of Trinity: sovereignty and service belong together.
Now imagine if this were not the case.  Imagine if God were just a solitary individual. Think of him there “in the beginning”, with no-one and nothing besides him, just his own thoughts for company.  Such a god could not be a god of service.  There’s no-one and nothing for this god to serve.  There’s no caring or sharing.  This god would be defined by supremacy, not by love.
But not with Trinity.  With Trinity: service IS supreme.  With Trinity: self-giving is ultimate reality.  With Trinity: God is love.
And this love was too good to keep to themselves.  In John 1 verse 3, we see that the God of love wanted to share.  John writes:
Through the Word all things were made.
This is where we’ve come from.  From the overflowing life of the Father, through the Word – the Lord Jesus – in the power of the Spirit, the world was born.  It was as if the Father, Son and Spirit had said “This thing is too good to keep to ourselves.”  And so a world is made, that we might share in their love.
What’s the meaning of life?  It seems like such a bold question, but Trinity Sunday has the answer.  Trinity Sunday tells you: “God is love and you’re invited.”  The meaning of our lives is to be drawn into the love which both predated and produced the universe.  The meaning of life is to come home to the ultimate Royal Family.
Some of you, I’m sure have met the Queen.  Some of you have been honoured by the Queen.  One of her titles is “The Fount of Honours”.   For one thing, she writes to those who make it to 100 and to 105.  She also congratulates subjects on their diamond wedding anniversaries, as well as 65th and 70thanniversaries.  I won’t ask any of you if you’ve been so honoured.  But I can only imagine how proud a person must feel to appear on the New Years Honours List or the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Yet however wonderful that is, there’s something much greater.  The Queen can bestow honours on you, she can even make you a Lord or a Baron or a Knight.  But she can’t make you her child.  She can’t give you her inheritance.  She won’t adopt you into her family and take you home to the Palace.  That’s not how it works.
But with Jesus, there’s an honour that is out of this world.  He can and He does invite us home.  This is the meaning of our lives – not simply to be honoured by Jesus but to be adopted by Him INTO His loving Family life.
John chapter 1 verse 10 says this:
10 Christ was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-
The Son of God offers Himself to us.  All who receive Him are invited into His life.  We receive His Father as our Father and His Spirit as our Spirit.  God is love and Jesus invites us INTO the God of love.
Did you think Trinity was a dry, academic doctrine?  Did you think it was a tortuous logical problem? Did you think it was something impossible to understand?  No.  Trinity is the good news that God is love; that the ultimate sovereignty is self-giving service; and that we exist to find our place in their love.
Do you know how it happens?  It happens through the meekness of the Monarch.
Famously, John chapter 1 verse 14 says:
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, we have seen His glory, the glory of the only begotten Son who came from the Father full of grace and truth.
How do we enter into Christ’s life?  He entered into ours.  The Word became flesh.  Our Maker became a man.  A member of the Trinity became a member of the human race.
It’s the ultimate riches to rags story.  We all know the fairytales of Princes becoming paupers.  Well the myth is a reality.  The true Monarch did empty Himself.  As Philippians chapter 2 says “Christ Jesus made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!”
We love to hear stories of Royals who climb down off their thrones.  Apparently on V-E Day, Elizabeth and Margaret escaped out into the celebrations in London.  They wandered around anonymously, enjoying the moment along with the rest of the people.  The Queen still likes to get out anonymously – sometimes visiting a West End show with Prince Philip.  Only rarely are they spotted.
We like to hear about our Royals moving among us as commoners.  But what about the ultimate Royal becoming the ultimate commoner.  Incredible!
From heaven to earth, and not just to earth, He became a single cell in Mary’s womb.  And then a wriggling baby on the straw.  And then a defenceless refugee, on the run from Herod.  And then a builder’s labourer.  And then a penniless preacher.  A homeless dissident.  A stooping servant.  Yet He descends even further to be a victim of cruelty and injustice.  And finally a human sacrifice – dying a godforsaken death on the cross.  Never has anyone so Mighty become so meek.  Here is our Ultimate Sovereign – the ultimate Servant.
And because this is Trinity Sunday we see the true nature of Christ’s sacrifice.  Trinity Sunday tells us: Jesus is not just an example of human service.  He is God the Son.  He is our Maker.  His arms outstretched to the world are God’s arms – and they are opened for you.
What does Majesty look like?  When we think Majesty, we think Palaces and Crowns and Thrones.  Christ traded His palace for a manger.  His crown was made of thorns.  His throne was His cross.  The Great Prince became a Pauper.  More than a Pauper – a Bleeding Sacrifice.  And He did it for you.
For almost 2000 years the church has used a simple phrase to describe the Christian message.  It just says this: He became what we are, so that we might become what He is.
He – the Son of God – became flesh.  He entered into our predicament with all our sufferings and sins.  But He didn’t flinch.  He entered in and became what we are.  Why did He do it?  So that we might become what He is – a child of God.  The Son of God became human so that we humans can become children of God.
These are the Royal Honours that Jesus wants to bestow.  He is the true ‘Fount of Honours’ and He can bring you in to the ultimate Royal Family.
But His invitation requires a response.  It means a reality check for each of us.  We must realize that we live in a broken world with broken hearts and broken lives.  We need to acknowledge that our lives, naturally, are estranged from God’s Family.  That we need the forgiveness which Christ offers through His death.  We need Jesus in order to be reconnected to the love of God.  Do you recognize that need?
It’s something the Queen articulated so beautifully last Christmas.  Her televised message was, surely, the greatest Christmas sermon preached that day.  Perhaps you heard it.  She spoke of our need for Jesus – our need for forgiveness.  She said this:
Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed.
God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.
Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.
In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer:
O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin
And enter in.
Be born in us today.
It is my prayer that on this [Christmas] day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.
What a preacher our Queen is!  Do you have room in your life for the love of God through Christ our Lord?  He is offered to you, to forgive all your sins, to reconnect you to the Father, to give you His Spirit, to adopt you into the life and love of God.
The Ultimate Sovereign became the Ultimate Servant for you.  Our Queen trusts Him as her Saviour.  Do you?
John writes:
To all who receive Jesus, to those who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God.  (John 1:12)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Importance of Praise - Psalm 113

There was a preacher that was trying to sell his horse. A potential buyer came to try out the horse.  "Before you start" the preacher said," you should know that this horse has been trained to respond to certain instructions. Go is ‘praise the lord’ and stop is ‘amen.’"

So the man on the horse says "Praise the lord," and the horse starts to trot. The man again says "Praise the lord," and the horse starts to gallop. 

Suddenly he spots a cliff a few feet in front of them and the man yells "Amen!!!" The horse stops just at the edge of the cliff. The man wipes the sweat from his brow and says, "Praise the Lord."

The word praise is repeated six times in the nine verses of Psalm 113, and the phrase ‘Praise the Lord’ four times, emphasing the importance and centrality of praise in worship. 

As Christians, praising God is our primary calling in life.  As the psalmist writes ‘Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.’ (Psalm 113:2-3)

CS Lewis said “we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.” 

We should give our praise and worship to God, not only when we’re feeling good, or things are going well, but also when times are tough.  But for many that may sound like an oxymoron – how can we praise God when it feels as though everything around you is going wrong?  How can we praise God, when the doctor has delivered some bad news?  How can we praise God, when just getting through the day is as much as we can cope with?

The psalmist goes some way to answering this question, because in praise and worship we turn the attention from our own problems and difficulties, and focus instead on God, and recall all He has done, and remembering his promises, which kindles and keeps hope alive. 

The psalmist writes that the Lord is exalted over all the nations, and his glory is above the heavens, and the Lord notices his people, ‘He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap’ (113:7)  This is the God who does not abandon or forsake his people, but the God who loves and cares for each one of us. 

If we praise God, it starts to permeate other areas of our lives, and it helps draw us closer to God, and to the peace that only he can give, because worship changes us.  It fills our hearts with gratitude for what God has done for us, it reminds us of our status as the adopted sons and daughters of God, and the promise that we will never be abandoned, and that here is a God in whom we can trust. 

Monday, 28 May 2012

For the journey - Genesis 12:1-8 & Luke 14:27-33

There is a famous expression ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’. It is certainly true of these individuals:

In August 1980 Tonino Lacordia tried to break out of prison.  He managed to clear the wall of Madonna Del Freddo jail, but badly sprained his ankle in the process.  He hobbled into the countryside, and after several miles knocked on the door of a remote cottage.  The door was opened by the very policeman who had arrested him some weeks earlier, and who had rented this cottage for a holiday to get away from it all. 

If you think he was unlucky, listen to the story of the two inmates who managed to escape from the Gulph Correctional Centre in February 1981.  They managed to climb the fence and sprinted down the road, where they saw a hall, which they thought would be a good place to hide out.  What they didn’t know was that in the hall were 100 prison officers from the correctional centre they had just broken out of, holding a seminar.  The two inmates didn’t recognise the staff training officer, and asked if he could call them a cab, and were surprised when they were simultaneously arrested by 37 familiar prison wardens.

The third story is of a man who escaped from Northeye Prison in 1981 by hiding in a van full of vegetables.  After an invigorating ride through the Sussex countryside the van turned a corner and came to a halt.  When the van had been unloaded and the warders had all gone, the prisoner crawled out to find he was now in Lewes prison.

Failing to plan, is planning to fail!

When going on a journey planning is clearly very important.  When I lived in Cumbria, I was often saw people climbing the fells in completely inappropriate footwear, and inadequately equipped for the changeable Cumbrian weather.  Making sure you have everything you need, to sustain you on that journey, and to keep you safe, is of vital importance. 

It is also important that we plan and prepare for the faith journey, and that is our theme today, as we continue to explore what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus emphasised the importance of carefully counting the cost of being his disciple, because there is no point starting a journey if we are not prepared to finish it. 

Our OT reading tells the story of the call of Abram, where God called Abram to leave everything that was familiar to his, his home, his country, his people, and journey to a distant land. As anyone who has ever moved home or moved country knows, this is no easy thing that Abram was being asked to do.  It would be a challenge at any age, but even more so for Abram who we’re told was 75 years old, and his wife Sarai, even older.

As we look at the story of Abram’s journey of faith, we can discover the things that he packed in his spiritual suitcase, and the things that can help us on the journey of faith.

They are obedience, trust and patience.


One of the first things to go into our spiritual suitcase is obedience.  Learning to be obedient to God is one of the most important things we can do as Christians.  Oswald Chambers, a Christian minister and writer said “The golden rule for understanding in spiritual matters is not intellect, but obedience.” 

But learning to be truly obedient to God is not without its cost. For Abram, obedience to God’s call meant venturing from the security of the known into the unknown.  He was being called to leave his home in the city of Ur, a lively, vibrant, wealthy city, rich in culture and learning, and travel to an unknown land.  If we are serious about being obedient to God, we need to recognise there can be a cost involved.  As Jesus said whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.’ (Luke 14:27) 

Being obedient means being ready to hear and respond to God’s call, and  follow wherever he leads.


What enabled Abram to be obedient to God’s call was that he trusted God.   And trust is the next thing that we need to pack into our spiritual suitcase.

The reason Abram trusted God, was because he knew God to be faithful, and that God would not abandon or forsake him. The 20th century theologian, Karl Barth said “To hold to God is to rely on the fact that God is there for me, and to live in this certainty.

Christian discipleship is exactly that, learning that God is there for us, and learning to live in that certainty. 

Just before Abram began his journey to his new home, God gave him three promises. 
1          That he will make Abram into a great nation, to bless him with land and with descendants
2          That he will make Abram’s name great
3          That all the peoples on earth will be blessed through Abram

But when you think about it, the fulfilment of God’s promises must have seemed so unlikely.  Consider the age of Abram and his wife Sarai, who we are told was barren, so how could Abram become the father of a great nation?  Furthermore the land God promised Abram was home to a hostile culture and people, how could he ever expect to take possession of such a land?

But despite all of this, Abram trusted God.  He realised that what for us may seem impossible, for God is possible.  The great church theologian Augustine of Hippo, who died in the fifth century said “Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love and the future to God’s providence.”  This was the important lesson Abram learnt, and the lesson we too need to learn. 


The third item that we should pack for the journey of faith is patience. 

The journey from Ur to Canaan, would have been long and arduous, and it would be even longer before God’s promises to make Abram’s descendants into a great nation would finally be fulfilled, and so Abraham had to learn to be patient. 

Amongst my many failings, is my lack of patience, I’m not good at waiting.  In a world of instant communication and internet shopping, we are losing the skill of waiting.  I identify with this prayer, “Dear God give me patience, and give it to me right now!” 

But God’s ways of working are different to our own, and God’s timing is different to ours, and therefore learning to be patient is a very important spiritual discipline.  The poet Chrstina Rossetti said ‘Obedience is the fruit of faith; patience the bloom on the fruit.

Waiting is God’s school, wherein we learn some of his most valuable lessons for us.  For example Paul originally wanted to be delivered from his suffering in prison. But after the long wait, he learned that God was glorified more, by him remaining imprisoned. 

As Paul discovered, patience is often learnt through trials.

A young man went to an older believer to ask for prayer. "Will you please pray that I may be more patient?" he asked. The aged saint agreed. They knelt together and the man began to pray, "Lord, send this young man trials in the morning; send this young man trials in the afternoon; send this young man...."

At that point the young Christian blurted out, "No, no, I didn't ask you to pray for trials. I wanted you to pray for patience."

"Ah," responded the wise Christian, "it's through trials that we learn patience."

Patience is one of those character traits that grows over time rather than being given to us overnight.  And as we develop patience in our Christian lives, we begin to see how to make it over the long haul, and we come to realise that God will work in his own time.

Obedience, trust and patience, are three of the most important things that we need to pack into our spiritual suitcase, to help us on the journey of faith.  But they are of course not the only things we need to pack. 


When Abram journeyed to his new home in Canaan, he didn’t travel alone.  The Bible mentions that Abram took with him his wife Sarai, his nephew lot, and “the people they had acquired in Harran” (Genesis 12:5)  We are not talking here about just a few people, but potentially hundreds of people, because in Genesis chapter 14 Abram was able to muster 318 men all born in his household, to come to the aid of Lot, who had been captured by their enemies.  Abram was not expected to make the journey alone.

And we are not expected to make the journey of faith on our own either.  That is why we are given the church family, to support and encourage one another along the way.  In addition we have the scriptures, prayer, worship, and the Holy Spirit, to nourish and feed us on the journey.   

The first Christians were called people of The Way.  It is a reminder that the Christian faith isn’t something static, but that we are on a journey, a journey of discipleship, a journey of faith and discovery.  And we have been given tools and resources by God, to assist us on that journey, so that through obedience, trust and patience, we too can discover God’s plans and purposes for our lives, just as Abram discovered for his life. 

Queen's Diamond Jubilee: Living Faith Article

Walsall Advertiser Living Faith Article: Published 31 May 2012

This weekend events will be taking place across the borough to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.  The only other British monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee was Queen Victoria in 1897.

The world has seen a lot of changes during the sixty years of the Queen’s reign.  When she came to the throne on the 6 February 1952, Winston Churchill was Prime Minister and Britain still had an Empire.  Six decades later the world is a very different place, but through all the political and economic change and upheaval, the Queen has been a constant presence.

Throughout her long reign, the Queen has always had a very strong sense of duty and calling, and at the age of 86 shows no signs of slowing down.  In a speech given to both Houses of Parliament in March she rededicated herself to "the service of our great country and its people now and in the years to come."

This strong sense of duty and calling is rooted in her deeply held Christian faith.  In her Christmas broadcast in the year 2000 she said “For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.”

Jesus said he came to serve and not to be served; as we celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we can see how this sense of calling to serve the people of this nation and the Commonwealth continues to inspire and motivate our Queen.  Long may she continue to reign! 

This specially composed prayer will be used in the Jubilee Thanksgiving Service in St Paul's Cathedral on Tuesday, 5 June:
God of time and eternity,
whose Son reigns as servant, not master;
we give you thanks and praise
that you have blessed this Nation, the Realms and Territories
with Elizabeth
our beloved and glorious Queen.
In this year of Jubilee,
grant her your gifts of love and joy and peace
as she continues in faithful obedience to you, her Lord and God
and in devoted service to her lands and peoples,
and those of the Commonwealth,
now and all the days of her life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Equipped For Discipleship

Two nuns in Middle East break down on road – only thing they have to fill up car with petrol is a potty – walk to garage, collect petrol, and start filling up the car – two wealthy sheiks pull up in their car – watch the nuns, and say, “Although we don’t share your religion, we greatly admire your faith.”

During the course of this year, we are thinking about discipleship.  Last week I described discipleship as a journey, and I talked about some of the things we need to pack into our spiritual rucksack, to help us along that journey, they were obedience, trust & patience.
But another essential thing that is required is fuel for the journey.  Without fuel we won’t get very far. 

Last year, when driving back through France to catch the ferry home, with more than 30 miles still to go, the fuel gage on the car registered as empty. With no petrol stations where we could stop to fill up, we had a very nervous time wondering whether we would actually make it to the ferry, or would run out of fuel on the motorway.  By the time we reached Dunkirk, I’m sure that the car was running on diesel vapours – the relief to find a petrol station that was open was immense.

For the Christian journey we also need fuel for the journey, to keep us going in our Christian faith.  The key thing that we need in our lives is the Holy Spirit, because it is the Holy Spirit who equips us and resources us for our journey of discipleship.  Without the Holy Spirit in our lives, we would be like a car without any fuel.  We wouldn’t go very far.
Today it is Pentecost Sunday – one of the most important days in the Christian year, the day when God poured out the Holy Spirit on his church.

Just before his crucifixion Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to his followers, in John chapter 14 we read: “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:15-18) 

And after his resurrection Jesus again promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, when he told his disciples to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

And so on the day of Pentecost – the Jewish harvest festival, ten days after Jesus returned to heaven, Jesus followers were all gathered together in one place, when suddenly God’s Holy Spirit came upon them. 

When the spirit came it was extraordinary, it was like a tropical rainstorm, they heard a gale, it was not a real gale, but it resembled one.  It was the invisible power of God’s breath, breathing new life into the disciples.  And what seemed to be tongues of fire came to rest on each of them, and they were filled with God’s power.

And with the Holy Spirit came an extraordinary transformation.  First of all they began to speak new languages, languages they had not learnt, but were given to them.  And they were also suddenly filled with a new boldness and courage, which they had not had before, and they went out and started preaching to all the people who were gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost.  The people who heard them were amazed, because they were able to speaking to them in their own languages.

At the start of that day, it was estimated that there were no more than 120 Christians, but by the end of that one day, more than three thousand people became Christians  - now that is what I call church growth!

What we need to remember is that the Holy Spirit that we read about here in Acts, is the same Holy Spirit that is at work in the world today.

The Holy Spirit is not a blessing from God, He is God.  God’s very presence with us.  And the gift of the Holy Spirit is for each one of us. In the book of Joel in the Old Testament, God says:

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
(Joel 2:28-29)

God pours out his Spirit regardless of sex (‘sons and daughters . . . men and women’); regardless of age (‘old men . . . young men’); regardless of background, race, colour or rank (‘even on my servants’). God pours out with great generosity his Holy Spirit on all his people.

Peter on the day of Pentecost stood up in front of the crowds and told them that ‘The promise (of the Holy Spirit) is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’

It is the Holy Spirit at work within us, that enables us to grow and mature as Christians.  The Holy Spirit is like the wind – you can’t see the wind, but you can feel it, and see how it affects things around you, and the same is true of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that we experience the reality, presence and power of God in our lives. 
The Holy Spirit equips us for our Christian journey.  Through the Holy Spirit the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control grow in our lives.  Through the Holy Spirit we also receive spiritual gifts such as the gift of faith, gift of healing, speaking new languages, words of wisdom and words of knowledge, the gift of generosity and serving, the gift of prophecy and leadership and much more.  These are the tools that help us not only to grow as Christians, but also help us to serve others. This is why Paul writes ‘Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.’ (1 Cor 12:7) The gift of the Holy Spirit is given to us, so we can play our part in growing God’s kingdom. 

What God desires for each of us is that we are filled with his Holy Spirit.  Being filled with the Holy Spirit, isn’t something that happens once, but something that needs to happen again and again.  Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, says keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit, he implies a continuous action, we need to get filled again and again. 
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is very simple, we just ask for it.  Jesus said Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:9-13 

There is no limit to God’s generosity when it comes to giving us the Holy Spirit, He wants to pour His spirit into us, so that we can be transformed by the power of God’s spirit at work in us, and in being transformed, can play our part in helping to transform the world.

In many countries around the world the church is growing at a tremendous rate, for example in China around 10,000 people EVERY DAY, are becoming Christians.  The key to this extraordinary growth is the Holy Spirit, because amongst these Christians there is a real hunger and desire for God. 

And through the church truly extraordinary things are happening.  For example the city of Cali in Colombia, was known as being the drug capital of the world, it was a city in the control of the drug cartels, corruption was rife, as was violence, and it was one of the murder capitals of the world. 

The situation was so bad that the Christians in Cali decided they had to do something about it.  So they hired the local football stadium to hold an all night prayer vigil.  More than 60 thousand people packed into the stadium.  Shortly after these prayer events were held, amazing things started to happen.  One by one the drug cartels, which had been untouchable for years, were brought down.  Murders and other violent crimes have decreased, people now feel safe to travel around the city, whereas previously kidnappings were rife. 

In 1968 only 1% of the population were Christians, today it is now 15% of the population – but this is even more impressive when taking into account the fact that the city has doubled in size during that time. 

But it doesn’t just end there, the revival that they have seen in Cali, is spreading to other neighbouring cities and regions. 

This is the Holy Spirit at work, changing lives, and transforming communities.

Today, God wants to fill you afresh with His Holy Spirit, we wants to equip and resource you for your journey of discipleship, so that we too can play our part in changing the world, and that is what I want to pray for now. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Called To Be Witnesses Luke 24:44-53

Spike Milligan's tombstone reads, 'I told you I was ill!'  Before he died in the Left Bank hotel, Oscar Wilde said, 'My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.' Before Dominic Willard was executed by firing squad, he was asked if he had any last requests. 'Why yes,' he said, 'A bulletproof vest.' And General John Sedgwick, Union Commander in the U.S. Civil War, said shortly before he died, 'They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...'

Today we've just had read to us Jesus' last words to his disciples (Luke 24:44-53) before he ascended to heaven to be with his Father.  And his final instruction to his disciples and to us, is to be his witnesses. 

So what is a witness?  A witness is someone who by explanation and demonstration gives audible and visible evidence of what he has seen and heard without being deterred by the consequences of his action.  As Christian’s we are called to bear witness to Christ, and to our faith, to share with others what Jesus has done for us. 

But when it comes to sharing their faith, many people are hesitant.  Here are some of the common fears that people have:
·         "I am afraid I might do more harm than good."
·         "I don't know what to say."
·         "I may not be able to give snappy answers to tricky questions."
·         "I may seem bigoted."
·         "I may invade someone's privacy."
·         "I am afraid I might fail."
·         "I am afraid I might be a hypocrite."
But perhaps the most common fear, however, is that of being rejected. 

A survey was given to those attending training sessions for a Billy Graham crusade in Detroit. One question asked, "What is your greatest hindrance in witnessing?" 9% said they were too busy to remember to do it. 28% felt the lack of real information to share. 12% said their own lives were not speaking as they should. But by far the largest group were the 51% whose biggest problem was the fear of how the other person would react.

Think about your own journey of faith.  Who were the people who witnessed to you?  What would your journey of faith have been, had they not share their faith with you?

A good witness is like a signpost. It doesn't matter what it may look like, it has to point the right direction and be able to be understood. We are called to be witnesses to Christ, we are to point to him.

In 1949 John Currier was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Later he was transferred and paroled to work on a farm near Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1968, Currier's sentence was terminated, and a letter bearing the good news was sent to him. But John never saw the letter, nor was he told anything about it. Life on that farm was hard and without promise for the future. Yet John kept doing what he was told even after the farmer for whom he worked had died.

Ten years went by. Then a state parole officer learned about Currier's plight, found him, and told him that his sentence had been terminated. He was a free man.

Now would it matter to you if someone sent you an important message -- the most important in your life -- and year after year the urgent message was never delivered?

We who have heard the good news and experienced freedom through Christ are responsible to proclaim it to others still enslaved by sin. Are we doing all we can to make sure that people get the message?