Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Oh My Gosh! Scripture has come true again ...

Christians will regularly testify how their own personal Bible reading often seems highly pertinent to the everyday life situations they are facing. Even if they are somewhat arbitrarily working themselves through one book, or use Bible notes, or set readings for certain days, it is incredible how the readings speak into the issue of the day.

Just as fascinating is how preached Bible passages (from a pre-planned series or otherwise) also end up being 'just the thing' that can inform a key issue in church life that is poignant to the congregation as a whole. Here I am not talking about relevance to just a few individuals, but something that resonates with the 'collective need' of the church members.

It re-iterates the point that a church is not simply a collection of individuals each with their own needs and agendas, but is an inter-connected body of people that together has a collective identity, purpose and direction - into which the Spirit wants to speak.

Without doubt the word we seek to preach is the living word - the up to the minute desire of Jesus Christ for this particular local church at this particular time. That word, ultimately, IS Jesus Christ (see John's Gospel chapter one!). Hence Paul resolved to know nothing other than Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, and thus preach Jesus Christ (and Him crucified) (see 1 Corinthians chapter 1 and 2).

Now that same living word also inspired individuals (in their place, in their time) to write up the movement of God that they witnessed, which by God's providence has become our 'scriptures'. We truly experience the fact that 'All scripture is God-breathed and useful ...' (2 Timothy 3:16), and so the written word becomes our first-place-to-look launching point for God to speak to us today.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

How much was at stake?

Ever wondered how much was at stake in episodes like Acts 15? On the one hand you have Paul and Barnabus pursuing Christ's mission and campaigning for a freedom of the Spirit to work out among non-Jewish believers without Old Testament constraints. On the other hand you have certain individuals pointing resolutely to scriptures, questioning the validity of the gospel work.

And so it comes to a head with believers meeting in Jerusalem to try and sort it out. How high did temperatures reach or passions run I wonder? How much were they afraid of possible fall out from among their own number? Remember, those opposed were not raising a flag based on just a whim or a fancy. Instead they were faithfully standing on hundreds of years of tradition backed by scriptures that had been interpreted pretty much in the same way for all that time. The whole integrity of the organisation and what it stood for was at stake!

Yet with our benefit of hindsight we can see that those opposed to Barnabus and Paul, even though sincere and well rehearsed in the scriptures, had apparently become blinkered in some way. Somehow they were not seeing the greater work that God was doing by His Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ lifted as Lord out among the peoples of the world. Put simply their interpretation of scripture subtly missed the purposes of God made possible in Christ's death and resurrection.

And that is why so much was at stake. That is why Paul and Barnabus had to disagree and debate with them. The achievement of Christ cannot be watered down, or reduced down to a lowest common denominator.

Thankfully this debate seemed to be pretty much settled when Peter spoke to the assembly reminding them how 'God does not discriminate' and appealing to them to 'not test God by putting onto people a yoke' that we were never ever intended to bear.

Too much is at stake for us to not hear these kind of words afresh today.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Get Out into the River

Where I live has all kinds of water courses, channels, sluices and rivers. Taking a walk yesterday I came to a spot that has a big pool of water adjacent to the river that made me ponder.

The water in the big pool was stagnant. It was peaceful yet the water looked murky and uninviting. It had no movement.

Yet just yards away was the river. Here the water moved and flowed. From the river irrigation channels were provided for. Next to the river are fields which receive water from the river - some of the most fertile land in the country. The water from the river helps bring good nutrients to huge numbers of people ... even if they don't realise it.

How much in church do we just paddle about in the safe secluded pool, thinking this is nice and peaceful but blind to the fact that it is stagnant? As Christians should we not be going out into the river, where there is movement and flow - because there we will bring goodness and nutrition to many many people?

Incredibly back in the stagnant water things were growing: giant lily pads, reeds (and algae!). Thats the grace of God for you - God will bless and give growth even in our stagnant pools. Yet the real growth and the limitless possibilities exist further out - in the river.