random thoughts and things from all saints youth cell groups

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Bible is so boring!


If you're feeling like this, then maybe you need to read the Bible with fresh eyes. We become so familiar with chunks of the Bible that it stops surprsing and exciting us. I've just bought this..


It's "The Message: Remix" which you may have heard of. Not only is it a fresh and exciting paraphrase which puts a new spin on many familar passages and stories, but its got a cool cover (and for the girls and boys who are into it, you can get it in pink too!). You can find the whole lot online at Bible Gateway or you can pick it up for about £15, at any decent bookshop, even Smiths or Borders. Or borrow it off me (which is even cheaper!)

Here's some extracts..

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life." John 3:16

But now that you've found you don't have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God's gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master. Romans 6: 22-23

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Jesus was killed because of who he ate dinner with..

Jesus loved his food. He spent a lot of his time eating and drinking with people. Pretty much anyone really. Didn't matter who they were. And it was his mealime habits that got him into more than a bit of trouble...why?

First, it didn't matter who you were, what you'd done or how you were living. Jesus still ate with them. When the religious elite saw this, they were outraged. To them, to eat with anybody and everyone was shameful and disgusting. In fact Jesus was "labelled" as a "glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners" " (Matt 11: 19) So if you've ever had people say you eat too much and been accused of liking your alcohol a bit too much then you're in very good company!

Why did he do this? What was he trying to achieve? Scot McKnight says..

"No one, it hardly needs to be said, would be left unchanged; no one would be unchallenged; everyone would learn at this table with Jesus that life will be given a new foundation and a new set of relationships. Everyone and everything will find its proper place in relationship to God’s new work in the kingdom; anything that challenges the leadership of Jesus and thwarts the kingdom of God will be challenged. No one comes to the table of Jesus on their own terms; the table of Jesus lives out the terms of Jesus. Those terms offend and those terms redeem."

Redemption!

Jesus loved people. He loved people because people are made in the image of God, and loved by God made to know and love God. Sin (more than just "being naughty" remember) breaks the relationship that we were made to know and enjoy with God, with each other and with our world. Jesus mission was to fix those relationships and to fix broken people by bringing them into a new community that God was building in Jesus.

Think about what this means for us in the places we find ourselves everyday, and in our cell. The Kingdom of God is not an exclusive club for the people who look like they have it all sorted. It means mixing with people we find difficult. It means loving people who we normally wouldn't mix with. It's hard but we can do it, when we know that we're all sinners saved by grace, seeking to follow Jesus. Next time you come to Communion (which is basically a meal with Jesus) have a look around and look at all the different sorts of people from all different ages and background that Jesus invites to eat with him. Then thank God for Jesus, that it is because of his life, death and resurrection that we can know unconditional forgiveness and acceptance with the God who made us, regardless of who we are or what we've done. Even you and me.

"Jesus overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I'm here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit" Mark 2: 17


For more on Jesus unusual eating habits have a look at Conrad Gempf's book "Mealtime habits if the Messiah: 40 Encounters with Jesus"

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Resurrection!

As Easter is pretty much round the corner, I'll be posting some stuff up to help us think about the resurrection in particular and exploring what it means for us and the world. We can sometimes focus so much on the Cross (which is absolutely crucial!), that the resurrection can sometimes seem like a "and they lived happily ever after" type ending. Yet is is absolutely crucial in the plan of God to renew the world.

So to kick us off, here's a quote from Tom Wright, the Bish of Durham..


(T)he resurrection stories in the four Gospels aren't about going to heaven when you die. In fact, there is almost nothing about "going to heaven when you die" in the whole New Testament. Being "citizens of heaven" (Philippians 3.20) doesn't mean you're supposed to end up there. Many of the Philippians were Roman citizens, but Rome didn't want them back when they retired. Their job was to bring Roman culture to Philippi. That's the point which all the Gospels actually make, in their own ways. Jesus is risen, therefore God's new world has begun. Jesus is risen, therefore Israel and the world have been redeemed. Jesus is risen, therefore his followers have a new job to do. And what is that new job? To bring the life of heaven to birth in actual, physical, earthly reality…Jesus' resurrection is the beginning of God's new project, not to snatch people away from earth to heaven, but to colonize earth with the life of heaven...With Easter, God's new creation is launched upon a surprised world, pointing ahead to the renewal, the redemption, the rebirth of the entire creation.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Come to think of it.. what is sin??

Just found a hugely helpful quote when thinking about sin..

"In the Bible, peace (shalom in hebrew) means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight - a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires a joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be."

"This is important in our communication of the gospel to the postmodern individual (or any individual). Instead of focusing people on the fact that they are sinners (since they probably cannot relate to that term anyway), we can ask them if they believe: "are things the way they ought to be"?
An honest answer to this question is: No, things are not the way they ought to be. If they are interested in how things ought to be, then we have an open door to explain sin and the gospel message." taken from "A Mind Awake" by Chris Giammona

Are we scared to say "I don't know"?

We also spoke briefly last night about unanswered prayer and the pain that comes from it. Sometimes prayer does go unanswered. We've all been in situations where maybe someone close to us is very ill, for example. We've prayed fervently and constantly for God to heal them. And yet they don't get better. Something in us cries out for an answer to the "Why?" question in these circumstances. We may find ourselves thinking, either God can't do anything, or maybe doesn't want to do anything. It is right to feel confusion and to cry out to God at those times. Read the Psalms and see.

But, if our God is the God who showed himself to us in Jesus, then that puts things in a completely different light. If we're believing in a vague "god out there" of some form then we are indeed left with a god who doesn't care and even if he did couldn't do anything anyway. I could never ever believe in God if it wasn't for Jesus. In him, God steps down to Earth and lives with us. He experiences the whole range of human life and emotion and is not immune from pain, grief or bereavement. And ultimately he died an unbelievably horriffic death. He was spat on. Kicked. Mocked. Had nails and spears shoved into him and hung out to die. You cannot imagine a more hopeless scene. It was the day God died.

3 days later when everything changed. On that Sunday when Jesus passed through death and came out the other side, brought back to life. Out of utter despair and hopelessness came life and joy. And it is this, and this alone, that gives me hope.

So when we come with our "Why?" questions, it's OK to not know the answer. Instead, come to the cross of Jesus and weep. Come to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who knows exaclty what your pain is like, and he will hold you, his child, and sustain you in all your questions and doubts, and say, "Sunday's coming". Resurrection is coming. This is neither a God who doesn't care, nor a God who can't do anything. In fact quite the opposite. In Jesus, we see God as the One who loves us more than we could ever dream, and has done all that is necessary for all the brokenness of this world to be put right at the cost of his own life! We await, with real and expectant hope, the day when that victory is brought to completion.

"Your Kingdom Come".


Please feel free to post comments.

All sin the same?

Just going to put some stuff up that came out of last nights Word. We touched on lots of very difficult questions, and I feel that some of you may be feeling dissatisfied with some of the conclusions of our discussions. And that's OK. I've just picked up on this issue of whether all sin is the same because it came up last night a couple of times.

First off, all sin is serious. From a shoplifter, to a murderer all sin is serious in God's eyes. All sin requires justice and grieves God. But, they are certainly not all the same in consequence. You cannot compare the consequences of robbing a belt from Topshop to taking someones life! So, there are sins that are more serious than others in that way.

What do people think? Feel free to post comments.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Just something to amuse you if you're bored of revision!

"Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

OK, take a deep breath. You'll need it.

"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" John 1: 29

Confusingly, Jesus is also called the "Lion of Judah" in Revelation 5:5. Is John having a senior moment here?! (John's gospel and Revelation were written by the same person, and he was knocking on by the time he wrote!)

Well not really.

Lambs in the OT were offered as sacrifices for the sins of the people of God. If you want to find out all the gory details have a read of Leviticus to find out all about it. But essentially, all through the Bible, we see that the outworking of sin, is always death. Sin leads to death. Sin distorts, twists and destoys God's good creation always ending in death and judgement. Sin has the whole of creation caught in its grip, and the whole of creation, along with us, according to the Bible is longing for the day when it will be set free! Like a never ending winter, where nothing grows, where everything is dead and dormant and no life or light can get a look in. And we know what sin is like, because we only have to look inside ourselves to see it. Our hearts are endless sources of hate, lies, deceit and malice.

What can we do?

People try all sorts of things to try and sort out the mess that our hearts, and consequently the world are in. Some try religion. They try and do things that will make God favourable to them. They try and do things which will change their hearts. They try and do things. Some try education. The more enlightened we are, the better we'll become. Some say there's nothing that can be done, so lets all just eat, drink and be merry and stuff everyone else. Some say it's only cooperation beween humans that will solve anything. And a million other proposed solution. All things we must do. Yet is all hopelessly inadequate.

Yet, here's John saying "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

Here is good news at last! Someone who can take away the sin and set things right!

Here is the ultimate lamb, the one to whom every Old Testament was simply a dim, and imperfect picture of. God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, making all things new, and taking away the sin of the world. Jesus not only absorbs our sin into himself and bears its punishment, but the effects of sin in the whole of creation. The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world" and not as we so often read just "the people of the world".

The eternal purpose of God in Christ, is not to steal off a bunch of disembodied souls to heaven after death, but here and now to be renewing and restoring people, communities and the whole world, bringing life from death, hope from hopelessness and forgiveness from judgement until that great and glorious day God finally and fully answers the Lords prayer that "Your Kingdom come on Earth, as it is in heaven" and we might be lost in wonder, love and praise for the Lamb seated on the throne.

And all possible, because the Lamb of God, who is the Lion of Judah came and took away the sin of the world.

Let's give the last word to Jonathan Edwards..

"And here is not only infinite strength and infinite worthiness, but infinite condescension, and love and mercy, as great as power and dignity... Here is infinite grace and gentleness to invite and embolden a poor, unworthy, fearful soul to come to it. If Christ accepts of you, you need not fear but that you will be safe, for he is a strong Lion for your defense. And if you come, you need not fear but that you shall be accepted, for he is like a Lamb to all that come to him, and receives then with infinite grace and tenderness."


Breathtaking.

Friday, December 09, 2005

'What part of 'Go' did you not understand?'

On Monday when we looked at Jesus call to 'go into all the world to make disciples and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you', made me realise how wrong the Church has got it. How often have we expected people to "Come", instead of us going? Well that just won't do according to Jesus.

Like we were saying yesterday, this is not a matter of saying "We've all got to go and talk about Jesus all the time to our friends and convert them". You've heard all that before, and it hasn't inspired you, has made you cringe, and isn't really what Jesus told us to do anyway. It's about catching the vision of God's Kingdom, God's plan to redeem and renew the whole created order through Jesus' life death and resurrection, and getting involved! Yes, of course conversion has a massive place in that, but just getting people to heaven when they die is not what Jesus was on about. So if you are hugely concerned about global warming, that is not a less spiritual activity, than thinking that you'd like to explore your Bible teaching gifts. God needs people in EVERY sphere of life (sound familiar? 'Go into all the world'..) to be his hands and feet and to bring his Kingdom there. As a cell, we're a community in mission together. What parts of our community can we engage with? What needs can we see in our community that we can try and meet in the power of the Spirit, to the glory of Jesus? That's the way God did mission. He got skin, and walked, and lived and worked in a particular community of people and brought hope and good news to it, not by throwing Bibles or gospel tracts at people from outside, but got stuck in and made a difference. That's what Christmas is all about!

Lets together keep thinking and praying about what living all of this out could look like for us for our cell, and for our church.

Almost forgot!

Haven't updated this for a little while, think I forgot about it!

If anyone's got any ideas of how to use this site, or would like to take over its upkeep then please let me know. For the time being I think I'll just post up our Word questions and any other interesting stuff I can think of or find!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Jesus at School

I have two phobias. Number one, Frogs. They freak me out. Don’t know why. It must be the way they jump. The other thing is alarm clocks. You know what I’m talking about. That horrible piercing sounds that makes you pull the covers up over your head. Especially when it’s Monday morning. When I was at school, it was a case of dragging myself out of my bed, and to the bus stop, putting on a smile, finally getting to school, finishing off that homework, then falling back asleep in Chemistry. What does God have to do with any of this? What difference does being a follower of Jesus Christ make to my work, teachers, friends, bullying, cheating, peer pressure and all that?

To find some answers, look at Romans 12:1-2. The first 11 chapters of Romans have spelt out for us exactly how God has shown us mercy. He kicks off by telling us how all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We’ve rejcted God, decided to run our lives and the world our own way. But sin is deadly and has hellish consequences, the Bible tells us, "the wages of sin is death" and our greatest need whether we realise it or not, is to be forgiven and put right with God. How? The greatest news that the world has ever heard, is news about the greatest person who ever lived, the Lord Jesus Christ. He healed the sick, made the deaf to hear, made the lame to walk, made the blind to see, calmed storms with a word, taught radical things about love, forgiveness, sin and judgement, made unbeleivable claims about himself, that he was God come to Earth as a person, who was going to put our broken world right and deal with sin. At just 30 years he was executed on a Roman cross, but this death was unlike any other in that HE, Jesus, died the death that me and you deserved to die to pay for our rebellion against God, so that we could know forgiveness and life eternal instead of eternal death. For three days Jesus lay in tomb. But on the third, he was raised by God, having defeated death on the cross, and to live and reign as the worlds true and rightful King. And by trusting in all that Jesus has done for us, by his life, death and resurrection, we can be forgiven our sin, set free from fear of death and know God and his love, as we were made to and enjoy life in all its fullness that Jesus offers with him at the very centre. Good, eh.

Paul urges us in light of all that to respond. Now, we can’t pay God back. There is only one right response to this amazing love and mercy from God.. That is "to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God" and by that he means our whole selves, our money, our time, our mind, our hands and feet, our leisure time, our work, our school, our studying.. you name it, to surrender everything to him in utter thankfulness and gratitiude and love, for all he’s done. And Paul calls this our "spiritual act of worship". Worship is not just about what we do in a Church, but about how we live our lives. We can sing songs, "I will offer up my life.." and all that, but if our lives don’t match up, then our words are pointless. Following Jesus is a radical way to live. It’s a dangerous way to live. You may lose friends. You’re family may think you’re odd. Taking "religion" a bit too seriously. Paul says don’t be "conformed to the pattern of this world". Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould. He doesn’t mean, the actual planet we’re standing on, that’s a good part of God’s good creation affected by sin though it is. What he’s talking about is the attitudes, way of doing things, way of thinking that are distortions of what God wants. The world looks down on the outcasts and the failures. Jesus gives them hope. The world scorns people with the wrong trainers or the wrong clothes. Jesus looks at the heart. The world strives after money and fame. Jesus says seek first the Kingdom. The world applauds the successful and powerful. Jesus blessed are the meek. And so on. Jesus Kingdom stands in direct opposition to the values and attitudes of the world, and He calls us to swim against the tide, and to be "transformed by the renewing of our minds" by the gospel, to become more like Jesus himself.

What does that mean practically? Don’t go wiith the crowd when the lad with the old trainees and the bad haircut is getting ripped to pieces. Start loving people in school. Show them kindness. Commit to getting alongside the loners. Spend time with people who need to chat. Help them with work. Go out of your way. Have you got a Christian union? Get involved! If you haven’t got one? Start one! Scared? Pray about it! Get the Christians in your school together, pray and see where God takes you. I started our St. Mags Christian Union. It was very scary. Took me lots of prayer. Thought I might get laughed at. People might think I was weird. But God equipped me. He wanted me to trust him, and to step out in faith to do something for him. Maybe you could get involved in promoting justice issues in your school. Campaign for fair trade stuff, ask for a slot in an assembly to talk about Make Poverty History. God hates injustice and calls us not to be conformed to the pattern of this world and to do something about it. Go the extra mile. Get into a cell group to help you study the Bible and to live for Jesus, get stuck into Church and serve with your whole heart, read your Bible. Pray like mad. That’ll help you in school. The great missionary and cricketer, C.T. Studd said this "If Christ be God, and died for me, then nothing is too great for me to do for him".
Lets be the sort ofpeople, who are able to test and approve what God’s good, pleasing and perfect will is, who give ourselves completely to serve the purposes of God in our generation, to the glory of God!