Archive for September, 2011

Attempt Great Things, Expect Great Things

September 30th, 2011

1 Samuel 13:19-14:23

  • This was the stage in Israel’s history where they had hit another war problem, decades later. The Philistines were intimidating and bullying them, who were God’s people.
  • Jonathan was so different from the others and from his dad Saul. He stood out amongst a category of failing men in the book of 1 Samuel.
  • People who become successful want to hold onto their success and the fruit of it. Success can be very bad for you – it can stop you from going forward and continuing what you set out to do for fear of risking what you’ve already accumulated.
  • Israel were in this place – staying safe and simply holding onto what kingdom they had. Jonathan breaks the inertia.
  • As we as a church break out and move forward and take risks, we need to be like Jonathan and freshly trust in God. We don’t want to sit safe and simple “manage”.
  • Features of Jonathan that made him different:
  1. Jonathan trusted in God’s favour

▪   1 Sam. 14:6 – circumcision was significant because it symbolised belonging to God, like a wedding ring symbolises being married to someone.

▪   Jonathan is looking beyond the superficial – he’s asking who is God really with?

▪   We should do the same with looking at the church in this country. On paper it seems that Christianity is failing and declining. In the same way, it appeared that the Philistines had everything and Israel was dwindling.

▪   Jonathan is persuaded that God is with them. It’s dangerous to think that God has given up on His people.

▪   It’s kind of in our genes as British people to be cynical and not believe that things will really work or succeed. But God wants to do extraordinary things through ordinary people.

▪   Matt. 25:24-25 – the servant who did not do anything or have faith for anything or risk anything was called wicked. To us it may sound humble and pious and wise just to do nothing and play it safe, but it isn’t. If you somehow believe God is a hard person and doesn’t want to use you and has got it in for you, then naturally you won’t do anything and you’ll hide your faith in the ground.

▪   Luke 12:32 – it’s the Father’s good pleasure – He wants to give us the Kingdom! The Kingdom is God doing amazing things, changing people’s lives and blessing the world.

▪   1 Sam. 14:7 – do what’s in your heart. Yes there is sin in there, but there are also many things from God. Don’t spend all your efforts continually evaluating your motives and not doing anything. A lot of desires are given from God – step out and see. You will it wrong from time to time but you can’t always wait until you’re absolutely certain something is the right thing before you act. You learn to hear God, making mistakes along the way.

▪   If we give up risking for God then we might as well give up altogether.

▪   Jonathan took the Philistine’s mocking as a sign that God was with him. We often see adversity as the opposite.

▪   We take the risks and God takes the field – we need to be prepared for both.

  1. Jonathan shared the victory

▪   Some Israelites who joined Jonathan when he was winning were traitors who had been with the Philistines – and yet Jonathan shares the victory with all of Israel, and he points to God winning it.

▪   Jonathan points to another Son of a King. The primary purpose of these heroes in the Bible is not for us to merely try and copy their example. We should aspire to be like them of course, but the main aim is to point us to Jesus, the true Hero, who saved His people all alone without an armour-bearer.

▪   Jesus was mocked and took it all upon Himself because He was trusting His Father.

▪   Matt. 27:52-53 – the dead rose and shared in Jesus’ victory.

▪   Let us desire to live more in the favour of God – to recognise His favour on our lives more and more.

▪   Jesus won the victory over all that traps us and holds us down. He won the victory over fear.

Welcome Home: The offer of Salvation

September 15th, 2011

It is Free

  •  Jesus removes the social, cultural and moral barriers to offer her salvation. Culturally, men and women didn’t speak to each other and morally, she had five husbands so would have been shunned by society.
  • If we want to see Brightonians saved, we need to leave barriers at the door – dress, career, intellect, education, sexual orientation…We can’t let them get in the way of the good news of Jesus that we have to share.
  • It’s important that we don’t enter into conversations with non-Christians by taking the moral high ground or speaking out of compulsion or to ‘look good’ to others. People also don’t want to be treated as a ‘project’ to be completed.
  • Sharing our faith with others should be sweet but challenging. Jesus’ salvation is a gift, but it also challenges our pride – we like to think that our efforts contribute towards our salvation.

It Satisfies

  •  As we need water to survive, Jesus says we need living water to be satisfied as well.
  • On the outside, people might look happy but often feel empty on the inside. People who have accepted Jesus into their lives will live with a well of living water inside and it will be like a flowing stream – no matter what you throw at it, it will keep on going.

It is a process

  •  We cross a line of faith to become a Christian but it is also a process over a period of time.
  • Nicodemus was morally incredible but Jesus is very direct with him in telling him that salvation is a free gift and that his morality counts for nothing but with the lady at the well, he knows she is already aware of her mistakes so he takes the opportunity to offer her salvation.
  • When someone is at the top of their game in looks, wealth etc., they are least likely to think about the meaning of life but when things start to crumble, friends start to disappear and they will be ready to hear the good news of the gospel.
  • We must look at ourselves as carriers of the good news of Jesus Christ. Are we amongst our neighbours and our community? We need to know them so that we can be there for them in crisis.
  • We need to bring about conviction as well as tell them of good news. Jesus asked the woman at the well to fetch her husband, knowing that she had five previous husbands. He showed her that she was putting her meaning of life into her relationships to bring about her conviction. This then highlighted her need for salvation in Jesus Christ.
  • John 4:14 – Only Jesus can quench our thirst
  • Jesus offers so much more that forgiveness – he can be our essence of life and our all in all

 How is Salvation received?

  •  Jesus says to us that He has seen us at our worst but He still loves us. He has died for us in our place so that we can be forgiven and have a relationship with God.
  • He has cleared our debt for us –something that no man can do for us, and he does it joyfully.
  • Salvation is only received when we respond. The woman at the well responded and her life was turned upside down. She went to tell people of Jesus, people that had hated and neglected her
  • We must feel confident to meaningfully invite people to church – if friends see how important Jesus is to us, they will take our invitations seriously.
  • John 4:13




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Welcome home: Commission, Community and Compassion

September 5th, 2011

Romans 15: 2-3, 5-7

The Biblical Principles.

  • God is community – in the community of the Trinity, God is never lonely. God did not create us so as to fulfill any need in himself. We were created in his likeness to reflect his glory, which includes reflecting his community.
  • It is not good for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18), we are created to be in community. Although this has been disrupted by the Fall, the gospel comes to us as a message of reconciliation.
  • Our main problem is our disconnection from God which leads to a disconnection with others. Jean Paul Sartre illustrated this with his comments “God is solitude, God is absence” and “hell is other people” – in our fallen world, this would be true had not Christ come to reconcile us to God and to each other.

 Hospitality – an attitude of heart

  • Although hospitality can be shown by anyone, even those who know nothing of Christ, we, of all people, should excel at welcoming others home.
  • John Calvin argued that the existence of restaurants and hotels is proof of the depravity of man. People earn money by providing that which human beings should freely give to each other.
  • Attitudes to hospitality vary across cultures. There is something very defensive about British culture, but, in Christ, we don’t need to be afraid but, instead, should reach out to the unloveable (Matthew 5:43-47)
  • 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – We are called to be ministers of reconciliation, called to the mission of God and the commission of Christ to make disciples. We should affirm other people as important.
  • There is a danger of thinking that the current move to multi-site is, in itself, the answer. The answer is a church which genuinely loves people on mission and actively cares about the people in our communities.
  • The church family which God is building is one for all kinds of people. Martin Luther argued that the kingdom of God must be among enemies or else we are simply blaspheming and betraying Christ, who lived among his enemies!
  • We are not just to be receivers of hospitality or just givers of hospitality (spending all out time in the kitchen but barely talking to anyone).
  • But what about people living in tiny bedsits or flats, how can they invite people into their homes? We can be grateful to God that Brighton is full of other places (cafes, pubs, parks etc) where we can invite people.
  • When you do invite people in, care about them. Watch your language and the subjects that you talk about so as to include people.
  • A word on boundaries – The question “Who is my neighbour?” is answered by the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) where a man risks danger to help an enemy. However, note that the Samaritan is in danger from bandits not from the person he is helping. It is right to seek to protect our households when we invite people in. We should be both extravagent and wise in our hospitality. Christian leaders, in particular, are called to model hospitality (literally: “being fond of guests”)
  • 1 Peter 4:9 – Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:22 – to the weak we make ourselves weak to lead them to Christ.
  • Ephesians 4:28 – The point of not stealing but engaging in honest labour is to share with others.

Breathing life into small groups

  • We should not merely have two or three front doors (with the new sites) but hundreds of front doors across the city to welcome people in.

Seven points for small groups:
(1) Ensure that you are on God’s mission (i.e. that mission is not a “bolt-on” activity but the spine of the small group).
(2) See yourselves as God’s immediate provision for one another (gathering around the gospel and showing Christ to each other).
(3) Build one another up for mission. (We also need to open and honest when inviting others).
(4) Transcend “small group night” (the small group is the people not the meeting).
(5) Pray for individuals and localities (we want the city to be blessed by our being here).
(6) Pray and strategise for the area (be proactive and seize opportunities).
(7) Preceive and receive (asking God to show you what he is doing and whom he is sending to you).
Is there a family who will welcome people in?


Welcome Home

September 1st, 2011

Graham Marsh

Luke 14:1-22

  • Jesus was invited to the meal but it was set up – they invited a sick man to see if Jesus would heal him – which He did
  • The Sabbath is a day for recreation – it is for our benefit
Jesus didn’t mind being with those who were out to get him
  • We often feel uncomfortable around those we don’t have anything in common with – what did Jesus have in common with them?
  • We need to be in these situations – we are called to be salt and light
  • We need to remember our position and be clear headed – Jesus said stop promoting ourselves – don’t put yourself at the top of the table
  • We exist for God’s glory not our own. It is Jesus seated on the throne, not us
  • Don’t take the seat – wait to be offered it
  • To stop being self-centred, look at Jesus
  • Philippians 2:1-5
  • Humility is knowing our place and being thankful we’re even invited
Everyone on the guest list is disadvantaged
  • This is a room full of ordinary people
  • Why is this story in Luke? Because we are all invited and we all arrived in the same way – we were invited by Jesus
  • We have more in common with the London rioters than we do Jesus
  • In humility, we are invited
  • When we’ve been here a while, we forget what it is like to be new.
  • When we go multi-site there will be many who don’t know what to do
Practical Tips
  1. Not everyone knows someone – be inclusive
  2. Not everyone knows where to go – be helpful
  3. Not everyone knows the routine – be accepting
  4. Not everyone knows they’re welcome – be reassuring
  5. Not everyone knows they’re amongst people just like them – be genuine
  6. Not everyone knows Jesus – be Jesus
  • If you are in, remember the cost and how you got there
  • Come to the feast, there is room at the table