Blewog’s Firey Diary – 27/09/2010 (Jacob, Home & Segways)

Sunday was great. Good to be back in Aberystwyth, which in many ways is really home. We have a place to call our own here and all our stuff and a few friends and some family. It’s not to say I don’t miss being in London, but we enjoyed getting back into the flow of Aberystwyth life.

Things that struck me about Taid’s sermons on Sunday mostly revolved around evangelism. You might have noticed that recently, I’ve been reporting about a few of our efforts to let people know about Christianity, with an overall aim of seeing people saved and understanding why it would be brilliant if they Jesus saved them, like he has so many of us. Although my efforts fall short in many areas, I was encouraged on Sunday as to what attitudes we should have if we are Christians. In the evening we looked at Jacob, when he met Rachel, and how he dealt with a bit of a situation that was going down at the well. I had never really taken in the change that had taken place in Jacob’s life, I think what can be argued as a conversion has taken place by this point in his life. At one point, we also looked at 1 Peter chapter 3 and that famous bit where he says:

15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

I really pray that God would make me like that!

We weren’t overrun by freshers in Alfred Place, but we saw two or three, it was nice to meet some of them and to hear about their backgrounds and home churches.

At one point I got talking with a few of the other students and then with Sibyl afterwards as to whether as a CU we were really being biblical in our outreach. Part of me just wants to get a load of preachers up here and have them sort it all out for us (maybe it would be good!?) But then I was moved to remember that much prayer and Bible centred thought, as well as the advice of other Christians should be sought before I rashly start recruiting the Archbishop of Canterbury to lead a lunch bar.

We’re looking forward for our neighbours from downstairs to return home, and we have a ‘grub crawl’ tonight, a great CU event where we go to five of the churches in town for a course of a meal, giving the new students a chance to see what all the different churches are like.

Finally, I wanted to share with you the fact that I’ve almost finished a sort of play I’m working on. It’s got rabbits, fights and John Bunyan books in it, so it could be good! T’would be mighty cool if something came of it, but we shall see.

Listening to:

Blewog’s Firey Diary – 25/09/2010 (Bottled Water, Evangelism & Stuntmen)

Been really busy the past couple of days, welcoming freshers (especially the Welshies!) and telling them all about the Christian Union. We managed to find more water (Lidl came in handy) and we gave eighty four bottles out! Getting down to actual conversations was a bit harder, I suppose I could’ve done that better, but it’s in God’s hands.

Listening to:

Virally Contracted:

Blewog’s Firey Diary – 23/09/2010 (Sanctification, Tourism & Depressed Jugglers)

Busy day today, started off with a prayer meeting at nine. We’ve been having these every morning because it’s freshers week. Today, Sibyl led the devotion all about persistence and trust in God’s answers to prayer. I thought to myself that if I was a time traveller and wanted to show a younger Sibyl a moment from her future, this would be the one, I doubt that she or I could even begin to imagine God to have worked in such a miraculous way to change both of our lives so dramatically.

Next on my list was my task of sorting out a tour of Aberystwyth for international freshers which was to take place that afternoon. I sensibly made my first stop at the tourist information centre, hoping for a leaflet or two and some tips on good tour guiding. Instead I was given a four page, ready sorted tour of the town to follow! They’d done the hard work for me, in fact a bit too much hard work, I actually ended up having to cut down on all the fabulous information they had provided.

I learned so much about Aberystwyth, for example the fact that a man called Mario Rutelli had made two statues that are in town, one outside the old college of Edward VIII (the only one of him in the world) as well as the war memorial by the castle.

I also learned that on an old inn (now a trendy café) which was called the Victoria has a ship’s figurehead on it (made in 1840). It’s the only merchant ship figurehead of Queen Vic in the whole of the UK and one of only four in the world!

Also, the pier (built 1865) used to be 800 feet long but after a few storms it got gradually shorter,  in 1942 the explosion of a drifting sea mine on the rocks below really caused some serious damage!

I was ready and hyped for the tour, hoping to give lots of international students a good old Christian welcome, but sadly only one turned up! It could have been worse though, I had a good time talking to her and two other girls from the CU came along too. They kindly listened to my ramblings and added in their own knowledgeable insights too.

After that I was faced with task of finding 150 bottles of water for the Welsh CU’s welcome team tomorrow. We wanted to give them to the freshers and stick CU stickers on them so they can hear all about us. I called the co-op hoping to strike up a monetary deal, but amazingly they suggested a donation! After sorting out an official letter I was able to pick up 24 bottles of mineral water free of charge. My task tomorrow is to find a hundred or so more. On a tight budget it won’t be easy, but as we’ve seen today God provides!

After e-mailing and calling the CU types making sure they’re all ready for tomorrow I settled down for some beautifully and lovingly made pasta from my wife. She made the sauce from scratch! And it had bacon in it! And cheese grated on top!

I had a bit of a playwriting spree last night, which tends to happen at inconvenient times, meaning I got to bed late and now I’m totally shattered. Good days are always busy ones though. Definitely.

Listening to:

I was reminded of this song from a friend’s facebook profile. One line is often misquoted ‘Elvis is a watermelon’.

Virally contracted:

Blewog’s Firey Diary – 22/09/2010 (Summer, Promises & YouTube)

Burglars beware, we’re back in Aberystwyth so your chance to rob our flat is over, we are here and armed with guns and frisbees.

Yes, after a long stint mostly spent in London, but yo-yoing from place to place, we are officially home and ready for another academic year of University education.

The summer was eventful and enjoyable. Much of it was spent seeing family, although we also attended two or three camps and conferences as us Christians do, which was a real blessing.

I believe it would be tedious to drag you through each and every event of 2010’s hot and sticky season, so we shall draw a line at this point, for we now approach the next epoch (is that the right word?) ready for much more living of that thing that is life.

I hope to update you (more or less) daily on my pursuits and thoughts, using this diary format. I hope you’ll join me on this jaunt, however long it may last.

I’m also gonna do this at the end of every post:

Listening to:

Virally Contracted:

Sermon: “An important reminder of the gospel – how will you respond?”

On Sunday I preached my very first sermon. God was very good to me and things seemed to go well. It took place in my home church in Childs Hill. I will publish the sermon in textual form below, but if you fancy listening to it there is a link here.

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An important reminder of the gospel – how will you respond? (1 Corinthians 15:1-2

A lot of life comes down to remembering things. There are countless situations in which we might find ourselves, where having a good memory is useful. For example someone might shout to you just before you leave for the train: “Don’t forget your tickets!” maybe people are always telling you, “don’t forget your reading glasses.” Rather trivial things, but things that end up being quite important if forgotten. Then there are those things that are absolutely essential to remember, “don’t forget to take your pills” or “don’t forget top turn the gas off” or “don’t forget to lock the door after you go out!” if you were to forget about these things, you or others could be in a lot of trouble.

In the same way, when we look at the Bible, God is keen for us not to forget lots of things. In Genesis chapter 9 verse 16 after God has already flooded the earth and things are starting to get back to normal, God says to Noah, that when he sees a rainbow in the sky he will “remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature.” God remembers (and in turn wants us to remember) that every human and animal (on one level) has a relationship with him, so he promises to never, ever to flood the earth again. So when we see a rainbow, it is a reminder.

God also asks that we “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” and King David sings, “Remember the wondrous works that God has done, his miracles and the judgements he uttered.” Then there’s the famous verse from Ecclesiastes “remember your creator in the days of your youth.” So we see that our memories are essential tools when it comes to God’s words. God wants us to remember things or be reminded of things.

An important question to ask at this point is, does God remember everything? Well no, God forgets some things. Yes you heard me correctly; God forgets some things. This might sound strange, but before you throw me out, let me explain what I mean. In Isaiah chapter 43 verse 25 and in Jeremiah chapter 31 verse 34 God says that he will “remember your sins no more”! (Which is a verse that’s also quoted in the letter to the Hebrews). How can this be possible? How can God know something at one point and then forget it? Well, I’m sure a lot of you know the answer; it’s by something called the gospel. Which brings us to our passage. Let me read those two verses to you once more. 1 Corinthians chapter 15 verses one and two.

1. Firstly, before we go any further, why should we take note of these verses?

So, a man called Paul, one of the most prolific writers in the whole of the New Testament is converted dramatically, he sees Jesus calling out to him from heaven, and Jesus speaks to him directly, the son of God tells Paul to “carry his name before the Gentiles and Kings and the children of Israel.” This man Paul wrote the letter that we find here in our Bibles, and we are to take it as God’s word. At this point you might ask, “I thought you said it was Paul’s letter, why is it all of a sudden God’s letter?” How can we be sure that Paul’s words are God’s words? Well, we know it by a number of reasons, firstly because Paul claims this himself in this very letter, in chapter 14 verse 37 of 1 Corinthians he says this, “the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.” A huge claim, if someone wrote to you and said that they were speaking the word of God, you would want to take the claim seriously, you would look to see if it was true. Is this man mad? Is this man trustworthy? What do other people say about him? What would God say about him?

So, at this point it’s good to note that there is historical evidence for these words being true, with some simple research you can find out that Paul was a man worthy of the words he spoke, a man who has had huge influence upon the world. However, if you have a real complaint against the accuracy or truth of anything found in this letter, or if you have a genuine complaint about something you’ve found in the Bible, please look into it, don’t just brush it off or use it as an excuse to avoid following Jesus, all of these words are founded and accurately tested and checked, over and over again. People have been asking the very same questions as you for thousands of years, and those men and women who have looked into it without hesitation and without bias from either side have come to know God as a true, holy, honest and loving person, don’t let your laziness stop you from reaching the right answer.

So, we know these words are true firstly, because Paul says they are, secondly because they are historically backed up and thirdly, these words are what we call “self-attesting”. What I mean by this is that there is no higher authority we can go to, to prove that they are true other than God. My previous points about the Bible’s words and their historical accuracy are true, and they’re helpful, but they are not the ultimate test, God is. Ask him, he will show you.

So, if we know they are God’s words, does that mean that he spoke to Paul through a megaphone? Did Paul hear God’s voice and then write the words down? No, in this case that isn’t what happened. The Holy Spirit of God guided Paul to write these things, not like a robot, or possessed creature, no, Paul wrote them with his unique personality, his own background, his training, his God centred judgements and views, and the individual circumstances in which he wrote. God took all those factors into account and through his supernatural plan, God allowed all of Paul’s words to be fully God’s words. Let me reinforce this for you, these were completely Paul’s words, but also, they are completely God’s words. Which makes the Bible like no other book in the whole world. We today, are learning from God’s word.

Finally on this first point, let me say this, we know we can trust Paul’s words as the word of God because we become convinced of them when we read them, but that only comes about through the Holy Spirit. So if you’re sitting there today and, you think, “I just can’t believe these things, I don’t know if they’re really God’s word.” Paul addresses you. He says in chapter 2 verse 13, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” So unless we receive God’s Spirit, we’re never going to understand these things, we’re never going to believe them to be true. Let’s pray for that spirit now, that all of us would receive it before we go any further.

Good, let’s press on. So, let’s get some context on this evening’s verses. A bit further on in the letter, in chapter 16 verse 8 Paul writes that he is in a place called Ephesus, Ephesus is a city on the west coast of what is now Turkey, he was writing to a place about 180 miles away from there, a place called Corinth. That’s why the people are called the Corinthians!

The Corinthians had a church, a church that Paul had actually started, if you want to read about that, it’s found in the book of Acts in chapter 18 verses 1-17. After founding the church there Paul left and spent around three years in Ephesus, and that’s probably when he wrote this letter. We can pin point the date he wrote it to around the year 53 to the year 57, A.D.

Paul addresses loads of issues in this letter, and as a church, Childs Hill Church, we must take note of these lessons. The letters of Paul make excellent reading for churches, because they tackle all the issues that all churches face, issues that we must come to terms with, if we are to follow God’s commands. He covers arguments within the church, sexual sin, how to manage your marriage, Christian freedom and worship. Massive issues, which I’d imagine if you feel like me, can become confusing and tedious if not approached in the proper way. But then we reach these verses, chapter 15 verses 1 and 2, I feel like it’s as if Paul gets to a point and he says, “now, here’s the exciting bit, now, here’s the bit I want you all listening to, here’s the bit I want everyone to hear, listen up! If you got nothing else, I want you to get this.” “I want to remind you of the gospel!”

2. And that’s my second point; notice this. The importance Paul places on reminding us of the gospel.

a) What is the gospel?

If we are to understand why it’s important to be reminded of the gospel, we need to know what the gospel is. As I’m sure many of you know, the word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’. So he wants to remind them of the ‘good news’. Good news about what? Well if we look at the rest of Paul’s writings and the rest of the Bible to which he constantly refers, we get a rich picture of what this gospel is.

We read in Matthew chapter 4 verse 23 that Jesus “went throughout all Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.” So it’s something Jesus himself preached. In that same book of Matthew, Jesus once again speaks of “the gospel of the kingdom” he says, “it will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations.” So it’s something Jesus wants his followers to proclaim. By the time we get to the book of Mark, his first verse tells us that this gospel is about “Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” So we’re starting to get more of a picture here, it’s a gospel preached by Jesus, about Jesus. If it is about Jesus, let’s take note of what Jesus did. Well, all you need to do if you have 1 Corinthians 15 open in front of you, is scan your eyes down to the second part of verse 3, where Paul goes about seeking to describe to us what he did. (Read verse 3b – 8)

So we see what Jesus has done, we see who the gospel is all about. But what does Jesus do? What can he do for us? Ephesians chapter one sheds more light on this for us, Paul says, “you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed him.” The gospel is truth; the gospel is our salvation when we believe in Jesus. This truly is gospel; this truly is ‘good news’.

What does the bible have to say to us if we don’t want to believe this gospel? Well 2 Thessalonians chapter 1 verse 8 says that, “those who do not obey the gospel, will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

I think we can safely say, that the gospel is important, we can safely say, that this gospel is essential. I hope we’re starting to see why Paul wants to remind us of it.

b) Surely once we know it; we don’t need to be reminded of it? So, secondly under this point, why do we need to be reminded of a gospel we already know?

Well, obviously Paul doesn’t think that it’s something you only need to be told once. He wants to “remind”! Paul believes that the gospel is so important that whoever you are, you need to be reminded of it.

Think of the Coca-Cola company. We all know what Coca-Cola is, I’d even go so far as to say that we’ve probably all tasted Coca-Cola. Because of that, Coca-Cola can now sit back, relax and stop going on about it. Is that the case? Oh no! The Coca-Cola company feel the need to bombard us night and day with television adverts, bill boards, bus stops, phone boxes, sponsorships and even songs written for the very purpose of telling people that there is a soft drink called Coca-Cola and that they think you should drink it! If this is the case for an insignificant concoction of sugary water, how much more do you think we need to be told the gospel? We can never grow tired of hearing that God became a man; that he came into this sinful world, full of rotten people like me, and you, and that he chose to rescue us from this state. He chose to deal with that “everlasting punishment” that we mentioned earlier, he chose to take it from us, what’s more, God takes the righteousness, the inward beauty and the sinless perfection of that man Jesus and he wraps it around us. If you believe this message, God says that when he looks at you, he doesn’t see your ugly soul, God doesn’t look at you and sigh sadly; he leaps for joy and wraps his loving arms around you, because he sees his beloved son, Jesus. If you are a Christian tonight, he loves you just as much as he loves his son! If you don’t believe me look at John chapter 17 verse 23, Jesus prays this: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Now that is a message worth repeating.

3. So, point one: we know it’s true, point two Paul’s reminder of the gospel, now thirdly, let’s briefly look at two of Paul’s concepts, ‘preaching’ and ‘receiving’.

How are they to be done?

Cast your imaginations back to England in the year 1643, civil war was raging all across the country, so was the plague. A lot of things were changing, including the church. People were suddenly realising the importance of coming back to the Bible in order to gain any sort of knowledge of God.

The English Parliament called upon wise and gifted Bible guys, to give advice on issues like worship, doctrine, government and discipline of the Church of England. Their meetings, which lasted five years, produced what’s called the confession of faith, after compiling those; they helpfully put them into question and answer form, so that we could more easily come to understand God’s word. Let’s see what these holy men said about preaching.

How is the Word of God to be preached?

They that are called to labour in the ministry of the Word, are to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers; zealously, with fervent love to God and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.

So, then the next logical question to ask is: what about those who hear the Word of God preached?

It is required of those who hear the Word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine: What they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.

I believe these are wise words, because Paul speaks of these things himself in the verses we’ve read today. He says that the Corinthian church took their stand on this gospel; this can be more literally translated from the Greek as to stand in the gospel. He also speaks about holding firmly to it. What does it mean to stand in the gospel? How can we hold it? Well, we’ve already gathered that the gospel is not a place and it’s not a physical thing, it is a message, and it’s a message of good news! So we assume that Paul is speaking metaphorically here, he’s saying that if we believe this gospel, our actions should reflect this, we are standing, or you could say, living in the light of what Jesus has done for us. You might have heard someone say, “he held on to her every word” we should be like that with the gospel, we love it so much, we want to hold on to it, we never want to forget it.

So many of our actions from day to day are done as if Jesus didn’t exist, we go about our lives as if no one is watching us, so many of us are Christians, yet we are living as if Jesus was not in our hearts. Jesus’ physical body is now in heaven, but his spirit dwells within us, as he promised. 1 John 3:24 “Hereby we know that Christ abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.” I know I can personally say I’m ashamed to say, that I, so often don’t live in the light of that fact. I, so often am not standing in the gospel, I’m not holding on to it. Proverbs chapter 15 verse three, “The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” He knows us all, let’s live our lives remembering that! Why? Because, like Paul says in the very next verse: “it is by this gospel you are saved.” Praise God for that.

4. Fourthly and finally, notice that, if this is not true of you, Paul says that, “you have believed in vain.”

In the light of what we’ve seen today, let’s consider this; there is a gospel, a message of good news to all, it’s a message worth being reminded of. How do we know that? Because it’s true and because it’s the basis by which we live if we have received it. But, have we received it? Maybe you’re completely sure that you haven’t received it, maybe you’re not sure. Well let’s think together now. These words in Isaiah chapter 59 might help us:

“…Your iniquities have separated

you from your God;

your sins have hidden his face from you,

so that he will not hear.

For your hands are stained with blood,

your fingers with guilt.

Your lips have spoken lies,

and your tongue mutters wicked things.

So justice is far from us,

and righteousness does not reach us.

We look for light, but all is darkness;

for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.

Like the blind we grope along the wall,

feeling our way like men without eyes.

For our offenses are many in your sight,

and our sins testify against us.

Our offenses are ever with us,

and we acknowledge our iniquities:

rebellion and treachery against the LORD,

turning our backs on our God.

Perhaps this is how you feel tonight. It’s how I feel tonight. If we search our hearts, we all know that our behaviour in God’s eyes has not been right, we haven’t by any stretch of the imagination been standing in the gospel, and none of us here has completely held on firmly to it all the time. And if you just don’t see it, if you feel fine, which so often we do, pray that God would show you your sin, pray for his help. And there is hope, look at the other verses, also found in Isaiah chapter 59:

“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,

nor his ear too dull to hear.

‘The Redeemer will come to Zion,

to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,’

… declares the LORD.”