Acts 2:1-13 #HouseChurch

In Summary
Gathered in the context of continual prayer (1:14), the Spirit “suddenly” comes. Rushing wind, tongues of fire, and the chaotic cacophony of the disciples overflowing in supernatural speech! Two immediate results: people from foreign nations begin to encounter the presence of God, and the Spirit-filled believers are the focus of mockery and scoffing.

If we want to impact nations, we too need to be filled with the Spirit–but are we prepared to endure the opposition that we will face?

Eating: Fisherman’s Pie, Garden Peas.
Present: Peter & Taryn + Isaac; Sophie, Ryan; Linda + Adam; Roxann, Katie, Esther.
Passage: Acts 2:1-13

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

Acts 1:12-26 #HouseChurch

In Summary
Having been told to ‘wait for the Promise of the Father’ — the Baptism of the Holy Spirit — the apostles gather the disciples together for some serious prayer. And the first thing they must do is to work through the pain of Judas’ betrayal, and work out how their apostolic team is going to replace him. A process of prayer, Scripture, and straightforward defining of the necessary criteria leads to two suitable candidates being proposed — and then they cast lots.

Is this a failure of seeking spiritual guidance? Should they have waited more patiently for supernatural revelation?–maybe it would have arrived at Pentecost! Was Paul the real twelfth apostle?–we never really hear any more about Matthias.

The DTS I’m leading begins this week. God, please give me supernatural wisdom and revelation to understand exactly what your will is, and the discernment to know when I should continue to press in for more clarity before making decisions–and when I should just be decisive, trusting that in Your sovereign power you are able to work even my mistakes to Your glory!

Eating: Roast Chicken, Mashed Potato, Roast Vegetables; Choc Ices; Tea.
Present: Peter & Taryn + Isaac; Ryan (Sophie, Lucy); Roxann, Katie, Mathieu; James; Haley.
Passage: Acts 1:12-26

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

Acts 1:1-11 #HouseChurch

In Summary
After finishing working our way through Mark, we’re now moving on to the Book of Acts. Why didn’t the world revert to its intended perfection immediately after Jesus had died for our sins and risen again? Because He wants us to be involved in the task of bringing the kingdom of God upon earth as it is in heaven. This is the commission with which Acts begins: to be Jesus’ witnesses–here, there and everywhere! Luckily, we’re not left to complete!the task on our own — we’re promised the presence and power of the Holy Spirit!

Eating: Barbecue Chicken, Baguettes, Salad.
Present: Peter & Taryn + Isaac; Sophie, Lucy, and Ryan; Linda + Adam.
Passage: Acts 1:1-11

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

___________________

On that subject…
— Wait on God, asking Him to fill you with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, with His presence, His purity and His power, so that you can be a witness to those around you. Pray specifically for opportunities to share the proofs that Jesus has given you of His reality.

“What Church do you go to?”

“What church do you go to?” This is a common question when two Christians meeting for the first time discover that they live in the same city and worship the same God. But it’s actually a slightly complex query for me to straightforwardly answer–because there’s multiple Christian communities of which I’m part which I could happily call ‘my church’.

Church of the Good Shepherd.
The only one that actually has the word ‘Church’ in its name is the Church of the Good Shepherd, our local Anglican parish church (if you have the time you can peruse my account of my Anglican convictions here). We’ve been going here since just before Christmas 2013 — Taryn’s first service was the all-age Christingle service, which she did not know what to make of (for those of you who haven’t experienced it, it attempts to use an orange spiked with cocktail sticks to convey the Christmas story).

We generally go to the 8.30am half-hour communion service (where our family is always the youngest present), but on those days where we fail to arise in time we go to the 10am family service.

The Good Shepherd is a combination of all the threads that make up the tapestry of the Anglican church: liturgical, sacramental, evangelical, and charismatic.

The church that meets in our house.
One of the reasons we go to the brief early service at CoGS is so that we have time to get ready for the Sunday lunch followed by House Church that we host each week in our own little home.

Ever since my Dad gave me a copy of T4T to read I have been gripped by the fact that to see a multitude of people be swept into the kingdom of God we need a movement of simple, reproducible churches. And so we have been trying ever since returning to Cambridge to gather whoever we can for simple, reproducible discipleship (church!). We used a simple discipleship course that I’d put together to get started, and then have been inductively studying the Gospel of Mark together.

We have yet to see the little group that gathers in our living room multiply into a movement that will fill the city with the glory of God — but that is what we are praying for!

YWAM Cambridge.
Then of course there’s YWAM Cambridge, our missionary family. YWAM is not a church denomination — but nor does YWAM consider itself to be a parachurch organization. Ah– no sooner have I begun writing than I’ve fallen into the trap of saying ‘YWAM considers itself’, as though the mission has some self-consciousness of its own, rather than simply being a family of people with a variety of different understandings of how what the mission is relates to what the church is.

But there’s a helpful line from the YWAM.org Values page: We are called to commit to the Church in both its local nurturing expression and its mobile multiplying expression.

Which is to say that we in YWAM are called to love your ‘normal’ (? !) ‘local churches’, while standing confident in our identity as an equally important expression of the Church.

[Ten days after I published this post, YWAM England founder Lynn Green posted his own thoughts on the relationship between YWAM and local churches, which are interesting to read in the context of this discussion.]

Cambridge House of Prayer.
And I need to mention CamHoP as well, because as we have spent some time discussing as a leadership team, if the Cambridge House of Prayer is called to be a ‘fresh expression of church’ (my view is that we should think of Houses of Prayer as ‘fresh expressions of cathedral!’) then it is essential that we do not shy back from calling it a church.

It may be a ‘different’ sort of church, it may not be competing with other churches for exclusive members, but it is not anything less than ‘a church’: two or three gathered in the name of Jesus, committed to trusting, praying, and obeying the word of God corporately and individually.

And…
So those are the ‘churches’ in Cambridge that I regularly attend. And I haven’t mentioned ‘my’ church in Luton — New Covenant Fellowship, where I still sometimes get the opportunity to preach. Or Taryn’s church in Delhi, DBF Central, which prayed us out from India as we departed to England as missionaries. Not to mention that although we’re no longer members, I am still very fond of my old Cambridge church, CPC.

But what I really want to say is that all of us as Christians are called not just to attend some church or other, but also to multiply the kingdom of God by discipling whoever you can to grow into a greater measure of faith and obedience, while standing in humble solidarity with all the other expressions of the church in your city and across the world.

It might be that the church you go to has a fantastic multiplying small group strategy, in which you should get involved and seek to be trained to lead a small-group whose members would themselves become small-group leaders who would multiply other leaders–and on ad infinitum. But if your church doesn’t have such a strategy, that doesn’t mean you need to leave your church–but it does mean that you will have to take more initiative to start some group in which you can gather people to come and be discipled.

Leading out in discipleship in non-negotiable
I am convinced that this is a non-negotiable aspect of the Christian life. How exactly you do it is up to you, though there are a few constants that you’ll need to think about. First, there’s the question of who you can disciple. In theory, this is easy: EVERYBODY! If they don’t know Jesus, then you can be the first person to really explain the simple gospel message to them; if they do know Jesus, then you can try to mobilise them with a vision for multipying discipleship.

Second, there’s the question of where to meet. Anywhere will do — you don’t need a religious building to talk about spiritual things. Though some places are obviously better than others for a group of people to have discussion and fellowship.

Third, you need to find (or more likely, create!) a time in your weekly schedule that you can commit to being free, and that will also work for the others who you want to come and join you.

Fourth, you need to work out what discipleship material you are going to use. There are a thousand different possibilities, but my conviction is that in the long-term, the only material you need, and actually the most powerful, is the Bible itself. And in the short-term you want a fairly brief course that will help take people from where they are to a healthy engagement with the Scriptures. If it’s helpful then you are more than welcome to try and use my Simple Christianity course — and feel free to adapt it however you see fit. Or there’s the Alpha Course, which is probably the world’s best-known introductory discipleship course for not-yet Christians. Or it might be that what works best in your situation is just to invite whoever you can to the church service that you regularly attend, and then afterwards invite them home to a meal and ask them what they made of what they heard–but it’s essential, that you don’t neglect this latter part, because if you’ve been a Christian for a while, and you’re inviting someone who is a young or not-yet Christian, then there will certainly have been a long list of things that were interesting to you but unintelligible to them.

Conclusion: ‘Be the Church you want to see in the world.’
So anyway, that’s my answer to the ‘where do you go to church?’ question. Which is probably just a long way of me saying that I believe that the church is first and foremost not a place we go to, but a people of which I am part. And those who are part of the church have been commissioned not just to go to a religious service once or twice a week, but to GO and find whoever they can, and invite them to COME and encounter the transforming love of God.

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#markMark 16:9-20

In Summary
I have to be honest and say that I don’t believe that this passage is part of Scripture ‘as originally given‘ — and so having a bible study on it was a little peculiar. Because the reason I try and gather people to study the Bible is that Scripture is God-breathed, and uniquely powerful to cut through our minds’ fuzzy logic and our hearts’ wobbly feelings with the living and active Word of the Lord. And I want to create communities in which there is a contagious culture of fiery faith in all that Scripture teaches, not dodging the difficult doctrines or avoiding the awkward affirmations that the Bible sometimes gives us.

There are of course some fantastic bits in this passage: there’s the Great Commission to preach the gospel to all creation; there’s the promise that the Holy Spirit will confirm the coming of the Kingdom with miraculous signs; there’s the reminder of the simple truth that salvation comes if and only if you believe in Jesus; and of course there’s the resurrection of Jesus witnessed multiple times!

But then there’s the weird bits about drinking poison and messing around with snakes. Which unfortunately undermines how strongly you can press the point with the other things. (Though there are some Pentecostal Christians who embrace snake-handling, God bless them!)

Eating: Bring & Share Picnic
Present: Peter (and parents) & Taryn + Isaac; Linda + Adam; Lucy & Theo, Ryan, (Sophie); Mrittunjoy; Rebecka; Jono, Hannah; (Alyssa, James); (Sandro & Deborah)
Passage: Mark 16:9-20

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

___________________

On that subject…
– In case you missed it in my answer to the relevant question, Wikipedia has a comprehensive account of the various bits of manuscript evidence regarding this passage.

– If you’re interested in the question of the textual reliability of the New Testament more generally, then a twentieth-century scholar called F.F. Bruce wrote the definitive book on the subject: ‘The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?’. And it seems that as well as being for sale on Amazon, its text is freely available here.

– And on the subject of snake-handling, here’s a fascinating and somewhat unsympathetic five minute report from CNN:

mark16

#markMark 15:40-16:8

In Summary
‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen’

Except the women hadn’t come consciously looking for the risen Jesus — they were just hoping for a way to get into the tomb so they could pay their respects to his dead body. And this revelation was so overwhelming that they didn’t respond as if they were even glad to hear the news. Just alarm, bewilderment, fear.

In the same way, this applies to everyone making their way through life, busying themselves with the day’s business, attempting to attain their small ambitions. But the truth is that they are looking for Jesus! They might not realise it, and when told so they might deny it, but God has set eternity in every human heart, and there is nothing like the reality of the risen Jesus that so resonates with the inner spiritual nature of a person; there is nothing else that can satisfy the spiritual hunger within every human soul.

*You* are looking for Jesus! ‘See where he was laid’ — examine the evidence, it is robust enough to stand up to the most inquisitive of questioning. And then ‘go, tell’ what you have seen — this news that the crucified Jesus is risen and alive is too good to be kept to yourself.

Eating: Honey Mustard Baked Chicken, Mashed Potato, Green Peas; Choc Ices; Cheeseboard; Coffee.
Present: Peter & Taryn + Isaac; Sophie, Lucy & Theo, Ryan; Linda + Adam; Jono.
Passage: Mark 15:40-16:8

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

___________________

On that subject…
— I love this visual depiction (specifically from 1:57, though the whole video is great)of the spiritual significance of the Resurrection:

20150701_151351

#markMark 15:21-39

In Summary
Almost two years after starting reading through Mark’s Gospel, we finally come to The Cross. Here the Son of God was forsaken, so that despite our sins we might never be. Here the ‘temple’ of Jesus’ body was destroyed, so that the curtain in the Temple barring us from accessing the presence of a holy God might be torn in two, once for all, from top to bottom. You can miss the point in mockery (“can’t Jesus even save himself? “) or in mysticism (“Elijah might be coming!”), but The Cross invites us to respond to Jesus in simple faith (“surely this is the Son of God”).

Eating: Roast Chicken, Mashed Potato, Roasted Vegetables & Green Beans; Apple Strudel & Ice-Cream.
Present: Peter & Taryn + Isaac; Abigail, Lucy & Theo; Linda + Adam; Doug; Jono; Asha, Rajiv, Manoj.
Passage: Mark 15:21-39

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

___________________

On that subject…
Here’s a scholarly essay on the idea of Jesus being forsaken by God.
— We’ve been giving out DVDs of Billy Graham’s recent video ‘The Cross’.

mark 15

#markMark 15:1-20

In Summary
Everyone’s guilty: the ‘whole’ Sanhedrin, the ‘whole’ company of Roman soldiers, the whole multitude calling for Jesus to be crucified — the whole of humanity. All except Jesus: ‘what crime has he committed?’ And this of course is the answer to the question of why Jesus should be crucified — not that he deserves it, but that humanity needed a sinless substitute in order to escape the punishment we deserve for our sins. We are like Barabbas: murderous, sinful, clearly guilty. But because Jesus takes our place we are released. This is the King of the Jews whom the prophets foretold! That’s my King! Do you know him?

Eating: Honeydew Melon; Fisherman’s Pie; Strudel and Sorbet; Crackers and Cheese; Coffee and Chocolate.
Present: Peter & Taryn + Isaac; Abigail, Sophie; Doug; Hannah.
Passage: Mark 15:1-20

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

___________________

On that subject…
— On the subject of the pain which Jesus suffered, someone mentioned the film the Passion of the Christ, which (too?) vividly portrays that suffering. The clip showing this particular scene can be watched here, but be warned, it is brutal.

— More edifying as you meditate on the character of ‘the King of the Jews’ is this clip:

20150615_154741

#markMark 14:27-72

In Summary
…Just as he had foretold, Jesus is betrayed, arrested, forsaken. Even as he wrestles in prayer with God the Father to establish whether there is any other possible way for salvation to be accomplished (there’s not), he stands assured in his identity: still referring to God as ‘Abba’, still speaking of what is to happen ‘after I am raised up’. And when he is at last asked straightforwardly who he is, Jesus confesses the truth: that he is ‘the Christ, the son of the Blessed [God]’. Then we have the disciples. They’re confused, they’re bewildered, they’re tired. They can’t even stay awake an extra hour to pray with Jesus in his moment of need. One of them finds himself unexpectedly naked. Peter’s very determination to be the one who doesn’t leave Jesus, leads to him denying him three times.

Eating: Roasted Chicken and Peppers, Mashed Potato & Gravy, Roasted Vegetables, Cornetto Ice-creams.
Present: Peter & Taryn + Isaac; Abigail, Sophie, Lucy & Theo; Linda + Adam; Doug; Bethany.
Passage: Mark 14:27-72

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

___________________

On that subject…
— Here’s an essay I wrote as a student, arguing that “that there was no other way for sinners to be saved from judgement” than for Jesus to go to the cross.

— Our DTS was impacted powerfully recently by Dr Sandy Kirk from Behold Ministries who was teaching on the cup of the Father’s wrath. Here’s a clip of her speaking about it:

— And here is the classic sermon by Jonathan Edwards on the subject of Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

20150615_164519

#markMark 14:12-26

In Summary
On the day the Passover lamb was sacrificed, Jesus — ‘the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ — takes the Passover bread and wine, and creates a new ceremony for a new covenant. Too often we who have been invited to eat with Jesus have betrayed him with our divisive debates over the method and the meaning of celebrating this sacrament. But it will not do to ignore it for fear of causing offense, for we have been commanded to Do This in remembrance of Jesus’ death for us, to Do This as a sign and means of our communion with Christ, to Do This as a proclamation of the coming kingdom of God, to Do This as a demonstration of and petition for Christian unity.

Eating: Cottage Pie, Leafy Salad with Feta Cheese, Ice Cream with Strawberries, Cheese & Crackers, Coffee and Chocolate Truffles (ie. Graduation Meal Leftovers).
Present: Peter & Taryn + Isaac; Abigail, Sophie, Lucy, Ryan; Linda + Adam; Mrittunjoy; Hannah, Bethalee; Doug.
Passage: Mark 14:12-26

As usual we spent some time scribbling on Scripture to work out what’s going on in the passage:

Then eventually we come to the
Questions & Comments

___________________

On that subject…
— Jews For Jesus explains the significance of some of the Passover meal here.

— I’ll add here that personally, this was a significant Sunday for me. At our DTS Graduation the night before, I had baptised someone for the first time, and we had planned to close with Communion, but we were running late and so decided to end without. So it happened that we arrived at this passage with wine and unleavened matzot providentially provided! And as if the Holy Spirit were going the extra mile to assure me that my spiritual status as a born-again child of God does give me sacramental authority, that morning at my local Anglican church, the sermon had been preached on the Great Commission, and had repeated the point that the Great Commission is for all of us; discipling, teaching, baptising — it’s for all of us!