Surrounded By His Glory

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Location: Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

More CU Training Weekend: Something Cool

There was a girl there from Southampton Uni who looked vaugely familiar, and the name tallied with my memory, but I still wasn't sure. She recognised me however, and she was a friend of a friend of a friend that I'd met almost 4 years ago at Soul Survivor. We got chatting and it emerged that her parents had recently moved to the church that I attend back home, and that she was going when she was home from Uni, but was finding it tough not knowing anyone. It also emerges that her little brother has been attending for some time now a youth group that until recently I helped to run.

I feel like being Clicheed. Number 1; Small World, Number 2; The Lord Moves In Mysterious Ways

Seriously though, God can use anyone in any situation, in ways we could never imagine.

Catching up 2: CU Leader's Training Weekend

I realise that this is above "Catching Up 1", but I'm sure you can figure out which 1 came first...

Anyway, last weekend, the CU committee all went (with Jason and Debbie) to Sunbury Court Youth Centre for an amazing weekend of bonding with each other, learning more about God (and what we've let ourselves in for) and meeting committees from other CUs from across the South-East of England. I just thought I'd share with you some of the great teaching we received (although I've forgotten the guy's name - oops. If anyone was there and can remember it, please let me know). I won't share the practical workshops as they're less applicable to everyone, but the main strand of talks about being "Authentic Servants of Jesus" was very thought provoking. It was based on Paul's second letter to the Corinthians (I've always wanted to sound quite that posh - teehee), Chapters 3-6. Are you sitting comfortably? Well, I shall begin...

Talk 1: 2 Corinthians 4

God uses people who feel weak - it is a mark of an authentic servant of Christ, and it is the faithful, not the impressive that get rewarded. In 2 Corinthians 6:4, Paul sees his suffering as a mark of being a servant of Christ.

How can we be people that God can use?
- put confidence in the gospel, not your technique. Paul has nothing to prove as he knows that the gospel is true. However even if we do this, people may not accept the gospel. This is due to the nature of humans, as Satan has blinded nonbelievers. Therefore evangelism needs God to be at work.
- understand that your weakness is a greater asset than your strength. Paul calls the gospel "Treasures in Jars of Clay". God has entrusted the gospel to us to show that the power is from God, not from people. People would naturally talk about the treasure, rather than the jar. We are called to be jars of clay, and as such we are not immune from the suffering of a fallen world. In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that our suffering is a necessary part of our evangelism. Weakness, Vulnerability and Suffering do not disqualify us from serving Jesus. We can identify with others in their suffering.
- Know That Your Future Is With God. Paul looks forward to his eternal reward in heaven.

Talk 2: 2 Corinthians 3; Authentic Servants of Jesus are... Confident in the Gospel

A bit of background to 2 Corinthians... Paul found the church at Corinth a tough nut to crack
- Paul had indicated that he would visit and had not turned up
- They didn't think much of Paul anyway
- Visiting preachers, who made great claims for their ministry, were much loved in Corinth
- Paul has to defend the authenticity of his ministry

This is why Authentic Servants of Jesus need to be confident in the gospel. Paul isn't ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:17). How many of us can honestly say that?

The Challenges
- Pluralism - a system of thought that recognises more than one ultimate principle
- Relativism - challenging the absolute standards of the gospel
- Atheism/Naturalism - a disbelief in God, although it is worth remembering that this viewpoint requires as many assumptions on the part of the believer as Christianity
- Political Correctness - the religious hatred bill being a fine example
- Agnosticism and Apathy - probably the most common attitude that many of us face

Different Courses of Action
- Bury your head in the sand
- Try and separate faith from the mind, in order to try and 'protect' our faith from questions we think might damage it. However this results in a loss of confidence in faith.
- Develop and maintain confidence in the gospel

Paul's Challenges
- these came from visiting speakers who were after reputation and money. They would claim that the key to maturity lay in the Old Testament law of Moses.

Confidence in the Gospel that Changes Lives (2 Cor 3:1-6)
The Corinthians should have known about the authticity of Paul's ministry as they were fruits of it. Note Pauls emphasis on the works of the Spirit. Changed people rather than clever programmes are the evidence of Authentic Christian Service.

Confidence in the Gospel that brings us into God's transforming prescence (2 Cor 3:7-18)
There is a contrast between the life-giving Spirit, and the death-dealing Law. When the gospel is challenged however, Paul faces the challenge head on.
- The law lead to death but through the gospel we receive the Spirit (v.7,8)
- The law condemns us, but the Spirit brings righteousness (v9)
- The glory of the law is fading, the Spirit's work will last (v11)
- Since the glory of the gospel is not fading, we can be bold (v12,13)
- When we respond to the gospel, there is nothing to separate us from the prescence of God.

Confidence in the Gospel that guarantees our eternal future (2 Cor 5: 1-10)
Nuff said

Talk 3: 2 Corinthians 5:11 - 6:2; Authentic Servants of Jesus are... Passionate About Mission

Why evangelism???
- To create a following?
- To make our mark?
- To demonstrate that our approach works?
- Because UCCF tells us to?
- Because we want the CU to grow?

Why evangelism for Paul?
Grounded in two massive realities...
- The return of Christ and the reality of judgement
- The cross of Christ and the offer of salvation

So, why evangelism really???
- Because we fear the judgement of Christ (v11,12), His displeasure when we meet Him in judgement (v9,10), and His wrath for those who meet him unprepared. We may already be saved, but we will still have to answer to Jesus. So, we persuade people (v11a) - the why affects the how, if there is no judgement, nothing matters. We also act with integrity (v11b,12).
- Because the love of Christ leaves us no option! (v13-17). The scope of Christ's love in His work on the cross, and the effect of the cross on Paul. So, no more regarding people from a worldly point of view (v16) - again the why affects the how - and no more living the old way (v17)

The Ministry of Reconciliation
What God has done - reconciled the world to himself by not counting people's sins against them.
Therefore, what must we do???

Talk 4: 2 Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1; Authentic Servants of Jesus... are Committed to Holiness

Lead by example, not just by words; 1 Timothy 4:12,16

Challenging the Stereotypes
- Is as much about what you do as what you don't do
- Is about deep change from the inside, not just slavish adherence to rules
- Is ultimately a call to discover true humanity

Specific Instruction - Don't be joined in unequal partnerships with unbelievers (v14)

Reasons - We're incompatible and don't belong together (v14-16)
- We are the temple of God, and so should be separate

Promises - We will be received by God (v17b)
- We will enjoy a close relationship with Him (v18)

Conclusion (General Principle) - Purify ourselves from everything that contaminates, and so complete our Holiness (Ch7,v1)

...Two Puzzles
- Why did Paul include this material here?
- What kind of partnerships is he forbidding?

Firstly, He is not telling us to withdraw from society (1 Cor 5:9-)

Participation With Idol Worshippers (Temptation To Religious Compromise)
- 1 Cor 8:9-13; "flee idolatry"

Union With A Prostitute (Temptation To Sexual Sin)
- 1 Cor 6:12-19; "flee from sexual immorality"

Secular Judge Arbitrating In Christian Disputes (Relational Temptation)
- 1 Cor 6:1-11


Hope that helps, I'm off to sleep off my man flu...Niteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Catching up 1

Well, I've kinda been a little bit busy, not to mention lazy, so, as I'm tired and ill - again - I'm going to try and catch up with myself. Um...

Well, thanks to anyone who reads my blog and prayed for me, not to mention those that I cornered and demanded spiritual support from. Amidst Satan's attacks, printers jamming, other things overrunning, and a general feeling that everything was going horribly wrong, it actually went really well. Thats the power of prayer. By two minutes before the service was due to start, we had topped/tailed 1.5 songs, and so I decided that the last two minutes would be best spent pouring our hearts out to God. We did and He came through in some style, I had so much positive feedback afterwards, and apparently it was coming in to the church office over the course of the next week too. I guess this is me making it plain, if I haven't already to people, that I had nothing to do with how well that went, it was all God, and it is Him - it is always Him - that deserves the glory...
That evening however, I was due to play bass at my church, there was going to be jazz as well as worship, and I was really looking forward to it. However when I arrived the jazz duo decided that they didn't want a bassist, so I was moping slightly. Then I felt a slight nudge from God, saying something along the lines of "You were no more important at the front of the church leading worship this morning than you are now. Go and see what you can do to help, and for goodness sake smile while you're doing it". Man, was I told. I ended up fetching the band water, fixing the occasional PA glitch - words out that I'm a tonnie now - and serving tea and coffee while exchanging friendly banter with middle-aged ladies... and I loved it. I'm a bit stuck trying to think of how to phrase the lesson that I learnt, but I'm sure you all get it. It all comes down to humility, and I don't want this paragraph to be boasting about how I learnt a valuable lesson, because if it was, it would become clear that I had learnt nothing. I keep trying harder every day to put God 1st in everything I do, and I'm learning, but I still have a long way to go.

Everything Else
I also just wanted to share quite how much God has been reminding me how much He loves me. Over the last week or two in particular I have been so blessed. Jerimiah 33:3 says:

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you the great and unsearchable things you do not know."

This is so true, and I have been living proof of this, whether it be through a well-timed text message by a friend confirming a bible passage that God had shown me, or just a well-placed chapter in a fantastic book - 'Pure' by Linda Marshall. If you haven't read this book, I would thoroughly recommend it.

Also, I just want to say how much God has been blessing me on campus, with such an amazing network of Christian friends. It is so great to have so many people to rejoice with.

"How Great Is Our God" - exquisite song, dumb question.