Bible · Church · faith · Me · Prayer

Why I Believe In Jesus

There’s a passage in John’s Gospel, (Chapter 5 verses 31 – 47) where Jesus explains reasons for people to people in him. Here they are:

1 John the Baptist. John came with a message of truth, and an important part of that message pointed to Jesus.

2 The works that Jesus was doing. Even more than John’s witness, the works that Jesus was doing were evidence.

3 God the Father. The Father also gives witness to Jesus, but where minds are closed, and there is a refusal to believe, it is impossible to hear his voice.

4 The Scriptures. Openness to hear the truths contained in the written word leads to a revelation of the ‘Living Word’ (Jesus)

So, the question is – why do I believe in Jesus ?

  1. The people who, like John the Baptist, showed me Jesus.
    My Sunday School teacher, Jim Gravett. Jim was also a teacher at my secondary school, so I saw his faith lived out in the work setting as well as at church. I remember outings that we went on a children – sometimes a walk in the Sussex countryside, after which we would all go back to Jim’s house where he and his wife would cook us something like beans on toast. Simple hospitality that I remember from 50+ years ago. Jim kept a range of animals at the bottom of the garden and we were captivated by watching his ferrets run around the garden. Jim kept chickens at school as well, and would take the left over communion bread and feed it to the hens. An earthy, simple faith.
    Bob and Julie Phipps, who attended our church, and experienced several bereavements – losing a son in a road accident and another son as well – I can’t remember the circumstances. Yet they were the most alive and faith filled couple I knew. They talked about their faith with enthusiasm; they believed that God answered prayer, and had a long string of faith stories to prove it.
    My parents, who brought me up in a relaxed way that allowed me to take things at my pace, and never forced things on me.
    My uncle Hugh and Aunty Mary. Hugh would look for opportunities to have a one to one with his nephews and nieces and would be sure to ask us how things were between us and God. They were both so generous with their home, having an open table on a Sunday lunch time for anyone to join the family. I spent so many Sundays with them when I was a student, enjoying the food and the company.
    Gareth Bolton, a primary school teacher who would spend every holiday working with a Christian mission agency. His faith in action was inspiring. His charity, AMEN, is now supporting thousands of small communities around the world.
    David and Dorothy Bond; David was the vicar of St James Church in Selby, North Yorkshire, and set for me an example of Christian leadership. A gentle, humble man, with a passionate faith. Together David and Dorothy modelled hospitality and welcomed us into the church and into their lives.
  2. The works of God/Jesus that I have seen in my own life and in the lives of others. Christians who have lived a life of faith, whilst experiencing great suffering and difficulty. Answers to prayers that have sometimes been ‘yes’, sometimes ‘no,’ and sometimes ‘not now.’
  3. God. Always trying to live with an openness to what God is doing in me and around me. A sense of God’s care – what the Old Testament calls ‘steadfast love and faithfulness.’
  4. The Scriptures. So many times God has spoken to me through something in scripture. I wish I had written them all down, because my memory lets me down. I will read a passage, or a verse, and it will immediately connect with something that I am asking, or something I am about to do. I have heard it called serendipity, but for me it is God at work, and it happens so often that I couldn’t explain it away.

Here’s the passage – John 5:31-47

Witnesses to Jesus

31 If I speak for myself, there is no way to prove I am telling the truth. 32 But there is someone else who speaks for me, and I know what he says is true. 33 You sent messengers to John, and he told them the truth. 34 I don’t depend on what people say about me, but I tell you these things so that you may be saved. 35 John was a lamp that gave a lot of light, and you were glad to enjoy his light for a while.

36 But something more important than John speaks for me. I mean the things that the Father has given me to do! All of these speak for me and prove that the Father sent me.

37 The Father who sent me also speaks for me, but you have never heard his voice or seen him face to face. 38 You have not believed his message, because you refused to have faith in the one he sent.

39 You search the Scriptures, because you think you will find eternal life in them. The Scriptures tell about me, 40 but you refuse to come to me for eternal life.

41 I don’t care about human praise, 42 but I do know that none of you love God. 43 I have come with my Father’s authority, and you have not welcomed me. But you will welcome people who come on their own. 44 How could you possibly believe? You like to have your friends praise you, and you don’t care about praise that the only God can give!

45 Don’t think that I will be the one to accuse you to the Father. You have put your hope in Moses, yet he is the very one who will accuse you. 46 Moses wrote about me, and if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me. 47 But if you don’t believe what Moses wrote, how can you believe what I say?

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Do I agree with Jesus ?

I was reading today in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 26. Jesus is at the home of someone called Simon the Leper. An unnamed woman anoints his head with a very expensive far of prefumed oil. The disciples are not happy – the oil could have been sold and the money used for the poor. Jesus disagrees – ‘You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me …what she has done today will be remembered whenever the Gospel is preached’

How do we read scripture ? It’s easy to assume that we’re supposed to read it from the ‘right’ point of view. This usually means seeing it from the perspective of the ‘good’ person. To be on the side of the angels. To see things from the point of view of the underdog. To side with the poor.

So in this passage, I want to see it from the disciples’ angle. I think they’re right. The money could have been used for the poor. And I would hope that Jesus would agree, and tell her to stop. But he doesn’t. Uhh ?

Any thoughts ?

Grace and Peace.

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Song for Today #13


Talk about Suffering

When I started on thinking about suffering, this song came to mind.  As far as I can tell it’s origins are ‘traditional’

It sounds like a song written out of real experience – like so many of the spirituals yearning for a more just life. My guess is that the sufferings come from injustice and poverty. 

For the person of faith that yearning has often been expressed as hope in life after death.  Heaven, Paradise, Shangri La, Elysium etc.  That may be because there doesn’t seem to be any real possibility for this life getting any better, so our only hope is in heaven.

Cries such as this however must lead in the direction of change here and now.

I like to find a live version which is here, showcasing Phil Keaggy’s amazing guitar work.  Talk about Suffering – Phil Keaggy

but this is Phil Keaggy’s recorded version. Talk about Suffering


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Nine Beats

A few years ago, at the Greenbelt Festival,  I came across a group called the Nine Beats Collective
who were running some sessions based around the ancient wisdom of nine sayings of Jesus.
These sayings of Jesus all start with the word blessed – blessed are you when …
So I went to the sessions, and I bought a little book – The Ninefold Path – that contained some reflections and spiritual exercises, but it stayed on my bookshelf – that is until this week.
I had actually been thinking about the book last week sometime, and on Monday I decided to have a look at in my daily prayer time.  So I took the book, along with my Bible and my notebook and sat down to read.  First, I looked to see what my daily reading from the Bible was, and could hardly believe it when I saw that it was those exact same sayings of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel!
I just love it when that happens. Call it synchronicity if you like. It’s when God says something through the daily events of life.  It happens a lot actually if you look out for it.
That encouraged me to take The Ninefold Path book and look at it seriously.  So this week, I have been focusing on Beatitude no. 1 – Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Essentially this is saying that the most important thing that God is looking for in us is a willingness to let go of the idea that it’s all about our own efforts.  All that God has for us is gift. We simply have to see our poverty and need, and receive.
So each day this week, among other things, I’ve been asking myself:
What am I thankful for today ?
What do I need today ?
One of the the things I love about these sayings of Jesus is that they are so accessible.  You don’t need to be a religious (as in Churchy) person to benefit from them.  You don’t need a degree in theology.  You don’t even need to have much in the way of believing in God actually, just an openness to learn and receive. There’s wisdom here to help anyone in daily life.
You’re blessed when you’ve come to the end of your own resources. With less of you there is more of God and his way of living.
Church

Work Of Love And Grace

Today’s question  – What could be different about church ?
I came across a verse today in psalm 68 – I’m reading the New Revised Standard Version
verse 9:
Rain in abundance, O God, you showered abroad;
you restored your heritage when it languished;
I’m taking God’s heritage here as the Church of God.  And in this country and in so many secular, Post Christendon societies, the Church of God has lost its edge. 
So the hope held out here is that God will restore the Church.
Rain in abundance: this reminds us that this restoration will be a work of God.  We do not send the rain, this is not something that we can control.
You showered abroad: I realise that translations vary enormously, but the word that came to me today through this phrase was another hope – that God’s renewal would be widespread.
In the latter half of the 20th century, there was a widespread renewal in worship, with greater openness to the work of the Holy Spirit.
What I am praying for is a greater openness now to the Holy Spirit breaking down the walls of the church to spread God’s goodness and grace.
There’s a story in the Gospel about the woman who brought a jar of precious perfume to Jesus – she broke it open and poured it over Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
What I pray for is for the world to filled with the gracious works of the Holy Spirit through God’s church.  Of course those works of love and grace are not absent now, but we long for more. 
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The Scribes Mark 2:6-12

Mark 2:6-12


‘The Scribes and the Pharisees’ will appear more and more as Mark’s Gospel continues.  But this is their first appearance, and it’s the first sign of conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders.  We had a hint in an earlier incident, when the people in the synangogue comment that Jesus is not like the scribes (the scribes were the acknowledged experts in the religious law).


In this exchange, the scribes object to Jesus telling a paralysed man that his sins are forgiven.  (Only God can forgive sin)  Jesus responds by healing the man, as if to say – ‘You want to know if I have authority to forgive sin, well yes I do!’


The scribes thought that they knew what religion was all about.  Thier job was to know the scriptures and to interpret them.  But for them it had become a set of rules to follow rather than a relationship to grow in. When religion has become just a set of rules or rituals, rather than a relationship, then we have lost it. 


It happens in all areas of life, not just religion. And some people stick to rules not just for themselves, but so that they can control others. But it is especially dangerous when people use God, or rules about religion, to exercise control over others.

Bible · faith

The Importance Of The Old

Mar 1:2-2

What Jesus brings is not a new religion.  We have enough of that.  More than enough.  Jesus was rooted in the Old Testament scriptures, in the faith of his ancestors.  What Jesus brought was a fulfilment of the promises made long ago.

These words are addressed TO Jesus ‘See I am sending my messenger ahead of you’ 
The old is often rejected in favour of the new.  The old is often scorned.  It’s boring, irrelevant.  But this new thing that Jesus does is rooted in the ancient revelation of God through the prophets. Christians (especially evangelical and charistmatic ones)  sometimes think that by singing a load of new songs and listening to inspirational preaching, we can get everything we need to feed our spirit.
This is in  danger of being Do it Yourself Christianity.  There are ancient ways of reading, and praying and living that we miss at our peril