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Stop Look Listen - reflecting on on the first half of 2008

We often rush headlong into the future and don't take enough time to reflect and remember what has gone on in our lives, what God has been saying, and the things we have planned to do but haven't yet.  We are doing a downtime in our church over these next two weeks - running church in a simpler way to free up time for rest, reflection and abiding in Jesus.  Last Sunday we used the following questions to help us reflect on the first half of 2008 (you might like to download them as a pdf here print them out and spend some time reflecting):

Reflect on your life in the last 6 months (as an individual, in your family, in your work, in your leisure, in your church life, in your spiritual walk)

What are the major things that have gone on in my life in the last 6 months?

What are some positive things that have happened?

What are some negative things that have happened

When have I been aware of the presence/absence of God and His goodness?

When have I been aware of brokenness or sinfulness?

When has God spoken to me (through his word, personal study, conversations, sermons - see below, worship, prayer etc.)

For what things can I give thanks?

What plans have I made that I need to remember to follow through on?  (How am I involving others in that process?

What would I like prayer for?

We also looked at short summaries of the sermons that have been preached during the year.  Looking over the list may remind you of something significant God has spoken to you about, or a sermon you missed may catch your eye - they are  online:

Messages from the first half of 2008

13/1/2008    Do this in Remembrance of me

Communion connects with the freedom that God brought through the passover, it is about a new covenant (unbreakable agreement) and it is about remembering Jesus the person (not just the act of his dying on the cross).  He is more real than the bread and wine we consume.

20/1/2008     Work from Rest - Fruitfulness comes from abiding (John 15:1-8)

God calls you to things but the first thing is to pause and rest.  Jewish days begin in the evening so the first thing we do is rest in sleep.  Abide in Jesus and we will bear much fruit.  Schedule holidays, rest and downtime into your diary in advance.  Work from rest.

27/1/2008     WMD’s - Worshippers and Missionary Disciples  (Matt 28:16-20)

In this great commission passage we saw the first response is worship.  The second response is to make disciples (students/learners/apprentices) of Jesus by immersing them in the reality of the Trinity and helping people acquire habits of goodness - We Teach All Who Seriously Commit Themselves to Jesus How to Do Everything He Said to Do.  Church Growth is Jesus responsibility - WMD is ours.

3/2/2008    What is true worship?

Each one of us has a built in worship response.  True worship is our adequate response to God that sees God as worthy - it is astonished reverence.  We can grow this by Recognizing and Remembering God, Reflecting, and then Responding in word and deed.

10/2/2008    Vowels of Worship  (2 Sam 6:3-23, Mark 11:12-21)

A -     Audience of our worship is God - NOT US
E -     Embrace different styles (traditional,     contemporary, formal, exuberant)
I  -      Inward change will happen in response to true     worship
O -     Openness to outsiders - our worship must not     exclude people
U -     Utmost is given to God - not half-hearted

17/2/2008    Developing disciplines in our worship  (Numbers 28-29)

In response to being caught up in Idolatry (Num 25), God teaches Israel to build patterns of daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal worship with people bringing grain, wine and animals for sacrifice (results of their daily work of farming etc.).  We need to build similar patterns into our lives

24/2/2008    Kairos Moments  (All Mark’s Gospel,  one example 10:35-45)

We looked at Jesus’ method for teaching his disicples.  In the gospels we see Jesus teaching in church mode (synagogue), conference mode (crowds), small group mode (with the 12), but most of it is in moment mode where events happen and Jesus processes them with the disciples.  There are two stages - Repent (change thinking by observing, reflecting and discussing) and Believe (act differently by planning, accounting and acting)

2/3/2008    Prepare the way of the Lord

We need to prepare for the coming of God in a new way in our lives by preparing our hearts.  This happens through prayer, devotion, fellowship, breaking bread, honest and openness etc.

9/3/2008    Learning from the moments of Life - developing a culture of care

We don’t automatically learn from life, we learn by choosing to learn from the moments of life.  In this sermon we did some observing, reflecting, discussing, planning, accounting and acting in response to a failure in pastoral care within our community

16/3/2008    The defining Moment (John 12:20-36)

Great people have a sense of timing and also have defining moments.  Easter was Jesus’ time and his defining moment.  Easter is not just about forgiveness, but about His defeat of all other powers.  We need to choose who’s power we ultimately recognise we can’t play to both sides.

23/3/2008    Who was Jesus  (John’s Gospel as summarised in 20:30-31)

There are seven signs in John’s gospel that point to who He is - Turning Water to Wine at Cana, Healing of Nobleman’s Son, Healing the invalid, Feeding the 5000, Walking on the Water, Healing the man born blind, and Raising Lazarus.  They point to His power.  But the eighth and ultimate sign - His resurrection - causes Thomas and should cause us to worship Jesus.

30/3/2008    Hearing from God  (Insights from the book “Hearing God” by D. Willard)

In the period between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension he was teaching them to recognise how he  spoke in their hearts by the Holy Spirit without being physically present.  As disciples of Jesus we can expect to hear Him speak to us today.  We will learn to discern his still small voice in our hearts by EXPERIENCE - it will come with a quality of steady and calm force, have spirit of peacefulness, joy and reasonableness (James 3:17), and will conform to the principles/overall teaching of Scripture

6/4/2008    Identifying Learning Moments

Jesus teaches us through Kairos moments.  We learn to identify them in our own lives by experience and by hearing God.  They can be of different types - large/small, postive/negative.  Two reflection questions that can help.  In the last week: When have I been aware of the presence/absence of God and His goodness?  When have I been aware of brokenness or sinfulness?

13/4/2008    The beatitudes  (Matt 4-9 - specifically 4:23-5:12)

The beatitudes in Matt 5:3-11 and Luke 6:20-26 contain Jesus radical teaching that upturned the ideas of who was well off.  Beatitudes are NOT beautiful attitudes - the word means blesseds.  There is no blessing in poverty (spiritual or physical), mourning etc.  but if you are in those conditions (and even if you are not) you can experience true blessing by entering the Kingdom of God through simple faith in Jesus.

20/4/2008    Power to heal the broken hearted  (Matt 4-9 - specifically 9:1-8)

Jesus ministers to our brokenness in heart, mind and body. Take heart - he heals the broken hearted, those who are crushed; he brings forgiveness; he challenges evil thoughts; and backs up the promise of  forgiveness with healing.

27/4/2008    Freely you have received  (Matt 4-9 - specifically 8-9)

How did the events of these chapters change and stretch the disciples (and our) thinking.  These chapters are about healing and about faith - people restored to health, and where they had been excluded to community, worship etc.  Then Jesus sent his disciples out to announce the availability of the kingdom, and to heal the sick - freely you have received, freely give (10:8).  We need to be open to receive prayer for healing and also to take little steps in starting to pray for healing for others.

4/5/2008    The Holy Spirit  (Acts 1:8, John 7:37f)

Like many Christians down through the centuries, we need to seek new and deeper experiences of God’s spirit that lead to greater fruitfulness in ministry.  The giving of God the Holy Spirit is the way God is bringing blessing to all nations.  Be open to knowing God more fully.  It is not about some Christians not having the Spirit.  Just as I can discover different aspects of a person I already know (eg. a hidden talent for painting) there is more for each of us to discover about the Holy Spirit.  Don’t be scared God the Father only gives good gifts.

11/5/2008    The Holy Spirit - hear people’s stories of the Spirit  (Acts 2:17-21)

God pours out his spirit on all people - sons, daughters, young, and old to prophesy etc.  We need to ask God for His Spirit and then step out in faith and share what we think God might be saying.

18/5/2008    Beyond Religious Righteousness  (Matt 4-9 - specifically 5:20-48)

Our righteousness must surpass that of the teachers of the law and pharisees (5:20).  This is not by keeping stricter laws but by aiming to become the sort of person from whom acts of the law naturally flow.  So by various examples Jesus’ teaches us to deal with anger, contempt, lust, verbal manipulation, revenge and hate for enemies - this is the consistent teaching of the New Testament.

25/5/2008    Beyond Religious Righteousness - part 2  (Matt 4-9 specifically ch 6-7) (not available online)

Jesus deals with three subtle but powerful issues: Approval - who is in your grandstand, who do you seek approval from? Security - where is your treasure is it in wealth or in God? Control - how do you operate with others, do you try to get them to do what you want through condemnation/judgment and forcing your wonderful things on them or by asking, seeking and knocking?

1/6/2008    The Church that I see

God gave Jesus to the world (Jn 3:16), Jesus gave himself to the world, Jesus gave the church to the world (Jn 20:21), We give ourselves to the world.  There are lots of unreached people around us.  God has called us to be a church that bridges the gap between traditional church and contemporary culture.  God has called us to reach the generations missing from churches across this city.  In the church I see people discover friends, connect with God, and make a bigger difference in the world by abiding in Jesus and working from rest.

8/6/2008    UNOH

Some personal stories of the ministry of UNOH amongst the poor and Cheryl’s experience in a Philippine slum.  God didn’t intend people to experience the horror of poverty.  Our response is not out of guilt but out of the character of God.  As Israel prepared to enter the promised land God gave some ways of minimizing the gap between rich and poor - no farming every 7 years, Jubilee etc.  God’s Spirit causes us to work to alleviate poverty from a changed heart and from generosity.

15/6/2008    How does your identity change when you become a Christian

We are adopted as children, we become servants of God, we become disiples of Jesus, and we receive God’s Spirit to help us with all of this.

22/6/2008    Life Shapes - Sharing from Sheffield conference

David Wanstall, 01/07/2008