If you missed part one, you can catch up here.
The Wednesday morning talk was called: Making God at Home. Andy Croft talked about the fact that God’s presence is always with us, but He manifests when we give Him the space. And we can experience this anywhere: Exodus 3, Acts 2. Andy asked us: When it comes to the manifest presence of God, how good a host are you? The temple’s just a big empty box full of God without the presence of God. But we don’t need to earn His presence either – because He’s always there. Sacrifice is about honouring the fact that He’s already with us.
What can we sacrifice to demonstrate that God’s presence is the most important thing?
- Needing to be in control
- Fear of failure
- Other people’s regard
- Not being interrupted – if a word isn’t convenient, it’s probably Him!
Adoration takes a while. You need to make time to really linger in His presence. When do we prioritise Him and make time to enjoy Him?
On Wednesday afternoon, I went to my first seminar aimed at the 20s/30s, called Changing the World 9 to 5. Helen Rushton began by recommending the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity for resources to support Christians in the workplace. God wants to use the whole of our lives.
Helen pointed out that in many other traditions, Creation happens as a result of a battle. In the Bible, God deliberately sets out to create – he’s a craftsman. In the Greek Golden Age, no-one worked – but God set Adam and Eve to work in stewardship. Work is a blessing.
Work might be tough – it is, as is everything, corrupted by sin – but God uses work to provide, to inspire, to make people flourish.
- Colossians 3:16: “Whatever you do” do it for God, for His work.
- Matthew 5:13-16: Be salt – change the flavour of things. Be light, against th darkness.
- LR Nost: “Do not be dismayed… all things can be remade… with intention. Love extravagantly, intentionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light.
- Matthew 13:31-33: Be mustard seeds, which were banned in ancient Palestine because they grew too fast and could not be contained. Be yeast – spread throughout the dough (the world) and transform it.
God can use us to shift culture, to change ‘the way we do things around here’. Kindness, love and friendship might be tiny drops in the ocean, but God starts from a mustard seed. Pray – be intentional. Use the gifts of the Holy Spirit and ask God to show us what needs changing. We can’t do everything, but we can pick one thing. We can live in the opposite spirit to selfishness, and speak positively. Ask for His strength.
This was another seminar to end on a question – Helen asked: What is your reputation at work? What are you known for? How can you be different and bring positive changes?
Wednesday was something of a heavy day, as I remember. I missed the last seminar of the day so I could actually shower without having to queue, but the second one was the last of the Justice series, which I did want to catch. It was called Ending Slavery: Can It Be Done. David talked about his work with International Justice Ministry. God says “let my people go!” – and He’s still saying it.
45 million people are currently enslaved. 4 billion people live outside the protection of the law. Slavery happens because of poverty, and the ability to exploit people who are poor. Matthew 10 says “people of peace” can change the world.
We need to think about who the hidden people in our communities are, and why this is still happening in our country. The UK government estimates that there are currently 13,000 UK slaves – mostly agricultural workers. We are all implicated in slavery – who makes our clothes? Where does our stuff come from?
We need to be open and willing. Keep close to God and pray. We need to seek justice. What are you good at? What can you do? We all have something we can align to what God wants for and from us.
Mike Pilavachi spoke at the evening meeting on similar themes to the rest of the week – empowering the disenfranchised, and loving God by loving others. At Pentecost, 3,000 people came to know Jesus – and they all sold their possessions and gave to anyone in need, especially the orphans and widows.
The second most common theme in the Old Testament after idolatry is wealth. God’s heart is for the outcast, the lonely, the unnoticed, the poor, the dispossessed and the marginalised. In Luke, 1 in 10 verses is about the marginalised. In James, it’s 1 in 7. This isn’t about party politics or fashion. This is central to the Scripture.
- Isaiah 58:3-11: We need to feed the hungry, to stand up for injustice, to give a voice to the voiceless. We need to defend and serve the hungry and the lost.
- Micah 6:6: “act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God”
- Amos 5:21-24: “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream”. He will not listen to your songs if you’re not singing them over the broken.
We cannot strive for right/left popularity – we’re looking to please our Creator, our King. William Wilberforce was too Christian to lead a political party. The Wesleys, at the time of the last great revival, cared for the poor and the sick. Until the time of Queen Anne, the leaders of the parish churches were given the care of soul – all the souls of the parish, not just the church-goers. But we turned away from the needy, and then wondered why people stopped listening to us.
Matthew 25: 34-40. We do this for worship. If we don’t, then our worship is deficient. When we spend ourselves for others, we share God’s heart, and the Holy Spirit will restore us and them.
We’re for love, compassion, mercy and grace, because God is for them. He calls us as churches, as individuals, as groups, to spend ourselves. If we love Him, then we love who and what He loves. We need to challenge the selfishness of culture for the sake of the world.
Thursday morning saw the return of Tim Ross for a talk entitled: Go home!
Luke 8:26: “No. Go back to your family and tell everyone what God has done for you. Jesus didn’t even need to announce himself to save this man – the very presence of God made the demons tremble. And it wasn’t while the man was naked and wild that the people around were afraid of him – it was when he was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed, in his right mind. People expect you to be the same, but Jesus will change you.
As soon as Jesus has healed this man and told him to go and tell others, he and the disciples leave. The only reason they came here (and bear in mind this is just after the storm on the lake when they all nearly die) was to rescue this one man.
We have to “go back” because otherwise the only people who know about Jesus are us. We need to go out into the world, and we are commanded to do so. Jesus’ love is not a secret, it’s not an exclusive club.
3 reasons why God would tell me to go back:
- I know them. I know the people I live/work around/my family/social groups. They don’t know Jesus but they know me. They’ll listen to me because they know what I used to be like.
- They know me. So when they see me changed, they’ll want to know why. If they judge me, I can give them testimony in response.
- I met God. So I can testify. It doesn’t matter what your past is – your present and future are secured.
I know you, and you know me, but I met God and I want to introduce you to Him. And I will do things that will upset the world.
Tim warned us not to get addicted to these events. We attend to get equipped, so we can carry God’s love back home and spread His light. Don’t be afraid to go home, or to scare people with how you’ve changed. That is where you will change lives.
Thursday afternoon was super busy – I swallowed my doubts and went to a seminar entitled ‘Waiting, Dating and Mating‘ (ew) – which turned out to be not terrible, and then I went to a panel by Graham Cray on the theology of naturally supernatural – basically grounding what we’d been talking about all week in theology.
Graham emphasised that the Spirit is promised to all in Joel 2:28-32 – “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh… sons and daughters… young men… old men…slaves, both men and women… I will pour out my Spirit and they shall prophecy.” But this pouring out isn’t just for ourselves – Acts 1:8 makes this clear. It goes beyond our comfort zones, so that we will be a witness. And God continues to supply the Holy Spirit so that we are constantly refreshed. It’s not about carrying around the gifts you need with you all the time just in case something happens – it’s about trusting that God will provide them when you need them.
The Holy Spirit:
- Always points to Jesus. John 16: we receive the Holy Spirit and continue His ministry.
- Is self-effacing and visible. Self-effacing: Every time you pray, whether to God or Jesus, no matter what you feel, you experience the Holy Spirit. He makes it possible for us to know and confess Him. We pray to God through Jesus and are enabled by the Holy Spirit. Visible: 1 Corinthians 12:7.
- Both indwells and comes. You are God’s temple and His Spirit lives in you. 2 Chronicles 6 – God lives permanently in us, but Heaven and Earth can’t contain Him – he is everywhere at once. “Come Holy Spirit” means that we long for the manifest presence of God.
- Guarantees stability and unpredictability. His commitment is irrespective of situation. Romans 8:15-16 says “we are adopted” – we belong to His family. But God reveals His plans on a need-to-know basis – and mostly, He doesn’t think we need to know. Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts; Peter and Coriolanus; Ananias and Saul; the call to Macedonia.
- Sustains as well as empowers. The Spirit equips us to work and bear witness, and He gives us the power to keep going in tough places according to His plan. Romans 8:16-17 and 26.
Ephesians 5:18 – continue to allow yourself to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. The Word (the Bible) is God’s gift from the past, and the Spirit is God’s gift from the future. You need both to move forward.
I very sadly had to hop out of my last seminar of the week early, because I had to hop on a train to London in order not to miss the beginning of YALC the next day (more on that later). But I really wanted to see this one, because it was Tim Ross (again!) talking about how to read the Bible – actually read it, rather than just feel guilty because we weren’t. He took his reading from Psalm 119, because it’s the longest chapter in the Bible – 176 verses long!
He began by pointing out that the Word of God is an acquired taste – you may not enjoy it at first, but if you want to learn more about Him and His plans, you need to. Here’s why:
- If you eat this book (the metaphor under which the talk was titled), you will be purified. v. 9. The more we interact with the Scriptures, the more you are read by the Scriptures, and it will leave lasting marks on your heart. It’s getting something out of you. Start somewhere.
- Eating this book will give you illumination. v. 18. We should come into it prayerfully, and we will get something perfect out of it.
- Eating this book will give you freedom. v.45. If you devote yourself to God’s commandments, you will be set free from past struggles. Devote the time, discipline and focus to finding the Scriptures that speak into your problem or pain, and find a breakthrough. Romans 8:11-12 – sin might knock, but you don’t need to answer. It’s worth reading the whole book to find half a verse to stand on against your trouble – don’t read it to bludgeon others, but to better yourself.
- If you eat this book you will have an anchor. v. 61. “On a clear day, with a calm sky, a boat with no anchor will still drift away.” Anchor your soul to God.
- Eating this book will allow you to have a guide and a light. v. 105. The guide is for the next step to take, and the light shows you the path. The book can act as confirmation for any word or knowledge from God.
Joshua 1:1-9 – “study this book of instruction continually… only then will you prosper”. The book of instruction Joshua was talking about was Deuteronomy – he advanced the Kingdom and conquered Canaan with ONE BOOK. Imagine what we could do with 66. Read it, and you will have more questions and more answers.
- How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee
- Get a study Bible
- There are also Life Application Bibles, and the Bible on audio book. Find what works for you!
And on that note, I will draw this to a close. Naturally Supernatural was an amazing week spent with wonderful people and an awesome God. I feel more closely connected to my faith and my God than ever – and I find myself growing and changing more than I thought possible. I’ve started reading the Bible on audio book – it’s read by David Suchet and is amazing – and I’m already on Deuteronomy 24! It’s the furthest I’ve ever got in the one book I’ve always struggled to read.
Thank you so much to everyone who worked so hard to make that week a success – aside from a few kinks, it went so well! I can’t wait to go back next year!
Which is going to be interesting, since it clashes abruptly with YALC…