The Trinitarian God

Read: Luke 3v21-22

  1. At Jesus’ baptism what do we learn about Jesus?

 

  1. What characters does Luke describe in this scene?What do we learn about God here?

 

The Trinity is not meant to baffle us.  It is meant to comfort us and draw us to awe-filled worship.  There are three persons in the one true living God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a triple (‘tri’) unity of love.  They are the same in substance and equal in rank, power, majesty, and glory.  The word Trinity isn’t found in the bible but it helpful summarises 7 key truths:

  1. God is one. There is only one God.
  2. The Father is God.
  3. The Son is God.
  4. The Holy Spirit is God.
  5. The Father is not the Son.
  6. The Son is not the Spirit.
  7. The Spirit is not the Father.

The Trinity helps us understand that there can be unity in diversity, because that’s seen in God.  Father, Son and Spirit work in unity.  It matters because it means love has existed from all time, it’s not created, in eternity Father Son and Spirit have always loved each other and they invite us to share in that.  It also matters because that is how God has revealed himself to us.

  1. When you think about God who do you tend to think about? The Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit? Why is that?  What do you think you miss when you do that?

 

  1. How does the belief in God as three persons in the one true living God mark Christianity out as different from every other religion?

 

  1. How does the Trinity explain why we value relationships, love, goodness, truth and beauty?

 

The Trinity is not a puzzle to confound us and keep us away but good news that God is love and Father Son and Spirit are not exclusive and aloof but we’re invited.

Song: Holy, holy, holy  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgHrNNM23p8

Pray: Honestly bring to God your answers to the questions above.  Ask him to help you see and get to know him as Father, Son and Spirit.  Pray that your eyes would be open as you read his word.

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The Eternal God

Read Revelation 1v1-8

  1. How is God described in verse 8? And what does each phrase mean?

 

  1. What does that tell us about God?

 

God is the beginning, the start, the origin of everything, but he is also the end of everything.  And he’s not just the start and end but every letter, and moment, in between, He is eternal.  He is also outside of time.  Whilst we think of time as past, present and future, God is outside of time, unbound by it.  Whilst time impacts us, and ravages us, it does not change God.  And this eternal God calls us to live in light of eternity in our lives.

  1. Which is the greatest temptation for you – to waste time or to feel the pressure of making the most of every moment by cramming it full? What drives you to do that? What do you lose by doing so?

 

  1. How does God call us to steward our time wisely in light of eternity? What does that look like practically for you? What could you give someone permission to ask you that would help you live in light of this?

 

  1. In light of God’s eternal nature our creaturely limitations are thrown into starker relief. Have you faced your mortality or hidden from it? What will it look like to live in light of it?

Sing: Everlasting God https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yubLGTOcm8c

Pray: Speak to God about the answers above.  Ask God to give you a greater awareness of time as precious, but at the same time a greater capacity to trust his care and timing.

The God who does not need

Read: Acts 17v16-34

  1. What does God need (24-25)?

 

  1. What does that tell us about God?

 

As Paul preaches in Athens he takes on their way of religion, he challenges their societies assumptions about deity and worship.  God isn’t like you imagine him to be!  He says.  You’re search is good but you’ve reached the wrong conclusion.  There aren’t lots of god’s there is only one God and let me tell you about him.  He made the world, he’s sovereign over it, and he isn’t constrained, kept in, by your temples.  And he doesn’t need anything.  He’s not sat hungry waiting for you to feed him, or sat unable to move or work waiting for you to be his arms and legs.  Rather than depend on you, you depend on him for life, even breath, as well as everything else.

  1. How does that challenge the way you think about God? How does it change the way you think about yourself?

 

  1. What is a right response to this truth about God? What does it reveal to us about his inviting us to serve in his mission? And how is that freeing?

 

  1. How does this challenge our self sufficiency? What marks of self sufficiency do you see in your life? How is this challenged?

 

Sing: Ancient of Days https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJUtAw21qAM

 

Pray:  Confess the ways you’ve limited God and thought or lived as if he was dependent on you.  Praise God for his self existence and need of nothing.  Thank him that despite that he delights to know us and calls us to be part of his plan and mission because he is a generous God?

Discipleship 102

It’s been a while due to COVID 19 and the need to learn how to live stream etc…  But I thought I’d post another part of the series on discipleship.

Discipleship isn’t a programme it’s an organic relationship.  It invites others to watch us and observe and question and learn.  It also invites them to challenge us about sin and other issues in our lives.  But just because it is organic it doesn’t mean that we don’t need to think about it.  We need to be intentional, thinking carefully about how we build the relationships which will form the framework for discipleship.  It can’t be done in carefully choreographed glimpses of life which we allow when the drawbridge is down.  It needs quantity of time spent together so that quality time happens naturally, it’s not something you can schedule.

But there are deliberate acts which will help stimulate discipleship, that will deepen and grow a relationship in the gospel.  Let me suggest two I found especially helpful.

Ask good questions.  Don’t settle for banalities.  Don’t settle for the ordinary and mundane.  How are you?  How is the family?  What about the game last night?  There’s nothing wrong with those questions, learning what people love and showing you care about them, their relationships and what they love is a good thing.  In fact, it’s vital to spend time doing this.  We mustn’t despise it as being less than.  To do so is wrong.

But it’s never enough on its own.  Discipleship is about faithfulness to Christ in all of life.  Which means we want to help one another reflect on those things we love in light of the gospel.  We want to question one another and help one another reflect on the goodness of God, the creeping possibility of idolatry, and the opportunities within each and every area of life to glorify God.  That means those conversations will at points lead us to question one another.  To probe motives and responses and actions.  To ask why?  How did that make you feel?  What do you think led you to react like that?  Or simply open up opportunities for reflection by pointing out the goodness of God, or the impact of sin.

I’m not suggesting that every conversation needs that.  But if none of our conversations do then we are discipling someone in the division of sacred and secular.  If the only probing spiritual questions we ask are: how is your quiet time? How are you finding praying?  Where are you struggling with temptation?  Question we do need to ask.  But if they are the only questions we ask of a spiritual nature then we are discipling people in dividing sacred and secular not in living for Christ’s glory in all of life.

Jesus as he discipled so often drew reflection from the everyday.  He poses questions that call for deeper thought, that provoke declarations, but he also uses everyday observations on life as opportunities to teach and question.  It is something I wonder if we are particularly bad at.  We are too compartmentalised, we need to reflect more broadly on all of life to the glory of God, so that we can disciple others in just that.

Use stimulus material.  I love books, I read voraciously.  But I also look to give books away (not my copy but another) to people in church and ask them how they found it.  Sometimes specifically setting aside a time to chat through issues raised or questions at the end of a chapter.  We are spoilt to live when we do with the wealth of material we have, with the opportunities they offer.  A shared book naturally brings up points for discussion, shared passage, shared thoughts, even strong disagreements provide opportunities for reflection, refinement and spiritual growth.

Yorkie events pic

Shared books were vital in my discipleship.  I will be forever grateful for a book group I was part of in my first year at Uni.  For other discussions with various people who passed me books to read, some of which I loved and have in turn passed on, some of which I hated but which provoked good conversations, loads more which I don’t particularly remember but where the conversations they stimulated have still deepened relationships and challenged my thinking and living.

The question is how deliberate are we?  How intentional?

The Self-Existent God

Read: Genesis 1

  1. What is there in the beginning? (Look carefully)

 

  1. What does that tell us about God? What does that tell us about everything else? How ought that to change the way we think of God?

 

“In the beginning God…”  It’s four words we are familiar with, perhaps so overfamiliar with that we miss what they are saying.  We’re so used to them that they no longer blow our minds.  “In the beginning God…”  before we get to God’s endless, boundless creativity, imagination and power (would you have thought of the giraffe, manatee, komodo dragon, and dragon fly? – I didn’t think so!)  We are confronted with the uncreated-ness of God.  In a very real sense everything is just divided into two; 1. God the uncreated eternal self-existent, and then 2. absolutely everything else.  Just stop there and wonder.

  1. How does this truth make you feel about the privilege of being able to call God Father?

 

  1. Go and look out of the window, (no go on, get up, go to the window look, even better go stand outside breath it in, look and listen – I’ll wait right here!) what does the creation reveal about God? What does it reveal about you? How does that make you feel about God and about yourself?

 

  1. God the uncreated one delights in creating. And he creates with abandon and joy. He creates not just the necessary and functional but with an eye to beauty and artistry and extravagance.   How do you think and feel about creating?  And is that godly or ungodly?  What could you create that would give you joy?

 

Sing: All Creatures of our God and king https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUZD0hgtSgE

Pray: Thank God for the awesome nature of his creation, for everything you see and everything you know about the sheer abundance of his provision and creativity.  Praise him that he alone is uncreated, he is selfing-existent.  Thank him for revealing himself to you.

Facing our greatest fear

Our society is being forced to face up to things it has long hidden from.  We’ve always hidden our mortality well, in hospitals and hospices and care homes.  It’s not just teens who believe they are immortal, as a society we’ve lived as if we all are.  We’ve lived as if we never have to reckon with death.  Suddenly we are being confronted with it like never before outside of wartime.  Here’s the question each of us is having to face – what is my hope in the face of death?  How are you going to answer that question?

As death and infection rates scroll across the bottom of your TV screen.  As the experts warn of the dangers if we don’t follow the precautions being put in place.  How are you reacting?  Are you still in denial?  Do you still think it won’t touch anyone you love?  It was easy to pretend that was the case when this was geographically distant but now it is here and so many people still seem to be in denial.

This is going to touch every community, it is foolish to pretend that isn’t the case.  We can no longer hide from our mortality.  So let me ask again have you reckoned with it?

As those who follow Jesus we should be different, but lets be honest we so often fail to be.  Now is a chance to be different.  To scrutinise God’s word for what it says about our hope in the face of death.  For too long we’ve believed the lie, cleverly crafted, that to be too heavenly minded is to be of no earthly use.  But now more than ever we need to hope, the boldness that comes from knowing that the wages of sin – death – have been paid for by Christ.

Can I encourage you to wrestle with John 8v51-52 and John 11 and the transformation that trusting Jesus brings.  He is the resurrection and the life.  To grapple with Romans 5, 6 and 8.  To drink deeply of 1 Corinthians 15.  So that we can echo Paul in Philippians “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”

It is not that we welcome death, we don’t run towards it in some macabre way.  But we are not afraid of it, we face it knowing it is not the end, it is a toothless enemy, it’s venom has been drawn by Christ.  And so we have hope, hope of eternal life, hope that illuminates the life we now live, that energises it, that lights up the dark and drives away fear.  It matters more than ever because many in our society our friends and family and colleagues are terrified and we have a hope to pass on, but only if we know what that hope is.

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The Unsearchable God

Read:

Psalm 145v3

  1. How is the LORD described? What does that mean?

 

People surprise us.  Sometimes we think we know someone, how they will react, what they love, what they will hate.  But sometimes they surprise us.  How much more so with God?  In fact this verse tells us it is beyond our ability to fully know God, there will always be more to learn.  And yet God fully knows us.  And God has chosen to reveal himself in scripture and in the person of his son, yes there will always be more to understand, yes our understanding will be limited by our capacity, but there is a lifetime of discovery to begin.

  1. How does your inability to fully know God make you feel? What are the positive feelings it creates? What are the negative feelings?

 

  1. How does this motivate you to read the bible and get to know Jesus in the pages of the Gospels?

 

  1. If you were getting to know someone what questions would you ask? Which of those questions would be helpful to ask as you study the Bible?

 

  1. How is it an encouragement to you that this unsearchable God knows you and has set his love on you?  And that he gives you his word so you can learn about him?

 

Sing: Indescribable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-zJHgaoVa4

 

Pray: Speak to God about the things about him you’d love to know.  Ask him to reveal himself to you as you read his word over the coming days.

The Infinite God

I’m going to post a series of readings for the next few days.

Read the text for the day: Isaiah 40v12-13

  1. What are the questions Isaiah poses? What is the answer to each?
  2. What does that tell us about God?

God is measureless.  He is beyond limits.  We can’t measure God, we can’t grasp how big he is, and yet we so often limit God by what we imagine him to be like.  But God is infinite and that ought to comfort us because we can trust in his care and goodness, after all he is the God who can measure.  Who marks off the heavens but not just the heavens but who numbers every hair on our heads.

  1. In what ways are you tempted to limit God? How does that affect your faith and your living everyday to follow him?
  2. How is God showing you your limits? How does that make you feel?
  3. By contrast God is limitless. He is infinite. How ought we to respond to his limitless-ness?

Sing:

Who has held the oceans in his hands https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qx9-0v9m2Sg

or for children Our God is a great big God https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaXPXWBcE3I

Pray:

Why not write out a prayer confessing how you’re tempted to limit God and praising him for his limitless nature and the comfort that brings especially at the current time?

A reluctant decision

I’ll get back to the posts on Discipleship in a few days, but for now my focus has been on what to do as regards church and COVID-19.  I love meeting with our church family.  I love that the bible tells us how essential it is to meet together, and it absolutely is, and I will miss it.  But yesterday I took the decision that we would suspend all meeting together for the time being after the advice from the government and FIEC.

It is not a decision I have taken lightly and it is still one that doesn’t sit easily with me.  I’ve felt the pull of the bibles command not to give up meeting together, as well as pastoral concern for many,  but I’ve also been pulled by it’s call for us to respect good government.  Add in the call to love others.  Alongside that I have tried to read as much as I can of the research about social isolation saving lives.  And have listened to pleas from frontline NHS workers who advocate social isolation as the best strategy (many of whom are socially isolating themselves from family so they can continue to treat the most vulnerable).  I felt reluctantly that this was the right decision.

This is not the same as persecution, when I would still meet as an act of civil disobedience to a secular government but as an act of obedience to our true sovereign.  And so on Sunday we’ll be trying our first ever live stream.  It also means we’re changing sermon series.  We had one last chapter of Zechariah to do, but I think given that our service will need to be family friendly we’re going to follow the passages in our Sunday School series on Easter.  That way we can provide families with worksheets and hopefully some craft ideas to go along with what we do.

I’m also going to try from next week to produce daily material for a family devotion for those in isolation.

Please be praying for church leaders at this time as they lead in a new way.  We will get things wrong.  The technology will inevitably glitch at some point.  And we are always imperfect.

Pray for those who are anxious about this in your church family, and your wider community, and why not FaceTime or Skype them to see how they are.

Deliberate Discipleship

We thought yesterday about the basics of discipleship we see in the Bible.  How it was expected of all parents, in fact it was their duty.  And of how we see it in the New Testament in Jesus, Paul, Timothy’s mum and grandma and so on.  How it was life lived for God’s glory alongside one another.

Part of our problem with discipleship is that we think we don’t have time to do it.  We’re too busy, too pressured, too harried.  Satan seems to have successfully filled our diaries with so much stuff that we don’t have time to shape the next generation of Christ followers.  Or so we’d like to think.  What we are actually discipling them in is busyness.

It’s not that we either disciple someone or we don’t.  Look back at the Deuteronomy 6 passage, we disciple people through what we do and talk about whilst we do.  Parents disciple children in support of their football team – hence the reason I have 4 small Tractor Boys (though given this season I’m beginning to regret that), through where they take them, conversations, shared experience and passions.  We disciple people in every conversation we have with them as we share what we love, what we aim for, and what we value.  It is not a binary on/off, 1/0.  We are all discipling those around us all the time, the question is what are we discipling them in?

The bigger challenge for us is to be deliberate in our discipling.  To be distinctively Christian in our discipling of others.  We will be discipling them – we will think how can do so better tomorrow – but for now lets think about the what of our discipling.

If you asked those who see you most what you love what would they say?  If you asked what drives you how would they answer?  How about what one thing you couldn’t live without?  Those answers may give us a hint at what we are discipling people in.

I wonder if too often in the past I’ve discipled people in busyness.  When people asked follow me footprintshow I was, too often that was the answer, or that’s what they saw.  Therefore activism is what I was discipling them in.  Do, do, do.  That is in part because I’ve been discipled by our culture – every successful person held up as a role model is busy.  Or maybe I’ve discipled people in reading – after all I read a lot.  Or in sport.

Deliberate discipling begins with self examination.  Paul writes “imitate me” in 1 Corinthians 4v16 that is the essence of discipleship, and Paul can write that because they know of his life in Christ Jesus.  They know he lives for and serves Christ, they know his love for Jesus.  Deliberate discipleship begins with asking these kind of questions; am I growing in love for Jesus?  Am I becoming more like him?  Am I increasingly wanting to glorify him in every area of life?

Only when we have deliberated examined ourselves and built up healthy patterns of feasting on Christ and loving him more will we be in a position to disciple people in Jesus well.