Sunday Talks

Inspiration

The Holy Spirit and Me

How big a part does the Holy Spirit play in your life? To what extent do you experience an on-going, deep, vibrant, life-transforming, life-empowering connection with Him?

The mistake we can sometimes fall into is thinking about the Holy Spirit only as the one who sometimes makes us feel all warm and fuzzy when we worship. Or we refer to Him as someone distant, on the fringes of our life - kind of involved in the whole Christianity thing we’re living out, but hardly central - who might just occasionally ‘show up’ at church or homegroup.

But the longing of the Holy Spirit is for a connection with each of us that embraces and enriches every moment of our lives. We’re called to ‘walk by the Spirit’ (Gal 5:16) - every step we take being conscious of Him, listening to Him, being led by Him, being obedient to Him, being helped by Him.
In his book, ‘Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit’, Francis Chan draws together the biblical teaching concerning the role that the Holy Spirit should have in our lives:

’The Spirit helps us speak when we are in precarious situations and need to bear witness (Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12)

The counsellor teaches and reminds us of what we need to know and remember. He is our comforter, our advisor, our encourager, and our strength. He guides us in the way we should go (Ps 143:10; John 14–16; Acts 9:31; 13:2; 15:28; 1 Cor 2:9–10; 1 John 5:6–8)

From the Spirit we receive power to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. It is the Spirit who draws people to the gospel, the Spirit who equips us with the strength we need to accomplish God’s purposes. The Holy Spirit not only initially draws people to God, He also draws believers closer to Jesus (Acts 1:8; Rom 8:26; Eph 3:16–19)

By the power of the Spirit we put to death the misdeeds of the body. The Spirit sets us free from the sins we cannot get rid of on our own. This is a lifelong process we entered into, in partnership with the Spirit, when we first believed (e.g.Rom 8:2)

Through the Spirit we have received a spirit of adoption as children which leads us into intimacy with the Father, instead of a relationship based on fear and slavery. The Spirit bears witness to us that we are his children (Rom 8:15–16)

The Holy Spirit convicts people of sin. He does this bopth before we initially enter into right reltaionship with God and as we journey through this life as believers (John 16:7–11; 1 Thess 1:5)

The Spirit brings us life and freedom. Where the Spirit is, there is freedom, not bondage or slavery. In our world that is plagued with death, this is a profound truth that points to real hope (Rom 8:10–11; 2 Cor 3:17)

By the power of the Holy Spirit we abound with hope because our God is a God of hope, who fills His children with all joy and peace (Rom 15:13)

As members of God’s kingdom community, each of us is given a manifestation of the Spirit in our lives for the purpose of the common good. We all have something to offer because of what the Spirit gives to us (1 Cor 12:7)

The fruit of being led by the Spirit of God includes, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These attitudes and actions will characterise our lives as we allow ourselves to be grown and moulded by the Spirit. The Spirit is our sanctifier (2 Cor 3:18; Gal 5:22–23)’

It’s worth asking, isn’t it, how big a part does the Holy Spirit play in my life? To what extent do I let him in? To what extent do I look to Him and lean on Him? How much time do I spend listening? As I seek to lift Jesus high in my life, to what degree and measure do I allow the Holy Spirit to empower me and transform me for that very purpose?

I Thess 5:19 says, ‘Do not quench the Holy Spirit’. He has a crucial, life-giving, life-enriching role to play in each of our lives. Let’s ask ourselves some honest questions, and make any changes in life that God shows us we need to. It’s all for His glory.

The diversity of Christian Worship

A few years ago Hannah and I attended an Easter service at a ‘high’ Anglican church. Incense filled the air, the Bible was held aloft and walked up and down the aisle before being read from… it was a far cry from what we were used to: service leader wearing a hoodie, worship leader singing ‘Jesus is my buddy’, or words to that effect.

Yet both of these very different forms of worship are wonderfully valid, wonderfully rich, wonderfully moving, wonderfully engaging. They are just different.

‘The Friendship and the Fear’, is the name of a worship album from a few years ago by Matt Redman. It explores the concept of these two things that seem so difficult to hold together: that God is almighty, beyond our understanding in glory and power and majesty, such that our spirits cry for mercy in his presence as we ‘fall to the floor as though dead’ (Rev 1:17) before him… yet at the same time He is our loving Father, our closest and most faithful friend, drawing us into deep intimacy with himself.

The diversity of Christian worship throughout the world (and throughout the ages) illustrates that our God is one who can (very validly) be connected with and related to in all sorts of diverse ways – ways that individual worshippers find powerful, helpful, meaningful, and more. The richness of our differing expressions of worship should only be celebrated – it points towards a BIG GOD – and we have so much to learn from one another as we share with each other what we have discovered about Him – and in doing so we give Him great glory.

We have the opportunity this coming Sunday (Jan 19) to join together with other Christians in Blandford whose expressions of Christian worship normally look a little bit different to our own. Please join us for our annual joint service at the Parish Church at 10.30, and let us encourage one another in our shared faith, shared mission, and shared worship.

‘Though we are many, we are one body, for we all share the one loaf’
— 1 Corinthians 10:17

How I rediscovered prayer

If you think about it dispassionately for a moment, prayer is a strange thing to do. You are speaking to an invisible man in the sky (or at least that is how one of my non-christian friends describes it). If you saw somebody muttering to themselves in the street you would probably avoid them.

Of course in reality we were are not muttering to ourselves, but it can certainly feel that way sometimes. Prayer is supposed to be where we really build our relationship, but it can be tough sometimes.

I have struggled with prayer most of my christian life. Like many people my prayers turned into long shopping lists of things I wanted from God. There was very little relationship in that, except perhaps a demanding toddler hassling his parents for more sweets.

I also tended to slip into this strange way of speaking when I prayed. My prayers sounded nothing like me. Instead I sounded more like a pentecostal minister from the 1980’s!

Over time I began to realise that I wasn’t really engaging in relationship. However, instead of this encouraging me to seek God, it made me self conscious and my prayer life slowly ground to a halt. In the end my prayer life consisted of asking God to help me prayer.

God answers even the most silted prayers

Of course God is good and He was quick to answer even this stilted prayer.

I am a visual, creative person. I think in pictures and find myself often imagining scenarios.

One night I was lying in bed, half asleep and half awake. In my mind I found myself walking up a path through alpine woodland until I came to a beautiful lake. Reflected in the lake was the amazing night sky and next to it was the warm glow of a campfire.

I went to sit by the fire and found a man sitting there. I knew instantly it was Jesus. Over what felt like hours, we talked. It was wonderful and I found tears running down my cheeks. For the first time in my life, I felt that prayer was finally a two way conversation.

I have returned to that lake many, many times since and spent some amazing times talking to Jesus. However, I know that most of these conversations are born straight out of my imagination.

I trust that God will take my imagination and my knowledge of the Biblical Jesus to lead my thoughts. I am sure not everything I imagine Jesus saying is right, but enough of it is to be a constant encouragement and inspiration. I feel I am really beginning to know Jesus now and I cannot get enough of it.

What is your prayer life like?

So that is my story. It’s a little embarrassing to write it down, but it has been so encouraging I wanted to share it.

Please tell me I am not alone. I would love to hear other people’s experiences of prayer. What has been your most special moment in prayer? Share in the comments below.

Baptism is just weird, right?

Two Sundays ago we had a baptismal service at BEC and I wanted to share a video of the event. It was a great morning and I always enjoy the atmosphere at baptismal services. It’s such a celebration and everybody is always so encouraged and excited.

I guess from the outside baptism must look like a strange thing. A grown adult goes into a mini swimming pool in the middle of the church and gets dunked! However, in reality it is actually very cool.

Being baptised is a symbol. A way of saying to the world that you have discovered something amazing, that you have discovered God is real and he is interested in our lives. It’s about telling the world not only what you have learnt but that this knowledge is something you wish to build your life upon. It says to friends and family that you have come to know this incredible person called Jesus and that you are choosing to commit your life to following him.

Of course none of this explains why we feel the need to dunk somebody in a swimming pool fully clothed. This symbolises the heart of the Christian faith, one of the most important things we believe as Christians. Going under the water represents Jesus dying and being buried. Coming out of the water represents the fact that we believe that Jesus returned to life. However, more than that it also represents the fact that God gives us a new beginning, a new life, a new start. A chance to wash away the mistakes of the past. It’s all very exciting and its always vaguely amusing to see people get dunked in Church (or is that just me)!

Why small groups matter

Small Groups are a key part of our church life – and they’re starting up again in the next week or so. Small Groups offer us an opportunity to make friends, talk about the Bible (and often the previous Sunday’s sermon), serve others, and find support and encouragement. The kind of relationships forged in Small Groups and the time spent praying together and reflecting upon the Bible are really important for us if we are to continuing growing as disciples of Jesus.

Are you already part of a Small Group at BEC? What do you value most about it? It would be great to hear your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of this post.

If you aren’t yet part of a Small Group, we’d love for you to give it some thought and perhaps try one or two out for size. You can find out the details of our different groups by picking up a Small Group directory at church, or by clicking here. Please feel free to visit a few different groups before settling on any particular one. This way you can find the group that’s right for you. Please contact group leaders for more details.