Jonah is, at its heart, a story about you and me. Pause to think about the immense implications of that for a moment. Too many people have focused on the big fish rather than the big God. In these opening verses we see the lavish grace of God as he speaks, as he is present, as he directs. This God pursues Jonah in the midst of his rebellion and pride. This God won't let go. This God is your God, the same God, the God of grace upon grace in the person of Jesus.
There is no other book in the Bible like Jonah. Forget what you may have read in children’s books; the events of Jonah and his call to take a message to Nineveh is about God, about you and I and about our world. Simon gives an overview of the book, some background we'll need to know and the themes we'll encounter.
Ths month we asked our friend Michael Akotia to write our blog. Michael helps us to see why and how we can 'put things in the hands of Jesus'.
As we come to the end of our sermon series in the book of John, Gavin unpacks the final chapter looking at a miraculous catch of fish for the disciples. Having reverted back to their old life, as Jesus shows in this passage, that is often the place where he meets us. In this talk we look at teaching on mission, church and forgiveness...an action packed way to finish the book of John!
'Resurrection is the victory parade as Jesus the risen Champion comes out of his tomb fully alive to the amazement of earth and to the applause of heaven.' (Andrew Wilson). That's the Easter for you! The miraculous reappearances of Jesus after the cross witnessed by hundreds of people have been refuted for centuries. Yet the bottom line is that no one has been successful in explaining it all away as deception or lies. The reality is 'In its favour as living truth there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.' (Lord Darling, former Lord Chief Justice of England)
The cross was a painful and gruesome instrument of execution however it became a symbol of hope for Jesus' followers. In John's account of Jesus' death on the cross, he wants to highlight particular things that are taking place; that Jesus is being rejected as a king, that he substitutes in our place and that he is victorious over sin and death. This is the event that all world history turns on and when Jesus cried out, 'It is finished', he was declaring that he had completed the work of salvation that he had come to earth for.
As Jesus is put on trial, we see him pointing to the kingdom that is to come. Soroush helps us to see that the advance of this kingdom is not like a drama that we take our seat to watch, but rather one in which we are drawn into and play our part.
Have you heard the phrase, 'What would Jesus do?' Maybe you have a bracelet with WWJD on it, or perhaps a pen? We can sometimes turn this into 'What would I like Jesus to do', which certainly isn't the same! In the light of that, what should our response be to world events and where can we reach out with the love and message of Jesus?
Richard Dawkins echoes in the extreme humanities disregard for God:
‘In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won't find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.’
Do we really believe this? Is life so meaningless?
In this section of John’s Gospel we hear what the real Jesus claimed about himself, about the world’s plight and why He came. It’s a story of compassion and love and hope. It’s a story of wrath absorbed, justice payed and suffering joy. As we approach Easter let’s meditate on the real Jesus - what he said about himself and how his story shapes and transforms ours like no other faith, worldview or belief does. This Jesus really is unique!
In our western culture, suffering is often a reason used to rule out the existence of God. Christianity doesn't ignore suffering but rather helps us to know that in the midst of it, there is a God who sees us, cares for us and who entered into our world and suffered for us.
In the final hours before his arrest, Jesus prays for himself, his close friends and for everyone who will come to trust in him. On top of this, the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus continues to pray and intercede for us. By looking at what Jesus prayed, we get an insight into his heart for his people and the plans and purposes he has for them.
Unity doesn't always seem easy but Jesus' prayer that all believers would be 'one' was more than vain hope or wishful thinking.
As Jesus moved closer towards the end of his earthly ministry we come across a gloomy, grief-filled group of disciples who seem to be lacking hope! Jesus encourages them by reminding them that an advocate is coming who will turn their grief into joy! In this talk, Gavin unpacks the idea of Joy within our lives. Where do we find our joy? Is it possible to be completely Joyless? How do we stay joyful in difficult circumstances and desperate situations?
When Jesus tells his friends that he is the vine and they're the branches, he wants them to know that strength, joy and purpose would come from remaining in him. The same is true for us. As we remain in him he strengthens us to proclaim his gospel, share his joy and change the world!
Jesus tells his closest followers that he doesn't want their hearts to be troubled and that the antidote to this is to trust in him. There are great promises in John that Jesus wants us to embrace and live in the truth of. As we'll see in this passage, these include being with him when we die, knowing the Father whilst we live, and doing 'greater things'.
As Jesus washes his disciple's feet, he tells them that he's setting an example for them. John saw humilty and obedience in Jesus on that night and we are all called to follow him in both of these. Raj unpacks for us what they look like and how they bring us true life and joy.
As we come to one of the defining stories in the book of John we see a picture painted of Jesus which is both comforting and challenging for us as individuals. As Gavin unpacks this story we see that the raising of Lazarus actually provides us with a glimpse into our very own glorious future as Jesus declares that he is the resurrection and the life.
Gavin encourages us to come to Jesus with our cares and burdens instead of trying to go it alone.
The great reformist Martin Luther once wrote, 'The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.' Christians take the bible very seriously. They realise its importance in getting to know Jesus our personal God. Yet we live in a culture where that is being sidelined or even refuted. Is the bible for real? What story does it tell? How is the bible essential to Christian growth?
One of the great threads of the Bible is that God chooses to be present with his people. The Church is a people that are joined to Jesus and share in his life and blessing by the Spirit. Jesus' invitation at the Festival of Tabernacles to 'come to me and drink' is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago!