Experiencing God, Experiencing Rest

Over the past couple of weeks I have been posting a number of excerpts from the Good Book Company’s new booklet Experiencing God: Finding true passion, joy, peace and rest in Christ. This last study focuses on Experiencing Rest and relates to Acts 16 v 11-34.

The Big Idea

Experiencing God brings an experience of rest as we no longer feel the need to prove ourselves or to establish our own identity.

Summary

Luke tells the stories of three very different people who became Christians during Paul and Silas’ time in Philippi. Together they illustrate the different ways an experience of God brings rest.

Lydia is a wealthy, independent woman. But her wealth has not satisfied her for she is searching for God. God opens her heart to the message of Jesus.

The slave girl is economically and spiritually oppressed and tormented. The power of Jesus sets her free.

The jailor is probably an ex-soldier who has earned his citizenship. He may be terrified at being a failure and losing his identity. But he welcomes the message of Jesus and cares for Paul and Silas.

The message of Jesus brings:

• satisfaction to a life unfulfilled by wealth (Lydia)
• freedom to a life troubled by spirits (the slave girl)
• joy to a life scarred by violence (the jailor)

Available here from the Good Book Company (US) and from the Good Book Company (UK)

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Reaching the Unreached II

On Saturday I attended the second Reaching the Unreached conference in Barnsley with a focus on developing mission on council estates [the UK equivalent of social housing] and in deprived areas in the UK. It was a great day and very encouraging. I was particularly struck by the thought that here were many godly people faithfully proclaiming the good news in difficult areas. These were people who had chosen fidelity over fame. Inspiring. I’m going to post my notes from the day over the next few weeks.

Two Conversations: the Unthinkable Reach of the Gospel Part One

These notes are from a talk by Steve Casey. They are my notes from a talk so they may not accurately represent what Steve intended. Steve pastors a church in Speke, Liverpool.

I once had the experience of going to an AA meeting with a friend. I felt tearful because as people spoke I wanted to hug them and tell that Jesus loved them. But my overwhelming experience was not knowing what to say and being unable to identify with their experience. What does the gospel mean for people who are different from me?

I wish I had the confidence in the gospel that I have now.

Acts 10 is about how the gospel speaks to people who are different to us.

1. Cornelius Converted: What the Gospel Is

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ (Acts 1:8) Jesus says his unstoppable gospel will go to the ends of the world (which is Speke!). But in Acts 10 they have hit a brick wall. They had got to Samaria, a Jewish influenced area. But the next move was going to the Gentiles and this was a massive barrier. If you were a Jew and you met a Gentile then they would want to jump in the shower! Jesus called a Gentile woman a ‘dog’ – a typical Jewish term for Gentiles. So, although Cornelius was a good man, he was still an outsider. He would have been tackled by well-meaning deacons in suits if he came to church. But the angelic representative of God addresses him by name.

The angel says his good works do not cut it. He needs a message from outside. His good works are insufficient. But God has heard his prayers and God will provide an answer: a preacher. Being a nice bloke is not enough; you need to be a new bloke. You need God to do a work for you that you cannot do on your own Continue reading

Mission planning in Acts

Thanks for the thoughtful comments on my post Why I don’t believe in mission strategy. A number ask about the book of Acts. Others ask about the implications of what I’m saying. I’ll post on implications in the next few days. In the meantime, here are some thoughts on Acts (and 1 Corinthians 16).

In one sense the plan is revealed at the beginning. ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ (Acts 1:8) God’s plan is for the gospel to spread out from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and then out again to the ends of the earth. We know how this story is going to unfold.

But notice how the gospel moves from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria. Look at Acts 8:1-4: ‘On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria … Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.’ The next stage of the plan didn’t happen at the initiative of the apostles. It wasn’t part of their plan at all. It happened at God’s initiative. And it happened through the strangest of means, a means none of the Christians chose – a great persecution.

And notice how the gospel then moves from Judea and Samaria to the Gentiles. Look at Acts 11:19-23. Again it is persecution that drives the gospel outwards. And again the apostles didn’t plan it. They don’t authorise it. They don’t even know about it! They discover what’s happening after the event. So they send Barnabas to check it out, to support it, to encourage it.

The book of Acts is not the story of the apostles making plans and then putting them into effect. It is the story of the Holy Spirit directing mission. Our job is to keep in step with God. To follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.

Continue reading