The Briefing on Hillsong 2012

A brilliant article from The Briefing reflecting on Hillsong Conference 2012.

There’s a reason the Scriptures place such a high burden on teachers of God’s word—from Ezekiel’s call to be a watchman (a burden taken up by the apostle Paul) to the instructions in the Pastoral Epistles to find men of sound character, godly convictions, and ability to teach the word of God faithfully and well. One reason such a burden is placed on the teachers of God’s word is to ensure that the people of God are actually taught God’s word. That seems like a self-evident statement until you see how they aren’t fed. No-one who came to that conference heard of the need for forgiveness (by God, that is, for our sins). No-one heard about what Jesus accomplished. There was no mention of salvation from God’s wrath through the atoning work of the cross, or of how God’s Spirit works in us to make us more and more like our Lord Jesus, or of how we look forward to and long for the day of his return.

 

There may have been 20,000 people in the room, gathered as one church under Christ, but the church was too small. It was too small because the gospel being proclaimed was too small: it was just about you and me, and how God makes our lives better. We weren’t really being gathered together under Christ, we were gathered together as a large collection of individuals. Not only was the form of preaching individual—the preacher sharing what God had revealed to him or her personally—but the content was individual too: God’s revelation to the preacher is about a promise to make your life better. How unlike the way that Paul talks about what God has done in and for us! God chose us before the foundation of the world:

In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph 1:7-10)

God’s work in gathering us together to be his church is a story that is so much grander than my personal circumstances. But my personal circumstances, my life and what God has done and is doing in it: that is the size of Hillsong church. I simply don’t think that my life is big enough to be good news.

Read the whole article

I was at the last night of that conference and completely agree with Sam’s reflections of Steven Furtick’s talk. I remember feeling stunned that he could preach on John the Baptist from Matthew 11 and neglect the whole point, when it’s stated so clearly. 

 “I assure you: Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been suffering violence, and the violent have been seizing it by force. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John; if you’re willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who is to come. Anyone who has ears should listen!”

Matthew 11:11-15

 

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Spurgeon on the Bible

Let us hold fast, tenaciously, doggedly, with a death grip, to the truth of the inspiration of God’s Word … Everything in the railway service depends upon the accuracy of the signals: when these are wrong, life will be sacrificed. On the road to heaven we need unerring signals, or the catastrophe will be far more terrible. 

The problem with forgiveness

I’ve been pondering this for the last few weeks. The problem with forgiveness is it’s hard. When we’re hurt, the precious and sought after ‘I’m sorry’ rarely satisfies. It never changes what happened. It certainly is no magic fix to relationships. So even when we’ve heard the words, we must choose to put aside our hurt if we are to forgive. As much as we’d like them to, no-one can take the hurt away. We absorb it ourselves. True forgiveness means giving up the desire for vindication (or revenge).

But what about when forgiveness seem impossible? Like when a man walks into a school and shoots 26 people. How does anyone forgive him? Even if an apology helped, it’s not possible. Not even the strictest of guns laws will restore the life that was lost. No mental health care improvements will ease the pain for those who grieve. How do we begin to even contemplate forgiveness in this situation?

As Christians we remember that we have been shown overwhelming forgiveness. That our own sin, which is just as evil as this man’s, has been dealt with on the cross. We remember that true justice is not ours to enact, but God’s. A day will come when he will judge in perfect righteousness. And we cling to the promise that Jesus will return and the world will be as it should.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:1-4

And we pray come, Lord Jesus!

God redeems the despised things

At church we’re coming to the end of a 14 week sermon series in Levitcus and Numbers. I’ll admit that I was not particularly looking forward to 3 months in these Old Testament books but I’ve loved the way we have been constantly pointed to Jesus. I have been (once again) amazed at what Jesus achieved for us on the cross.

Today’s sermon was from Numbers 21

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

I was especially struck by this thought from the sermon:

A few chapters earlier (Num 11:6) the people had complained about the manna God gave them to eat. They took what should have been hope of life (food in the middle of the desert) and made it detestable. In chapter 21 God takes what is detestable (a snake) and turns it into hope of life.

Then this from John 3:

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

Once again, God takes what looks detestable and turns it into the ultimate hope for life everlasting.

Death is not the worst thing

Today was kind of a strange day for me. Instead of spending it hanging out with my fellow MTC 4th year buddies I spent it with my sisters, trying to work out what contribution we wanted to make to our grandmother’s funeral on Tuesday. We were very close to my grandparents on mum’s side, and the 4 of us were their only grandchildren. When Grandad died I felt like I had tonnes of memories I wanted to share with people – so many good times to look back on. The memories were so fresh then. But not so with Grandma.

I feel like I’ve actually had two grandmothers in one. The first – the one I love so much, is the Grandma whose house we spent every school holidays at because mum & dad both worked. The Grandma whose house my older sister and I were quarantined to when we had the chicken pox. The Grandma who, along with my Grandad, turned up at our house 6 weeks into their 6 months camper van trip around the country, because they missed us too much. Instead they packed up me and my sisters (I was 10, my sisters 13, 7 & 5) and took us on a 4 week trip to Cairns. Probably the greatest holiday of my life and only 1 of many they took us on over the years.

The other Grandma only appeared 6 years ago. The Alzheimer’s started long before that, but 6 years ago Grandma became an old woman who didn’t know who I was anymore. By the time she died there wasn’t a single person in this world that she recognised.

I’ve heard it said that death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. For Grandma this is certainly true. She was a woman who loved Jesus and served him with her whole life. Death was the best thing for her.

On Thursday she had surgery to pin a broken femur, and on Tuesday she died from post operative multi-system organ failure. Alzheimer’s may not have killed her, but it took her life from her years ago. It was back then I grieved the loss of my wonderful grandmother. For that reason I don’t feel sad that she died. We lost her 6 years ago and we have grieved for all those years. I do feel sad that the last 6 years are the freshest memories right now. I hope they fade and I start to remember the 24 amazing years before that. But I also don’t want to forget the last 6 years completely, because they remind me of this truth

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” [1 Corinthians 15:51-54]

When I think about that I feel indescribable joy – because God is good and faithful to his promise. Death is defeated and my Grandma lives! She is raised imperishable with a body and mind that work. Praise Jesus that she is home with him. I look forward to joining them one day.

“tomorrow will worry about itself”

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. [Matthew 6:25-34]