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Monday, September 01, 2008

Camp Talk 4

Colin Tamplin. You know the drill.

"I can't live up to what the Bible says about sex and relationships".
Genesis 39.

It appears there are no rules in society concerning sex and relationships. But there are. For example: no family, always consensual, and always safe.

Outside of that, pretty much anything goes. One night stands, homosexual sex, any number of partners...

There's an increasing 'normalising' of these things in society. So there's an enormous gap between that and what the Bible says. it agrees with the fundamentals of society's rules, but it goes further - only in marriage, and only between men and women. That sounds more than strange in today's society.

The Bible says a lot of good things about sex in marriage, but sets marriage as the boundary.

Sex is fun! There wouldn't be a big deal about it if it wasn't. There's a lot of pressure. But not even this is something worth compromising our faith over. And it is possible to live in our society whilst following Biblical sexual principles.

Genesis 39 - a very similar/familiar/contemporary story

1. Our situation isn't any different
Joseph was literally a stranger and alien in Egyptian society. The temptation he faced was as strong as anything we could ever face. And yet he remained pure.

2. Our God has not changed.
How have previous Christians faced these tempations and resisted?
"The Lord was with Joseph". " The Lord...." etc etc. Get the point?!

It isn't superhero Joseph, God was with him. Do you dare to say "God was with Joseph but not with me"? That's as close to blasphemy as you'll get.

God has promised to be with every believer. If you're saying you can't do it, either you're saying it all depends on you or you're saying God isn't the same support to you as to others.

However, there were also things Joseph had to do. And while God is always the hero, there are heroic things we need to do.
a. Practical - be on your guard and be sensible!
b. Relational
c. Spiritual

3. The rewards for faithfulness are the same
In the short term, Joseph was in the pit. But we're not in the business of short terms.

Camp Talk 3

Colin Tamplin. Spot any herecy? Tell me, but don't blame him!

"I'm afraid I'm going to lose my friends."
1 Peter (yep, all of it!) Focus on 1 Peter 1:1-9

Deep down, what most of us want more than anything else in the world is to fit in. If we're committed to Jesus then immediately a danger eneters our lives - we won't be able to fit in as well as we did.

There are lots of reasons why we may struggle with Christianity. Yesterday we looked at intellectual reasons. Now we're looking at personal/social/emotional reasons. And there's a whole book of the Bible tackling the theme of what you do when you don't fit in.

1:1 - "exiles"/ "strangers". 1:17 - "exile". 2:11 - "exiles". Get the picture?! These people were living in their own community. And yet Peter calls them exiles. If you don't fit in you still have to live "normal lives". How do we deal with how hard it is to not fit in?

1. Don't have unnecessary fear. (2:11-12)
It is possible to live a consistent Christian life and yet live a 'normal' life. Matthew 5:16

2. Don't exaggerate the fear (1:6, 5:10)
"A little while"! It can and will happen that we will be left out and isolated and lonely etc. That is when we must not let fear stop us in our tracks. It's only for a short time.

3. Don't be defeated:
a. You are extremely privileged (1:1 "elect")
The Bible never goes into election in a controversial way, but in a way that's meant to make us feel good!
b. Your old life isn't worth returning to (1:18).
"Futile". There's no point living an empty life. 4:3-5. The old life seems attractive under pressure of loneliness. But it is futile.
c. A great price has been paid for you (1:17-19)
Redemption. We can never live a life worthy of Christ's sacrifice. But we can live a life compatible with it.
d. You are part of a great community (2:4, 4:12-13)
At that moment you're isolated, you're being like Jesus. 5:8-9. You belong to God, identify with Jesus and identify with the Church throughout the world.
e. This does not go on forever.
Don't abandon your faith for people who will soon be out of your life. How many people in their twenties, thirties, are still friends with people they were in school with?
f. The suffering will be worth it. 1:6-7.

Camp Talk 2

Colin Tamplin. Again, any herecies are my fault not his.

Acts 17:16-34. "I'm not sure it Christianity is true".

Is it worth investing my life in something when there seem to be so many questions about it?

DOUBT - is a very, very normal part of the Christian life and experience. The questions trouble us. Especially when we don't have the answers! Psalms - so many of them are of lament, complaint, doubt. More than praise.

Doubt is also important. You probably won't make any significant spiritual progress until you're prepared to risk doubt. It's like learning to walk! When you take a step, there's a wobble as you're off balance, until your foot comes down on something solid. But without lifting your foot in the first place, without the wobble, you won't go anywhere.

God can take the weight of our questions. But it's important that we do it with others. The church.

Once a year, take a big question to work through. Tell your minister/a good Christian friend. And then wrestle with that question.

Doubt is not just for Christians. Everyone has the same questions, regardless of their religion. (or not). Atheists may say they're avoiding religious questions - rubbish! There's no safe place to hide from the tough questions.

Doubt can be just an excuse. We believe or disbelieve for a whole lot of reasons - of which the mind is just one. Doubt or intellectual struggles may be genuine - but is it really?

Paul was one of the world's really great thinkers. Not even he realised how spiritually, morally and intellectually corrupt Athens was.

From Paul's talk in the Areopagus we can realise 3 things that all answers to difficult questions stand on:
1. A book that can be trusted.
Paul doesn't quote the Bible but everything he says is based on it. Think about how he knows what he says about God in this passage.

2. A person who is absolutely unique.
You can't just add Jesus to a list of other gods. He is the only God. So when you're struggling, the key thing to do is get your mind back to Jesus. Whatever else I don't understand, here is a man who is real and true and genuine.

3. An event that changed everything.
Jesus cannot be the same as the gods of other religions. He died and He rose again.

Camp Talk 1

Colin Tamplin. Please ascribe any herecies to me and my poor note-taking, not to Colin.

Theme for the week: Galatians 5:7: "You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?"

We want to look at this not just in a "Who's stopping you altogether" way, but also in a "Who'se stopping you running REALLY well" way.

1 Timothy 4:6-10
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God,who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Timothy is in Ephesus as Paul's assistant to 'sort out' the church. In this section Paul is encouraging Timothy in what he should teach and how he should be.

'being trained'. Same word as we get 'gymnasium' from. It's good to stay in good physical shape - but spiritual is better.

'race' - an image which is common in the Bible. Relating to ancient games - everyone at Paul and Timothy's time would have been familiar with the image of a race.

1 Timothy 3 - qualifications for elders. All seem very 'uninteresting'! None of them, except teaching, can only be applied to leaders - need to be applied to any Christian. So what Paul says to Timothy, he would say to any Christian.

1. DIET (4:6)
What you teach shows what you've digested. Athletes need a very good diet. Get fed right. You can only get away with a bad diet for a certain amount of time.

2. FOCUS (4:7-8)
Athletes get to a podium because that's all they think about for 4 years. That's not always a healthy thought - single mindedness. But for the Christian it's important. One single thought - to honour God and serve Him and get the prize. That doesn't mean you become a pastor or missionary. It means whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.

3. TRAINING (4:7b-9)
Diet and focus alone will not be enough. Training is difficult but necessary. Train with a goal in view. Are you living for the prize of this life or the life to come? We will be much longer 'dead' than alive...

4. MOTIVATION (4:9-10).
God and the gospel!

Back I went...

This week I did something I had wondered whether I'd ever do again.

I returned to an EMW camp as an officer. I have been a participant in EMW (Evangelical Movement of Wales) camps, either as a camper or a kitchen helper or an officer since the age of 10. That's a long time. So a three year break shouldn't have seemed like such a big deal, but it felt like it! For many personal reasons.

But, thanks to a lot of nagging from Dan, the leader (I think more because he was desperate than because he wanted me!), and a bit more of a push from God I went back. Even mid-way through the week I was still feeling very unsure about whether it was the right thing to do.

But now I'm back home, man do I realise how much I have missed it and just how encouraged and challenged I am as a result of that week. And just how much more I want to live my life serving Christ and His Kingdom.

To spend a week with 60+ 14-18 year olds and a team of very different leaders, 90% of whom I'd never met, didn't exactly seem like my idea of fun. Add to that lying on the floor, not very much sleep, a lot of exhausting activities and the need to be giving, giving, giving all the time, not to mention no time alone for a week - and they would be my reasons for not going back!

How selfish I am. I am suitably rebuked.

The team were lush, each of them encouraging in their own God-given way, and it's always exciting meeting new people who are Christians - there's an instant bond.

The campers were equally lush. A lot of fun to spend the week with. And more importantly, they encouraged me more than I can put into words. Anyone who stands up for Christ and demonstrates a desire to grow in Him and see their friends converted spurs me on. But when a teenager who has a whole lot of temptations to deal with and various other things going on in life does the same, I'm simply bowled over.

Yes it was camp. Yes it was a bit of an unrealistic bubble of a week. But I really believe they meant their words and prayers and actions. And am praying that they grow and grow, each one of them who knows Christ. And for those who don't - praising the Lord that they weren't at that camp by accident, that He drew them, and praying He would continue drawing them towards Himself.

What a joy it is to be part of God's Kingdom and to serve Him in it!