with Tony Horsfall
Tuesday 8 August
After graduating from London School of Theology, Tony served as a missionary and as a pastor before heading up a missions training programme at Bawtry Hall. Since 2004, he has had his own ministry,Charis Trainingand has a passion to see people grow in their relationship with God. As an author his books include Rhythms of Grace, Working from a place of Rest, Deep calls to Deep and most recently, Grief Notes. Tony loves nothing better than to lead people on retreat, taking quality time to be with God. Here the New Horizon Media team bring you a summary of what he had to say during the morning Bible Teaching at #NH2023.
Reading from Isaiah 61
As a writer, these words are a little bit dense. There is not much breathing space. God spoke through human writers, like Isaiah. The prophet packs these sentences with really expressive verbs and interesting nouns and crams it full of different metaphors. In my mind as we read it, it can all get jumbled up together. This morning I’d like to untangle it a bit so we can see it more clearly.
Yesterday we saw Jesus’ as the anointed servant. Long before the great commission, Jesus announced the great compassion – God’s concern for a hurting world. He went around healing the sick and setting free those oppressed by the enemy. This was jesus’ heart. And we saw that we enter into his anointing. We need to live in that same anointing that was on Jesus, our great high priest. We need the leading, guiding and the enabling of the Holy Spirit. The reason for that is so that good news will be preached to the poor.
Recently we went to see The Jesus Revolution. It is a powerful film and a great story. When we were watching it, we spent mmost of the time in tears as we were reminded of what God did with some very unlikely people and reverberated around the world and impacted many people in the UK as well. My heart’s cry is, Lord do it again. One of my interesting take aways from that film was the fact that three of the main people involved each individually had their own brokenness. God used them despite their brokenness. I find that encouraging because God can still use us. But the other challenge was that success and prominence began to reveal that brokenness and it caused problems. Sometimes if we fail to deal with our own brokenness, it can trip us up.
Isaiah in the Temple (Isaiah 6)
Having seen a great vision of the Sovereign Lord who is in control of everything, the impact on Isaiah the prophet is to fall on his face in utter awareness of his sinfulness and his need for God.
- Woe is me… – he feels shame about who he is. Shame can be bad but it has a good purpose when it reminds us of when we have done wrong and we need help.
- I am undone (I have been unravelled, broken in pieces, unmasked…) – when God gives you a glimpse of what is inside of you. As long as we feel we are okay, we may well be avoiding the issues that we are carrying around inside us.
- I am a man of unclean lips and I live among people of unclean lips – there is nothing that tests out your holiness like your words. The test of sanctification is not what happens inside the church but what happens in the car park afterwards. What do your words reveal of who you are. It is all of us.
If we encounter the living God it will have an impact on us and we will feel unclean. That experience is so vital in becoming more Christlike. We need to know our need of Him so He can heal us.
- God’s concern for the returning exiles – the people of Israel were wounded and bruised. These words from Isaiah 61 come as God is welcoming them back and wanting to heal their brokenness.
- The compassion of Christ for the ‘poor’ in his day: freedom, recovery, favour -this was His starting point, meeting people where they were at.
- The love of God oozes through these words for those who are broken today in our world. God’s compassion is towards a broken world.
Sometimes we can be so judgemental. Much of what people do is because they are broken. Sometimes we so focus on sinfulness that we don’t recognise what lies behind that. Brokenness makes people sin. Sometimes they are not bad people, they are broken people. That is true in church as well. Sadly, church is also broken. If you follow what is happening in the Christian world you will have been deeply disappointed by what has happened to some of our great Christian leaders. How could this happen? Even if you are a gifted person and outwardly successful in your Christian life, if you carry brokenness with you and you may seek to ease your inner brokenness in inappropriate ways. That is why we need to give heed to the words of Isaiah and give attention to our brokenness.
There is a proclamation of the good news for the poor – proclamation of healing, forgiveness and grace.
The Spirit’s identifies four different groups of people who need healing and freedom. I want you to listen not on behalf of somebody else but your real self (not the respectable self). The God of compassion wants to touch your life today.
- The broken-hearted
- The blind
- Those who mourn
Their temple had been destroyed. They had lost their homes. They were down hearted because they had suffered so much. They had been taken away to a foreign land. Have you ever been broken heart. When you’ve been torn in two and ripped apart. What does it mean? The sudden, unexpected and unwanted loss of something or someone you love. Your heart breaks because you love. It is one reason why some people don’t love because if you don’t love, you won’t get hurt.
If you do love, you run the risk of being hurt and disappointed. You can actually die of a broken heart because of the acute pain, sorrow and distress that it causes. It can be the end of a marriage. A child goes off the rails. A treasured friendship is lost. A prize possession is stolen. Do you know what I’m talking about?
When I was preparing a song came into my mind… What becomes of the broken hearted?
What becomes of the broken-heartedSong by Jimmy Ruffin
Who had love that’s now departed?
I know I’ve got to find
Some kind of peace of mind
When I read that I think of Romans 7: 14 – 25 and the apostle Paul’s struggle to do the things he wanted to do. Paul has come through this journey of being justified by faith and he is all set to live a new life. I think this passage is autobiographical because it is the experience of anyone who desires to be a godly person. That is the challenge of being a Christian – the world, the flesh and the devil is constantly dragging me down and sometimes I give way.
For some people, they look for something to help them through themselves to soothe themselves. Things that are satisfying and that becomes more important than God (it becomes and idol).
“Something or someone that holds my affection, takes up my time and requires my money, and which I feel I cannot live without.”
It might be to do with money. To do with your love of holidays, sport or hobbies. Not that they are wrong in themselves, but it is the place they take in our life. They become too important, and they push God out of their lives.
One of the most challenging things is the use of the mobile phone and how that becomes an “attachment”. Everything is being designed for distraction and addition. The social validation feedback loop. It is a dopamine hit. The statistics show that the average iPhone user touches their phone over 2,000 times a day. Each user is on the phone for 2.5 hours a day.
Attachments can become addictions – things that have power over us, even though we don’t want it.
“An addiction is any compulsive habitual behaviour that eclipses our concern for God and compromises our freedom.”– Gerald May
Gambling, drinking, drugs, pornography, sexual experiences. These are the things more and more people are addicted to. Jesus says, “I’ve come to set the captives free.” There is freedom but that freedom is in Jesus.
Jesus interprets this as blindness and probably spiritual blindness – the inability to understand the things of God. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”
Just because we are following Jesus doesn’t mean we don’t need the light anymore. We need to move the understanding from our head to our heart.
Isaiah was told his ministry would be difficult because the people would not respond. Why don’t people turn to God and be healed? Because they don’t see, they don’t get it! And that can apply to us too, just like the disciples who struggled to understand what Jesus was saying. We do not get spiritual truth until the Holy Spirit reveals it to us. We need to pray for this every day – Spirit will you reveal this to us every day. Isaiah 6:9-10 / Matt 13:11-17 (parable of the sower)
We have so much head knowledge. But we need that spirit of wisdom and revelation. The good news is that those in darkness have seen and will see a great light.
Grief = the sadness over the loss of something or someone, common to all humanity & universal. How Israel felt at the loss of the Temple & homeland (Ps 42, 137).
Sometimes we lose things in life that feels like a bereavement but most of all we think of it as the separation that comes through death. When we arrived on Saturday, we spoke with four people who in the last few weeks had lost a relative and who were grieving that loss. It makes you realise who common is that experience of grief. The reality of that is we must feel that grief.
Grief is a natural emotion and best expressed. You can be upset. You can cry. Men can cry. It is appropriate and part of the healing process.
The grief journey is unique, a process, and it takes time. You need to go with it. You can learn about grief and talk about grief and people can pray for you, but you cannot magic it away. You don’t want to get over it because it is about loving somebody. You move through it.
Not all grief is the same – some grief is complicated. Sometimes we need extra help and support.
It is not about ‘getting over’ it – it is about coming through it. You will be forever changed. There will always be a little hole inside you. And even after a long time, you may suddenly be overcome with moments of grief and think, “Oh I wish they were here.”
We can get ‘stuck’ in grief and we need to have the courage to say, I can function again, I’m ready for the next step.
Many of you know that three years ago I lost my first wife. We had been married for over 40 years. I spoke with two friends who helped and supported me. I worked at it. I joined a bereavement group. I cried my eyes out. I had a strong sense that God had one more adventure for me. And gradually I felt I was ready to pick up my ministry again.
Last Friday would have been our 50th wedding anniversary and you know that I am remarried but I knew I had to face this anniversary. It was the lead up to it that really got me. I kept seeing people celebrating big milestones and I had this terrible sense of incompleteness that we didn’t finish the race. I had to shed my tears and I can move on from that. That is what grief is like. Today if you feel grief it is best to acknowledge it.
All of these things have something in common – Pain. When we experience pain, the temptation is to deny it. Many people cope by “keeping busy” – you haven’t actually dealt with it. It is still there waiting for it. We try to numb the pain or hide it and put on a brave face. It takes courage to own it and face it, and to ask for help.
But there is Good News for all these things.
- Healing, freedom, recovery, comfort, favour
Kintsugi – the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold in the belief that by embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create a stronger, more beautiful piece of art.
Invitation – Isaiah 55:1
“Come, all who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”
If I don’t need any money, how can I buy anything? How can I buy it if it is free? It suddenly hit me that what this is talking about is the currency of heaven. It is not money or merit, it is brokenness, it is emptiness, it is poverty and need. If you have need, that is the currency of heaven. If you bring your need to God, He will give you what you need.