Gavin Calver is the Director of Mission at the Evangelical Alliance and has a burning passion to see the Gospel reach every person in the UK.  This week at New Horizon, he is speaking at the Evening Celebrations on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.  Here the NH Media Team brings you a summary of what he had to say Thursday 11 August.

Gavin Calver

Reading from John 20: 10 – 29.  The whole of history hangs on the empty tomb of Jesus.

I love Christmas but I hate Christmas cards because they make Jesus look “cute”.  The ox and the ass don’t poop, and the hay is perfect… people think it is cute and safe but as it says in the Chronicles of Narnia, He is not a “tame” Lion.

Jesus breaks the rules

We are not very good at breaking rules in the church, we are very good at making them.

How often do we make rules that stop people accessing what we are doing?  Jesus breaks the rules.  The average Pharisee got up every morning and thanked God they were not born a Gentile, a slave or a woman.  Yet after the resurrection, Jesus revealed Himself first to a woman.

How are you with rules?  We are all built differently but church doesn’t know what to do with rule breakers.  When I was 14 years old, I was banned from church for six months.  My friend was also banned and all these years later he has never been back.

Society makes rules that are wrong.  Society says old and young should not have anything to do with each other.  But 87% of young people want a parent or grandparent figure in their youth ministry. Our society says we should be “private” about our faith.  We need to break that rule.  We have got to start talking about Jesus.

Let us not let society tell us what it going on.  Jesus breaks rules in appearing to Mary.

Jesus is full of surprises

I think we have made Jesus boring to people.  You can call my Jesus many things but He is not boring.

The incarnation is a mega surprise.  The fact that the God who threw the stars into space becomes a baby is such a surprise.

The resurrection is a surprise.  I have never known something so amazing… awe inspiring… incredible and yet people are bored about it!  When you go to Jesus’ tomb.  It is empty!  Jesus died but He is alive.  Too many Christians are bored of the empty tomb.  Jesus defeated death so that we might know life in all its fullness.

Then Jesus walks through a wall.  He is amazing and He is full of surprises.  It is time we started surprising people with our love, mercy and compassion.

My ultimate spiritual hero of Alex Buchanan – he was physically weak but spiritually strong!  When he was 23, he went to a church with a choir.  He felt God saying that the choir was holding the church back in worship.  The pastor told him to go away and pray about it.  Four weeks in a row he said the same thing.  On the fourth week, he took an axe and chopped up the choir stalls.  The church quadrupled in size over the next year.  I’m not promoting anarchy but I wonder if we have got too predictable.

We need to allow God to surprise us and then to surprise others.

Jesus treats us individually

You may have noticed that when I read the passage I didn’t use the word “Mary” I used the name “Miriam” (which is Mary in Aramaic).  Mary replied in Aramaic “Rabboni” so Jesus must have used the language of Galilee by calling her Miriam otherwise she would not responded in kind.

Jesus doesn’t do comparison.  Whatever your background, Jesus says to you today, you can leave that mess at the foot of the cross.  Jesus treats us as individuals.

God looks at you.  He treats you individually.  He says, “I love you.”  If you ever feel God couldn’t use you.  Noah got drunk, Abraham was old, Jacob was a liar, David was an adulterer, Jonah ran from God, the disciples fell asleep while praying, the Samaritan woman had multiple husbands and Lazarus was dead.

I would love to think in Northern Ireland that the church would never go to bed on an argument.  We need to forgive one another.

Jesus is uncomfortably faithful

When our son was 18 weeks old in the womb, he was seriously ill and needed a blood transfusion.  There were huge risks for the baby.  I sat by Anne’s bed and I have never felt so isolated.  I felt like God was holding my hand and I felt compelled to pray, “Lord Jesus if this baby lives, you are good and if this baby dies, you are still good.” We had nine blood transfusions in the womb.  Miraculously, he survived and was born 10 weeks early.  He had three more transfusions but now he is fine!

Jesus if faithful to us.  We have got to learn resilience.  Jesus is the Saviour of the world on the mountaintop and in the valley.  His is faithful to us.  Will we be faithful to Him?

In Gethsemane, when Jesus prays to get the cup removed, he sweats blood.  This is the ultimate form of anxiety.  Yet He remains faithful.  It is amazing how easily we give up.  On a wedding day, we make bigger promises to our spouses than we ever say to Jesus.  That is what we need; we need faithful Christianity.  Jesus is radical.  We must be the same.

What would it really take for the UK to be set on fire for Jesus?

I think it takes a bunch of people who allow Jesus to tell them what to do, not their culture. A bunch of people who are faithful to the end.  We need life-long faithfulness to Jesus.

My granddad was a great man who was a Bible college principle and started the Evangelical Alliance in the UK.  When he was 85 years old, he decided it was time for “early” retirement and he stopped preaching every Sunday.  He had a series of strokes.  His body was broken.  He spent most of the time asleep.

On their diamond wedding, people got up to thank them.  My grandma got up to thank everyone. Then my granddad woke up.  He got wheeled out and said, “We did all this because Jesus came from highest heaven to deepest earth, He died on a cross, three days later He rose from the dead…” And six people responded.  He died four months later.  When I grow up, I want to be like my granddad.  At 92, he broke all the rules, he was surprising, he cared more about individuals in the room who didn’t know Jesus than about all the others who already did and he was uncomfortably faithful to the God who had been faithful to him.

I think God is calling us to a gear change… to break some rules, to surprise people, to treat people as individuals and to be uncomfortably faithful.

Lord, we pray for your way, in our day, in this land.  May the song of a God who conquered the grave be the anthem of Northern Ireland.