Thursday, 13 July 2017

Biggest mistake in ministry?

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my ministry, but avoiding conflict was one of the biggest. Nobody likes conflict, and if you do you have other issues we need to discuss. But when we avoid conflict, we hurt relationships and damage the church.
Don’t like conflict? The best way to get more conflict is to try to avoid it.
Pastors don’t have the option of avoiding conflict...
More wise words from DashHouse

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

On how the ABC could lose 'Rock, Paper, Scissors'

My vicar has written another great piece on where the CofE (Church of England) is currently at and particularly where the dilly-dallying of the ABC (Archbishop of Canterbury) could end. It all starts simply with reference to a child's game but ends firmly with the challenge to always side with the Rock!
Do you know the children's game called 'Rock, Paper, Scissors'?
It's simple enough: two children bump both fists together three times in quick succession and then each shouts 'rock', 'paper' or 'scissors'. At the same time, they make a shape with one of their hands: a clenched fist for rock, flat hand for paper, and v-shape with two fingers for scissors. Rock beats scissors (because it crushes them); paper trumps rock (since it can wrap around it); scissors win against paper (as they cut it).
I was reminded of this game after I read the letter from Justin Welby rebuking conservative Anglicans for their plans to appoint a 'missionary bishop'. Their move followed the Scottish Episcopal Church's abandonment of the teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman. And the game came to mind because on this whole issue of sexuality, which confronts the entire Anglican Communion, the Archbishop could be said to have three choices:
(1) Scissors. This is the 'split' option. It acknowledges that there is no chance of holding together irreconcilable views on the subject. One side thinks gay rights are a matter of basic human dignity akin to the civil rights struggle in the US. The other side thinks departing from the Christian consensus on matters of sex and morality jeopardises people's eternal salvation and could lead to them going to hell. Each camp regards the other with horror. So a 'scissors' choice would say: let's get real. These two positions are impossible to bridge without compromising the integrity of either. Let's be honest and find a way of forming two distinct church groupings as cleanly and simply as we can.
(2) Paper. This is the 'holding things together' option – either by papering over the cracks or by coming up with a form of words which, at least in the short term, could satisfy enough people to keep the Anglican show on the road. At the moment, this seems to be Justin Welby's preference with his talk of 'good disagreement'.
(3) Rock. Jesus says, 'everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise person who built their house on the rock,' (Matthew 7v24). Therefore, this option would involve Justin Welby saying, 'This is what I believe the Bible says about marriage and sexuality; so this is what, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we will follow.'Moreover, in his letter, the Archbishop refers to the appointment of Rod Thomas as Bishop of Maidstone to provide oversight for those opposed to women bishops on grounds of theology and conscience. This 'clearly demonstrates how those with differing views still have their place in the Church of England,' he says. The implication – although it is not explicit – seems to be: 'If we could do this for that, perhaps we can do the same over sexuality'. That's doubtful – for reasons the theologian Martin Davie, of the Oxford Centre for Religion in Public Life, has written.
It is not clear, to be honest, what he thinks on this topic any more. An evangelical General Synod member said to me recently words along the lines of: 'We like him as a person; we are confident he preaches the cross and resurrection; but on this issue we have lost confidence in him.' It may strike many as odd that the Archbishop seems clearer on matters of church structure (rejecting the idea of a 'missionary bishop') than he does on church belief (about sexuality). The former is no doubt important, but the latter is about people's lives everywhere and every day.
In the light of all this, we have to be candid: unless something unexpected happens, the 'scissors' option will unfold in the Church of England, just as it has in north America, and ultimately globally. The 'paper' option may satisfy some, but as many on both sides regard it as a matter of first-order importance, neither will rest until their viewpoint prevails.
But what about the 'rock' option? Bishops are meant to be 'shepherds of Christ's flock and guardians of the faith of the apostles', as Anglican liturgy puts it, presumably an Archbishop chiefly so. So what is the 'rock' of Jesus' teaching on which Justin Welby wishes us to build? Does he think Jesus said nothing about contemporary sexuality, that love trumps everything, and that today's issues are different from those covered in the New Testament, as proponents of change argue? Or does he think Jesus' teaching on marriage and celibacy, his refusal to bust taboos on this as he does on other issues, and the consensus of Christians for most of the last two millennia, point the other way?
One thing's for sure. In the game 'rock, paper, scissors', it is never clear who is going to win. But in the church, 'rock' always comes out on top. It's an image used many times in the Bible. As Peter puts it in his first New Testament letter: Jesus is 'a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense' and those who stumble do so 'because they disobey the word'. Rock, paper, scissors. Which choice will the Archbishop make?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Who is this describing?

They are a part of you whether you like it or not. They affect you whether you are/were close or not. You will always be connected to them whether they were a constant part of your life or not. They impacted who you are today even if you’ve never met them. You love them – except maybe when you can’t stand them. For better or worse, he is your…                                    …dad

For many, the relationship they have/have had with their dads is not a pleasant one. Perhaps this is due to the lack of warmth shown by a father or from their not being around very much or even worse from their abandoning and deserting the family. Such relational difficulties in our everyday relationships make it all the more striking that the Scriptures repeatedly call us to address God as Father.

However, in contrast to our earthly fathers, the God of the Bible is presented as a father who is always good, forever loving and wonderfully kind. Nowhere is this most apparent than in the generous gift God gave to reconcile us back to Himself. In the story of the prodigal son we get a glimpse of this loving God. The son in the story had wished his father dead, taken his share of his father’s inheritance, squandered it and then, in a state of despair, come back home. Rather than chase his son away or give him the cold shoulder the father welcomes him, embraces him and throws a lavish party for him. This is what our Father is like – apparently reckless in His generosity and overflowing in His love. The Apostle Matthew puts it like this:

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Many today would struggle to connect the word good with the word father. That is understandable given the widespread family breakdown in our society. However we have and can all know the perfect Father. A Father who will never leave us nor forsake us. A Father who loved us so much He was prepared to give us His all, to bring us back to Himself. May we know the love of this good Father as we trust in His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Weepy illustration for Romans 5:6-8

Have some kleenex at the ready...


Romans 5 verse 6-8 
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Scripture on Sodomy and Slavery

Adam 4d cleverly upacks the irony of saying that we Christians should endorse homosexuality because the bible was once used to justify slavery...  


Monday, 24 April 2017

John Calvin the Postmillenialist?

The following comes from John Calvin's Catechism of Geneva. Note especially the 3rd question... 

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Q268 M. What understand you by the kingdom of God in the second petition?
S. It consists chiefly of two branches — that he would govern the elect by his Spirit — that he would prostrate and destroy the reprobate who refuse to give themselves up to his service, thus making it manifest that nothing is able to resist his might.

Q269 M. In what sense do you pray that this kingdom may come?
S. That the Lord would daily increase the numbers of the faithful — that he would ever and anon load them with new gifts of his Spirit, until he fill them completely: moreover, that he would render his truth more clear and conspicuous by dispelling the darkness of Satan, that he would abolish all iniquity, by advancing his own righteousness.

Q270 M. Are not all these things done every day?
S. They are done so far that the kingdom of God may be said to be commenced. We pray, therefore, that it may constantly increase and be carried forward, until it attain its greatest height, which we only hope to take place on the last day on which God alone, after reducing all creatures to order, will be exalted and pre-eminent, and so be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28.)

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So Postmil or not?

Monday, 17 April 2017

This changes everything!

Image result for resurrection changes everything
Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth died on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem and was placed in an empty tomb nearby. Three days later, some women came to dress the body and found the tomb empty. They heard from angels that Jesus had risen from the dead, and shortly after encountered Jesus Himself. This Jesus also appeared to His disciples and to many others including to 500 people at the same time. It really happened.

Of course, there have been various alternative explanations since that momentous day when the women discovered the empty tomb. But none of the alternative explanations makes sense. In recent times, ‘experts’ have claimed that the disciples saw visions of Jesus and interpreted them as bodily appearances. They were so hopeful that Jesus would rise from the dead that they projected their hopes onto the world. Visions and dreams of the dead were known in the ancient world, and still occur today. But dreams and visions such as this do not give rise to the belief that the person is risen from the dead. Quite the contrary: if we have a vision or dream of a loved one who has died, the vision or dream is confirmation that they are still dead. And in any case, the disciples were as surprised as anyone at the news of Jesus’ resurrection (just read the Gospels!) More to the point, Jesus repeatedly appeared to the disciples, was touched by them, and even ate some grilled fish after His resurrection. No apparition would happily indulge in a breakfast barbecue (see John 21). Jesus’ resurrection really happened.

And if it really happened, since it really happened, then the world is a very different place than we might have thought. If Jesus rose from the grave, since He rose from the dead, then Jesus is who He always said He was, the Son of God, the King of Kings, the One who is in heaven now, sat by the Father, ruling over every corner of this globe.

Since the resurrection really happened, no situation and no person are hopeless. No marriage is beyond repair, no child beyond recovery, no pagan beyond the reach of the gospel, no sin beyond forgiveness. In Christ, no one and nothing are beyond restoration because, if bodily death is reversible, so are all the other ‘deaths’ that we suffer in life. For the Christian believer, future hope and the certainty of eternal life are not a delusion. As the Apostle Paul puts it “if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” But, continues Paul, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead”. Amen and Alleluia!

Parish article for the week beginning 16th April - Easter Day 2017 AD (with thanks to PL)

Saturday, 15 April 2017

T'was the night before Easter

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O God, 
Creator of heaven and earth:
Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the  coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; 
who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, 
for ever and ever. 
Amen.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Faith in the face of fear - a message to those who kill us!

What the priest says below only makes sense if you know a Risen Saviour. Do you know Him?


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The way up is to go down

In the ancient world, when a conquering hero rode into town in triumph, it was in a regal chariot or on the back of a stately stallion. Legions of soldiers would accompany him in the victory procession and triumphal arches, festooned with relief sculptures, were often erected to immortalize his valiant victory.
How very different though for Jesus. After driving out demons, healing the sick, and raising the dead, it was time for the King of Kings to enter the Holy City. But to do so, He rode not on the back of a warhorse, but on a donkey. His companions accompanied Him brandishing not swords, but palm branches. The monument to His victory, erected a week later, was not an arch, but a cross.
His earthly beginning was frightfully humble. And His earthly end would be no different. The wood of the manger prefigured the wood of the cross. All of Christ’s life speaks of His love, obedience and humility.
Though He was the Divine Son of God, dwelling with the Father in heavenly glory, He freely plunged to the depths of human misery, joining Himself to our frail nature as He entered our turbulent world. As if that were not enough, He further humbled Himself, accepting the status of a slave. His act of stooping down to wash the feet of His disciples (John 13) was a parable of His whole human existence, for this act was regarded as so undignified that not even Israelite slaves could be compelled to do it.
But that’s just it. Jesus was not compelled to do anything. He willingly lowered himself in His birth, in His ministry, in His death. No one took His life from Him. He freely laid down His own life (John 10:18) – He humbled himself, giving His life as a sacrifice for sin.
It had to be so. Jesus, the New Adam had to undo the damage caused by the first Adam. And what was the sin our first parents? They disobeyed because they wanted to be like God (see Genesis 3). They were tricked by the Serpent, and thereby infected with the deadly venom of pride. The antidote, the anti-venom could only be humility. The foot-washing, donkey-riding and blood-shedding New Adam would crush the head of the deadly serpent by means of loving, humble and sacrificial obedience.

But God responded to His humility by exalting Him far above Caesars, kings, and even Hollywood celebrities. And He invites us to share His glory with Him. But first we must tread His humble path to glory, taking up our cross daily and following Him? Will you come and follow Him?
Parish article for the start of Holy Week, April 2017 AD

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Monday, 3 April 2017

Oh to be a pastor in Chaucer's mold (pt 2)

Image result for walk the talk
The description below - of the ideal pastor - is taken from the prologue to The Canterbury Tales. (part 1 is here)

Upon his feet, and in his hand a stave
This noble example to his sheep he gave

First following the word before he taught it
And from the gospel he had caught it

His business was to show a fair behaviour
and draw men thus to heaven and their Saviour

Image result for walk the talk
Unless indeed a man be obstinate;
and such, whether of high or low estate

He put to sharp rebuke to say the least
I think there never was a better priest


He sought no pomp or glory in his dealings
no scrupulosity had spiced his feelings

Christ and his twelve apostles and their lore
he taught, but followed it himself before

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Oh to be such a faithful pastor
Lord I need thy gracious power


Saturday, 25 March 2017

Church attendance and marriage breakdown

From a report in the US...
...we know that culturally conservative white Americans who are disengaged from church experience less economic success and more family breakdown than those who remain connected, and they grow more pessimistic and resentful.

Friday, 3 March 2017

The only power that can sudue human hearts

The Word of God is the only power that can subdue the rebellion of our heart. There is a power in our fallen nature which revolts against divine truth, and which nothing human can overcome. No teaching of man will do it, not even that of your father or mother. The teaching of the church and of the most beloved pastors will not do it, nor time-worn tradition, which is the teaching of the ages. All this is as powerless as the slen-derest thread to lift the weight which presses us down. To make the King-dom of God enter our hearts we need a battering-ram that can overthrow the strongest walls, and that ram is the Word of God.

— Jean Henri Merle d'Aubigne as quoted by George Grant

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Why you should get married ASAP!

This from Al Mohler:
Study after study reveals that young Americans are achieving adulthood, if at all, far later than previous generations now living. The average age of marriage for young Americans fifty years ago was in the very early twenties. Now, it is trending closer to age thirty.

Why is this important to us all? A stable and functional culture requires the establishment of stable marriages and the nurturing of families. Without a healthy marriage and family life as foundation, no lasting and healthy community can long survive.

Clearly, our own society reveals the delay of marriage and its consequences, but we are hardly alone. Many European nations display similar patterns of delayed adulthood, with ominous economic, political, and social implications.

And the way forward? Obviously if you've been dating/going out for a while, you need to get a ring and put it on her! Alternatively, find out her name and ask her. Al Mohler also has some very wise advice here.


Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Celebrating Lent properly

Tomorrow (Ash Wednesday) marks the start of Lent and in the next few weeks, it’s likely you’ll hear the question “What are you giving up for Lent?” How should we as Christians celebrate Lent? How can we celebrate it without the feelings of sombreness, despair and guilt that the season is often associated with? A couple of thoughts on this issue.

First, the way that the above question is phrased (What are you giving up?) gets us off on precisely the wrong note. It focuses on abstinence rather than activity, and on us rather than on Christ. If you're going to “do something” for Lent, make sure the focus is not on self-deprivation or inactivity. Instead, focus on devoting yourself positively to something spiritually beneficial such as half an hour reading your Bible or some other Christian book, a few minutes praying or meditating on and memorising some Psalms. Pursue abstinence or self-deprivation only if it helps you pursue these positive goals. Miss a meal, withdraw from Facebook or get up a bit earlier, for example, so that you can have more time to read and pray.

Second, remember that Sunday is still the Lord’s Day, i.e. Resurrection Day, even during the period of Lent. Strictly speaking, of course, the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter aren't part of Lent at all. Do the sums: Ash Wednesday (1st March) to Holy Saturday (15th April) is 46 days; take away the 6 Sundays and you're left with the 40 days of Lent. Sunday is still a day of celebration, so let's keep it that way. Don't let Lent leak into Sundays. And one way to ensure this is by being at church every Sunday (including the Sundays in Lent) where we sing songs of praise and celebrate Holy Communion with joy.

Third, don't judge others who do things differently from you. Of course, it's possible to observe Lent in a spirit of more-pious-than-thou self-righteousness. It's also possible that not observing Lent may reflect an attitude of indifference and laziness with regard to our Christian discipleship. I'm not sure which is worse, and, thankfully, those are not the only options. But we all need to beware of assuming that we know why people are doing things differently from ourselves. The Apostle Paul's comments in Romans 14:3, though not written with Lent in mind, are certainly relevant here: “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.”

May you have a meaningful Lent as you celebrate it properly!

Parish article for the week beginning 26th February 2017 AD (with thanks to SJ)

Monday, 27 February 2017

When shaming is appropriate

Even though the experience of shaming will be painful, we can affirm a group's shaming when (1) the action in question is something God would consider shameful [such as sexual activity outside marriage], and (2) the intent of the shaming is restoring the person to right living and right relationship with God and others. This "reintegrative" shaming is restorative and temporary. 

Tragically much of the shaming in the world today falls short of both ideals

Ministering in Honor-Shame cultures by Jayson Georges and Mark D. Baker

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Looky here - my boss wrote this

My vicar in the parish where I work has written a fantastic letter to the Archbishops and I am rather chuffed about it so I thought I would let you (2 readers of this blog ;) know about it. Here's how it begins:
Dear Archbishops Justin and John,
I hope you will forgive my boldness in writing to you like this. But as you have written publicly calling for 'a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church' after last week's General Synod I wanted to write and ask the question which many are now asking: what exactly is that? 
You see, the thing is, I've always thought the gospel was radically inclusive already. I've always believed that 'the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives' – as the famous hymn puts it. And when I look back on churches of which I have been a part, I recall them including paedophiles, an associate of the Kray twins, pornography addicts, adulterers – and others, including myself, whose middle class respectability masked sins which might have been less obvious but were equally heart-breaking to God. We, together, were vile offenders (in the eyes of God's law if not of the world) who chose to repent and believe. And gloriously, all of us were welcomed and included! When you add in the mind-blowing mix of age, ethnicity and background as well, that seems pretty inclusive already.
To read the rest, looky here

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The problem with secular arguments for sexual ethics

...is that they spring from the same root as arguments for same-sex "marriage": human autonomy. Able secular proponents of "traditional marriage" argue for "the common good" and human flourishing" saying that only marriage gives us happy, well-balanced children; strong family bonds; and useful citizens. The problem is that many advocates of homosexuality (for example) see a society that discriminates against same-sex "marriage" as not a common good and, even were they to grant that traditional marriage fosters more well-adjusted families, they would still insist that a sexually discriminatory society must be abolished. For them, the right of homosexuals to marry is part of the common good. For these homosexuals and their heterosexual allies, what constitutes "good" is not held in "common" with "traditional" marriage advocates. It is not, therefore, "the common good" or "human flourishing" to which Christians must ultimately appeal, but to the word of God.
That gist of that last sentence is something we Christians need to remember and reiterate when addressing all the hot button issues in our culture today e.g, abortion, divorce, child rearing etc. That said, lets not miss the perceptiveness of the above comments as we consider how to respond - in righteousness - to the biggest issue of our times. You can read more here.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

What the mosquito teaches us

If you think you are too small to make a difference then you haven't spent a night with a mosquito - African proverb

Monday, 13 February 2017

The best Valentines gift

I’m sure you’re aware of it but just in case you’re not, it's Valentine’s this week! Judging by what’s on display in the shops, tis the season to splash out on chocolates, red roses and pricey jewellery. How ironic that a day named after a Christian martyr (St Valentine) is now associated with over-priced flowers and restaurants offering expensive ‘romantic’ candle-lit dinners. Not that I am against any of this extravagance but what is often missed is the ordinary and ongoing nature of true love. The famous Bible passage that is often read at weddings captures this well: “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Such love is borne out not by experiencing warm or fuzzy feelings but in the serving of others day in, day out – in good times and in bad. True love is about putting others first and a life lived for the benefit of others. As Jesus puts it “in everything (not just at Valentines) do to others what you would have them do to you.” Love continually puts other people first.
In practical terms this means that in all our relationships (but especially for husbands and wives) we should desist the temptation to “fix the other person first”. Many a time in a marriage, the husband knows what ‘issues’ his wife needs to sort out are and, if we were to ask her, she would probably be able to list where he is failing. In short, couples often forget to put the other first. They forget to love their neighbour as themselves. It is shocking to see how men and women who are pleasant and warm in dealing with others can then be rude, thoughtless, tacky, bitter, demanding or angry – as though marital closeness eradicated all responsibility to love your [closest] neighbour as yourself. When challenged on this, we defend ourselves by blaming the other: “She started it”; “He won’t listen.” But to blame the other is to violate the love we are to have for our neighbour.

Many couples will spend some money on their beloved over the coming week. That may be good and proper. However, to indulge your loved one in mid-February when for the rest of the year you rarely (if ever) put them first would be a travesty. The solution is to remember Christ – to remember His love and the great price He paid for your sin, to seek His forgiveness where you have failed to love (and who hasn’t?) and then in dependence on His Holy Spirit, to resolve daily to walk the way of loving your neighbour as you love yourself. Happy Valentine!
Parish magazine article for the week beginning 12th February 2017 AD

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Two income families should not be the norm!

Image result for playing in the streets
Because children should be able to play freely outdoors and for hours on end, there should be neighbourhoods for them to play in. Because there should be neighbourhoods, there should be in those locales the natural though informal monitors of the neighbourhood; elderly people on their porches, many mothers, and men and women at work in family businesses nearby. Because there should be such neighbourhoods filled with people, our social policies should favour them and support them, and our cultural expectations likewise. Therefore we should not subordinate the family to work; double-income family should not be the norm; we should reconsider all things that tend to remove father and mother far from the place where they live.

 Antony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

How to make heaven happy!

With February fast approaching, we are currently in crunch time for New Year’s Resolutions. According to research, the number of people keeping their resolutions is shrinking week by week. By the end of the first week in January it is estimated that about 25% have already given up. By the start of February nearly 40% will given up and come the middle of the year more than half will have abandoned their goals. Apparently, only 8 percent of those who make resolutions are successful in achieving the goal they had set for themselves. With such a small success rate perhaps it is little wonder that many of us don’t even bother making a resolution at all. Truth be told, we are pretty bad at keeping our promises (let alone our resolutions) and that’s largely because we are weak and feeble creatures. Who of us can promise that 2017 will not have any personal failure and disappointment in it?

The Prophet Isaiah rightly describes humanity like this: “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” We are all like sheep – easily distracted, hugely vulnerable and needing someone who will care and provide for us in our weakness.

Fortunately, we have such a person. Someone who not only cares for us but who understands and welcomes us despite our weakness. Here is a story that Jesus told to make just that point:
Related image"The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." So he told them this parable: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15:1-7). 
That final line is the crucial one. There is joy in heaven when sinners repent. God is pleased when we acknowledge our failings, our shortcomings, our sin and turn to Him in repentance. Rather than merely feeling bad over failed resolutions or another broken promise or for losing one’s temper (or whatever other sin), why not make heaven happy? Be the person who acknowledges their sin, who repents quickly and who brings God delight by trusting Him for the forgiveness that He has promised to all who trust Jesus.
Parish newsletter article for the 4th week in Epiphany (with thanks to SJ)

Monday, 30 January 2017

This is why "Social Services" is doomed!

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and moral code that glorifies it.

 Frédéric Bastiat

...Let the reader understand!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

The pastor is no specialist!

Christian theology especially in the late 20th century variety emphasised the comprehensiveness of the Christian faith. The notion that Christianity offers a worldview embracing every area of life was never more explicitly affirmed or more elaborately detailed. Think for example of the idea of Christian pop music, Christian counselling, Christian debt management (such as CAP) and so on. Related to this is the claim that every calling is good and noble, that all work can be devoted to the service of Christ, that all Christians are called to seek first the kingdom of God.

This good and necessary emphasis has often been accompanied, however, by a denigration of the pastoral ministry: All Christians, it is said, have a “full-time” ministry, so the pastor has no higher a calling than any other Christian. But this does not follow. Though all callings can be equally devoted to Christ’s service, not all callings are equal. In Scripture, the pastoral office is specifically tasked with equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12), with the ongoing teaching of the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2) and with seeking the well-being of all God’s people (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Another way to put all this is to say that pastoral ministry is the broadest calling, a vocation to minister and to serve (cheerfully) men, women and children in every circumstance.

When sickness strikes, we call the doctor. When in legal trouble, we contact a lawyer. When made redundant, we sign up with an employment agency. When labour pains begin, we call a midwife or a doctor, and when we have breathed our last, the undertaker has his way. For each stage of life, each crises, we have our specialist.

The pastor however is no specialist. They are called to represent Christ and speak for and about Him in every kind of situation. When visiting the ill, when guiding the adulterer in the way of repentance, when seeking to encourage the entrepreneur whose business has folded, when rejoicing with new parents or mourning with those who grieve, the minster is tasked with presenting Christ for the aim of caring for, building up and strengthening God’s Church. Beside the doctor, beside the financial advisor, beside the care home assistant, stands the pastor. In the maternity ward, in the jail cell, in the home tense with marital strife, stands the pastor. At the baptism, the wedding service, the funeral, stand the pastor: a generalist in human crises, a generalist in moments of passage, a generalist particularly called to equip the whole body of Christ with the whole word of Christ.

There is one sense in which the pastor is a specialist. For every situation, they have essentially one word, the word of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Among the sick, the pastor’s concern is not only for healing but to indicate how suffering can be transformed into joyful witness. Among the poor, the pastor’s concern is not just how to pay next month’s bills, but to consider how poverty may strengthen faith in the goodness of the heavenly Father. At the bedside of the dying, the pastor’s concern is not just to ease pain but to hold forth the promise of resurrection life. It is for this that we are to pray for our ministers namely, that they would faithfully proclaim the Word of Christ as they joyfully serve all people and so build up God’s Church.

Words for PCC away morning (with thanks to PL)