Thursday, 28 February 2013

Christian educators doomed to fail if...

I'm currently reading on Christian education and stunned to think that how we educate our little kiplings (2 so far) will very probably be the way that they (in time, DV) will educate their own children. In other words, a key test of a distinctive Christian education is not simply whether it produces well-behaved, hard-working and faithful children but also if they pass on and train their children (our grandchildren) the very things that they have learnt and seen us do. Simply put, Christian home-schoolers/Christian schools are doomed to fail, if they do not teach their children in a way that leads to them, to educate the next generation biblically (Psalm 78:1-8)

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

All Christian service is ministry

It has come to be a dreadfully common belief in the Christian Church that the only man who has a “call” is the man who devotes all his time to what is called “the ministry,” whereas all Christian service is ministry, and every Christian has a call to some kind of ministry or another.

C.H. Spurgeon

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Lib-Dem hierarchy hates women

What is wrong with Lib-Dem hierarchy? Why are so many of them filled with such callousness towards women? Why has so little attention been paid to the insensitive and offensive remarks by Senior Lib-Dems in their attempted defence of Lord Renard?

In today's Telegraph it is reported that Jasper Gerard, a friend and biographer of Mr Clegg, dismissed the seriousness of Lord Renard's alleged misdemeanour by saying “It was only touching a woman’s knee, it’s hardly Jimmy Savile.” Another senior leader, Lord Greaves, a Lib Dem peer, suggested that “people just calm down a bit” adding that “fairly mild sexual advances” were “hardly an offence”.

Did you hear that? Fairly mild sexual advances were hardly an offence.

Leaving aside the question of who decides if a sexual advance is fairly mild or not what about the issue of whether Lord Renard's alleged impropriety is right or wrong? Trying to mask the iniquitousness of an action by comparing it to someone worse (Jimmy Saville) or by describing the issue as "hardly an offence" does not get away from the fact that it is wrong - plain and simple. Imagine a church minister or school teacher or taxi driver saying in defence of alleged sexual misconduct "I was only touching her knee. It has hardly Jimmy Saville stuff" OR "I just made a fairly mild sexual advance - it's hardly an offence." Would that mean it was ok? Would you be at ease to leave your daughter, wife, mother in their company? What perverse logic to try trivialise a serious offence and gross violation (against the women concerned and God) and that from the party that claims to speak up for the weak and marginalised! As someone once said: O ye hypocrites, that set up marvellous standards in thy manifesto, yet you yourselves are not willing to keep them. Woe to you - for you travel across Westminster, to form a Coalition and once in Whitehall, have made yourselves twice as much the children of hell - Woe!

Monday, 25 February 2013

7 ways that leaders waste their time

1) Focussing on the naysayers

2) Refusing to delegate

3) Second guessing decisions

4) Trying to have all the ideas

5) Living with broken structure

6) Disorganization

7) Completing tasks not designed for me

A fuller explanations of each point can be found here. Just looking back over today, I think I'm guilty of 1), 3) & 6)! Help!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Saturday Smiles: Nothing to do with dogs

"That the term dogmatician has nothing to do with dogs does not, I trust, need saying. But when exegetes and dogmaticians get together it is noticeable that they tend to sniff suspiciously at each other, as dogs do, uncertain whether they can be friends." 

--J. I. Packer, "The 'Wretched Man' Revisited: Another Look at Romans 7:14-25," in Romans and the People of God: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Fee on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday (ed. Sven Soderlund and N. T. Wright; Eerdmans, 1999), 70

Friday, 22 February 2013

Pope's message to Evangelicals?

Although there are numerous errors linked to the papacy, the soon to retire Pope Benedict XVI has written  wisely of the folly of trying to make worship 'fun'...
Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attraction fades quickly - it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation (The Spirit of Liturgy, 198)
Interesting that the Pope thought this issue wide spread enough (in Roman Catholic circles) to write about. One could almost be mistaken for thinking he was actually addressing Evangelicals!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The sobbing comes afterwards

Following R C Sproul Jr's recent experience of intense grief, he reflects here how often, prior to one's beloved departing this mortal life, it is the adrenaline which keeps spouses going and (mostly) helps to keep the tears at bay; it's in the weeks, months and years afterwards that the  unpredictable sobbing ensues. Here is how concludes:
It is now that I fear, now that I cry. Dates, places, even weather patterns take me back. A highway we took to her clinical trial, a restaurant I frequented when she was in the hospital, even the spot by the ping pong table where I stood when she told me, all do not merely remind me of the horror, but put me back in the midst of it, but now with no adrenaline...          Time may be a river, but we are able to move within it, to swim with or against its current. Which is why we mourn with hope. Even now I am comforted, am at peace, indeed drink deep of a joy that is not behind but before me. For my momentary afflictions are not worthy to be compared with the eternal weight of glory (II Corinthians 4:17). Death indeed swallowed her up, but death is being swallowed in victory. Adrenaline is not my saviour. Jesus is.
It's a moving post. Read the full thing here 

Monday, 18 February 2013

Beards of ministry

The Telegraph recently carried a feature on the return of beards. Apparently everyone is donning them now: celebrities, politicians, postmen, Starbucks staff, etc, etc. Of the correspondence that followed, one of the best was a letter by a Ms Anya Spackman which read:

Sir - a kiss from a man with a beard is far more interesting that one from a shaven man.

Surely that's enough to get all clean shaven men to abandon their razors! And if you weren't able to think of something for the start Lent, then perhaps repenting of shaving could be it?? For the clergymen among you, see the chart below which will help you choose just the right ministry image (Mine I think is at the Patchivist stage but I'm hoping to some day get it to a Spurgeon!)


Saturday, 16 February 2013

Lent danger: living by sight instead of faith

The Church is now in the season of Lent, with tomorrow marking the 1st of 4 Sundays in Lent. Traditionally, this season has been a time when Christians have given up things – things they consider important like certain kinds of foods or drink or certain kinds of pleasures in order to re-focus their commitment to God.  Generally speaking the idea of giving up something in order to rejuvenate and deepen one's commitment is a good thing but... there is a major danger that needs to be acknowledged and if present totally banished. The danger is this - focussing on the external (what's outward) whilst ignoring the internal, what's in your heart. Focusing on the visible - chocolate, coffee or cake - whilst forgetting the invisible - sin, selfishness and self-righteousness. That would be to live by sight instead of faith. What an irony (and travesty) it would be to give up caffeine while at the same time being grumpy or jealous or full of anger or bitterness or lust. How messed up it would be to be outwardly seeking God but in your heart being so far away from Him! If you are giving up something this Lent make sure you also pay attention to where it really matters the heart for as someone once said the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Eros is soooo overrated

Many are familiar with the four main Greek words for love (phileo, eros, agapao & storge). Did you know however that eros ('romantic' love) does not appear even once in the New Testament? In fact of the four Greek words, only phileo and agapao feature. Phileo has the inference of "liking" someone or something (and blends most closely to the way we use love today) whilst agapao roughly translates as treating someone as they deserve e.g. when the Bible speaks of loving the LORD with all our heart, soul, mind and strength it is saying we should treat God as He deserves - with the esteem and honour of which He is worthy. Interestingly the NT never uses phileo with God as the object i.e. the bible never describes us as "liking" God. Strikingly too, when calling upon husband and wife to love one another the Bible opts not for the word eros but for agapao. In other words spouses are to think of their love more in terms of doing what is best for the other rather than being focussed on the frisson levels in their marriage. Don't get me wrong I'm not anti-sex or consider it unimportant in strengthening marriage. It. most. certainly. is. important. (in fact a marriage that is flourishing in agapao will almost inevitably have a vibrant sex life given that the disposition of either spouse is not how much sex can I enjoy but rather how can I express my affection so as to do good and bless the other). However if our dominant view view of love is erotic, then we are subscribing to and espousing an unbiblical view of love.

How then should this affect us this today? A few days ago the Daily Telegraph published a front page article which declared that researchers had discovered the precise date when marital love goes off. Apparently "couples start taking each other for granted three years and six months into their marriage." Uh oh - I'm a few months short of this so I better start making the most of it! But seriously, what a warped view of love that is. If couples are really heading into marriage with a view that love has a use by date, then I'm actually surprised that it takes that long before it cools. If one is constantly searching for the signals of whether your spouse's love has cooled or not then 3 years and 6 months seems an optimistic target. If however one takes the beautiful (Christian) view that the promises we make [to love, cherish (and obey)] should be until death then the marriage vows becomes dependent not on our emotions or situations but rather form the bedrock for a lifetime commitment to do whatever is good for one's spouse (and do it whether one feels like it or not). In other words, to love my wife is to care for her whatever, wherever and whenever. Eroticism should have no overriding claim when evaluating whether I love my wife or not. To love one's wife is to keep oneself pure from other women regardless of how you feel. To love is principally about doing the right thing for the benefit of one's husband, wife or others.

I read somewhere of an American pastor chatting to a man from a country where marriage was highly esteemed and hardly any couples divorced. During the conversation this man said to the pastor that he hoped that the marriages in his country would continue being life-long and divorce a rarity contra what he had heard about marriages in the West. When asked why he thought marriages in his country stayed the course he responded: It seems that you in the West marry the girl you love; where I come from, we love the girl we marry. That I think captures the bible's view of love:  to actively to love/seek the best for one's spouse for life. This St. Valentines Day, rather than ask "do I still love my spouse?" seek instead - by God's grace - to love the person we've married.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Don't destroy another nerve ending

How do you react when someone says something uncomfortable about you? How do you react when your wife criticises your behaviour? How do you react when people make unfavourable comments about your children? What direction does your mood travel in when your laziness or lateness or forgetfulness is pointed out to you? How do you react when a colleague highlights your double standards? What is your response to your sin being pointed out to you?

I heard a good illustration on this recently. Imagine that it was possible to completely get rid of your nerve endings. Imagine that it were possible without too much fuss to rid yourself of any physical sensation and therefore not be able to experience pain. At one level that sounds good (a pain free life) but, without nerve endings you will, indeed, avoid pain but you will experience damage. No nerve endings = no pain yes but, you will suffer very serious damage – you will start running into things, you will break your nose, impair your fingers, badly bruise your toes and so on. Here is the point if when you hear something uncomfortable you always respond negatively – storming off to your den, having a temper tantrum, snapping at your kids, moaning at your husband – then you’re slowly deadening your nerve endings. The end result of such behaviour is a completely hardened heart and much damage all around you

So think again – how did you react the last time that you were confronted about your sin? What was your response when your husband/wife, child, work colleague, neighbour, church member challenged you? Did you take the Biblical escape-route or did you cut off another nerve ending?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Are Christians obliged to tithe (1) ?

Does Scripture mandate the tithe? Are we obliged to give the LORD a tenth of all our income? Clearly the tithe was mandatory in the Old Testament era but what about for us New Covenant believers? My answer is yes and to explain why, bear with me a moment as we take the cross-country route as we consider the first instance in Scripture when the tithe is mentioned.

The first Scriptural mention of the tithe is in the book of Genesis (ch. 14). There Abraham overpowers and subdues the pagan kings who had overcome and captured Lot. Whilst returning home with the booty, Abraham meets the mysterious Melchizedek who serves him bread and wine (the first communion meal?)  and in return, Abraham gives Melchizedek a tithe of the plunder he had won. What does all this have to do with the New Covenant believer paying the tithe? Well in the book of Hebrews Christ's priesthood is described as being in the likeness of Melchizedek:

                          you are a priest forever, 
                           after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:15-17). 

In other words, Melchizedek's ministry and priesthood was a type and foreshadowing of Christ priesthood. What therefore Melchizedek did over 3 millenia ago in Palestine, Christ fulfilled and superseded by his priesthood. Thus if Abraham offered a tenth of his increase to a type of Christ (Melchizedek) how much more does the real deal - Jesus Christ - deserve a tenth of our increase? But there is more. Abraham is not a mere incidental character in the biblical narrative. Apart from his peculiar interactions with the Triune God (e.g. Genesis 18) we also have the special relationship he enjoyed with God, being one of a handful of people described as God's friend. Additionally the Apostle Paul calls him our father in the faith (Romans 4 and Galatians 3). All this should lead us to see Abraham as a prototype believer and someone who's life is to emulated in those things which honoured the of which giving the tithe is one such example (others being bringing up our children in the faith, husbands behaving like lords of their households, incredibly generous hospitality to strangers and so on but I digress). The point is this: Abraham is presented as an example in Scripture for us to follow and we his children are to walk in his ways, setting aside a tenth of our increase for the 'greater' Melchizedek, the Prince of Peace and High Priest over God's Kingdom. This is a sure way to enjoy the LORD's favour and blessing (Malachi 3:8-12)

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Prayer for our dark times

God our creator, who in the beginning
commanded the light to shine out of darkness: 
we pray that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ 
may dispel the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, 
shine into the hearts of all your people, 
and reveal the knowledge of your glory 
in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who is alive and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. 

[Collect for Epiphany 4]

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Cameron is not the problem, the Church is

David Cameron is not the problem. Now don't get me wrong David Cameron is a problem but he is not the problem. Rather he is the manifestation of a much bigger problem and if we in the UK are unhappy and distressed about today's same sex marriage vote in the commons, then let's step back and think of what the cause and source of our diabolical abominations is.

If I had just one take home point for this post, it would be this: bad results come from bad actions which come from bad thinking which come from bad beliefs. Simply put, the reason we had today's vote in Parliament, was because the Church in the UK is in a dire state.

Let's consider this first by thinking of an everyday example. Consider a piece of graffiti in your local park. If you were trying to get to the bottom of such a nuisance problem, who/what would you blame? The graffiti paints? Of course not. The graffiti paints were just a mere tool in the hands of a messed-up perpetrator. So then is the problem young Timmy, who decided to scribble in bright colours, "Tom is gay"? Well in a sense yes but why did crazy Timmy decide to scribble the insult in the first place? Well it came from his thinking; he thought, this would be a good idea and instead of believing what his parents have always told him (that you should never to be rude to others, especially not in public) he believed his mates instead who said to him "go on Timmy, it'll be a laugh"

So now, let's apply this to the today's deplorable and ultimately futile attempt to redefine marriage. Is the problem David Cameron? Well not really - he is just one man and he is not a Fascist dictator (well not yet anyway) and anyway he didn't get to be PM all by himself (you can thank devious Mr Clegg for that). But are the feckless Lib Dems (and short sighted Tories) to blame for helping Cameron to Number 10? No their decision to support Mr Slippery was informed by their thinking which ultimately came from their beliefs. In short, our problem is not simply our Prime Minister or the House of Commons but our beliefs.

How does all this relate to the homosexual marriage debate? Let me mention something that might look like I'm changing the subject but which in fact is central to this issue. Earlier today I looked at the sermon archives of some of the big London Anglican churches trying to find out how many sermons had been preached on the topic of divorce in recent years. Here are some findings:

All Souls Langham Place - less than 10
St Helen's Bishopgate - less than 10
Dundonald - less than 10
HTB - less than 30

So of the thousands of sermons preached in leading London churches over the past decade, less than 50 touched on this important issue addressed severally in both the Old and New Testaments and which is major pastoral issue in our society. What's the point of all this? My tentative guess from this sketchy survey is that UK churches (especially those that are loudest in proclaiming that they are bible believing/word centred) are not all that big on speaking up for marriage by tackling one of it's most aggressive enemies, divorce. If my analysis is correct, then arguably we Christians have played a big part in advancing the contemporary decadent morality by our insipid defence of marriage and in our embracing of the culture's views e.g. that cohabitation and divorce are ok. Thus given such a degradation and distortion of marriage which we Christians have tacitly endorsed, isn't it the case that many homosexuals (and the culture at large) have rightly concluded that it is not they who have changed but rather marriage itself?

Think for example of the symbolic white dress that is worn by many a bride - how many sexually active 'Christian' couples have made a bad joke of this traditional image of purity? How many couples have considered the wedding dress as a merely beautiful garment long before homosexuals tried to make optional a wedding dress of any sort? Many Christians in line with the surrounding culture have embraced a highly individualistic and egalitarian view of marriage with the resultant flailing commitment to childbearing, to traditional gender duties, and even (permanently) to spouse. That homosexuals now therefore want this strange new thing which marriage has become should surprise no one. We Christians have played a major role in fanning the flame of wickedness which now engulfs our depraved society.

What is the solution to this mess? The Church needs to pick up her mantle again as the herald (and incarnation) of Truth and Grace. The reformation our society badly needs has to start in our own House by first, repenting of our own evil and malaise and second, by exhorting Christians to live out of sacrificial and life-long marriages. This - and only this - is the hope for our nation. Kyrie Eleison

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Christians should have good manners

The person with the excellent manners may not necessarily be a Christian. But the Christian should have excellent manners.

HT: Femina

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Cremation v Burial - which is more biblical?

As an Anglican clergyman, I do a fair amount of funerals (about 1/month) and every so often the thought crosses my mind - between a cremation and burial which is more biblical? Here is a brief answer to where my mind currently stands. Given how the heroes of the Faith were treated at death, we Christians ought to lean towards preferring burials over cremations. A few examples of those who were buried at death are: Rachel (Gen. 35:19-20), Joseph (Gen. 50:25Exod. 13:19Josh. 24:32), Aaron (Deut. 10:6), Moses (Deut. 34:5-8), Joshua (Josh. 24:30), Samuel (1 Sam. 25:1), David (1 Kgs. 2:10), John the Baptist (Matt. 14:12), Lazarus (John 11:17-18), Stephen (Acts 8:2), and, of course, Jesus Christ (John 19:38-42). In fact we can assume that the list of OT saints buried is much longer than the above, given how the Apostle John introduces Jesus' burial as being done in accordance with Jewish burial customs (John 19:40) i.e. it was the custom of the Jews to bury their dead. The point is this, even though Scripture nowhere gives an explicit command as to how we are treat our bodies post-death, it however gives us numerous examples of how the godly took special care to ensure their bodies were buried. This I think is partly because of the high dignity with which Scripture views the human body, coupled with the firm hope that the OT and NT believers have in the resurrection from the dead. In other words, going for a burial is a statement about the immense value of the deceased's body as well as an expression of the Christian hope that those in-Christ will be raised imperishable one day. Burials therefore are a way for the 'sleeping' Christian to proclaim God's powerful gospel, even when they are 6 feet down under!