11th December 2018
Thought for the Week
Citizens of Heaven:
With all that is happening with Brexit at the moment it is very easy to get upset, stressed, caught up in all the confusion & angry about the way the politicians are appearing to fail our nation. I wrote previously about Brexit looking at how it affects our identity as a nation, the challenges associated with it, & how we decide what to do. On Sunday evening in church we explored something very different – our citizenship of heaven. This idea is found in Philippians 3:20-21, ‘But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Saviour. He will take our weak mortal bodies & change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control.’
Our passports may say that we are the citizen of a country, but a country is made up of many local communities – the places where we live, work & feel at home. Many identify more with their religious, cultural or ethnic roots than with their citizenship of our nation. For them their heart allegiance is to a different authority than the authority of their government. This creates all sorts of issues about integration & shared ownership in a nation. Years ago in this nation it was different. Prior to the First World War the vast majority of people were completely submissive to the authority of the British government & crown. However, the horrors of the trenches somewhat proved that governments & military leaders can fail their own people. Nevertheless, the nation united again to fight the Fascist Nazi Germany & Japan in WWII.
In the years since there has been a radical overhaul of the UK. The influx of large numbers of wonderful people from overseas & different ethnicities & cultures has done much to broaden our understanding of what it means to be British. This perhaps went too far in recent decades leading to a type of multiculturalism that was divisive leading to many failing to truly integrate & adopt the key values enshrined in the form of governance of our nation. This form of multiculturalism focussed, rightly in many cases, on rights sometimes to the detriment of teaching about the responsibilities that undergird these rights. Today there is a greater emphasis in schools of teaching core British values, & a better recognition in society of the need to create a shared identity which celebrates what it means to be British without destroying the unique cultural or ethnic identity each of us has. This requires compromise & a new attitude of love towards each other.
It is in the big national issues that our citizenship becomes important. Therefore, citizenship is an identity issue - we belong to a nation, a political issue – it gives a person certain rights to live, work, be educated, receive health & social care, & the privileges of protection & support from a nation. It gives the right to have a passport with the rights to travel to other nations according to the treaties that nation has with other nations. If we do not have citizenship of the nation we are living in then many doors are closed to us. A visitor to the nation does not possess the same rights as a citizen. The big argument for many around Brexit was that the rapid influx of huge numbers of people to our nation was not giving time for them to discover & appreciate British values; in fact they argued, lack of understanding & integration was changing those values in a way many became concerned about. Whatever the rights & wrongs of such views, many politicians acknowledged the need for a change of approach.
As a citizen of Heaven – there are so many parallels with what we have just spoken about. The difference is that Heaven is not a democracy, it is a theocracy with Christ as King of the Kingdom. Therefore, instead of being able to change our leader if we do not agree with Him or dislike His policies, that is not possible. In fact, our leader is the greatest leader in history – infallible, completely loving, absolutely just, totally good & righteous, full of grace & mercy, an impartial judge, the only One able to bring us into God’s presence.
Christ does not ask us to meet half way as we both compromise who we are in order to create a new unity, no, He asks us to completely trust & obey Him leaving behind our old identity outside of Him. Ephesians 2:19, ‘So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.’ This is where many Christians struggle & fail to truly connect as Citizens of Heaven with Christ – they still see themselves as they used to be. We are now citizens along with God’s holy people, members of God’s family because we are in Christ. May we not be those who draw back to our old life...
God Bless Pastor Leslie
7th December 2018
Who God is...
At the heart of the Gospel message is the truth that God desires to build a relationship with each person. He has reached out to us through His Son Jesus the Saviour. It is Christ alone who is able to bring God & the person together. Christ came to this world at a point in history, His Incarnation. He also personally comes to save us, a personal contact with each of one who accepts Him as Saviour & Lord. Jesus saves & then calls us to live a holy life. He has a redemptive pathway which He calls us to follow. He is the divine Redeemer & Saviour.
A wonderful passage which reinforces this idea of God as redeemer & planner, the One who is calling us to holiness is 2 Timothy 1:9-10, NLT, ‘For God saved us & called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was His plan from before the beginning of time - to show us His grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Saviour. He broke the power of death & illuminated the way to life & immortality through the Good News.’ God not only wants us to benefit from His grace in Christ Jesus – He also wants to reveal the wonder & greatness of His grace to us. He is gracious.
Jesus is the Conqueror. He defeated death & is the True light that lights the way to Father God. He does this through the Gospel message. As people read or hear the word of God, it challenges & begins to create the life of God within; after all, it is the seed that produces faith - ultimately a saving faith in Christ. The Word also has the power to expose the true intents of the heart, assess our motives, & separate worldliness from that which is truly of God. As Conqueror, Jesus’ breaks the power of sin, delivers the man or woman’s spirit from death, overcomes the powers of darkness, & sets the prisoner free from the shackles of self, sin, Satan & the world. He has the power to tear the curtain that separated us from God’s presence, & that blocked our entry to heaven.
Titus 3:4-7, ‘When God our Saviour revealed His kindness & love, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth & new life through the Holy Spirit [He saved us through the washing of regeneration & renewing of the Holy Spirit]. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Because of His grace He made us right in His sight & gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.’ This passage is one sentence in the Greek. It is theologically rich. It highlights i. our Justification in Christ, our position in Christ, having a brand new living relationship with God through Christ; ii. that as a result of the Spirit’s work we have a complete inner change of spirit making it come alive to God & His ways, a new heart attitude of love & reverence towards God, & the hope of living in His presence & one day spending eternity with Him. Hallelujah!
Chrestotes, v.4, is one of those wonderful biblical Greek words. It means that God is morally excellent, kind, good, acts with integrity & is gentle. All of this from one word. He is wonderfully kind, extraordinarily good & amazingly gentle. He also has a deep & profound love for us, v.4, philanthropia – an overflowing love for humankind, rich benevolent thoughts about people. If Paul could write to Philemon, verse 7, ‘your love has given me much joy & comfort, my brother. For your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people,’ all qualities he had stated were God’s in Titus 3 – how much more comfort & joy should we have because we are being refreshed by God’s kindness, benevolence & love.
His kindness & love have come to us in Christ. God is absolutely good & trustworthy. He is love – He is kind – He is generous towards His children. God is not capricious [unstable, unpredictable or given to sudden dark mood changes]. He is who He says He is. It is His Spirit who imparts these graces to us in Christ. Where Jesus is fully trusted, the Spirit, who also loves us (Romans 15:30), releases His love within us - the Spirit produces the love of God in & through our lives. Isn’t Christ wonderful! Do you know Him? Isn’t the Father amazing! Do you love Him? Isn’t the Spirit great! Do you walk with Him?
27th November 2018
Identity – Decisions - Challenges
This week we are in every morning taking Assemblies at the local Secondary School, HLC. We picked the topical issue of Brexit specifically using it as a base for thinking how we consider our identity, make decisions & face challenges. Speaking to one of the students today, she said that they really like us coming in to do Assemblies ‘as we make Assemblies interesting.’ The following includes the notes we have been using this week – Sam Manley & myself have written them.
A brief recap of Brexit - four things about it: 1. There is a long history in the UK of people having strong opinions on each side of the argument about the UK’s membership of the EU. Many Leavers wanted to regain autonomy & freedom from the rule & regulations being imposed by Brussels; whereas, many Remainers enjoyed the borderless travel, ability to emigrate to a EU country without many obstacles, & free, custom-less trade. 2. David Cameron’s 2016 EU Referendum vote revealed just how divided the country was on EU membership. 3. The decision to leave was a shock – very few expected it, especially the government itself. As a result the British government was not prepared for Leave. 4. Since that decision, it has caused further division anger, argument & hope.
Identity – Who we say we are is really important. To have a strong sense of identity, of belonging, adds stability. With Brexit, many identify with Leave wanting to be independent from the EU, to identify as British. Many others who identify with Remain love the sense of being part of something bigger than their own nation, to identify as European. Is Brexit a Moral question? Is there a right or wrong choice about our future relationship with the EU? Do we see our membership of the EU as right or wrong? Are there Ethical issues? (the science of behaviour) How we act as a nation in this period is important for our future together. Are our actions clouded with anger & our words bitter seeking to stop Brexit, choosing the language of division & making EU emigrants in the UK feel that they are hated by Leavers; or with hope & constructive ideas seeking to ensure Brexit is not compromised by submission to the EU negotiators, choosing the language of hope & opportunity while painting Remainers as unpatriotic & lovers of Brussels.
Are there Philosophical questions? Our worldview. Do we associate with the EU model which is based on the French Napoleonic Code which is Presidential, Secular, & brings power to the centre? Or with the British Constitutional Monarchy which is based on the Magna Carta principles of rule by representatives of the people, having a Christian State Church – the Church of England, & the freedom to govern our own nation making our own laws. Are there Religious questions? Does the Bible say anything about how we should be view our identity? As a Christian I primarily identify with Christ.
Decisions – In making decisions in life do you ask advice from others? Do you research the best way forward before deciding what to do? Do you consider how it will bring new opportunities to you or for others? The Bible says the following about making decisions: i. Ask for Wisdom - James 1:5, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him or her ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, & it will be given’ ii. Ask for Advice – Proverbs 11:14, ‘Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety’ iii. Ask God – Philippians 4:6-7, ‘Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, & thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts & minds as you live in Christ Jesus’
Challenges - Whatever the challenges Brexit will bring, as a nation we can turn the present weakness & uncertainty into strength. Just as in the rest of life, it allows us to muscle up, stand up for ourselves & train for the trials ahead learning how to overcome them. The Bible tells us that God helps us in our weaknesses His power is made perfect in them (Rom. 8:26, 2 Cor. 12:9).
Brexit is bringing uncertainty with some greatly afraid of the change & possible loss of influence & wealth - fearing the future, whether Leavers or Remainers – while others want to embrace the change & create new opportunities for growth, wealth & influence across the globe. We can turn the present fear of what is going to happen into an opportunity for hope - & hope allows us to draw on our own strengths as a nation & be ready for the future. The Bible asks us to put our trust in God when we are afraid, not in our nation (Psalm 16:3), it also tells us to be strong & courageous facing the future confident in Christ (Joshua 1:9).
20th November 2018
Resting in Christ:
I have been reading George Canty’s, ‘The Practice of Pentecost.’ One of the things that struck me in it is how he defines faith. Canty says faith is not trying to believe oneself into something, nor believing something has happened while blindly rejecting reality when the evidence is contrary – i.e. that the cancer has gone when the lumps & pain are still there. Instead, his view is very clear headed. It is to trust that we can take Christ to be who He says He is, & that He is able to do as He determines. In this understanding we are not trying to work some great belief up within, nor blindly believing something to have happened when there is no evidence that it has; rather, we take Jesus at His word. It is a faith that develops as we read, study & meditate on God’s word, the Bible. Instead of striving to make ourselves believe – we lean into Him & keep our eyes on Him. As we do so then Christ is able to supply, through His Spirit, that which we cannot namely His grace, power & authority.
Another point Canty makes is that Romans 1:16-17, ‘the just shall live by his faith,’ is more than a foundational verse for our salvation – which it undoubtedly is. It states that life comes through faith. There is a quality to the life lived by faith which sets it apart from the life of this world, or the religious life. There is an energy, strength & vitality to the life of faith which reflects the energy, strength & vitality of Christ. The Lord loves to pour His life into the one living by faith. This quality of life enables the person who rests completely trusting in Christ to be at one with his or her Creator, & to step beyond the constraints & limits of this world. It is a higher life, a fuller life, a zoe-filled life – filled with the life of Christ. This person fulfils God’s will because he or she is moving in the life of God. This is the type of faith-filled life that pleases God - that receives His abundance in every situation, & greatly glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ.
Canty also stated that this type of life is lived by the one willing to trust in the Lord in every situation & circumstance. As he or she fills their lives with God’s word, this in turn becomes the fuel which ignites the fire of God within leading to a person sold out for Christ & to be absolutely secure in His covenant commitment. Physical, emotional, mental, financial & relationship needs are then able to be supplied according to God’s riches in Christ. Instead of a poverty of spirit in the one who does not live in this way, there comes an abundance of all that is needed to fulfil God’s will & purposes.
The potential needed to do exploits, signs & wonders is released from the bondage of the capacity to do or achieve in our strength of belief; instead it is released into the potential of our faith-filled capacity empowered by the Spirit. As we trust the Lord Jesus completely, He moves through us & the financial need is met, the physical made whole, & the spiritual brought to life in Him. The broken places in our lives can become a foundation upon which He proves that He can take the weakest human being & pour His grace, love & truth into & through that person who rests in Him to achieve beyond his or her wildest dreams.
This life of faith, resting in Christ, is the place wherein believers really mature in faith, & their Churches really grow with the believers an army of disciple-making disciples filled with the compassion & mercy of God. As they live such lives their communities become redeemed from the emptiness & decay of this world. As Christ’s light fills within, His people overcome the darkness of this evil age & partner with Him to see His Kingdom & His will being done. May God grant us a revelation of how we can live the life of faith in Christ. May He draw us away from self-reliance into that place where all our capacities are alive in Christ. Amen. This is not a lazy Christianity waiting for God to do what He has called us to do; rather, it is us refusing to settle for a humanistic faith that ties us to the limits of the natural order. This life of faith opens the door to the supernatural power of the Spirit & to us living fully as Christ’s ambassadors.
13th November 2018
Some Thoughts on Brexit:
Nearly every time I turn on the Radio or TV, all I hear is Brexit. At the moment it is about the rush to get prepared for 29 March, 2019 when the UK is supposed to officially leave. Of course, Brexit has stirred up a lot of emotion, division & uncertainty. It is by no means certain that the UK will leave. It has been clear since the shock referendum result in 2016 that there are a lot of powerful, vested interest groups whose whole focus is to overturn the vote, stop Brexit happening & keep the UK in the EU Empire. Many others, including many living here who were born in Europe, are greatly troubled about what Brexit says about the UK & its view of foreigners.
Throughout the EU Referendum campaign both sides of the debate played on people’s emotions & fears. On the Vote Leave side it was all about the emotion of freedom - the UK would regain its right to determine how it spent its own money & made its own decisions – on the Remain side it was all about how the UK economy would immediately be ruined & go into recession, & how it would put at risk all the progress, in their eyes, made since 1990 as the Uk further integrated with the Secular, Humanist & Rationalist driven & led EU.
Thinking about the Brexit negotiations - it is interesting to note that the greatest bargaining chip that the UK had was its money. The big question was to what extent the UK would continue to support the EU after Brexit. The EU negotiators insisted on sorting this out first as a precondition before negotiations could properly began. Once Theresa May yielded & bowed to the EU pressure over the UK’s money contributions to keep all those EU Institutions running, paying the big salaries of EU Civil Servants & protecting their pensions – I knew that the upcoming negotiations would be one sided, & so they have largely proven to be. The only thing that the EU leaders & negotiators feared was that the UK money would stop or be greatly reduced. As has been agreed, the UK will pay around £37.1bn to the EU – most in the first few years after Brexit, though there will be a smaller amount paid each year up to 2064 to support the EU officials’ pension fund. I am not saying that the negotiations would have been any easier; rather, they would have taken place perhaps with more parity between the two negotiation teams.
The day that Theresa May announced that the Irish border issue had been resolved, I also knew it hadn’t been & that she hadn’t consulted Unionists in Northern Ireland. What she said would happen – Custom checks happening on the Great Britain side of the Irish Sea - was against everything the Northern Ireland Unionist parties stood for. In essence, Northern Ireland was being added economically & politically to the EU Empire while being removed from the UK. At nearly every turn there have been missteps, miscalculations, & mistakes; yet, somehow or other we have arrived at a place where 95% of the negotiations are complete, & I am hopeful that they will find a way to resolve the Northern Ireland border issue.
However, we are now at the place where the likelihood that we will still be in the EU Empire after 29 March has increased. Why do I call it an Empire? For three reasons: 1. As the EU currently stands it reflects an Empire in how it seeks to rule the many by a small elite of largely unelected officials with the European Court of Justice able to impose the EU’s will on national governments; 2. It is seeking to impose its philosophy & ideology, which is largely Secular, Humanist, Rationalist & Centrist, on all the people within its borders making them think & believe the same; 3. The EU acts in the best interests of itself without regard to the best interests of particular groups within it – Greece is a prime example. In essence the Euro has had a profound & destructive effect on the Greek economy making Greece less competitive & facing years of ruin.
The basis for Uk’s form of government & the EU’s is completely different. The UK developed from the principles enshrined in the Magna Carta which sought to protect the UK Church from State interference, create a Charter of Liberties for the ordinary person in the streets, give the right to a trial by jury, & allow public representatives an important voice in the ruling of the nation. The EU Empire is built upon the principles of the French Napoleonic Code which seeks to drive the Church from the Public Square, its philosophical outlook is Humanist, Rationalist & Secularist in nature, seeks to rule the many through a small elite of people with vested interests, & elevates the status of a professional judiciary to the detriment of elected representatives.
May God guide & direct the negotiation teams on both sides to create a just, fair & equitable settlement. We proclaim His will to be done in all of this leading to either the UK outside the EU or still inside. We pray for courage, strength & humility to be a more united & prosperous country –whether someone who is a Leave supporter or a Remainer. In Jesus’ name. Amen
4th November 2018
Good evening everyone
Delivering Christian Ministry:
Today, as Christians reflect on their place in society, it is so easy to see ourselves as irrelevant & unimportant to the wider functioning of society. We have been so indoctrinated by the world with its secular & pluralist outlook, that we simply affirm the common view that the church no longer has a place in the centre of society. It was not always this way. In fact, the pillars of society were largely founded by the church or by inspired Christians who were motivated by their faith to make a difference including in: marriage, family, health provision, education, social care, care of the elderly, poor & foreigner, judiciary, business, arts & spirituality.
In the Lord’s Prayer we do pray: ‘May Your Kingdom come, & Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ These two phrases in this prayer: ‘Your Kingdom come – Your will be done’ are radical, revolutionary words. If Christ’s Kingdom is to come, then His Kingdom’s values, moral foundations & ethical outworking must supplant that which is already established. In our nation there are still traces of our Judeo-Christian heritage enshrined in our laws & government; yet, these have been dramatically weakened since the 1960’s. The speed of changing the basis of the laws & morality from biblically inspired to Evolutionary & Secularly driven – has undoubtedly increased since 1990. Therefore, if Christ’s Kingdom is to come & His will to be done in our nation – then that is going to require a total shift in thinking in the nation.
The way to do this includes: i. praying for godly local leaders & ministers to be in post in each local church to lead & teach His people in Christ-honouring ways – ii. to hunger for a godly reformation in our nation & to pray for our communities, rural areas, villages, towns, cities & regions to come to Christ – iii. to regain our confidence in the power of the Gospel as it is preached & taught to save the sinner & create disciple-making disciples. This requires a commitment to pray for, preach about, teach about how to live & practice a vibrant, Spirit-filled, Christ-honouring Christian life. Can this happen if the UK Church does not embrace whole-hearted devotion to Christ – probably not; can it happen if the UK Church submits to the Spirit’s lordship with the certain knowledge that as it does so then He, the Spirit, will enable Christ’s Church to truly glorify Christ & honour His lordship in its service of Him. God can only redeem our communities through Christ bringing the deep-rooted transformation we are praying, labouring & yearning for...
As a church we are seeking to invest in these areas. As such on Tuesday the 13th & 20th of November at 7pm we are holding a CAP (Christians Against Poverty) Money Course which teaches biblical stewardship principles which really do work in helping reshape our finances & outlook on money in a godly way. On Saturday 17th November, 10am – 3pm, we are holding a Parenting & the Bible day conference in church devoted to exploring what the Bible has to say about parenting. It will include teaching, interaction, & some practical tips that can be taken away & applied in the home.
On Sunday 2nd December, in the morning service, we are holding a Baptism service with two baptism classes beforehand. Baptism is an important event which helps separate the believer from the world publically confessing their commitment to Christ. On Sunday 9th December we will welcoming new members into Church Membership, with two membership classes beforehand. This act of becoming a local church member acts as an important moment when a person makes a significant declaration of commitment to a particular local church. Each of these events are examples of how we are seeking to transform our society by strengthening people in Christ & enabling them to live for Christ in the world.
If you would like more information or to join the CAP course, attend the Parenting conference, be baptised or become a church member – then please email firstname.lastname@example.org
24th October 2018
Jesus is Lord:
This is the first & greatest of the Church’s Confessions of Faith. These three words encompass the great truth which is at the heart of the Gospel message. This is not simply a statement of truth, although it is, it is also a statement of fact. It was part of the message at the heart of the Keswick Bible week which began in 1875 – the other two parts were victorious Christian living & practical holiness. There was a recognition that many were not living in the place of true surrender to Christ’s lordship & thus lacked God’s power in their lives, lacked assurance, & were subject to a spiritual rollercoaster of highs & lows. They believed that it is possible for God’s children to live the victorious Christian life - to live with the freedom Christ promised, & the victory our faith brings over the world. So they started a Bible week to focus on this. The Pentecostal Revival that began in the early 1900’s included this desire, but added to it introducing the concept of the Church moving in the power of the Spirit exercising the gifts of the Spirit.
How then do we respond to this confession of faith, ‘Jesus is Lord?’ I think there are so many Bible passages which reflect on this including Philippians 2:5-11. In it Paul states that Jesus has the greatest name, & that every single person will have to bow in acknowledgement of & submission to Him. In the future, at the end of the Age, Jesus’ lordship will be recognised by all. He will be seen as He really is, & be known as King Jesus; although, sadly, many will do so in terror of the Christ, the One they rejected & scorned, & thus they will be destined for Hell, not Heaven. There are three parts to Christ’s ministry which are commonly acknowledged: Jesus is Prophet revealing God & His word to the world – Priest representing His people before God – King of the Kingdom of God reigning in Majesty at God’s right hand. Every one of us will see Him as He is on the Day of Judgement. Are you ready to face King Jesus the right & true Judge because you are in a living relationship with Him?
Not only is ‘Jesus is Lord’ about the Future, it is also about the Present. It was SM Zwemer who said that ‘if Jesus is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all.’ This challenges us to think about our own lives & to assess where we have, & have not, surrendered to the lordship of Christ. It was not only those who started the Keswick Bible week that yearned for a life of total surrender to Christ – at one point or another, every believer yearns for it. Often our experience is that the more we try to attain it, the further we find ourselves from it. The answer is not as hard as you may think.
It was Stephen Olford who said in response to 2 Corinthians 3:17, ‘For the Lord is the Spirit, & wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,’ these words, ‘but now I saw that the lordship of Christ could only be real to me as the Holy Spirit was made Lord in me’ https://www.uu.edu/centers/rglee/fellows/spring03/willmore.htm accessed 23-10-2018. God has not left us groping around in the dark constantly frustrated at our lack of progress. He has sent His Spirit to lead us into victory. As we develop the life of the Spirit & seek to submit to His lordship, the Spirit then enables us to glorify Christ & to surrender more & more to Christ’s lordship.
There is one more thing. Jesus is Lord is not just about the Present & Future – it is also about the Past. We know that when we become a new creation at the New Birth (2 Corinthians 5:17), God places Christ’s zoe life in us & brings our spirits alive in Him. We repent of our past lives & find forgiveness. His Spirit is made available to us in order to enable us to truly honour & serve Christ as Lord. Yet, how many Christians struggle afterwards with the emotions, memories, experiences & identity of the past life. We are a new creation in Christ, but our souls still carry the legacy of our previous lives.
As we mature in faith gradually the lordship of Christ begins to reign in our souls making our emotions, desires, mind & relationships more & more whole in Christ. However, unless we invite the Spirit to establish Christ’s lordship in our memories, emotional ties to the past, in how we think about our experiences & actions, & how our relationships have shaped us – we will be destined to yo-yo up & down fluctuating between spiritual passion & disappointment. Proclaim Jesus is Lord over your past, & invite the Spirit to make this an abiding reality in each of our lives.
14th October 2018
Thought for the Week
This is an interesting question to consider, ‘am I a more whole person today than the person I was one year ago?’ Perhaps it is easier to say, ‘am I a better person today?’ Some will find this difficult to answer simply because they have never thought before about what wholeness means - for them life is too busy to be reflected upon. Others live without worrying about the need to change or become a better person because they do not care. Others will feel guilty because they do not believe that they have changed for the better & are stuck in a rut of hopelessness, & possibly brokenness.
Still others know they are more whole in Christ but will not want to blow their own trumpet – they have fully embraced the proverb, ‘let another praise you, not your own mouth; a stranger & not your own lips’ (Proverbs 27:2); in humility they will say, ‘ask someone I know if I am more whole today.’ Finally, there are those who recognise the importance of assessing their own character development, embracing such an assessment as a positive step towards creating the chance to learn how to become more whole or a better person in Christ, & will testify to others about the change in the hope of encouraging them to aim for more wholeness in Christ.
How do I measure how ‘whole’ I am or if I am a better person? Do I measure myself by the standard of other good people I know – those I believe who are really honest, good & caring? Do I take into account any mitigating factors when trying to assess where I stand on a scale between good & bad such as a difficult relationship, lots of pressure at work, health problems or financial worries? Or do I measure my wholeness by what the Bible teaches me: securely saved in Christ, filled to overflowing by the Holy Spirit, & worshipping God in Spirit & in truth?
I believe biblical wholeness also includes my emotions, if I am stable & not disturbed by fear, the fear of man or by the desires of others; it includes my mind, if I am rational, calm & clear headed, my thinking being renewed by God’s Word; my desires, If I am free from Materialism with its mindset that things or possessions make me whole, or from Idolatry which tries to get me to place something on the throne of my heart other than Christ - no matter how good, noble or laudable that thing or person may be; my relationships, if they are honouring to Christ, not co-dependent but open, honest & full of grace & peace.
Mark Greene, from the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity [LICC] teaches about being a ‘whole-life disciple-making church,’ in ‘eg’ Edition 32, March 2012, p.5. I want to use his thoughts to consider this further: 1. I need to see the need to become a more whole person in Christ. Without that ‘vision’ it is so easy to settle for something less than God determined. As I pray, study, read & ask for help from mature, balanced Christians – I learn how to be more whole. 2. Wholeness is not an end itself; rather, as I become more whole then I become more useful to the Master. Not only can He trust me not to dishonour Christ, I become more adept at spotting opportunities to be fruitful & to serve His purposes.
3. The steps to wholeness can be learned from other people. As I intentionally link with mature believers – so I am able to do as they say & practice applying the biblical truths they have learned. The exciting thing is that I can also begin to mentor others towards the wholeness I am now living with. 4. In fact, wholeness in Christ is such an exciting concept that I will want to partner with others to help bring it about at a greater scale than I can achieve on my own. As a core team of us live out our wholeness in Christ, we can then embrace praying for wholeness in Christ in our society, & work together to redeem the culture of brokenness all around us. Only Christ can pardon, & set people free to be whole in Himself, but He has purposed to do so through His people, including you & I.
5. As I recognise that this change can happen, I also realise that it happens one degree at a time. It may take 180 individual shifts before society is moving in the opposite direction towards wholeness in Christ, but each person who focuses on becoming whole in Jesus helps to move all of society towards Him. 6. We all need to hear the stories of wholeness. As people tell their stories of steps towards wholeness – it encourages us to take similar steps. The stories of radical transformation are inspiring, as are the stories of little victories & little steps towards wholeness in Christ.
7th October 2018
Simplicity of Faith:
This morning in church I spoke on this heading. The Bible passage I used was 1 Corinthians 15:58, ‘Therefore, my dear brothers & sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, knowing that your work is never in vain [if it is] in the Lord.’ It is so easy to lose sight of the main points of our faith in the busyness of life, because of the encroachment of the world, & the pressure we put ourselves under to become a better, more productive Christian. If one adds the confusion that can come into our minds when we are not clear as to the best way forward, plus the darkness that can overwhelm & make us feel spiritually lethargic – it is difficult, with all or any of these pressures, to remain true to the Gospel & free in Christ.
The danger we face is that we try to improve our Christian walk & lives by following a programme without truly applying the key biblical principles that are crucial in creating a disciple-making disciple. There are three principles which are at the heart of a healthy faith: 1. A good theology. Theology is basically the study of God, His nature, word & His dealings with His creation. Theology gives us the foundations from which we build our faith, morality, spirituality & actions, & which teaches us what is the Lordship of Christ.
2. Spirituality. Christian spirituality is different from other forms in that it is derived from a full relationship with God, through a saving relationship with Christ, brought about by His Spirit bringing us alive & enabling us to walk in a living, loving relationship with Him. Christian spirituality is about living & practising the life of the Spirit. It enables us to submit to the Lordship of Christ.
3. Ethics – Practical Christian living. How do we obey God? How do we apply His word? How do we behave? How we are to think? How we are to build our relationships, & act in them? How we are to view ourselves? How we are to view work? How we are to act in society? These are the sort of questions which Christian ethics cover in helping us find answers & a platform from which to practically live out our faith day by day.
The Lord Jesus wants us to fully enjoy the blessing of submitting to His Lordship in our bodies, souls & spirits. i. Our Bodies: The body is that which unites us to our mortality. How we treat our bodies is important to God. The Bible deals with many things to do with our bodies including: a proper diet, rest, sleep, exercise, work, health & death. The Gnostics saw the body as unimportant to the Christian’s spiritual health; whereas, the New Testament writers recognised the wholeness of body, soul & spirit, & its importance to a healthy, vibrant Christian walk . To them the body needed disciplining in the Christian pathway including through fasting, & rejecting the body’s sinful urges for self-gratification & sinful pleasure. Yet, they also encouraged the believer to pray for the wholeness & health of the body, & to understand that a Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit & should be treated as such.
ii. Our Souls: The soul is that which unites us to humanity. It is made up of our emotions, mind, will & relationships. It is not so easy to divide the soul into these parts because each impacts upon the other, but it is helpful for us to understand that the Bible deals with each of these parts of us in relation to our common humanity. If my emotions are not whole - this affects how I think, the decisions I make, & how I relate to other people. If my thinking is in error – then I will make bad choices which possibly bring guilt or shame which can make me hard-hearted which in turn affects my future choices, how I feel about myself & I treat others. As we walk with Christ day by day, in His truth, with His freedom, among His people – then my soul is brought more & more under His Lordship. My thinking becomes more godly, my emotions more animated by the Spirit, my choices [will] more submissive to God’s word, & my relationships better reflecting the nature of God.
iii. Our Spirits: The spirit is that which connects me to God. Outside of Christ it is dead & subject to the control of Self, Sin, Society & Satan; in Christ, it is brought alive by the Spirit & is that piece of me most connected with God. As I grow as a true worshipper who lives & serves Christ & His purposes – then my spirit becomes the greater, larger channel through which God pours His power, love & grace, in Christ, through me to the world. May we all develop a deep, profound & effective simplicity of faith which includes a sound theological basis, a deep Christian spirituality, & fruitful Christian lifestyle. May these principles lead to a more disciplined body, a more Christ-like soul, & to a greater, larger spirit. In Jesus’ name. Amen
4th October 2018
Coming from outside an area with a different accent to the local dialect makes it more difficult to be understood. I came from Northern Ireland with a strong, borderland’s accent – after 16 years in England - most local people in Telford still claim I have a strong, different accent. Some struggle to understand me while others just love my accent. It is funny though because when I go back to Northern Ireland, some people consider me to have a very, to their ears, ‘English accent.’ My accent has been a hindrance at times & also a blessing; a hindrance as it can be more difficult to get my point across; a blessing when people remember me because of the accent helping me to connect & network with them in my role as a pastor.
Not only does the accent have a bearing, but there are also loads of colloquialisms & words which are unique to each region or nation. For instance in Northern Ireland lots use ‘wee’ in nearly every sentence: ‘do you want a wee cup of tea,’ or ‘I am going for a wee drive in the car.’ The wee drive could be 100 miles or more & wee cup of tea a large mug of tea. There are so many words & phrases we use which identify us as either a local or someone who has moved into the area at some point. Sometimes it can seem that we speak a different language entirely. Being misunderstood is part of life. However, it is one thing being misunderstood when ordering breakfast at a cafe, you may get a fried egg instead of a poached egg – quite another thing when trying to reduce the cost of your dual fuel electricity & gas package, or when trying to book an appointment with the doctor or dentist.
Jesus was brilliant at connecting with His audience while telling them a message which was new & difficult for many to understand. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 is a good example. He took godly themes which the people knew were part of God’s word, such as mercy & purity, & added a new dimension. Some of His listeners would have considered their religious leaders to be the blessed ones – after all, they spent most of their lives trying to understand & please God. However, Jesus makes God’s blessing much more democratic stating that whoever practised such godly behaviour would be blessed. ‘Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy; blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.’ He also then explored eight of the Ten Commandments (Matthew 5:17 - 7:6), developing the people’s understanding of them. He could also speak in terms which were very hard to understand leading to misunderstanding & many disciples turning away from Him (John 6). This teaches us that speaking about Christ & the things of God are spiritual things, only properly being understood by those open to or alive in the Holy Spirit. May God open many more people in our communities to His spiritual message. Amen
A big part of being good at communication – is being able to connect. There are people who are very good at connecting with others. Even one conversation leads to a deep relational bond, or, in the public square, one public talk or preach & the audience or congregation are largely connected to the speaker. It is both a gift & an art. The gift means that such people find it easy to be understood & connect with others – the art means that they read & research how to be a better communicator learning how to engage & convey their message in a clear, accessible & easily understood manner. It is a shame when a person is ignored or overlooked simply because they are difficult to understand. Like everything in life, recognising we have an issue in an area is the first step in the process of improvement & development. May God help us to present ourselves in such a way so many others are able to connect with us & clearly understand us. Amen. Not everyone we speak to will connect with us – but we could be much more effective communicators if we put some thought & effort into learning how to become more clear, accessible & easily understood.