Sunday, 11 March 2018

Even if it happened today, people wouldn't believe!

"'...but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 
He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'" 
Luke 16:30,31

Linked to 'What does Easter have to do with Revelation?'

Thursday, 8 March 2018

What do we mean when we say Jesus rose from the dead?

The resurrection of Jesus is a fundamental and essential doctrine of Christianity. In Paul’s letter to the churches in Corinth, he made his position very clear, “... if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith is also in vain.” He goes on to say, “…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” So, although there may be areas of understanding upon which the Christian church differs, the issue of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not one of them. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, to deny the resurrection of Jesus is to deny the very heart of the Christian Gospel.
Some people have suggested that you don’t need to completely reject the resurrection, just jettison the need to see it as something that happened physically and embrace the possibility of a resurrection that only happened ‘spiritually.’

However, the suggestion that Jesus didn’t rise physically raises some significant problems. For a start, what happened to Jesus body? But more important, in what way was Jesus our trailblazer, the firstborn from the dead, if he didn’t rise physically?
The Bible is very clear that we can expect to rise physically and enter into a new, perfected kingdom. This is a physical place where we will require physical bodies and the Bible only ever assumes this to be the case.

But we also see in the stories of Jesus' resurrection that the Bible goes to great lengths to demonstrate that Jesus was physical. In Luke 24:42,23 he ate with his disciples, in John 20:27, he showed the nail marks in his hands, in Matthew 28:9 his disciples grabbed hold of him and worshipped him.
In John 2:19-21 we read:
“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews therefore said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body.”
The phrase “…I will raise” is translated from the single Greek word “egeiro.”  This is the future, active, indicative, 1st-person singular.  The active voice in Greek designates who is performing the action.  In this case, since it is first person, singular (“I”), Jesus is saying that He Himself would perform the action of the resurrection.

There can therefore be no doubt that the Bible’s expectation was that Jesus would rise physically, and that he truly did so. Indeed, to deny this central teaching is to deny a central truth of the gospel. This is why Paul is so clear about it in his letters.
When we celebrate Jesus' resurrection, we are reminded that Christ was triumphant over death and because of that we can be confident of our relationship with our Father God as those who are no longer dead in our sins, but alive in Christ. As a consequence, we look forward to a physical existence in the presence of a physical Christ whom we will worship as Lord without ceasing.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Why did I remove blog items?

Someone messaged me to ask why I'd removed a couple of items from my blog and I felt it was only right to respond.
So, what did I remove and why?
I removed a link to a video produced by David Wood in which he posed the question, why Jihadis attack concerts. The reason I posted this link was to offer a counter to the attitudes of those who felt it was wrong to make any connection between Islam and the terrorist attacks such as the one in Manchester. I didn't endorse this video or add my own commentary, but felt that in a context of political correctness it did say something, that in part, was worth engaging with - palatable or otherwise. I removed it because the moment was over and the discussions raised off-line from the video were finished.
I also removed an article in which I was provocatively trying to suggest that while secularism was quick to condemn Islam, secularism was itself failing to recognise its own issues that lead to violence and terrorism. It is my view that only in Christ can we find real value and purpose that ultimately lead to peace.
However, I used the term 'evil' to describe both secularism and Islam. On reflection, I regret doing so as I think it unduly emotive and misleading and I apologise that it did not adequately reflect my position. I do not consider myself above reproach or correction. In the same blog entry I incorrectly attached quotations to a paraphrase. This did not change the weight or conviction of the comment but the quotations were an error.
That said, I stand by my belief that Islam does not lead to the worship of the God of the Bible. I believe Allah to be a human interpretation, and a corruption of God revealed in the Old and New Testaments. I believe the same is true of any religion that requires the use of any scripture other than the Bible to understand who God is and how we should worship him.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

An introduction to God's plans

Now He had planted a garden in the east; and there he put his treasured child. He made all kinds of trees to grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and trees that were good for food. In the middle of the garden there was a tree which held great danger for those who were easily deceived. On it grew a fruit that seemed to promise everything but in truth its only fruit was death and pain and anguish.

A river watering the garden flowed from the centre of the garden; then separated into four headwaters.
The name of the first river is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there’s gold of the highest quality and also precious stones that can be made into rings and other jewels. 
The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

He put his treasure child in the Garden, not simply to be close to his father but to admire His creation and to see that he was like his father in so many ways. The treasured child would be creative, have purpose and know freedom. He said to his treasured child, enjoy everything around you, explore everything around you, I’m giving it to you to look after – you can eat anything you want and drink from the streams that flow. But I need to warn you not to eat from the tree I’ve told you about, it is dangerous and although it may look tempting and although you will be tempted to eat from it, Don’t!
Don’t because it is poisonous and you will die if you eat it.

Then he said, ‘It isn’t good for my treasured child to be alone. He needs to have someone he can share his life with, someone perfectly designed to be like him but different – to ‘complement’ him.’

After he had made another treasured child, he put them together and when they saw each other, the first child sang for joy;

‘This is now bone of my bones

    and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called “woman”,

    for she was taken out of man.’

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The church that isn't

At what point does the gospel become worthless? It's an important question, but not one that requires debate because Jesus answered it very clearly. In Matthew 5:13 he says:

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."

It's incredibly painful to watch the Church of England slowly destroying itself, while many of us sit silently on the side lines.
But, it's that very act of sitting silently that has put us in the situation we're now in. Jesus follows his warning about being salt by saying that we are also a light, and as lights we would be crazy to be stuck under a bowl so that no one receives the benefit.
I want to thank those who have courageously spoken out over the last few days at General Synod, for those who were mocked and sneered at and made to feel stupid.
You are none of those things, you are truly being salt and light and we, who are behind the lines, need to encourage, support and uphold you in our prayers.

It seems to me that 'inclusion' is the zeitgeist, and as Christians we need to recognise this as a thoroughly good thing. It is, in fact, the very reason for our being; that people will recognise their universal need to repent and accept Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice. This is the ultimate inclusion, not Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, nor male and female, but all one in Christ Jesus.

The world has always turned God's goodness on its head and the church has done just that with inclusion - instead of offering the freedom of gospel inclusion, we are touting the lies of cultural inclusion which say come along to the party just as you are, because God has forgotten about sin. In fact, he loves sin, he must do because that's how he made us and we must be true to that identity.
Later in Matthew, there is another stern warning about the tragedy of this behaviour:

"Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.
Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’"

It seems to me, there are two people responsible for this tragic outcome, first the man who didn't recognise that being included in the party meant being ready for it. But second there is responsibility on the one who invited this guest.

The least I can do is make sure the gospel is being preached clearly and without compromise in my churches, but that's not the most I can do. I pray that God will give us all a clear vision of how to be honouring to him in our lives of service to him and that we honour him by working for the living gospel of inclusion.

Lord keep us compassionate and true to your Word.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

We're not just waiting around

In Paul's letter to Titus, his message is very simple: Godliness isn’t measured by how much we know, it’s measured by how we live out our service to God.
The church in Crete had several problems, it was immature, struggling with false teaching and it was working against a culture in conflict with the bible - so not a world away from being in the Church of England!

Titus’ instructions were to establish a firm foundation so the church could flourish. Pauls instructions to do this were to seek out and remove false teaching, appoint sound teachers who practise what they preach and mobilise the church family in their role of training, mentoring and living out the gospel.

Paul wanted the church to function as a family, encouraging, training, rebuking and exhorting each other to grow in godliness through the teaching of God’s word.
At the start of this letter, we see how Paul considered Titus to be like a son, and just as he longed for him to grow in his faith and service, so he longed for the church in Crete to grow too. For that to happen Titus needed to show courage and trust. Trust that the truth would change people and courage that the Holy Spirit would then establish fruit.

Those of us who know the privilege of parenthood, in any form, know that it comes with equal measures of pain, laughter, tears and celebration. But, there’s nothing more wonderful than watching children grow into adults especially if we can see them flourishing in their faith.

Christian growth, often isn’t about chronological growth, it’s also about spiritual growth. That's something all churches long to see happening in their midst.
But, we also need to recognise that with growth we can also expect pain and tears along the way. However, we need always to be reminded that we know the end-game; we know the gospel will ultimately and certainly lead to real joy and a final celebration like this world has never seen!

Friday, 27 January 2017

A new president in the White House

The USA now has a new president, ‘President Trump.’ No one would have thought it possible even this time last year and there can be no doubt that his presidency comes with equal measures of revulsion and delight.
Even within the American half of my family, there is fierce disagreement about him. As an outsider, I just can’t comprehend why, with of a population of 318 million people, they could possibly end up with such questionable characters to choose from!

But, what I find particularly troubling are the many people who think they are taking some moral stand by rallying to the cry of, “Trump, not my president!”
This is a dangerous position to take as it presumes a moral high ground that doesn't stand-up to scrutiny. From a Christian perspective, Paul reminds us in Romans 13:1 that we’re to be, 
“Subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God established.”
He also makes it clear from his other letters like Ephesians that he doesn’t only mean ‘good’ examples of people in authority. Paul’s point is that it’s primarily a matter of recognising Gods sovereignty over our world!
Should that then mean we must sit back when we see injustice, corruption or just poor leadership? 

No, it means we exercise our responsibility to take part in elections, that we vote prayerfully, that we take an active part in our society while all the time we pray for our leaders, good, bad or indifferent; recognising that God will ultimately hold them accountable for their actions.
Trump is the US President because he was voted into power and we, like every American citizen, need to be praying that he will exercise his power wisely and carefully and that God will give him wisdom beyond our expectations. 
Because, whether we like it or not, we would be very foolish to just turn our faces away and pretend he simply doesn’t exist!