Thursday, 26 January 2012

Bible quiz with a purpose

The following link (click here) will take you to a website that challenges you to a quiz on the Bible and its teachings. It has two motivations:
First, to encourage you to learn about the Bible. I took it and although I eventually completed it all, I found it challenging, interesting and informative.
And second, if you complete the quizes you are entitled to a free NIV Bible which you can keep or give to someone who is seeking.

So may I encourage you to visit the website and challenge others to do the same.

Lifesprings

Just breaking the silence to log a website that looks interesting. It's called Lifesprings and it encourages people to grow in Christlikeness by introducing the work of people like Richard Foster and organisations like Renovare.  Here is the link.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Moving house

Those who kindly follow my blog will have noticed that there have been no blogs for a while. This is due to the fact that I am in the process of moving house and although the actual move itself will not take place until 14th February, there is so much packing - and sorting - that it has taken up all my spare time. So my apologies for the interruption but "services will be resumed as soon as possible."

By the way the picture - top left - is not an indication of where I am going, but just something to show. I am moving to a parish in the centre of Swansea, which is only two-three miles away. The Parish Church is dedicated to St. James and serves 4,000 people.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Faith stories

Evangelism is not rocket science. It is merely "one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread". In other words you have found the Christian faith to be good news for you, so now share what you have found with someone else.

Of course there are other ways in which people come to faith and the following link will take you to an interesting Church of England website which includes stories of those who have found faith in these difficult, unbelieving times. Here it is - click here.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Feasts of the Church

The celebrations of the Events of the life of Jesus Christ - Epiphany, Christmas, Easter etc - were not instituted at the very beginning of the Christian era. They were held by the early Christians "as vivid commemorations without a connection with certain days and hymns, but as a real Event of the Lord Who was present in the Church". (cf  Greek Orthodox of America website).  But later, when the Church was firmly established, Christianity no longer a persecuted faith and its believers were free to worship, the Church was able to commemorate and observe annually in the calendar year the events of the life of the Church and especially those of the Life and Person of Jesus Christ, whom they worshipped along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Therefore special prayers, hymns, and readings appropriate for the occasion were compiled and used to emphasis each aspect of Jesus' life and revelation. The reason why the first Christians did not institute these celebrations and observances at the very beginning is mainly because of the persecutions of the Church and its believers.

It was also important - as the Old Testament feasts prove - to have annual aide-de-memoirs to help not only teach the main tenets of the faith but also to remember them.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The Hidden God

"The God of Israel, the Saviour,
is sometimes a God who hides Himself
but never a God that is absent;
sometimes in the dark,
but never at a distance."
Matthew Henry

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Life, death and God

Ben Breedlove (above) has cheated death 3 times as he has struggled with a dangerous and life threatening illness his whole life. It hasn't kept Ben from smiling and focusing on God. In this touching and heartbreaking final video, Ben shares the visions he experienced a few weeks before when he came close to death. Ben went to be with Jesus on Christmas Day...just one week after posting this final video. Knowing God can make all the difference in helping us deal with life and death. Do you know God?

Have a talk with God

Here is a song and lyrics by Stevie Wonder that reminds us to always "Have a talk with God":



There are people who have let the problems of today
Lead them to conclude that for them life is not the way
But every problem has an answer and if yours you cannot find
You should talk it over to Him
He'll give you peace of mind
When you feel your life's too hard
Just go have a talk with God

Many of us feel we walk alone without a friend
Never communicating with the One who lives within
Forgetting all about the One who never ever lets you down
And you can talk to him anytime He's always around
When you feel your life's too hard
Just go have a talk with God

Well He's the only free psychiatrist that's known throughout the world
For solving problems of all men, women, little boys and girls
When you feel your life's too hard
Just go have a talk with God
When you feel your life's too hard
Just go have a talk with God
When your load's too much to bear
Just go talk to God He cares
I know he does

When you feel your life's too hard
Just go have a talk with God
thank you
thank you very much.
Stevie Wonder

We don't know what we should pray for

When I first became a Christian I was sustained by daily readings from a book called "Streams in the desert" by L.B.Cowman. The readings and comments were so encouraging, and although the Bible readings were from the King James - and a bit old fashioned even then - there was something fresh and thirst-quenching about them that I will never forget. Here is one such excerpt:

“We do not know what we ought to pray for.” Romans 8:26

Often it is simply the answers to our prayers that cause many of the difficulties in the Christian life. We pray for patience, and our Father sends demanding people our way who test us to the limit, “because….suffering produces perseverance” Romans 5:33. We pray for a submissive spirit, and God sends suffering again, for we learn to be obedient in the same way Christ “learned obedience from what he suffered” Heb. 5:8

We pray to be unselfish, and God gives us opportunities to sacrifice by placing other people’s needs first and by laying down our lives for others. We pray for strength and humility, and “a messenger of Satan” 2Cor. 12:7 comes to torment us until we lie on the ground pleading for it to be withdrawn.

We pray to the Lord, as His apostles did, saying, “Increase our faith!” Luke 17:5. Then our money seems to take wings and fly away; our children become critically ill; an employee becomes careless, slow and wasteful; or some other new trial comes upon us, requiring more faith than we have ever before experienced.

We pray for a Christlike life that exhibits the humility of a lamb. Then we are asked to perform some lowly tasks, or we are unjustly accused and given no opportunity to explain, for “he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and…did not open his mouth” Isa. 53:7.

We pray for gentleness and quickly face a storm of temptation to be harsh and irritable. We pray for quietness, and suddenly every nerve is stressed to its limit with tremendous tension so that we may learn that when He sends His peace, no one can disturb it.

We pray for love for others, and God sends unique suffering by sending people our way who are difficult to love and who say things that get on our nerves and tear at our heart. He does this because “love is patient, love is kind…It is not rude,…it is not easily angered..It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1Cor. 13:4-5, 7-8.

Yes, we pray to be like Jesus, and God’s answer is : “I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” Isa. 48:10; “Will your courage endure or your hands be strong?” Ezek. 22:14; “Can you drink the cup?” Matt. 20:22

The way to peace and victory is to accept every circumstance and every trial as being straight from the hand of our loving Father; to live “with him in the heavenly realms” Eph. 2:6, above the clouds, in the very presence of His throne; and to look down from glory on our circumstances as being lovingly and divinely appointed.

Happy New Year?

Happy New Year everyone.  But will it be happy? It depends. For me there are several threats to that.

First, will the Anglican Church finally pass legislation authorising the consecration of women as bishops?  Well it has to really, if it is to be theologically consistent. How can you ordain women as priests and not bishops? It does not make theological or rational sense. Women should be - logically and consistently - consecrated bishops. But do I agree? I have to be honest. No. What gives us the right to act unilaterally without reference to the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches let alone anyone else? It is, to say the least, rather arrogant and presumptive no matter what the theological arguments. We have no right to make that decision without reference to the larger Church unless, of course, we think that we are the sole recipients and keepers of the truth.

Second, there is the ordination of practising homosexuals (and lesbians) which is inconsistent with biblical and historical revelation. This may well already be going on in some discrete way in the hope  of some kind of creeping acceptance. But it is still wrong - if 'practised' sexually - and as the 'gay' agenda gathers momentum, no doubt more and more pressure will be brought to bear.

Third, materialism in all it's various expresssions, is a real danger. People are very tied to the material - which they can see, touch etc and immdeiately benefit from - and view the spiritual as suspect or not 'real'. This attitude may be undermined as people are less able to afford things and have to make do and mend a bit more. But  nevertheless it is a mindset that will be difficult to grow out of having taking decades to form. So not huge changes here.

Fourth, the growth of Islam may be another factor although not necessarily because of conviction but rather because of the sheer volume of births and immigrations. This has been counterbalanced by immigration from other countries, not least from Poland etc. But nevertheless the birth rate of muslims is bigger than that of Christians in Britain and that will begin to tell over the next generatio or two.

Fifth, conservatism with a small 'c'. As people become more and more threatened and disenchanted with the numerous changes in society and church, they tend to either compromise or consolidate (See American sociogist Peter Berger), both of which are wrong. But that is what generally happens when you don't listen to the Spirit. That is, at present, the way of the Church, especially in Wales. I hope it will change. I hope the church will be brave and innovate. If innovation is wrong - i.e. church-planting, Fresh Expressions etc - then we must trus God to put us right. Consolidation and compromise is not working so why pursue them? Let's be brave and experiment. Let's try something and take the risk.

Notice I didn't say atheism. Why? Because although it is vociferous and vocal it is no more vital now than it has ever been. True it is more explicit than in previous centuries, but atheism is no more prevalent now than is the past. In latter times it hid itself under a veneer of superficial faith. People were baptized and went through the various religious hoops that society as a whole had to jump through, but what lay beneath? A form of non-confessing atheism. The only difference now is that it has the chance to be more honest than previous centuries. But it is no threat. In fact it's a blessing in disguise as it is the kind of test that the Church needs to challenge and mature it. I find, personally, that the atheists are only asking the questions that most good Christians have always asked - privately. Now they are out in the open we can address and discuss them. So we must be grateful to Hitchens et al for bringing them into the light.

There are other challenges too of course. Youth, the family, marriage and poverty. It's going to be an interesting year. Whether it is 'happy' or not depends on whether you believe, truly believe, in God. If you do you will know that whatever happens He is already there before us waiting for us to join Him in what He is already doing. Knowing that will - should - make us content.

Happy New Year everyone.