We were reminded during a recent service about a rather enigmatic verse in Luke’s Gospel: “Remember Lot’s wife.” The lesson behind this verse goes right back to Genesis, when Lot, his wife, and their family were running away from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as they were being destroyed. Lot’s wife looks back and is caught up in the destruction. But the real lesson of Lot’s wife is not where she set her eyes, but where she set her heart.Read More
Well, since you are reading this blog, you have embraced (to a degree at least) the digital world in which we live! The digital world presents both opportunities and threats to Christians. In my view, the opportunity to reach new audiences, enhance ‘in-reach’ within churches and church communities, access information to help us understand God’s word, educate our children more effectively, and make the most of global connectivity far outweighs the threats.Read More
It’s that time of year to celebrate the harvest. A good harvest is vital, even for those of us who no longer live in farming communities. The Israelites were told to celebrate the harvest, to share it with those less fortunate than themselves, and to give a portion back to God. We can learn lessons from these instructions, because we are planted by God to be fruitful Christians, to celebrate the growth that we see in ourselves and others, to share our literal and spiritual harvest, and to give ourselves to God.Read More
Microbiology is a remarkable science: a whole microcosm of activity that is fundamental to life on our planet. But it is also a new science, only having been established for a couple of hundred years. So, any information on microbes in the Bible is by inference only. This post covers a few areas where microbes feature loud and clear: in the origin of disease, in the plagues on Egypt, and in understanding the public health value of the Law of Moses.Read More
Why a loving God would allow his creation to suffer is one of the most challenging questions to answer. Sometimes God is directly to blame for suffering (e.g. natural disasters), whereas other times human sin creates the suffering – or make natural disasters a whole lot worse. Either way, God has created a world where suffering is permitted. This means that we can exercise free will and choose whether to follow God. God also uses suffering as a ‘tool’ to promote personal growth.Read More
Jesus’ parables of the man planning to build a tower and the king planning to go to war in Luke 14 (v25-33) highlight the cost of discipleship, and advise careful planning before deciding to follow Jesus. At our service on Sunday, we weighed up the costs and benefits of discipleship, concluding (as you may expect!) that the benefits outweigh the costs many times over!Read More
I recently enjoyed a series of talks by James Riley on a 'Boundaryless God'. Jesus challenged the boundaries set by the religious system of his day (e.g. Who is my neighbour? How many times must I forgive?). But where does this leave us in living out our Christianity? Are boundaries useful at all in terms of our fellowship, worship, and services? There is certainly some guidance in the Bible to suggest that boundaries can be useful in some of these areas - but where we choose to set them may be more a product of our cultural context than absolute 'right' or 'wrong'.Read More
“It’s not a Church of England thing, it’s not an Anglican thing, it’s a Christian thing.”
In the 10 days leading up to Pentecost Sunday on 4th June the Archbishop of Canterbury is encouraging Christians of all denominations to take part in a global prayer movement 'Thy Kingdom Come'. People are encouraged to pray in whatever way they choose, wherever they are, as individuals, as a family or as a church.
Pentecost Sunday commemorates the day of the Jewish feast of Pentecost just 40 days after Jesus' resurrection when, having seen him ascend to heaven, the disciples were gathered together in a room and the Holy Spirit descended on them, like flames (Acts 2); miraculously, they found themselves able to speak in any language which made them understandable to the multi-ethnic crowd of visitors in Jerusalem at the time. This was when they first began to preach the gospel, the good news of the risen Lord Jesus - and Pentecost Sunday today is thought of as the birth-day of the Church. It was the start of the Church's mission to "go into the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (as Jesus instructed them in Mark 16:15). "He who believes and is baptised will be saved", Jesus said.
Under the banner of 'Thy Kingdom Come' we are encouraged to pray for the evangelisation of the world, for all people to know Jesus. “Jesus prayed at the Last Supper that we, those who follow him, might ‘be one that the world might believe’. We are invited to make a lasting difference in our nations and in our world, by responding to his call to find a deep unity of purpose in prayer," Archbishop Justin Welby has said.
To know Jesus, to experience him as King and as Lord now, transforms our life, has the potential to transform the world and gives us an amazing hope for the future. To be part of his Kingdom is something we can begin to experience now, but it will not be fully known until he returns to this world to set up God's Kingdom on the earth. This is the consistent message of the Bible: God will one day dwell with man here on the earth. And Jesus will bring this Kingdom when he reappears, at his second coming.
At that firstPentecost, the disciples had just seen Jesus ascend into heaven, and they had heard angels say this to them: "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." Jesus will one day return in person and we will see him and know him, just as the disciples did! Their longing for that day is still there right at the end of the New Testament, when Jesus says to the apostle John "Surely, I am coming soon", and John replies "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"
Amen. May thy Kingdom come soon, in its fullest sense!
Beautifully done by the African Children’s Choir!
We had a home group recently discussing the essence of church. The term ’church’ is often used to apply to a building in modern times, but this is not the Biblical sense. The word for church in the Bible (‘ecclesia’) is probably best translated as congregation, or group of believers (although it can be translated ‘mob’, which is an interesting idea). This post tries to summaries the essence of church: what it is, and who it is for.Read More
We all have times when things are tough. Temptations get the better of us. We fall out with loved ones. Or we suffer disharmony in our family, at work, or at church. Any of these can challenge even the most seasoned faith. So, I thought now would be as good a time as any to share our 'go to' scriptures; the places we go to find comfort and encouragement.Read More
Sometimes a Bible verse which appears to say nothing very important actually has a lot to tell us, if we dig down a little. The apostle Paul in writing to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:13) is a case in point:
"When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments".Read More
If the world were a village of 100 people, 11 would live on less than £1.50 per day. That’s a meagre £547 per year. And yet, seemingly no matter how much money a human being has, there never seems to be enough. One of the challenges of being a Christian is to see beyond the false security of wealth, set our affection on things above, and plot a path towards Godly contentment (1 Tim 6:6).Read More
The opening chapter of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows perfectly captures how I feel on a fresh spring day. There’s something so alluring, so carefree about the first days after a long, cold winter. The relief of the warmer temperature, tempered by a cool breeze, the scent of new growth, the chirrup of chiff-chaffs, swallows and house martins and the cheeriness of daffodils and crocuses all combine to make me want to throw down my metaphorical brush and recklessly head out into the sunshine.Read More
There are a number of different way that you can understanding the salvation that we have in Jesus. Perhaps the most compelling for me is ‘Christ Victorious’ (or ‘Christus Victor’), a way of understanding the atonement, which can complement other views. ‘Christ Victorious’ is simple: Jesus’ sacrificial life, death and resurrection form a total victory over sin in all its forms. The victory that Jesus achieved is given to us all as a gift from God, by his grace, and we are made right in God’s eyes as a consequence. This view of Jesus’ sacrifice takes us beyond individual salvation and challenges us to take on sin in all its forms in our lives, just like Jesus did.Read More
Made any New Year resolutions for 2017? Psychological literature suggests you might as well not bother – only half of all New Year resolutions make it beyond March! It is natural – and right – to resolve to sin no longer, whilst recognising that we are saved by God's grace and not our own efforts. But experience shows that our resolutions to stop sinning (whether made in honour of a new year or not) often come unstuck pretty quickly too. So it is hugely comforting to know that God’s mercy and forgiveness isn’t fickle like our resolve to stop sinning – it is everlasting (Psa 103:11-17).Read More
We had our annual carol service at our church in Newbury last Sunday, featuring some shadow puppets, a choir performance, and plenty of carols! The theme was ‘Looking for Jesus’, reflecting on the journeys of the shepherds, the wise men, and the prophets in the temple to find Jesus.Read More
The pace of life is faster than ever before. I have spent the week dealing with train delays due to the flooding in the West Country. Time like this would once have been spent thinking or talking to fellow passengers. I spent it working on a laptop (on the rare occasions when I got a seat) or glued to my mobile phone. There are quite a few powerful scriptures suggesting that, rather than filling every second with activity, it would be a good idea if we learnt to make time in our busy schedules to stop, and listen to God.Read More
One of our members, Rachel Otter, posted a blog this week: 'Bad times and Church present', which we thought we'd share. The post is interesting and thought-provoking, making the point that a church isn't an entity that can, of its own accord, hand out spiritual presents - it is made from human bricks, that rely on each other to hold one another up! Bad times are essential to develop and grow as a Christian, and whilst it can be easy to blame the Church when things are not going so well, we need to persevere: '...keep being a brick, even if you're a miserable brick, otherwise all the other bricks fall down.'Read More