May 15, 2015
neil

The new 2020birmingham website goes live

May 8, 2015
neil

Five things to bear in mind (especially if you think the nation got it wrong)

It’s easy to complain when an election doesn’t go our way. How can we as Christians find reasons to be content whoever wins. Here are 5 answers;

1.  Any government is better than no government!

In giving us government that has enables us to live lives relatively free from the threat of violence, oppression, injustice and poverty God has given us better than our sins deserve.

2.  In Britain all the main political parties, whilst imperfect, seek to govern according to high standards.

In giving us government that is accountable to the nation and that seeks to government well we do better than many who live in countries where government is corrupt and the people live in fear.

We should give thanks then whoever gets in!

3. Take confidence that God is sovereign over government and the nations.

‘Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.’ Romans 13:1. This is the government that in his wisdom he has given to us.

All government – good or bad – cannot thwart his perfect plan but only aid him in all he seeks to do c.f. Psalm 22:28, 75:6-7, John 19:10-11, the whole of the book of Daniel!

4.  Do not expect too much.

Our country is not a Christian country and our leaders will govern without reference to God.  We should pray that God would work through them but we should not expect too much.

5.  Remember the gospel

a) All authority belongs to Jesus- Matt. 28:16-20

b)  His kingdom alone will be one of perfect peace, justice and righteousness and will endure for ever! Rev.5:13

c) We need new hearts far more than a new government.  Ezek.36:2-27

d)  We too were ignorant, foolish, hostile to God and his ways until he had mercy on us.  Eph. 2:1-10, Titus 3:3

(With help from Oak Hill Lecturers of old!)

May 5, 2015
neil

Who should you vote for?

Here are my notes from a recent seminar at City Church on the upcoming election

A. Should we be concerned to vote?

1. We must be committed to the welfare of our nation

a) We are ‘resident aliens’ in the world. The Christian recognises that this world is not our home but we are not to despise it either. Jeremiah 29:7 ‘seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’ (NIV).

b) Government is God’s idea. To punish wrong and commend good

1 Peter 2:13-14Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men. Submission to authority is part of our witness to the world. It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the talk of foolish men.

Romans 13:1-7 – v.1-2 The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.

We should be better citizens than unbelievers because we have a higher motive than they. They submit to authorities because they fear punishment if they do not. We submit because we want to honour God – recognising that they are his means of common grace to restrain evil.

1 Timothy 2:1-3 ‘I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour.’

When Paul urges us to pray for Kings and all in authority. John Stott commentsthis was a remarkable instruction, since at that time no Christian ruler existed anywhere in the world.

What to pray for? That we may live peaceful and quiet lives. Stott: ‘only in a well-ordered society is the church free to fulfil its God-given responsibilities without hindrance.’

What are these responsibilities government are to uphold?

• Freedom of religion – that enables me to grow in godliness and holiness

• Freedom of speech – that allows me to proclaim Christ through evangelism

Wisdom on government from Proverbs:

When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; When the wicked rule, the people groan – Proverbs 29:2

By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down – Proverbs 29:4

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, For the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; Defend the rights of the poor and needy. – Proverbs 31:8-9

Conclusion We cannot expect, so we must not ask, a secular government to govern according to Christian principles. But we should pray that government will protect the vulnerable, reward good and punish evil and allow Christians to get on with being Christians without interference from the state.

2. The privilege of democracy

Many Christians in other parts of the world can only pray for a change of government. We have an opportunity to shape government!

3. Should Christians vote?

Yes. By voting:

a) we can demonstrate that Christians make the best of citizens because we recognise that government is a gift of God

b) we can give thanks to God for the good government that we enjoy. Under any of the main parties we will enjoy fundamental freedoms and privileges that many Christians are denied elsewhere.

c) we should take the God-given opportunity to elect a government that it will govern according to God’s purposes for it.

B. How do we decide who to vote for?

1. Look to elect government that will function according to God’s standards:  Here are just SOME of the questions you could consider.

a) Protection of the vulnerable

• Do you believe that marriage provides the most secure and loving environment in which to raise children? Should that be reflected in the tax system?

• Should euthanasia be legalised? What care should be provided for the elderly?

• Do you believe that the law on abortion is too lax, too restrictive or about right?

• What legislation do you propose to limit the damage caused by harmful greenhouse gases and other causes of environmental damage?

• What is your policy on Asylum seekers and on migration?

• Do you agree in principle to the idea of shared days off for families? Should there be legislation to enable this?

• How do you define an ethical foreign policy and do you think that the UK should pursue one? What commitment can you make that further progress will be made to ensure that developing countries can be genuinely set free of the burden of debt?

b) Protect religious liberty

• Do you believe churches should be free to employ only Christians?

• Should there be a law against incitement to religious hatred?

• Should the right of Christians to freedom of speech be protected?

c) punish wrongdoers

• What solutions do you propose to violent crime in our society?

• What steps should be taken to rehabilitate young offenders?

• Do you support the reintroduction of the death penalty for murder?

d) prevent the spread of sin

• Do you think the law on cannabis should be liberalised?

• Are you in favour of compulsory sex education for primary school children?

• Do you support tougher controls against the broadcasting of pornography?

2. Try one of the websites designed to help you see which party manifesto is most aliened with your own convictions.

I found http://gb.isidewith.com/ to be by far the most helpful. But you might also try www.whoshouldyouvotefor.com

3. Consider the character of the candidates

a) For a list of your candidates visit https://yournextmp.com/

b) To discover if there are any hustings you can attend visit http://meetyournextmp.com/

c) Personal beliefs and practices cannot be separated from public life. Do they have a record of lying, adultery, misleading parliament, etc… If you want to know how your last MP voted on a range of ethical and moral issues then visit www.christian.org.uk/election and follow the links.

May 4, 2015
neil

Get Ed Welch’s book on depression free on Kindle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here Ed Welch speaks about the book and his own experiences of helping those with depression.

 

 

(HT: Andy Cheung)

Apr 20, 2015
neil

11 great commentaries all available for £2 each on kindle

This super series of short, accessible, Christ-centred commentaries are available on Kindle for £2 each. If you’re building a library as a preacher or just looking for something to help you in small groups or personal bible reading get them while you can!

Apr 17, 2015
neil

24 free e-books for you to read

Each one of these 24 e-books from Desiring God are free for you to read!

Mar 31, 2015
neil

Check out our new video

What contribution do gospel movements bring to our cities? Here’s a new video from 2020birmingham explaining how the gospel flourishes through collaboration in church-planting.

Feb 26, 2015
neil

Persuasive preaching needs . . .

Intentional contextualization

‘Contextualization is not – as is often argued – ‘giving people what they want to hear.’ Rather, it is giving people the Bible’s answers, which they may not want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them.’

Tim Keller, Center Church, chapter 7 Intentional Contextualization

Feb 25, 2015
neil

Christmas world cup humour

Jan 28, 2015
neil

3 reasons to be at this conference

What do we need to grasp to be effective ministers of the gospel in a city?

1. Cities are the future

Today for the first time in human history over half of the world’s population live in cities. The UN estimate in World Population Prospects that by 2050 the world will be 68.7 percent urban.

Stephen Um & Justin Buzzard in their book Why Cities Matter write ‘never before have cities been as populated, powerful, and important as they are today. . .cities shape the world because what happens in the cities spreads.’

Copyright Helen Ogbourn

2. Cities never stay the same

Um & Buzzard point out a second feature of cities – the pace of change.  ‘Nothing ever stays the same in cities. There is constant movement.’ A city like Birmingham has changed beyond recognition in the 40 years I have lived here. It looks different, feels different and thinks differently. It takes time, insight and skill to answer the question ‘what do I need to know to most effectively love and communicate Christ to my city both now and for the next 20 years?’

3. Ministry in cities is complex

One final observation worth highlighting from Um & Buzzard, ‘cities are populated with people of various cultures, different worldviews, and different vocations. Cities force individuals to refine their cultural assumptions, religious beliefs, and sense of calling.’

That raises important questions: what is the future of my particular city? What kinds of opportunities does urbanisation present for the gospel? What does it mean for our church to be a church for the city?

Meeting the challenge

If cities are growing in size, power and influence and if cities are always in a flux of change and if cities are ever-more diverse in assumptions and beliefs then the church must come together to face the challenge and to find answers to the issues we face.

2020birmingham will be holding its 2015 annual conference entitled City of the Future on the 10th March here in Birmingham.  And the issues in this post form the heart of our conference agenda. Which ever city you represent why not come along and learn together how better to reach and serve our city now and into the future.

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