Browsing articles from "December, 2010"
Dec 31, 2010
neil

My 10 top questions for every month of 2011

My only resolution this year? To make time to ask myself these 10 questions at the beginning of each month in 2011.

Five questions to help me look back over the previous month

1) Gospel: What is it about the gospel that has gripped me?

What has surprised me? What have I rediscovered?

Is it something of the character of God or the person and work of Christ or the promises of the gospel that I need to ensure I hold on to and even share?

2) Change: Is there anything I need to repent of?

An ungodly attitude? Pride, greed, self-sufficiency, prayerlessness, discontent, doubt,..

A wrong behaviour? A loose tongue, lustful thoughts, lazy hands

Something in my life that is functioning as an idol – work, a relationship, a hobby?

How am I going to apply the gospel in prayerful belief that God can change me? Who might God

3) Thanksgiving: What have I to be thankful to God for?

How has God blessed me, provided for me, protected me, directed me in this last month?

4) Others to me: Who has God used in my life for good and have I thanked them as well as thanked God for them?

The thoughtfulness of a friend? The support of a spouse? The consideration of a work colleague? The preaching of my pastor?…

5) Me to others: How have I influenced the lives of others- for good or bad? What must I learn? Who do i need to say sorry to?…

Five questions to help me prepare for the month ahead

6) Church family: How can I better serve Christ’s body, the church, in this coming month?

Do I need to be encouraging a brother, ministry area leader, pastor in some way? Do I need to discover or develop my gifts? Do I need to be more deliberate in my attendance and participation at church?

7) Planning: What priorities do I need to reorder?

Do I need to make more time for God, for family, for my non-Christian friends?

Do I need to spend less time pursuing….

8) Missional: How can I be more intentional in spreading the good news of the gospel?

Am I praying for non-believers by name? Am I seeking opportunity to talk of Christ and am I praying for them? Am I using the glory of the gospel to motivate my desires rather than the guilt of a self-justifying heart?

9) Investing: Which three people in particular do I need to invest in this month? Who might I need to encourage to look out for another?

10) Perspective: How can I keep the hope of heaven more real this month than last?

Dec 30, 2010
neil

Writer of BBC’s Nativity on his journey to faith

Did you catch the BBCs screening of The Nativity over the Christmas period? (if not catch it here while you can). The screenplay was written by Tony Jordan best known for writing 250 episodes of EastEnders and more recently Life on Mars.  In a fascinating interview in The Telegraph he tells of his own personal journey from scepticism to belief.

I don’t come from a religious background and I don’t think I’m anybody’s fool. I was expelled from school at 14. I’ve been in trouble. I know that people from my sort of background have always discounted the story of the nativity and I certainly didn’t believe it when I started on it three years ago. But now I do.”

The only thing I know for sure is that the words I read as coming from Jesus Christ are the most truthful thing I have ever heard. As a blueprint for mankind, it is so smart that it couldn’t even have come from a clever philosopher. Who would have been smart enough to say ‘He who is without sin cast the first stone’? Wow! That’s pretty cool.”

Even the virgin birth is taken in its stride:

‘If you accept that Jesus is Son of God, why would you not believe that Mary was a virgin, and that God must have had some handin the impregnation?’

What should we take from this encouraging interview?

It suggests to me that the biggest challenge that Christians face is in inspiring people to read the Bible for themselves.  Perhaps the biggest barrier to faith is the beginning – once people start the journey many continue it to its destinations end.

Certainly it’s been my experience that once people meet Jesus on his own terms and take time to understand him that the cynicism faces and many find themselves drawn to him.  There is something beautiful, compelling, attractive about the man, his message and his mission.

For a great review of The Nativity from a Christian perspective check out Mark Meynell’s blog here.

For an extended interview with Tony Jordan try this (with thanks to Mark Meynell).

Dec 29, 2010
neil

One vision – planning for the best in 2011

As the new year approaches I wonder whether you’re inspired to make plans for 2011? Newspapers and the web are full of ideas as to how to improve your lot over the next 12 months but usually it’s little more than losing a few pounds in weight or getting your finances in order.

But how can you make the very most of 2011? What about some serious planning?

Planning is not about learning to manage your time better it’s about learning to prioritise your plans so that you make better use of your time.   For Christians planning means not being efficient with our time, it is about being effective with our time, making sure that what we do with our time really matters.

And the question we need to ask is what determines our priorities in our planning?

Tim Chester’s excellent book The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness shows how easy it is to fail to plan according to God’s priorities.  When we don’t intentionally plan according to God’s priorities we’ll probably end up planning according to the world’s priorities.

Our world says ‘Success is primarily measured in the lifestyle you have’.  Therefore success is measured in money.  It’s about the car you drive, the house you own, or perhaps its about the status your job gives you.

So we plan to realise the lifestyle.

1. We have in our minds the goal lifestyle that we want and then

2. We look for the education that will lead to the job that will buy us that lifestyle we’re seeking.

3. To find the job and we move to wherever that job will take us. We sacrifice friends,family, church in a bid to get the job to give us the life we want. And then when a better job comes along we’re ready to do it all over again. My parents moved 11 times in 5 years!

4. Having found the home we are going to live in that goes with the job because we’re Christians we look for a church in the area that we can belong to.

5. Now in a church if the job allows us any time and energy we look to see if there is any way we  might serve the church.

That is the way the world works and if we don’t plan that is the plan that we’re encouraged to follow.  In other words we fall into a very worldly plan when we don’t plan otherwise and then we think it becomes a Christian plan because we have asked God to bless it.

What we’re really doing is making a plan that ignores God’s plan but asking him to bless it anyway.

And that is not the way Christians ought to plan.

You see the plans that set your priorities should be God’s plan. His plan for the world takes into account far more than that. Continue reading »

Dec 28, 2010
neil

Only gay in the village?

The BBC comedy Little Britain may not have been your cup of tea but most of us have some idea of who Daffyd Thomas is. He lives in the Welsh mining village of Llanddewi Brefi and the comedy kicks in when poor deluded Daffyd thinks he’s ‘the only gay in the village’. In fact half the village is homosexual but Daffyd can’t or won’t see it.  Unable to cope with the fact that everyone (including his parents) are quite OK with his sexuality and that even his best friend, Myfanwy, the local bar-maid is a lesbian, Daffyd stays the centre of attention as he persists in playing the ‘victim’, a misunderstand and isolated gay man in a straight world.

What makes it funny is the lengths that Daffyd has to go to in refusing to recognize the gay community around him. The fact that it is a gay man revelling in his status as ‘victim’ makes it particularly powerful. But the sketches also challenge the assumptions and thought-processes behind all those, gay or straight, who wish to ignore the sizable gay community in their own town or city in a desire to keep homosexuality on the margin of society.

But clever as the big idea is that makes the sketch work new research suggests that perhaps the voice of the gay community, in our media in particular, is out of proportion to it’s size.

How many people are gay in the UK?

The most common statistic is still the 1 in 10 figure associated with the Kinsey Report. The study reported that 10% of American males surveyed were “more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55“.

More recently, during the debate over civil partnerships, the then government accepted a figure of somewhere between 6 and 7 percent.

However it now appears that such figures are hugely inflated. The most recent and comprehensive survey conducted by the Office of National Statistics demonstrates that in this country we have consistently overestimated the size of the homosexual population.

Continue reading »

Dec 27, 2010
neil

Christianity and media bias

My preferred weekly magazine, in its Christmas special, ran only one article on the Christmas story and they asked an atheist to write it.  It’s called ‘Confession of an atheist: I respect Christianity too much to believe in it.’

Why would the magazine, which is conservative culturally and politically, prefer the view of an atheist for a Christmas comment? Well I guess because it’s a different angle.  And that, my friends, is the problem for Christians when it comes to Christianity and the media.

There exists an inevitable bias against Christianity in the media because the media is always looking for new angles and new opportunities to say new things.

Locked out?

Andrew Marr at a recent internal seminar at the BBC let the cat out of the bag.

The BBC is a publicly funded urban organisation with an abnormally large proportion of younger people, of people in ethnicminorities and almost certainly of gay people than the population at large.  It depends on the states approval at least for its funding mechanism and all this creates an innate liberal bias inside the BBC and I think if we pretend there isn’t an institutional liberal bias of that kind which is much more clearly expressed as a cultural bias than as a party political bias.

And it has always been so. Marr, in his presentation to the September seminar, actually quoted a  parliamentary committee from 1936 which highlights how the old, old story will always be eclipsed by the new.

‘There’s an inevitable tendency in the general programmes of the Corporation to devote more time to the expression of new ideas and the advocacy of change in social and other spheres than the defence of orthodoxy and stability, since the reiteration of what exists and is familiar is not so interesting as the exposition of what might be.’

As Marr pointed out, ‘Any producer, any reporter worth their salt wants to go for newness, challenge, controversy – and the Continue reading »

Dec 26, 2010
neil

A condom for the heart?

2011: The years of the No-strings fling ran the heading of the article I read at my wife’s hospital bed as we waited for thecontractions to begin and the baby to come. She had sent me off to the shop to pick up a couple of magazines so ever helpful I came back with Ideal Homes and Company.

The article was under the banner ‘The Company Report’ written by the editor of the magazine and essentially was an apologetic for freedom of sexual expression. The strap-line ran ‘One night stand, three-date rule, whatevs. Let’s stop putting a label on our sex lives. We’ll do it with who we want, when we want – and here’s why….

Now let’s be clear the editor stressed ‘We’re not saying you should rush out and grab the first guy you see for a random encounter. It’s more about being in control of your own sex life without being worried about having a negative label slapped on you afterwards.’

The feature also wanted to be extremely clear and extremely critical of ‘the Daily Mail/middle-aged mums/well-meaning friends/your gran) who believe women who enjoy no-strings sex, whether for one night, one month or one year, muast be mad, bad or simply unable to find a regular boyfriend. But we know better. The truth is, what if – shock, horror – they actually just enjoy it?

The most alarming aspect of the article was the obvious flaw in the argument that there can be such a thing as ‘no-strings sex’. After all what kind of sexual encounter has ‘no-strings’?

Condom for the heart

Lesley Garner in her super book ‘Everything I’ve ever learned about love‘ has a short chapter entitled ‘Safe Sex’ in which she simply but profoundly exposes the fallacy of ‘no-strings sex’.

‘There’s no such thing as a condom for the heart. Until there is, there will be no such thing as safe sex. You can wrap your whole body up in protective sheaths, you can fill yourself with barrier creams and spermicides, you can have sex over phone lines and in Continue reading »

Dec 25, 2010
neil

Nothing in fiction is so fantastic

The supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us [is] not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of reconciliation, but in the Christmas message of incarnation. The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man – that the second person of the Godhead became the ‘second man’ (1 Cor. 15:47), determining human destiny, the second representative head of the race, and that He took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as He was human.

Here are two mysteries for the price of one ­– the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus. It is here, the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. ‘The Word was made flesh’ (John 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child.

And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.

JI Packer – Knowing God

Wishing you a wonderful and worshipful Christmas!

Dec 24, 2010
neil

On the birth of Felix Luther

Rufus and Felix

Last night at 9.30pm (GMT) our second son, Felix Luther, was born. He is perfect in every way and the most undeserved gift of God to us for however long God gifts him.

The birth of a child is a cause to celebrate, a reason to marvel and produces in the life of any believer a reason to worship. The words of Psalm 139 immediately come to mind:

Psalm 139:13-17

13 For you created his inmost being;
you knit him together in his mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because he is fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 His frame was not hidden from you
when he was made in the secret place,
when he was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw his unformed body;
all the days ordained for him were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!

It is too much that God should be so kind.

A second birth

And yet as I look at this new life and thank God I also pray that God would work a second miracle and bring about a second new birth no less miraculous and no less a divine gift than the first.

A Puritan prayer taken from ‘The Valley of Vision

O God, I cannot endure to see the destruction

of my kindred. Continue reading »

Dec 23, 2010
neil

Work matters?

When was the last time someone was interviewed at church about the work they do who was not in some form of full-time ‘Christian’ work?  I have to confess as a Pastor I can’t remember the last time we heard from someone up at the front of church.

What message does it communicate when we fail to take an interest in the work of those in our churches.  It seems to me that at least three of four things become imbedded deeply in the collective consciousness of the church.

1. The only work God is interested in is gospel work

2. The godly thing to be doing is being in paid Christian work everything else is second best

3. There is a sacred/secular split to our lives. Some things we do are important (sacred) and others irrelevant (secular). Unfortunately the vast majority of our time is spent doing things that don’t matter to God!

The problem is that as a Bible-believing Christian I don’t believe any of those things.

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free – Ephesians 6:7,8

The problem is that unless I take steps to correct the assumption that most of what I do doesn’t matter to God the way we  do church communicates that in practise that’s what we do believe.

Mark Green, in an article for the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, gives some great advice on how in just a few minutes each Sunday for a month or so you can change the culture of the church to show that work matters to God.

TTT time.

Why not try, he suggests, interviewing a member of the congregation for just a couple of minutes focusing on questions about what Continue reading »

Dec 22, 2010
neil

Have you learned contentment?

Last time round we began to look at the promise (Phil. 4:12-13) that a contentment independent of our circumstances is given us to in the gospel. And yet, we discovered from Paul it is a lesson that has to be learned and a contentment that needs to be discovered. As we look at the lessons surrounding contentment Thomas Watson’s ‘The Art of Divine Contentment’ will continue to be our guide.

What is contentment?

Thomas Watson:

Contentment is a sweet temper of spirit, wherby a Christian carries himself in an equal poise in every condition.

Contentation is a remedy against all our trouble, an alleviation to all our burdens, it is the cure of care. Contentation, though it be not properly a grace (it is rather a disposition of mind,) yet in it there is a happy temperature and mixture of all the graces: it is a most precious compound, which is made up of faith, patience, meekness, humility, &c. Which are the ingredients put into it.

Have you learnt contentment?

Let’s look at nine tests for the presence in our own lives of a divine contentment.  For some I’ve included a proverb that relates. How do you fair this Christmas time?

1. The content are satisfied with their lot

If you find honey, eat just enough— too much of it, and you will vomit – Proverbs 25:16

2. The content are happy being humble

It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honourable to seek one’s own honour – Proverbs 25:27

Whereas the discontent crave attention because they need to feed an ego.

3.  The discontent are never satisfied with what they have and always craving more

The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.  All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing – Prov. 21:25

4.  The content are happy to give away even what they do have

5.  The discontent are often those who overwork

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.  Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle – Prov. 23:4 Continue reading »

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