Browsing articles from "December, 2010"
Dec 21, 2010
neil

A new perspective

Youcef Nardakhani

As we rush headlong into Christmas and find ourselves with jobs undone, presents not bought or perhaps bought and not delivered, family and friends who won’t be able to get to us because of the snow let’s remember those who this Christmas face a greater trial. Please pray for the suffering church.  Please pray in particular for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhan (33) , his wife and two young children after a death sentence was passed on him by an Iranian Court only because of his stand for Christ.

Dec 20, 2010
neil

No god? No problem?

The philosopher and atheist AC Grayling is writing a book entitled ‘The Good Book: A Secular History’.  In it he joins Richard Dawkins and Christophet Hitchens, amongst a growing list, who insist that you don’t need to believe in God to be good. Every Christian would want to affirm that fact.  Atheists can and often do choose to be ‘good’, whatever that may mean in an amoral universe of ‘blind pitiless indifference’ to quote Dawkins.

But, heres the rub, the thing they don’t want to tell you is that without a belief in God there is no reason to be bad either. In a quite brilliant article the intellectual dishonesty at work in those who will not admit that their creed allows men to be cruel is exposed by Peter Heck.

Here’s just one extract but it’s well worth reading the whole:

Two years ago, their motto was “Why believe in a god?  Just be good for goodness’ sake!”  Last year, they were more direct: “No god?  No problem!”  But this year, as they feebly attempt to detract from the celebration of Christ’s incarnation once again, perhaps it’s a fruitful exercise for our civilization to consider their overtures and weigh the merit of their message.

As far as I can tell, the mantra “No god?  No problem!” has but one minor flaw: the entire record of human history.  It is no coincidence that as German atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche boasted, “God is dead … we have killed him … must we not ourselves become gods[?]” (which, by the way, is the entire basis of humanism dating back to the Garden of Eden), he Continue reading »

Dec 19, 2010
neil

How the world is changing

A few thoughts on this really interesting video:

1.  I wonder what the visuals would look like if we tried to map the growth of the church over the same time period? Certainly it would be much more dramatic with the growth of the church in China and the developing world against the decline in Europe.

2. Is he being wildly optimistic in his prediction that all the nations will head up the graph? As Christians do we share his confidence?

3. As Christians do we recognize and thank God for his common grace? As we reap the benefits of living in times of peace, prosperity and long life do we acknwoldege him or do we enjoy the blessings and fail to thank our creator who has gifted men and women in ways that lead to scientific and technological advancement? What reasons do you have to thank God for in the light of this short video?

4. As a culture why are we no more happy even though we have so much more stuff and live longer, more comfortable and healthier lives? For statistical evidence that we are no happier see for example Oliver James’s Affluenza.

Dec 18, 2010
neil

12 Christmas conversation starters

A really helpful article by Donald Whitney suggesting 10 questions you could ask to get conversations started this Christmas. Some of them, in particular, set up good gospel opportunities and others get us thinking a little more about our own priorities this Christmas:

Many of us struggle to make conversation at Christmas gatherings, whether church events, work-related parties, neighborhooddrop-ins, or annual family occasions. Sometimes our difficulty lies in having to chat with people we rarely see or have never met. At other times we simply don’t know what to say to those with whom we feel little in common. Moreover, as Christians we want to take advantage of the special opportunities provided by the Christmas season to share our faith, but are often unsure how to begin. Here’s a list of questions designed not only to kindle a conversation in almost any Christmas situation, but also to take the dialogue gradually to a deeper level. Use them in a private conversation or as a group exercise, with believers or unbelievers, with strangers or with family.

  1. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since last Christmas?
  2. What was your best Christmas ever? Why?
  3. What’s the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
  4. What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you’ve ever given?
  5. What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?
  6. What is your favorite Christmas tradition now?
  7. What do you do to try to keep Christ in Christmas?
  8. Why do you think people started celebrating the birth of Jesus?
  9. Do you think the birth of Jesus deserves such a nearly worldwide celebration?
  10. Why do you think Jesus came to earth?

I’ve added a couple more of my own

  1. Do you think Christmas is over-rated?
  2. What’s your favourite Christmas song? Why that one? Would you put a carol in your top 10?

Feel free to join in….

Dec 17, 2010
neil

Now is the winter of our discontent?

Go compare

A recent newspaper article on the phenomena of school reunions was titled ‘Didn’t I do well and aren’t you fat’. The article reported a survey of 1600 people who had attended school reunions and it arrived at the following conclusion:

Whether or not we admit it overtly, going to a reunion is the occasion for a sort of personal stocktaking: the chance to ask where

ups and downs

you are in life, and to do so by weighing yourself up against your classmates. So it will come as little surprise to discover that many of us try to put a thumb on the scales.

Reader, we lie. And the biggest lie –as if we could fool ourselves – is the all-encompassing one. Nine people out of every ten pretend to be happier than they actually are. In the survey people admitted to lying about the money they earnt, their job titles, their sex lives. One person commented:
There is something competitive about it. You find yourself running through the checklist of successes you should have had.

I’ve never been to a school reunion but I’ve spent a fair bit of time checking profiles out school friends on facebook and friends reunited. I guess I’m just stating the obvious when I say we find it Continue reading »

Dec 16, 2010
neil

Medieval Helpdesk

Dec 15, 2010
neil

The Gospel of Thomas

Do you sometimes wonder whether our Bibles tell us the whole story about Jesus? Do you wonder whether other biographies of the life of Jesus have been censured by the church? Why should we trust the four gospels we have and what could we say to those who ask?

Nag Hammadi

In 1945 a man called Mohammed Ali (not to be confused with the Boxer) discovered in the deserts of Egypt a storage jar containing thirteen leather-bound books that date from the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The books are written in Coptic (an ancient Egyptian language) and are probably translations of earlier Greek texts.  We know, for example, that one of the books ‘The Gospel of Thomas’ is a translation because archaeologists have discovered earlier Greek fragments  that probably date from between 130-250 AD.  After years of research and translation the Nag Hammadi find was published in 1977

Why is this discovery so important?

The discovery matters, essentially, because they contain early Gospels that we don’t find in our own Bibles. The thirteen books include a total of 52 documents including books called ‘The Gospel of Philip’,‘ The Gospel of Thomas’ and ‘The Apocalypse of Peter’. Continue reading »

Dec 14, 2010
neil

Multiply everything

Nine ‘take-aways’ from Viral Churches

I’ve been reading Viral Churches: helping church planters become movement makers as we look to plant 20 churches in Birmingham by the year 2020. Why should Birmingham churches make this an urgent priority? Let’s start with nine reasons in this post from Stetzer and Bird.

1. What this country needs is for each person to have an opportunity to hear the gospel in a way that they can understand and respond to.

‘Ultimately we need far more churches than we currently have in order to reach our ever-expanding and diversifying culture.’

2. Church planting must be our default mode for evangelism

‘The story of the book of Acts is that ‘the early church implemented the Great Commission primarily by planting churches’.

‘The reason why church planting is the new evangelism is the disproportionately high number of spiritual conversions experienced in new churches.’

3. No single congregation or denomination can reach a million people in our city of Birmingham.

4. It will take the planting of many new churches working alongside existing churches to reach every person in the city.

‘Among churches of all sizes, growing churches are rare. In fact, they only make up about 20 percent of our churches today. The Continue reading »

Dec 13, 2010
neil

Bad Santa?

A few weeks ago parents at our church met to discuss parenting and Christmas. The question we were all wanting an answer to was the obvious one – ‘What do we tell our kids about Santa?

bad santa?

Essentially you can do four things with the Father Christmas tradition; ignore it, embrace it, build on it or knock it down.

Ignore Father Christmas

You might wish Santa away but the reality is that you can’t ignore him. Whether it’s Santa coming to nursery or the conversations your kids are having with their friends or remarks of well-meaning non-Christian family or even the woman at the supermarket checkout everyone will be asking your child ‘are you looking forward to seeing what Father Christmas will bring?’  We may wish the problem away but it’s not going away.

Embrace Father Christmas

Some Christians ask ‘why not simply join in the fun?’ and they embrace the story of Christmas, Rudolph and all.

But we had a few concerns:

  • There is a difference between fun fairy tales and the things we ask our children to believe in
  • If we seek to celebrate Christmas as a story about Jesus and at exactly the same time Christmas as a story about Santa (and the presents) Santa will always win first place in own children’s hearts!
  • The attributes of Santa mirror the attributes of God e.g. He sees everything you do, he can be everywhere in the world in one night, he gives good gifts, he’s a famous ‘old man’ in the sky and yet he rewards on the basis of being good quite the opposite Continue reading »
Dec 12, 2010
neil

The best is yet to come – 14 reasons to think more about heaven

The best is yet to come said John Wesley of heaven.

Here are 14 quotes from Packer, Paul, Edwards, Lewis and others to help think great thoughts of our future.

just sitting on clouds?

Hearts on earth say in the course of a joyful experience, “I don’t want this to ever end.” But it invariably does. The hearts of those in heaven say, “I want this to go on for ever.” And it will. There is no better news than this.

JI Packer (b. 1926)

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:20,21

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Apostle Paul, Colossians 3:2

The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) Continue reading »

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