Providence is mysterious, God wants to keep it that way and I guess we need to get used to it.
If you’re looking for a definition here’s one from the Heidelberg Catechism;
Providence is “the almighty and ever-present power of God whereby he still upholds, as it were by his own hand, heaven and earth together with all creatures, and rules in such a way that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand” (Question 27).
As Christians we live out our lives knowing nothing takes God by surprise and nothing ever happens to us that does not come from his ‘fatherly hand’.
Why is it then that wherever I turn I keep finding Christians fighting God for the right to decide what is best for our lives. It is a rare thing to find sufficient maturity in a Christian heart that someone is ready to accept what comes from God’s hand, submit to his will and trust that what God has given will turn out to be for our good.
For those, like me, who too often want God to stop interfering in our plans here are some words of advice from CS Lewis;
The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s “own,” or “real” life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s “real life” is a phantom of one’s own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it’s hard to remember it all the time.
Baroness Warsi, in an article in today’s on-line edition of the Telegraph, writes in glowing terms of religious freedom in Pakistan. She even claims ‘The idea of unity through diversity runs through Pakistan’s history and helps to define its society today.’
Clearly, the Baroness is either ignorant or in denial over the persecution of minority faith communities in Pakistan who face the threat of being arrested under Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law. Far more reliable a guide to the true state of affairs in Pakistan are the comments of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom;
In Pakistan, blasphemy allegations, which commonly are false, result in the lengthy detention of, and sometimes violence against, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and members of other religious minorities as well as Muslims on account of their religious beliefs. Because the laws require no evidence to be presented after allegations are made and no proof of intent, and contain no penalty for leveling false allegations, they are easily used by extremists to intimidate members of religious minorities and others with whom they disagree. They are also often used by the unscrupulous simply to carry out a vendetta or gain an advantage over another.
Given that the Baroness writes ‘I went to a bishops’ conference and said that this Government would “do God”.’ she could write a piece in the national press next time on the steps she intends to take to put pressure on the Government of Pakistan to amend it’s legislation to prevent systematic persecution of non-Muslims and at the same time she might take the opportunity to put political pressure on other Islamic states that have either Blasphemy laws or apostasy laws that make conversion from Islam to any other faith a crime with severe penalties.
During his final talk this morning at City to City: Europe here in Berlin Tim Keller gave a 10 point guide to conversational evangelism.
1. Let people know, casually and naturally, that you are a Christian.
2. Ask questions about your friends religious beliefs offering NO comment or response. Just asking thoughtful questions.
3. Invite someone to share with you about a problem they are having. Make it clear that you pray for people you care about and offer to pray for them.
4. You share a problem or issue in which your faith has really served to help you, illness, bereavement, lonliness, unemployment, etc.
then if your friend, neighbour or colleague wants to take things further
5. Share a book or recording that you think they might find helpful
6. Share your story of faith
7. Ask whether there are any problems that they have with Christianity
8. Take them along with you to church
And if they’d like to take things further
9. Meet regularly to read the Bible
10. Take them along to a discovery group eg Alpha or Christianity Explored.
The City to City Europe conference is getting off to a great start here in Berlin.
500 delegates from 26 countries representing over 100 nations all concerned to see churches planted across Europe has to be reason to rejoice and a reason for hope.
We’ve heard of God richly blessing planting initiatives and we’ve heard of God richly blessing faithful church-planters who’s work is hard because there is little fruit.
One planter of a church in Paris described ‘the privilege of ploughing where the ground is hard’, another in Frankfurt described the challenge of being a bi-vocational Pastor with a weekly congregation of 15 of so. Both stories are reminders of why we need to pray for our countries in Europe.
Tim Keller gave the first keynote address on the gospel-centred church and here’s one gem of an answer to a thoughtful question that came out of his talk.
How can we know whether our church is either too accommodating to the culture of our city or not accommodating enough?
Keller’s answer: A church that is not accommodating, culturally, will be seeing no conversions because no-one will ever come through the door. A church that is too accommodating, culturally, will be seeing lots of new people attending but no changed lives because the church is only mirroring the culture rather than critiquing the culture.
So a gospel church in a city should be willing and able to flex on the negotiables making it’s meetings accessible to non-believers but not flexing on gospel-living as the church challenges the culture by being an attractive and distinctive gospel-community.
Deciding when and how to celebrate the culture of a city and when and how to critique the culture of a city is the art of being a church-planter.
I’m with 4 others from 2020birmingham and in total 500 church-planters, network leaders and city catalysts from around Europe meeting in Berlin for the next 3 days. Our goal; to consider just how we reach the great cities of Europe with the gospel and how through such a network as this we can work together to see it happen.
Here’s Tim Keller on speaking at CitytoCity Europe
For more details about the conference visit citytocity: europe
Atheist and Oxford University Philosopher exposes the real reason Dawkins won’t debate William Lane Craig
I attended the lastest leg of the William Lane Craig ‘A Reasonable Faith‘ tour at Birmingham University last night where we enjoyed a good-natured, informed debate between Professor Craig and Professor Millican of Oxford University.
At least the philosophers at Oxford University think William Lane Craig worthy of respect and debate, unlike of course Richard Dawkins.
The Oxford Don and Philosophy lecturer Daniel Came, who caused a stir earlier in the year suggesting Dawkins might well be considered a coward for refusing to defend his views under scrutiny from Dr. Craig, a written a response to Dawkins vitriolic attack on William Lane Craig on the Guardian website a couple of days ago. Came exposes the real reason as to why Richard Dawkins will be avoiding the forthcoming debate in Oxford.
Came concludes ‘the tactics deployed by him and the other New Atheists, it seems to me, are fundamentally ignoble and potentially harmful to public intellectual life.’
So Richard Dawkins has already given his excuses as to why he doesn’t want to defend his arguments in the God Delusion in Oxford against William Lane Craig. In his misleading article in the Guardian he writes;
‘Would you shake hands with a man who could write stuff like that? Would you share a platform with him? I wouldn’t, and I won’t.’
That’s a remarkable statement, and a totally misleading one, from a man who shared a platform with Lane Craig less than a year ago in a panel debate in Mexico. Has Dawkins forgotten? Or maybe he thinks it was all a delusion?
Mind you AC Grayling also tried the same trick of denying he had ever debated Lane Craig until his ‘error‘ was exposed.
Good on Sam Harris and Christopher Htichens and others for standing up for their beliefs in recent debates with Lane Craig shame on Dawkins for being unwilling to defend his beliefs even on his own doorstep. Maybe Mexico paid better?
Jim Packer on the secret of the Christian life; being sure of who you are.
The immediate message of adoption to our hearts is surely this: Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? my own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Saviour is my brother; every Christian is my brother too.
Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait in traffic, any time your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it all to be utterly and completely true. For this is the Christian’s secret (of a happy life? – yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say). This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, of a God-honouring life, and these are the aspects of the situation that really matter. May this secret become fully yours and fully mine.
Trevin Wax has a great post here on how he might hope a TV debate would go on the subject of Christians and homosexuality
We have a 5 year old son who attends our church twice on a Sunday. In the mornings we spend the first 15 minutes together in the service before he heads next door for Kidz Sunday School but he also attends each evening service where he sits through the full 80-90 minutes. He’s not the only child there and as a church we are slowly developing a culture in which our children feel welcome and included in the evening service so that families can worship together.
Here are a couple of quite excellent posts by Jen Wilkin on why worship together as families and then how to make it work.
She writes of the excellent children’s work at her church;
We see it as a rich and relevant worship environment for a child, as a vibrant supplement for “big church”. But not as a substitute for it.
She also recognises that things are far from simple when you bring your kids to big church;
Together hasn’t always been easy. I recall long worship services with four elementary-aged children scribbling with crayons, begging for gum, and contorting themselves like miniature yogis in the pew. Just remembering it makes my eye twitch. But over time, with clear participation expectations, creative activities and the right cocktail of punishments and rewards our kids have grown to see “big church” not as a place they tolerate but as a place they belong.
But she is full of practical wisdom too on how to help your child sit through the service and participate in the service. Her tips on debriefing after the service are terrific too;
After attending Big Church together, remember to talk to your child about how it went and what could go differently next week.
In our service on Sunday evening I preached on Exodus chapter 4-5 and we wrestled with the issue of who was responsible for the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. I asked the congregation mid-way through the service ‘so who was it; Pharaoh or God?’ A five year old shouted out ‘God’ loud enough for the whole church to hear as she continued to colour her picture next to her father. That was quite possibly the highlight of our evening.
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