Browsing articles from "October, 2012"
Oct 31, 2012

Stonewall’s ‘Bigot of the year’ award leads sponsors to threaten to pull out

Interesting report in the Telegraph today of how corporate sponsors are promising to withdraw all financial support for Stonewall, the Gay-rights organisation, if it continues to promote “intolerance and intimidation” by the inclusion of a ‘Bigot of the Year’ award in its annual awards ceremony.

Mark McLane, Managing Director and Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion at Barclays, said: “I have recently been made aware of the inclusion of a ‘Bigot of the Year’ category in the awards.

“Let me be absolutely clear that Barclays does not support that award category either financially, or in principle and have informed Stonewall that should they decide to continue with this category we will not support this event in the future.

“To label any individual so subjectively and pejoratively runs contrary to our view on fair treatment, and detracts from what should be a wholly positively focused event.”

Oct 29, 2012

The worst of all possible worlds? How is your church doing?

Christians often use the phrase in the world but not of the world (something drawn from Jesus’ own words in John 17:11 and 16}. It encapsulates that difficult responsibility for Christians to be a visible and yet distinctive presence in the midst of our communities.

Tim Keller in his book Center Church describes something of what this might look like:

We will have an impact for the gospel if we are like those around us yet profoundly unlike them at the same time, all the while remaining very visible and engaged.

1. Christians are to be in the world

Tim Keller writes;

So, first of all, Christians must be like their neighbors in the food they eat and clothes they wear, their dialect, general appearance, work life, recreational and cultural activities, and civic engagement. They participate fully in life with their neighbors. Christians should also be like their neighbors with regard to excellence. That is, Christians should be very good at what others want to be good at. They should be skillful, diligent, resourceful, and disciplined. In short, Christians in a particular community should—at first glance—look reassuringly similar to the other people in the neighborhood. This opens up nonbelievers to any discussion of faith, because they recognize the believers as people who live in and understand their world. It also, eventually, gives them a glimpse of what they could look like if they became believers.

Christians are not to be of the world

Keller again;

Second, Christians must be also unlike their neighbors. In key ways, the early Christians were startlingly different from their neighbors; it should be no different for us today. Christians should be marked by integrity. Believers must be known for being scrupulously honest, transparent, and fair. Followers of Christ should also be marked by generosity. If employers, they should take less personal profit so customers and employees have more pay. As citizens, they should be philanthropic and generous with their time and with the money they donate for the needy. They should consider living below their potential lifestyle level. Believers should also be known for their hospitality, welcoming others into their homes, especially neighbors and people with needs. They should be marked by sympathy and avoid being known as self-serving or even ruthless in business or personal dealings. They should be marked by an unusual willingness to forgive and seek reconciliation, not by a vengeful or spiteful spirit.

In addition to these character qualities, Christians should be marked by clear countercultural values and practices. Believers should practice chastity and live consistently in light of the biblical sexual ethic. Those outside the church know this ethic—no sex outside of marriage—and any inconsistency in this area can destroy a believer’s credibility as a Christian. 

That is how Christians are to be in the world and not of the world at one and the same time.

But what if…

Reading Keller on this issue reminded me of a talk I heard a few years ago which highlighted that perhaps the greatest danger is one we hardly ever spot. We spot the danger of Christians being in the world AND of the world (compromise), we are wary of Christians NOT in the world and not of it (retreat) but do we recognise the double-danger of  Christians not in the world and YET of the world!

How does that work?

It is possible for Christians and church communities to cut themselves off from the world and retreat into glorious isolationism and yet at the same time exhibit all of the traits of worldliness behind our locked doors. In such a situation the church is unchanged by the gospel and displays all the characteristics of the world. Maybe that means for some being as individualistic in our disregard for the need of others, as materialistic in our attitude to money, as self-obsessed so that the focus of our lives is not the gospel to the lost but our own sense of well-being and comfort.

What a tragedy when Christians are not in the world and yet undoubtedly of the world.

Oct 26, 2012

What will you be doing on Halloween?

Ed Drew has some helpful advice on making the most of the opportunity this Halloween



(HT: Richard Perkins)

Oct 22, 2012

Read his books…and grow

If you see any book by Philip Graham Ryken for sale I urge you to buy it. I’ve always been so blessed by every book of his I’ve ever read. City on a Hill (Reclaiming the Biblical Pattern for the Church in the 21st Century) is no exception. He is biblical, engaging, has a deep appreciation of what we need to learn and hold onto from our Reformed past, and understands the times in which we live.

I’ll be saying more about Ryken’s key insights for church leaders when I review the book. For now, here is an extract from a young Jonathan Edwards quoted by Ryken on his chapter ‘thinking and acting biblically’.

I have been before God, and have given myself, all that I am and have, to God; so that I am not, in any respect, my own. I can challenge no right in this understanding, this will, these affections, which are in me. Neither have I any right to this body, or any of its members: no right to this tongue, these hands, these feet; no right to these senses, these eyes, these ears, this smell, or this taste. I have given myself clear away, and have not retained any thing, as my own… I have been this morning to him, and told him, that I gave myself wholly to him. I have given every power to him…I have this morning told him, that I did take him for my whole portion and felicity, looking on nothing else, as any part of my happiness.. and that I would adhere to the faith and obedience of the Gospel, however hazardous and difficult, the confession and practice of it may be… This, I have done; and I pray God, for the sake of Christ, to look upon it as a self-dedication, and to receive me now, as entirely his own, and to deal with me, in all respects, as such, whether he afflicts me, or prospers me, or whatever he pleases to do with me, who am his. Now, henceforth, I am not to act, in any respect, as my own.

Oct 20, 2012

Tim Keller’s new catechism – 52 questions that cover your faith

How can you learn the foundational truths of your Christian faith so that you really know what and why you believe?

For centuries Christians learned these truths through catechisms such as Genevan, Heidleburg or Westminster.

The new city catechism is ‘a joint adult and children’s catechism consisting of 52 questions and answers adapted by Timothy Keller and Sam Shammas from the Reformation catechisms’. 52 Q and A’s with video and memory verses this looks to be a great new resource for families to learn the Christian basics together.

Oct 19, 2012

Are you man enough?…part 2

In an earlier post I looked at what the Bible has to say about men and leadership.

The key to leadership is letting your definition of leadership be set by the one man who can truly teach us what it means to lead. For Jesus, leadership was three things 1) God-dependent, 2) servant-hearted, 3) leadership of others.

To learn to lead you must therefore first be willing to be led by Jesus. So below are the final three points from my City Church men’s breakfast talk;

5. To be a leader you have to lead others to the gospel

Where in your leadership are you seeking to lead others?  As we lead our Christian family and other Christians for whom we have responsibility, the need is to show them Jesus and lead them to him.

CJ Mahaney in his book Humility asks ‘What are your ambitions for your children?’

Are any of your ambitions for your child more important to you than their cultivation of humility and servanthood –the basis for true greatness as biblically defined?  Are you more interested in temporal recognition for your child than you are in his eternal  reward? Ultimately, that’s what parenting is mostly about – it’s about preparing our children for the final day. 

If you are ambitious for your child’s godliness, what will that mean for you as a leader?

As we lead others at work we seek to lead in a way that commends the gospel. Servant leadership is quite a contrast with lordship-leadership, which seeks to use others for selfish reasons. Servant-leaders are able to get the best from employees or colleagues under their lead by taking a genuine interest and serving their needs. As we lead in this way, so we commend Christ to all around us.

Q. Is your priority for others their eternal salvation?                                                     

6. To be a leader you have to know whom God has called you to lead

Godly leadership involves making right priorities. God calls on us to lead those we are called to lead. There is a God-given hierarchy to our responsibilities.

That means that to lead in the wrong way is a failure to lead. Jesus knew this for himself when tempted by others, including his own disciples, to pursue a healing ministry. In Mark 1:32-39, Jesus goes to a place to be with his Father and on return renews his commitment to move on from a town where he was wanted and needed, to preach the gospel elsewhere because he understood that God had commissioned him to preach – a ministry that in time would lead to his rejection.

We are to lead our wives and children ahead of our work colleagues, for example.

Q. How might leadership in one part of your life be an excuse for failing to lead in a more important part?

7. To be a leader is to lead through your God-given personality & God-given gifts

There is diversity in the body of Christ. God has not given you the same gifts as others in the church and he has given you a unique personality. We lead through our God-given strengths and have to work on our weaknesses.

Some of us are initiative-takers, others more passive. Some fear confrontation, others are too confrontational, etc. There is no one type that you have to aspire to. Introverts can lead and often do lead better than extroverts. The key is a better knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses so that you are better equipped to lead well.

Q. What has God made you good at and how does that help you lead, what weaknesses do others see that you need to work on?

Oct 15, 2012

Matthew Parris overrides his instinct for tolerance in an attack on Christians in debate

I enjoy reading Matthew Parris in the Spectator each week and occasionally in the Times newspaper. His is a reasoned voice and one of moderation. I was somewhat alarmed therefore when in an article in Saturday’s Times (£) he argued that it is disingenuous of Christians to use sincerely held non-religious arguments in their case against the redefinition of marriage.

Peter Saunders (see below writes)

What appears to have inspired the piece is a debate he had with the former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali at a fringe meeting organised by ResPublica, a think-tank, at the Conservative Party conference. Nazir-Ali put forward a case against ‘gay marriage’, which Parris said ‘could have been made by an unreligious professor of sociology’.

His argument was ‘apparently based on the social and cultural value of marriage as presently defined, the importance of a stable upbringing for children, and the resistance people feel to attempts “to change the meaning of the word ‘marriage’ ” ’. Parris then asked the former bishop if he believed that ‘homosexuality was a sin’ and accused him in the article of beating about the bush with his answer. 

He goes on to say that Nazir-Ali was ‘being disingenuous’ because he ’plainly believes that homosexuality is a very considerable evil in the eyes of God’. In Parris’ view ‘the rest of us have a right to know the source of (peoples’) opinions, and if they are faith-based those who hold them have a duty in all honesty to declare it.’

He argues that ‘it is slippery for people to couch objections that are really undeclared religious objections in the language of a secular argument.’ It is the case that Christians have some arguments that derive from their faith but we also have many that are shared by people of all faiths and none.  

Essentially Parris is insisting that religious presuppositions must stand behind non-religious arguments when those non-religious arguments are presented in a debate by a believer. With respect, that is a complete nonsense. The fact that an atheist and a theist may arrive at the same conclusion on the issue of gay marriage based on the same sociological evidence and present the same arguments is demonstration of the fact that whilst a religious person may have some arguments for a position that derive from his religious views they need not all do so. In fact one would expect a rational, intelligent  Christian to derive his arguments from a diverse range of evidence.

Parris’s position is a dangerous one that suggests that any argument uttered by a Christian is inherently one of faith because it depends on their theological convictions. The result is that all arguments spoken by someone of faith can then be conveniently dismissed by the secularist.  Where this leaves us is in a world where arguments against gay marriage may be presented by both a gay atheist and a Bible-believing Christian but where the Christian (unlike the Atheist)  is told he has no right to use them because they derive from his religious convictions (even though they don’t). The result? The voice of the Christian is dismissed at a stroke whatever he or she may be wishing to say.

This is not a position of reason and smacks somewhat of prejudice, even intolerance, against ‘people of faith’. If we use faith based arguments they will be regarded as irrelevant in an increasingly secular world and if we use non-faith-based arguments we will be accused of hiding our real reasons! Either way we can’t win.

Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship and himself a regular on TV programmes such as Newsweek and Radio 4’s Today programme takes issue with Matthew Parris in an excellent blog post here.

Oct 13, 2012

Are you man enough? …..part 1

What does it mean to be man?

This morning at the City Church men’s breakfast we looked at the thorny issue of men and leadership. Let’s start with three models for masculinity:

Model 1. Bear Grylls the super-man – strength, self-sufficiency and invincibility

On one website the all-action hero was described this way: The writer and television presenter is known for his amazing feats and has paraglided over the Himalayas, escaped from quicksand and snacked on a still wriggling snake.Bear has also run Class V rapids in the lower Zambezi (without a raft), plunged beneath the ice of a frozen lake in Siberia while naked, and even avoided alligators on his way through the Everglades.

Model 2. Homer Simpson the useless man – immaturity, incompetence and irresponsibility

HOMER: Okay, brain. You don’t like me, and I don’t like you, but let’s get through this thing and then I can continue killing you with beer.

HOMER’s Brain: It’s a deal!

Model 3. Jesus the perfect man – the God-dependent, servant-hearted, leader of other

The perfect man is Jesus and we need to look to him to learn to be a man. Jesus shows us that to be a man involves three things: It is a God-dependent, servant-hearted, leader of others.

Learning to lead – 7 ways to lead like Jesus

1. To be a leader you have to be willing to be led

Leading is not an synonym for autonomous, self-sufficient existance. It’s not an excuse to no longer listen or learn. If you are to be a godly leader you will know your need to let Christ lead you.  The  Apostle Paul writes Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ  – 1 Cor.11:1.

As you follow Jesus you learn how to lead. He was THE God-dependent, servant-hearted, leader.

Q. Are you looking to Jesus to lead you? What does that mean?

2. To be a leader you have to first lead yourself

You are the most difficult person you will ever lead. – Bill Hybels.  Unless you can begin to lead yourself you will not be ready to lead others.

Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus – Philippians 3:13-14 (c.f. 2 Tim 4:7, 1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Q. Are you making progress in leading yourself? Where might you be failing to take responsibility for your life? Your character, your sin, your time, etc..

3. To be a leader  you  must see leadership as living out the gospel

It’s not just a question of whether you are leading but why.

Everyone seeks to lead for one of two reasons. We are all of us leading for an identity or from an identity.  To lead for an identity will  mean our leadership is driven by the need to prove ourselves in some way. Maybe that means to make a name for ourselves by proving our worth to others. To lead from an identity means to be so confident of our identity as children of God and so secure in his love that our leadership is wonderfully liberated from being a tool of self-justification and instead becomes a joyful service of others.

  • Leading for an identity works itself out in lordship leadership in which your relationship to others is an opportunity to prove yourself.
  • Leading from an identity works itself out in servant leadership in which your relationship to others is an opportunity to offer yourself.

So in a marriage Lordship leadership is an opportunity to be a bully.

Learning to lead like Jesus means that a husband’s authority (like the Son’s over us) is never use to please himself but only to serve the interests of his wife  – Tim & Kathy Keller

Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. – Romans 15:2-3

Q. Why do you want to lead? For whose benefit?

4. To be a leader you have to lead others by the gospel

A God-dependent leader recognises his weakness and leads from weakness.  The apostle Paul was an apostle of weakness – 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (c.f 12:7-10 ‘I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness’). Leaders who lead from the gospel exhibit the following traits;

  • Leading in dependence on God
  • Leading with the help of others (quick to go to older, wiser Christians)
  • Leading by being first to admit fault,
  • Leading by being quick to confessing sin,
  • Leading by seeking grace

Q. Is it evident to others by your attitudes and actions that you find strength to lead in your weakness?

In a future blog we’ll look at points 5-7.


Oct 11, 2012

‘It seems that we simply do not need each other as once we did…’

Every time I’ve heard Peter Jensen he’s been thought-provoking and always insightful. In his closing presidential address to the Anglican Synod in Sydney he spoke on The challenge of the gospel against the cult of the self. Lots of challenge on how we speak to our culture and live & serve in our churches.

Oct 3, 2012

What’s the difference between the New Testament gospels and all the others?

Simon Gathercole is a New Testament scholar at Cambridge University who is also a leading expert on other so-called gospels. He has  written books on the gospel of Judas and the gospel of Thomas. In this lecture Dr. Gathercole takes a look at the sensationalist claims of the media about other gospels not found in the Bible and offers an expert opinion on what we can really know about Jesus.

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