Blogroll: God Gold and Generals

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Book reviews and comments by Jeremy Marshall on Christian, historical and business themesJeremy Marshall
Updated: 3 hours 8 min ago

Happy Christmas! “Unto us a child is born; Unto us a son is given”

Sun, 08/12/2019 - 22:37

Yesterday we went to see Handel's "Messiah" with the Halle Orchestra and choir in Manchester. My cousin Paul's daughter Clara was singing in the choir. It was very moving experience for all of us.

“Unto us a child is born; Unto us a son is given” sang the choir

These words come from the Bible and were written  by a man called Isaiah about 700 years before the birth of Christ. Isaiah foretold many details of Jesus’s life:  for example that he would be born of a virgin, that he would live in Galilee, that he would be killed and even the type of grave that he would have in death

What does the prophecy mean? That Jesus was the long promised Messiah, born for us: for everyone. This means that he was born for you too.  

Why was he born for you? Why do we need him? He was born to save. This is what his name means: the angel told Joseph to call the baby Jesus for “he will save his people from their sins”

Why do we need saving? From evil. Thats easy to understand if we look for example at the recent events at London Bridge, where we see both good and evil, but it’s harder to understand if we look within ourselves. If we are honest we have to admit that there is evil within each of us. Alexander Solzhenitsyn said  “the line between good and evil doesn’t run between nation states or political parties or even between runs right through every human being.”

What kind of Saviour does Christmas bring? 

A child. A tiny, completely helpless child who couldn’t survive for a few minutes if left on his own. A child who will grow up to be just like you and me. 

A human being who will be tired, hungry, happy and sad, feel all the same emotions that we feel. Just like us.

But also not like us. For he is a son and what the bible means here is not an ordinary son but the Son of God. 

Yes, this tiny, helpless child Christians believe is also God the maker of the whole universe. So vast is the universe that there are two stars in the known universe for every grain of sand in every beach in the world. 

Christians believe that the tiny baby Jesus is 100% God and 100% human. That the infinite, unknowable Creator God who made and sustains the whole universe became a tiny baby in a manger in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire 2000 years ago. The infinite God who made the universe humbled himself to become the lowest of the low. 

Why did he do that? For me and for you, to rescue us from evil. 

What motivated him to do that? 

Love. God could have justifiably thrown away the whole human race as irretrievably ruined beyond redemption. But he didn’t. He cared so much about us that he was willing to come as a helpless tiny child, to live as a human being, to die in our place, to offer us a way to be  rescued from evil, to even defeat death.  

"Born that man no more may die: 
Born to raise the son of earth, 
Born to give them second birth. "

Happy Christmas! 

Categories: Friends

Notes from OCCA/RZIM weekend 1: Business Ethics: Simon Edwards

Sun, 17/11/2019 - 14:34
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I am going to post a whole number of notes from an excellent OCCA/RZIM weekend 
any failures in the notes are my fault! 
I start with:
Business  ethics and integrity 
by Simon Edwards 

Why bother with integrity if profits are everything? 
“Winning isn’t everything,  it’s the only thing” said none other than Lance Armstrong 
In business win at all costs mentality often leads to ethical failure. VW has a $30bn and rising bill for emissions scandal 
The pragmatic argument is as follows: "cheating is bad for profits." It destroys trust and thereby undermines your business. Good ethics conversely makes for good business. Ethically minded businesses over the medium term will outperform their less ethically minded competitors 
Pragmatic argument leads to a pragmatic solution:  how can we stop people cheating and why do they cheat? 
Who cheats: all of us cheat, numerous research shows. Dan Ariely's book “The honest truth about dishonesty” shows this. The more we think we can get away with it the more we will cheat.  The problem is not bad apples but endemic. We want to see ourselves as good people and we want to get ahead in life and see cheating as a way to get those benefits that we "deserve". 
How do we reconcile these two beliefs? By lying to ourselves. In an experiment, researchers placed cans of Coke and $ bills in fridge, both clearly belonging to someone else. Students took the Coke and left the $ as they it seemed rationalised that they are really good people. More socially acceptable cheating appears to be,  the more cheating we will do. Blatant cheating in experiments  leads to more cheating. Cheating gains momentum. Ariely's advice is  "don’t tolerate small cheating as in time that undermines standards." 
Pragmatic answer is it’s bad for business but what if we discover that cheating would benefit us as individuals even if not the business? Plato deals with this in “The Republic” where a philosopher called Thrasymachus argues with Socrates. He tells the story of a poor shepherd finds a magic ring which gives him power of invisibility. He kills the King and achieves power and Thrasymachus says “why not?”. 
If we hope to find a real permanent answer we need to go beyond pragmatic solutions
1. A good reason to be good2. Help to be good 3. Grace when we fall
Tim Hollands excellent new book “Dominion” sets out that historically we have found these three in Christianity
We don’t however in business or elsewhere address the question of “why be good?”. 
For example, if we ask the question "Is racism wrong?" "Yes" most people would say - but  what do we mean by that? In the same way that 2 + 2 = 5 is wrong? An atheist thinker might says "we as a society decide that racism is wrong". Secular humanist creed is that it wants people to decide for themselves. They actually often do advocate for good values but why are those values inherently “right”? Ships on the sea have rules that ensure that they don’t crash into each other but why are they in the sea in the first place? What about if I decide I'm going to be  pirate? 
Socrates said in response to the above that being good for a bad reason is wrong. Becoming wealthy or successful is not the main purpose of life. But what is? 
“If God is dead all is permitted” argued Dostoevsky 
Plenty of people who are not Christian live ethically and not all so called Christians are ethical. 
The heart of the the Christian view we are loved in a self sacrificial way by the maker of universe.
Even if we get all we want by cheating (like the shepherd) we will not be happy. 
Andrew Carnegie gave money away generously but in the meantime he treated his workers poorly. “What shall it gain a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”.
We fall into unethical practices (what the Bible calls sin) little by little. As in "Lord of the Rings" where  Frodo little by little fails and little by little the ring gains control over him. Only eventually it's not Frodo himself but Providence who saves him. The problem is not out there but within. 
Paul thought of himself as a very moral person but he would do anything to get ahead see Romans 7. “Sin still has me in its evil grasp..who will free me from this slavery?”
Meeting Jesus alone gave Paul the power to be freed from sin and then seek to live the truly good life. We need grace when we fall for we all fall. All of us need an act of grace. Zaccheus in the Bible had achieved wealth by corruption and cheating. His Roman overlords didn’t care as long as he kept “winning”. Yet he sensed that something was missing. "Zaccheus come down" said the Lord as he saw him hiding in a tree. His life was transformed. “Today salvation has come to this house”. He didn’t merit that salvation, he received it as a free gift. 
Answer on how to stop people cheating cannot ultimately be codes of conduct, or bigger compliance departments.  Solution needs to go deeper 
Ravi  Zacharias "Jesus came not to make bad people good but dead people alive"
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Categories: Friends

Do we really believe in the supernatural power of God's word?

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 20:27

We believe I'm sure in the intrinsic supernatural power of Gods word. The power to change and transform people, to open blind eyes and unstop deaf ears. To bring even spiritual "Zombies" back to life. 
But do we really believe it? Do we put it into practice? We may say that we live that way but do our lives actually see us put that into action? Above all, do we communicate and transmit Gods word in an accessible way to the people who need it?Now many of you are thinking "Ah yes, preaching". But, if "preaching" is the biblical template, what do we mean by "preaching"?  To what extent are we evangelicals actually following the theological template laid down in the New Testament? What is "public proclamation” in an internet age? If someone sets up a course or a YouTube video, is that preaching? What is the distinction between verbal and written "preaching"? Where does evangelism fit in? What about one to one bible study? We tend to focus on the importance of preaching in building up Christians, but how do we proclaim to our non-Christian friends when, unlike in previous ages, they won't be willing to come to hear "preaching" in a church context? What does evangelistic "preaching" therefore look like and how do we unleash that power?
I would say that to unleash the power of God word we need to make it accessible and we are not doing that. How can we make it accessible? 
 Let me give you a few examples and pointers: 
1. Go and look for people to bring them God's word. 
Surely thats biblical!  We tend to be very reliant on the classic set piece 30-45 minute sermon at a place and time of our convenience, which of course is absolutely God's word in action and has the added benefit of being carefully crafted and honed by a (in the West anyway) highly trained preacher.
But the problem is that we are preaching mainly or almost exclusively to the converted. Historically, in Puritan times, you had to be in church or risk a fine or imprisonment. Even within my lifetime the position was different.  When I was growing up in an evangelical free church there was quite a large "fringe" of people who probably weren't Christian but would come occasionally. In Anglican churches there was no doubt a bigger fringe. But today we can’t expect non Christians to come to church and indeed why should we expect that? It is hardly the biblical model.
The Lord and the apostles went out boldly to the people and taught and sought to persuade them. It is true that Jesus's preached in synagogues but the vast majority of his "preaching" was in a public not a gathered context. The same is true in Acts. While the preaching as recorded for us in Scripture may not have been completely captured for reasons of scroll space, nonetheless it is striking that the word seems to go out in public settings and in much shorter formats. Many Christians today have found smaller "dialogue events" useful. Friends are invited to a pub or a dinner to discuss an expressly spiritual topic like "Do all religions lead to God?", "Hope in the face of suffering", "What is the future of humanity?", etc. A short talk or interview states the Christian position and guests are then encouraged to engage with the topic. People find a frank conversation on things they are hazy on or don't have the opportunity to explore elsewhere very uplifting if done in the right spirit. These events can provide a great platform for inviting to 121 reading (see below)
2. Use God's word in an accessible form 
The obvious example here is The Word 121 which I am always banging on about. It’s Gods word but in an easy to understand and highly accessible form. The pages are few, the layout is simple to follow and it is in easily digestible format. You can just do a few pages at a time for a few minutes and take lots of questions or have a discussion. By doing this we get our friends used to the Bible and help them "eat" the word. 
When we wean our children at perhaps twelve months off milk and onto food we don’t start them with a massive Sunday roast and huge chunks of roast beef ! We give them little amounts in an easily digestible size and consistency (pureed for example) . Many times I fear that is not what we are doing inside Church. If our friends  have no clue about God, know nothing about the Bible, not even think that Jesus even was a real person, then we must try and make the Word accessible and  easy to understand, something that whets people's appetites for more.  My friend Le Fras Strydom says "the beauty of reading with a friend through a gospel is you are leaning fully on the Spirit-inspired Word. He crafted the message exactly as He wanted it. Those who read with non-Christian friends are often surprised at the things which captivate them about Jesus. A friend was surprised to find Jesus turns water into wine (not vice versa!). Many men reading have been drawn to Jesus as He takes charge at the temple in chapter 2 of John. Nicodemus provide a great challenge to the morally upright. The Samaritan woman a great comfort to those who think they are beyond the pale. Letting God's Word speak for itself - verse by verse - allows the Spirit to minister to your friend in a way that we will never be able to since we do not know what is going on in their hearts."
3. Use the internet
A friend of mine wrote recently "I always love how God works despite our weakness. A few days ago I re-posted a Thought for the Day based on Revelation to encourage believers. My friend (on holiday far away) and not a Christian, read it and since then we’ve had a volley of messages about it, about, heaven, how you can be certain of eternal life etc. She’s never asked me anything before about my faith and yet thousands of miles away God is at work! I’ve linked her up with a woman in our church.... Don’t you just love it when the Spirit of God is at work!? May I encourage you to share scripture on your pages? The Word has a power of its own." 
This post actually inspired me to write this blog. Equally, I did a talk recently at a church and they shared it afterwards on the internet, including optimising it for search engines.  Someone in the area near the church did an internet search whilst in despair and found the talk while looking for God. He then listened to it and contacted me (via social media) and we had an amazing follow up conversation because he was struck by the power of God's word.  Truly God is at work! The challenge is really to be public about your faith. Let people know you would like nothing more than showing them what Jesus did and taught. Social media provide a great platform for that. But also in our personal interaction with colleagues, neighbours, parents at the school gate, the shops and restaurants you frequent - let people know that you have something amazing that  you would love to share with them. 4. Tell biblical stories. 
I am convinced that these can be incredibly powerful if used rightly. For example, a while ago I was speaking about how Christianity was not about doing good. Someone in the Q and A objected "Are you really saying that if there were two people in the City, one was a scoundrel and a crook and wasted all his money on drugs and prostitutes, but came to faith at the end, they would be accepted by God…. while someone who lived a very moral life, gave lots of money to charities, but didn't feel they needed to repent wouldn't be?". "Of course!" I immediately said and told him, as you also would be able to do, of the story of the Prodigal son and his brother. "All you have just said in your own words", I said "was as if the two brothers had been City workers! "The person was so struck by the Prodigal Son story, which they had never even heard before because , like most people today, they simply didn’t know what the Bible has to say. 
May God help us have faith in the transformational power of his word and may we make it available in an accessible form and share it as widely as we can. 
5. Small is beautiful
Even small amounts of God’s word can work miracles. My friend Richard Borgonon brought someone to faith using the Word 121 and some time afterwards the new Christian said “you had me at the first words of John's gospel - when I heard ‘in the beginning’ I thought suddenly to myself “you fool, Dawkins is wrong, there has to have been a beginning”. My friend Paul Eddy says " I’ve bought cheap index cards and as I read God’s word, if a verse  jump out at me I highlight them in my Bible ‘yellow for promises’ and ‘green for action’. I then put the verse on a card so I can keep that card with me that day and keep reading/meditating and learning it. I also start a collection of God’s promises to dwell on and, because I title the action ones, I have a reservoir of relevant texts to share with people on key topics. In the past churches used to do Bible Drill where you put your bible under your armpit and the vicar would call out a verse and it was the first to find it and read it out and it became the verse for week. Learning key promises and key texts, and meditating on them is vital."6. Conclusion. A friend of mine in Scotland, Mark Campbell, says "We believe the word is powerful - we want to hear it - it speaks powerfully to us - it challenges and confronts and comforts us - yet we don’t take it to others! I think for many they don’t share the bible with others as they see it as personal or it might make the relationship awkward and difficult, but I love the objective nature of reading the bible with others. It’s very freeing to say 'this is what John is saying/Jesus is saying ’. I was also struck recently reading Matthew 10 by the realism of Jesus to his disciples about the task - ‘if they treated the master this way how much more will they do so to his disciples’. Speaking to a friend the other day he was saying that maybe Jesus was just a great person who became deified through history. I gently reminded him that he was killed for his teaching. We don’t live out their confessions of the transformational power of God’s word. There is a real need to help others to be both expectant in the power of God’s word and realistic - it will offend some - as well as bringing life to others. Wonderful that God’s call to all of us is choose life!"

Categories: Friends

Comfort in Fear and Death: "My Times are in your hand" CH Spurgeon

Mon, 04/11/2019 - 09:56

Last week was very strange and troubling. I am still stunned by Chris and Susanna Naylor's terrible accident, taking them to God, then speaking to numerous friends in deep distress about what happened and then still others struggling in different ways in the face of death and suffering. The publication of my book - "Beyond the Big C - Hope in the face of death" made me think also about the brevity of my life. How very strange that Chris should go to be with the Lord before me, when over the past few years he had been so kind to me when I thought I would die in a few months and long precede him to glory. How mysterious and strange are the ways of God. Life appears so uncertain and seems random. The future seems very fearful. But then my mind was cast back to the Bible, to a verse in Psalm 31 which simply says "I trust in you O Lord, I say my times are in your hands". I found this verse very helpful 4 years ago when i was first diagnosed with incurable cancer. I looked up a sermon on this text from good old CH Spurgeon, the Victorian preacher, who wonderfully combines truth and emotion. I edited it down (considerably!) by length and modernised it slightly. I hope you find it as helpful as i did. When I read it I felt the peace of God flooding my mind. Here it is
"The Psalmist stands on a grand old doctrine, one of the most wonderful that was ever revealed to humans. He says, "My times are in thy hand." This to him was a most cheering fact: he had no fear as to his circumstances, since all things were in the divine hand. The great truth is this - all that concerns the Christian is in the hands of Almighty God. "My times" change and shift; but they change only in accordance with unchanging love, and they shift only according to the purpose of One with whom is no variableness nor shadow of a turning. "My times", that is to say, my ups and my downs, my health and my sickness, my poverty and my wealth - all those are in the hand of the Lord, who arranges and appoints according to his holy will the length of my days, and the darkness of my nights. Storms and calms vary the seasons at the divine appointment. Whether times are reviving or depressing remains with him who is Lord both of time and of eternity; and we are glad it is so.Whatever is to come out of our life, is in our heavenly Father's hand.  We are not in our own hands, nor in the hands of earthly teachers; but we are under the skilful operation of hands which make nothing in vain. The close of life is not decided by the hand of  fate; but by the hand of love. We shall not die before our time, neither shall we be forgotten and left upon the stage too long.Not only are we ourselves in the hand of the Lord, but all that surrounds us. Our times make up a kind of atmosphere of existence; and all this is under divine arrangement. We dwell within the palm of God's hand. We are absolutely at his disposal, and all our circumstances are arranged by him in all their details. We are comforted to have it so. David's times were in God's hand as he had by faith committed them all to God. “Into your hand I commit my spirit: you have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth." In life we use the words which our Lord so patiently used in death: we hand over our spirits to the hand of God. Moreover, our times are in the Lord's hands, because we are one with Christ Jesus. "We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Everything that concerns Christ touches the great Father's heart. He thinks more of Jesus than of all the world. Hence it follows that when we become by belief one with Jesus, we become conspicuous objects of the Father's care. He takes us in his hand for the sake of his dear Son. He that loves the Head loves all the members of the body of Christ. We cannot conceive of the dear Redeemer as ever being out of the Father's mind; neither can any of us who are in Christ be away from the Father's active, loving care: our times are ever in his hand. All his eternal purposes work towards the glorifying of the Son, and quite as surely they work together for the good of those who are in his Son. The purposes which concern our Lord and ourselves are so intertwined as never to be separated.To have our times in God's hand must mean not only that they are at God's disposal, but that they are arranged by the highest wisdom. God's hand never errs; and if our times are in his hand, those times are ordered rightly. When you cannot comprehend him, know that a baby cannot understand the wisdom of its parents.  Your Father comprehends all things, though you do not: let his wisdom be enough for you . Everything in the hand of God is where it may be left without anxiety. “My times are in your hand," is an assurance that none can disturb, or pervert, or poison them. In that hand we rest as securely as rests a baby upon its mother's breast. Where could our interests be so well secured as in the eternal hand? What a blessing it is to see by the eye of faith all things that concern you grasped in the hand of God! What peace as to every matter which could cause anxiety when we see all our hopes built upon so stable a foundation, and preserved by such supreme power. "My times are in your  hand!"A clear conviction that our times are in the hand of God will create in us a sense of the nearness of God. If the hand of God is laid upon all our surroundings, God himself is near us."My times are in thy hand." Does not this reveal the condescension of the Lord? He has all heaven to worship him, and all the universe to govern; and yet "my times" - the times of such an inconsiderable and unworthy person as I am - are in his hand. Now, what is a human that it should be so? Wonder of wonders, that God should not only think of me, but should make my concerns his concerns, and take my matters into his hand! He has the stars in his hand, and yet he puts us there. He deigns to take in hand the passing interests of obscure men and lowly women.Yes, God considers our times, and thinks them over; with his heart and soul,  planning to do us good. That mind that made the universe, out of which all things spring, bows itself to us; and those eternal wings, which cover the universe, also brood over us and our household, and our daily wants and woes. Our God sits not still as a listless spectator of our griefs, suffering us to be drifted like flotsam upon the seas  of circumstance; but is busily occupying himself at all times for the defence and perfecting of his children. He leads us that he may bring us home to the place where his flock shall rest for ever.What a bliss this is! Our times, in all their needs and aspects, are in God's hand, and therefore God is always caring for us. How near it brings God to us, and us to God! Child of God, go not tomorrow to work, lamenting that God is not there! He will bless your going out. Come not home to your room, crying, "Oh, that I knew where I might find him!" He will bless your coming in. Go not to bed, dreaming that you are  left alone; neither wake up in the morning with a sense of loneliness upon you: you are not alone, for the Father is with you .is it not a delightful thing for us to know that though we are on a stormy voyage, the Lord himself is at the helm? The course we do not know; nor even our present latitude and longitude; but the Pilot knows all about us, and about the sea also. It will be our wisdom not to interfere with our Captain's orders. They used to put up a notice on steamboats, "Do not speak to the man at the wheel." We are very apt, in our unbelief, to dispute with him to whom the steering of our vessel is entrusted.O Lord, if my times are in your hand, I have cast my care on you and I trust and am not afraid! Why is it that you vex yourself about a matter which is in the hand of God? If he has undertaken it for you, what cause have you for anxiety? If the case is in his hand, what need can there be for you to be worrying and crying? You were worrying this morning, and fretting last night, and you are distressed now, and will be worse tomorrow morning. May I ask you a question? Did you ever get any good by fretting? Tell me, did you ever make a sixpence by worrying? It is a very unprofitable business. Do you answer, "What, then, are we to do in troubled times"? Why, go to him into whose hand you have committed yourself and your times. Consult with infinite wisdom by prayer; console yourself with infinite love by fellowship with God. Tell the Lord what you feel, and what you fear. Ten minutes praying is better than a year's murmuring. He that waits upon God, and casts his burden upon him, may lead a royal life: indeed, he will be far happier than a king.To leave our times with God is to live as free from care as the birds. Fret and worry put it out of our power to act wisely; but if we can leave everything with God because everything is really in his hand, we shall be peaceful, and our actions will be deliberate; and for that very reason they will be more likely to be wise. He who then rolls his burden upon the Lord will be strong to do or to suffer; and his days shall be as the days of heaven upon the earth.Half the joy of life lies in expectation. Our children get greater pleasure out of expecting the holiday than they do out of the holiday itself. It is much the same with ourselves. If we believe that all our times are in God's hand, we shall be expecting great things from our heavenly Father. When we get into a difficulty we shall say, "I am now going to see the wonders of God, and to learn again how surely he delivers them that trust in him." I thank God I have learned at times to glory in necessities, as opening a window into heaven for me, out of which the Lord would abundantly pour forth his supplies. How glad was I to hear the footfall of the ever-present Lord, answering his child's prayer, and letting him know that his times were still in his Father's hand! Surely it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in humans. It is a joy worth worlds to be driven where none but the Lord can help you, and then to see his mighty hand pulling you out of the net. The joy lies mainly in the fact that you are sure it is the Lord, and sure that he is near you. This blessed realisation of the Lord's intervention causes us to glory in our trouble. Is not that a cure for worry, a blessed cure for anxiety?. "My times are in your hand." The future is intended to be a sealed book. The present is all we need to have before us. Do your day's work in its day, and leave tomorrow with God. If there were ways of reading the future, it would be wise to decline to use them. The knowledge would create responsibility, arouse fear, and diminish present enjoyment; why seek after it? Banish  idle curiosity, and give your strength to believing obedience. Of this you may be quite sure, that there is nothing in the book of the future which should cause distrust to a believer in Christ. Your times are in God's hand; and this secures them.The very word "times" supposes change for you; but as there are no changes with God, all is well. Things will happen which you cannot foresee; but your Lord has foreseen all, and provided for all. Nothing can occur without his divine allowance, and he will not permit that which would be for your real or permanent injury. "I should like to know", says someone, "whether I shall die soon." Have no desire in that direction: your time will come when it should.  Do not tremble about what may never happen. Even we may never die; for it is written, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump." Some of us may be alive and remain at the coming of the Lord. Who knows? Behold, he comes quickly. At any rate, do not let us worry about death, for it is in his hands.If God has undertaken my business for me, then I may most fitly undertake such business for him as he may appoint. Queen Elizabeth I wished one of the leading merchants of London to go to Holland to watch her interests there. The honest man told her Majesty that he would obey her commands; but he begged her to remember that it would involve the ruin of his own business for him to be absent. To this the Queen replied, "If you will see to my business, I will see to your business." With such a royal promise he might willingly let his own business go; for a queen should have it in her power to do more for a subject than he can do for himself. The Lord, in effect, says to the believer, "I will take your affairs in hand, and see them through for you." Will you not at once feel that now it is your joy, your delight, to live to glorify your gracious Lord? To be set free to serve the Lord is the highest freedom. I am sure, dear friends, if we get this truth fully saturating our souls, that our times are in God's hand, it will make life a grander thing than it has ever seemed to be. Do you believe that God's hand is working with you and for you? We feel we are immortal till our work is done; we feel that God is with us, and that we are bound to be victorious through the blood of Jesus. We shall not be defeated in the campaign of life, for the Lord of hosts is with us, and we shall tread down our enemies. God will strengthen us, for our times are in his hand; therefore we will serve him with all our heart, and with all our soul. He that takes care of our times, will take care of our eternity. He that has brought us so far, and wrought so graciously for us, will see us safely over the rest of the road.  Sir Francis Drake, after he had sailed round the world, came up the Thames, and when he had passed Gravesend there came a storm which threatened the ship. The brave commander said, "What! Go round the world safely, and then get drowned in a ditch? Never!" So we ought to say. God has upheld us in great tribulations, and we are not going to be cast down. A person of energy, if they take a work in hand, will push it through and the Lord our God never undertakes what he will not complete. "My times are in your hand," and therefore the end will be glorious. My Lord, if my times were in my own hand, they would prove a failure; but since they are in thy hand, you will not fail, nor shall I. The hand of God ensures success all along the line. In that day when we shall see the tapestry which records our lives, we shall see all the scenes therein with wondering eye; we shall see what wisdom, what love, what tenderness, what care was lavished upon them.  When once a matter is in God's hand it is never neglected or forgotten, but it is carried out to the end. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.Sweet to my soul are these words - "My times are in thy hand." Take the golden sentence home with you. Keep this truth in your mind. Let it lie on your tongue like a wafer made with honey. Let it dissolve until your whole nature is sweetened by it. Yes, dear old lady, you that have come out of the workhouse this morning to hear this sermon, say to yourself, "My times are in your hand." Yes, you, dear friend, who cannot find a job, and have been walking the shoes off your feet in the vain endeavour to seek one: you also may say, "My times are in your hand." Yes, my dear sister, dying with TB, this may be your song: "My times are in your hand." Yes, young man, you that have just started in business, and have met with a crushing loss, it will be for your benefit after all; therefore say, "My times are in your hand."Now, remember, it is not everybody that can find "honey in this hive." O sinner, you are in the hands of an angry God; and this is terrible!. It is certain that you are in his hands, and that you cannot escape from him. If you should climb to heaven, or dive to hell, you would not be out of his reach. No strength of yours can resist him, no speed can outrun him. Yield yourselves unto God; and then this great power of God, which now surrounds you, shall become your comfort. "
Categories: Friends

Evangelism Conference at All Souls with Randy Newman

Sun, 27/10/2019 - 13:05

I attended the evangelists conference at All Soul's Langham Place on 8/10

The main speaker was Randy Newman who was truly excellent, his books are well worth reading.  

He focused on how we as individuals can share and tell others the gospel and especially how we can engage in “pre evangelism” 

I missed some bits so thanks to everyone who helped me fill in the gaps. 

As always any errors and omissions are mine. 

In summary, it was a very useful summary of how we can engage in friendly conversation with our friends and acquaintances about the Christian faith. How we can model ourselves on Christ, on how he talked to people and engaged with objections and questions. people coming to faith is a process and we are but part of a much bigger picture. As Paul says in Colossians we need to pray and look forb the Holy Spirit but also ensure we have the right words. 


Acts 17 1-5 describes a process not a one off event. 

It’s describes Dialogue not purely declaring 

Evangelism must be bad news before good news 

Pre evangelism is what leads to a gospel conversation, while evangelism is the act of declaring good news 

Answer questions with questions was very often used by Jesus. 

Many people are not even thinking in the least about the Christian faith. How do we wake them up that it might be true? 

Our friends say “Can’t or isn't true” we may reply by saying “please explain what you mean by  this “ (or my question "what particularly puts you off the Christian faith?"

Many of our friends have contradictory or half formed  ideas eg all religions are true and all lead to God but the propositions of religions   are mutually incompatible 

We tend to be too defensive and go immediately into “theological download” mode in which we tend to use cliches and concepts that are hard to understand for non Christian friends and just annoy them and cose off the conversation. 

Sometimes we are asked Insincere or trick questions and these need dealing with firmly eg as Jesus did when asked “by what authority do you do these miracles?” 

For example we are told “Nobody goes to hell!” 
We might answer “Do you believe in hell?” “Is anyone there?”” Do you believe in heaven?" "Did someone like Jimmy Saville jut get away with it then?" “Who decides?“ 

Recently an Atheist friend told Randy in response to the above question that “God decides “ and then smiled what he realised what he has said

Many people have mutually contradictory ideas we must help in a kind way people understand their own ideas  

Evangelism Takes time 

It’s Steps in a process moving along from complete disbelief to faith. We don’t expect normally to move  people completely from A-Z but from say C to L

Biblical example are Nicodemus's appearances and disappearance throughout the gospel of John. Bringing people to faith takes time. 

Imagine an Alphabet suspended in mid air with a spectrum of unbelief:  Z is someone absolutely ready to become a Christian while A is the angriest atheist you can imagine. 

Assumption in the 50-60s that someone was already around “T”. The God that they had heard of was the God that exists. Today we have to start much earlier. 

For example EE trained people to say “if you were to die tonight and stand before God and he said "why should I let you into heaven?' what would you say”. This assumes a lot for example that there’s a personal God, a heaven and so on. 

“Did you ever think about spiritual stuff? “ is a good opening question (mine is “do you mind me asking do you have any particular beliefs?”)

Engage with what you’d friend is interested in. Randy s Brother is interested in  history and presidential history in particular. Go and see museums together. Drove to Monticello (Thomas Jefferson home). Had deep conversation. Walking and driving can work well as you are facing the same way. 

Use Different words for gospel: salvation, redemption,  eternal life,  reconciliation,  propitiation 

Talk about whatever the Person wants to talk about 

Don’t be comfortable: we have an idolatry of comfort. Feeling very uncomfortable in conversation is good 

Meet people where they are on the spectrum 

For example his mother said of a mutual friend who had died 

“At least he’s in a better place “

Randy replies “How do you know that?”


Reading and sharing the scriptures opens peoples eyes. “ Betrayed” Stan Telchin a good book about this 

Common assumptions 

"Science has disproved religion therefore I’m smarter than you"

"I’m open minded and tolerant while you are bigoted. "

Show our friends  a level playing field. Science believes some things by faith also. Both have incomplete knowledge. “I know things by science” is a statement of faith:  let’s compare our faith or our doubts. Everybody has some kind of purpose or faith a reason for living. 

Changing gears in conversation is about  using the clutch. In a lot of pre evangelism we need to “depress the clutch“ -  ask for permission to talk spiritual things. Asking the question “would you ever be interested in talking about that”: ask if they are thinking about that issue. Saying word “maybe” “that might be true”. “Maybe” can be a good clutch. 

Often use short cliches like tweets “there’s a lot more to it than that”. “It’s a lot more complicated than that”. Let’s compare our intolerances. Sexuality and gender for example tend to be  addressed in a very narrow way. 

Have a conversation about the conversation. “It’s a difficult subject”. “I wonder if we could have a chat and see if we can understand each other”

How does human side of evangelism and the  Holy Spirit work together? It’s the intersection of divine and human. God raises the dead in a supernatural way. Prayer is so important. Colossians: Paul asks them to  pray to open the door and give me the words to be clear. Both are needed.

Nominal Christians who think they are saved? Jesus strong warnings “go away I never knew you”. Don’t presume. Strong warnings. Teaching about nominalism. Free food at feeding of 5000 attracts people but they are not really believers . 

Person who wants to avoid any discussion of Christianity? Find out what they are interested in.  Ask them questions which you want them to ask you as questions 

Good conversations vital but getting worse “reclaiming conversation” because of digital. Gospel connects to many topics eg career,  family, politics. 

Cold evangelism people with whom have no contact. Everyone needs the gospel everyone can do something but some people are better at connecting than others. 

People who know no Christians? How to meet people in the community? Research shows a variety of means. Woman who liked to mock her Christian friends. Refused to answer their question. Eventually came to faith but said afterwards that  “it had to be a total stranger”

Digital age. How to communicate? 2 edged sword: digital can help. Reinforcements available. “Stepping on clutch”:  talk about why phone is distracting. Sherri turkel

Talks about evangelism in London: Vauxhall and all souls 

Monday night football invite people to come 
Free English courses 
150 people come in for English classes
English class not a bible study 1830-2000 invite to stay for a meal. £4. Personal evangelism afterwards

Rebranded course researched with people who wanting to learn English “free English classes” 

How to grow 

1. Do it well. Want to do a better job. Welcome so important when you do things well
2. Keep it simple: people who want English lessons 
3. Think of whom you are trying to reach 

Take a risk 

Randy Newman again  - what is our motivation? 

“ I feel guilty” motivation

“We’ve got the answers we will win“ motivation 

Neither works 

Compassion and desire for glory of God: that’s the right motivation

Talks about joy they have in their hearts 

John 4 Jesus asks aren’t you thirsty ? Misery or mess  based apologetics can be good. But some people aren’t   miserable at all. For those people eg “aren’t relationships great when they work”. We all long to be connected to people. 

Instead of one approach: try a different one come alongside our friends and point in the same direction. 

What does becoming a Christian look like? “Sometimes when people become a Christian...” CS Lewis what’s becoming  a Christian it’s  like making a u Turn,  waking up and realising that they are awake. 

Questioning and listening skills 

Have deeper conversations in general stay in conversation longer.
Categories: Friends
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