Blogroll: The Good Book Company
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 30 posts from the blog 'The Good Book Company.'
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Make it for them, not you.
Unchurched people want to celebrate Christmas, and you can help them. It can be tempting to run a low-key Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service to get a bit of peace and quiet from the seasonal stress. But this is your biggest evangelistic opportunity of the year. Besides, if you design your services with the community in mind, your members will love it too. Especially if their friends come and it changes their lives! Demonstrate God's generosity by going all-out for your visitors this Christmas.
This means making it super friendly to newcomers. Have a clear order of service, explain why you're doing things and when, tell them when to sit down and when to stand up. Perhaps you could even have some recognisable music playing when they arrive and go crazy on decorations to make it feel extra special.Give them something to read
With all the demands on our attention at Christmas, it's unlikely your guests will be able to recall everything that was said or sung during your outreach service. But they may persevere with a very short book about the gospel that they began reading when all the Morcambe and Wise repeats started coming on.
Rescuing Christmas is designed to be given out during your Christmas outreach. It takes the reader on a journey to find a joy that continues through the ups and downs of life—and beyond. Make it extra special by putting a bow around it and give it to them for free.Give their kids something to do
I know from my own experience of visiting friends' churches that keeping your kids occupied when they don't have their friends and familiar surroundings can demand most of your attention. A few giant colouring posters dotted around the building will keep them entertained during the service and help them make new friends. Or print off and hand out dozens of our free Where's Waddle activity. Play an online version of Where's Waddle now to see what it's like. When their kids are suitably occupied, the parents will have your full attention. Don't forget to provide some colouring pencils too!Make them feel welcome
It might seem pretty obvious now, but when your church members are all bouncing with the excitement of Christmas we can easily lose sight of the new family who have just sheepishly stepped through the front door. So brief your members before the day and make sure someone greets them within the first 30 seconds they arrive. Give them some good coffee, finish with mulled wine, shower them with mince pies and deck the hall with boughs and holly.
We love our families and that's a good thing. But how do we know when our family is becoming an idol?
Steve Hoppe, author of Sipping Saltwater, gives three lifestyle patterns that might indicate you're worshipping family.
How do you know if you're worshipping your family?
- You're not worshipping God because of your family: you're skipping church and not spending time with God
- You're not investing in community because you think that your family is your community
- You indulge your children and allow your spouse to sin in order to please them and keep peace
Sound familiar? Steve Hoppe's book, Sipping Saltwater, enables readers to identify their own idols and explains how to quench their thirst with Jesus’ living water—the only drink that will ever truly satisfy us both now and for eternity.
This extract from Tim Chester’s 2 Samuel For You reflects on the story of David and Bathsheba from 2 Samuel 11.
Could you deliberately kill someone?
Could you reach a point in your life when in cold blood you plotted someone’s murder? You don’t think so? 2 Samuel 11 starts with David—a successful king, a lover of God, a man who has been searching for peace in his land, who has seen so much blessing as he has trusted the Lord—wandering on a rooftop enjoying the fresh air. Just 13 verses later he is arranging a wicked murder. This is David, God’s anointed king, the man after God’s heart. And he murders an innocent man. How does this happen? We should want to know for fear it might happen to us.
David didn’t decide to murder Uriah in a single moment. He was drawn into sin step by step. Even if your path doesn’t end in murder, it may end with the destruction of your soul. For, one way or another, sin leads to death. James says, “After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15). This is a life-and-death issue.
Step One: Neglect your duty
The scary thing is that the whole process starts with nothing. The story begins with David neglecting his duty as king to lead the army into battle.How does this lead to further sin? Self-denial and service bring true satisfaction because this is what we were made for. Think of the people in your church who are happiest, and think of those who serve most. More often than not, you’ll find they’re the same people. When you curtail your service, you become unhappy. When you become unhappy, you become vulnerable to temptation. You’re left wide open to the false promises of sin. But, when you have joy in Christ, the enticements of sin fall on deaf ears.
Step Two: Indulge your eyes
David is wandering on the roof when he sees Bathsheba taking a bath. David’s sin was not to see Bathsheba; his sin was to keeping on looking. Where do your eyes wander? Perhaps you look at porn on the internet. Perhaps you watch rom-coms when you know they’ll make you discontented. Perhaps you look at someone who’s not your spouse and indulge your fantasies. Or maybe for you it’s not sexual temptation. Maybe you see adverts for cars or clothes, for houses or holidays, and let those adverts shape your longings, hopes and dreams. You think you’ll be happy only if you go on the holiday, buy the car or have the latest accessories. The gospel offers you joy in Christ. But you follow your eyes and, in the end, are dissatisfied with God’s goodness. You convince yourself that God is not enough.
Step Three: Betray your commitments
“Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.” (11:4)
There are at least three different commitments that David abandons here—three adulteries. He betrays his commitment to God; to his other wives; and to his people. The mundane realities of having small children have made your marriage seem dull—certainly when compared with the excitement of an affair. Or perhaps your spouse is not all you hoped they might be and so you’ve looked elsewhere. Perhaps singleness became more than you felt you could endure, especially when you saw friends getting married. So now you’ve persuaded yourself that you have a right to what everyone else has. Or perhaps you have no idea how you ended up where you are, but here you are in adultery.
Step Four: Hide your Sin
Bathsheba falls pregnant, so David’s last move is a classic act of politics and power—a cover-up. When his ruse of inviting husband Uriah back from the front fails, he is forced on to the final step...
And so the tragic tale concludes with a faithful, honourable man lying dead at the request of a heroic man of God who became a neglectful, indulgent, devious betrayer.
You may not be one step from murder, but you are four steps from it. It might not be murder. But sin can take you down paths you would never have dreamed of walking. Nobody decides one day to have an affair. Nobody decides one day to steal from their company. But if you neglect your duty, if you gratify your eyes, if you indulge your fantasies, if you fail to flee temptation—then that may be where you end up.
2 Samuel For You by Tim Chester is available now
“Reduce belly fat with this one old trick.”
“How to build muscle using this one neat tip.”
“This woman lost 8lb in ONE WEEK using this one simple trick.”
We’ve all seen these kind of posts—which, of course, turn out to be adverts—on our social media. And they work. Clearly someone, somewhere keeps paying to run them, because someone, somewhere is clicking on them and actually buying the products they promote. And sometimes, that someone is me.
Why? Well, for exactly the same reason you’re reading this right now. You saw the headline, you felt intrigued, you clicked it.
In many ways, that’s good. It’s right that you want to become more like Jesus. To be “conformed to the image of God’s Son” is one of the great aims of the Christian life (Romans 8 v 29)—so that we increasingly reflect him in our character and in the way we relate to others. Spiritual health is so much more important than a flatter stomach. (And, given that the Holy Spirit promises to help me, for me it’s more attainable, too.)
The problem comes when we allow our “quick-fix, change your life now without cost” to infiltrate our view of Christian growth. It means we are always looking for the easy way to become more joyful, or more godly. Always anticipating fast change. Always expecting to find a way to witness without being rejected, to increase our Bible knowledge without getting up any earlier, and so on. And when we don’t find it—well, we give up, or move on to the next silver bullet.
But becoming like Jesus isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen overnight. It does involve cost, and time.
That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it, though. After all, I bet the thing in your life you’re most proud of achieving—didn’t come easy, didn’t happen overnight, and did involve cost on your part. It’s why we laud (clean) Tour de France winners and love the rags to riches, hard graft stories. The best things we do are usually hard, and the hard things we do are usually best.
It’s no different with becoming like Jesus. The way isn’t easy. But the way is always worth it.
We allow our “quick-fix, change your life now without cost” culture to infiltrate our view of Christian growth
But having said that, there actually isn’t just one way, either. Doing a quiet time is not a silver bullet. 15 minutes with your Bible each morning is so often presented as ‘one easy trick’ to become like Jesus. But the irony is that the Bible itself points us to a variety of ways that God grows us. Some of them are fairly obvious. Some of them are surprising. All of them, as we grasp hold of them and let them go to work in our lives, are surprising, and, yes, successful.
What are they? Well, we look at six of them (and a lot more besides) in one little booklet, Spiritual Healthcheck, which promises that it contains sixteen steps to a thriving Christian life (and delivers on that promise, too, though admittedly I’m biased).
So if you want to enjoy them, then I’d suggest shelling out the price of a high street coffee to buy a copy and discover what they are. Because this blog won’t tell you.
It’s clickbait, you see.
In the following extract from his new Advent book, The One True Gift, Tim Chester looks at how encountering Christ afresh can restore peace and goodwill to your Christmas celebrations.
Christmas is supposed to be a time of “peace on earth and goodwill to all men”.
And we all fondly imagine our family gathered round a roaring fire. The children giggle as they play their board game. Your teenager is making a cup of tea for her grandmother. Your elderly neighbour is sitting happily in his new hand-knitted jumper. Then someone asks Grandad for an old story. You look across at your spouse and smile a smile of contented satisfaction. Peace and goodwill.
But the reality of Christmas can be very different! The children are fighting over the television remote. Your teenager only left her room after dire threats and is now sulking in the corner underneath her headphones. Your elderly neighbour isn’t there because he and Grandad refuse to be in the same room together. And you and your spouse are still not talking after last night’s argument. There’s little goodwill around and your only moment of peace comes when you take the dog for a walk.
Or perhaps these are problems that you’d love to have. But your Christmas will be tinged with grief and loneliness, not peace and goodwill, as you remember the relationships you’ve lost.
The one true gift radically alters our perspective on our grumbles and arguments
All too often Christmas descends into grumbling or arguing. You mutter under your breath about the shameless commercialisation, the competing crowds of shoppers, the dark, cold evenings. Your wife grumbles about the extra chores or your husband grumbles about visiting his in-laws. And you can’t get the children to do anything without an argument.
And then in Philippians 2 v 14 Paul says:
"Do everything without grumbling or arguing."
Paul doesn’t merely taunt us with an unattainable ideal. He wraps it up in a wonderful description of the one true Christmas gift—the Lord Jesus Christ. The one true gift radically alters our perspective on our grumbles and arguments.
Philippians 2 v 6-11 was probably an early Christian hymn. Whether Paul himself wrote it or whether he’s quoting lyrics familiar to his readers is unclear. Maybe he quotes an existing hymn, but adds his own tweaks for extra emphasis. We can’t be sure. What matters is that Paul and the Holy Spirit thought these were the words the Philippians needed to hear. And these are still words we need to hear.
Philippians 2 invites us to step into the Christmas story in a way that radically reshapes our attitudes.
You may not be able to change the behaviour of your family. There may still be arguments fizzing around this Christmas. But you can encounter Christ afresh this Christmas in a way that will make you a bearer of peace and goodwill.
The One True Gift is the third and latest in a successful series of Advent books by Tim Chester. Over 24 short daily readings for Advent, Tim Chester takes us deeper into Philippians 2 helping us to enjoy afresh God's gift to us at Christmas. Each day includes ideas for reflection, prayer and application, designed to excite you about the One True Gift—the Lord Jesus—in the run-up to Christmas Day.
When do you know that you, and your church, have had a ‘good Christmas’?
Christmas Eve? (otherwise known as National Christingle Day.)
Your carol service? (otherwise known as National Once-a-Year Church Attendance Day.)
Ah, your church prayer meeting in December?
Monday 15th January.
Because that’s the day we find out whether our Christmas preaching, teaching and outreach has made a difference.Joy in January
15th January 2018 is ‘Blue Monday’—the most depressing day of the year, apparently, because the third Monday of January combines post-Christmas low mood, cold dark nights, and the arrival of the credit card bill that itemises our December spending, and now requires paying.
Now, Blue Monday is actually the invention of a travel company (because if only you went on holiday in mid-January, you’d feel better)—but it’s true that January rather than December provides us with a good gauge of whether or not we’ve grasped the joy of the incarnation, and whether or not we’ve communicated that joy to our community.
It’s in January’s reality that we discover whether are treating Jesus as a baby in a manger at Christmas, or the Lord of all of life throughout the year.
It’s easy to be joyful (or at least pretend) at Christmas. It’s harder, and more precious, to be truly joyful on Blue Monday.
It’s easy to get people to sing at a carol service in December. But if they’re still thinking about the gospel on Blue Monday—well, that’s the real win.
Christmas is a break from reality. Blue Monday is deep in reality. And it’s in reality that the gospel needs to make a real difference, and can make a unique difference. It’s in January’s reality that we discover whether we, and others, are deep down treating Jesus as a baby in a manger at Christmas, or the Lord of all of life throughout the year.
So the question we ask ourselves about how well Christmas went at church needs to be not ‘How many came to our carol service this year?’ or ‘What innovative outreach events did we hold in December this year?’ or ‘Did our kids get as excited about Jesus as about presents this year?’ (great questions though they are).
Christmas is about the coming of the Joy-Bringer, who offers a joy that lasts way beyond the turkey and the tinsel and the tree.
It needs to be: ‘What difference did our Christmas preaching and outreach make on 15th January?’
Now of course, only the Spirit can change lives and bring joy. But he usually works through the work of God’s people. So here are three ways to get Christmas joy to last till Blue Monday (and beyond):
- This January, reflect on the incarnation. There are some great advent devotionals. Being honest, if I start one in advent, I miss out a few days here and there, and am only halfway through come Christmas. This year, I’m going to keep going into January—so that when Blue Monday arrives, I’m still thinking each day about the greatest gift the world has ever seen.
- This Christmas, preach about real life, not just December life. Whether in a normal service or an evangelistic event, make sure that you are showing how the truths transform our minds, hearts, and lives in January. What does the incarnation mean on 15th January? That’s the question people aren’t necessarily asking, but always need answering.
- This December, give people something they’ll still have in January. Put something in the hands of every non-Christian who comes to everything you do. Let’s be realistic: humanly-speaking, people are unlikely to recall what was said or sung in a carol service come mid-January. But they might notice a Gospel that they left on a bookshelf or shoved in some corner. They might read a short book that they started the night of the carol service, enjoyed the first chapter of, and now return to. Give them something to keep, that gives them a gospel message to be reminded of.
Christmas is about the coming of the Joy-Bringer, who offers a joy that lasts way beyond the turkey and the tinsel and the tree. He offers a joy that transforms even Blue Monday. And it’s only on the bluer days that we discover whether we, and those we saw at Christmas, have grasped the glory of the gospel.
Rescuing Christmas is a short book by Carl Laferton that shows how the meaning of the first Christmas gives us what we are all seeking—a real joy that really lasts. Find FREE resources for your Christmas outreach here.
Get your hankies out, the John Lewis Christmas Ad has landed.
Over the years we’ve come to expect big things from the store that never knowingly undersells. And everyone has followed in their wake with a style of advertising that is perfectly tuned to the spirit of our age.
Gone are the ads that “tell and sell” — with their focus on benefits, features and price. That approach to mass advertising is reserved for cleaning products. Barry Scott. Cillit Bang! I rest my case.
Now all the money and energy is in ads at “feel and reveal”. They make us feel an emotion, whether that is the joy, sadness or aspiration. And they reveal a hunger, a lack or a hope that lies deep within us. Agencies know that if they can connect a deep feeling to a brand, it will influence our buying decisions far more than any starbursts shouting, “half price”.
It’s something we need to learn for our approach to outreach this Christmas time. Of course, the Gospel is fundamentally about “Tell”. Jesus came into our world to save us from our sins. His birth is an act of extraordinary commitment from a loving God who wants to rescue his people from their greatest need.
But how do you get people to acknowledge that need? How do we draw them and lead them to the place where this gospel of redemption makes sense to them? One of the most powerfully effective things that sin does to us is it numbs our understanding of our real needs; it makes us insensitive to God; it sears our consciences, so that we do not see sin as in any way dangerous or damaging.
Tell stories, use illustrations and personal testimony that show people how they have eternity in their hearts, how they hunger for intimacy, community, security and significance.
Nathan the prophet understood this approach only too well. When David sinned with Bathsheba, and then murdered Uriah, the prophet did not Tell and Sell, “David you have sinned against God, and will fall under judgement”. Instead he adopted the Feel and Reveal approach. Let me tell you a story about man and a lamb. The story engaged David's feelings, invoked his anger, and then, at the big reveal, gave him nowhere to turn except to fall on his face before God as his hypocrisy was made plain.
This is the art we need to learn as witnesses and preachers this Christmas, and for life in general. There is a time for “tell and sell” — but we need to help them get to that point by “feel and reveal”. At its heart is telling stories, using illustrations and personal testimony that draw people into revealing that they have eternity in their hearts, that they hunger for intimacy, community, security and significance, that their hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.
It’s what we have tried to embody in Life Explored (Feel) and Christianity Explored (Tell). It’s what we have tried to do in Rescuing Christmas, where the focus is on the fleeting joy we associate with Christmas, and our hunger for it to last. We even have Waddle the Penguin on the cover who features in some free downloads, to go head to head with Moz the Monster.
Whatever you recommend, read or give this Christmas, let’s learn this vital art in gospel communication. If you cry, you buy.
What do Barbie, Peppa Pig and Thor have in common? They all have their own Advent Calendars.
Should this make us groan, or maybe have a rant about the commercialisation of Christmas? I don’t think so.
I used to work in over 20 local schools, ranging from Christian schools to the totally secular. But whatever their view on Christian beliefs, they had one thing in common. During December, the children got more and more excited as they looked forward to Christmas. By the last week of term, each school would feel like it was fizzing with anticipation.
Most of these children came from non-Christian homes. Increasingly, I found they didn’t know even the simplest basics of the Christmas story. But they didn’t need to be told that December was the time to get excited about Christmas—they did it naturally.
And that’s what Advent is all about. It’s about waiting for, and getting excited about, the coming of Christ. It’s a wonderful time to remember his coming as the baby in a manger, as well as looking ahead to his return as our glorious King.
Advent Calendars can be one way to help us do that, whether they are “right” or “wrong”…Choose the “right” calendar…
If you are buying a calendar for your own family, or giving one as a present, have a think about what you want children to get excited about this year.
If they are very young, or don’t know the real Christmas story well, then find something that will go over the basics for them. An example would be The Christmas Promise Advent Calendar. This has a simple retelling of the Christmas story on the back of it, and a full-colour sticker for a child to add to the picture each day. It would also make a great dual gift alongside the matching storybook.
If a child is older, or already has good Bible knowledge, then use a calendar to stretch their understanding of how God kept his promise to send the Rescuing King. One great way to do this is by making a Jesse Tree, which traces Jesus’ family tree through all the Old Testament promises and then shows how these were fulfilled in the coming of Christ. You can find Jesse Tree suggestions online. Or an easy way to do this is with The Littlest Watchman Advent Calendar. This calendar comes with a booklet of family devotions that trace the way God kept his promises through Old and New Testament. And the doors on the calendar are designed to tear off to create your own Jesse Tree. And if you want to pick up on the excitement of waiting for Christmas, The Little Watchman storybook is an imaginative way of helping children understand what it was like to wait for God’s promised King.
But make good use of the “wrong” one…
Choosing a good calendar that unpacks the real Bible story can be a great way to help children get even more excited about the coming of Jesus. But what if a well-meaning family member or friend also gives you the Peppa Pig calendar this year? I think that’s fine. Let it add to the fun and build the excitement. Just use it alongside one that celebrates the real meaning of Christmas, and help your child to remember that while there are lots of things about Christmas that are fun and exciting, the most exciting thing of all is remembering the coming of the Lord Jesus.And maybe add some chocolate…
And if the Christian calendar you choose doesn’t include chocolate, that’s fine too. Why not simply keep a tin of chocolates next to the calendar, and allow your child to choose one each day. It can add to the fun without taking anything away from our celebration of Christ—and you’ll probably get nicer chocolate too!
I love writing advent books. The One True Gift is my third in three years. I’d happily go on writing them if they would let me. But they won’t. Apparently it’s someone else’s turn. I know, crazy!
‘But why do you love writing advent books, Tim?’ I hear you say.
I’ll come to that in a moment.
But first let me talk about a strange phenomenon in Christian publishing: people don’t buy books about Jesus. Think about it. When was the last time you read a book about Jesus? Can you even name a book about Jesus? There are some academic books on the doctrine of Christ. But few books written about Christ for Christians.
There is nothing more practical than knowing, loving and trusting Jesus.
It didn’t used to be like this. The person of Christ was a favourite topic for Puritan writers. John Flavel wrote Christ, the Fountain of Life. John Owen wrote The Glory of Christ. Isaac Ambrose wrote Looking unto Jesus. You get the idea.
Perhaps our neglect of Jesus is because we assume we already know about him. ‘I learnt about Jesus in Sunday school.’ Heard it; done it; move on. Or perhaps it’s because today we want our books to ‘do’ something for us. We want a book on prayer so we can ‘do’ prayer. We want a book on the family so we can ‘do’ parenting. We want a book on the church so we can ‘do’ church. We want a book on Jesus so … What would a book on Jesus ‘do’ for you?
But there is nothing more practical than knowing, loving and trusting Jesus.
In his book The Supremacy of God in Preaching, John Piper tells how one Sunday he preached on the holiness of God from Isaiah 6, trying as best he could ‘to display the majesty and glory of such a great and holy God.’ What he didn’t know was that in the congregation was a young family who had just discovered that their child had been sexually abused by a close relative. Later the father told Piper, ‘John, these have been the hardest months of our lives. Do you know what has gotten me through? The vision of the greatness of God’s holiness that you gave me the first week of January. It has been the rock we could stand on.’
Seeing the glory and grace of God in the person and work of Jesus – this is the most practical thing we can do if we want to live life well.
The One True Gift is a meditation on Paul’s wonderful hymn of Christ in Philippians 2:6-11. And that surely is reason enough to read it. But in Philippians 2 that hymn is topped and tailed by exhortations to serve the interests of others and do everything without complaining. Seeing the glory and grace of God in the person and work of Jesus radically transforms our attitude to others. And, with all the pressures that the Christmas season brings, that is worth doing.
Which brings me back to why I love writing advent books. Advent books are really just an excuse to talk about Jesus.
The following Q&As are an excerpt taken from a chapter of Andrew Walker's God and The Transgender Debate.
---Shouldn’t we just focus on sins that are actually harming people (murder, adultery, etc.)? Transgenderism is harmless, isn’t it?
Much of the answer depends on how we define “harm.” In one sense, identifying as transgender does not “harm” someone in the way that stealing or adultery does.
But “harm” means much more than transactional harm between two persons, because “harm” runs much deeper than what’s on the surface. Individuals can think that an action of theirs produces no apparent harm, but unless they have perfect knowledge (which none of us do), they cannot know that it does not.
It is possible to harm yourself without realizing it. An addict alone in his basement is doing harm to himself even though no third party is being harmed, and even though he may not accept that he is harming himself.
Someone addicted to pornography is doing harm to himself by needing ever more graphic and violent por- trayals of sexual acts to be sexually entertained. More- over, long-term use of pornography inhibits the ability of people addicted to porn to have relationships with the opposite sex—so they are also harming any future spouse of theirs.
The argument that “It doesn’t hurt anyone” often ends up simply being “It doesn’t hurt anyone who agrees with me,” which is not the same thing.
Harm as it relates to someone identifying as transgen- der has to do with considering whether identifying as transgender promotes lasting health and flourishing. It it not right or good for Christians or churches to promote, or through silence fail to oppose, a worldview that un- dermines God’s good purpose to bless people individu- ally and in society, which leaves people outside the king- dom of God, and which tells hurting people that invasive medical surgery will be the path to fulfillment when we know (both statistically and from God’s word) that it will not be. It is right and good for Christians and churches lovingly and gently to promote truth, to point to Christ as the means of entering the kingdom, and to point to God’s creation plan as the way to live well in this world as part of that kingdom.
It is worth also saying that often, embracing a trans- gender identity does hurt other people. If your highest “value” is to avoid doing anything that harms others, then it is worth considering the third parties (parents, spouses, children, siblings) who are hurt by someone’s rejection of their birth sex and their upbringing or their marriage vows. The argument that “It doesn’t hurt anyone” often ends up simply being “It doesn’t hurt anyone who agrees with me,” which is not the same thing.Is it true that Christian teaching is harmful because not affirming a person’s transgender identity leads to depression and higher rates of suicide?
Kids and adults struggling to come to terms with their identities may well fear rejection if their parents are Chris- tians or if they are surrounded by a Christian community. We cannot ignore or deny that there are young people who commit suicide or seriously harm themselves because their rigidly religious parents have condemned them or kicked them out of the house. We have to make sure that as in- dividuals and churches we are welcoming, listening, and compassionate (see chapters eight and ten), and acknowl- edge that we have not always been those things.
But is it then reasonable to conclude that Christian beliefs must put kids who experience gender dysphoria (or, for that matter, same-sex attraction) in danger? Absolutely not.
Quite the opposite is true. It is a fundamental command of Christianity to love others unconditionally. We are called to love even those who insult and hate us. With God’s help, we will love our children, even if they chal- lenge our values. Think of the story of the prodigal son and his boundlessly gracious father. If we are truly to live as Christians, we can only cast ourselves on the Father’s loving forgiveness and extend the same grace to others.
From a biblical-worldview perspective, it seems far more likely that emotional and psychological distress stem from gender dysphoria.
The Christian gospel offers a third possibility for parents to hold out to children who are struggling with their sexual- ity to hold out to them—the life of cross-carrying faithful- ness, and of finding joy in the struggle. Christianity, while never promising complete liberation from someone’s battles with sin in this life, liberates individuals to experience their truest self, as made in the image of God.
It is an emotionally charged accusation to suppose that disagreement with any given identity or feeling is the cause of someone’s emotional stress. And it raises an important counter-question: is the emotional distress caused from identifying as transgender the result of not being affirmed, or is it a feature of the underlying emotional and mental difficulties that come with gender dysphoria, which are not solved by embracing a transgender identity?
Your presupposition about whether transgenderism is good or not good will tend to dictate how you read the sta- tistics that are available. Someone who affirms or promotes embracing a transgender identity will assume the distress is caused by societal rejection; someone who believes trans- gender is not in line with God’s good purposes will tend to argue that the distress is caused by the dysphoria and re- sponding to it by adopting a transgender identity.
From a biblical-worldview perspective, it seems far more likely (albeit that it’s unpopular to say) that emotional and psychological distress stem from gender dysphoria, not from the failure to feel affirmed by one’s community. If we believe that it is in living under God’s good rule, in line with how he created us to flourish, that leads to greater fulfill- ment and wholeness, then we have also to believe that it would be harmful not to speak God’s word into this area, hard though it may be to say and for people to hear.
God and The Transgender Debate helps Christians engage lovingly, thoughtfully and faithfully with one of the greatest cultural discussions of our day.
Running a Christmas bookstall is a wonderful way to bless your church family, it’s super festive, lots of fun and not at all cumbersome. Rather than us tell you why and how you should run a Christmas bookstall, here are some reflections from people who have done it themselves. Whether you’re thinking to run a bookstall yourself or you’re a pastor or church administrator looking to delegate to someone else, read on...Tim:
“Living in a busy suburb, many of our church members do not have the time to get to a Christian bookshop, so when it comes to Christmas buying, I run a Christmas bookstall over the last weekend in November and the first in December.
I like to lay it out in age order — from small children, round to adults, and I have a number of recommendations in mind when people ask me for advice. “What can I buy for my teenage Godson who is not yet a Christian?” “What Bible do you recommend for my 8-year old niece?” “I have a neighbour who keeps asking me questions about the gospel - what could I give him for Christmas?” I can’t meet every requirement, but they are very grateful for a suggestion. I take the trouble to write down particular requests, and then phone the wonderful team at The Good Book Company with my questions on Monday — they then send the extra stock out for the second week. I go to church 30 minutes early to set out the stall, and make sure I have enough change for the cash tin. One big help is that there are notices sent out the week before, and the minister gives a notice out in church as well. Sometimes, I do a short slot recommending books from the front.
It’s great to help people as they seek to use Christmas as a way of reaching out, and encouraging others with the books they give.”James:
“We ran a bookstall at Grace Church Worcester Park which was really popular. I made an appeal for volunteers to run the bookstall over a three week period at the end of November/early December and several newer members offered, along with some of our young people. These volunteers were not only diligent in the way they ran it but told me that they enjoyed doing it too. They found the instructions very easy to follow so didn’t need my involvement at all. My anecdotal impression was that many people bought books who otherwise tend not to, so I felt that having the bookstall on offer for three weeks was well worth doing in ministry terms as well as being a help to people wanting to buy meaningful gifts for their loved ones. We’ll be doing it again this year.”
It’s great to help people as they seek to use Christmas as a way of reaching out
And if you’re still not convinced, here are some quotes from others who ran bookstalls last year:
"The instructions were brilliant!"
"A brilliant idea, would definitely use again"
"It was exactly right for our needs as a church"
"Good idea and well run"
Most pastors have decided to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with a special service or a sermon series. But not this guy—he's gone one step (or rather, 500km) further.
At the heart of the Reformation was a desire to communicate the doctrines of grace to ordinary people—to put God's word into the hands of tinkers, farmers, merchants, mothers and milkmaids. And it was this same passion for helping everyone connect with the Bible in their own language that moved a 29 year-old church planter from Minsk to run 500km in just 5 days.
Taras Telkovsky was compelled to put on his trainers when he heard how the Belarussian government planned to celebrate the Reformation anniversary.
“This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Belarrussian Bible,” says Taras. “But instead of celebrating how the good news of Jesus Christ changed our country, the government wanted to draw more attention to the man that translated the Bible into Belarussian, Francysk Skaryna."
“When the Reformation reached Belarus we already had the Bible in our own language. It resulted in the so-called 'Golden Age' of Belarus, as the biblical message and its values transformed our people and country.”
Taras wanted to remind his country that it is the Bible itself which motivated the likes of Francysk Skaryna in Belarus, Martin Luther in Germany and William Tyndall in England to take great risks to translate the Bible into languages that local people could understand.
“I knew I should do something. I wanted to draw public attention to this magnificent event in the past and loudly declare that the Bible is not just a historical monument of ancient literature, but it’s relevant now and it’s the life-changing Word of the living God.”
By God’s grace and with the support of other Christians, the former athlete completed his feat in September this year—running the equivalent of almost 12 marathons over 5 days. The herculean effort drew national attention, with the media live-streaming the entire run.
What Taras is most excited about, however, is the gospel opportunities the buzz surrounding the run has provided: “I received lots of messages from the different people saying that they never read the Bible before, but now they want to read and find out why I think the Bible is so fascinating. Some people showed up at our church, some came to Bible studies. There have been so many great gospel conversations as a result of the attention.”
I wanted to loudly declare that the Bible is the life-changing Word of the living God
Taras gave up his career as a professional athlete by responding to the call to ministry and is currently planting a church in Minsk. You can find out more about his church plant here. (There’s an option to translate into English.)
What is the Reformation for you and how will you mark Reformation Day 2017?
Taras comments, "what is the Reformation for me? It is a moment in the 16th century when above the noise of human opinions, people heard the voice of the living God from the Scripture."
Maybe you're not able to run 500km in celebration of the Reformation, but you can certainly practise the discipline of regular reading and dwelling in scripture that the Reformers fought to restore. Sit alongside the Reformers themselves using 90 Days in Genesis, Exodus, Psalms & Galatians with Calvin, Luther, Bullinger & Cranmer
Or, rediscover the truths of the Reformation with Why the Reformation Still Matters by Tim Chester and Michael Reeves.
The Old Testament can feel foreign and daunting to anyone, let alone to children. And so, as parents, we often resort back to stories of Jesus from the New Testament; stories that we know well, that make us feel comfortable and that we think our children will be able to understand.
But Scott James, author of The Littlest Watchman, says that there is a richness of gospel truth throughout the Old Testament that is important for children of all ages. Bringing Old Testament stories to life will show your children how God's rescue plan has unfolded throughout history.Watch the video
Scott James' new book, The Littlest Watchman is a great way to introduce your children to Old Testament people. It's an engaging and refreshing take on Advent and a beautiful story to read with your children in the run-up to Christmas. It brings to life the people who lived before the coming of Jesus and helps children to step into their shoes and imagine what it must have been like to wait for the coming of the King.
There are some parts of the Bible that seem seriously weird to us. Take the end of Matthew 27 for example, with its image of the undead wandering around Jerusalem. It’s one of those passages that I’ve never heard anyone preach on, possibly because it seems to raise more questions than it answers.
And yet, as always, when we take the time to dig a bit deeper some things start to come in focus.
"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” Matthew 27 v 50-54
Matthew’s description of the death of Jesus, written for a Jewish audience steeped in scripture, is packed with hints and echoes from the Old Testament. Jesus' final breath causes rocks to split, the temple curtain to rend, the earth to shake, graves to split open. Powerful symbols of the significance of Jesus sacrificial death. The son of God dies and the world he created shudders in horror.
Those who are connected to Jesus find glorious, joyous, rock-splitting, curtain-cleaving life for ever.
But there is more to come. Since the fall, the world has been locked into the “life-death cycle”. But as the Son of God rises, death starts to work backwards. Life flows generously and abundantly from and through Jesus into the bodies of those who knew him (the “saints”). Suddenly the life-death cycle becomes the life-death-life cycle. It is a powerful statement of what he died and rose to achieve: he brings life to all who belong to him.
The zombies of popular imagination are rotting corpses, filled with evil intent and the hunger for human flesh. But at the very first Night of the Living Dead, on the very first Easter Sunday, everything is different. This is not a story of terror, but of hope. There is life beyond the grave for those who know Jesus and the power of his resurrection. It is a promise of life in a resurrection body for all eternity.
Of course, there remain many unanswerable questions: who were these “saints”? What became of them? What did they look like, and what did they do. As with many other questions about life and death, we do not know the answers; we are not told.
But what we do know is that those who are connected to Jesus find glorious, joyous, rock-splitting, curtain-cleaving life for ever.
Now that’s something that’s worth talking about on halloween, or any day of the year…
It’s October. (You knew that.) Christmas is coming. (You knew that too.) And people are starting to get ready. We’ll have the food. We’ll buy the presents. We’ll see the family. We’ll enjoy the parties. We’ll go to church. We’ll probably think about inviting someone else to church.
And, when it’s all over, will we have used the season as well as we can for the glory of the one who gives his name to the festival?
That’s the question that counts. And to answer it, here are five questions to start asking yourself and your church, starting… in October.
Christmas happens every year, whether we’re prepared or not. Evangelism doesn’t.October’s Questions:
What will we do?
Maybe there are events that worked well last year, that can be re-run this year, either exactly the same or with a couple of little tweaks.
Maybe there are events that didn’t work well last year. It’s worth not repeating them, just because ‘it’s what we do.’ Christmas is busy. You are busy. Don’t hold events that haven’t proved fruitful in the past.
Why not ring three other church leaders, who are at similar-sized churches in similar-type places, at least one of whom is in a different ‘tribe’ from you, and ask them: What events have you held over the past few years? What worked? What didn’t?
What will we give?
The problem with all Christmas outreach is that it happens at Christmas… and Christmas is a busy time. I suspect that thousands of people will go to a carol service or a Christingle or a Christmas curry-with-talk or whatever this year, be interested by the gospel, be attracted to the gospel, resolve to work out what they need to do about the gospel… and then leave, and get stuck into their cultural Christmas, and then it’s New Year, and then it’s back to work… and the gospel gets lost amidst the wrapping paper and the January bills. So… what will you give at your Christmas events that will help them make good on their intention to think about the gospel, and draw them back in January? Two thoughts:
Give them a Gospel, or give them a short book (or both). That way, whether they’re super-busy, or simply not keen readers, there’s a good chance they’ll read something about the gospel over the Christmas holiday, which means it’ll still be on the agenda come January
Hold something attractive for investigators, either some evening events or an apologetics Sunday morning sermon series, in January. Give folk a reason to come in January, as well as a reason to come in December.
Who will we invite?
Encourage your church members to be praying, specifically, for those they would love to hear the gospel this Christmas. Encourage your church members to be telling each other who they want to invite, so that come December you can hold each other accountable (amazing, isn’t it, how our long mental list of friends we’ll invite gets whittled down to one or two people when the actual time comes?)
And encourage each other to hold social events in November where those they want to invite in December can meet some of your Christian friends. That way, if and when they walk into your church building in December, they’ll already know some folk – and know (hopefully) that they’re not weird.December’s Question:
What is the point, and where is the power?
December is crazy. We must remind each other, and hear from our pulpits, that the point of December is to celebrate the incarnation and look forward to the return. The rest is details. And we must remind each other, and have modelled from our pulpits, that the gospel is powerful. We will invite those friends we said we would if we remember that the gospel is powerful to save people. We will take risks with our colleagues if we remember that the gospel can, has, and does change lives.
When it’s all over, will we have used the season as well as we can for the glory of the one who gives his name to the festival?January’s Question:
How are we continuing the conversation?
A friend came to a carol service. Great. But that’s not job done. We need to invite them along again in January, or ask them what they thought of the book they took home… we need to continue the conversation. Someone left their details with the pastor at a Christingle service. We need to follow that up; visit them; write to them; pray for them.
Christmas happens every year, whether we’re prepared or not. Evangelism doesn’t. Let’s ask ourselves good questions, and prayerfully grasp for good answers, together, at the right times. Let’s make sure that one of the last places where the culture connects with Christianity is used by our churches as a bridge to the gospel this year.