Blogroll Category: Friends
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 81 posts from the category 'Friends.'
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(Suffering is real and painful and is often given as an objection to the Christian faith)
Suffering is not simply a hypothetical issue to be discussed (vv1-2)
Suffering is not (normally) a direct consequence of extreme personal sin (vv2-3, v4)
Suffering is a warning of the judgement to come, which we all deserve (v3, v5)
Suffering should lead us to real repentance before God’s patience runs out (vv6-9)
* * *
Lessons for Israel (vv1-9)
(a) Tragedy and the need to repent (vv1-5)
(i) Massacre by Pilate and the call to repent (vv1-3_
(ii) Tower of Siloam and the call to repent (vv4-5)
(b) Parable of the spared fig tree (vv6-9)
(i) Instruction to destroy the tree (vv6-7)
(ii) Delay and warning (vv8-9)
* * *
All Souls’ Langham Place, Richard Bewes, Suffering - a dead end? - G027Series: The Bible Speaks Today (Issues of Topical Concern) - 09/11/1997
(1) We are all living in a fallen world
(2) We’re all living in a temporary home
(3) We are all living on borrowed time
(4) We’re all living as debtors to love
* * *
St Ebbe’s, Al Gibbs - Questions Of Life: What is Jesus looking for? 15/03/2015
(1) The role of suffering: suffering is meant to make us repent.
It shows us that something is wrong and that something needs to be done about it
(2) The need for repentance
Suffering is a foretaste of the judgement of sin and a worked example of the horror of sin
(3) The urgency of the hour
This excellent new book by Graham Tomlin ( who is both Bishop of Kensington and president of St. Mellitus College London) looks at an area of great debate - what is human freedom? Many opponents of Christianity either portray God as a miserable being trying to control us (one thinks of Philip Pullman for example) or a non existent idea which just ties us up in guilt and stops us doing what we want and achieving happiness. The argument goes that if we can just do what we like we will be truly happy. “Freedom offers the opportunity to do what I like to do...no government or religion can tell me what to do or think, there are no limitations of morality that I have to observe “. This means I can decide anything I like including these days for example my gender - whatever I want to do that makes me happy. Choice is the supreme good (a key idea of the market economy of course as well) and the main argument against Christianity is that it makes us unhappy because it is inherently oppressive and restrictive. God represents all thy we need to escape form - guilt, hierarchy, male domination and a punitive church authority.
Graham Tomlin in this very good new book points out that this view has a number of serious inherent limitations. What do we use our freedom for? The “prison door” of religion it is argued swings open but what then? What when my freedom to do what I like comes into conflict with what others want? What if freedom to do what we like is like freedom for a drug addict to take heroin? What if the sum of all freedoms is disaster? Climate change where millions of individuals free actions appear to be killing the planet is a good example. Tomlin in the bulk of the book traces the debate around human freedom and happiness throughout history. His central point is borrowed from Isaiah Berlin. Freedom is not so much about destroying constraints, but only makes sense when we have an answer to the question "Who are we and what do we use our freedom for."A number of writers have been hugely influential here, notably JJ Rousseau. Nature, he argued, should be allowed to take its course. Children should educate themselves and find freedom by throwing off social convention and returning to an original and pure state. This was developed further by the Victorian thinker John Stuart Mill - where only the individual is concerned, society has no right to intervene. But as Tomlin points out this is problematic. As soon as we decide to drive our own 'car' as we like we begin to collide with others 'cars'- like bumper cars at a fair. Other writers have pointed out that true happiness involves some restrictions on freedom - marriage being an obvious example. Nor does modern consumerism lead to happiness despite the blandishments of the advertising industry. Freedom can be catastrophic if it leads to disaster. In fact as Iris Murdoch points out Lucifer in Milton's great work “Paradise Lost” is the archetype and ultimate destination of freedom “better to reign in hell than serve in heaven”. If we look at the bible Jesus talked about freedom as did Paul but interestingly of the two words used in the NT we translate into "freedom" the most common is a word used for freedom from captivity or slavery. As Paul points out, there is a war going on between the powers of light and darkness. The Christian is freed from slavery to the power of darkness not to some kind of free choice limbo but to become instead sons and daughters of God. The God for whom we are made and who loves us and without whom we can’t find happiness. The God who wants to give us the fruits of the spirit rather than the fruits of the flesh This kind of line of thought was powerfully developed, argues Tomlin, by the greatest of all Christian thinkers since the bible - Augustine. 1600 years ago he captures what the novelist Flannery O’Connor described as follows “The Catholic novelist believes that you destroy your freedom by sin while the modern reader believes that you gain it this way”. Augustine in his famous “Confessions” tells the story of how as a boy he and friends ransacked a pear tree not for the pears - they threw most away - but for the illicit enjoyment of doing something wrong.In fact argues Augustine all sin is an attempt to find happiness and beauty in created things rather than the creator. Creation itself is good, it’s just that we use it wrongly. There are no bad things just good things used badly. Creation was meant to lead us to God not be an end in and of itself. To try and find happiness in things like sex, fun and wealth is to turn away from the very being they point to - God - and in the end they will turn to dust and ashes in our hands. God knows how to make us happy but we have to be willing to listen to "the makers instructions". (CS Lewis is very good on this in the "Narnian fall temptation scene" in the 'Magician's Nephew'). Says Tomlin “though Augustine doesn’t use this language the best example is that of addiction...the addict is no longer free to choose to give up the drugs ...only free to continue in bondage to what will ultimately destroy him”. Freedom insisted Augustine is freedom for something - it’s not a void but is meant to orientate us towards both God who gives us freedom as a gift and towards our fellow human beings. Christian freedom is about relationships with God and human society. As Luther notes because freedom is a gift it actually creates relationships. “The Christian free of the fear of death chooses to dedicate his or her freedom not to pleasure but to their neighbour ”. Secular freedom on the other hand tends to be a lonely dead end where we are free to do what we like but at the cost of being alienated from both God and humans. True happiness lies in understanding that we are meant for God but are enslaved by evil. God gives us freely our freedom which enables us to choose what makes us really happy - to see good and evil as they really are. Tim Keller puts it this way "Because a fish absorbs oxygen from water, not air, it is free only if it is restricted to water. If a fish is ‘freed’ from the river and put out on the grass to explore, its freedom to move and soon live is destroyed...Real freedom is finding the right [restrictions]"In summary a very easy to read book with much applicability to all kinds of modern debates. One minor caveat is that i would have liked to hear more from Graham himself: its really useful to have the debate summarised but personally i would have liked more of the authors views. But what it does brilliantly is summarise the main arguments over the last 2000 years in a very short space.Graham Tomlin's conclusion I sum up like this (my words not his)
"God is not a 'killjoy' trying to make us miserable us but a 'killdeath' trying to rescue us. True happiness is not the freedom to do what we want which is, if we but knew it, a form of addiction which leads to death. It’s rather the freedom to be happy by being liberated from slavery to evil and becoming children of God, doing what we will make us truly happy - to live and be loved by our Heavenly Father. "
Which do we particularly need to work on?
How can we develop these?Marc Lloyd
Maybe the kids would enjoy how many food / harvest words beginning with "g" can you think of?!
The ground has produced a harvest.
The crops have grown.
They are all good gifts of the grace of God.
We should respond not with greed but with gratitude and generosity.Marc Lloyd
(1) No friendships?
Some Christians have few real friendships outside the church for all sorts of reasons. Maybe quirks of personality. Perhaps business at church activities and meetings. Obviously there are some cultural and worldview bridges to cross between contemporary British evangelicals and the average local pagan.
But as a strategy this whole approach is questionable, is it not? We do not befriend people solely for the purpose of propping up our club, as if the Village Hall committee were a bit short of helpers and the current team were tasked to target people they might recruit by getting them round for dinner a couple of times and then popping the question. The friendships must be genuine if there is to be honest and ethical friendship evangelism.
(2) No evangelism?
But I imagine most of us get stuck at the friendship stage. We are for ever building up the friendship. It is too soon to mention Jesus. And then the friendship really matters to us, so it is a bit risky to mention Jesus if that might jeopardise the friendship.
Better than a friendship evangelism strategy, how about this:
If we love people and we believe we have the best and most vital news in the world ever to share, it will be hard to shut us up, though, won't it?
This is of course easier to say than to do. Pray for the Rector in this too!Marc Lloyd
I found this comment from MacCulloch's Cromwell interesting:
"Henry, when not showing off his masculinity in sports and open-air pursuits, was... an addict of books, even though he often got other people to read them to him. The large accumulations of them in his various palaces were one of the most genuinely individual features among his displays of monarchical conspicuous expenditure. He spent laborious but clearly enjoyable hours annotating his collection, usually with some particular political or theological purpose in mind." (p141)Marc Lloyd
Luke 12:22-34 (p1045)
FOR WHAT SHALL WE THEN LIVE?
(1) DON’T LIVE FOR TREASURE THAT FAILS AND FADES
What is life all about? V15, v23
Concerned about the necessities of life?
Illustration 1: The ravens (v24)
Vv25-26: Worry is pointless
Illustration 2: The lilies (v27)
Vv28ff: Worry is unnecessary
The antidote to worry: trusting your loving heavenly Father (v30)
(2) LIVE FOR TREASURE THAT SATISFIES AND STAYS
Don’t worry / Don’t think of a pink elephant!
The alternative to setting your heart on food and drink and running after such things: seeking God’s kingdom (vv29-31)
Irish logic? Vv31-32
The motivating power of grace!
V34 – You / your heart will follow your money!Marc Lloyd
The rich fool: greed without gain
Worry: ulcers without profit
(1) Kingdom priorities (v31)
(2) Kingdom confidence (v32)
(3) Kingdom generosity (v33)
I would say that significantly more than half of the sermon could be called diagnosis and application rather than exposition or explanation, though there is certainly a good measure of that. The theological ideas are arguably relatively few and simple but we are shown our need of them and the difference they might make.
The preaching actually connects to how we might think and act.
For example, we are encouraged to think about what produces excessive emotional reactions in us and to chase down the rabbit holes to discover what we are really running after.
We feel that at least to a degree the preacher empathises with us and is seeking to understand us.
Issues of identity and security are explored and related to relationship with God our heavenly Father. What determines your sense of self? What or who are you trusting?
I would say that is less than typical of some evangelical preaching, or at least of how we typically think of it, and that there is much to learn here.Marc Lloyd
“The Robin and the Sparrow"
Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I should really like to know,
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend I think that it must be,
That they have no Heavenly Father,
Such as cares for you and me.”
― Elizabeth Cheney
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/714001-the-robin-and-the-sparrow-said-the-robin-to-the Marc Lloyd
Most preachers re-use some of their material from time to time.
And it seems that the Lord Jesus was no exception.
Who knows how often Jesus preached.
Maybe most days, perhaps several times a day or for several hours.
And so he probably didn’t have time for lots of extra sermon preparation as he travelled around.
You can imagine the disciples saying to him, “O, Jesus, tell us the one about the whited sepulchres again!”
Or, “Jesus, what about the one about the man with the plank in his eye?!”
The oral tradition of the time depended on repetition and that helps to account, under God, for the remarkable preservation and agreement between the gospels.
We’re more familiar with this famous passage from the version in Matthew’s gospel where it forms part of the sermon on the mount.
And we’ve looked at that passage together before.
But here it has a different context which brings out particular aspects of its meaning.
Starting the reading at v22 is really starting mid-way through!
When we come to the “therefore” in v22, we ought to know from our Bible study training that we should ask: “What is the therefore therefore?”
What is the logic of the passage that is being pointed out here?
Because of that, therefore this.
Because of what Jesus has previously said, now here comes the application which follows from it.
So the application of what exactly?
Let’s recall that brilliant little parable of the rich fool which Jesus told which we studied last week.
God does not live in temples made by human hands. Absolutely.
But consider 2 things which give our buildings significance:
(1) Meaning and value are partly socially and historically constructed.
Which sounds fancy. What it means is that Elton John's glass or Elvis Presley's guitar are worth much more than any old cup or instrument to many people.
Say your church has been at the iconic, religious, cultural, physical heart of your village since AD 800 and that prayers have been offered there every day time out of mind. Does that make the building magic? Of course not. Does it physically change it? Probably only fairly minimally. Does it matter? I think any reasonable person would say it does. Even if it does not matter to the Evangelical preacher, he can be sure it matters to the villagers, even those who rarely attend!
Calvin would not want you to play ping pong on the Lord's Table, though it is just a table. Consider that.
(2) Neutrality is impossible.
Even an empty white box of a building has a significance and sends a message (maybe God hates stuff, or beauty, or something!). You building must have some sort of shape, so maybe a cross is not a bad one.
If you are Christian at all you need some kind of Table and you need to put it somewhere. You probably want a pulpit or lectern of some description.
So we need to think about this stuff.
What's our biggest problem as Christians?
I suggest it is this: that we dont know God enough, we dont trust him enough, we dont love him enough and that we dont pray to him enough. But you know this is not a new problem. And in a strange way we should find that encouraging. For another group of Christians had the same problem - Jesus's disciples. Remember they were with the Lord himself for three years and their general slowness and dopiness should encourage us that God is patient and loving and always seeking to draw us nearer to Himself.
How does he do that?
Lets look at the gospel of Mark, the story of Jesus in the storm
'35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”'
Firstly, v 35 "let us go over to the other side"
Jesus knew exactly what was coming - he knew there was going to be a storm. He deliberately placed his followers in harms way. Being close to the Lord is no guarantee of a trouble free life - rather the reverse. The same for us.
God leads us into suffering so that he may show us more of himself. Suffering can be redemptive. One of the most helpful verses I have found with cancer is from Genesis when Joseph says "You meant it for harm but God meant it for good". As I put it in my own case "the cancer cells meant it for harm but God meant it for good". The uncertainty, difficulties for my family, pain, frustrations, and fear, are all there, but the joy of being involved in the Lord’s work, of seeing him at work in those I’ve been able to introduce to Christ has been really wonderful. In fact, I have had more opportunities to share faith in the last 3 years than the previous 52 combined. You can read more about my story and others in the City with "City Lives" which is available at the back and is designed to be given away to our non Christian friends.
Where's the ultimate place we see that? When we stand at the foot of the cross. The devil and all the forces of evil in the universe meant it for evil but no - God used it for our good.
So when things go wrong we need to remember this: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me”.
Secondly, v 37-38, v 40
"Dont you care" and "Why are you so afraid".
We must note that the storm breaks in the disciples workplace. At least four and probably more were fisherman. They do everything except the one thing they should have done. I am sure they did all the things that experienced sailors would do - turn the boat into the wind, trim the sails, head for shore, bail out the water. But they didn't do the one blindingly obvious thing they should have done - ask the incarnate God who was right at hand for help. Even when they do in desperation do it its very roughly - we know from the other gospel that they shake him awake roughly - and they say "Dont you care?". How hard it is for them to pray ! How small is their faith. How hard it is for us to pray and how small is our faith" Yet how vital prayer is! Corrie Ten Boom said "When a Christian shuns fellowship with other Christians, the devil smiles. When he stops studying the Bible, the devil laughs. When he stops praying, the devil shouts for joy."
She also said "prayer must be our steering wheel not our spare tyre."
But let us be encouraged to pray, for how kindly The Lord is towards the disciples, how patient: yes he reproves them but he is always doing so out of deep love. God is so kind and patient towards us despite all our serious shortcomings. Psalm 103 says "As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those that fear him". God sees all the things that are wrong with us - our laziness, our weak faith, our lack of love, our secret sins, our cold hearts and yes our prayerlessness and what does he do? He is full of what the bible calls in Hebrew 'Chesed' which the Reformers in the C16th translated as "loving kindness."
Thirdly, v40 and 41
"Quiet, be still".
Note that Gods word comes only in answer to prayer - however weak. But then what amazing divine power! Billions and billions of molecules are rearranged and suddenly there is a dead calm. Winds may drop but any sailor knows that a storm tossed body of water takes a long time to drop. In a second all is quiet, all is still. Such is the power of the divine word. It utterly transforms their circumstances
What is their reaction? They are even more afraid! Whats the answer to fear? More fear! "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". It begins to dawn on them who this ordinary looking man asleep in the boat is. When they left the boat they knew him more than when they got in. Isn't that what we need? To know the Lord more, to love him more and to pray to him more. For as good old Thomas Goodwin says "The person who knows Christ best is the person who will pray best "
Finally, what's before and after this? Remember the chapter headings are not original and Mark arranges his material deliberately. The parable of the sower and the mustard seed spreading all over the world are before and the healing of the demon possessed man is after. In other words the spread of the good news about Jesus.
If perhaps our biggest issue is we dont know and love God as we should and dont pray then closely behind is that we dont share our faith. As some of you know I have found The Word 121 https://www.theword121.com amazing in doing this. It couldn't be easier - you just ask a friend if they would like to have a chat about the bible. I've found that lots of people say no, but lots of people do say yes. Usually not the people we expect. The Lord isn’t asking us to guess who’ll be interested but just to give the invite to everyone. Also, it’s been thrilling to see a number of Christians proactively offer 121 to friends and colleagues. Many have done this by putting on a lunch in a pub or in the office for a small group of people who know each other, where someone gives a short talk and then takes question and Word 121 is offered.
According to a recent survey 69% of people in the UK know and like a Christian - but ‘liking a Christian’ won’t help them find rescue in Christ. They need to hear His Word which stilled the storm. The two big obstacles to Christians sharing faith, research has found, are "I am afraid" and "I dont know how". This passage covers them both.
Fear. Its no use having the lifeboat of salvation tied up at the shore. God calls us to overcome our fear and sail into the storm. Whats the storm today? The storm of hostility to the public proclamation of the gospel. Our colleagues wont mind if we keep our faith to ourselves but its quite another thing if we seek to share it. They wont mind if we do it in church but each one is called to do this in our workplace. We need to be more afraid of God than of other people. I find 121 is a great way to do conquer our fear because its such an easy ask "would you like to chat about the bible?".
Dont know how. We need to have confidence in the inspired divine word of God! Thats why the devil hates it and is seeking to undermine it - remember the original temptation is “Did God really say?”. What we need is the incredible transformational power of Gods word in our friends lives. If he speaks, things will change. If he speaks to our friends then darkness will turn to light and death to life. Dont know how to share his word? By using the gospels for thats why they were written!
Maybe you are still thinking despite my encouragement "I just cant do it". Well, you are quite right, you can't, any more than the disciples can still the storm. You see its not about us, its about him. The more inadequate and weak we feel, the more God can use us. I have not changed what I've believed in the last 3 years but what I've believed has become more real to me. With Gods help my weak love for Christ and for people has increased and so I now can speak more clearly and more fearlessly.
The same can be true for you.
Here is the word of the Lord.
"Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always"
Jesus Calms the Storm
Don't worry (Matthew 6 / Luke 12)
(1) "That’s easy for you to say!"
Well, yes, it is. Relatively. Maybe. We’re not exactly living the high life at the Rectory but we are relatively comfortable and secure compared to many, in some ways, I suppose.
But remember that these are the words of Jesus. He was born in relative poverty and had lived in exile as a wanted baby. He had no where to lay his head. He would die as the worst sort of common criminal, seemingly with only the clothes on his back to his name. He was buried in a borrowed grave. He knew whereof he spoke.
(2) "That’s easy to say!"
Well, yes, it is.
But Jesus gives us good reasons not to worry. Worry is pointless and unnecessary. We cannot add to our lives by worry. And we need not worry because our loving heavenly Father will take care of us and bring us at last to the promised land of the New Creation.
We might have money worries, but we do not have to cultivate them. Jesus is not saying that we are never to think of money or plan for the future. But we need not be consumed by worry about these things. We can cast our anxieties on him, knowing that he cares for us.
Rather than just saying "do not think of a pink elephant" / "do not worry", Jesus gives us a positive focus: seek first the kingdom of God. Marc Lloyd
The crew did lots and lots of filming and they have, of course, chosen the most engaging, striking material. Naturally they had an eye to any issues or angles. A bit of controversy is good for ratings.
And though the BBC is not a bastion of evangelicalism (!) I would say CAP comes out excellently. Even if you are not a God-botherer of exactly their brand, there is so much to admire.
One issue is that perhaps CAP are doing what some think the government or maybe the financial services industry should do. Well, I don't buy that. But the government aren't doing it, are they?
As someone has on Twitter, in fact, it is the Christians who are working with the most vulnerable most effectively and this could be multiplied in many other areas. When Richard Dawkins and the National Secular Society run food banks and schools and drug rehabilitation, maybe we should listen to their arguments a bit more carefully. Until then, as someone else said, by their fruits you shall know them.
And, surprise surprise, Christians, like, believe in God and the Bible and Jesus and prayer. And they invite people to church. And give them free literature. Of course! They think the gospel is good news worth sharing which actually works. Trusting Jesus and church membership would actually help people in debt if they gave it a go.
But this is done with gentleness and respect and the highest possible ethical standards. Say, "thanks, I'm not interested in all the God stuff, but can you help with my debt?" and bob is your father's brother.
If I knew anyone with debt issues, I know what I would Google, even if I were a militant atheist.Marc Lloyd
Peterson's (and other right thinking persons') response: These are problems!
How do we go from "facts" to values?Marc Lloyd