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 26 posts from the category 'Friends.'

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Just… us

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Mon, 13/08/2018 - 16:49
It’s not hard for our folk to be fed by superb bible teaching from around the planet. Then they come to church on Sunday, and it’s plain old us.
Categories: Friends


God Gold and Generals - Fri, 10/08/2018 - 21:53
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There is precious little hope around these days. 
One of the main things the Christian faith offers, is hope. Hope not in the sense of "I hope it will be a nice day" but a "certain and sure" hope of victory.
That's especially important for me as I consider the prospect of yet another chemotherapy round. Without hope it would be dreadful, with hope it is bearable. 
I want to suggest that the Christian's hope should be one of the most distinctive things about our life
This hope - if its true - is available for anyone. All you have to do is believe that the hope on offer is real hope.
Paul writing to a brand new church in Thessalonica in about 55 AD said  (see below) "we should not grieve like the rest of mankind which have no hope."
in fact I find that this contrast is true, if I contrast the one thing from which there is no escape - death. Comparing for example Christian funerals with any number of  humanist ones I have been to, the contrast is striking. I think in terms of the length of the service, the intensity of the congregation, the wanting to be there compared with wanting to be at the pub, the power of the message - only memories compared with the certain hope of seeing the dead person again. 
In short hope versus no hope
The background here to Paul's letter (see below) is that this is a new church where Paul had to leave in a hurry or risk being lynched. There were lots of young new Christians. Some believers  had died in the meantime. The remaining Christians were confused, they didn’t understand Christian belief on life after death
Paul writes to them and stresses over and over again the centrality of the resurrection. Why was this so emphasized? Because it was the central claim of Christianity. Christianity was from the beginning above all a resurrection movement
In fact, the Christian message in Acts is more about the resurrection than even the cross. Dont misunderstand me, you can hardly get to the resurrection without the cross: we need both, they are two sides of the same coin. But the central claim of the Christians in the first century was this “Jesus has risen from the dead, repent and believe”. 
So its a puzzle given this as to why this was such an issue. Surely Paul had drilled it into the Thessalonians? It seems firstly that somehow their grief overcame their teaching, which is quite to be expected. Grief is powerful and natural. Secondly, that the resurrection is an explosive teaching, completely shocking to the public. The Thessalonians could hardly believe it.
So they were confused, befuddled - Paul reassures them “Its ok” and answers their questions about what happens after we die. Paul refers the Thessalonians back to what they already knew - that Jesus died and rose again. That if you were there with an I Phone on the early morning of 5 April 33 AD* you could have recorded it.
So Paul says, you Thessalonians must know this and believe this and this belief must inform your behaviour. Not grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. As today, so then, there was no hope in the face of death. A Greek writer said “hopes are for the living the dead are without hope”
Grief itself is not wrong. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. Why should Christians not grieve as others do? In Greek 'Gar' = 'because'. Because Jesus died and rose again. Again and again the resurrection of the dead is linked to resurrection of Christ. We are asked to believe in and base our life and our hope in death on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 
What about if you are a non believer? There is no hope with atheism, none at all. Death is just the end of ineffective DNA. everything is finished. Its grim. Literally hopeless

But the Christian claim is that there is hope beyond the grave. There is here amazing hope. I am offering you now through Jesus Christ eternal life, victory over death, as a free gift. You dont have to get to this hope by being moral, you dont have to do stuff or be religious, you just have to repent and believe in Jesus Christ and seek to follow him. 
Believe what? 
"That Jesus died and rose again”
*That is the most likely date for the resurrection
 1 Thess 4
And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words
Categories: Friends

Some Psalms (2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 13)

Sussex Parson - Fri, 10/08/2018 - 17:52
God willing I am going to speak to the leaders on camp from a slightly random selection of early Psalms. In case they are of any interest or use, some handouts below.Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

Psalm 13 handout

Sussex Parson - Fri, 10/08/2018 - 17:47

How Long, O LORD?
Psalm 13

4X in 2vv

How long did David live in vv1 and 2?

(1) The Psalmist’s problems (vv1-2)

(a) God (v1)

Cf. Ps 10:1

Cf. Gen 3

(b) His own thoughts and the sorrow in his heart (v2a)

(c) The triumph of his enemies (v2b)

(2) The Psalmist’s prayer (vv3-4)

(3) The Psalmist’s praise (vv5-6)

Romans 8:28f

Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

Psalm 9 handout

Sussex Parson - Fri, 10/08/2018 - 17:46

A Primer on Praise and Prayer
Psalm 9

Emotional honesty, but also form / literary artistry (acrostic poem)

The value of set prayers / liturgy / hymns / the psalms etc.

Explicit and deliberate praise (cf. Ps 8:1, 9)

Who / what do you praise?

V1 – Praise the LORD – Yahweh

V1 – with all my heart

Reasons to praise God:

(1) What he has done (v1)

Cf. creation – Ps 8:1, 3, 7-8

(2) Who he is (v2)

What does the Psalmist encourage us to praise God for and pray about?

(1) God gives the Psalmist victory over his enemies (vv3-6, 19-20)

(2) God will rule in righteousness (vv7-18)

Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

Psalm 7 handout

Sussex Parson - Fri, 10/08/2018 - 17:46

Psalm 7

Mixed metaphors / 4 or 5 striking images

The Psalmist’s enemies are like a ferocious lion (v2)

who is pregnant with evil (v14)

and who falls into the pit he has dug (vv15-16)

because the Lord is a righteous judge (vv3-11)

and a powerful warrior (vv12-13)

2 possible objections to this picture:

(1) Enemies?

John 15:18, 20

1 Peter 5:8

(2) God as judge and warrior?

Cf. Ps 6:1-2Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

Psalm 6

Sussex Parson - Fri, 10/08/2018 - 17:45

Psalm 6

Be honest with God

Great suffering can be an authentic part of the true believer’s experience

(1) The Psalmist’s problems / plight / predicament

God! (v1f)

Physical agony (v2)

Anguish of soul (v3)

Enemies (vv7, 8, 10)

(2) The Psalmist’s prayer / appeals / arguments to use with God!

Cf. Ps 2:12

Mercy (v2)

God’s unfailing love (v4)

The glory and praise of God (v5)

(3) The Psalmist’s prospect / hope / confidence

Turning point in v8

V4 – Turn – v10Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

Psalm 3 handout

Sussex Parson - Fri, 10/08/2018 - 17:44

Salvation to Sing About
Psalm 3

3 ‘levels’ to think about when reading the Psalms:

(1) The Psalmist (maybe David or a king or...)

(2) Jesus

(3) Us - believers in Jesus

Title – see 2 Sam 15-19

(1) When mocked by many enemies… (vv1-2)

2 Sam 15:30

(2) … cry to God to save you… (vv3-4)

(3) … and you will be delivered (vv5-8)

Ps 127:2

V6 – cf. Ps 2:11Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

Psalm 2 handout

Sussex Parson - Fri, 10/08/2018 - 17:42

Why do the nations rage?
Psalm 2

(1) The nations stupidly rebel against the LORD (vv1-3)

Cf. vv6-7 & 2 Sam 7:11-14

Acts 4

Gen 3

(2) But God has established his King (vv4-9)

Cf. 1v1 & 2v4

Ps 37:12f; 59:8

Jn 19:19

Acts 13:32-33

Phil 2:9-11

Matt 28:19

(3) So “kiss” the Son (vv10-12)

Cf. v12 & Ps 1v1

Ps 46

Ø  God’s enemies: fear – flee to the Son

Ø  God’s people: fear, rejoice, serve, blessed, safe, refuge
Confidence and boldness in evangelismMarc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

The Weekly Review – the most important half hour of your week

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Thu, 09/08/2018 - 13:24
When I started out in ministry, running full-pelt, I didn’t a weekly review because I thought it was a luxury.  Fill the diary, keep your eyes on the road ahead, drive fast and hard. But it’s the old effectiveness/busyness issue, isn’t it?
Categories: Friends

Parish Magazine Item in which I dare to mention Brexit

Sussex Parson - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 07:49

Whether you voted ‘leave’ or ‘remain’, you could be forgiven for being sick of all talk of Brexit. I’m afraid, even at the risk of boring you, I am going to mention it, though I hope to avoid giving away my own EU-leanings. Please don’t write in if you think you detect a bias!

There has been much talk of freedom and independence from advocates of ‘leave’. And such themes have been on my mind especially this summer, as, at our Ventures camp for 11-14 year olds, we’ve been studying the book of Exodus, in which Moses famously leads the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom. You can see how Brexitiers might love that.  It seems there were Remoaners amongst the Israelites. Many of them seemed to have despaired of the brighter future which God promised as they journeyed in the wilderness. They had rose-tinted memories of their time in captivity. They forgot their ill-treatment and complained that they were relatively well-fed when they were slaves. God might have brought them out of Egypt, but was their independent isolation any better? What would they eat and drink? Was God really powerful enough to bring them into a Promised Land of their own, flowing with milk and honey? Did God care? Perhaps they should have remained. You can almost imagine them saying “we didn’t vote to be poorer and unemployed!”.

Well, any Brexit analogy here is probably already overstrained and best abandoned. But the Bible does have much to say about freedom and slavery. Sometimes when we please ourselves it can seem as if we’re making a bid for great freedom. But the Bible tells us that all sin is really slavery. The liberation we hope for is an illusion because our own desires, the world around us, and the forces of evil master us. Jesus put it starkly: “"Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34) By nature, all of us are trapped by our own misplaced longings.

When we know we’re spiritual addicts, Jesus’ promise comes to us as wonderful good news: “if the Son [that is, Jesus himself] sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

In the Bible, freedom is not a merely negative idea. It is not just the absence of constraint. It is not only freedom fromslavery but something positive: freedom to live not for ourselves or our own desires, but for God. It is freedom forlife as it was meant to be lived. In the book of Exodus, we are repeatedly told that the Israelites wanted to go out into the desert so that they might worship God. And likewise, the Christian is set free from slavery to sin to live for God and others.

The Apostle Paul too makes much of this theme of freedom and slavery. He says that believers have died with Christ so that they are no longer slaves to sin. He tells the Christians at Rome: “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:18) Or again, “now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap is holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Christian freedom, then, is not autonomy from God. We are always dependent creatures. And why would we want to be “free” from God? Jesus transfers his people from the service of sin and self to the service of God. And, as The Prayer Book puts it, God’s “service is perfect freedom”. We were made to love and serve God, and it is as grateful recipients of his grace that we can find true fulfilment and purpose. We’ve no need to seek to earn God’s love – he loves us anyway. So, we can serve him gladly out of a sense of who he is and all that he’s done for us. We could have no better Master.

Who knows how Brexit will turn out – assuming it happens, of course. It is sometimes claimed that many who voted ‘leave’ now have buyer’s remorse and would change their minds if asked again. We’re told that we’ve been lied to and that people didn’t know what they voted for. God’s promises are clear and sure, however. You won’t regret looking to Jesus for freedom from the desires which promise so much, but which can easily enslave us. Even the most ardent Euro-sceptic should admit that only the Son, not Article 50, can make us free indeed. Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

The customer isn’t always right… (but she often is)

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Tue, 07/08/2018 - 16:08
It’s the old adage: if they’re not actually learning, then I’m not teaching - whatever else I think I’m doing. 
Categories: Friends

Songs from my childhood 1: Trelawny or 'Song of the Western Men'

God Gold and Generals - Sun, 05/08/2018 - 20:30
As many of us head for holiday, I am reminded of days long gone and my dear late fathers love for old songs. There was no tape or CD player (the latter hadn’t even been invented) or even a radio so to pass the time when bible smuggling or off to the far extremities of the British isles on long journeys, Dad would get all 6 of us jammed into the car to sing ( as loudly as possible)I start therefore a new occasional series about songs from my childhood.This one Dad would sing as we crossed the Tamar into Cornwall. (For those of you not in the UK, this is the farthest part of south western Britain, a county with its own very distinctive culture, landscape and even language, related to Welsh and Breton, which I am glad to see is being revived)

There is something magical and other worldly about Cornwall (once you escape the traffic). As a small boy i can remember almost burrowing through lanes overhung with trees and hedges at the end of a very long day, winding along tiny country lanes, already smelling but not being able to see the sea. Suddenly, there it was, sparkling in the evening sun (in childhood memories it never rains, of course). En route to Porthtowan in approximately 1968 or 69, yes I am that old.  

Its a very appropriate song for anyone going to "God's own county" (which is certainly not Yorkshire). In fact its often called the 'Cornish national anthem'. Its known either as "The Song of the Western Men" or "Trelawny". Like a lot of folk and patriotic songs its origins are somewhat muddled and obscure. The words were written by a highly unusual clergyman, Robert Stephen Hawker, who was vicar from 1834 for over 40 years of the remote parish of Morwenstowe in deepest Cornwall. Hawker probably deserves his own blog. Famously eccentric, some of the stories about him are probably apocryphal such as excommunicating his cat for mousing on Sunday. In many ways he was deeply traditional (and no friend I am afraid to say of the many nonconformists in the area) but he was also very innovative. Harvest festivals and weekly collections were both his idea, so the histories claim.  When he arrived in the parish, this was still an era of wreckers and the coast was notorious for cruel locals who would place fake lights luring ships to their doom on the mighty granite cliffs. “From Hartland Point to Padstow light/Is a watery grave by day or night” went the local rhyme. Deeply compassionate, Hawker would care for dead seamen, as well as stamping out the evil practices that led to their death. Several times he organised or participated in heroic sea rescues. He was a mystic and an antiquarian and above all a poet  This is his most famous poem, written in 1824 in its current version. See you tube clip above for a rousing recent rendition. 
A good sword and a trusty hand!
A merry heart and true!
King James's men shall understand
What Cornish lads can do!
And have they fixed the where and when?
And shall Trelawny die?
Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why!

And shall Trelawny live?
Or shall Trelawny die?
Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why!
Out spake their Captain brave and bold:
A merry wight was he:
Though London Tower were Michael's hold,
We'll set Trelawny free!
We'll cross the Tamar, land to land:
The Severn is no stay:
With "one and all," and hand in hand;
And who shall bid us nay?

And shall Trelawny live?
Or shall Trelawny die?
Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why!
And when we come to London Wall,
A pleasant sight to view,
Come forth! come forth! ye cowards all:
Here's men as good as you.
Trelawny he's in keep and hold;
Trelawny he may die:
Here's twenty thousand Cornish bold
Will know the reason why
And shall Trelawny live?
Or shall Trelawny die?
Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why!

The song was based on ancient Cornish folk songs, but unfortunately, it seems the good vicar got his history muddled. He thought it related to Bishop Trelawny who was imprisoned by King James II just before the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688, but it seems it was actually originally about the bishop's grandfather.

Wikipedia elaborates "Hawker...assumed that the Trelawny mentioned in the song was Sir Jonathan Trelawny, the Bishop of Bristol, who had been imprisoned in the Tower of London by King James II in 1688. However it is more likely that it referred to his grandfather, Sir John Trelawny, a Cornish Royalist leader who had been imprisoned by parliament in 1628. The people of Cornwall did not actually march to rescue Trelawny, as told in the song. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London for three weeks, then tried and acquitted. According to Cornish historian Robert Morton Nance "The Song of the Western Men" was possibly inspired by the song "Come all ye jolly tinner boys" which was written more than ten years earlier in about 1807, when Napoleon made threats that would affect trade in Cornwall at the time of the invasion of Poland. "Ye jolly tinner boys" contains the line "Why forty thousand Cornish boys shall knawa the reason why." " 
And should that Boney Peartie have forty thousand still 
To make into an army to work his wicked will, 
And try for to invaade us, if he doesn't quickly fly— 
Why forty thousand Cornish boys shall knawa the reason why

Anyway, whatever the history it's a great song, a wonderful tune and celebrates the independent-mindedness and fight for liberty of the rightly proud people of Cornwall. 
Categories: Friends

BOOK REVIEW: When Darkness Seems My Closest Friend, by Mark Meynell

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Wed, 01/08/2018 - 14:11
This is an honest book, written by a sensitive Christian for a Christian readership, to help us to understand, embrace, sit with and pray for our sisters and brothers who face depression as a daily reality.
Categories: Friends

Book Review: The Grid: establishing leadership training in the local church by Adrian Reynolds (10ofthose July 2018)

God Gold and Generals - Wed, 01/08/2018 - 11:10

Adrian Reynolds is the training director for the FIEC and has written a very good, short and highly readable book on how we should train Christian leaders (of all types). 

The first part of the book covers the biblical case for training and sets out a very practical grid to use by churches to discuss what training is needed. Down one side of the grid you have the qualities and skills needed: Adrian chooses godliness, ministry of the word, knowledge, leadership, evangelism and coaching. Very importantly, Adrian includes the often overlooked pastoral side of word ministry. Then on the other axis he includes all the different types of leadership roles that we see in the Bible - for example pastor-teachers, evangelists, elders, deacons and so on. The grid is designed to promote discussion and arrive at a high level overview. There’s nothing magic about it of course but to my mind it seems a very practical and easy to understand place to start. Key as he stresses is for churches to discuss leadership training using the grid - “where are we, where do we want to go” and “how to we get there/bridge the gap”

Then in the second part he makes some overall comments about the lessons we can draw for today from the grid. He points out for example the over emphasis on ministry of the word compared to all the other leadership skills “we end up making that one skill into everything”. 'Word ministry' also he rightly suggests tends to be defined much too narrowly. Next he points out the confusion often seen between knowledge and word ministry. Perhaps to me the most important point is the next one: the complete lack of emphasis on training for pioneers and evangelists, both in UK and worldwide. This to me is the single biggest weakness we see today in our church. We have many fine bible teachers but only a tiny handful of evangelists. How much time do pastor-teachers (anbd other leaders) really spend on evangelism? And given that 99% of non Christians will never darken the door of our church evangelistic preaching (while good) is not the same thing at all. Finally, Adrian comments on the strange imbalance of training for elders (almost none) vs that available for pastors (a lot) and the  much neglected areas of training in leadership and coaching. 

There are also some very valid and helpful comments for theological colleges. Adrian stresses, surely correctly, that the local church does (or should do) everything and so has the ultimate responsibility for theological college trainees. He suggests that much of the problems arise because churches fail to own the people they send off for training. Seminaries etc are but agents of the local church: however from my experience theological colleges who want to live up to Adrian’s recommendation sometimes struggle to get their church counterparts interested in "owning" theological training.

Adrian has a wonderful overview of the UK situation from his key role at the FIEC, which plays a major role across the evangelical UK Church. His new book is excellent: it’s practical, well written, thoughtful and I hope it stimulates discussion in many local churches about how to train men and women in leadership. Pastors, please buy a copy for all your leaders (10 ofThose as always have great pricing) and get them to read it and discuss it. 
Categories: Friends

“Lord, send us some…”

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Mon, 30/07/2018 - 13:13
What if God doesn't send us the talented and the gifted? What if sends us work?
Categories: Friends

Q and A on being a Christian in the workplace: part 2

God Gold and Generals - Sun, 29/07/2018 - 10:39

A good friend sent me the following comments on my previous blog on work.
I have disguised his identity by changing a few things!
He writes

"What most struck me... was that whilst I agree that your advice to a 'new starter' is the 'exam answer' in terms of its noble idealism, in my experience, and unless you have the luxury of choice, it would need to be tempered with a large dose of pragmatism.
Already I can hear you crying "but that's the whole point, you shouldn't be afraid or have to compromise your beliefs". I don't disagree. All I can say is in my world, away from the corporate blue chips, a junior person following your advice would at best be regarded with amused detachment and quickly ostracised (think Tony Blair's "nutters"), or at worst be condemned to a life of drudgery with no prospects of promotion or even interesting work, however talented. Unfair? Of course. Does it still happen in today's workplace? Definitely - I can provide several first-hand example

The survivors, if not the winners, are those who "keep it under their hat" and only when pressed would admit to any form of belief, hastily followed by the apologetic rider that they don't want to ram it down people's throats, before hastily changing the subject. Quite the opposite of evangelism in the workplace.On the ethics front I'm afraid it's even worse - certainly amongst smaller firms everything has become much more short-term in outlook, and ethics is unfortunately one of the first casualties of the battle. Especially on the financial side! Basically "you're either with us or agin us" and for a junior person to even question a management decision purely on the grounds of ethics might be tolerated once (as a rookie mistake), but not twice. 
When I was starting out, the principal ethical debate was whether it was acceptable to work for a (sector of industry). A few said absolutely not, most said yes, but not on actual (part of that sector), others said it was fine. It's actually not that easy to determine where the boundary is in a lot of these systems - more often that not, especially when starting out, you would only see a small part of a much larger whole. My point is that initial idealism is all too easily defeated by the reality of work, which when coupled with a need to fund eating and accommodation is at risk of being lost for good.
I should point out I'm not criticising your points, just throwing in my thoughts for what their worth. Keep posting & blogging!"

Thanks very much for your kind comments and I really and truly appreciate you taking an interest in my blog. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

You are being very honest. We are let's be honest all afraid of what people think of us and we all want to blend in. Its true as you say that its especially tough in a more "blue collar" environment and when you are younger and more junior. 
So, I fully agree its tough to do as I suggested. Yes, it is incredibly idealistic - but the bible itself is idealistic, in the sense that humanly speaking we cant possibly do the things we are called to do. God calls us to ideals which we cant attain. Only with God's help can we succeed. But God promises exactly that if we take him at his word and "confess the name of Jesus" He will be with us. 
Jesus said "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
Ridicule, laughter and ostracism are much milder than many people experience in the world for their Christian faith. 

Its also freedom of speech to allow our colleagues and friends to poke fun at our beliefs if they want. Why shouldn't they? Free speech cuts both ways. People should be free to say what they think about the church and the Christian faith. A lot of criticism of the church is entirely accurate! 

If we are really blocked in our career for our faith then that's a suffering that's worth while. God can use that suffering for his purposes. When people in the C2 saw Christians being thrown to the lions many of them were struck by this and wondered "why on earth did these people choose to do that when they could have easily escaped?" Some of the watching crowds over time ended up converting to the Christian faith as a result. Little by little the Christian faith spread because people were willing to suffer for what they believed. If we cant even take a little mild bit of ridicule we shouldn't be surprised that our faith in the UK shrinks.  
If we cant manage what I suggested we should say, we can surely manage to say something, however small. Even a timid, frightened witness is infinitely better than nothing.  

we should as Jesus says "be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves". Sometimes people are clearly trying to trick us or wind us up and we should refuse to take the bait. As Jesus did. But sometimes apparently hostile questions mask an underlying curiosity. We need wisdom. We must also love our enemies and bless those who curse us. 
One good thing is that slowly and surely it gets easier. Its hardest when you are the youngest and most junior and newest employee. Its easiest if for example you own the firm or are the CEO. Also as we get older we tend to care less what other people think of us, on average. So other things being equal, assuming no change in the external environment, every day will be very slightly easier than the last to confess Christ. Thats a comforting thought.  
There are important legal protections for Christians. I know there are some cases where Christians have been fired for saying something like "I will pray for you" but those cases are quite often reversed on appeal. Legal help is available through for example Christian Concern and should be taken. Even if the decisions are not overturned, the Eternal Judge will emphatically and publicly reverse them at the Day of Judgement. Its not in the bible but its true "The mills of God grind slowly but they grind exceeding small". 
It all boils down to "who are we more afraid of - God or humans?" The answer to fear of humans is a bigger fear. Think of Jesus asleep in the boat. The disciples are terrified they are going to drown, but when they wake Jesus up he stills the storm. Then in fact they are even more afraid, because it begins to dawn on them who this man actually is. If we are more afraid of a very small storm (a small one as it's not death but ridicule) I suggest thats likely to be because our understanding and knowledge of God is too small. 
I think the ethics issue is somewhat easier

If you have any doubts about a sector, don't go into it in the first place

As far as not doing wrong things I think even humanly speaking 'turning a blind eye'  is usually a poor strategy

Proverbs says 
1. “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” (Proverbs 11:1)
We shouldn't cheat or behave unethically firstly because God tells us not to and he watches over everything. Ultimately, justice will be done and sin will be punished. 
2. "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” (Proverbs 11:3“)
If a firm is dishonest or pursues sharp practice and ignores or stifle your protests, leave. Not just because its wrong but because "cheats seldom prosper". Dishonest firms (in the long run) often fail. Honesty and integrity is in the long run normally highly valued by others.. Not always of course, but often.
3. "Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.” (Proverbs 16:8)
Even if we lose out for witnessing or standing up for whats right (and we may do) we will still ultimately be better off
Jesus predicted all of the above (and much much worse!) would happen. He says in Matthew
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you....
So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven."

Categories: Friends

The Calling of Levi All Age Gimmicks

Sussex Parson - Sat, 28/07/2018 - 07:14
So can anyone help me on all age gimmicks on the calling of Levi and the passage that follows, please? (Luke 5:27-end)

It could be something about surprises or appearances and reality. Or the right and wrong sort of people / unexpected choices.

Surprisingly, Jesus calls someone who seems the wrong sort of person who does the right thing.

And those who might seem the right people do the wrong thing and reject Jesus.

We are all spiritually sick to the heart, but those who think they are healthy risk rejecting the great Doctor.

We won't see our need of Jesus until we admit the seriousness of our spiritual illness.

I might have to plagiarise Glen Scrivener's sermon which goes something like:

Jesus is the ultimate commander in chief who calls you.
Jesus is the ultimate happy host at the party who throws a banquet for sinners.
Jesus is the ultimate doctor who came to make sinners whole.

Then there could be something around eating or eating together or new and old etc.

No screen is available.

Who knows how many children / willing volunteers there will be!Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

Q and A on being a Christian in the work place

God Gold and Generals - Wed, 25/07/2018 - 09:17

A Christian friend who is soon to enter the work force asked me the following questions. I welcome more! 

What should a Christian's attitude be towards work?

Work itself is good. The bible opens with God at work and ends in the same place. All work is if rightly understood imitating Gods act of creating the universe.  We are made in the image of God and this includes being made to work — though “work” doesn’t just mean paid work, it would include all acts of making things, of serving others,  of spending time and energy to produce things (including intangible things like culture). 

This means that work is not something we should minimise or ignore to spend time at "church". All of life that is good, rightly understood, can be service to God. This also means all (lawful) occupations are equally valued. The idea that there is say a three level “pyramid” in work (Christian workers such as pastors as the top, those who are helping others such as nurses in the middle and terrible money making professions such as bankers at the bottom) is wholly unbiblical. We must break down the "Sacred/Secular Divide". 

We should also be thankful for our jobs and seek to do them wholeheartedly and diligently. Many people in the majority world have no job or terrible crushing jobs like scavenging on rubbish tips. In the West we tend to have rewarding and comparatively interesting jobs (not everyone I know but many of us). So we should be thankful, enjoy our work and seek to glorify God by doing it well. When God works he saw “that it was good”. (Unlike it must be said my DIY)

In the same way that God is generous to us in giving (most of us in the West) good jobs we should be generous to others with our time, expertise and money. Stewardship (of which I am a trustee) is a great place to think about this. 

Ken Costa's excellent book "God at work" explores all of the above and lots more.

LICC has many excellent resources which help the Christian in the workplace. Mark Greene's book on the Sacred/Secular Divide in particular is excellent.

How should we deal with unethical decisions? 

It is rare in my experience to come across situations in the workplace where you are expected to make decisions which are clearly unethical. However, if one comes across them, then it would be in the first place best I have found to express the impact of such a decision on the organisation’s image and reputation rather than immediately bring out what is written in the bible. Of course a Christian should base their principles on the bible: the question is how to communicate the principles. 

We should be careful not to be too narrowly  legalistic about ethical issues but rather adhere to the general biblical  principles. We need wisdom above all and we can’t develop a “box ticking” mentality. We are in living a fallen world and we are trying to convince people about Jesus Christ not preach morality. That doesn’t mean we can do as we like but it means we need wisdom. 

Let me explain what i mean by taking an example: pornography. It's I hope obvious that Christians should not work in this or invest in pornographic films, but if a media company  produces 18 rated films such as  “50 shades of grey” among many other decent films, we don’t have to I suggest refuse to work in that company or invest in it. Just as Paul talks about food offered to idols. Otherwise we will have to withdraw from the world and live in caves. But if fro example we are asked to work on that specific film I would argue we should object. How should we object? Look at how Daniel deals with that in Daniel 1 - politely, graciously and firmly. Also worth noting that Daniel nailed his colours (politely) to the mast as early as possible. So should we.  

The major challenges that a Christian might face in the workplace are much more likely to be  I suggest not so much ethical challenges (though there may be some) but more likely the much bigger and much more insidious temptation to be conformed to the culture of the age eg losing our faith, becoming greedy, sexually immoral, gossiping about colleagues, bullying etc... 

Christians must be like salt in their workplace, which implies two things: 

1) Salt shouldn’t lose its saltiness. Salt loses it saltiness gradually just like a boat loosely tied to the shore at night might find itself in the middle of the ocean by morning. Often people don’t realise when they are losing their saltiness unless someone reminds them of how they used to be and compares it to where they are now. Most people who lose their faith do so gradually and imperceptibly.  

2) Salt shouldn’t be just kept in the salter but must be used. Likewise, it’s not sufficient for Christians to be saved :  its  essential that we share the gospel with others as well as seeking to change the world in line with Christian values. See Tim Keller speaking recently at the House of Commons on this

If we honour God he will honour us: if we disdain him he will disdain us (1 Samuel 2:30) 

How to keep salty? One great way is to get plugged into a lunchtime service aimed at people in work which teaches the bible. This was pioneered in the UK by Dick Lucas at St Helen's in the City and they have now spread all over London, including Canary Wharf 

I find them invaluable because you in a very short time (they are all very careful not to go beyond max 30 minutes) get a real "spiritual charge" from the bible to stop your "I-Phone of the heart" running out of "power." 

Q: How to be an Evangelist in the workplace?

A: The first step in sharing the gospel is to ensure that everyone knows that you’re a Christian. If we dont do this then people may just think (I hope anyway) we are "nice people". Its also a clear biblical command to confess the faith we hold. God has no silent children. We must "learn to speak for God without fear or shame" (John Wesley).  

To start, your faith can be brought up in a very casual manner such as mentioning that you went to church when your colleagues ask what you did during the weekend.  Once they know you’re a Christian its can be helpful I have found to take advantage for example of current affairs that everyone discusses. This can be very simple e.g. Brexit? “in our church we have strongly pro and anti Brexit people but our love for Christ transcends our political differences” Trump? “Personally I dont like him (or maybe you do!) but I think Christians shouldn't look for salvation in any politician but in Christ” And so on. Short and simple. Not every time of course - which would suggest your nuts :) - but as and when the Spirit leads you (which He will).  We should also avoid I suggest  getting entangled in arguments that harness the Christian faith to one or another political party — as Jesus said “my kingdom is not of this world”. This doesn’t mean individual Christians can’t hold one political view or another or be politicians - that’s fine - but rather overall the church should avoid a “tribal” political identity. 

Ask your friends and colleagues about their beliefs (everyone has some kind of worldview or beliefs!) and be genuinely interested in what they say. Ask them many questions about their worldview and listen carefully to the replies. You may well learn something ! The most important step in evangelising is to a) pray for our friends that we may be means of blessing to them and b) invest in friendships and genuinely love our friends  - by getting to know them better and through friendship, Service and mutual respect build a “friendship bridge” which enables us to share our convictions with them. 

I have found in general from experience it’s often better to use stories from the bible (especially the gospels) to express different Christian concepts and truths, rather than describing doctrine. It depends on the learning style of the person but generally I prefer stories. I find they work because they draw people in and are memorable and draw people outside of themselves. You are both examining a shared experience rather than you lecturing them. They can then come to their own judgement. For example stories that I like using (and you can tell  them in your own words as shortly as you like) include 

• Prodigal son (forgiveness)  • Woman at the well (other religions)  • Woman taken in adultery (sex) • Nicodemus (“I’m not religious”)  • Pharisee and the tax collector/I have come for the sick not the healthy (Christ not morality)  • Widow of Nain/Lazarus (Christ conquered death ) • Jesus asleep in the storm (fear)  • Rich young ruler (follow Jesus not money)  • Rich fool “tear down my barns”/ "what shall it benefit a man to gain the whole world and lose your soul” (idolatry: our status with God is what matters) • Wedding at Cana (God's generosity) • Doubting Thomas (doubts: Jesus invites us to find him)  • Road to Emmaus (doubts: as we read bible we meet Jesus)  • Job (suffering) • Joseph (God uses evil for good - the cross) • Dying thief  (didn’t know much: knew Christ) • Jesus on the cross "father forgive them" (Forgiveness) • Philippian jailer — (nature of faith)  • Elijah and prophets of Baal (reality of God)  • Abraham and Isaac (atonement)  • Naaman (nature of faith)

Simpler the better. So, for example if a terrible atrocity occurs you might simply say 'I feel so helped at times like this by remembering what Jesus said on the cross "Father forgive them for they know not what they do".'

You see, the point is to plant seed. Seed is small but grows into a mighty plant. Seed in the seed bag is of no use: throw it out and see what happens. Stories may stick in people’s minds and sprout years later. There is an intrinsic and supernatural power in God's word and if we throw it out the seed may fall into a crevice and like plants pushing through cracks in paving stones it will in time bear fruit. “My word shall not return to me empty."

Our job is to throw the seed out of the seed bag as skilfully as we can, after that its up to God.

It’s important to be patient and acknowledge that it’s God who works in our friends hearts, thereby giving us no reason to be discouraged or take pride. The best way to approach I suggest if a question or comment is put forward is often to question the questioner — this being a rabbinic method Jesus often used. For example a statement "I dont like religion" A: "Me neither! What puts you off particularly?" 

All of this means we need to know our stuff so reading the bible (and especially the gospels) plus books by renowned apologists and other Christian authors and using good arguments and stories in your own words is helpful

Finally, we must be careful not to steal time from our employer. Nobody minds a few minutes "coffee machine" discussion but we need to go (much much) deeper when we have more time on a 121 basis. When we see the seed land on good soil it needs to be lovingly and gently cultivated. From experience I have found that the  best way to do that is to invite our friends to chat about the bible using materials such as the Word121 as I have outlined here 

This should be done over a coffee or lunch outside work time. That way its private between us and our friend and we are not "stealing"  our employers time.  

Categories: Friends


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