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 46 posts from the category 'Friends.'

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Why we should support not abolish charities

God Gold and Generals - Sat, 24/02/2018 - 11:54
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Merryn Somerset-Webb writing in the FT https://www.ft.com/content/1093fcec-187a-11e8-9376-4a6390addb44#comments-anchor (behind a paywall I am afraid) attacks the charity sector and in particular makes four points in the light of the Oxfam scandal. She has repeatedly written on this topic in recent months, attacking all charities and especially small ones
1. There are far too many charities — 99% should be eliminated, especially small charities2. Gift Aid (tax relief on gifts) should be removed3. Religious charities are particularly wrong 4. Charities pay too much and are inefficiently regulated
I couldn't disagree more. I have been involved in charities on an unpaid basis for many years and these arguments just dont stack up. Not only that they are extremely dangerous and if implemented would damage millions of the most vulnerable in our society.  
Point 4. Does has some validity and hopefully out of this terrible scandal will come needed reforms. Oxfam made huge mistakes and is rightly suffering the consequences. But does this mean we should abolish charitable aid to people in disasters? 
A few large charities do pay a few senior staff too much. But most people who work for charities do so and willingly get paid far less than the amount they could earn elsewhere. 
The answer to a scandal in one of the hundreds of thousands of charities in the UK is not to abolish the whole sector. 
1. Charities overall do a huge amount of good, especially so small ones. My friend Neil March is the Policy & Research Manager role with the Small Charities Coalition and says “ I have talked to a number of trustees from small charities and what they all have in common is that they came into existence precisely because of a need that was not being met which someone felt strongly enough about to be prepared to put their own time and resource into doing something about the situation. (A charity supported by a mutual friend), Lucy Air Ambulance, is a classic example of this. Somebody experienced having a premature birth whilst on holiday in the UK miles from home and realised the NHS would not pay to transport mother and baby to a hospital near home as they would get perfectly good treatment where they were. However the disruption and cost to the family of the remaining members having to return home while mum and baby were hundreds of miles away was an issue. As a consequence a charity has formed that owns it own incubator and has developed partnerships with aviation providers so it can safely transport the child and parent(s) to their nearest hospital. Another example is a friend of Neil's who runs a charity that employs nurses to care for people with a rare condition that causes non-life-threatening tumours to grow on the outside of their faces causing disfigurement and other associated problems. The NHS doesn’t fund this because it is low priority as people can live with the condition so she has stepped in and built a charity to support those affected. So the list goes on. What we find is that small charities who understand local communities and cultures and have built up a relationship of trust within those communities are generally those who are best placed to reach the hardest people to reach but the ones who are also the most vulnerable and in need of support. That may have to do with mental health, age, loneliness or a host of other issues. Small charities are not only a lifeline to those people but also they are saving the public purse money by funding these vital services through fundraising, donations, grant applications etc. and usually through a mix of all these. "
The failures of Oxfam certainly mean lessons need to be learned but to argue that this means effectively the whole sector should be abolished is ludicrous and would cause untold damage heart ache and misery. Charities and especially small ones are the life blood of care, the ‘small platoons   of thousands of people who freely give of their time for causes they feel passionate about, often local ones and ones that the state cant and wont support. Edmund Burke said ‘To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind’
2. Gift Aid is just reclaiming our own tax that we have already paid on our income. Some facts would help. The amount in total reclaimed through Gift Aid is a tiny drop in the bucket. In the last year for which figures are available it "cost" £1.19bn. Of which just over a third was the higher rate tax relief (£480m) The state as a whole spends around £770bn. So it’s a tiny and totally insignificant fraction! The idea that the state is going to be more efficient at choosing what activities to support than charities is insanity. Anyone who deals with large bureaucracies like the NHS knows that they are run by dedicated people trying their best to operate in a hugely inefficient system. To find the FT of all papers peddling the argument ‘ Big Brother knows best” is very surprising. Small is beautiful and this is especially so when it comes to charities, yet this is the very sector that Merryn seems to be the keenest to abolish.  One of the most encouraging developments of the last 20 years has been a great increase in philanthropy by rich individuals.  Very often they not only give their money but their time and expertise. If we abolish Gift Aid the result will be a massive drop in such giving by everyone and especially by the rich. This will in turn place even more strain upon the already creaking state run medical and educational bureaucracies. Would Merryn rather wealthy people spent their money selfishly on themselves? More Ferraris and Lamborghini’s and fewer air ambulances and food banks? 
3. Originally in the UK almost all charities were religious. And look at what terrible things they did! Fighting slavery, disease, animal cruelty, children working in the mines, homelessness. Caring for orphans, the sick, the poor, the abused. Providing schools, food, hospitals. Away with them! What incredible  damage did people like Hannah More, Shaftesbury, Wilberforce, Dr Barnardo and countless untold others do! The level of ignorance in the article about what religious charities actually do is staggering. Nor is this only historic. For example, The Cinnamon Network which was founded and run by my friend Matt Bird recently published research showing that “Churches, mosques, synagogues and other faith based groups give an equivalent of £3 billion worth of time to social projects and are filling the “ widening gaps” left by sweeping government cuts. The report estimates that two million people — the vast majority of them volunteers — from faith groups give at least 384 million hours a year to projects like food bank, drop-in groups, debt advice, family support, employment coaching and temporary accommodation." Thank God for what they do — or we would have even more starving bankrupt and lonely people needing to fall back on the governments bureaucracy. 
I close by quoting the famous words of Ebenezer Scrooge of whom Merryn seems perhaps to be - no doubt unwittingly - influenced. Scrooge is approached by philanthropists who ask him for a charitable donation. They say
“At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, … it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir." "Are there no prisons? "Plenty of prisons..""And the Union workhouses." demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?""Both very busy, sir...""Those who are badly off must go there." "Many can't go there; and many would rather die." “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” (and we might add, save on Gift Aid!) 

PS 

Neil March adds 

"According to Third Sector magazine last year the top 3% of charities spent approximately nine times what the remaining 97% spent on advertising such is the wealth gap between the likes of NSPCC, Oxfam and small charities. At the same time the Charity Commission's own stats published in December 2017 showed more government contracting out money went to the big charities at the expense of small ones. 

What actually needs to happen is that the government need to sort out their commissioning policy so that the small local charities already doing vital work and building the trust relationships with the most vulnerable and hardest to reach people in society get more commissioning and grant support through local authorities and community foundations, instead of the work being contracted out and awarded to big charities who may have expertise in writing tender bids but don't have the local knowledge and expertise to deliver.
It should be noted that, contrary to the claims in the FT article, all charities have gone through rigorous registration processes in order to be accepted by the Charity Commission (and not the Charitable Commission) in the first place. 
There are many other examples of small charities usually staffed 100% by volunteers: they include Stay Brave, a charity for male rape victims formed by a male rape victim who was shocked to be rejected by all the existing rape charities because he was not a woman and also Sickle Cell & Young Stroke Sufferers (SCYSS), a small charity set up by the mum of a child who suffered a stroke because stroke and sickle cell charities were only set up to deal with adults. 
People should also understand that these kinds of charities cannot afford to pay big salaries (if they can afford them at all) so the idea that they pay people too much is ridiculous. They are entirely reliant on volunteers giving up their spare time to help out. But they perform vital work that no-one else would provide if they were to close down."
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Categories: Friends

Forget managing time – manage your energy

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Thu, 22/02/2018 - 15:57
Three keys to energy management (apart from diet and exercise), to help you build out from a solid core of time when you are at your best, focussing on what’s most important.
Categories: Friends

Lent Course 1: Praying with Paul - 2 Thess 1

Sussex Parson - Wed, 21/02/2018 - 17:46

Praying with Paul - Lent Course 2018 - Session 1


Diocesan Year of Prayer – a topic we almost certainly all feel we could always do with some help with! ‘Vicar, I think I’m praying too much!’?


Prayer! – “Lord, teach us to pray!”


Book recommendation: Don Carson, A Call To Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Baker / IVP, 1992) – not required reading for the course but on which much of what follows depends!


Feel free to but in, make comments, ask questions!


Our prayers and Paul’s


What are your prayers like? What do you pray about?


Let’s think about our prayer life both individually and as families / groups / a whole church. (Some of these questions might be good for personal reflection) See also the questions at the end of each chapter in Carson ACTSR


To what extent do you think the Apostle Paul’s prayers should be models for our prayers? Why?


The big question to keep in mind in all these studies, to which we’ll return in the final session is: how might Paul’s prayers reform our prayers?


The format of contemporary, ancient and Biblical letters: From, To, Greeting, Thanksgiving / Blessing … Concluding Prayer / Praise / Blessing


2 Thessalonians 1


How much do you pray for yourself and for others? In what way? When? Why?
Notice this is a thoughtful, specific prayer for others relatively far away. No doubt there were many other calls on Paul’s thoughts and prayers. We might understand if he were taken up with his own often difficult circumstances.  


Carson’s Chapter 2: The Framework of Paul’s Prayers (vv3-10)


V11, “with this in mind” – Greek eis (into) kai (and) – ‘Wherefore also’ – all the preceding leads into this
Are there particular things you keep in mind when praying? What preoccupies your mind and shapes your thinking?
What does Paul say he keeps in mind here?
What ought wo to want to keep in mind when praying?


Perhaps one great difference between Paul’s prayers and ours is the extent to which they are theologically informed and saturated with God’s mission?
How would you sum up verses 3-10? What are the big things that shape Paul’s prayers?


(1) Thankfulness for signs of grace


Are your prayers always thankful? Should they be? What things could you give thanks for (especially in other believers?) How could we cultivate thankfulness?
Cf. The Book of Common Prayer Prayer of General Thanksgiving or An English Prayer Book p46
Giving thanks for others might have very positive effects in overcoming resentments, envy etc.
It is harder to hate those for whom you pray (thankfully)!


What is Paul thankful for? (vv3-4)


1. Paul gives thanks that the believers’ faith is growing (v3)


What does it mean to grow in faith? What are the alternatives / barriers to this?
Faith – increasing trust in the Lord, fidelity, faithfulness, growing in knowledge, strength, maturity, depth etc. as an antidote to anxiety or self-dependence or trust in other things


2. Paul gives thanks that their love (everyone for one another in the church) is increasing (v3)


‘everyone’ not just the PCC / keenies / spiritual elite! Even the odd balls / hard to love etc.


Cf. John 13:34-35


Notice that the standard here is progress not perfection – growth not having arrived.


This Christian love in churches is especially remarkable if they are also marked by significant diversity cf. e.g. the Golf Club or Conservative Association! We must keep in sight our primary allegiance to Christ and an awareness of his gospel.


Are you / we growing in these areas? Do we risk being self-satisfied / indifferent / defeatist / complacent?
How might we seek this growth?


3. Paul gives thanks that they are persevering under trial (v4)


What does Paul boast about (v4)? Is he right to do so?


What would we rightly be known for among the churches? (v4)
Are love, faith and perseverance your priorities?
Do we take a special interest in the persecuted church? Resources e.g. Barnabas Fund / Open Doors / Christian Solidarity Worldwide


Do you tend to be positive or negative about others? Do you find it easier to see faults or to see things for which to be thankful? What could you do about this?


Could you use the church prayer diary / electoral roll / notice sheet / magazine to help you give thanks for others?


Do our prayers seem too focused on our material well-being compared to Paul’s? How could we counter this? Cf. Colossians 3:1; Matthew 6:19-21


These things are primarily God’s work in us. That is why Paul can thank God for them. This should spur us to pray for God’s work in ourselves and others.


(2) Confidence in the prospect of vindication (vv5-10)


The importance of a future focus on the final consummated kingdom of God for believers


1. For believers there will be vindication (v5, v7, v10)


Evidence of God’s work in them, not of merit – salvation not earned


2. For others, there will be retribution (v6, vv8-9)


Justice – note the context of unjust persecution – the gospel and substitutionary atonement! Romans 3:21-26


Are we too focused on the present? On our own local concerns?
How might a fuller grasp of the gospel and a focus on the ultimate future shape our praying?


Carson’s Chapter 3: Worthy petitions


Paul’s petitions (vv11-12)


What types of prayer are there? Do you know the ACTS mnemonic? What types of prayer are these in vv11-12?
It is good to pray prayers of adoration, confession and thanksgiving but it is striking how much petition there is in the Bible. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it or super-spiritual about it. God is the mighty king and we are rightly needy supplicants before him. Petition is a way of acknowledging our need and expressing our trust and allegiance.


What do you think Paul means by saying he prays for them constantly (v11, literally, at all times, always, ever)? 24/7?!
How constant are your prayers?
What encourages you to give up or keep going?


(1) Paul prays that God might count these Christians worthy of their calling (v11)


What is the Christian calling? (v11)


Matthew 22:1-14; Effectual calling – Romans 8:29-30; Galatians 1:13-15; Ephesians 4:1 – Be who you are / are meant to be in Christ, as children of God etc.! – The priority of godliness / holiness / heaven-ward orientation – we constantly need God’s help in this, not just try harder!


How will your life / prayer / values seem 30 years or 40 billion years from now? In the light of eternity, what should our prayer priorities be?


(2) Paul prays that God by his power might bring to fruition each Christian’s good, faith-prompted purposes (v11)


What good thing(s) are you purposing for Jesus? What is your faith prompting you to do?
What is God’s power (v11) like? Do you find that encouraging?
What is the relationship in v11 between our plans and their fulfilment?


Psalm 127:1; Philippians 2:12-13


The Goal of Paul’s Prayer (v12)


(1) Paul seeks the glorification of the Lord Jesus (v12)


What does Jesus’ “name” mean?


This is the ultimate goal of life! – cf. Westminster Shorter Catechism: ‘What is the chief end of man?’


Yet, how much do we seek our own glory / praise / love to be noticed etc.?


Colossians 1:16


(2) Paul seeks the glorification of believers (v12)


Isaiah 42:8; Romans 8:30; 2 Corinthians 3:18 – not a zero-sum game, rather the opposite!


The Ground of Paul’s Prayer (v12)


What seems to be the ground of Paul’s prayer here?
What does that mean?


Saved by grace and sanctified by grace – our complete dependence on God


(Could you turn the other headings into things beginning with “g”?!)


What difference might this study make to you in the week ahead?
Are there one or two things you could focus on?


For next week


We will begin by reviewing this week and asking if it has made any difference!
Please read and think about 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13. Come with any questions.Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

Weeping with those who weep

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Mon, 19/02/2018 - 17:05
Jesus showed us that it is normal for pastors to cry at a funeral,  no matter how strongly we believe in the resurrection.
Categories: Friends

Discussion with a friend : "How can we know there is a God?"

God Gold and Generals - Mon, 19/02/2018 - 09:42
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A new series. 
I have lots of friends with whom I love to chat about 'the meaning of life' or 'Is there a God' or "whats in the bible? '.  Most of them are not Christians, they have all kinds of beliefs and none. I like to hear their perspective and understand their point of view. I greatly appreciate them allowing me to do that as I really enjoy our discussions. 
With their permission I plan to turn some of my emails to them and points I have made in discussions into blogs. Here is the first, many thanks to my friend in this particular case for allowing me to do this and helping me develop my ideas. 
Jeremy
-----------------------
Dear Friend
You asked me "How can we know that there is a God?" 
I will define "God" as a supreme being who made the universe. We will leave for a later time which 'god" of the many available! 

This is of course a vast question and any summary will be banal, trite and limited but here goes anyway! 
Lets start by looking at the universe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfSNxVqprvM
This is a famous recent video which starts with a girl called Louise in California lying on the grass, expands from her to the whole known universe, shrinks back to Louise and then keeps shrinking into her eye, ending up looking at an atom in her eye. Please watch the video above.
Science tells us three things:-
The universe is very large and very old while humans are utterly insignificant and very short lived. The scientific consensus is that the universe is very old — about 13.8 billion years. Its size is currently unknown, but the observable universe is about 90 billion light years. Some recent research suggest the whole universe is about 250 times larger than that or 7 trillion light years across. How many stars in that known universe and are there really more stars than grains of sand in the entire earth? A recent study estimated that approximately 100 to 400 billion stars in a galaxy. There are estimated to be around 100 billion known galaxies in our universe (we ignore the x 250 bit we dont even know about) which equals approximately 10 sextillion (10 billion, billion) stars in our universe. How much sand is there? Around 8,000 grains of sand can be packed into one cubic centimetre, which according to the article means that 10 sextillion grains of sand placed in a ball would create a sphere with a radius of 10.6 kilometres.  There are approximately 700 trillion cubic meters of beach on our planet. These 700 trillion cubic meters could therefore hold approximately 5 sextillion grains of sand, which means very roughly there are at least twice as many stars in the observable universe as grains of sand. 
The universe had a beginning and will have an end. This is a very new idea, one that has only been accepted in my lifetime. Before that, going back to Aristotle, the universe was thought to have always existed - the steady state theory. Now scientists agree that the universe had a beginning ' the "big bang". Exactly the form of the "end" is debated but the most likely theory held today is a "big freeze" where continued expansion of the universe will mean temperatures reach absolute zero. Star formation will cease as the universe "runs out" of gas. But dont worry, no need to panic — this could take as long as 100 trillion years. The exact rate and nature of the universe's expansion is itself mysterious. Stephen Hawking said "Why is the universe so close to the dividing line between collapsing again and expanding indefinitely? In order to be as close as we are now, the rate of expansion early on had to be chosen fantastically accurately. If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been less by one part in 1010, the universe would have collapsed after a few million years. If it had been greater by one part in 1010, the universe would have been essentially empty after a few million years. In neither case would it has lasted long enough for life to develop. Thus one either has to appeal to the anthropic principle or find some physical explanation of why the universe is the way it is."

The universe is governed by what we call "the laws of physics" — gravity, nuclear physics and many others. The universe is incredibly predictable and its existence is governed by its own rules and structures. Scientists observe them and give them mathematical formulas to describe them but have no explanation as to why we have them or where they came from
Now, you may think that to get from there to any God, let alone the Christian one is a big jump and you would be right! 
But we can at least derive some suggestions from the above, I think
Something we dont understand "started" the universe and everything in it. There was a beginning. (If we say "it was just random" that just puts the question back one step further - why was there a random event? There simply must be some kind of first cause.)
Something we don't understand means that the universe is structured with "laws"
We are infinitely and laughably small. 
Imagine one grain of sand (our sun) trying to understand all the grains of sand on the planet (all the stars in the universe). But we as individuals are in that analogy even smaller as the one grain of sand equals our sun. The earth is much smaller - you can fit 1.3 million earths into the sun. And of course you and I are just 2 of approximately 7.5bn people alive today on the earth. So one human would need to be multiplied by 7.5 billion and then again by 1.3 million to even reach the size of one grain of sand (our sun) Then that one grain of sand compares with trillions of stars. We humans are utterly insignificant. 
Therefore, if there is "a God" - a supreme being who made the universe, then "God" is unimaginably bigger and infinitely more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine. The idea that we tiny, utterly insignificant humans can find God is laughable. God if he/she/it exists must find us. 

Christians claim that only by stepping back and very consciously looking at where we've come from and what has been created all around us on earth and in the entire seemingly infinite universe, are we able to begin to fathom the enormity of the act of creation that has gone into bringing each one of us into being.
Paul writing 2000 years ago said "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."
David, the writer of many of the Psalms in the Bible, writing about 3000 years ago, was convinced that God is responsible for the universe, and this provided proof of his existence. He said 
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."
Dear Friend, please conduct the exercise of stepping back from your daily life and contemplate the immensity and complexity of all that is around you, as well as you yourself, and ask yourself the question: 
"What or who created/started the universe?"
"Why did the universe have a beginning?"
"If there is a God, how would he speak to me - and why would he even want to speak to me?" 
Or as the Psalmist says "what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should even care for them?"
thanks again for your willingness to discuss!
Jeremy

next time..."If there is a God, what is he saying to us?"
Categories: Friends

Easter Sunday musings

Sussex Parson - Mon, 19/02/2018 - 08:43
Having had Valentine's Day on Ash Wednesday, we are about to have Easter Sunday on April Fools' Day.

Glen Scrivener's new evangelistic book is going to tell us about Christianity as comedy in the technical sense - not so much ha ha as happy ending.

I have begun to wonder what one might say at the all age family service to make April fool's day and Easter Sunday talk to one another.


Easter Sunday is not a trick but a life changing reality


Easter Sunday is not a joke but it is good news of great joy


Easter Sunday is not a practical joke but it is practical


If the resurrection didn’t take place, Christians would be miserable fools, to be puttied, wasting their lives on a lie.


Easter Sunday shows how foolish it is to think that Jesus could be defeated

Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

He was in the desert for 40 days

Sussex Parson - Sun, 18/02/2018 - 08:09
Mark 1:13




What Mark fails to mention is strange, but so are the details he includes.
There’s that funny chronological note.
Oh, Jesus was there for 40 days, you know.
And notice the geography.
It was desert – a wilderness, a lonely place.


The desert can be a place of solitude, isolation and vulnerability.
You might face hardship, depravation and danger there.
It can be associated with demons.
In the Bible it could be a place of conflict and testing, of trial and temptation – but also a place of hope and deliverance.
God was said to have met Israel, his bride, in the desert and wooed her back there.
Good news would be heard in the desert.
The desert would blossom in the end.


Jesus faced this conflict in the desert, alone.
Jesus is the only one who could face the devil like this.
It was a one on one conflict.
It shows us Jesus’ uniqueness.
He alone did for us in our place what we could not do.


But isn’t there more to it than that?
40 days in the desert.

40 days could just be a round number for a long time but perhaps your Bible alarm bells are going off now?
Where have we seen this kind of thing before in the Bible?


It could be Moses’ 40 days on Mount Sinai.
Or the 40 days for which Elijah was led to Mt Horeb.


But it’s surely meant to recall Israel’s 40 years under Moses of being tempted in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt and before they enter the promised land.
God led them into the wilderness by the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire.
And now God the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert.


Israel was called the Son of God.
And Jesus is the Son of God incarnate, God the Son come in the flesh.
The nation of Israel has funnelled down onto one man.
The king of Israel in the Old Testament was also called the Son of God.
He represented the nation.
And Jesus here is our king.
He represents us.
He does this on our behalf.
Indeed, he is our substitute.
He does it in our place.


Where once there was a whole nation, now there’s just one man.
Jesus is the faithful Israelite, God’s person.
He is the only truly, fully, perfectly faithful man.
Jesus is a fresh start for the people of God.
Now, if you want to belong to the people of God, the key thing is not to have Jacob’s DNA but to have faith in Jesus.


Israel had come through the waters of the Red Sea into the desert and Jesus has come through the waters of the Jordan into the Desert.
Jesus will bring a new and better Exodus:
He will set us free from slavery to sin and death and hell.
And he will bring us through the Jordan into the promised land, ultimately of the New Creation.
He will bring in the Kingdom of God one day in all its fullness, of which the Old Testament monarchy was only a picture, a shadow, an imperfect pattern.


Jesus’ victory over the devil is ours.
Imagine yourself watching the football.
Connor Goldson heads it in and you shout, “We scored!”
When of course really you didn’t score at all.
You’ve not left your seat until after the whistle went.
In fact, if you’d been there, you certainly would have missed.
But his goal is ours.
“We did it! We won!”
So it is with the Lord Jesus.
He wins for us.
“We’re saved!”
We want to be on his team, united to him by faith, benefitting from his victory.

Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

He was with the wild animals and the angels attended him

Sussex Parson - Sun, 18/02/2018 - 08:06
Mark 1:13




Mark tells us next to nothing about Jesus’ temptation, but he does say to us, “folks, don’t forget the wild animals and the angels!”
Why, I wonder?


The wild animals emphasise the desolate location.
Here is Jesus far from all human help.
His only companions are wild animals.
And they’re potentially dangerous ones.
They can stand for the enemies of God’s people.

Jesus is kept safe and he overcomes this danger.
Jesus is like a new Adam who named the animals.
Maybe too he’s like a new Noah, who was with animals of all sorts.
Like the shepherd boy David, who was to be God’s king, he had faced the lion and the bear and overcome them.
Part of the vision of the New Creation in the Bible is harmony throughout creation, the wild animals getting along together and submitting to human beings.
Perhaps in Jesus’ victory over the devil we’re meant to see a foretaste of that new creation which Jesus has come to bring.


It is appropriate that Jesus as God’s king, indeed as God, should be served by the angels.
Again he is the new Israel because Israel had been fed on Manna in the desert, the bread of angels, and had received the law from angels. Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

On Plastic Righteousness

Sussex Parson - Fri, 16/02/2018 - 14:56
Plastic reduction seems to be the cause of the moment. It has even been advocated by The Church of England for Lent. Although this is something of a bandwagon, it is presumably a good one, provided that it is recalled that plastic is a good gift of God. How many life saving medical procedures, for example, involve the use of plastic?

No one would of course be foolish enough to think that plastic use is necessarily sinful. Nor that it is the only or the most important sin.

Sure, seek to use less plastic, great. But remember that doing so does not constitute Righteousness. In fact, it is a small and probably *relatively* unimportant aspect of loving God and loving your neighbour. We should seek to use less plastic, but we must not neglect the weightier matters of the Law.Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

The Minimum Effective Dose

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Fri, 16/02/2018 - 12:58
As busy pastors we can take the ‘give me the max’ approach to our diaries.  Sure, another talk, Sure, another visit.  There’s no end to them -  keep ‘em coming.
Categories: Friends

A Homily on Love and Duty

Sussex Parson - Wed, 14/02/2018 - 08:25
for Ash Wednesday on St Valentine's Day.

Look away now if you are coming to tonight's service.

In which I channel The Revd John Piper.


 Ash Wednesday 2018 notes


1 Corinthians 13 (page 1153)
Luke 17:1-10 (page 1051)


The boffins amongst you will know that Ash Wednesday is 46 days before Easter Sunday and that the date of Easter is determined by the lunar calendar, so of course, rather inconveniently, Easter moves around each year.
Ash Wednesday can be as early as 4th February or as late as 10th March.


This year, of course, Ash Wednesday is also St Valentine’s Day.
I hope you’ve remembered that if you needed to!
Well done for being here, especially if you’ve passed up a hot date!
Or even better if you’ve brought your Valentine with you!


This is the first year Ash Wednesday has coincided with Valentine’s day since 1945.
The two dates also overlapped in 1923 and 1934 and will coincide again in 2024 and 2029.
So it seems a good opportunity to ask what Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day might say to one another.


I imagine if we did word-association with Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day we would get wildly different answers.


Ash Wednesday, that’s austerity, discipline, the mortification of the flesh, self-denial, dust, humility, death.


Valentine’s Day that’s: love, romance, flowers, chocolates, and a much-needed boost to the restaurant industry.


Perhaps we could sum up the two days in two words:
Ash Wednesday: duty
And Valentine’s day: love.


At least, let’s go with that and think about those two for a few moments today:
Duty and love.
What is the relationship between them?
And what is their place in the Christian life?


To some people “duty” is a dirty word.
Perhaps to you it’s not the most attractive idea in the world – I could see that.
Doing your duty almost implies you didn’t want to do it – but you screwed up your self-denial muscles and you forced yourself to get to the Ash Wednesday service, or to visit that elderly relative, or do the ironing, or whatever it is.
Maybe you hated it, but you did your duty.
I’m told that when one hands over the Valentine’s Day flowers and chocolates, it is much better to say, “I love you” than, “see, I have done my duty!”.


But duty is undoubtedly a good thing.
God is king.
He is your maker.
He owns you.
He is your rightful Lord.
It is your duty to do his will, whether you want to or not.


Love, of course, is a much nicer idea!
We all want to love and be loved.
What could ever be wrong with love?
But our human condition might be described as a love sickness.
We love the wrong things.
Or we love them for the wrong reasons.
Or we love them in the wrong ways.
Or we love them in the wrong order.
We do not love as we ought.


Ideally, of course, love and duty go together.


Love is in fact a duty.
One problem with our notions of love is that we’ve forgotten that.


But God, Jesus and the Bible think love can be commanded.
The first commandment, our prime duty, is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
And the second commandment is to love our neighbour as ourselves.


In the wedding service we don’t say to the happy couple “Do you love one another?”, though we hope they do.
Rather, the minister asks, “Will you love her?” / “Will you love him?”
Love is not just to do with the emotions or feelings.
It isn’t just something that spontaneously comes over us and which is entirely beyond our control.
Wonderful to be in love, but far more important to love.
We promise to love.
We resolve to do so.
To seek to love.
And indeed, we commit ourselves to love in action even when we don’t feel like it.


Love is a duty.


But we should also love our duty.
God is beautiful and lovely.
He commands what is good and life-giving.
The way of God’s commands is delight.
All around is death.
The attractive confections of sin will kill you in the end.
Wander from God’s will and you risk ruin and loss.


Love and duty go together.


In our Communion liturgy we often say:
“It is right to give [God] thanks and praise”
It’s our duty.
It’s the right thing to do.
We say, “it is indeed right,
It is our duty and our joy”.
Our duty and our joy.
The two go together.
Yes, we ought to do this.
But we also ought to want to do it.
We should love to praise God, to delight to do so.
It is our joyful duty.


Delight is a duty.
Rejoicing is a command.


A perfect person would never act from duty alone, because he or she would always want to do what it right – he or she would love righteousness and hate evil.
Certainly we should do good even when we don’t feel like it.
Sometimes we have to act from duty alone but such duty is always a crutch because our love legs are not working as they should.
And we shouldn’t settle for permanent spiritual disability.
We long to love aright.


We should pray for God to close the gap between ought to and want to.
Lord, help me always to do my duty.
But may doing your will be a joy to me.
May I delight to do what is good and right and pleasing to you.
Help me to see sin as the stinking, rotten trap that it is and to flee from it.
Holy Spirit, re-wire my loves.


So this Lent, let us pray for goodness that is heart-deep:
Goodness that is not merely a matter of our words and actions but also of our loves.


How can we cultivate delight in our duties?
We should meditate on Jesus Christ.
Look at him in his Word.
Behold him in the Scriptures.
Linger on him in prayer and song and reflection.
Significant looking at Jesus is the key to loving Jesus.
Do not neglect or forget him or take him for granted.
Remember your first love of Jesus.
And ask yourself what the maturing of that love would look like.


Jesus is lovely.
He is delightful.
Delight yourself in him.
That is your duty, and it is a delightful one.
May it be a joy to you this Lent, and may this love motivate and empower your service, for Jesus’ name sake. Amen.Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

Could a fraying team be patched together?

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Mon, 12/02/2018 - 18:25
Each person in that nightmare was a Christian, serving and sacrificing.  But somehow, that shared commitment did not become a shared commitment to each other.
Categories: Friends

2 Corinthians 4 - a handout

Sussex Parson - Sun, 11/02/2018 - 17:21



AUTHENTIC CHRISTIAN MINISTRY


2 Corinthians 4 (page 1160)






Inclusio – vv1, 16


We do not lose heart because…


(1) … despite appearances, we have the wonderful light-giving good news of Jesus Christ the Lord, who gives us the knowledge of the glory of God (vv1-6)








(2) … treasure in jars of clay, power through weakness, is God’s plan so that the glory goes to him (vv7ff)








(3) … we are focussed on the future God has promised us and not on the present (vv16-18)




(a)   V16:




(b)   V17:




(c)   V18:

Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

10 Myths of Christian fundraising

God Gold and Generals - Sun, 11/02/2018 - 11:21


The pastor leaned forward in the pulpit. "I have good news and bad news" he said "the good news is we have all the money we need for our new project, the bad news is that it's all still in your bank accounts".
I have spent pretty much all my professional life working around raising and investing money. This covers both secular business fundraising and raising money for charitable and Christian causes.
In this blog, which is designed to be provocative and stimulate debate, I would like to take aim at a few "myths" which I believe hinder the Christian church raising money for God's work. The "myths" are based on my experience in the UK and if any of my dear readers disagree then I would say "if the cap fits wear it". Comments welcome! 
1. "We shouldn't ask for money because it sounds like an American televangelist ." Now, it's certainly true that American televangelists have done much harm to the cause of Christ by relentless appeals for money and by then misusing that money either for personal gain or for stupid "Prestige projects". But the church in England in general seems to be in danger of swinging rather to the opposite extreme. There is often a cultural cringe about even mentioning the dreaded "M" word. Often, once a year, the church treasurer will rattle at high speed through the accounts and everyone in the congregation will breathe a sigh relief that the subject will not be mentioned for another 365 days. But a good biblical principle is "ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find".  We should be much more open about talking about money. 
2. "If I am the Pastor and I teach about money from the Bible, my congregation will think I'm after a pay rise". When did you last hear a sermon about money or about giving? Yet the Bible both old and New Testament is packed full of practical teaching about money and giving. According to one book I have read there are more than twice as many verses in the Bible about money and possessions as there are about faith and prayer combined. What's more, approximately 45% of Jesus's parables are about money and possessions. Yet in my experience on money over the 50 years plus I've been listening to sermons (admittedly I can't remember the ones I heard aged 4!) I have very rarely heard sermons on money. The Bible is given to us for a spiritual health and we must teach everything in it, even if we find it embarrassing. Sometimes it feels like the church is obsessed by sex but again there is far more teaching in the bible about money then about sex.  Lack of teaching on the topic of money and giving leads to defective theology and in turn  to insufficiently sanctified lives.
3. "I'm a pastor and there's no way my church is going to give up my donors to anyone else!"  This  kind of thinking is faulty theology because it implies that there is only a fixed amount of money able to be given to Christian work – a zero sum game in other words. Sadly, I have heard the same thinking applied to efforts to start new church plant – a new church in a city or  area will only "cannibalise" existing believers. On both fronts, this is a council of despair. God is able to take a small efforts both in terms of money and new churches and use them to build his kingdom far beyond our imagination. We need faith that indeed it is not a zero sum game but rather that our tentative steps of faith are honoured by our heavenly Father. I argue - see below- that most of us give far less than we could. Now supporting in the first place your local church is good. But, this concerns me if we stop there. For where does this leave for example local churches in poorer areas who can never find the money themselves to be self supporting? (To say nothing of work outside the UK) .The truth is that most of the money in UK evangelicalism is concentrated in London and the M25 area (yes, that where I live!). How can we best serve our brothers and sisters throughout the UK? Especially in poorer areas where the locals will struggle to fund gospel ministry? Could there be some kind of partnership like "twinning" where we link up a wealthy church with a poorer one? Giving isn't just about money its about partnering and building relationships. Stephen Kneale a pastor in Oldham has blogged about this helpfully https://stephenkneale.com/2018/02/10/we-are-the-project/ and https://stephenkneale.com/2017/12/04/why-dont-relatively-well-resourced-churches-help/
4. "People in my church ( or Christian charity) should just give me their money and I will decide what to do with it". This is view which I'm glad to say is changing. Historically, at least some churches worked on this principle. Some people also prefer to delegate giving to somebody else, fair enough. But in general in fundraising for charities, a better model I believe is to ask people to give money for specific projects and new ventures. I suggest that this is also a biblical model if we look at the New Testament where individual churches supported specific other churches (eg see 2 Corinthians). This kind of relationship where individuals get involved with a specific project is much more likely to be successful than a general statement "we need more money." Donors whether individuals or foundations are looking for specific people and ideas to support. We need to promote closer relationships between donors and recipients. This also encourages prayer. 
5. "People like Hudson Taylor or George Muller never asked for money and God honoured this". Now there is some truth in that statement and again we need to avoid the televangelists desperate weekly appeal for cash to avoid his TV station being closed. I do think there is some biblical basis for being careful about the kind of appeals which you get from time to time along the lines of "we are running out of money". God certainly honoured the faithfulness and prayerfulness of men such as Taylor and Muller.  And as far as I can tell, they did not appeal for specific funds. However both of them were experts in publicising (rightly in my view) what they were doing. So they made their needs known to the Christian  public without overstepping the biblical mark. The idea that we say nothing and somehow the money will come in by itself is unbiblical - see 2 Corinthians
6. "If I give money away, the church will waste it". So far, I have taken aim at our dearly beloved clergy. Now I will turn my attention to myself and Christians in general in the pew. I can tell you from the case of my own father, which I believe to be true of all of the ministers under whose preaching I've had the honour to sit, that they gave up huge amounts of potential financial gain to enter the Christian ministry. This is not necessarily true in other countries but in the UK there is precious little money or honour in being a full-time Christian worker, let alone a pastor or vicar. My father used to burst out laughing when people accused him of joining the ministry to make money. Many years after the event he told me that the roughly £6000 I was making it my first job aged 21 was significantly more than he was making at the same time aged 52. In fairness, he always felt well treated by his church who went out of their way to look after him and my mother – my point is not in any way to criticise his church, which I love deeply, but to make the general point that there is precious little cash in the Christian ministry in England. My general point therefore is that if we give money to the cause of Christ it's unlikely to be wasted on fripperies or extravagance.
7. "I'm already giving all I can". Now, most of all I'm preaching is to myself and I can tell you that this is simply not true for me or for 99.9% of Christians in the UK. Pretty much every single one of us and again I put myself at the head of the queue could give much more proportionate to our income. The wonderful story of the widows mite shows us that the Lord Jesus pays careful attention to what we give and what matters is not the absolute amount but our heart attitude and how we give in proportion to our means. As our heart loves, so we give. Money is a window into our hearts. 
8. "God blessed me so I should spend my money on a new house and new car etc". I'm certainly not arguing, not least because it would  be rank hypocrisy, that it's wrong to buy a house a car or whatever. But one of the many pernicious effects of the so-called "prosperity gospel" is this kind of thinking - that this is the first step not the last. The Bible teaches us that each one of us is accountable to the Lord for the money which he has entrusted us with. The Bible tells us to "lay up our treasure in heaven". In other words, we can send our treasure ahead of us where we don't have to worry about appreciation, financial crashes, fraudsters, and most of all death.  I believe that by supporting Christian  work we are sending our money on ahead of us. 
9. "I give my money to Oxfam"  or "I give my money to Christian social projects". This is a moot point which each of us needs to consider and I certainly don't want to stop Christians giving money to worthy secular or Christian socially oriented charities. I've very much enjoyed supporting and being a trustee of the Woodland Trust, for example. However I know from my own experience, and this is backed up by significant external research which I've seen, especially in the USA, that's what we might call "gospel work" struggles for funding. According to one study I've seen less than 10% of Christian  giving in the United States goes to evangelism, church planting etc.  Each Christian must make up their own mind about their priorities but it seems to me very unfortunate and in aggregate a very poor sense of priority, if in the UK,  Gospel work struggles to be funded.
10. "I don't have any money, so none of the above applies to me". There is certainly a danger of the church becoming too focused on wealthy people with high levels of disposable income. The letter of James warns us precisely about being preoccupied with the rich. But giving money is only one way and in fact one of the less important ways of supporting the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. When I think back on the church I grew up ( a church as I mentioned with very little money) in there were a number of single elderly ladies, I think particularly of a lady called Queenie Waterhouse, who we as children called "Auntie" Queenie. Queenie had a cleft palate (easily corrected now but not pre WW2) worked all her life in the local paper mill in Apsley. To the best of my knowledge she had no money. But what she did have was a wonderful heart and a devotion to prayer and encouragement. Though sometimes the encouragement could be quite sharp! On leaving a particularly difficult church meeting Queenie once thrust a folded piece of paper into my father's hand. He assumed it was some kind of encouraging verse, but when he opened it later it said "Of what use is your strength if it fails on the day of trouble?". I'm sure when we get to heaven that we will find countless thousands of "Queenie's" who had little or none of this world's resources but used their time and effort to do good and especially to pray, being honoured far beyond all the wealthy Christians that ever gave money to anything. How much more is this true when we think that the average Christian today in the world lives in poor circumstances in the majority world.

If you want to think through these issues more I recommend above all the huge wealth of resources from Stewardship, of which I am a trustee https://www.stewardship.org.uk. For over 100 years Stewardship has supported and enabled Christians and churches to give in a Godly and efficient way. If you use Stewardship, you are not only getting excellent technology and reporting, your money when it is in Stewardship is also being used for excellent purposes, such as lending money to churches to buy or expand their buildings. Stewardship also allows monies to be raised for individual Christian full time workers. I particularly recommend https://www.give.net which supports individuals fund raising for charitable causes. Online giving is now one of the most popular ways to support charitable causes. According to the Charitable Giving Report, online donations now make up roughly two thirds of total funds that are being raised.

If you want to read more, I suggest Randy Alcorn's excellent book "Money Possessions and Eternity" https://www.amazon.co.uk/Money-Possessions-Eternity-Randy-Alcorn-ebook/dp/B000FCKCJM/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1469038292&sr=8-8&keywords=randy+alcorn

A few friends and I also started Generous Journey a few years ago to help Christians think through these issues http://www.generousjourney.org.uk. This is a very good and safe place to learn more about biblical teaching on giving and how to be generous. Its aimed at  givers rather than fund raisers.

There are relatively few books on Christian fundraising per se, a very good recent one is by Peter Harris https://www.amazon.co.uk/Keeping-Faith-Fundraising-Peter-Harris/dp/0802874622/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1514391471&sr=8-1&keywords=peter+harris+fund+raising

Another one which was recommended to me but i haven't read yet is by a Dutch Catholic writer thinker, Henri Nouwen.  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spirituality-Fundraising-Henri-Nouwen/dp/0835810445/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=J1HGSB07MTSQR8WAQJTW




Categories: Friends

2 Corinthians 4

Sussex Parson - Sat, 10/02/2018 - 08:09
Here is a first stab at some snappy sermon headings:

(1) We do not lose heart because despite appearances, we have the wonderful light giving good news of Jesus Christ the Lord, who gives us the knowledge of the glory of God. (vv1-6)
(2) We do not loose heart because treasure in jars of clay, power through weakness, is God’s plan so that the glory goes to him (vv7ff)
(3) We do not loose heart because we are focussed on the future God has promised us (vv16-18)Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

2 Corinthians 4

Sussex Parson - Fri, 09/02/2018 - 12:09
If you are an obedient disciple of the CW Lectionary, you might be preaching on 2 Corinthians 4 on the Lord's Day. Or this may be of interest or use to you sometime.

Here are some headings for 2 Corinthians 4 from the commentaries what I have what go in for headings:




Paul Barnett, BST


2:14-7:4 – The ministry of the new covenant


4:1-6 – The Face of Jesus


This ministry: it’s method (vv1-4)


This ministry


The god of this age


This ministry: its content and effect (vv5-6)


Preaching


Jesus as Lord


Glory


Gospel light


Eternal Glory (vv7-18)


Power in weakness (v7)


Deliverance (vv8-9)


Death in us (vv10-12)


Motives for ministry (vv13-15)


Eternal glory (vv16-18)


Perseverance


Outwardly and inwardly


Glory


The God who prepares




* * *


Jonathan Lamb, Crossway Bible Guide


2:12-7:16 – Pl describes his ministry


Realistic ministry (vv1-6)


Responsibility


Openness


Realism


Faithfulness


Life in Chris (vv7-15)


Weakness and Power


Union with Christ


Why it’s all worth while


The real world (vv16-18)


Outward decline and inward renewal (v16)


Present trouble and future glory (v17)


The seen and unseen (v18)


* * *


Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone


Vv1-6: Light out of darkness


Vv7-12: Treasure in earthenware pots


Vv13-18: The God of all comfort


* * *


Murray J. Harris, NIGTC


Ch. 1-7: Paul’s explanation of his conduct and apostolic ministry


The Apostolic Ministry Described (2:14-7:4)


The light brought by the gospel (4vv1-6)


The Sufferings and Glory of Apostolic Ministry (4:7-5:10)


The trials and results of apostolic service (4:7-15)


Glory through suffering (4:16-18)


* * *Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

A new Give-away has arrived

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 18:05
Pastors can be so busy giving out, giving themselves away, that they don't take the time to check what's going on inside them, and ask, 'What am I supposed to be doing here, and how do I keep on keeping going for the long haul?' So I've written a new free give-away for subscribing to my email list.  The Pastor's Check-Up
Categories: Friends

The Bible and Slavery

The Hadley Rectory - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 16:55
A few initial thoughts in relation to the question why the Bible condones slavery. It is a big question, of course, and while there is a simple answer sometimes given which has more than a kernel of truth ("slavery was such an integral part of societies in antiquity that calling for the abolishment of slavery in the ancient world would have been akin to calling for the abolishment of money in our world")*, it is worth reflecting on this more broadly.

(1) Slavery is not a natural part of creation order but a social-historical institution. It is possible to be born into slavery but the Bible offers no justification for the belief that some people are born to be slaves based on their race** (as, e.g., in much of Western colonialism) or class (as, e.g., in the Hindu caste system in the East). There is no instruction within the Bible to uphold slavery as if the institution was necessary for an ideal ordering of the world.

(2) The institution of slavery can and should be regulated. Not all slavery is governed by rules. In the ancient world as well as in Islamic and European and American slave trade, slavery was often linked with kidnapping. This is condemned in the Bible (e.g., Exodus 21:16; Amos 1:6, 9). The people of God under the old covenant were given rules to regulate the institution (Exodus 21:1-11; Leviticus 25:39-55; Deuteronomy 15:12-18) and were commanded not to return fugitive slaves to their masters but welcome them within their own community (Deuteronomy 23:15-16).

(3) One corollary of the first two points is that slavery was not a monolithic entity within the biblical world. It can take many and various forms and there are fuzzy boundaries. "Given the historical significance of the Atlantic trade it is not surprising that the dominant stereotype of slavery is that of the New World Afro-American plantation system, a stereotype in which 'slavery is monolithic, invariant, servile, chattel-like, focused on compulsory labour, maintained by violence, and suffused with brute sexuality' (Kopytoff 1982:214). Yet examples from different times and places of what is usually taken to be slavery reveal a great variation in both the type of servitude slaves experienced (a common difference often being noted between domestic and chattel slaves), and the political and economic systems in which the institution existed." (P. Thomas, "Slavery," Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, ed. A. Barnard and J. Spencer [Taylor & Francis, 1996], 509-10, p. 509) Many slaves within the Greco-Roman world carried out sensitive and highly responsible tasks, e.g. as doctors and accountants, teachers and bailiffs, sometimes being better educated than their masters, and emancipation was a real possibility for the majority of urban and domestic slaves.

(4) The assumption within the Bible is that people holding ownership rights over other people is not in and of itself immoral. This is the nub of the issue for us today. It is arguably first of all a philosophical clash relating to notions of freedom and self-determination. In practice the biblical world and ours are not quite as far apart as it appears at first because on the one hand ownership then was not total and absolute but governed by God's decrees and on the other hand individual liberty is in the contemporary world is also sometimes severely restricted and in the same circumstances that led to slavery in the ancient world, namely economic impoverishment. Again, the experience of New World slavery misleads some into thinking that slavery is defined by treating people as property in a way which denies their personhood but if one were to accept this definition much of ancient slavery within and outside the Bible would have to be called something else. In the ancient world it was possible to consider slaves both property and persons with legal rights, e.g. the right to appear as witnesses, plaintiffs or defendants in court and to own property, including slaves.

(5) Slavery within the ancient world was gendered. In particular, masters seem to have been universally male or nearly so and female slaves were treated differently from male slaves. A woman sold into slavery regularly became a concubine or secondary wife in the process with attendant obligations and rights. In particular, this seems to have been a way to provide for a woman when a father could not provide a dowry. Thus the issue relates to the question of patriarchy and the relationship between the institution of slavery and the functioning of kinship structures. Masters also bought female slaves to give in marriage to their male slaves.

(6) Legally regulated slavery within ancient societies was regularly related to either avoiding or responding to economic hardship. P. Garnsey observes: "This points to a paradox at the heart of the slave system. Slavery is the most degrading and exploitative institution invented by man. Yet many slaves in ancient societies (not all, not even all skilled slaves, a class that included miners) were more secure and economically better off than the mass of the free poor, whose employment was irregular, low-grade, and badly paid...It was not unknown for free men to sell themselves into slavery to escape poverty and debt, or even to take up posts of responsibility in the domestic sphere." (Ideas of Slavery from Aristotle to Augustine [CUP, 1996], 5)*^

(7) Slavery was often a consequence of war. This is sometimes considered the chief source of slaves in ancient societies but this seems unlikely for Israel and Judah. The regulations are again gendered and varied depending on the course of the battle. A city that accepted terms of peace seems to have become subject to serfhood as a vassal entity rather than slavery, while military confrontation led to slavery as an alternative to death (cf. Deuteronomy 20:10-15; 21:10-14).

Much more could be said, especially about the way in which Christ elevates slaves in such a way that the abolishment of slavery arguably becomes at one and the same time less urgent and inevitable in the long run but for now it is worth noting by way of summary that the Bible does not condone slavery in all its various forms. It specifically condemns theft and allows for slavery only within a certain framework. The biblical instructions assume (a) that slavery is not in and of itself immoral but can become so, and (b) that there was not always a ready, less de-humanizing alternative to slavery. Today we have found other ways of dealing with people who cannot pay their debts (prison) and children who are an economic burden on their parents (abortion, adoption).


* Cf. "The institution of slavery was taken for granted not only by the free persons but also by the slaves themselves, who never demanded its abolition. Therefore ideology of the [Ancient Near East] contains no condemnation of slavery or any protest against it." (M. A. Dandamayev, "Slavery (ANE)," ABD 6:58-62, p. 61) -- S. S. Bartchy observes that "ancient Greece and Rome are two of only five societies in world history which seem to have been based on slavery." He also notes: "It must also be stressed that, despite the neat legal separation between owners and slaves, in none of the relevant cultures did persons in slavery constitute a social or economic class...Slaves' individual honor, social status, and economic opportunities were entirely dependent on the status of their respective owners, and they developed no recognizable consciousness of being a group or of suffering a common plight...For this reason, any such call as 'slaves of the world unite!' would have fallen on completely deaf ears." ("Slavery (Greco-Roman)," ABD 6:65-73, p. 66)

** "Slavery, which both long preceded and continued after the emergence of race, assumed a new dimension with global racialization. Before the 1400s, slavery was widespread in state societies, but its victims, either recruited internally or from neighbouring groups, were largely physically indistinguishable from slave-holders; slavery was a status that, as fortunes changed, might be held by anyone." (R. Sanjek, "Race," Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, ed. A. Barnard and J. Spencer [Taylor & Francis, 1996], 464-64, p. 463)

*^ See also the various references to debt slavery in R. Westbrook and G. M. Beckman, A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law, 2 vols (Brill, 2003) and S. S. Bartchy's comment: "Furthermore, by no means were those in slavery regularly to be found at the bottom of the social-economic pyramid...Rather, in that place were those free and impoverished persons who had to look for work each day without any certainty of finding it (day laborers), some of whom eventually sold thesemlevs into slavery to gain some job security." ("Slavery (Greco-Roman)," p. 66)
Categories: Friends

3 or 4 types of Quiz Player

Sussex Parson - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 09:18
Parish Magazine Item stolen from a talk what I heard.


From The Rectory


I notice that a number of quizzes have taken place locally recently, including our own quiz in Bodle Street Village Hall during our Guest Weekend with the team of students from Oak Hill Theological College. I thought Phil’s talk that evening was so good that, with his permission, I wanted to share the gist of it with you here. Phil suggested that the same characters always seem to emerge at a quiz. If you haven’t spotted that, perhaps you’re one of them! Here are three or four to consider:


First, there’s the “Our Team’s Obviously Not Winning At This Point So I’m Just Gonna Try And Have A Good Time-Player”. There’s also the “Please, Please, Please, Please, Please Let No One Figure Out That I Know NOTHING- Player”. Then finally we have the worst kind of player – the player no one wants to be at a table with – the “Overly Confident but Usually Wrong–Player”.


Perhaps you’re not exactly like any one of those players but to be honest I think there’s something about them that rings true with all of us – maybe not in our attitude to quizzes, but in our attitudes and thoughts in so many areas of life – and even our attitudes and thoughts about God.


Maybe for you, when it comes to thinking about life and God, you’re like the “It’s Obviously Not Going Well, So I’m Just Gonna Try And Have A Good Time-Player.” Maybe you think, “it’s all a mess anyway – my life, my family, this country, our society, so all that’s left to do is to enjoy myself? What else is there? It’s all too far gone. And if there is a God, well it’s obviously too late for me to do anything about that now. All I can do is drown out my hurts, my frustrations, my expectations of the way the world should be and enjoy my life as best I can, however I can.


Or maybe for you, when it comes to God, you’re in the “Please, Please, Please, Let No One Find Me Out-Player” category. Maybe you’re the person who’s hoping there is no God because if there were a God, then you’d be exposed. The idea of a God who made you, sees you perfectly and knows you intimately terrifies you. He would see, he would figure out, he would know for certain – who I really am, and I know that’s not entirely pretty. And what kind of God would want anything to do with a someone like me?


Or maybe you come to the question of God with the bravado of the “Overly Confident But Usually Wrong–Player”. You’re sure that somehow, someway, when it comes to you and God, you’ll be okay. If God accepts anyone, I’ll pass muster. If anyone can be assured prize from God, surely, I won’t miss out. Though you might be too polite to say so, perhaps that’s how you feel. After all you go to church once in a while, you give generously to charities, you pay my taxes, you’ve never done anything really terribly wrong! I’m the Overly Confident Player!


But as we know, there’s always a humbling moment ahead for a player like that, that moment when they find out that confidence alone is just not good enough. Presumption and relying on yourself just won’t wash. Players like that are always left humbled. The Bible says that the same is true in life. Those who are “overly confident in themselves” before God will ultimately be humbled before him.


But of course, unlike a quiz, with all its little prizes and little losses, the stakes in life and before God are much higher. If we could score perfectly before him, it would be untold blessing and glory for us, but if we fail it’s untold horror and humiliation. And to make matters even more tense, before God, it’s not a matter of who does best – it’s only a matter of perfection: God’s standard of absolute holiness.  


Thankfully, there is hope because there is a fourth kind of player: The Lord Jesus Christ. He answers every question perfectly. He is the one who carries the team. He offers to sit down at your table. Or rather, he invites you to join his team. With him, the test of life and of the judgement to come are nothing to fear. Victory is assured because Jesus wins for us. If we trust in him, we can be sure we will share in the prize he has secured.                                                                                   


The Revd Marc LloydMarc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

Good and Evil Bible Study / Discussion Notes

Sussex Parson - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 08:07
Rather hasty and no doubt inadequate notes owing a debt to Frame and Grudem and Facebook correspondents, in case they are of any interest or use to anyone:


Good and Evil
Bible Study & Discussion


The Big picture of the Bible: Creation – Fall – Cross – Resurrection – Ascension – Return of Christ – New Creation


What exactly do we mean by good? Desirability, perfection


(1) GOD IS GOOD


Luke 18:19; Psalm 100:5; 106:1; 107:1; Psalm 34:8


God perfect, complete, without defect – Matthew 5:48 - God’s ways perfect – Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30


God supremely excellent, perfect


Moral perfection, sinlessness, holiness, absence of all evil


Goodness as righteousness – Genesis 3:5; Leviticus 5:4; Numbers 24:13; 1 Samuel 12:23; 2 Samuel 14:17; Psalm 25:8; Romans 2:10; 3:12; 7:18; 2 Corinthians 5:10


Goodness as benevolence – acting for the good of others – Psalm 73:28; Numbers 10:29; Deuteronomy 30:5; Joshua 24:20; Judges 17:13; 2 Samuel 16:12; Mark 3:4; John 10:11; Acts 14:17


Plato’s Euthyphro Problem: is piety whatever the gods say it is, or do the gods command things because they are intrinsically pious?


By what standard? Is there a rule of goodness to which God conforms or does God decide what is good?
Cf. Does the King make the law or is the law above the King?
God always “feels” and thinks and wills and speaks and acts and in conformity to his own perfectly good nature


(2) CREATION IS GOOD


Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31


1 Timothy 4:4


Original goodness as well as original sin


The image of God in human beings (Genesis 2:26-27) marred but not totally irradiated


Total depravity – every aspect of us affected by sin, none of our thoughts totally pure – Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Romans 3:9-18; 8:8


Sinful people still do things that are relatively good – 2 Kings 10:29-31; 12:2; Luke 6:33


(3) EVIL HAPPENS


Some e.g. Christian Scientist sect, some forms of Hinduism claim evil is an illusion


? evil not a created thing – a falling away from the good – a privation / deprivation / lack


The devil and demons – fallen angels created good by God who rebelled against him – 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6


The devil only perverts and corrupts – parasitical - he cannot create


The Fall of Man – Genesis 3


Creation under the judgement of God – Genesis 3:17-19


The Bible can speak of God creating / causing evil – Isaiah 45:7; Lamentation 3:38 – certainly the Bible sees evil as under God’s control


God is not the morally responsible author of evil – he permits it / governs it but is not to blame for it


God must have good enough reasons for allowing evil


God allows and uses evil for his own good purposes - Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28


The cross – good out of evil – Acts 4:27-28


God uses suffering and hardship in our lives – James 1:2-3


(4) GOOD WINS


Good and evil are not equal and opposite forces locked in battle – Good has priority over evil – God created the devil – cf. Job, the devil has to seek God’s permission to test Job


Jesus has decisively defeated the devil


The good news of God’s judgement – evil will be punished


The New Creation – Revelation 21:1-5Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

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