You Have Been Gifted!

As a Church plant of only 5 years old we meet in an Elementary School. Our people do a fabulous job in turning our meeting space into a worship space!

Most Sundays I leave my briefcase at the back of the room, often opened so people can drop notes or things I need to action into it.

After the service Sunday I was gathering my notes for the Adult Education Class when I noticed a box. Here is a picture of it:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The writing says “Andy,you have been gifted. Enjoy!”

And what was inside?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An IPAD!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone gifted me an iPad! It really was a massive surprise and one for which I am very, very grateful.

THANK YOU!!

Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians by Kenneth Bailey


There are some authors whom you should quite simply read everything they have ever written. Kenneth Bailey is one such author, He is a superb scholar who writes beyond the normal genre of many christian scholars.

This book, Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes is quite stunning. Although Bailey examines 1 Corinthians, this is not a normal commentary – which Bailey himself says in his introduction. Bailey is aiming once again to explore depths not explored by the traditional commentaries. Bailey seeks to uncover the rhetorical method used by Paul in this epistle. Unlike other scholars, Bailey sees 1 Corinthians as a carefully crafted response to issues not just for the Corinthians, but for the whole Church. For Bailey, Paul wrote this letter based around 5 essays, (The Cross and Christian Unity, Men and Women in the human family, Food offered to idols, Men and women in worship & The Resurrection). Each essay is also carefully constructed. Using all his skills and relying on middle eastern writing techniques and metaphorical language Paul sets the agenda of this letter both for the church in Corinth and the wider church. In this book Bailey unpacks HOW Paul does this – and in the midst of this comes a huge amount of information and wonderful insights.

Here you have decades of study, contemplation and understanding coming together in this volume.

This is not a book you pick up from you night stand 20 mins before planning to sleep. This is a book you plan to carve out 40 mins each time, with a pen and paper and sitting down to mine some real gems. Time extremely well spent!

Very Highly Recommended.

Mark: The Gospel of Passion by Michael Card


A while back I reviewed Michael Card’s volume on Luke’s gospel. In that review I commented that I did not expect a ‘worship’ leader to write a good commentary on Luke. Yet Card’s book on Luke really did astound me its combination of depth, accessibility and scholarship.

His volume on Mark does exactly the same thing. Card writes with wonderful insight. It has exactly the right amount of ‘information’ , comment and application.

On a practical note, the layout of this work is very good. Each chapter is broken into sections and each section is anything between 1-3 pages. This makes it ideal for devotional reading. And this is something which has impressed me about these books; they are equally good as a devotional book and as a resource for preaching and study – and that is rare.

I will be recommending these books to members of my congregation and to others as a wonderful way to read, ,mark learn and grow in the scriptures.

Very Highly recommended!!

Introducing Early Christianity by Laurie Guy


I am a big advocate of Christians reading the Church Fathers. These early Christians living in the aftermath of the Apostles and working through Church practice, theology, discipleship and christian witness are an important source for us. Sadly too few Christians take the time to read the ‘Fathers’ or to look seriously into the beginnings of the church. Admittedly the combined works of the ‘Fathers’ at 30 plus volumes can be somewhat daunting. This is why Laurie Guy’s work is so good. As an introduction to BOTH the early Church and it’s practices, and the writings of the early church fathers this book is an excellent resource. At 300 plus pages Guy manages to cover all the major bases of the early church in an engaging and fascinating way. Covering the first 500 years of the church you will be informed, challenged and even surprised. And most importantly you will understand the context of how some of the major traditions in the church developed.

An excellent work, and one which should be used by all christians.

Highly Recommended.

Theology of Adoption

I reads this week in the newspaper that a woman has been fined $150,000 and ordered to pay $1000 per month to a child she adopted from Russia and then returned.

Apparently, she put the boy on a flight back home to russia with a note claiming that the boy had become disturbed and violent.

I am glad she has been told to provide for the child until he is 18 years old. She argued that the adoption had been nullified by a Russian court – but of course adoption cannot be nullified. If you adopt a child they become yours – as if they are your blood child – and you have to deal with what a child becomes just as every parent has to. Just because you ‘adopted’ a child, you cannot return them if they are not the perfect person you wanted.

The theology of adoption is probably one of the most under-utilized theologies of the christian faith. Many, many years ago i read Rev. Dr Mark Stibbe’s book, From Orphans to Heirs and it opened by mind (and heart) to the reality of the fact that God has adopted us as sons and daughters.

Just as when a Roman adopted a child, and that child took on the name and authority of the father and could then transact business in the name of the father, so we have become children of God through his adoption of us. Imagine God deciding to send us back because we have bad days, or are often unreasonable, or even disobedient. No, god doe snot do that. Adoption is a a powerful, powerful message for us. He will not discard us because of our failures and faults. Indeed he will be patient with us, love us, mold us and draw us closer to himself – because when he adopted us we became his children.

May’s Pastoral Letter – Do Not Despise The Day of Small Things

Dear Parish Family

Twenty years after the return of the Jews into Judah after the Babylonian Exile, discouragement had set in. The great rejoicing at their homecoming – the hopes of establishing the temple and worship and reclaiming the promised land had all stalled. Instead only the foundation had been laid and the Jews faced strong opposition.

The book of Zechariah is a prophecy from God aimed at encouraging the Jews. Don’t worry, God tells Zechariah. My purposes will be accomplished. In chapter 4:10 the Lord warns Zechariah, “Who dares despise the day of small things…”

This is a warning for us today.

We all want the big things now, don’t we?

As a church we want to grow NOW. We want our own building NOW.

Yes, we understand that we have to start small, but we can’t wait for the day when we are bigger, better and in our own space.

But I believe the Lord is saying to us – Do not despise the day of small things.

We must learn to be faithful in what God has given us. We must be faithful and true in our smallness. For this is where the Lord has placed us at this time and here, we are to rejoice and give thanks.

Patience in the small things is vital for godly leadership and for a godly church. Moses was a shepherd for 40 years. For 40 years he wondered around the desert of Midian taking care of sheep and goats. Jesus was a carpenter for 20 years, quietly working in a small town in Judah. And yet for both, they were being prepared for the calling God had for them.
God is preparing us, both individually and as a church, and if we neglect this period of preparation it will mar our future ministry and effectiveness.

God is teaching us and preparing us. We may be impatient, but we must remember that God’s timetable is perfect and we must not rush ahead of God. It is OK to have visions, goals and dreams. It is in fact vital to have such things. But we must never have these to the extent of despising where we are now.

It is in the small things that God builds character. Paul reminds us in Romans 5:3-5 that we never get the crown without first bearing the cross.

That was Jesus’ point in Luke 16:10. He says, Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

The Lord is teaching us to be trustworthy in the small things, for when we are trustworthy in the small things He WILL give us much. When we rejoice in being humble, he will lift us up.

• Luke 14:11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
 
• Luke 18:14 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
 
• James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

 
• 1Pet. 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

So, my friends, let us not despise the day of small things, but rejoice in where we are now. Let us give thanks to our God. Let us gather each week to praise his name – to worship, to commit ourselves to serving Him in the place He has put us. Let us prepare ourselves to be faithful each day, each week in what God has given us. And then we will be ready to be faithful in what God WILL give us in the future.

Bless you all

Andy

The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture by Christian Smith

I liked this book. I know that in many quarters it has been panned, but equally so it has received good reviews from people I admire and respect. The reason for why it was panned by some was the perceived ‘attack’ Smith makes on the Biblicist position. What is the Biblicist positions? Well, why don’t we let Smith define it for himself:

By “biblicism” I mean a theory about the Bible that emphasizes together its exclusive authority, infallibility, perspicuity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, self-evident meaning, and universal applicability.

The basic thesis of this book is that the biblicist position is untenable and Smith attempts to show why.

What I liked about this book is that Smith is not afraid to face some of the issues that many liberals attack conservatives about head on – and in doing so he has no fear that by saying “this theory does not hold up” that the rest of his theology becomes suspect. Smith is no liberal. He clearly says this:

I view the program of liberalism as an unworthy corrosion of historically orthodox, evangelical (again, in the best sense of that word) Christianity. I view theological liberalism—despite its good intentions—as naive intellectually, problematic in its typical ecclesial expression, and susceptible to unfortunate and sometimes reprehensible social and political expressions.

Smith sees the problem as one of pervasive interpretive pluralism. What does this mean. Smith defines it thus:

If the Bible is given by a truthful and omnipotent God as an internally consistent and perspicuous text precisely for the purpose of revealing to humans correct beliefs, practices, and morals, then why is it that the presumably sincere Christians to whom it has been given cannot read it and come to common agreement about what it teaches? I know of no good, honest answer to that question. If the Bible is all that biblicism claims it to be, then Christians—especially those who share biblicist beliefs—ought to be able to come to a solid consensus about what it teaches, at least on most matters of importance. But they do not and apparently cannot.

Some examples are: Church Polity: Does the Bible teach a free-church congregational system, a Presbyterian church government, an Episcopal church polity, or something else?

Free Will and Predestination: Christians, especially Protestants, with any awareness of church history and theology know about the apparently irresolvable debate between believers over human free will versus the bondage of the will.

The Fourth Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” All Christians agree that this is one of the Ten Commandments. What does the command mean? What practically does it require? And, for that matter, which day of the week actually is this day to be kept holy?

The Morality of Slavery: The bloodiest and one of the most tragic episodes in all of American history was a civil war fought by myriad Bible-believing Christians on both sides, many of whom were equally convinced that the scriptures taught the rightness of slavery, on the one hand, and the imperative of abolition, on the other.

War, Peace, and Nonviolence; Charismatic gifts; atonement and justification.

On all these issues biblical christians disagree – and sometimes very strongly.

It is for this reason that Smith rejects the biblicists position. It is important to note that Smith is not ANTI Biblicist, just that it does not hold up to scrutiny:

“Biblicism is thus not so much directly “proved wrong” as a theory, as it is simply never achieved in real life. It is therefore self-defeated in relevance.”

One of Smith’s responses to the Biblicist position, and the one I think is most important and a good response, is to encourage evangelicals to make clearer distinctions between Dogma, Doctrine and opinion. He says:

“The problem is that Christians have an extremely strong tendency to inflate the centrality, sureness, and importance of their doctrines so as to turn them into dogmas. They also tend to do the same thing with their opinions by elevating them to the level of doctrine.”

“What I am suggesting here, then, is this: Christians, including evangelicals, need to learn better, first, how to put and keep their dogmas, doctrines, and opinions in their proper places, and then, second, to stop excluding, dismissing, discounting, and ignoring other Christians who do not deserve that kind of treatment. Everyone needs to take a hard look at their own rankings of their own beliefs and work on pulling down to their proper levels the doctrines that they tend to treat as dogmas and opinions that they tend to treat as doctrines or dogmas.”

This was a very helpful and useful discussion. Below I will give Smith’s other responses to the Biblicist position, but I will not comment on them – read the book to see his arguments:

1. The Centrality of Jesus. Here he takes Barth’s position – the Bible is God’s written Word but Jesus is THE Word. Everything has to be read in a Christological focus.

2. Embracing the Bible for what it Obviously Is:

3. Living with Spiritual Ambiguities – i.e. there are some tough things in Scripture which we may not be able to solve and that’s OK.

4. Dropping the Compulsion to Harmonize

Apart from (1), the Centrality of Jesus in the Scriptures – which is obviously right and paramount to any biblical reading of the Bible, Smith’s last three responses are not necessarily more superior to the biblicist position. However, I think this is a valuable book to read because it does face important issues which we need to understand head on and this book gives a great framework in tackling some of these issues.

I actually came to this book a Biblicist and I have come away a biblicist. But because of Smith I am now a biblicist which understands the weakness in my position and it has challenged me to not be too dogmatic, obnoxious and inflexible in defending a ‘theology’ when instead we should be defending a person – Jesus Christ the Creator of the Universe and Lord of All!