Sunday, December 29, 2013

Straight to the point...

Clear and challenging message to begin 2014 with. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bad Santa?

Every December a former member of my church would mischievously take delight in pointing out that Santa was an anagram of Satan. It was all tongue in cheek but was designed to touch on some of the evangelical sensitivities around Christmas. Indeed there is often a delight in the broader culture in pointing out the pagan origins of many Christmas traditions. My barber, knowing I was a Christian, took great pains to explain to me that Christmas trees, Yule Logs and fairy lights are not actually in the Bible. I think he thought this might correlate to being faith shaking news to me. I was happy to reassure him that I was aware of these omissions and none of them undermined my confidence in Christianity or indeed my enjoyment of Christmas.

Indeed the very appropriation of old pagan symbols to Christian usage is an example of the Gospel redeeming all of creation and culture back for God. Now, of course, care is needed in this because not everything can simply be rebranded or helpfully turned back for good spiritual purposes. There are some things that are so antithetical to the Gospel that no amount of adjustment could make them acceptable to Christians – pagan sacrifices, for example, could never become Christian sacrifices because Christians could have no other sacrifice than the one final and forever sufficient sacrifice of Jesus. However, feasts and celebrations previously misdirected can surely become all the better once focused on the One for whom all praise and thanksgiving is due.  Which is a somewhat long-winded way of saying, I'm fairly relaxed with Christmas trees and decorations!

Father Christmas, however, raises another set of concerns for evangelicals. Firstly, the element of ‘make believe’ regarding children. Some fear that if Christian parents participate in such pretence it will undermine their children’s faith in what they tell them about the Bible. The fear being that when the child inevitably discovers that Santa isn’t real – they’ll look at their parents and wonder if all the stuff about Jesus is fake too. I’ve never been too concerned about that – indeed I think you would only be really worried about that if you believed Christianity rested on essentially the same evidential basis as a belief in Santa Claus. I mean all the kids from non-Christian homes don’t discover the truth about Santa and conclude that William the Conqueror, their great grandparents, or the Moon Landings must be fake as well.

In practise my own approach, for what it’s worth, was to play along with the general story of Santa coming on a sleigh to leave presents (just as I’ve done with the Tooth Fairy and standing on cracks in the pavement), but to become agnostic on the subject of Santa Claus when asked specifically about his existence. Children are very apt at distinguishing between myth and reality, fact and fantasy, make believe and reality – it is a skill they quickly develop, as seen through their growing suspicion of things like Santa as they grow up. So when, about 5 or 6 years old, the inevitable questions are asked such as, ‘Is Santa real?’, my tactic is simply to reply with a rhetorical question and keep answering every question with a rhetorical question until they give up. Ok, a bit of a cop-out but the kids cotton-on pretty quickly and see it for what it is - a bit of childhood fun. 

Another objection to Father Christmas is his ‘be good or you’ll not get any presents’ ethic, something that is rightly pointed out as being a works based premise for receiving gifts and thus the very opposite of grace – the heartbeat of the Gospel. Well yes absolutely it is – but what a great opportunity to tell children exactly why Jesus is so much better than the world Santa represents. What a wonderful way to show why Jesus truly is the star of Christmas, why His coming is the greatest gift humanity has ever been given, and why our thanksgiving, praise and celebrations at Christmas can only ever ultimately be about Jesus.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!  (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

No Mean City

An article written for FIEC.

What do you think of when you think of Glasgow? In recent days probably the helicopter crash that took nine lives at the Clutha Vaults Bar, or perhaps the much spoken of Glaswegian spirit as the city responded to the tragedy. More generally if you think of Glasgow you might think: shipbuilding, the Old Firm, hard men, deep fried Mars Bars, the Commonwealth Games, the Gorbals, Billy Connolly…
Like all big cities Glasgow is a mix of the old and new, the good and bad, myth and reality - and all the above fall into one of those categories. Often missing, however, from such lists is Glasgow’s amazing Christian heritage. There was a time within living memory when Glasgow was described, without great exaggeration, as the most evangelised city on the planet.

Gospel heritage

In the 1930s the atmosphere of Revival surrounded the famous Tent Hall – a hub of fervent Gospel mission and activity that extended across the city in Mission Halls, Open Airs and street marches.  The great gothic Presbyterian fortresses that still stand on every street corner were commonly centres of great reformed and evangelical preaching. The 1955 Billy Graham Crusade at the city’s Kelvin Hall is still legendary; 15,000 people cramming in each night, some waiting up to four hours in the rain for a seat. A mission that produced among the many converts a whole crop of evangelical ministers.
Let Glasgow FlourishThis was a city whose civic motto was actually, ‘Let Glasgow Flourish by the Preaching of The Word and the Praising of His Name’. Sadly and predictably it is now shortened to include only the first three words. It’s incredible with such a background that the number of prominent conservative evangelical churches in Scotland’s largest city could today be counted on the fingers of two hands.
However, after decades of rapid decline, and the sense of paralysis that can bring to churches, there are signs that the Gospel is on the move again in Glasgow. There is an increasing openness among evangelical churches to work together and work is underway to set up a West of Scotland Gospel Partnership following the great example of evangelical churches partnering together in the East. Glasgow is the base for the Cornhill Training Course in Scotland which is helping train up a new generation of gifted Bible teachers. Additionally, there have been a number of Church Plants in the West End of the city (although the traditionally poorer East End is still largely bereft of strong evangelical churches).

FIEC in Glasgow

Strategically placed in all this are five FIEC churches – three in the city and two on the outskirts. Among the Glasgow tenements (sandstone blocks of flats) are Finnieston and Crosshill Evangelical Churches – both are reaching to ethnically mixed populations. Finnieston is a predominantly Asian congregation and Crosshill has contacts with large numbers of Eastern Europeans. A little further west along the Clyde is Yoker EC situated in what was once the heartland of Glasgow’s shipyards; an area now quite ‘run down’ with many social problems. Further out to the north and south of the city are Lenzie Christian Fellowship and Clarkston Baptist Church. These churches are situated in the generally better off commuter belt around Glasgow, where the social needs are less but often resistance to the Gospel is greater. 
The great strength of these churches is that together they represent the whole of Glasgow – the rough, the smooth, the Scot, the migrant, the better off, the poor. Together the FIEC family in Glasgow is a great picture of the diversity and inclusiveness of the Gospel – a Gospel for the whole city.  The hope and prayer is that this network will grow and be added to, providing even greater coverage and partnership for Gospel witness.
Just a few blocks away from the location of the Clutha helicopter crash is the site of the old Tent Hall.  Inside its main hall was a clock emblazoned with the words, ‘It is time to seek the Lord’. The tragedy was a stark reminder of the fragility of life and the need for Glaswegians to hear those words. Pray that Glasgow would again‘flourish by the Preaching of The Word and the Praising of His Name.’

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Tower of

The BBC reported recently on the shadow world of the World Wide Web – the Deep Web. The FBI recently closed down a major secret on-line market place for the sale of drugs, weapons and other illegal trade called the Silk Road. Operating using hidden sites and bamboozling cyber pathways – this internet underworld allowed a vast collection of criminals, paedophiles and illicit traders to connect and do business with each other. The internet allows these links across borders, offers a common language and even a common currency (the Bitcoin). The great unifier of humanity has, it seems, a dark heart.

The World Wide Web is a phenomenal invention, one of the wonders – perhaps the wonder – of our age. Its benefits and blessings are many – but like all humanity’s great inventions this one has not escaped being tainted by sin. Just as every good technology developed by humanity inevitably gets used for evil at some point (e.g. the design skills that build hospitals are the same used to build gas chambers / the pharmaceutical skills that gave us aspirin also gave us crack cocaine / the technology that gave us jet packs also gave us Ryanair!), so has gone the internet. Indeed the greater and more powerful the technology – the greater and more powerful is its potential evil. So the extraordinary power of the internet to connect, inform, amuse and educate – is also extraordinary in its potential to spread evil, facilitate exploitation, to corrupt, to troll and to operate beyond law and accountability.

The very ability to connect, have common language and band together has thrown up a great breeding ground for evil. We shouldn’t really be surprised though, after all we’ve been here before. The last time humanity enjoyed that kind of commonality, proximity and communication it quickly channelled it into the pursuit of godlessness. In the early days of human history men and women quickly used their unity to display their defiance and rejection of God.

I remember the reading the story of The Tower of Babel in my teens and thinking God’s reaction was perhaps a little severe. You remember, how God brought confusion among the people by the introduction of multiple languages and humanity was divided and scattered accordingly. ‘What a shame’, thought I (although I was probably doing German homework at the time). After all isn’t such division a bad thing, wouldn’t a common language be so much better, how nice to think of the world unified in a great ‘brotherhood of man’.

The internet is perhaps a clue to God’s concern at Babel. God in His wisdom, and in His mercy, curtailed the ability of humanity to band together precisely in order to put a check on the potential for evil by a unified humanity. The history of peoples, nations and cultures is in many ways the story of checks and balances – the working of restraints on the potential for evil to be unchallengeable in the world.

For now the challenge is to use the internet’s good potential for good – to redeem it for noble purposes inasmuch as we can. But its misuse should cause us to reflect on the providence of God all those years ago on the plains of Babel. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

FIEC Review & Challenges

Great overview of the work of FIEC and the challenges ahead 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

the electrics in your car…

I have preached three times this year on Ephesians 6 and the Armour of God. In speaking about the battles we face in the Christian life, I’ve noted that Christians, along with the spiritual battle they face, also have to contend with the general stresses and strains of living in a fallen world. In the sermon I put it this way, ‘If you’re a Christian the pound in your pocket is not worth more than the pound in your next door neighbour’s pocket, neither are the anti-bodies in your blood stronger than the bloke down the pub’. However, in the last few weeks I would have been tempted to include a third example, ‘Neither are the electrics in your car more reliable than your friend's’.

Yes, there are few things that bring home to me  the reality that our current world is subject to frustration and imperfection more than an unreliable car. So after three weeks, a new alternator, a new fuse box, 7 days of car-lessness while it was in the garage, and the inevitable ‘stinger’ of the garage bill – we still have the problem of the battery light randomly coming on and threatening to force the car into shutdown (as has happened twice now).

Being of course so dependent on our car and hating all inconvenience in my life, it’s been  a struggle not to become obsessive about this issue. Indeed me and my wife (neither of us who have any engineering or electrical knowledge) have spent some time speculating widely about possible causes and trying to identify tell-tale patterns in the randomness of the battery light. I’ve spent time on web forums trying to see if someone has had a similar problem. All as if, I’ll maybe discover the magic fix while the mechanics with decades of experience continue to scratch their heads (and systematically charge me for replacing every component in my car). Obsessed? I’m even writing a blog on it!

However, in my saner moments, I’ve been able to reflect a bit more maturely and hopefully spiritually on what God might want to teach me in such a situation. So here goes….

1.    Perspective. It’s a hassle, annoying, expensive – but ultimately not a crisis. I’m writing this in the week the Philippines has been devastated by Typhoon Haiyan: the scenes of devastation and human misery are truly shocking and indeed humbling. Not that I should need a typhoon to shame me about being so self-pitying, there is more than enough misery on my doorstep to remind me of real difficulty and hardship in life. Like most Westerners I’m quick to make mountains out of molehills and elevate my relatively minor woes into great traumas. I remember a number of years ago a couple, who were scarcely at a church prayer meeting (you know the one for Mission, the sick, the nation), suddenly sending out ‘panicked’ prayer requests because they were struggling to sell their house. Lord give me perspective – not least in what I pray about.

2.    Jonah-esque Priorities. This follows on from the above but the story of Jonah came back to me in all this. Remember Jonah, after announcing his message of judgement to Nineveh, retreats to an overlooking hill in order to observe its destruction. But it’s hot, so God in His providence provides a shady plant for Jonah to sit under, however the next day God in his providence withers the plant – and Jonah is baking. All Jonah’s concern then becomes focussed on his personal comfort even to the point of crying out, ‘It would be better for me to die than to live’ (Jonah 4:8). It’s a shocking indictment, here is a man apparently blasé about a people facing judgement, who can take in his stride the forthcoming ruin of a city – but falls apart when his sun-shade malfunctions. Oh for a tenth of the concern for the welfare of my neighbours and my city that I have for my car! I can only pray that God will soften my heart in that regard and give more compassion for others – but in the meantime I do need to stamp on my own tendency to get stressed over such relatively trivial things.

3.    Grace. Along with the tough rebukes that I feel in this, I’m also conscious of grace. I’m conscious of the fact that 20 years ago this kind of situation would have ‘killed me’ – I would have been ‘up the walls’ with worry, trying to solve it, fretting about mechanics and how things might work out. Yes, I’m still a bit snarled by it – but not half as much. God does work in our lives by the Holy Spirit and I’m thankful for the evidence of that grace even in writing this blog.

4.    Hope. Whether a typhoon or unreliable electrics, we are surrounded by the reminders that this world is broken, it does not work properly, it is not as it should be. We live in a world subject to frustration and decay – a world bearing all the hallmarks and scars of having rejected its Creator. That’s not to be fatalistic – yes I want Vauxhall to build more reliable cars, and much more importantly there to be better flood defences, housing, and social conditions in the Philippines – but I also know none of those things is the ultimate cure to this world’s frustrations. Our great hope is in a renewed Creation brought back into line with the good Creator whose ways are life, health, blessing and perfection. For those who have that hope, the trials of life should make it burn that bit more brightly.  

Friday, November 08, 2013

FIEC & The Power of God

Just back from FIEC's annual Leaders Conference, this year in Norfolk. A record 466 delegates attended representing over 250 churches across the UK. The theme of the Conference was 'The Power of God' and we were blessed with great morning ministry from John Stevens looking at Ephesians and expositions of Psalms 32,33&34 in the evening sessions.

Particularly encouraging for me was to have 20 delegates from Scotland - who were able to meet together and discuss how FIEC can have an increasing impact in Scotland for Christ.

Updates concerning FIEC ministry around the UK included renewed Gospel work in Blackpool and Manchester, FIEC financial support for 22 men being trained for ministry, a project to map the most unreached areas of the UK and church plant initiatives, new personal evangelism material that is taking the city of London by storm, the forthcoming Hub Conference for people considering training for ministry, and the addition of 60 churches to the FIEC family in the past three years.

The message was loud and clear - in the midst of a society turning its back on God in many ways - the Gospel is still the power of God to save men & women and transform lives.

Monday, October 21, 2013

No going back now...

Fantastic and humbling service yesterday marking the end of my 9 years full-time service at Greenview. Above is a presentation to the family of a photograph of Glasgow signed by all the church members. The Lord is good!

Friday, October 04, 2013

The War on Christians

'the global war on Christians remains the greatest story never told of the early 21st century...'

 '11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith.

'of the 65 Christian churches in Baghdad, 40 have been bombed at least once since the beginning of 2003'

'300,000 Christians in North Korea have disappeared' 

Orissa (India), Burma, Nigeria.....

See full article HERE

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Role with FIEC

From November I'll no longer be Greenview's full-time teaching elder but taking up a role as Scotland Director with FIEC. Obviously it's a wrench to step down from serving in a church as good as Greenview - but it's with excitement that I'm moving on to serve the FIEC family of churches in Scotland.

See here for more details.

bye bye baby blue

Last week the UK Crown Prosecution Service decided not to take to action against doctors in the UK who offered to carry out abortions on the basis of gender . This decision was taken, not because there wasn't enough evidence or because the law isn’t clear, but because the CPS deemed such a prosecution ‘not to be in the public interest’. Now to be fair there has been considerable condemnation and unease expressed since in the media and political circles – and with the matter now being reviewed it may well be that action will be taken in the light of this pressure.

However, the moral confusion and double standards around abortion have been starkly highlighted by this case. For a start  the controversy has not been generated because people are concerned about on-demand abortions being carried out on an industrial scale in the UK (that is just accepted), rather what has upset people is the thought that sexism could be a factor (the phrase, ‘Straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel’, does come to mind!).

Now, of course, to say abortion on the basis of gender discrimination is unacceptable cuts both ways – that is, it should protect both sexes. But we also know that the big driver for such gender based abortions is that in certain cultures, for economic and cultural reasons, boys are more valued than girls.  So let’s not be naive in recognising that globally this is largely an issue about girls and hence why it is so politically sensitive. 

David Cameron at PMQs (11/9/13) stated that abortion on the basis of gender was unacceptable. The question that assertion begs, and which no-one in public life seems to want to ask, is why? After all if it is unacceptable to abort a human life on the basis of gender discrimination - why is discrimination in the womb acceptable for the disabled, the poor, the inconvenient, and the unwanted. 

The whole basis of abortion is that foetuses are not really fully functioning human lives and thus can be disposable. But if so, what exactly is the relevance of gender?

It leaves us with the bizarre, indeed grotesque, situation where it seems the only defence to life in the womb (that our society actually cares about) would be because you’re not a boy. Sorry boys but the reality is that any protection you will get because of your gender will largely come because of a concern for girls.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Keep the clubs in the bag

At a meeting of church leaders I attended a while back one of the speakers challenged us about getting balance in ministry. Now keeping things in proportion, not neglecting important truths and avoiding unhealthily pre-occupations with single issues in ministry is important - the other way the cults lie!

However, in this instance the dichotomy being presented to us was misleading. The danger we were told was too much emphasis on doctrine and theology. This was the scourge of evangelical churches - and here comes the analogy - our churches historically have been too taken up with just one 'club' (i.e. doctrine) and thus neglected the other 'ministry clubs' such as evangelism, mercy ministry, community building pastoral care etc.

To be honest I can't remember exactly how it was put - but 'clubs' was the analogy and this blog is about the bigger presentation of these issues rather than a one-off comment - so apologies if I've over-stated that particular incident. However, the general point being made is a common one. Indeed the accusation that evangelicals are obsessed with doctrine is pretty old news - are there any sensible thinking evangelicals who aren't aware of the dangers of 'just having head knowledge' or who think evangelism, mercy ministries and pastoral care aren't really important. As a challenge to evangelicals it is somewhat hackneyed.

What got me intervening in the debate though was not the un-originality of the comments but the false premise of setting doctrine against those other things as if they are separate components of ministry. Doctrine/theology is not a separate club - but 'the bag' in which all the other clubs are kept. Get rid of 'the bag' or forget to take it with you, and all the other 'clubs' will soon be all over the place.

So when someone says (and they will sooner or later), 'Let's stop fussing about doctrine and just get out there and share Jesus'. The question is, 'What are you going to share - what will you say to people?' Because as soon as you make as statement, claim or pronouncement about Jesus - we're talking doctrine.

The 'clubs' of evangelism, mercy ministry, pastoral care, fellowship, praise (you name them) are all drawn out of the bag of doctrine and theology. So make sure the bag is in good order and make sure your clubs are kept inside it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Back to Basics on Same Sex Marriage

It’s been a fairly gruelling period for Bible believing Christians. Despite the many petitions, letters, radio interviews and other attempts to argue the Christian position on Marriage – Westminster, The Church of Scotland (and undoubtedly Holyrood next) are pushing full steam ahead on recognizing and legislating for Same Sex Marriage (SSM). The air of triumphalism in the media is palpable – the arguments for SSM on the grounds of equality are now seemingly so invincible that anyone who argues otherwise is generally pilloried. Evangelicals on this issue are the comic-book Nazis in Indiana Jones films – fit only for unqualified contempt (witness the onslaught against Ian Paisley Jnr on a recent edition of Question Time). Now, of course, the debate is not completely over and we should all get behind The Christian Institute and others as they continue their work in the House of Lords and elsewhere.  

However, for now it’s plain that the arguments for a ‘traditional Christian' understanding of Marriage have by and large failed to ‘get traction’. This, in hindsight, was perhaps inevitable in a society that has drifted so far from its Christian heritage. Christians, of course, recognised this and as a result often felt compelled to argue not on Christian/Biblical premises but on secular ones. We were aware that arguments ‘from the Bible’ would be largely dismissed as invalid by our secular society – so we attempted to argue on grounds we thought would be more credible and acceptable, e.g. health, societal, cultural. It was a valiant effort but all too often it got bogged down in a quagmire of claim, counter-claim, anecdote and statistics.

Indeed if the highest value that could be employed in such debates was an essentially humanistic view of equality – then frankly Christians were doomed to appear wanting and out of touch. If the Christian tactic was largely to cite cultural traditions or appeal to notions of ‘normality’ - then a society that esteems individual freedom as its most precious value was always going to reply, ‘You do your thing if you want, but don’t stop us doing our thing’. Thus the Achilles Heel of much of the recent Christian approach to SSM was the felt need to argue not on core Christian premises but on secular ones.

The great Christian Apologist Alvin Plantinga argued that non-believers can only make their anti-faith claims on the basis of ‘borrowed capital’. That is, the very notions of logic, linear argument and reason rest on a Christian understanding of the universe, i.e. that the universe has sense and rationality at its core and there exists transcendent truth that is knowable and attainable. This means that, for example, the anti-faith (materialistic) premise that the human brain is simply a haphazard conglomeration of random events and processes, actually nullifies any claim to objective reasoning made by those who argue for it. It means that Christians can push back the angry question, 'How can you can say XX is wrong?', with the reply, 'How can you say anything is wrong?'. 

So where now for Christians in the aftermath of our failure to convince a humanistic and secular society that not having SSM will be good for them? Well let me suggest we need to go right back to our most basic premises. We need to ‘come clean’ that our objection to SSM is at core a religious or faith belief. We need to be upfront that our view on Marriage is based on a belief in a God who is the Creator of humanity. That this God has revealed Himself and given a disclosure about how humans should relate to each other in the world He made and will hold accountable to Himself. That God has made it clear what is good for men and women and what is not. We need to be very clear that this is our premise and that without it we accept that everything becomes relative and negotiable. The argument then becomes is the existence of such a God believable and is the Bible credible in those terms – which is the debate, of course, we would all much rather have.

Now, of course, we may not get that debate – the very mention of God and the Bible is likely to be met by Mars Hill-esque ridicule. Nevertheless we’ll be honest about our starting point, be consistent in our reasoning, and – an important residual benefit – be clear that we are a people of faith convictions and ‘the Law’ will have to persecute us on that basis should Parliament choose to do so.

Sadly, we have compounded our failure to defend Marriage by too often giving the impression that our beliefs are flimsy and arbitrary – borne out of preference, traditions and even fear. We too often vacated our ‘capital’ and accepted ‘terms and conditions’  set by opponents that left us with little more than references to opinion polls and demographics.  We will not win the SSM debate by such means, we may not win it at all, but we can be clear that such matters go to the very heart of how we understand humanity and the existence of the universe. We need to move our arguments back to the ground we have most confidence in – Scriptural revelation.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bulls, Lambs & Turtledoves

‘ aroma pleasing to the Lord’ (Lev 1:9,13,17)

 The Brethren Communion Service in its ‘traditional’ format, i.e. led by members, open and spontaneous - is one of the hallmarks of a church like Greenview. It draws its ethos from NT texts such as ‘When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation’ (1 Cor 14:26) and ‘Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God’ (Col 3:16).

In many ways the Brethren’s (19th Century) re-invention of this format was ahead of its time – seemingly traditional and basic, and yet this simple, stripped down time of worship is exactly what so many seem to crave at the beginning of the 21st Century. The Emergent kick-back against shiny, professionalised, slick evangelical services and the expansion of cell & house churches – has been, in part, a desire for such an authentic and organic church experience.  

It is a service that provides a real opportunity for real (ordinary) people to contribute, to share and to encourage each other in worship. In many ways the (re)introduction of this type of service by the Brethren was radical and risky – no controls, no clergy-lock on what could be said, just trusting that ordinary Christians could have something spiritual, edifying and tangible to bring on a Sunday morning.

But what to bring? Bring what’s on your heart! Sounds a bit pietistic (even cheesy)?  But remember it’s your heart the Lord is looking at whatever you bring. The externals are always secondary to God – the ‘widow’s mite’ will always be esteemed above throw-away largess. Equally, of course, scraps thrown from banqueting tables will be seen for what they are.

For some, scholarly and acquainted with the deep things of God’s Word, their offering will be an 'Ox' – substantial, weighty, developed, enough for some to nibble and others to chew. But brought by those with such a gift to share – it is an aroma pleasing to the Lord. Others, bring a lamb or a goat – more digestible, more common and readily given – but an expression of the gifts and blessings they have received from the Lord. Others bring their turtle doves – small and quickly offered – but just as precious to the Lord when given at heartfelt cost.

So whether you bring deep expositions from Isaiah, reminders of things familiar from the Gospels, or a two sentence prayer – bring it – if it’s on your heart.   Bring that which reflects you, your faith, your experience, your blessings, your circumstances – and together the worship of all God’s people will be ‘an aroma pleasing to the Lord’.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Easter Sunday - The Time

Thoughts for Easter Sunday - THE TIME

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise (Mark 16:2). All four gospels record the timing of the resurrection news. Just as the stone had symbolism so does the time. The resurrection is literally 'a new dawn'. As God began creation on the 1st day of the week, so He begins new creation. You see the resurrection was never going to happen on a Tuesday afternoon. Its very timing points us towards the start of a new era. An era in which men and women could become part of a new humanity initiated by a risen Saviour.

It is the reason that Easter Sunday is a great day on which to have baptisms - symbolising the beginning of new life - resurrection life in Christ. It is why it is a great day to preach the gospel and a great day to receive it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter Sunday - The Emotions

Thoughts for Easter Sunday - THE EMOTIONS

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb (Mark 16:8). The authenticity of the gospels is palpable - there is no air-punching triumphalism, no joy or celebrations. This is real. No-one expected resurrection - this was emotional and intellectual overload. Everything assumed and expected was being turned on its head. We are so familiar with the ending to the story that we become blase about it - 2000yrs ago at dawn they were getting to grips with something staggering.

How do we feel confronted by the resurrection today? It's ok to be unsettled by it - it is a life changing proposition after-all. What matters is what we will do about it. Mark leaves his readers hanging concerning those first witnesses - what will they do? Will they believe, will they go, will they tell? Will we?

Easter Sunday - The Stone

Thoughts for Easter Sunday - THE STONE

The big concern for the little group of Jesus' female followers that first Easter Sunday was not resurrection or even religion - but the stone. That huge stone disc that sealed the entrance to the tomb. Such stones could take up to 20 people to shift once in place. Even so human nature in such situations is still to 'hope for the best' or to 'give it a go'.

But the stone was more than just a physical obstacle - it symbolised the immovable seal of death. Once a tomb is sealed or a grave covered - it is all over, there is nothing we can do about it - the life has gone. The stone is a powerful image of the final separation between the living and the death - and of our powerlessness to do anything about it.

But when they looked up, they saw the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away (Mark 16:4). Pause for a moment on these words - on a spring morning 2000 yrs ago - the grave became a two-way street.

The immovable and final seal of death had been rolled away. Death was no longer unchartered territory but had been exhausted and undone. He is risen.