Author: Simon

Did the Bible Predict the Coronavirus?

Did the Bible predict the Coronavirus – what a question!

It’s now been two weeks since Schools closed and virtual lockdown imposed on our nation. Is it just me or has it seemed WAY longer than two weeks? I don’t know but what we do know is that the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak is fundamentally changing how we view the world, and the death toll continues to rise each day.

Some of the disruptions on this scale were hard to imagine even a month ago. I mean, who would have thought that Google would be asked to track our movements this weekend so that we don’t go out for a longer walk than we are supposed to? Or, within days, churches have been forced to move entire congregations into virtual communities online? We are certainly living in strange times.

Of course, there is still the odd nutjob around claiming one conspiracy theory after another … “COVID 19 is a ploy by Disney because the tv channel Disney plus was launched at the same time” … or “5G towers are, in fact, the cause of Coronavirus” or “Greta Thunberg caused Covid-19 to help with her global warming campaign.” Or how about the “minister” (more like fleecer of the flock) and head of the Kingdom Church in Camberwell, south London, who has promised his followers that if they purchase a small bottle of oil and piece of red yarn from him (at inflated prices) it will protect them from Covid-19.

Whatever

I don’t even want to disrespect this blog and you, my reader, to make a comment suffice to say .. no, jut no.

So here we are

Here’s a question I bet you haven’t asked yet: “What doe she Bible say about Coronavirus?”. Glad you asked because it’s an easy answer: nothing. Absolutely nothing. Well, kind of nothing. Although the coronavirus is not mentioned by name in the Bible, it does, of course, talk about the environmental conditions that are indicators that Jesus is coming back soon.

A commonly mentioned passage is Matthew 24.

“For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in various places .. All these are the beginnings of sorrows.”

Ok, so there will be “pestilences” or plagues before Jesus comes back. Now the question is whether COVID19 is one of those said pestilences. Who knows? Really, whether COVID19 is a “pestilence” or “plague” probably remains to be seen. It’s certainly not clear. However, whether it is or it isn’t, what IS clear is that God has given us a way to behave – even in times of pestilence or peace.

  1. Don’t assume that you know God’s intentions. From a Biblical perspective, God has many reasons to judge us. He doesn’t need a virus but don’t assume that this virus is a harbinger of doom. There are many real and tangible opportunities that this crisis brings – an opportunity for society to reset, for communities to value social interaction, for questions about spiritual things to be asked and answered. Don’t ever assume that we know God’s intentions outside of what the Bible actually says.
  2. Don’t assume that God will withhold his judgement forever. Paul said that God has “fixed a day” when the will judge the world. I don’t believe that day has come, and I can’t even tell you if it’s close, but what I can tell you is that we should not consider that God’s patience is qual to His acceptance.
  3. Don’t waste this opportunity to do good. Paul wrote to exhort us that “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith”.  I was reminded this week that the way we reflect the glory of Christ most vividly to the world is to be people who are growing in love for one another.
  4. Don’t walk by sight but by faith. Huge huge huge! We are being bombarded on every side right now with thoughts and images and the immediate danger. and make no mistake, there is a very real and present danger. However, I’d ask you today .. how is your faith? Are you able to see past creation and chaos, to the Creator and His care? Where does your spiritual vision most readily run to?
  5. Don’t forget to seek God. Job was a prophet who experienced severed trials in life. He said “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). Even when it seems like the world is falling apart, God is still in charge.

So, did the Bible predict COVID19? Maybe. Maybe not …  Probably not.

Does the Bible give us ANY guidance on how we are to live – pestilence or no pestilence? Absolutley

The Art of Praying

One of the things that I love to do is write out my prayers. I think that brings depth to what I am saying and sees prayer as a process that is moved by the Spirit rather than an event that can often be, in my own heart, a breeding ground for self-centeredness.

Over the years I have been greatly helped by reading the prayers of others. I’d like to share some of those with you:

A collection of puritan prayers called The Vision of Valley has really helped me greatly over the years The opening pray is one I come back to time and again:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley

Philip Doddridge, an English Nonconformist minister from the beginning of the 18th century, wrote this:

Lord, may I put on meekness under the greatest injuries and provocations (Colossians 3:12), and, as much as it depends on me, may I live peacefully with all (Romans 12:18).

May I be merciful, as my Father in heaven is merciful (Luke 6:36).

May I speak the truth from my heart (Psalm 15:2) and may I speak it in love (Ephesians 4:15), taking care not to judge severely, as I would not want to be judged.

Work in me the kind of disposition you approve. Renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10) and make me a genuine son of Israel (John 1:47).

And while I feast on Christ, as my passover sacrificed for me, may I keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7–8).

Make me steadfast and immovable, always abounding in your work, knowing that my labour in the Lord will not be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Keep my heart tender (2 Kings 22:19), easily impressed with your word and providence, touched with an affectionate concern for your glory, and sensitive to every impulse of your Spirit.

May I be zealous for you, God (Numbers 25:13), with a zeal based on knowledge and love (1 Corinthians 14:14). Teach me in your service to join the wisdom of the serpent with the boldness of the lion and the innocence of the dove (Matthew 10:16).

In this way make me, by your grace, a shining image of my dear Redeemer. May I ascribe everlasting honours to him; and to you, O Father of mercies; and to your Holy Spirit, through whose gracious influence I may call you my Father; and Jesus my Savior! Amen.

Scotty Smith has published a prayer a day and I really appreciate how he writes, taking bible verses and praying around them. Here’s an example:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34–35 NIV)

Lord Jesus, as I meditate and pray my way through these Scriptures, I’m quite literally undone. What but the gift of faith can enable me to grasp the wonder of these words and the magnificence of this moment? What but the power of the gospel can enable me to believe and obey them? Grant me both, I pray; grant me both. On our calendar, we call this day Maundy or Mandate Thursday. It is a day of Holy Week and a day in the history of redemption brimming over with glory and grace. Passover will soon become the Lord’s Supper—your supper. The promises of the old covenant will soon be fulfilled by the blood of the new covenant—your blood. Having shared eternal glory with the Father, you now show stunning grace to your disciples. Having loved this ragtag bunch of broken men—who squabbled with each other hours earlier for positions of honour and who within a few hours would all scatter and deny you—having loved them so well, you now show them even greater manifestations of your love. Your disrobing to wash their feet was with a full view to your being stripped naked to wash their hearts and our hearts. What wondrous love is this indeed! How wide, long, high, and deep!

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV). This is the new and never-ending mandate we’re now under as your disciples. Don’t let me ever forget that the measure of your love is not just the basin and towel of the upper room but your cross and your death at Calvary. There simply is no greater love—none. Jesus, as my heart comes more fully alive to how you loved me by your death and how you love me now in your resurrection glory, I’ll seek to make fewer excuses for loving poorly and to offer quicker repentances when I do. As you continue to show me the full extent of your love for me in the gospel, love through me to your glory. I pray in your name. Amen.

 

Spring Forward

At least SOME things don’t change – however, tomorrow the clocks do. Nowadays we don’t have to worry about the clocks changing so long as our smartphones are set to automatic. Still, consider this your reminder.

Physical Distancing vs Social Distancing

Matt 13:31-33 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like aa grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

During this extraordinary time of social distancing, we want to remind you that social distancing is not something found in the Bible – or at least – it’s not something that the Bible speaks highly of or encourages us to do.

Physical Distancing vs Social Distancing
I believe that the government, in coining the phrase “social distancing” got it wrong.

Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not suggesting that we ignore the government’s advice by starting church up again and having face-to-face meetings. We need to honour the government’s advice to self-isolate. What I’m suggesting is that the term “social distancing” is wrong and we really should be talking about physical distancing.

The message of the kingdom of God is spread like yeast and starts like a mustard seed (Matt 13). In other words, it starts to spread when followers of Jesus understand that they have already been sent to the places they live, work, and play to intentionally seek to bring God’s influence to bear in those places. We’re not called to socially distance ourselves – the opposite in fact!

Here are a few examples of how I see this working:

  • One person I heard about, working in the financial sector, started a weekly Zoom meeting with some of his colleagues so that they can call-in and try to make sense of what they are going through. There is great comfort for some just to be able to hear a voice and see facial expressions. He is now seeking to build relationships with the intention that Jesus would be known by many of them.
  • Another person I heard about is writing short stories for kids, then sending them to church families with a special note of encouragement.
  • Yet another person is using their computer programming skills to help smaller churches get online.

We’re supposed to engage not withdraw and at a time like this where we are bombarded with images of isolation we need to remember that the church is called to be counter-cultural.

Grace for the Weary

Lord, we know your words, “The Lord God has given me a well-taught tongue, so I may know how to sustain the weary with a word”

I am one of those wearied souls, lord. I am wearied with my temptations, wearied with inward trouble.

So now, Lord, Speak a word in due season to this poor, wounded, and wearied soul.

Let me serve you, Lord – that us all my desire. Let me see you as you please when you please.

I am done, Lord, I am done. I have questioned and questioned my condition these many years. And I see there is no end of such questioning. I get nothing by it.

I am a poor, weak creature, and I fear I will never be able to bear testimony of the truth of Jesus Christ. But you have said, “I will give power to my two witnesses.” I am one of your witnesses. Now then, lord, give power to me, for I am poor.

I see the sinfulness of sin, so let me also see the graciousness of grace and the fullness of Christ. I come to you for righteousness, because I see my sin I exceedingly sinful.

Lord, keep my soul in the ocean of your free love. amen.

William Bridge

The Table Before Me

Join us on Sunday morning at 10:30 am for online church. We’ll be spending some time worshipping, hearing from God through the Bible and fellowshipping. The address you need is https://calvarysoton.online.church – if you click this now all you’ll get is a short video. If you click it on Sunday morning you’ll be able to join our service.

Our Bible Study will be from Psalm 23

Children Ministry – we will post children’s ministry materials for you to print at home.

Youth Ministry – we will post youth ministry materials for you to print at home.

Gather your family and join in!

Online Church

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has forced us to think really hard about what we do as a church. This update is simply to tell you what we are doing, and how you can stay in touch.

Sunday Mornings

Sunday Mornings will now be exclusively online. We are working incredibly hard to make this happen in a way that both upholds the Biblical mandate to meet together and honours our government.

Meeting online isn’t ideal. There will be technical issues that some people will face. It’s not a permanent solution and one day I look forward to standing in front of you all again.

The address of our church meeting is https://calvarysoton.online.church – if you click this now all you’ll get is a short video. If you click it on Sunday morning you’ll be able to join our service.

Please share this link. We’re aware that many churches in Southampton have decided to close their doors. There will be regular Facebook updates for you to do this.

Online Communities

We’ve always said that church is more than Sunday’s. So, we’ve launched “Online Communities” – face-to-face interaction we’re using a piece of software called Zoom to enable us to meet online. At the moment our online Communities consist of two four groups: our three existing “Life Groups” and a “Tea & Chat”.

Our Online Life Groups will have the same Bible Study content, worship and fellowship as we have face to face but it will be done over the internet. To access each Life Group please go to the Church Calendar or ChurchSuite and click the link on each event.

Our weekly Tea & Chat will also take place via our Online Community. This is simply for people to hang out and chat, to catch up with people and check-in. There’s really no agenda. This takes place from 7:30 pm-9:00 pm each Friday evening. Arrive anytime. Stay for 10 minutes or an hour – up to you. Again, to join, go to the Church Calendar or ChurchSuite and click the link on each event.

 

Partnering with Fear

One of the devil’s tactics is fear.

He threatens terrible consequences.

When the 18th century revivalist George Whitefield called upon his friend John Wesley to take over his open-air preaching ministry, Wesley was suddenly struck with the impression that if he were to do so, he would die. Having sought divine guidance by randomly opening his Bible on four different occasions, the Scriptures seemed to confirm his impending death. But those fears proved to be nothing more than the work of the devil seeking to prevent him from entering into the work to which God had called him. It was actually through the acceptance of that invitation that John Wesley entered his evangelistic career, which lasted more than 40 years and resulted in the conversion of tens of thousands and the formation of the Methodist Church.

The enemy’s fear tactic is vividly seen in the story of Rabbi Leopold Cohn, a Hungarian Jew who through various circumstances came to believe that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. When he received Christ, he realized that he needed to choose a day on which to make a public confession of his faith by being baptized. His story of the events that transpired on the day of his baptism amply illustrates the devil’s attempts to hinder God’s work in us through fear. The rabbi said:

Early that morning, about daybreak, I awakened with a shiver and it seemed as if someone spoke saying, “What are you doing today?”

I sprang out of bed and walked up and down the room like one suffering from high fever almost not knowing what I was doing. I had been anxiously waiting to be baptized as I was looking forward with joy to the time when I could publicly confess the Lord Jesus Christ before men. But now a sudden change came over me. The voice that was talking to me was that of the great enemy of mankind, though of course he was so sly that I could not perceive at the time that it was Satan.

Many questions were proposed to me rapidly one after another and perplexed me so that I felt ill mentally and physically. He questioned thus: “You are going to be baptized, aren’t you? Do you know that as soon as you take this step, you will be cut off from your wife whom you love so dearly? She can never live with you again. Do you realize that your four children whom you are so fond of will never call you Papa or look in your face again? Your brothers, sisters, and all your relatives will consider you dead and all their hearts will be broken forever.

“How can you be so cruel to your own flesh and blood? Your own people will despise and hate you more than ever before. You are cutting yourself off from your people. You have no friends in this world. You will be left alone to drift like a piece of timber on the ocean. What will become of your name, your reputation, your official position?”

These thoughts put to me in the form of the most audible questions by Satan, whom I, for the first time, met as a personal enemy, distressed and almost unbalanced my mind. I could not sleep, neither could I eat. My friend who was with me, noticing this, tried to strengthen and encourage me in every possible way, but nothing availed. I knelt down in prayer to God but the satanic delusion was as strong as before.

He continues his story by describing what happened when he conceded defeat to the enemy. Feeling mentally and physically sick, he went to inform the pastor that he would not be able to be baptized. About that same time, another pastor, namely Dr. Andrew Bonar, along with his congregation, felt impressed to pray for this man, knowing he was to be baptized that day. As they began to pray, suddenly the oppression lifted, and instead of cancelling his appointment, he was baptized and made his public confession of Christ, just as he had desired to do. Rabbi Cohn went on to become a powerful witness for the Lord, forming what became known as the American Board of Missions to the Jews. He led many of his fellow Israelites to faith in the Messiah, Jesus.

The devil threatens terrible things to those who want to obey God but that is all he can do because “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Again, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Don’t let the enemy keep you out of the will of God through fear. Remember, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Our heavenly Father has our eternal best in mind. So yield to Him without fear.

The passage of Scripture that I always turn to when thinking about fear is Philippians 4:4-6 where both joy and anxiety collide.

Philippians 4:4–6 (ESV) — 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

I’ve written quite a lot in previous posts about fear and mental health. Click here for those … and here.

What happens when we are threatened with terrible consequences? We can either choose at that moment to turn to God in faith or take matters into our own hands. Taking matters into our own hands will either be displayed by one of two outcomes: we either choose to be a warrior or worrier – we can fight or flight. But the Christian there is another option – faith. This is what Paul is talking about in the passage above. It’s what Jesus spoke about when He said:

Luke 12:22 (ESV) — 22 do not be anxious about your life

so the question is how? how do we go about doing that?

In other words, the way to be anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything. When we sense the red mist of anger or the hear the runaway footsteps of anxiety, at that moment, as a pattern of what we have been doing as a regular practice, we pray.

Practising turning to God in faith will keep you from flight or fight.

Let’s not partner with fear. God has given us to that. If we are fearful today know this, that hasn’t come from God.

Corona and Calvary Chapel

We are living in unpredictable and somewhat unprecedented times. As a church family, we do not want to partner with fear but instead we what to act in faith to do what is right. So, in light of this weeks news and ever-evolving national picture (including lots of social media misinformation about the virus), I thought I’d share something that know about what’s happening at Calvary…

What you can do:

  1. There are hand sanitizers in the building and you are encouraged to use these.
  2. If you think you have got the virus, use the NHS 111 questionnaire online https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19 and follow the advice given and stay home (that’s what most people do anyway. Truth be told, I’ve been told that healthy people skip church sometimes too 🙂
  3. Feel free not to kiss, embrace, or shake hands with anyone (I recommend the “fist bump” those young kids are doing. The optional “explosion” at the end is completely your call)
  4. Relax on the toilet paper stockpiling. If your garage is full of toilet roll after this is all over, you’re going to be the butt of some jokes.
  5. I’m thankful for the medical professionals that we have in our church. Pray for them. On that note .. I’m no doctor, but if you have ever been inside an Infant School you’re probably immune to any known disease or virus.

What Calvary is doing:

  1. We are having church as normal – 10:30 am at Great Oaks. We are monitoring the situation carefully but we can tell you now that we will continue to meet in the normal way unless a) enough people in our congregation fall ill or b) the school requests that we do not meet. We will keep you informed via email and text.
  2. Tomorrow we will disinfect all hand surfaces in the School, including all door handles and surfaces.
  3. In light of this crisis, I’ve asked our worship team to add, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by Kelly Clarkson and “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi (although the line “take my hand we’ll make it I swear” might have to change to “Let’s fist bump …”) to the worship set. (I’m still waiting to hear back from them about this)
  4. Seriously, be wise and keep on living your life. If you want to come to Calvary on Sunday, we’ll all be there. You should be there as well.

What we should do together:

  1. I learnt today that the Chinese word for “crisis” literally translates as “danger opportunity”. This crisis could be an opportunity to deepen our own prayer-lives and help advance the Gospel as we reach out with compassion.

Romans 1 – Homosexuality

In our Sunday sermon last week we looked at the passage from Romans 1 where Paul talks about homosexuality. If you missed that sermon you can hear it here:

There have been two responses from this sermon:

  1. No response. I mean … nothing. Not necessarily a good thing and I’d appreciate feedback if for nothing else to help better my preaching.
  2. An expected response from others. The comment to me went like this “I expect you’ve been inundated with people saying things about your sermon”. Strange given the fact that I haven’t had any response at all. This suggests that people are saying a fair bit, but not to me.

So, those things to say: if you have any feedback I’d genuinely love to hear it. I want to know your thoughts about the issue – this will help me gauge where we are in regards to the church but also help me clarify my own position on the subject.

I also thought, for the purpose of this blog, that it would be helpful to repost a few articles that were written back in 2018 on this issue.

Pride, the Bible and the Church Part 1

This is actually a repost of a talk that Rob Wood gave at our church in 2017. Rob is from True Freedom Trust, a UK-based teaching and pastoral support ministry that holds to the orthodox biblical view of sex, gender and relationships. The talk was entitled “The Biblical Inclusive Church” and is really worth a listen.

Pride, the Bible and the Church Part 2

In this article, Sam Allberry writes on the biblical view of homosexuality. Sam is part of the Living Out organisation and part of the ministerial team at St Mary’s in Maidenhead.

The Bible is Good News

This post contains two video messages that were given at the 2016 Solas Conference by Ed Shaw, author of the book called “The Plausibility Problem“. In these two videos, Ed explores the two topics “God’s Word is Good” and God’s Way is Plausible”. There are particularly helpful in reference to what we spoke about last weekend: that Christians come to this issue with a framework, with a set of assumptions and premises.

Neither Arminian nor Calvinist

Neither Arminian nor Calvinist

Neither Arminian nor Calvinist

In trying to explain where Calvary Chapel lays between Calvinism and Arminianism, most churches have including a statement in their statement of beliefs that reads something like this:

“At Calvary Chapel, we believe that we maintain the middle ground between Arminian and Calvinist theology”

Although this helps somewhat, it doesn’t go into enough detail. So, in 2011 Chuck Smith wrote a short book called “Calvinism, Arminianism And The Word of God. In it, he attempted to clarify what Calvary Chapel believes and teaches. Again, so much has been written on both sides of the argument that one man could never answer the question.

There is no question in my mind that Calvary Chapel not only pioneered a “middle ground”, but that the movement also added greatly to the present conversation. As we are currently going through the book of Romans I thought I’d quickly revisit what this “Middle Ground” theology expresses – by the way, there are lots of people that call themselves “Calminianism” which I’m not sure I like. I prefer “Mediate” theology.

Simply put, Mediate Theology agrees with classic Arminianism that when God predestines that this is based on his foreknowledge of what all humans would do in all possible situations that they could find themselves in. But it also teaches that God’s all-knowing character is so great that it is not limited just to what all actually created being would do but to what all possibly created beings would do in all possible situations. Because God creates only a finite number of persons between the beginning of the universe and Christ’s return, his sovereign choice is preserved, because he must choose to create some beings and not others. Thus, with classic Calvinism, his sovereign, elective freedom is preserved.

There are countless passages throughout Scripture that, seemingly paradoxically, affirm at one and the same time God’s sovereignty and human freedom (with accountability). Philippians 2:12-13 for example:

12 Therefore, my beloved, fas you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Paul here commands us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, but only because God is the one at work in us to do his good pleasure.

Isaiah 10:5-13 similarly:

Woe to Assyria, ethe rod of my anger;

the staff in their hands is my fury!

6 Against a fgodless nation I send him,

and against the people of my wrath I command him,

to take gspoil and seize plunder,

and to htread them down like the mire of the streets.

7 But he idoes not so intend,

and his heart does not so think;

but it is in his heart to destroy,

and to cut off nations not a few;

8 for he says:

j“Are not my commanders all kings?

9 kIs not lCalno like mCarchemish?

Is not nHamath like oArpad?

pIs not qSamaria like Damascus?

10 As my hand has reached to rthe kingdoms of the idols,

whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,

11 shall I not do to Jerusalem and sher idols

tas I have done to Samaria and her images?”

12 uWhen the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, vhe1 will punish the speech2 of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. 13 wFor he says:

“By the strength of my hand I have done it,

and by my wisdom, for I have understanding;

I remove the boundaries of peoples,

and plunder their treasures;

like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones.

Here we find God using Assyria as an instrument to punishment faithless Israel but then promising to turn around and punish Assyria because of her evil motives in conquering God’s people.

There are 12 basic propositions to Mediate Theology:

  1. God limited the exercise of His sovereignty by creating moral beings and delegating authority to them.
    1. note: according to Ephesians 2, he has also delegated control although He is still in charge.
  2. Since the fall did not erase God’s image, depravity does not mean total inability to respond to God’s salvation message.
    1. For clarification on this point see point 4 below (i.e. God still does something in order for the sinner to respond to Him but He does not regenerate a person so that they can then believe (as Calvinists believe), nor does He leave it up to the sinner to believe on their own (as Arminianists believe).
  3. Although Christ’s death is particularly effective for individual believers, it is potentially available to all humanity.
  4. The conviction of the Spirit mediately prepares sinners for faith.
  5. God’s calling to salvation is not irresistible.
  6. The new birth is conditioned on repentant faith.
  7. Repentant faith is the only condition for salvation.
  8. Right standing and new birth are conditioned on repentant faith alone, apart from works.
  9. Election/ foreordination are based upon foreknowledge.
  10. True believers are eternally secure in Christ.
  11. Christ’s discipleship teachings are a challenge to believers, not the way of salvation.
  12. Christ charged us to proclaim salvation on God’s terms.

For those who like things laid out neatly so that they can compare the three views (Calvinism, Mediate, Arminianism) here is a very useful table called 3 Views on Sovereignty

One of the big dangers for a church like ours, with a good mix of people who believe one of the above perspectives is that:

1) we create caricatures of what the other side believes. Straw men are always the easiest to knockdown.

b) fail to appreciate that both sides are attempting to be faithful – the Calvinist wants to preserve the Scriptural emphasis on divine sovereignty; the Arminian, on human freedom and responsibility. Both are right in what they want and correct to observe in Scripture the theme that they stress.

So, here I lay out the system of belief that I’m most comfortable with. I’m Reformed in as much as I’m not catholic (but agree with neither the Calvinist TULIP nor the Arminians FACTS)

For more reading about Mediate Theology, I’d recommend the book “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: An inductive mediate Theology of Salvation” and although quite dry provides some excellent insights.

praying for the persecuted church

Persecuted Church update

praying for the persecuted church

Last May the BBC reported that Christian persecution ‘at near genocide levels’. According to Help the Persecuted, a Christian is killed every 6 minutes for following Christ.

Christian Women are the most persecuted group on the planet. Mina’s story is heartbreaking

The World Watch List is Open Doors’ annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. Use the link below to explore the country profiles to find information, stories and how you can pray for Christians in that country:

https://worldwatch.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/world-watch-list/?_ga=2.212060689.462394063.1580552416-904183416.1580552416

The purpose of this blog is not only to again highlight the cause of Christians around the globe but to also focus our attention on praying for them. With that in mind, I want to encourage you to go over and sign up to ICommittopray.com which is a helpful website that has prayer requests from around the world and encourages readers to post their own prayers specifically for our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted.

Link-a-thon – February

This week’s blog is a link-a-thon – a collection of relevant (and not so relevant) links from across the internet.

Don’t Compartmentalize Your Christianity

I love Paul Tripp’s blog – down to earth and rich. This week Paul wrote about the dangers of “compartmentalizing” your faith. Read it here:

https://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/dont-compartmentalize-your-christianity

Truth and Lies : Muhammad: The God of Islam

This is a discussion with two Islam experts Dr. Bill Warner and our friend Dr Jay Smith on the topic “Why is Muhammad elevated to the position of God?”

 

Exploring the Alps

In last weeks sermon, I mentioned my love of the Alps. if you’ve never been here is a wonderful trim lapse video called “Exploring the Alps”

Kobe’s Death Reminds Us Life Is Not Fair

I must admit: I’m not a follower of basketball and didn’t know who Kobe Bryant was until the news broke this week about his death. Still, it’s a sober reminder that death is not normal – it’s not right. In this helpful article, Greg Lauries reminds us that life isn’t fair:

https://harvest.org/resources/gregs-blog/post/kobe-bryants-death-reminds-us-life-is-not-fair/

Coronavirus

Let’s face it, global pandemics are not new: we’ve all heard of the “Black Death” (aka the Great Plague) that occurred between 1347 – 1351. It was responsible for killing an estimated 75 to 200 million people. Much more recently, In 1918, the first recognised H1N1 influenza virus broke out infecting 500 million people and killing around 25 million. In our lifetime we’ve witnessed Ebola, the 2009 “swine flu” pandemic and the 2017 “bird flu” pandemic. Now, we’ve been hit by the Coronovirus. So far 11000 people have been infected, and 259 people have died. Here, apparently, is everything you need to know about the virus: Everything You Need to Know about the New Coronavirus from China.

Also, here is a map tracking its spread in real-time.

Remembering the Holocaust – 75 years on

I’ve met a Holocaust Survivor on a number of occasions. His name was Walter Kammerling. Originally from Austria, he was 14 when the Nazi’s invaded Austria and on 9-10 Novemeber 1938 he saw the “Kristallnacht pogrom” (or Night of Broken Glass) which was a pogram (violent riot aimed at the massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group) against Jews carried out by paramilitary forces throughout Nazi Germany. Jewish synagogues, shops, businesses and homes were targetted, attacked and destroyed across Germany and Austria. In Vienna, hundreds of Jewish men were arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp. Walter’s father, mother and older sister ended up in Auschwitz-Birkenau and were murdered in a gas chamber.

This week marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. To be honest, it hasn’t had a lot of press … nowhere near enough.

According to the Gospel Coalition, there are 9 things you should know the most horrific genocidal campaigns in history:

1. The term “Holocaust,” originally from the Greek word “holokauston” which means “sacrifice by fire,” refers to the Nazi’s persecution and planned slaughter of the Jewish people. The biblical word Shoah, meaning “calamity”, became the standard Hebrew term for the Holocaust as early as the 1940s, especially in Europe and Israel. The term “holocaust” became a household word in America when in 1978 NBC television aired the miniseries titled Holocaust.

2. The Holocaust began in January 1933 when Hitler came to power and technically ended on May 8, 1945 (VE Day). But the official genocidal plan was developed at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942. Fifteen Nazi leaders, which included a number of state secretaries, senior officials, party leaders, SS officers, and other leaders of government departments, held the meeting to discuss plans for a “final solution to the Jewish question in Europe.” (The Nazis used the euphemistic phrases “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” and “Final Solution” to refer to the genocide of the Jews.) In the course of the meeting, Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich outlined how European Jews would be rounded up and sent to extermination camps.

3. The Nazis distinguished between extermination camps and concentration camps. The interchangeable terms extermination camp (Vernichtungslager) and death camp (Todeslager) refer to camps whose primary function was genocide. Unlike concentration camps, the Nazis did not expect the majority of prisoners taken to the extermination camps to survive more than a few hours after arrival. In the early years of the Holocaust, the Jews were primarily sent to concentration camps (where they would often die of torture and starvation), but from 1942 onwards they were mostly deported to the extermination camps.

4. Genocide at extermination camps was initially carried out in the form of mass shootings. However, the shootings proved to be too psychologically damaging to those being asked to pull the triggers. The Nazis next tried mass killing by blowing victims up with explosives, but that also was found unsuitable. The Nazis settled on gassing their victims (usually with carbon monoxide or a cyanide-based pesticide). Stationary gas chambers could kill 2,000 people at once. Once in the chambers, about one-third of the victims died immediately, though death could take up to 20 minutes.

5. The use of camps equipped with gas chambers for the purpose of systematic mass extermination of peoples was a unique feature of the Holocaust and unprecedented in history. Never before had there existed places with the express purpose of killing people en masse. These were extermination camps established at Auschwitz, Belzec, Chełmno, Jasenovac, Majdanek, Maly Trostenets, Sobibor, and Treblinka. For political and logistical reasons, the most infamous extermination camps were in Occupied Poland, since Poland had the greatest number of Jews living in Europe.

6. At various concentration and extermination camps, the Nazis conducted medical experiments on their prisoners, which included placing subjects in pressure chambers, testing drugs on them, freezing them, attempting to change eye color by injecting chemicals into children’s eyes, and various amputations and other surgeries that were often conducted without anesthesia. The most notorious of these Nazi physicians was Dr. Josef Mengele, who worked in Auschwitz. According to one witness, Mengele sewed together a set of twins named Guido and Ina, who were about 4 years old, from the back in an attempt to create Siamese twins. Their parents were able to get some morphine and kill them to end their suffering.

7. Churches throughout Europe were mostly silent while Jews were persecuted, deported, and murdered by the Nazis. As Holocaust scholar Victoria J. Barnett says, “In Nazi Germany in September 1935, there were a few Christians in the Protestant Confessing Church who demanded that their Church take a public stand in defense of the Jews. Their efforts, however, were overruled by Church leaders who wanted to avoid any conflict with the Nazi regime.”

8. The largest Protestant church in Germany in the 1930s was the German Evangelical Church, comprised of 28 regional churches or Landeskirchen that included the three major theological traditions that had emerged from the Reformation: Lutheran, Reformed, and United. Most of Germany’s 40 million Protestants were members of this church, although there were smaller so-called “free” Protestant churches, such as Methodist and Baptist churches. Historically the German Evangelical Church viewed itself as one of the pillars of German culture and society, with a theologically grounded tradition of loyalty to the state. During the 1920s, a movement emerged within the German Evangelical Church called the Deutsche Christen, or “German Christians.” The “German Christians” embraced many of the nationalistic and racial aspects of Nazi ideology. Once the Nazis came to power, this group sought the creation of a national “Reich Church” and supported a “nazified” version of Christianity. The Bekennende Kirche—the “Confessing Church”—emerged in opposition to the “German Christians.” Its founding document, the Barmen Confession of Faith, declared that the church’s allegiance was to God and scripture, not a worldly Führer.

9. The most commonly cited figure for the total number of Jews killed is six million — around 78 percent of the 7.3 million Jews in occupied Europe at the time. Additionally, the Nazis murdered approximately two to three million Soviet POWs, two million ethnic Poles, up to 1,500,000 Romani, 200,000 handicapped, political and religious dissenters, 15,000 homosexuals, and 5,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, bringing the total genocide toll to around 11 million.

What Kind of Parent Are You?

These are words that I have heard myself say to myself on an almost daily basis for 24 years.

“What kind of parent are YOU??”

Usually, I’d hear myself say it after some kind of poor judgement, unwise decision or heat-of-the-moment comment. It took me a long time … too long … to realise that goal in parenting is not success (at least how the world defines success); it is faithfulness to the task.

We don’t always get it right.

Now after nearly 25 years of being a dad the same question is still heard echoing in my head, but the emphasis of the question is different.

It’s not “What kind of parent are YOU??” … now it’s: “What KIND of parent are you?”

Nowadays it’s not reactive but reflective. As I browse the internet (an meet many many parents) there are many answers to the question of “what kind of parent are you??. Here’s are some of the most popular kind of parent:

  • helicopter parenting – a parent who “hovers” or pays extremely close attention to a child’s experiences and problems, particularly at School. 10 Warning Signs you might be a helicopter parent
  • lawnmower parenting – a parent who removes or ‘mows down’ obstacles in their child’s path, so that they never has to experience discomfort. How the Lawnmower Parent hurts children
  • free-range parenting – possible the opposite of the helicopter parent, this is a parent who lets their 9-year-old ride the NY Subway Alone
  • tiger parenting – probably should be called the military parent because this is all about demanding the highest standards in everything. It’s an attempt to pressure their children to attain high levels of academic achievement or success in high-status extracurricular activities such as music, using authoritarian parenting methods
  • attachment parenting –  a parent who is continuously physically close. There is a high degree of touch. Some Perils
  • janitorial parenting—letting your children do whatever they desire and you clean up after their mistakes, allowing them to avoid accountability.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions?

These philosophies have been born out of an honest desire to raise children to be perfect … or at least know how to deal with the imperfections they see in themselves and others. They are honest attempts to give the best opportunities to children. They’ve come from conversations about can be deemed appropriate or not. Like …. how old should a child be to be left home alone … for how long … or what age should I buy my child a mobile phone?

We’d probably disagree on many topics concerning parenting but there one thing we should agree on: we need wisdom to tread out the life of a parent.

The solution to being a better parent is always, firstly, an acceptance that I don’t have it in myself to be a great parent. I’m not sufficient for my child. This should lead us to pray for much-needed wisdom. Incidentally, I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard myself singing “God I look to you”. I know the song comes from Bethel (of whom I have some serious concerns over) but the words go:

God, I look to You, I won’t be overwhelmed
Give me vision to see things like You do
God I look to You, You’re where my help comes from
Give me wisdom, You know just what to do

 

Wisdom stops me in my tracks and asks me to consider two things: 1) are you able? 2) Does my parenting reflect how God the Father treats us, His children?

And then, wisdom requires us to consider the circumstances we find ourselves in, the specific needs of the child in terms of their character and capabilities before it gives us a route forward. We might have valuable and helpful philosophical reasons for our acts and reactions but these should come from biblical principles. So wisdom then requires us to consider the child. Interestingly, as a last consideration not a first. 

What KIND of parent are you?

Well, what matters most is that you seek godly wisdom to understand what is best for your children and then … pray again for the courage and fortitude to BECOME wisdom to your children. 

Responding to Trans Questions

What’s your response when someone tells you their daughter is now a boy?

At a pastors’ breakfast this morning the hot topic issue of transgender came up in conversation. This wasn’t a subject that would have been raised a few years ago but is now something we are all having to think about and deal with. Trans is a difficult subject: it is such a complicated mix of biology, psychology, culture and politics. There are so many potential landmines to stand on – who wants to be subject to a social media firestorm for stepping on the wrong side of the politically correct line? Or to say something to a trans person that might cause hurt? Or to face penalties in the workplace (or courts) for using the ‘wrong’ pronouns?

Yet at the same time it is essential that those who have questions about the current narrative (and I think most people have questions) don’t just clam up and refuse to engage for fear of what that might mean. Thankfully there is an ever growing number of helpful resources and information on trans which can help us raise the right questions and engage in a positive way.

This excerpt has come from Thinktheology.co.uk and contains some helpful, if not provocative thoughts. The rest of the article can be found here.

ANNOUNCEMENT_ CRECHE •

Announcement: Creche

ANNOUNCEMENT_ CRECHE •

We’re pleased to announce that our “stay and play” area has now been moved to a manned creche. This means you can drop off your 0-3 year old after worship, enjoy the service and pick them up at the end. We’re praying that this will be a real blessing to those couples with small toddlers.

The room allocated for our creche is the lounge on the left as you enter the building.

sermon series romans

New Sermon Series in Romans

sermon series romans

I pleased to let you know that tomorrow (Sunday 12 Jan 20) we’ll be starting a new sermon series through the book of Romans. Paul’s thesis on the gospel is rich and deep so we’re taking over a year to study it. As usual, we plan to cover every verse and every chapter. Alongside our studies, we’ll be encouraging you to journal your way through the book and we’re providing custom “Grace Changes Everything” books for you to do this. Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through this! Our prayer is that this will be more than a series of sermons but will help you grow in your walk with Christ.

Why does grace change everything? Well, because grace means “God’s kindness”. God is kind and acts towards us in kindness. He doesn’t expect anything in return and loves us just as we are. He’s a wonderful God who sets up home in our lives to start renovating that home so that it will one day be perfect. So although he welcomes all, in His kindness he wants to help us become more than we ever imagined.

best reads of 2019

Best reads of 2019

best reads of 2019

This year I managed to read 15 books. Of those 15 that I read, three were stand out best reads of the year. Here they are:

Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion by Rebecca McLaughlin

This was by far the best read of 2019. Rebecca McLaughlin’s insights and arguments are first class and although she doesn’t really bring anything revelatory to the discussion, the chapters deal with 21st-century contexts such as slavery and homosexuality. It was not only a convincing read in terms of the evidence for Christianity and the apologetic for it, but it was also highly encouraging in the sense that it debunked the popular opinion that Christianity is in decline. Rebecca shows that the best evidence, from current and historical research, supports Christians claims as found in the Bible.

Windows of the Soul: Experiencing God in New Ways by Ken Gire

This book was initially out of my comfort zone but it made me think about how God’s speaks today. We’d all agree that the final authority is the Bible, but I hope we’d also all agree that God speaks in the every day too. Not in the same way as He has spoken in the Bible, and not with the same authority, but He speaks nonetheless. What this book did for me was to encourage to “join up” what is written in the Bible, with everyday life and learn to listen to His voice. That is still a work in process but I was grateful for the reminder.

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ by Fleming Rutledge

For those not familiar with Fleming Rutledge, she is an American Anglican priest, author and theologian. Her main focus of theology is how biblical theology meets contemporary culture, current events and politics. Honestly, the first thing I had to do was get around the idea that I was reading someone from outside my own tradition and thinking. This was a book intended to challenge me .. and it did … for many reasons.

The positives are that Rutledge does deep in her examination and explanation of the cross of Christ. She is able to quote the church fathers, the reformers as well as more recent theologians. She then brings it all into a contemporary context.

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