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What on earth happened to poor Tommy Robinson? 10 Things You Should Know.

I just feel there are some people out there – especially Americans who think the UK is descending into a leftist police state – who need to read this …

The Secret Barrister

It can now be reported that Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the English Defence League, convicted fraudster, sometime-football hooligan and self-reinvented free speech advocate, was on Friday 25 May 2018 imprisoned for 13 months for contempt of court after livestreaming a broadcast, including footage of participants in a criminal trial, outside Leeds Crown Court.

Some people will have seen reference to this on social media; others may have had the plight of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – to use his real name – drawn to their attention by the hordes of protestors storming London over the May bank holiday weekend. But there has not, until today, been mainstream coverage of the case due to a reporting restriction – what is known as a “postponement order” – that forbade publication of these facts until after the conclusion of the trial (and subsequent related trial) upon which he was purporting to “report”.

While…

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How Bishop Curry’s Sermon Revealed the Four Evangelical Tribes

This is a very thought-provoking (and probably very accurate) analysis of current evangelical “tribes”; well worth a read, especially if you also use it to analyse your own position…

TheWeeFlea.com

The following is an extended version of an article I published yesterday on Christian Today.  After I wrote about the Royal Wedding I was faced with two direct challenges/accusations – can you do any better (what would you write)?  And what do you mean that this sermon has indicated the faultlines in Western Evangelicalism? I will get to the former later – but I have been thinking a lot about the latter.  So here is something that I hope will help explain what I was trying to say and why this is so important.

One of the biggest surprises of That Royal Wedding sermon is the way that is has shown up the fault lines within evangelicalism in the West. I have been reflecting on this over the past week and it appears to me that there is a great deal that we can learn from the reactions.

Michael Curry
Reuters

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Happy (Belated) Birthday, Church!

Hopefully you’re aware that we recently celebrated Pentecost – yes, we sometimes hide it away under the title Whitsunday, but biblically it’s Pentecost, and it’s actually a very important festival: it marks the birth of the Christian church!

Pentecost marks the coming of the Holy Spirit on the entire people of God – not just on select priests, prophets and kings, but on everyone: young and old, male and female, rich and poor, 1st or 21st century. This is one of the most extraordinary, breath-taking aspects of the Christian faith!

And why has God given us the Spirit? Here’s the reason Jesus himself gives us: the Spirit will provide power for us to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8). The church – and that means all his followers, every single one of us! – is in the world to witness to Jesus’ victory, his atoning death and his triumphant resurrection. If you feel inadequate to this task, no problem; God knows we could never do it on our own, that’s why he gives us his Holy Spirit!

The existence of the church is actually a very strong argument for the truth of gospel. If the Good News about the resurrection wasn’t true, why would the first disciples have risked the wrath of the authorities by proclaiming that they had crucified the Messiah, but that God had overruled their stupid mistake and raised him to life again? You only risk your life and your reputation for something you’re absolutely convinced is true!

Those first disciples went on to gain thousands of converts through their proclamation. No wonder, really: the message of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus is great news! Maybe even too good to be true… but they were still convinced that it was indeed true.

How could all those thousands of new believers be so sure that the apostles were right, rather than the Sanhedrin? Only through the testimony of the Holy Spirit! First they saw evidence of the life-transforming power of God in the first believers, which confirmed the spoken message; then they received the same Spirit themselves, and his internal testimony confirmed the truth of what they’d seen and heard in others.

Don’t ignore Pentecost; don’t ignore the Holy Spirit. If you are a follower of Jesus, the above should be true of you as well: the Holy Spirit is yours by right – but are you making room for him to work in your life?

If you feel your faith isn’t strong enough to withstand pressure, if you are scared to talk about Jesus with your friends, if God is more of an abstract concept than a living presence in your every-day life, maybe you need a Holy Spirit top-up?

High-Tech and the Holy Spirit

I originally wrote this for our church bulletin the Monday after we had a projection-free Sunday… and my office phone had just decided to stop working as well. So I was trying cables, crawling around on the floor under my desk, sending a number of technical emails, and ordering a new set of video extenders – very high-tech, since one of them has to be placed on top of the ceiling-mounted projector …

Technology certainly has its pros and cons! Still, most of the time it’s just there, and we use it without a second thought, forgetting that things we today take for granted (like colour television, telephones, fridges) were once innovations that most people managed without. I remember reading about a Baptist church where the membership was once fiercely opposed to the introduction of electric light!

Of course we managed to worship without the projector – it would have been embarrassing otherwise! It’s only a tool, and tools should remain just that; they are definitely useful (I’m sure it helps some people concentrate better during the sermon), but not essential to our services.

The only thing that is essential whenever we meet together is the presence of God through his Spirit. If the Holy Spirit isn’t involved in our worship and our teaching, no amount of technology can make up for his absence. In fact, if the Spirit of God is absent, all church gatherings are pointless…

But thankfully, God has promised to be present through his Spirit when we meet in the name of Jesus. He will take our singing and turn it into worship; he will take the sermon and speak to people’s hearts; he will take our weak faith and turn it into world-changing conviction. Without the Spirit, we would only be a small religious interest group – with the Spirit, we are the Church, the unstoppable people of the living God!

Living by the Sermon

When I used to go around the village knocking on doors, people would occasionally tell us that they don’t go to church, but they live by the Sermon on the Mount. My initial (but usually unspoken) thought was always, You haven’t read the Sermon on the Mount!

There are three things we need to bear in mind when we read Jesus’ famous sermon: 1) he was speaking specifically to disciples; 2) he was outlining what living as a disciples should look like in real life; 3) it’s impossible for non-disciples to live by the Sermon on the Mount!

When asked about the Law, Jesus tells us that it can be summed up as loving God above everything else and loving our fellow humans as ourselves. Sounds good – after all, aren’t we all kind and loving people?

Painfully Jesus shows that no, we’re not really. We may not kill people – but we get crabby and spiteful, calling people names or spreading gossip about them… which is just as bad, as far as God is concerned.

We may not be technically unfaithful, but what about those furtive glances you hope nobody noticed? With modern technology you don’t even have to be particularly furtive… But adultery in your heart (or screen) is still adultery, according to Jesus.

And as for loving our enemies – well, let’s first try and love our neighbours, shall we?

There’s also the little matter of loving God more than our possessions and our comfort, more than our pet peeves and preferences – more than our own life.

The point is: the Kingdom of God has only one law, the law of love. But we’re not able to practise perfect love – because biblical love isn’t just a warm fuzzy feeling but sacrificial commitment to other people’s well-being. So the only way we can become citizens of the Kingdom is through faith in Jesus and his perfect love-driven sacrifice.

That’s why we mustn’t understand the Sermon on the Mount as entry requirements for heaven, but as a description of what its citizens will look like.

And the good news is that one day we will look like this. We may still have a long way to go before those descriptions are true of us; but if we belong to Jesus, the Holy Spirit is hard at work in us, transforming us, performing the spiritual heart transplant Ezekiel and Jeremiah talked about. As long as we repent when we fail, and keep asking for strength to do better next time, we will get there in the end.

Singing the Easter message

Did you know that there are churches where they only sing metrical Psalms? This started with the Reformation, and for quite a long time metrical Psalms (and a few other biblical texts) were the only songs sung in church – Isaac Watts received quite some flak for writing new hymns! And apparently the matter still isn’t settled: only last week I came across an online discussion about whether we should only sing Psalms – after all, they’re the only songs the Holy Spirit has inspired!

Much as I agree that the Psalms contain wonderful words of praise and worship – I usually start my services with a reading from a Psalm – I nevertheless think we would miss out if we only sang the Psalms. Partly because I believe the Holy Spirit continues to inspire song writers today (even though that kind of inspiration is not on the same level as the Bible itself), but mainly because the Psalms don’t mention Jesus.

How could we celebrate communion (or Good Friday) without songs that specifically talk about the cross and the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, dying for our sins? How could we talk about discipleship without songs that express our commitment to follow Jesus the Messiah? How will we remember that Jesus is coming back to reign if our songs never mention this glorious hope?

I originally wrote this for the April edition of the local parish magazine, which means that it was (hopefully) read just before Easter – so I reminded my readers that Easter is the greatest festival of our faith and that the Good News of Easter definitely requires more than just spoken words. Of course we can (and will) speak and read about the resurrection, using the God-inspired accounts in the Bible, but in addition I just love belting out the world-changing message of the empty tomb in loud and joyful song!

Whether you prefer the majestic Thine Be the Glory, the cheeky Up from the Grave He Arose or the jubilant Forever (which starts with all nature mourning – even more powerful!), surely we can agree that few things we do in church beat the feeling when an entire congregation proclaims in triumphant song that Jesus has defeated death?

So I hope that you made it to church on Easter Sunday, and that you also enjoyed singing for the glory of God while declaring the glorious truth: Jesus died for our sins and was raised to life for our justification!

 

 

 

All That Matters Is His

He was born in the house of his stepfather’s relatives, relying on the animals to provide his first bed.

He stayed with friends and supporters, relying on others to provide food and shelter for him and his followers.

He rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, relying on an unknown villager to provide a humble beast of burden for his triumphal entry.

He died on a Roman cross, relying on the enemy of his people to provide the means of his sacrifice.

He was buried in Joseph’s tomb, relying on a secretive disciple to provide his burial site.

But…

When he taught about the Kingdom of God, it was on his own authority.

When he died on the cross, it was his own blood he shed.

When he walked out of the tomb, it was his own glory he displayed.

When he appeared to the disciples, it was his own victory he proclaimed.

When he ascended into heaven, it was his own throne he was returning to.

When he forgives our sins, it is his own righteousness we receive.

When he invites us to follow him, it is his own love he is offering.

Everything that really matters is rightfully his – and he loves to share!

HAPPY EASTER!