Category Archives: bible

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Spirit of Paradox

It is not every day you get to meet someone who has helped to start a genuine movement of change and restoration.  So you can imagine my excitement when it came to spending time with David and Mary Pytches – the couple who helped to birth both New Wine and Soul Survivor.

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David and Mary returned to the UK with four young daughters after serving as cross cultural missionaries in Chile.  Unsure what God wanted them to do they looked for a base in Chorleywood, which offered education facilities for the girls.  David was hoping to learn how to run a parish from the Vicar, but the Vicar was about to leave and David was offered the incumbency.  David speaks about his sense of inadequacy and eventually set up a daily early morning prayer meeting.   From this time saw an increasing number of people added to the church.   Mary recounts how they faithfully retained the liturgy at the same time as being open to the Holy Spirit.

Learning that John Wimber was coming to York David suggested that he call in on Chorleywood on the way.  It was an unforgettable weekend.   Despite very different ecclesiologicol backgrounds John and David hit it off and became close friends.   And soon David was helping John to find organisers for the UK conferences.

I enjoyed being able to tell David how grafeful I was for the Brighton Conference in 1986, where a friend of mine came to faith.  He later stood up in our class at our rough and ready comprehensive school and shared his new found faith in Jesus.  This was Steven Whittington – a key influence in my becoming a Christian.   It was great to learn about a young youth worker from a Baptist church where had run an open youth club, until the local teenagers rampaged the church.  The youth worker was Mike Pillavachi, who later became the youth worker at Chorleywood.

David and I had this opportunity to meet after he had read my book “Paradoxology” -  Why Christianity was never meant to be simple.  David explained to me that it was the title that grabbed him as he had reflected for many years on the paradoxes of scripture which we tend to brush under the carpet, which means our Bible teaching has no real integrity.   David reminded me of Charles Simeon, a great evangelical clergyman and bible teacher who had said

“The truth is not in the middle, and not in one extreme; but in both extremes.”

Mary commented on how we tend to cut God down to our size but ‘wouldn’t we rather have a big God’.   Interestingly we talked a lot about the liturgy undergirding our spirituality and both Paradox and Liturgy are things that James K.A. Smith has been arguing for recently.  Sadly many churches seem to opt either for intimacy with God or depth of teaching when there doesn’t need to be a choice.   Depth of true teaching should help us develop intimacy with God and our intimacy with God should drive us towards deeper teaching – it should be a virtuous circle.

David has kindly written a commendation for the reprint of ‘Paradoxology’ which is out soon.  It has some typos and corrections added thanks to those of you who spotted my errors.  The book will be even better  because of you.   David says:  “I have been looking for a book like this for the last fifty years and am so delighted to have found it.”

I came away from David and Mary greatly encouraged.  They are rare people who have experienced so much of God and done so much in His name, and in their seniority are still keen to bless others.

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Fathers for the Fatherless

Fathers Day is a great marketing opportunity for pen knife manufacturers , greeting card producers and mens hosiery. It’s not an age old festival having only been created in the 20th century to complement Mother’s Day but I want to make a plea that we need to make the most of it .

I know it can be a sensitive time for people who have grown up without a Dad or even worse with an abusive father. I know it can be difficult for single people and childless couples who may be mourning the lack of opportunity to be a father. But nevertheless I want to make a plea that we make the most of it this weekend. Here are three reasons:

1. God is our Father

Despite their being some terrible father’s in the Bible story God is not ashamed to call himself a Father. The problem comes when we project our experience onto God – for example someone might say – “I had a terrible father so God must be like my dad.” That way of thinking is not a helpful way to approach God  - God is not just a projection or an extension of our understanding of things. God is the defining centre.  So God sets the example of what true Fatherhood is like, just like Jesus sets the example of what true humanity is like.  This Sunday we should take the time to enjoy and celebrate what it means for all of us to know God as our Father and offer everyone the opportunity to get to know him.

2. It’s not too late to become a father

Of course if you are going to talk about the Fatherhood of God that is something that every Christian can claim only because of God’s adoption of us. We have been given the right through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection on our behalf.

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”

Galatians 4:4-5

God’s decision to adopt us into his family was driven not by any inner need in the godhead but rather was driven God’s compassion for our plight as vulnerable children (see Galatians 4:3-4). In the same way with so many children waiting in care for adoption – 100 000 children in the USA ; 30 000 in Canada and 6000 in the UK. There are plenty of opportunities for us to become an adoptive or father or at least to offer support to others who are seeking to foster or adopt vulnerable children.

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Spike was a Tornado Squadron leader now works as a Airline Pilot and Foster dad.

3. God calls us all to care for the Fatherless

Having been loved by God with unconditional adopting love. Should we not pass this grace and privilege on to others? God describes himself as “Father to the Fatherless” so those of us who claim to be his followers should be prepared to be the same for the Fatherless children in our neighbourhoods? Please help us to spread the word about this through our Father’ day church resource pack. 

Men, this Sunday as we celebrate Father’s Day, as we recognise God’s Fatherly love to us would you consider playing your part in a vulnerable child’s life?

Take a look at this little video on what it means to be a foster father.

Father’s Day 2014: You know what a foster carer looks like, don’t you? from Evangelical Alliance on Vimeo.

 

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Labyrinth of Prayer

Love the fact that our little local church is so keen to help all ages experience God together. This morning we continued a series on spiritual growth through looking at a number of spiritual disciplines. This week we used the Labyrinth prayer experience as a church.

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All age travel guides

One of the exercises today involved everyone writing down a prayer on some special paper and then heading off into the Labyrinth. Once you got to the middle of the labyrinth there was a font with some water in that you placed your paper prayer into and it dissolved.

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Then you were encouraged to write an attribute of God that you appreciated as an act of praise in chalk on the floor.

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Then for your journey out of the labyrinth as you go on to face the world you are to take a psalm with you to meditate on.

A Psalm for your journey
A Psalm for your journey

All the ages took part today with some of us acting as guides for the travellers.

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Well done to the team that put this together!

My 7 year old daughter had a great time, though her prayer did make me laugh…

“Please God please don’t let me get lost in the maze.”

Other ideas for all age services here.

 

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A matter of perspective

I couldn’t believe these amazing street art photos from: justsomething.co

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Its an amazing skill, lining everything up so that from just the right angle these 2D pictures suddenly take on a whole new dimension. It reminded me of the opening lines of a Tale of Two Cities “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” was the French revolution the best thing to have happened to France – it depended who you were and where you stood. That got me thinking about  the most significant crisis in human history – was it a disaster or deliverance? The Cross of Jesus is either the lowest point in history or the highest point – it just depends where you stand…

Take a listen to a 2 minute little taster from the Cross Paradox which is taken from Paradoxology my new book which tries to bring a new perspective on some of the  most challenging parts of the Bible.

You can listen to the 3 other recordings here from the Premier Christian Radio Thought of the Day series I did here. (1) (2) (3)

For more Premier Thought of the Day material by other speakers check here.

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Paradoxological Thought for the Day #4

There’s been a lot of debate recently about which books should be included in the English Literature syllabus. “To Kill a Mocking Bird” is out and so is “The Grapes of Wrath” as they are not English enough. What is often missing in these debates is the way that English literature has been shaped by the Bible. So many of the key tropes and themes in our literature have been shaped and formed by the biblical narrative. For young people to fully grasp English literature they need biblical literacy too.

In today’s thought for the day take a listen to my reflections on one of the all time classics of English literature (even though it is based on the French Revolution.)
This is a taster for a chapter called “The Cross Paradox – how God wins when he loses” in Paradoxology. I hope you enjoy it.

You can access more of Premier Christian Radio Thought of the Days by a whole range of speakers here. 

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Paradoxological Thought for the Day #3

People grow up quickly.
Looking at the actors from Harry Potter on the first day of filming and then again on the last day is a strange experience. We all watched Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grow up in front of us. We feel older and wiser as we recognise this fact but we also wonder where the time went.

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If you are a believer I wonder how long it has been since you became a Christian?  I look back on the last 27 years since a friend of mine helped me to become a follower of Jesus and wonder where the time went. I’d love to be more mature in my faith by now – I ought to be more mature by now…

I am trying to take some deliberate steps to grow in my faith and by God’s grace I hope as I grow I will be able to help others. My book Paradoxology tells a little a bit of the story. Listen in to today’s excerpt to see what I mean.

You can also click to  listen to Day 1 and Day 2.

 

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Paradoxologial Thought for the Day #2

I love the strapline for the latest Adidas World Cup advertising campaign: “All in or Nothing.” It reminds me of my secondary school PE teacher. I wrote about him recently in a Christianity Today online article.

“I loved the way he wanted my rough comprehensive school in Brighton to have a rugby (for U.S. readers: think American Football but without the body armor and helmets) team that could take on the well-to-do public schools in our area. I was virtually blind without my glasses on, but I could run fast, and was given the role of winger. Our coach drilled us to fully commit to a tackle: hit the runner with all our might, grab on to their legs, and hold on for dear life. A half-hearted tackle would certainly end up with a boot in the face—so we needed to go “all in or not in at all,” he said.”

It was that mindset that challenged me to write Paradoxology, where I try to go “All In” by tackling the most difficult parts of the Bible that I could find: genocide, predestination, child sacrifice etc. I wanted to show Christians there’s no part of the Bible that is off limits. But the book also challenges us to go all in with our thinking about God, our living for him and our love for him.

Here’s part 2 of my Paradoxological Thoughts for the day. (click here to listen to part 1) based on my book Paradoxology. 

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A Paradoxological Thought for the Day #1

My new book Paradoxology: Why Christianity was never meant to be simple  is aimed to help you think more deeply about the big questions of life and faith.

As a little audio taster of paradoxology I am pleased to be able to bring you (courtesy of Premier Christian Radio) a daily paradoxological thought for the next 5 days.  Each is about 2 minutes long and gives you a little insight into the heart off the book. The story you are about to hear is about as sad as it gets… (come back tomorrow for the next in the series).

In case you haven’t seen it here is the mini movie we made.

 

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Make the Most of Father’s Day

There are so many children waiting in care for a father in their lives.  Some have had to be removed from their parents because of neglect or abuse. Some have never known a father’s love. This father’s day help us to inspire men to step forward to make a difference to vulnerable children lives.

I spend a lot of my time  travelling the UK speaking with churches about the need but also the clear biblical mandate for us to care for the vulnerable in our communities. Every where I go I meet women who are ready to become foster or adoptive parents but sadly their husbands are hesitant or even opposed to the idea. We made this little video and the accompanying service pack to help inspire men to think about this differently.

It would help us to help the vulnerable children in the UK if you can encourage your church to take part in our campaign this Father’s Day. After the fantastic response we had this Mother’s Day we want to help churches to make the most of Father’s Day. There’s a whole suite of  free resources for you to download – just click the link to sign in and get the resources. Then let us know how your church got on with them. Thanks for joining with us; with your help we can make sure that every child that needs one in the UK can find a Home for Good.

You may want to give money to help with the start up costs of the Home for Good new charity – click here to give whatever you can. 

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Paradox Radio

Looking forward to talking on BBC local radio stations tomorrow morning about the Judas Paradox – one of the chapters from my new book Paradoxology: why christianity was never meant to be simple.

Here’s the running order:

If you are up early tune in. Some of the BBC local radio sunday programmes encourage people to phone in and engage in the discussion – so feel free to give your station a call.

0700 GUERNSEY
0708 MERSEYSIDE
0715 SOLENT
0722 BERKSHIRE
0738 CAMBRIDGE
0745 DERBY
0752 LIECESTER
0808 NORFOLK
0815 JERSEY
0822 HEREFORD & WORCESTER
0830 CORNWALL
0852 ULSTER

I’m zooming over from the Word Alive event in Prestatyn Pontins to the be in the Liverpool studios of Radio Merseyside. Please pray for safe travel but also this will be a genuine opportunity to talk meaningfully about the good news of Christianity on the radio.

I will be talking about the paradox of Judas; here’s a little snippet from Paradoxology that introduces the themes:

I have been wrestling with the question of Judas since the very first time I read the story for myself. His name has become a byword for betrayal. Was he intrinsically evil, or did the devil make him do it? Even more controversially, did God plan for Judas to betray Jesus? Was Judas born for damnation? Was his future already mapped out when he was an embryo? While he was a toddler learning to walk and talk, was his fate already decided – was it predetermined that he would betray the Son of God? Is Judas a tragic hero of the providence of God, a man to be pitied more than any other, or is he the master villain of the gospel story? Had God pre-programmed him as the robot assassin of the Son of God? If he had no choices, was Judas truly human?

In short: was Judas pushed – or did he jump?