Thursday, 25 March 2010

Thinking Thursday: Advice

I found this poem in a book of fiction. It is called Advice, and I think it is very good advice. Let me know what you think.

If they are cruel, be kind.
If they are mean, don't mind.
If they reject, don't fret.
If they insult, forget.
If they exclude, love still.
If you cannot, God will.
If you lose hope, just wait.
Don't hate.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Thinking Thursday: The Cymru Institute for Contemporary Christianity

On Wednesday 10th March I attended the launch event for the Cymru Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and I was impressed. Such an initiative is long overdue, and I hope that it fulfils what it promises. I would encourage all thinking Christians to get involved. You can link directly totheir web site from the title of this post. There is not much there yet, but there is a podcast of the talk Joel Edwards gave at the launch meeting, which I heartily recommend.
Here is part of their press release:

Evangelical Alliance Wales has announced an ambitious plan to launch the ‘Cymru Institute for Contemporary Christianity’ (CICC) as a major feature of its twentieth anniversary celebrations in 2010.
The new, all-Wales initiative will enable Welsh Christians to engage with greater confidence in a whole range of issues such as politics, science, the arts and work. It will launch in March 2010 with a series of events around Wales, including one based on the BBC TV’s ‘Question Time’.
The institute aims to equip Christians to grapple effectively with the issues of faith in the 21st century. Through a programme of seminars, delivered by leading Christian thinkers in Wales and across the UK, CICC will provide the best teaching and insights to help God’s people biblically respond to the issues making the news.
“The call on God’s people to understand the culture in which we live, and engage biblically with contemporary issues and people has never been greater,” said Rev Elfed Godding, Director of Evangelical Alliance Wales. “Our ability to share the gospel competently and confidently, relating it to our modern day world, has a major bearing on the spiritual health of our nation.”

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Thinking Thursday: Look Both Ways

I was flicking through a magazine recently when a title caught my eye in an advert for gospel leaflets. It was called “Look Both Ways”. I have no idea what the leaflet was about, but the title struck me as very appropriate for the message we bring. When we first begin to talk to people of other faiths (or no faith) it soon becomes apparent that arguing and telling them they are going to hell doesn’t work. No one can be forced to believe something, or stop believing in something. Being antagonistic does not persuade them to listen to us. We need a gentler approach. Peter told us to answer people “with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet.3: 15b). The best way is not to try to dictate to people what they should believe, just to ask that before they make a decision, they ‘Look Both Ways’. The phrase I usually use is to ask them to make an informed decision.

People are usually much more receptive to this suggestion, believing that their faith will stand up under scrutiny. If we can keep their minds open, a bit of research will often open their eyes too.

When I began to think about God and religion in my teens, two smart young men knocked at my door and began to talk to me about the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. They began to teach me and my family, and with little or no religious background to compare it with, it all sounded really Christian. The result was that my whole family joined the Mormon Church.

Once in, we had no reason to look elsewhere because we believed we had found the truth. It was 18 years later that I was willing to read the book of Romans without any preconceptions – and I discovered grace. Like most other faiths, Mormonism teaches salvation by works. To discover the grace of God when I was already deeply concerned about my failure to keep all the commandments, all the time, was a shock. I began to ‘Look Both Ways’. And then I gradually discovered all the other things in the Bible that were different in Mormonism.

Yet during those 18 years I had had many arguments with Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I had always defended my faith. I was not prepared to believe that my faith, which was so precious to me, could be so wrong. I had to find it out for myself.

This is no longer a Christian country and people do not grow up with a grounding in Christian teaching or a knowledge of the Bible. A Jehovah’s Witness at my door the other day complained that their work is harder these days because people have no Bible and cannot discuss faith with them. When someone begins to consider spiritual things they are not equipped to make sound judgements. There is a great need for people who will show them the alternatives and teach them to investigate and weigh up before they commit themselves.

In the years since I became a Christian, I have found over and over again that Christianity is the only faith that stands up under scrutiny. Becoming a Christian is not an intellectual exercise, but it does make intellectual sense.

Once someone has recognised their hunger for God and begun to look in the wrong place, it is not necessary to bombard them with great arguments – and possibly drive them away. That way you can sometimes win the battle but lose the war. It is up to us as Christians to gain their trust and encourage them to investigate further. Then you can give them some appropriate information and ask them to ‘Look Both Ways’.

This provokes the question “What ‘appropriate information’ do we give them?” If we are going to ask people to ‘Look Both Ways’ we have to be able to present the alternative. It is a sad fact that many Christians, having looked to Christ for their salvation, never look any further. I am amazed at the number of ignorant Christians who can’t explain what they believe or why they believe it. Not only does study deepen our understanding, it deepens our faith and our relationship with God. And how can we proclaim the Good News if we don’t know what it is? “How can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom.10: 14) Many Christians don’t share their faith because they are afraid they won’t be able to answer questions. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Pet.3: 15)

Another part of that preparation can be learning to look at things from their perspective. Find out what they believe and why. Find out what concerns them and what sort of questions they would ask. Then prepare yourself so you know how to answer them and address their concerns from the Bible. In my work over the years as a Christian trying to reach out to Mormons I have been amazed at the development of my own faith as I have sought answers to their questions. ‘Look Both Ways’ benefits us as well.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Thinking Thursday: Brother Lawrence

The Bible tells us that we should do everything to the glory of God, but that presents a real challenge. How can you change a dirty nappy to the glory of God? Or wash the dishes? Fill in your own job. Well, over three hundred years ago there was a monk who figured it out. His name was Brother Lawrence:

"At the beginning of my duties I would say to the Lord with confidence, 'My God, since you are with me, and since, by Your will, I must occupy myself with external things, please grant me the grace to remain with You, in Your presence. Work with me so that my work might be the very best. Receive as an offering of love both my work and all my affections.'

During my work, I would always continue to speak to the Lord as though He were right with me, offering Him my services and thanking Him for His assistance. At the end of my work, I used to examine it carefully. If I found good in it, I thanked God. If I noticed faults, I asked His forgiveness without being discouraged, and then went on with my work, still dwelling in Him.

Thus, continuing in this practice of conversing with God throughout each day, and quickly seeking His forgiveness when I fell or strayed, His presence has become as easy and natural to me now as it once was difficult to attain."
(The Practice of the Presence of God)

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Blinded by the Light 23 Conclusion

I have just realised that the 'Blinded by the Light' series has got away from me and you haven't had the conclusion. Here it is. If anyone can tell me how to make the whole thing available as a download, I will do it. Otherwise, please comment and leave your email address and I will send it to you.


In the section on the trap of legalism, we spoke of us very often applying the wrong medicine in trying to put our lives right before God. Let us look at what is the right medicine.

We apply the wrong medicine because we do not remember who we really are in Christ. God has said things about you that you need to know, that you need to build into your understanding, and there are some things you need to do in the light of them.

The early Christians devoted themselves to the apostles teaching (Acts 2:42). The amount you understand about what God has done for you and in you, makes a difference. There is something about the presence of God that changes us. There is a releasing power that answers many of the problems that you face day by day.

Paul felt that knowing Christ was the most precious thing in life:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Phil.3:7-9)

But this must be more than head knowledge, more than intellectual understanding. These truths must be built into us so as to affect the way we think and feel. Once these things become real to us, our whole perspective changes. We need to look into the mirror of God's Word and see what we really are, and not forget when we go away from it (James 1:23-25). Try reading Romans chapters 6, 7 & 8. Here are just some of the truths about us:

* ..our old self was crucified with him... anyone who has died has been freed from sin (6:6-7)
* ..sin shall not be your master (6:14)
* ..set free from sin (6:18)
* ..released from the law (7:6)
* condemnation (8:1)
* ..controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit (8:9)
* ..sons of God ... God's children ... heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (8:14-17)
* ..called ... justified ... glorified (8:30)

Jesus said:
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

and the Psalmist said:
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. (Ps.1:3)

Branches do not strain to bear fruit, it is a natural result of the life they draw from the roots. We have no need to look any further than the work Christ has already done for us. We have no need for special keys to unlock the blessings of God.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

Maturity and liberty comes from knowing God, knowing what God has done for us and living resolutely in the light of it and being totally committed to it. Not moved in any shape, form or way from the truth that is in the gospel.

May God bless you as you walk in the light.

Previous posts in this series:


Legalism: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution

Magic Formulas: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution

Answers to Everything: The Truth,The Trap, The Solution

Scripture Twisting: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution

Superstition: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution

Elitism: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution

The Need to See: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution