Conversion of Saul, Gloucester (Photo credit: TheRevSteve)
Have you been persecuted recently? Check: have you been killed for your faith? OK, probably not if you’re reading this and likely to respond. But across the world the most serious, widespread persecution of Christians occurred in guess which century? Yes, this one, and it probably does not matter when you read this, because its been on a steady increase for ages. Some evidence for this is available at the Voice of the Martyrs blog, with a cautionary tale about overdepedence on statistics. Individual stories can be found in books like Jesus Freaks (an excellent and moving read) and even Wikipedia managed to have a factual article (see the recent history section under “Persecution of Christians”). As pointed out here, the western world tends to ignore this, as it does not fit in with the West’s anti-Christian thought patterns, because if the Christians are the bad guys, then we can go on living materialistic self-worshipping lives with no thought to the future judgement, yes? The Bible’s phrasing of this is “people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). No, I’m not suggesting a conspiracy here- the people are in darkness, and are blinded to what is really going on in the spiritual realm…
This paints a pretty grim picture, from a worldly point of view, but what about what the scriptures have to say on this? What should our response be? Continue reading →
Not long ago, some MPs got embroiled in an attempt to allow Christians to make the statement that Jesus heals. These adverts were disallowed, and it is shameful that this happened. However, it seems to me that we the Christians (or at least most of us) are to blame. Let me explain: would there have been any grounds for even Jesus’ most hardened opponents to claim that Jesus could not heal? This link to Biblegateway gives an idea of the number of times “Jesus” and “heal” are mentioned, and yes, not all of the 59 results are actual healing references but some of them are multiple, and some of them like Matthew 12:15, show Jesus healing everyone in an area (0 failures, 0 rejections mentioned). So where does that leave us? Continue reading →
The situation is dire: the church in the UK, and in general in the west, has to remember Christ’s warning via the prophet Daniel: “And the host [the chosen people] was given [to the wicked horn] together with the continual burnt offering because of the transgression [of God’s people—their abounding irreverence, ungodliness, and lack of piety]. And righteousness and truth were cast down to the ground, and it [the wicked horn] accomplished this [by divine permission] and prospered.” (Daniel 8:12, Amplified Version). Notice how the Amplified Version gives an uncomfortable level of detail: it is the actions and attitude’s of God’s people that allow such evil to prosper. So clearly our actions matter… Continue reading →
I was deeply confused about my local church’s approach to baptism. Traditionally, babies are baptised, and the children presumably are not believers… (well, I don’t think they believe in God… I can’t remember trusting Jesus as my saviour before I could talk, but then I don’t remember much else from that time either). So, I then looked up (I think, though I doubt if all of them were used in the study) every Bible passage with the words “baptism”, “baptise” e.t.c. in them… (no I don’t know the Bible that well, but I happen to have in the house a cut-price Concordance* with an upside down cover). I have deleted all the bracketed answers that I originally included for myself. I am confident however, that an unbiased reading of the passages about it come to a pretty solid conclusion about the subject. And if not, then maybe I am wrong. Do feel free to use this without citation if it is useful, or to burn effigies of me with the study inside them if not. Continue reading →
Imagine seeing a body made entirely of hands, or of eyes (see image)? Or even, of feet? Or armpits? (I am imagining one eighty feet tall terrorising rural England- yeuch). Yet that seems to be how denominations can be. Bear in mind that the following post contains gross generalisations and is not an absolute guide to any particular fellowship of which you may be a member!
“Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.”
“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?”
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,…”
The emphasis of Paul’s passage is the gifts of the Spirit. But I would like to take this further and make some suggestions, that surely apply to the denominationally divided church today. Continue reading →
Galatians is a great book: read it! There are also no “o”s in the name, which caused me no end of difficulty writing this. It is a letter to a part of the church, people who know the Truth but are turning away from it: “I am surprised and astonished that you are so quickly turning renegade and deserting Him Who invited and called you by the grace (unmerited favor) of Christ (the Messiah) [and that you are transferring your allegiance] to a different [even an opposition] gospel” (Amplified Bible: Galatians 1:6). These are Christians then, but Christians who are being tempted to cease their obedience to God and to be “burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (NIV: Galations 5:1). Reading the rest of the book, it is fairly obvious that this refers to the Law, and trying very hard to be justified before God by their own efforts (see Galatians 5:2-4 for example). Continue reading →
…and it was behind the sofa all along. No, not really. The thing is, if you are a Christian, you are already part of the Church, which is a Body (1 Corinthians 12:27), and is described as the Bride (Revelation 21:9-10) of Christ and in a million other ways. If you trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord, you are therefore a part of the One True Church. However, this is not a call to relax, as the Spirit will keep prompting you onward to “keep in step” (Galatians 5:25), even though the Sacrifice has paid in full, “once for all” (Hebrews 7:27).
The Spirit descended on Christ (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)
And this is (at the moment, concerning a lot of the apparent church around me, and generally in Europe) where things have started to go really very wrong. Without the Spirit to lead, we are doomed to argue amongst ourselves in the manner Paul warns us about (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). We must keep in step with the Spirit. And for that we must hear what He has to say to us today. Otherwise, at the very least we are behaving in a way described as “worldly” as stated by Paul in the passage (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). This is not a complement! Is there any chance at all in this state that we can fulfil God’s purpose for us?
My wife once made an excellent statement about what the ultimate, inclusive, non-heretical church would have as its modus operandi, if not an actual slogan: “read the Bible and do it”. I firmly believe that she is right. Ah, but what about all this Spirit stuff then? Surely that undermines the word in the Scripture? No, just like vegetables on a plate do not undermine meat. It is the Scriptures themselves that tell us to keep in step with the Spirit. By doing this we are in obedience to the scripture and in-line with the Spirit. We seem to be presented with a series of false choices which bear an uncanny resemblance to “Would you like food or drink this year?” The Spirit of God will not contradict what God has previously caused to be written through the Spirit in the Bible, and in fact (still just about on topic) the Bible tells us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” with a remarkably straightforward test (1 John 4:1-3). Nor does the Bible forbid using the Spirit’s gifts to contact Him (in fact it says to “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Now already at this point, having mentioned just one of any number of issues of practise and belief in the church, I will have offended many Christians, who do not believe the gifts are relevant, or that they died out, or that such things are dangerous*…