Monday, 5 September 2011

I've been sent to Coventry.

Teaching of English to people who are new to the UK is an important part of our programme. Last Saturday saw volunteers from all five Jesus Centres (Coventry, Northampton and London are up and running, Sheffield is nearly open and Birmingham is in preparation) coming together to receive training and share experience. Although I am not directly involved in teaching or running a group it was exciting to see so much commitment and enthusiasm  in one room. I was really impressed by the depth of understanding for our visitors and their difficulties which was shown by those leading sessions; and from accounts of how people are being helped it is clear that the teaching of English is being used as a channel for God's love to many.
The growing Jesus Centre movement is certainly being true to it's motto: 'Compassion in action.'
(In a role play I did have to give a demonstration of how not to do it, I hope the group who had to suffer it are not too traumatised!)...we also had a great lunch-thanks CJC.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

"...we can do what we want."

Cycle on the pavement?...we can do what we want.
Break the speed limit?...we can do what we want.
Lie to our customers?...we can do what we want.
Raid the pension fund?...we can do what we want.
Set fire to the bus?...we can do what we want.
Go through red lights?...we can do what we want.
Exploit our workers?...we can do what we want.
Clear out can do what we want.
Re-write God's word?...we can do what we want.
Screw who we like?...we can do what we want.
Eat that fruit?...

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Watershed. Part Three: Down the Mountain the rivers flow..

So where do we go if we move away from the Biblical basis for our faith? Below I am simply listing the trends that are emerging and which I understand to be particularly important.

* Faith based on subjective feelings rather than objective truth.
* Putting man first rather than God.
* Not understanding that God exists outside of His creation.
* Not recognising the gravity of sin and man's hopeless state outside of the Gospel.
* The belief that there is something of God in everyone that can be stimulated by spiritual exercises.
* Setting of God's love over and against His other attributes.
* The erosion of the substitutionary nature of the Atonement.
* The unique nature of Christ and salvation in His name alone is denied.
* Syncretism.
* Universalism.

Personal footnote: I am writing as one who has had a radical conversion experience (37 years ago) as a result of reading the Bible for literary purposes. I have been involved in a wide range of ministry from Aberdeen to Weymouth in just about every sort of church you can think of. In my early days I had to take big decisions because of my experience of the Holy Spirit. For the past five years I have been involved in setting up and running the London Jesus Centre which has caused me to consider many current social issues in the light of communicating  the Gospel and, has brought me into contact with many people and organisations including a wide range of faith based ones.
I have read widely across the range of theological thought seeking to find balance. I have seriously explored the Roman Catholic Church seeing that, if the doctrinal differences have been resolved, there is really no further ground for division. So, here I am still convinced of the historic Christian faith that sustained the martyrs, motivated the Reformers and inspired missionaries-I can do no other!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Watershed. Part Two: the Ridge.

The vital issue facing believers in these days is to discern what constitutes the ridge. Christians are called to move in unity but, that can never justify compromising truth. However, the zeal for truth in essentials must be tempered by charity in those things that are not certain. Even when we are convinced that an individual or party are mistaken we should not descend into vituperation and ad hominem attacks, which has been a regrettable tendency throughout Church history, but we should assume the good will and sincerity of others while recognising that being sincere does not guarantee being right. (I fully appreciate that concepts such as 'truth' and 'right and wrong' are currently unfashionable: it is but a passing fashion.)
I see the ridge as being essentially on the line of our understanding of what the Bible is. Is the Bible in its entirety the inspired Word of God containing the complete revelation of what the Church needs to know? Or is it a basically human document that might here and there contain useful insights into God and His dealings with humanity? I am convinced that the first is the only consistent and tenable one. We must be clear that this is no simplistic literalism but it demands intelligent study dependant on the Holy Spirit, with an understanding of literary forms, context and honest scholarship. There is a vast resource of Biblical study that confirms the integrity of the Scriptures: which can robustly withstand the unbelief of the past 200 years that basically is a new re-statement of the age old question:'Has God said?'

The Watershed-a parable from nature. Part One.

The writer and teacher Francis Schaeffer lived in Switzerland for a large part of his life and in one of his books (I did have a bargain set of his complete works, but they have gone in one of my periodic clear outs so I cannot check the reference) he gives a compelling illustration. Near where he lived there was a sharply defined ridge; through the winter it was covered in snow and had a uniform appearance - one blanket of snow. In the spring, though, as the thaw came the snow melted and what been one became two along the line of the ridge. The melted waters on one side joined stream that entered the river Rhone that flows into the Mediterranean. The waters on the other side followed their course to the Rhine ending up in the North Sea.
The picture is clear showing how things that are apparently unified and, indeed are impossible to differentiate at one stage, can end up in very different destinations. At this time of massive rapid change in the world in every sphere of life, I believe it is a watershed moment. In Christianity and Christendom where we can all be using the same words and seem to have the same aims and purposes we can start to see on what side of the ridge things are and where they lead to.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

What a refreshing change!

Like most charitable set ups we spend quite a lot of time and effort finding sources of funding. This is a time consuming process: researching among the hundreds of trusts to find those who are not offended by the name of Jesus, who are not doing homelessness this year or do not give funds to anything in central London. Then, on finding a possible match there are never ending forms to fill in, the on line ones normally clearing all your information just before you are ready to hit 'send'. Not unreasonably the donor may want progress reports on how the money has been spent with ominous threats if a penny goes anything outside of their narrow focus. How delightful, then to find a sprinkling of Christians who set up trusts which they administer personally. We recently received a donation from just such a trust,  Pauline (LJC fund raiser and my wife) wrote a simple letter out- lining our work and asking for £500 towards our healing prayer service, back comes a cheque for £2,500 with a positive letter saying; 'spend it how you think most fit'.
True philanthropy is open handed, oh that there was more of it about. Do Christians need to waste time with stunts and arm twisting in order to support the Lord's work? When William Booth wanted to know the spiritual temperature of a Salvation Army Corps he would ask what the financial giving was like. We need to put our money where are mouths are.