Prayer that changes…

“I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

I’ll take Jesus’ word for it…

On the 15th of April 2018 Pope Francis visited a housing estate on the outskirts of Rome, upon his visit he was met by crowds of people and one boy in particular has captured the hearts of many people around the world. Emanuele asked the Pope if his father, who was not a believer, was in heaven.  The Pope went on to say that surely his father was in heaven because he was a good man, had his children baptised and saying that God did not abandon His children.

Here is why I think that the Pope said is dangerous, and why I’ll take Jesus’ word over who will be in heaven over the Pope’s.

The reason the Pope’s words are dangerous is because, whether he knows it or not, thousands if not millions of people look to the Pope for their understanding of Christianity. Therefore, based on his comments the other day, people could deduce that if they are good and get their children baptised that they themselves become children of God and will be allowed into heaven.
Articles have been written praising the Pope’s inclusiveness and people are sharing posts on social media about this most recent Francis moment, and the problem is that this is portraying a wrong picture of Christianity and it is sowing seeds of false hope.

Here is what Jesus has to say on the matter…

During Jesus’ life He never elevated religious practices beyond what they were, he never gave people false hope because it was seen as the ‘nice thing to do’, Jesus spoke very directly to people about the reality of what happened to those who did not turn and believe in Him.

Take the beginning of Luke 13, for example, people report the deaths of some people to Jesus and he quashes any idea that this was a judgment because they are more sinful than other and responds twice with these direct but true words “But unless you repent, you too will all perish” Luke 13:3 and 13:5.

Or, just further on in Luke 13 in verses 22-30 Jesus answers the question ‘will those who are saved be few?’ In response to this question Jesus doesn’t burst into a ‘hell fire and brimstone sermon’ but he responds with an illustration. Jesus says that the way to salvation, meaning to be made right with God and to spend an eternity with Him in heaven, is a narrow door and people need to strive to enter by it. Those who do not strive to enter through this door and who miss their opportunity might stand and knock and beg to be let in, but they will be cast out into the place that we know as Hell (described in verse 28).

The only way a person can be saved, be in a right relationship with God and be freed from the rightful punishment of their sins, is to believe in Jesus, to repent and be forgiven by Him. That is the one true hope, that is the truth of Christianity and that is the abounding Grace of God.

These two messages are completely different, one says that heaven is an open door for nice people, and the other says that heaven is not a door that you can stumble across.

I’ll take Jesus’ word for it because it is only through Him that passage into heaven is granted through His sacrifice on the cross, and I’d warn people of the Pope’s message because it sows the seed of false hope for people who give no second thought to God in their lives.

How complementarian is our complementarianism?

I’m generally the kind of guy who will sit in the back of the room contemplating something, or if someone asks a question I’ll not answer, right away, but think on it for a wee while. One of the things that I have been thinking about recently is complementarianism, and more specifically how exactly this theological view manifests itself in the church today.

The specific question that I have been thinking about is; how complementarian is our complementarianism?

Complementarianism is the view that God has created men and women as equals yet with different roles, one sex is not superior to the other nor do they have the same roles, but each sex compliments the other as they work together to glorify God.

I grew up in an egalitarian church (meaning, at the very basic level, that men and women are equals and there is no difference in their specific roles), but when I moved to Bible College in 2013 I was confronted with these opposing views. Initially I thought that complementarianism was a restrictive and damaging view that minimised a woman’s role in church and family, but after wrestling with the Bible I came to the conviction that it is not. Contrary to being restrictive and damaging, I have found complementarianism to be beautiful and liberating freeing up each individual, both male and female, to live out their God’s given roles as they seek to glorify Him.

One problem stills bugs me though, in many churches I have seen complementarianism used to promote a kind of ‘alpha-male Christianity’ something that I do not see in the Bible.

This is evident in the way we talk about the role that women have in churches, for example, how often we start off this conversation immediately from the negative “As a woman you can’t do…”?
Wouldn’t it be better if the conversation went:

Lady: Hi, I’d love to serve in the church, what can I do to help?

Pastor: Great! There are so many areas that you can help with! We have women who need discipling, training, encouraging in their faith, we have so many prayer meeting that need leaders…

How different would our churches look if instead of starting on the negative, we looked at all the work that women can do? Often women can do things far better than us men can (Yes, I just said that!).

This also goes beyond the area of church life; pick up the majority of academic theology books that are on your shelf, or books on church life, or discipleship or just Christian life and sadly in most of them you’ll find that the endorsements are mostly written by men.
I guess the reason for this is that people want ‘titles’ to endorse their books and so pastor or head of such n’ such a ministry looks better, but there are tons of women out there whose name would carry a lot more weight.

If I pick up a book on how to be a good pastor I want to hear the endorsements and testimonies of ladies who have been treated and lead well, I want to hear from a pastor’s wife about the difficulties of church without her being introduced as “the wife of…”

We have a lot to learn and one of the difficult things that I will continue to wrestle with, and I hope that you will join me, if how complementarian is our complementarianism?

If our complementarianism liberating people to glorify God in their God-given roles?

God’s Grace and Justice…

“He [God] cannot extend mercy without justice ; this would be to ignore sin and would be evil . God Himself meets the demands of the law on behalf of the sinner . Christ Jesus the righteous becomes the rebel in order that the rebels may become righteous.”

John Caldwell, Three Things the Devil Hates: Spiritual Warfare from a Biblical Perspective.

The Church is…

 

“The Church is a constant reminder that God is on the throne. The Church is a signpost which points to the glory of God. The Church is a testimony that God is in the business of rescuing souls from the kingdom of darkness. The Church is a constant reminder that Satan’s kingdom is toppling and one day shall be completely overthrown.”

–  John Caldwell, Three Things the Devil Hates: Spiritual Warfare from a Biblical Perspective.

Reconstructing the Gospel

When I first saw the title ‘Reconstructing the Gospel’ I was very intrigued.
Was this book going to say that we have gotten the gospel wrong?
Was it going to suggest ways in which we could ‘fix’ the gospel?
However, these questions were not the content of the book instead it was more of an analysis of the American church with the history of what Wilson-Hartgrove describes as ‘slaveholder religion’.

Possibly one of the problems, when I was reading the book, was that the racial division that Wilson-Hartgrove speaks of in regards to the American church is unfamiliar to me. Being a Scot I haven’t seen the division within the American church over race, but only heard of it.

However, this book does give a good insight into the racial issues that seem to be unfolding within the American church and it is a helpful insight for people, like myself, who maybe don’t fully understand the situation.

The first half of the book is the author’s journey about how he came to see the racial history of America and the damage that it has caused. Whilst this part is interesting, it can be quite confusing and somewhat jumbled. But the second half of the book, when Wilson-Hartgrove gets to the gospel, it is more thought through and structured.

Wilson-Hartgrove’s premise is that the racial history of the U.S. is a problem that is preventing the gospel from reaching different groups of people across the racial divide, whilst this might be true in the U.S. (something I can’t comment on) I’m not sure if that is the real problem.

The problem seems to be that, in the past, people have used Christianity and the Bible to justify slavery and the ill treatment of slaves. However, the problem is not with the gospel but the problem is with the corrupt hearts who have misused and misapplied the gospel.

Wilson-Hartgrove says that ‘a gospel that doesn’t confront racism is no gospel at all’ whilst racism is obviously the point of this book, I think the problem of people misusing and misapplying the gospel is far wider than just racism. A gospel that doesn’t confront sin and humanities fallen nature is no gospel at all. Christians need to learn from the past and learn not to read their prejudices into the Bible, nor exegete it according to their culture, but take the Bible as it is the Word of God.

Rating 2/5

City Lives

City Lives by Marcus Nodder

Have you ever wondered if you are the only Christian in your office? Or have you ever heard that Christianity is only for those who are weak and need a crutch to be able to get through the struggles of life? Or are you wondering how to respond to some difficult questions that people might have about Christianity?

If so, here is a great little book for you to read.

Marcus Nodder has drawn together the testimonies of people from all areas of city life and put together this helpful book ‘City Lives’. This book is a great way of dealing with difficult apologetics questions, whilst listening to someone’s story along the way. Over the years I have read many different apologetics books many for them written for different audiences for example new Christians, sceptics, people asking questions about Christianity and youth.

Yet I haven’t read many books that find the balance between facts / evidence and light reading. One of the purpose of any apologetics book should, hopefully, be to equip the ‘average Christian’ to answer and wrestle with some of the difficult questions in life and faith.

City Lives, on the other hand, is not just another apologetic book that is full of facts and statistics, but is instead it speaks about the impact that the message of Christianity has had on people lives. In this short and very readable book you’ll hear the stories of sports professionals, medical professionals, law professionals and a contestant from the Bake Off and many more people who have wrestles with some of the hard questions concerning faith and life.

This book addresses questions concerning the Bible, concerning the goodness of God, suffering, the purpose of life, the identity of Jesus and the evidence for the Christian faith.

This book is a breath of fresh air and an uplifting read because it contains 14 accounts of how the good news of Jesus has changed people’s lives.

The stories are not just of those ‘big names’ that always seem to be writing some new book in the Christian world, but also ‘normal people’ like you and me. From Judges to footballers, from bank executives to PA’s, from business owners to bake off contestants, listen to their stories and see how Jesus has changed their lives.

If you’re looking to be encouraged in your faith, or if you’re searching for answers to difficult questions, or even if you want to have an easy give a way book City Lives would be a good start on all fronts.