Of all the things we might turn to – creation, transformed lives, etc – it is to the gospel of Christ and its power to save which the Apostle Paul turns to to highlight the power of God:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Rom 1v16)
It is great to see even the Telegraph aware of God’s powerful gospel as it reports that China is ‘on course to become the most Christian nation in 15 years.’
“It is a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It gives us great confidence,” beamed Jin Hongxin, a 40-year-old visitor who was admiring the golden cross above Liushi’s altar in the lead up to Holy Week.
“If everyone in China believed in Jesus then we would have no more need for police stations. There would be no more bad people and therefore no more crime,” she added.
The Christian Union at the University of Cambridge (or CICCU as its known) held a ‘mission week’ earlier this month entitled ‘This is Jesus‘. You can see a video used to advertise the events at the bottom of this post.
One student, Hannah Wilkinson, not a part of CICCU and not a Christian herself, went along to the events and wrote up her experiences in a fascinating article for the university’s ‘Varsity’ newspaper. I’d recommend you read the whole article for yourself. The following paragraph stood out for me:
‘My mood improves when I meet Bethany Sherwood from Murray Edwards who, like everyone else, is disarmingly friendly. Being a Christian in Cambridge helps her walk through the valley of stress and have no fear. “It’s great that my self-esteem doesn’t depend on my essays, it doesn’t depend on what my supervisor says, it doesn’t depend on grades.” Bethany gets all the support she needs from Jesus. For the first time I understand why people want to be a part of this community. The non-stop Cambridge game of one-upmanship, which I seem to be constantly losing, doesn’t seem to have found its way here, and the holier-than-thou atmosphere I expected has not materialised.’
I don’t know who Bethany Sherwood is, but I praise God for her.
Do make time to read this fascinating article in which Jeremy Walker considers the particular challenges of gospel ministry to the British middle classes. It is interesting in part since his analysis resonates with many of our efforts as a church here at Rock Baptist Church.
Having outlined the challenges, Walker rightly acknowledges that underpinning them are the same issues which lead to challenges in outreach in all communities – the sinfulness of the human heart. And that is truly universal.
“You cannot glamorise the gospel ministry in any place. The fact is this: up and down every country, behind every door and under every rock, in every social class, behind the make-up of the whore and the society princess, under the street uniform of the thug and the suit uniform of the banker, lurks precisely the same lifeless and sin-spewing heart. Every man and woman, boy and girl, is by nature dead in trespasses and sins. Every one of them lies beyond every power to deliver them apart from God working by his Spirit through the gospel of Christ preached to every creature. All of them need the good news.”
The New York Times has begun a series of articles in which journalist and Professor of Philosophy, Gary Gutting, interviews prominent religious thinkers and philosophers. I am intrigued to see how the series progresses, but this first interview with Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga is excellent and well worth a read.
There are many aspects to the interview that are worth dwelling on; you will enjoy learning about (and dismissing) the idea of ‘teapot-ism’ and ‘a-moonism’ I’m sure! But Plantinga’s response to the so-called ‘problem of evil’ is particularly striking. Asked if the concept of a perfect (divine) being is necessary in an imperfect world, Plantinga responds as follows:
I suppose your thinking is that it is suffering and sin that make this world less than perfect. But then your question makes sense only if the best possible worlds contain no sin or suffering. And is that true? Maybe the best worlds contain free creatures some of whom sometimes do what is wrong. Indeed, maybe the best worlds contain a scenario very like the Christian story.
Think about it: The first being of the universe, perfect in goodness, power and knowledge, creates free creatures. These free creatures turn their backs on him, rebel against him and get involved in sin and evil. Rather than treat them as some ancient potentate might — e.g., having them boiled in oil — God responds by sending his son into the world to suffer and die so that human beings might once more be in a right relationship to God. God himself undergoes the enormous suffering involved in seeing his son mocked, ridiculed, beaten and crucified. And all this for the sake of these sinful creatures.
I’d say a world in which this story is true would be a truly magnificent possible world. It would be so good that no world could be appreciably better. But then the best worlds contain sin and suffering.
For committed Christians, it can be tricky to know if, when and how to share their faith in Christ in the workplace, particularly where they fear hostile reactions.
This article by Bethany Jenkins, who previously worked both on Capitol Hill in Washington and Wall Street in New York, has much practical wisdom for those of seeking to be winsome and faithful to Christ where He has placed us.
Key to her advice is the understanding that we as Christians are pilgrims on a journey through this world, and our true home is the New Heavens and the New Earth with Christ. We are then exiles in our communities, our workplaces.
David H. Kim, who directs the Center for Faith & Work in New York City, writes, “Often churches assume that they are in Jerusalem with all the comforts and security that it affords them when, in fact, we are . . . ‘exiles’ (1 Peter 1:1, 17) and ‘aliens and strangers’ (1 Peter 2:11) in this world—citizens of a heavenly city (Hebrews 13:14).”
Having an exilic mindset, he argues, changes how we engage culture. We are in the minority (exile), not the majority (Jerusalem). Our identities are challenged (exile), not assumed (Jerusalem).
Here is a useful conversation between Michael Kruger and Mark Mellinger in the US on the Canon of Scripture. In a very accessible way, they deal with issues such as dating the NT documents, textual criticism (differences between early manuscripts of the NT documents), and ‘self-authentification’. Thanks to the Gospel Coalition for making this video available.
This blog has been quiet now for some time, but an event which took place during the Wimbledon tennis championships seems worthy of note and worthy of reviving the blog for.
You may have seen in the news that an American evangelist, Tony Miano, was arrested for preaching in the streets of London. One passer-by took offence at Tony’s sermon, called the police, and Tony was taken off to be interviewed.
The Huffington Post cover the basic information in this article if you want to familiarise yourself with the events.
The full transcript of the police interview has been released and can be found in a post on the Archbishop Cranmer blog. Helpfully, Cranmer has highlighted those areas of the interview in which the police focus in on Tony Miano’s personal beliefs.
Much has been said and written about this arrest but on a personal note, the most insightful piece I have read was a blog post by Phil Moore. It is well worth reading in full. He concludes the post with these words:
Whilst I await their response to my complaint, I have been reading 1 Thessalonians a little bit myself. I am encouraged that Paul tells the Thessalonians that “We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition” (1Th 2:2). I am encouraged that he tells them up front that “You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered … in their effort to keep us from speaking to the pagans so that they may be saved” (1Th 2:14-16). I am encouraged that it is in this context of abuse, arrest and persecution that the Thessalonian church grew and planted churches across the Roman Empire. Paul tells the persecuted believers that “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere.”
Something has changed. The conditions in Britain are now different. They are less like the comfortable, compromised twentieth century which saw massive church decline. They are becoming a bit more like the days in which the church at Thessalonica flourished: when street-preaching Christians were hated and loved in equal measure.
And, finally, if you are interested, here is Tony Miano’s preaching and arrest in full:
SATURDAY 23RD JUNE
MORLEY MEMORIAL PRIMARY SCHOOL
We were delighted to have Roger Carswell with us at Rock
to explore how we can better share the Good News of Jesus
with our friends, family, neighbours and colleagues.
Roger has served the Church as an itinerant evangelist since 1983. He spends much of his time leading church and university missions at home and overseas as well as equipping Christians to effectively share the gospel of Christ with confidence.
If you missed the sessions or need a reminder, you can listen to them here: