Friday, 24 July 2009

Preach the gospel

“If a man is called to preach the gospel, woe to him if he stoops to be a king.”

Found this quote as I was reading through some old things. Sorry, don't know where its from - I didn't reference it in my notes - and googling it didn't help. But I am trying to put a series of four talks together for a week I am doing in September and these words were an encouragement. Hope they encourage someone else too.

Outstanding in my field

We're off tomorrow to brave the elements in South Wales with our tent. Will be posting pictures of spectaclar rainfall once we are back and have managed to dry out the camera.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Is there a better band around at the moment?

Listened to Sawdust for the first time today, despite having it for about six months. For a filler album of B sides, covers (including great ones of Joy Division's Shadowplay and Dire Straits Romeo and Juliet) and alternate versions, its a cracking CD. Saw them on TV a couple of weeks ago, the whole of their set from T in the Park, and they were just brilliant. Great songs. When You Were Young from Sam's Town (complete with refrain, "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus") would make a great basis for a Youth Group Talk on 1 Corinthians 7.39.

Even with U2 touring this summer I have to ask are the Killers the best band around at the moment? If not I'd like to know who.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Cover to Cover

About twenty of us are reading through the Bible in a year at the moment using the CWR Cover to Cover Bible which takes you through the entire thing in a year chronologically - i.e. as it happens. Or as CWR think it happened - you'll appreciate that we can't be too certain about a few books.

Overall it has been a positive experience. We have used the evening services to preach on Scripture that most of us have read in the previous week and that has been good to do. It gives us the chance to encourage each other as we read and spur each other on. Sometimes it has helped us understand things that we haven't picked up by reading on our own. At Easter we asked if the evening congregation wanted to carry on with this pattern and they all said yes. Such unity is wonderful, albeit rarer than it should be. Another benefit of the arrangement is that we have an increased evening congregation, as well as having people reading the Bible regularly if not daily and getting a Bible overview. There are helpful maps and charts in the book too. So it is a positive experience for us, though I would also make the following points.

  1. Cover to Cover is a bit more specific in the dates for Bible history than I would want to be. So for instance there is a note in Day 3 that says "The flood approx. 2319 BC - probably a Thursday." Okay, so I made up the last bit, but you get the picture.

  2. I find the section at the end, "For Thought and Contemplation" pretty twee and trite but guess some are helped by them.

  3. Because they use the "Holman Christian Standard Bible" I was a bit unsure about whether to use this or the church Bible when I preached. I have ended up reverting to the TNIV and this has been fine.

  4. The strongest criticism I'd have is that they have been a bit too eager with the scissors in dividing up the text sometimes. So you will be in Hosea and (hopefully following the flow of the story) when suddenly here are some chapters from Isaiah, or Micah, or 2 Kings, or 2 Chronicles, or a Psalm. Which just makes for it being harder for people to see the sweep of the book to my mind. Perhaps the most striking example was when we read Amos and I realised on preaching it that the end of the final chapter was not where I expected it to be. A competition ensued and two church members won themselves a Mars bar (we are big on prosperity here) for finding the off-cut last five verses. Turned out they were before the rest of the book! Examples like this make it harder to read and understand the Scriptures, which is not good.

BUT - it's been good to do this. It means we can preach on Amos and give an overview (with handout if I am organised) in about 35 minutes on the whole book. And it means I am reading more of the Bible devotionally than I would normally. So even though I am lagging embarrassingly behind the schedule at the moment I console myself with the knowledge that I am still doing better than normal.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Durham University Survey

Just catching up and found this...

Mentions amongst other things that...

The study revealed that 62% of respondents did not know the parable of the Prodigal Son and 60% could not name anything about the story of the Good Samaritan.
One respondent said David and Goliath was the name of a ship, while another thought Daniel - who survived being thrown into the lions' den - was the Lion King.

Fewer than 1 in 20 could name all ten commandments either, though to be honest if you were to stop me in the street at a random moment I think I'd struggle too.

Well, no good sitting round saying "Tsk!", we have a job to do and it looks like it's even bigger than we realised. Makes me realise what a great opportunity it is to go and teach these stories in school today.

Should she stay or should she go?

First day at work for a week, coughing a bit but feeling much better. I came back to the following email:

Dear Steve Ayers,

I shall be staying in Burnham for the night of August 9th and have just looked up churches in Burnham and listened to your sermon on Mothering Sunday about Peter. Will you be preaching on Sunday morning the 9th August?

With love in Jesus,

Was I really preaching on Peter on Mothers Day? If so, why?

Still, notice that she doesn't let on as to whether me preaching would draw her to the church or put her off?

I just emailed back to say that she was perfectly safe, I am going to be on holiday.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

How average am I?

A report in last month's Evangelicals Now says that the average FIEC pastor is:
  • 51 years old
  • been in ministry for nearly 17 years
  • works 56 hours a week
  • 6% are under 35
  • 40% are over 55
He (hardly a dangerous assumption) earns between £22,850 and £23,880 a year if he lives in his own house and about £4000 less if he lives in a manse.
I have no axe to grind here and am paid okay. No one comes into the ministry for the money - or the glamour, come to think of it. But is it any wonder that young fellas aren't attracted to serve in a church?

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Preaching 1 Corinthians 8

I'm preaching through 1 Corinthians at the rate of a chapter a week on a Sunday morning. It's tough to say all that you want when you are charging through but I think the momentum keeps us going and I have enjoyed the experience and had good feedback.

I mainly chose it because I don't know it so well as some books and as Andy Gemmill pointed out at New Word Alive, it doesn't get preached much because it's a longer book. So before this I have preached on the cross being foolish and a stumbling block to those who don't believe (1:18-25), the chapter on love (13) and the evidence that Paul gives for the resurrection (15). The rest is pretty much a preaching blank, so this has been a good exercise for me. I love this part of my job, I get paid to read the Bible and study what it means.

Which is challenging. Not only because Sunday rolls around relentless but because it says some tough things to me. Reading through 1 Corinthians I am struck quite forcefully at how out of step it is with our culture. Or more accurately, of course, how out of step we are with the Bible. So we had to take a time-out (and an extra week) during chapter 6 to look at what the Bible says about homosexuality. And last week - in chapter 7 - we hit marriage, singleness, and divorce -affording us much light-hearted relief. I have flagged up a future time-out for divorce and remarriage, which I need to do some serious study on before I wade in. But one thing is for sure, people are talking after services about the Bible. That doesn't always happen and so I am very encouraged.

This week 1 Corinthians 8 and the easier topic of what to do about meat sacrificed to idols. Or is it easier?

While the stuff I get at Asda hasn't generally been offered up before foreign gods before it hits the shelves I have to look at the chapter and ask, "What are the principles for me, here?" Paul makes it pretty clear - that we may have great freedom in an issue but that we cannot use that freedom to destroy others. So while it may not be a problem to eat meat offered to idols (because idols are nothing and there is only one God) Paul does add that if tucking in will destroy someone with a weaker conscience then he'd rather go veggie.

A question that I have often wondered about on the back of this though is, "Does this mean I cannot do anything that another Christian objects to?" This is something I came across in the NIV Application Commentary by Craig Blomberg and helped my thinking:

“The key issue in applying verses 7-13 involves recognising those who truly have weak consciences. Nothing in the context justifies an association of “weaker brothers” with those who are merely offended by a particular practice... Even less justified is the application of these principles to the “professional weaker brother” – the Christian legalist eager to forbid morally neutral activities even though he or she would never personally indulge in those activities. Rather, the weaker brother or sister is the Christian who is likely to imitate a stronger believer in some morally neutral practice but feel guilty about doing so or, worse still, be led into that which is inherently sinful or destructive. The stronger believer’s freedom thus actually has damaging consequences for the spiritual growth and maturation of the weaker sibling... An adequate analogy to 1 Corinthians 8 must have three elements: (a) a threat to Christian freedom; (b) a potential stumbling block; and (c) a Christian brother or sister who might actually be led into sin.” (Blomberg, 165)

So I need the wisdom to discern, "Is this a serious problem for a weaker brother or sister who could be lead into sin? Or is this criticism from a person who simply wants their own way on a matter - again?" And I also need the humility to step back from my rights when that is required.

Perhaps the most important phrase in chapter 8 is "knowledge puffs up while love builds up." The goal isn't to know most but to love best; building others up and not tearing them down. Challenging stuff!

City 0 Spurs 3

But no disgrace there. Harry gave all of his first team players 45 minutes and the rest looked pretty impressive as well apparently. My daughter relished seeing her beloved Spurs for the first time (where did we go so wrong?) and the whole family enjoyed the experience. I followed via text updates on the Spurs website. After the game my son got a picture with Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale. Spot the genius...

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Exeter v Spurs

I've followed Exeter City for a while now but really only in earnest for the last four seasons since returning to the West Country. So I've seen them lose in the Blue Square Premier at home to Burton who were bottom at the time and seen them win a thrilling match 3-2 against Leigh RMI and watched plenty of other sides you may not have heard of. What I am wanting to say is that I'm not just a good time Charlie. I have been to Crawley away. That said, I don't go every week, there's too much going on to arrange life around football, love it as I do. So I think I made about 9 games last season, including our 6-1 home defeat in the freezing cold versus Chesterfield.

BUT - these are exciting times to be an Exeter City fan because two years ago we were promoted back into the League. And then last year they only went and did it again, didn't they? So this year they line up in League 1, which sounds so much more impressive than the old Third Division. This means that they are now playing teams that my friends have heard of. Opening game of the season? Leeds United away. First cup game? QPR at home. First league home match? Norwich City. These are all teams my mother will have heard of. We have hit the big time.

And to kick it all off tonight Spurs came a visiting. A sell out! And I got seats via the website. And I felt too lousy to go. So Mrs A took the children and I will have to wait till later to see the new players and trialists that I've been reading about. Oh, yeah, and all those international superstars of Spurs. Seems like I will have to wait for the season proper to start. Oh well.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

This is the week that wasn't

I got the bug. Swine flu or (even worse) man flu? Who knows. A reasonably mild dose but enough to stop me in my tracks for a few days and the enforced isolation means I got bored. On catching up with a friend's news via their Blogspot I figured, "Why not try give it a try?" I mean, if the Draycotts have worked it out then how hard can it be?

I am, meanwhile, reminded again that whilst I am laid low, the work I am doing marches on. I may have had to cancel things but I am not as indispensible as I would like to think and that is a good reminder for anyone, especially those of us who work for a church.