Prayer fuel: News from the UK and around the world


Prayer Fuel

(view original UK articles and WORLD articles here)

Here are a handful of news-bites from around the UK and around the world included in the August issue of EN. May these encourage us as well as spur us on to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world facing severe persecution.

 

Yes to life
In late June, the UK’s highest court dismissed an appeal to allow doctors to assist in suicides.

The case involved the family of Tony Nicklinson – who died in 2012 and could only communicate by blinking and nodding – and Paul Lamb, who is paralysed, and another man who wanted to travel abroad to die in a Dignitas clinic. Judges ruled 7-2 to reject their appeal, with Lord Sumption noting that legalising assisted suicide ‘would be followed by its progressive normalisation, among the very old or very ill’.
The Christian Institute

 

Disciplined by church?
It was announced at the end of June that the first Church of England clergyman to enter a same sex marriage has been told he can no longer conduct services.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton, a divorced father of five, and his partner Laurence Cunnington had a same sex wedding ceremony in April against official Church of England guidance. Canon Pemberton can no longer officiate at services in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, but he continues to be a chaplain to hospitals in Lincoln.
The Christian Institute/Christian Concern

 

Safe abortions?
In response to a written parliamentary question in June, it was revealed that the number of women who have died within one month following a legal abortion has risen from just one woman in 1985, to 20 women in 2006-08.

Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison MP stated that the cause of death recorded on death certificates for women who died after an abortion is not reviewed by the Department of Health.
Right to Life Charitable Trust
(Editor – the abortion rate only rose from around 12 per thousand women in 1985 to around 17 in 2006-08. House of Commons Library.)

 

Canada: pronoun chaos
Teachers should replace he or she, him or her and his or hers with new pronouns xe, xem and xyr to refer to children who believe they are transsexual, according to school rules passed in Vancouver in late June.

The new words were sanctioned to be used as alternatives to regular pronouns if required by pupils. Training is also being backed for teachers to develop a ‘gay-friendly’ curriculum, and states that children ‘have the right to dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity or gender expression’.
The Christian Institute

N.Korea: tourists charged
North Korea is preparing to try two American tourists on charges of ‘perpetrating hostile acts’ against the country – one apparently because a Bible was left behind in his hotel room – it was reported in June.

North Korean state media said that one of the men entered the country in April with a tourist visa but tore it up at the airport, declaring that he wanted to seek asylum.
Bible Society’s Newswatch

USA: abortion bankrolled
The world’s fourth richest person, Warren Buffett, ploughed $1.23 billion into abortion groups over 11 years, it was reported in July.

The Media Research Center (MRC), which analysed tax returns for Buffett’s foundation, labelled him the ‘king of abortion’. Neither Buffett, nor the foundation at the centre of the controversy, have commented on the revelations. The money given ‘is enough to pay for the abortions of more than 2.7 million babies’.
The Christian Institute

For more news and prayer fuel from the UK and around the world visit our website or subscribe for monthly updates.

A Constant Gardener by Pastor Anonymous: They held hands


Constant Gardener Trowel

(view original article here)

We were chuffed that they’d chosen our church.

A couple with good jobs, and well-behaved children, and they wanted to be part of our church. Our church?! A lovely, eager, problem-free family, landing in our pews and our lives. We all looked forward to getting to know them and enjoying helping them get stuck into the church’s work. God is good.

He is good, and he was very good in bringing us this lovely couple and their kids. They did get stuck in. My family and theirs had meals at each others’ homes, and they were some of the most vocal encouragers I had. And even I, naïve and slightly optimistic younger Pastor as I was then, knew that smiling faces can easily hide crying hearts. After a couple of years I saw the husband’s tears when he opened up to me. It was the marriage.

Opening up about marriage

Middle-aged men don’t easily share their problems. Marriage problems are some of the most painful, and the hardest to share. But he opened up. One day he told me that the marriage was little more than a convenient partnership. Loveless, sexless, grey, sad, and even tragic. The kids knew the simmering anger between the parents, the separate lives they led, the enforced smiles when at church. The dad was terrified that this strain was starting to have its effect on the children. Divorce frightened him, too, but he knew it was an option. He knew he needed to get some help.

First step

We all know that finally owning up to problems is the first step to tackling them. I felt honoured that this dear friend told me just how bad things were. We know, too, that men are particularly guilty of not recognising problems, or explaining them away, or just plain ignoring them. I believe that it was a work of God’s Holy Spirit that this man said that he needed help. He and I sat down for a couple of long conversations. I knew that he and his wife would actually talk more freely to a Christian marriage counsellor than to me, and that in this situation that was the right recommendation to make. So they set their first date for an open discussion with the counsellor, and those meetings began.

Beautiful story

What happened next, and what’s happened over the ten or so years since that conversation, is a simple but very beautiful story of healing. Slow, obviously, with fits and starts, and some relapses into old attitudes and patterns of behaviour, but the solid rebuilding of trust and love, and establishing intimacy again. I remember how he shyly smiled as he proudly told me ‘we held hands last night. We just sat on the sofa and held hands.’ I was so thrilled for them both. Today they are still at our church, seeing their children grow towards adulthood. They’re just as committed to the gospel. And their lives show those marks of Christian authenticity. The Holy Spirit’s enabling, the grace of God, faith in his promises, obedience to his Word. It’s all there. And it’s beautiful.

Encouragement

Why tell you all this? To encourage you. God works in ordinary people, taking ordinary trials and tears, and bringing new strength, and real progress. If that couple had divorced, people would have grieved for them, but then moved on. God’s Spirit brought them both to long for change, then to seek help, and to work for change. And here they are today, as real, time-tested signs of the quiet power of God.

The church is a strange coming-together of weak, struggling people. Make sure appearances otherwise don’t deceive you. Treasure your church family, they are a most precious gift of God. Pray for each other, help each other. Be honest, and pursue openness. Believe in very every-day and yet wholly supernatural grace. Celebrate those who are still pressing on in the gospel.

Pastor Anonymous is in full-time pastoral ministry somewhere in the UK!

This article was first published in the May 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit our website or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

Anglican update: The beat of the wrong drum


Anglican Update

(view online version here)

On July 13, in anticipation of the vote of the York General Synod on women bishops the next day, the Archbishop of Canterbury took to the airwaves via the medium of The Andrew Marr Show. He declared that: ‘theologically the church has been wrong not to ordain women as priests and bishops over the centuries’.

In those few words Justin Welby isolated himself from, as I would see it, the teaching and practice of the Lord Jesus and the apostles as well as the understanding of the Church Fathers and the thinking of the best theologians of the centuries since.

He also isolated himself from large parts of his own church, including countless millions of godly women who have rendered the most faithful service to the Church of England in the past and at least 25% of the present membership who, in opinion polls and local and national synod votes, consistently take the opposite view.

The archbishop even stands isolated from the vast majority of the Anglican communion – for almost all of the provinces who do ordain and consecrate women nonetheless respect the theological integrity of those who disagree and avoid declaring that one point of view is right and the other wrong. That was the view reaffirmed at the Global Anglican Futures Conference last year.

Lastly, of course, Justin Welby has isolated himself from the understanding of Scripture on the issues of gender and church order held by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Losing father figures

He will find some who share his view – in Methodism in England and in the Episcopal Church of the USA, for example, and in some other churches, pretty much the entirety of whom have seen the abandonment of complementarian thinking accompanied by precipitate decline in membership to levels of near oblivion.

Remarkably however, given that the new legislation was passed almost entirely on the basis of the need to be ‘relevant’, the archbishop also finds himself isolated from our society. That is true of the bluff northern taxi drivers of York, a group of whom were mystified by the Church’s obsession with political correctness. It is also true more widely: early July saw the publication of the Centre for Social Justice’s report on fatherless families which revealed that 15-year-olds are significantly more likely to own a smart-phone than live with their fathers. Only 57% of such teenagers have their fathers living with them, at huge cost to society.

At a time when our society is waking up to the cost of ‘disposable dads’ the Church of England is busy dispensing with the need for church families to have a spiritual father at their head, or even involved in their leadership in any way. An immense price is likely to be paid for that too.

Driving away error?

How Justin Welby squares his statement to the nation on TV with his statement to Synod that he will ensure that complementarians flourish is anyone’s guess. On one reading it would appear that he is committing himself to the flourishing of that which he knows to be wrong – a strange position to be in as a bishop who has taken a solemn oath to ‘drive away error’. It is more likely, that he has a definition of ‘flourishing’ that I and other com-plementarians wouldn’t recognise as such.

The Archbishop of Canterbury would have us believe that he is only isolated because he is stepping boldly into a brave new future but sometimes being out of step is just that – marching to the beat of the wrong drum.

Susie Leafe, Director of Reform

This article was first published in the August 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to EN for monthly updates

Editors commentary: Uncertain sound


 trumpetWEB(view original article here)

He uses it as an illustration.
But it is a powerful one. When the apostle Paul says ‘if the trumpet does not sound a  clear call, who will get ready for battle?’ he is speaking in the context of the messages given by the church (1 Corinthians 14.8).
There are contradictory messages on some of the most important issues we can imagine coming from those looked upon as Christian leaders in our country at present. The Church of England has said no to same sex marriages in church. But simultaneously Archbishop Welby has opened Church schools to be taught by the gay activist group Stonewall. Then the ex-Archbishop, Lord Carey, has performed a truly acrobatic volte face on the subject of assisted suicide. I picked up my Saturday newspaper in mid-July to find the headlines reporting his incredible moral gymnastics. Having once been against it, now he is for it. Meanwhile, the present Archbishop confirmed the Church’s opposition to Lord Falconer’s Bill promoting assisted suicide. Mixed-message-tastic?
The arguments against assisted suicide have often been rehearsed. The Bible never allows the taking of human life apart from in the context of an act of a legal earthly government as an expression of the wrath of God for wrongdoing (Romans 13.4, Genesis 9.6). This means there is no place for either deliberate abortion or euthanasia. Lord Carey defends his about turn by referring to developments in medical technology. But actually nothing has changed. As far back as 1973 a report to the Third World Congress on Medical Law said that the majority of deaths in the present day can be made peaceful whatever the nature and character of the preceding illness. Modern medicine can almost always overcome pain without shortening life.1 In a recent conversation with me a retired senior pathologist confirmed this.
What about those who are not in pain but who feel their lives have become pointless? The problems here are: first; the assessment of pointlessness will be invariably in secular terms, and second; why limit the pointless idea to people with medical conditions? Why not assist everyone who at some time decides their life has no value to die? Dr Harold Shipman would rub his hands with glee.

Where’s the gospel?

But beyond this, what is Lord Carey saying about the gospel? If a person is cogent enough to decide that their life ought to be ended, they are cogent enough to understand the gospel, which says without personal faith in Christ they go to a lost eternity. Their life here may be perceived to have become unbearable, but what about the unbearable nature of God’s eternal judgement? That doesn’t seem to figure in Lord Carey’s calculations. It’s like ‘tacit atheism’.
The real reason for the mixed messages from these senior figures is that they try to satisfy a godless society which has inevitably redefined all moral issues in therapy terms (Ephesians 4.17-19). Categories such as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ have become what ‘feels’ good and what ‘feels’ bad to us rather than what is good or is bad in the sight of God. In 2006, Lord Carey warned that if assisting someone to end their life was allowed it would soon be ‘treated as casually as abortion.’ He was right then. He is wrong now.
Christians are being confused. And these leaders’ contradictory trumpet calls, adrift from Scripture, are in danger of becoming mere ‘noises off.’ Meanwhile we are in a ferocious spiritual battle for the soul of Britain and its future.

1. See Francis Schaeffer & Everett Koop, in Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, vol. 5, p.336

John Benton

This article was first published in the August 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, check out our on-line version of the paper or subscribe for monthly updates.

7 ways to read a book… and some other great links


Links Worth A LookHere’s a handful of links we thought were worth a look this week. Enjoy!

9Marks: Book review – Preaching? Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching by Alec Motyer

A Faith to Live By: A two-part series for church planters and gospel workers on keeping going through the financial stresses that often accompany ministry (part 1 and part 2)

Unashamed Workman – Don’t just preach simply, preach richly

CBMW – a summary of news clips for families

Challies.com – 7 different ways to read a book

Do we still need the cross?


credit: i-stock

credit: i-stock

(view original article here)

Marcus Nodder, senior pastor of St Peter’s Barge in West India Quay, London, explains from Isaiah 6

There’s a danger that, as we go on as Christians, we drift away from the cross.

We can operate as if we don’t need it anymore. Or, at least, not as much as we did at the beginning.

The prophet Isaiah was speaking to people who thought they were okay as they were and didn’t need God’s grace. But then in Isaiah 6.1-8 he recounts for their benefit how he came face to face with the reality of what God is like and what we are like. It makes shocking reading:

John Calvin says: ‘Man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself, unless he has first looked upon God’s face… For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy – this pride is innate in all of us – unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity’.

A big vision of God (v.1-4)

Uzziah had been king of Judah for over 50 years and his fame had spread far and wide, but ‘after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God’ (2 Chronicles 26.16). In judgment, God struck him down with leprosy and he spent the final years of his life living in isolation. In 740BC he died, a leper.

Isaiah writes: ‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne’ (Isaiah 6.1). The prophet was given a vision of the king. The true king. The king of kings. And what he saw shook his world to the foundations. He saw God in all his majesty and holiness – incomparable, without sin, pure, perfect, just, righteous.

Isaiah was looking at the one whose power is infinite and whose glory fills the earth. So powerful were the booming voices of the seraphim that it seemed as if the building were about to collapse. And smoke, signifying the presence of God, filled the place. Utterly terrifying.

People sometimes say: ‘I like to think of God as…’ and they fill in the blank with things like: ‘a force like electricity’, or: ‘someone who watches over us from a distance’. This is wishful thinking. It tells you nothing about the God who is actually there and leaves you with no need of the cross.

The artist Tracey Emin was commissioned to design a statue for a British city. It was a little bird on top of a four-metre pole. She explained that ‘most public sculptures are a symbol of power, which I find oppressive and dark’. She said she wanted something ‘which would appear and disappear, and not dominate’. Is that not exactly what we have done with God? A God of awesome power and majesty and holiness is rather threatening. It’s much more manageable to have a tiny God who doesn’t dominate. A mini pocket God; a pigmy God; a bird-on-a-pole God that appears when I want him to and disappears when I choose; a not-so-very-different-from-me God. But the God Isaiah saw is the God who is actually there. What was it like to meet God face to face?

A deep awareness of sin (v.5)

‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined!’ (Isaiah 6.5). This wasn’t just a ‘wow’, like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. It was the ‘woe’ of being terrified. Isaiah knew he was-n’t just small in the presence of absolute greatness, but a sinner in the presence of absolute holiness.

In particular, he felt the uncleanness of his lips, and those of his people. Why? Perhaps because on hearing the seraphim calling out he realised he was too sinful to join in. King Uzziah, having been struck down with leprosy, would have had to cry out ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ (Leviticus 13.45). Isaiah now realised he was no different – morally. What opened his eyes to that was seeing God as he really is.

In Charles Kingsley’s classic book The Water Babies, the central character is a boy called Tom, who is a chimney sweep. One day, in a huge mansion, he loses his way crawling inside the maze of flues and chimneys. Instead of coming out down the kitchen chimney, he crawls out onto the hearth of a spotlessly white bedroom, where a lovely little girl lies asleep between immaculately white sheets, a room where not a speck of dirt is to be seen. Tom, the little orphan chimney sweep, gazes around him, enchanted by his first sight of such beauty and cleanness, having never imagined that anything so spotless and lovely could exist.

But then he catches sight of a filthy little creature, sooty black from head to foot, standing on the rosy pink carpet with pools of black perspiration dripping from its body. It is so out of place in such surroundings that he shakes his fist and shouts furiously, ‘Get out of here at once!’. But the dirty figure shakes its fist in return.

And suddenly, for the first time in his life, poor Tom realises that he is looking in a mirror and seeing himself as he really is. It breaks his heart. Uttering a desolate and despairing cry, he rushes out of the house, sobbing as he goes: ‘I must be clean! I must be clean! Where can I find a stream of water and wash and be clean?’.

Seeing God in his holiness is like being dropped into that spotless white room. We suddenly see ourselves as we really are. We look in the mirror and see how out of place we are in the spotless presence of God. We feel ashamed, condemned, afraid. ‘Woe to me! I am ruined!’

In our worst moments we quite like our sin, but God’s holiness means he hates it. It arouses his righteous anger. He must judge it. And since we’re all sinners, that is a terrifying prospect. If we think of ourselves as basically good people, we will never see our need for the cross.

An experience of grace (v.6-8)

‘Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for’’ (Isaiah 6.6).

Under the old covenant, God provided the sacrificial system to make atonement for the sins of the people. But these animal sacrifices were just a picture, foreshadowing the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

The coal taken here from the altar symbolised that a sacrifice had been made. Isaiah had confessed he was a man of unclean lips, and now one of the seraphim takes a burning coal from the altar and touches his unclean lips with it. And in that one symbolic act he is cleansed from sin. The seraphim declares: ‘Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for’. What wonderful words for Isaiah, or indeed any of us, to hear. ‘Your guilt is taken away’ – your actual guilt before a holy God as well as your feeling of guilt. ‘And your sin atoned for’ – atonement means that the debt of sin is covered, paid in full.

Isaiah didn’t say: ‘Yes I am unclean, but just wait. I’ll try harder. I can do better. Give me a chance and I’ll clean my act up’. Isaiah is cleansed in an instant – not by his own efforts, but purely by God’s grace. And just as he received God’s grace through this sacrifice, so we, as we accept Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross, hear the same words Isaiah heard: ‘Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for’.

This is the only basis on which we can ever stand before God. As Christians we must beware when we start to say to ourselves: ‘I’m actually doing pretty well now. Been a Christian a few years. Making progress in godliness. Serving in ways I wasn’t before. Know quite a bit. And I’m doing more than that person over there’. We need to catch ourselves, repent of such pride and self-delusion, and see again what God is like and what we are like.

Because even if you’re Billy Graham and you’ve preached to millions, and tens of thousands have been saved through you, without God’s grace through the cross, you stand before God today as a lost sinner.

This is an edited extract from Why Did Jesus Have to Die? by Marcus Nodder, recently published by The Good Book Company, and is used with permission.

 

This article was first published in the April 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online www.e-n.org.uk or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

What’s coming up in the August issue of EN


August 2014 highlightsA few highlights to look forward to in the August issue of EN! It’s scheduled to arrive from the printers on Friday July 25.

You can also go to our web-site if you’d like to take a look at the online version or to subscribe!